Eye

III.1 Difference between Acts of Faith and Rational Convictions

Philosophy

Rational and
Revealed Religion

Faith is belief in what transcends reason. Examples include, “God is Three Persons,” “the body will rise from the dead,” and “Jesus Christ died to save us from our sins.” None of these can be known by the power of reason alone. All require an additional supernatural act of faith. This is the type of claim that should be separated from public life. This is what Thomas Jefferson had in mind when he coined the phrase “a wall of separation between Church and State.”

In addition to these doctrines, there are also certain religious truths that can be known by reason. These truths constitute the founding principles of the United States of America. The Founders and Framers had no intention of separating this type of truth from our nation’s public life.

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Philosophy

The Three
Functions of Mind

Religious truths that are known to reason originate from what is self-evident. We abstract intelligibility from the world through our five senses. This direct grasp of the real produces understanding. For example, motion is self-evident, especially through the senses of sight, sound, and touch. From this direct experience, the mind forms an abstract idea of motion in general that is applicable to all of its particular instances.

This direct grasp is the first act of mind. When the mind joins ideas, it judges; for example, when it affirms that matter is in motion. This is the second act of mind. When the mind unites a series of judgments, it engages in deductive reasoning; for example, when it concludes that matter’s motion must have had a cause. This is the third act of mind.

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Philosophy

How Faith
and Reason Differ

The conclusions of reason derive from experience of the world. The conclusions of faith derive from belief in revelation. For example, to conclude that the motion of the world had a cause is not to make an act of faith, but to deduce something from what is naturally known to the mind. In contrast, to say that the body will rise from the dead is not to state what is known through experience, but to rely on faith.

This second type of conclusion depends on revelation; therefore, it is subject to the principle of Church-State separation. The first type of conclusion is not subject to that principle because it is deduced from the order, purpose, and design of nature. Truths known to reason are not the private religious doctrines of any supernatural faith.

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American Deist © 2012‒2013 Edward J. Furton
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