Blaise Pascal, in his uncompleted notes known as the Pensees (“Thoughts”), mulled over the relationship of reason to our understanding of truth.
“Submission and use of reason; that is what makes true Christianity” (83).
There is such a thing as a reasoned faith. And, despite protests that some atheists might make, that is what the Christian tradition offers.
Faith does not jettison reason. The truth that is communicated to us by revelation is sensible and usually comprehensible–if sometimes, especially in the doctrine of God, it may only be understood analogically. To believe is not the opposite of to think.
But reason does not eliminate the need for faith. There are truths beyond any real human comprehension, which can only be grasped by faith and understood by analogy. There are mysteries to reality. And reason itself supports the idea that this great cosmos, let alone its Maker, should be beyond the scope of our intellects.
“If we submit everything to reason our religion will be left with nothing mysterious or supernatural. If we offend the principles of reason our religion will be absurd and ridiculous” (83).
The truth is neither mundane nor absurd. These are the extremes to which people are pushed when they reject the truth. Atheism is mundane to the point of utter nihilism. Paganism is absurd. But the reasoned faith of Christianity is both intelligible and supernaturally significant.
Yet there are reasons for the escape into rationalism or irrationality. The reasoned faith of Christianity shines the harsh light of conviction onto our lives of darkness; it confronts us with the high drama of reality when we would rather be befuddled by entertaining triviality; it summons us to take up our cross. In short, the road of faithful reason calls for courage.
But the reward is infinite bliss.
Quotes from Pascal’s Pensees taken from the Penguin Classics edition (London & New York: Penguin, 1966), translated A.J. Krailsheimer.