A Philosopher’s Defense of the Reasoning Believer

And the list of books to read keeps getting longer…here is Matthew J. Franck writing at Public Discourse:

An excellent new book, written with admirable clarity, demonstrates the compatibility—indeed the happy and mutually fulfilling companionship—of faith and reason, even and especially in matters of public life.

Some years ago, an expert on communication between the sexes published a book titled Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. In the escalating conflict between religious faith and secular political principles, everyone seems to think that Believers Are from Jerusalem, Nonbelievers Are from Athens. Judges, educators, scientists, academic philosophers and legal scholars, perhaps even many religious leaders themselves—all espouse some version of the view that religious beliefs are grounded on unreasoning faith alone, inhabiting a domain wholly apart from the dispensations of reason. The mental image is of a Venn diagram in which the two circles—labelled Faith and Reason—do not overlap at all.

Francis J. Beckwith’s new book, Taking Rites Seriously, sets out to correct this intellectual error. His subtitle touches on the domains he discusses: Law, Politics, and the Reasonableness of Faith. Beckwith, a professor of philosophy and church-state studies at Baylor University, is also a legal scholar, theologian, and believing Christian. Thus, he possesses a formidable set of intellectual resources for the work he sets himself. His title, echoing that of Ronald Dworkin’s most famous book, is clever but a bit misleading. If by religious “rites” we mean those solemn acts of worship, prayer, sacrifice, or propitiation that have always been at the core of human beings’ relationship to the divine, then this book is not about taking those seriously, for they never enter into the discussion. It is about taking seriously the people who take rites seriously, by not dismissing their views as irrational.

Read more: Public Discourse

Image credit: Athens at night — S. Borisov/Shutterstock.