Book final final THE GOLDEN RULE as THE SUPREME PRINCIPLE implications for FAITH
Faith within the Limits of Love and Reason
SECTION ONE: Why Reason Must Have the Final Word
To see why reason must have the final word in all things, I will illustrate the role of reason in three different cases. This I think should suffice to make the point.
(1) Consulting Some Authority
Suppose we are confronted with two or more conflicting alternatives concerning what to say, think or do and in hopes of resolving this confusing conflict, we seek out some wiser person, some authority, who can give us the correct answer. This raises the question: Who is the authority we can turn to: our Mom, our ...view middle of the document...
So, here again reason is at work. In the end, it will be our very own reasoning that is deciding how much of their advice to take, what parts of their advice to take or whether or not to take their advice at all. There is of course the possibility that we will reason poorly: But, we should reason about these matters as best we can. So, if we are at all wise about the way we consult authority, it will be our very own reason that has the final say.
(2) Impulse as Our Guide
Another possibility is to just go with our own intuitions, feelings, instincts, desires or the like. In short we just go with some sort of impulse that comes to us. This is not always a foolish thing to do. Sometimes, especially when quick and decisive action is called for, we should act on our first impulse. When our remote ancestors, for example, came upon some predator, they had to move quickly to either fight or flee depending on the situation and the nature of the predator. If such decisions were not made quickly, they could be eaten by the predator. In the film "It’s a Wonderful Life", when Harry Bailey fell through the ice, George Bailey did not enter into a discussion with his friends regarding what to do, he just jumped into the water thereby saving his brother. George Bailey simply followed his first impulse and this was indeed the right choice. But, there are many times when following our first impulse is the worst thing to do and gets us into serious trouble. So how are we to distinguish between these two cases? Very clearly, we get better and better at this process the more experience we have. A three-year-old child is much more impulsive than any healthy adult. Experience teaches us when and when not to trust our various immediate impulses. But, this is to say that, by a process of good inductive reasoning, we can come to better discriminate when and when not to act on impulse. So, here again, it is best if our reason has the final say.
(3) Divine Revelation
A third (and particularly relevant) case is seeking the guidance of God. Now, if, as I do, you conceive of God as an all-knowing, all loving, all-powerful being, then nothing could be more foolish than to fail to do precisely what God tells you to do. After all, if God is all-knowing, then God necessarily knows what is truly best for all of us and if God is all-loving then again God necessarily desires what is truly best for all of us and finally if God is all-powerful then God is necessarily able to ultimately deliver what is truly best for all of us (even if a certain amount of frustration and suffering turns out to be a part of what is truly best for us). So how could we possibly go wrong in doing precisely what God tells us to do? Should we not be willing, for example, to leap into a blazing fire, if God tells us to do so? But, here is the rub: We need to be sure in the first place, on any given occasion, that it is indeed God that is telling us what to do. If after all, we have simply conjured...