I was at work yesterday, when a co-worker made the comment that what God asks of us doesn’t make sense, that Christianity is not “logical,” that we cannot “think it through.” I think I know what she means, yet I have to disagree. Robert Wilken, in the introduction to The Spirit of Early Christian Thought, writes:
The Christian religion is inescapably ritualistic (one is received into the church by a solemn washing with water), uncompromisingly moral (“be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect,” said Jesus), and unapologetically intellectual (be ready to give a “reason for the hope that is in you,” in the words of 1 Peter). Like all the major religions of the world, Christianity is more than a set of devotional practices and a moral code: it is also a way of thinking about God, about human beings, about the world and history. For Christians, thinking is part of believing.
He goes on to quote St Augustine on this point, and I wanted to share that with you:
No one believes anything unless one first thought it believable….Everything that is believed is believed after being preceded by thought….Not everyone who thinks believes, since many think in order not to believe; but everyone who believes thinks, thinks in believing and believes in thinking” (On the Predestination of the Saints, 5)
In citing this, I don’t mean to downplay the truth that faith is, to a certain extent, a trusting leap. Moreover, I do believe that the emotions (namely, the love [caritas] that is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, Rom 5.5) play an important role in our faith. Try as I might, I’m no Lockean rationalist. Yet, I think that what Augustine said is critically important and the truth of what he says here has been lost in many Christian circles, who view the intellect with suspicion and believe that faith is undermined by thinking.