Philosophy and its Contribution to Religion

What is the relationship between philosophy and religion? Does logic stand over and above revelation as its final judge and arbiter? Or is it the other way around—revelation is supreme, and reason serves as a minister?Many think that faith conflicts with reason. Or (perhaps worse), they don’t conflict, because they never meet: the deliverances of faith and the deliverances of reason form two non-overlapping domains—one (as some would have us think), has to do with facts, the other, with values. One is objective (on this story), the other subjective.

The question of the relationship between faith and reason has a long history. My view is simple, and can be set out as follows:

  • Religious claims are knowledge claims. That is, the deliverances of faith are making claims about the nature of reality (God, the world, self) and as such, they are objectively true or false. It is not the case that religious claims are subjective—true for me, but not for you.


  • There is no ultimate conflict between faith and reason. Why? God is the creator of all reality distinct from Himself. As the creator and source of all things, reality is unified by a divine mind. Hence, there is no ultimate conflict between the deliverances of faith and of reason. Apparent conflicts are just that—apparent.


  • Reason/Philosophy is a servant of religion. God has pride of place in metaphysics and epistemology. The world, including our rational faculties, is what it is because of God (God even grounds necessary truths such as the laws of logic, see this post for more). As such, philosophy—the passionate search for truth about reality—is a servant of religion.


So, how specifically can or ought philosophy serve religion? I suggest to you two ways, as articulated by Francis Bacon in his 1605 work The Advancement of Learning. Bacon states:

Wherefore…let it be observed, that there be two principle duties and services…which philosophy and human learning do perform to faith and religion. The one, because they are an effectual inducement to the exaltation of the glory of God….The other, because they minister a singular help and preservative against unbelief and error.

In short, philosophy serves religion by (1) leading us to understand, appreciate, and worship the true God, the source of all wisdom, and (2) guarding against errors and the false ideas of the unbeliever.

And this is what one might expect if (as theists believe) God is creator—for He has created man as a rational animal, a being capable of mining the two books He has provided (as Bacon puts it): the book of Scripture and the book of nature. As we read these books, as we study them, we will learn to love wisdom, seek truth, and find satisfaction in the good and beautiful.

One Response to Philosophy and its Contribution to Religion

  1. Pingback: Apologetics as Dance | Paul Gould

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *