I’ve been involved in an online conversation over at Thom Chittom’s blog about faith and reason which sparked a memory of my Medieval Philosophy course in college. Evidently Thomas Aquinas was condemned in 1277 along with the Latin Averroeists, though his condemnation was later lifted. Be that as it may, the condemnation of 1277 was based upon St. Bonaventure’s Conferences on the Hexaemeron.

This is what Bonaventure says about faith and reason:

Thus there is danger in descending to the originals; there is more danger in descending to the summas of the masters; but the greatest danger
lies in descending to philosophy. This is because the words of the originals are pretty and can be too attractive; but the Holy Scripture does not have pretty words like that. Augustine would not take it for good if I should prefer him to Christ because of the beauty of his words, just as Paul reproached those who wished to be baptized in the name of Paul. In the course of study, then, caution must be exercised in descending from careful attention in reading Scripture to the originals. There should be a similar warning about descending to the summas of the masters, for the masters sometimes do not understand the saints, as the Master of the Sentences, great as he was, did not understand Augustine in some places. Whence the summas of the master are like the introductions of boys to the text of Aristotle. Let the student beware, then, lest he depart from the common way.

Likewise, the greatest danger is in the descent to philosophy. “Forasmuch as this people hath cast away the waters of Siloe, that go with silence, and hath rather taken Rasin, and the sons of Romelia: Therefore behold the Lord will bring upon them the waters of the river strong and many” (Isaiah. 8, 6-7). Whence there is no going back to Egypt for such things.[…]

Again, take note of the sultan to whom the blessed Francis replied, when we wished to dispute with him about the faith, that faith is above reason, and is proved only by the authority of Scripture and the divine power, which is manifested in miracles; hence he made the fire which he wished to enter into their presence. For the water of philosophical science is to be mingled with the wine of Holy Scripture merely so that the wine is transmitted into water, which is indeed a bad sign and contrary to the primitive church, when recently converted clerics such as Dionysius dismissed the books of the philosophers and took up the books of Holy Scripture. But in modern times the wine is changed into water and the bread into stone, just the reverse of the miracles of Christ.

(From Hyman and Walsh Philosophy in the Middle Ages, 458-459)

I think this is interesting because it demonstrates the tension between those who consider reason higher than faith and those who considered faith higher than reason–a tension that I think broke out again in the Protestant Reformation with its largely Augustinian outlook. I once read that the Franciscans were the root of some tendencies in Evangelicalism… I think one can see that in Bonaventure in some ways… consider the way he talks about scripture… he sounds like the Baptist preachers I grew up listening to. :-p

The original post that this was written as a comment on, was about Pope Benedict XVI’s discussion of faith and reason. The position that Benedict takes is one that sees faith and reason as not being in competition, but rather, faith as–for lack of a better concept at the moment–the supreme reasonable response to the reasonable God revealed in Jesus Christ the incarnate Word.

Technorati Tags: ,