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Rodney Stark: Faith and Reason - Essay Example

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Over the long course of the Middle Ages, there emerged a fundamental struggle between faith and reason. As Christianity became influential and institutional, the notion of faith began to oppose the predominate Greek philosophy of reason. This conflict would emerge to shape Western culture and give rise to the notion that the two were incompatible…
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Rodney Stark: Faith and Reason
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Rodney Stark: Faith and Reason

Download file to see previous pages... I agree with him wholeheartedly.
As with many disputes between polar opposites, the truth of the matter often lies between the extremes. As modern people studying the Middle Ages, it is easy to understand this concept and appreciate the articulation of it by Frederick Artz (1954) who states that "it may be seen [that] the faith of the Middle Ages [is] seeking reason, just as in the twentieth century, men, grown weary of reason, are seeking faith" (p. 253). The balance and cooperation of the two yields a much more constructive world view. From that perspective, the question of why reason has been seen as the enemy of faith-and how that perception came to be so pervasive-surfaces. For Stark and others, the partial answer lies in widely-adopted historical misperceptions regarding some of the greatest examples of the conflict.
Misinformation is one of the primary enemies for Stark. For example, one of the most obvious conflicts noted today is the one that occurred in Christopher Columbus' day regarding the question of the shape of the world. The traditional teaching is that the Church of that time insisted that the world was flat, while science clearly demonstrated it was round. Stark refutes this by stating that "[a]ll educated persons of Columbus' day, very much including the Roman Catholic prelates, knew the earth was round" (2003, p. 27). The myth, for Stark, that science is opposed to faith is largely predicated upon erroneous historical "fact." In the modern attempt to discredit the teachings of the Church, critics of faith have been so interested in making their point that they haven't gotten their facts right.
Of course, the conflict of faith and reason ranged over the entirety of the Middle Ages, a period in excess of a thousand years. Accordingly, there were ebbs and flows within the years where reason predominated over faith and then faith would philosophically dominate reason. Consider Artz's framing of the time period where he derives three distinct periods; the Platonic where reason is "subordinated" to faith, the Aristotelian where there is "alliance," and the final period where scholasticism was unable to "rationalize the dogma of the church" (1954, p. 253). It was during this final era of the Middle Ages where philosophy and reason irrevocably parted from faith. This antagonism is the legacy left to the modern day, and Stark stands opposed.

The alliance between faith and reason is not a new hypothesis, though modern-day students might think it so. Thomas Aquinas advocated this blend so effectively that Richard Regan, in the preface to his book translating the saint's work, avers that "no serious student of Western thought can be considered well-educated without acquaintance with St. Thomas's grand synthesis of faith and reason" (Aquinas, 1997, p. ix). Hence, the use of reason to deepen faith is at once ancient and contemporary. It is also appropriate; and I agree with it.
Neither faith nor reason exists in a vacuum. Proponents of each discipline should consider the worth of the other. For me, reason or science is not a threat to my faith. While I may not be able to always reconcile my beliefs with my observations, neither am I compelled to ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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