Mondays are for Church History - 1/16/17
Gonzalez, Justo L. The Story of Christianity: The Reformation to the Present Day. Revised and Updated ed. Vol. 2. New York: HarperCollins, 2010b. Kindle Electronic Edition.
Chapter 22, “The Rationalist Option” Loc. 3654-3861.
Gonzalez identifies the growth of rationalism, reaching a peak in the 18th and 19th centuries, with a new dependence on Aristotle and his emphasis on sensory perception (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 3660). Finding natural and reasonable patterns in some disciplines led to an expectation that all disciplines could be grasped using the same tools.
Rene Descartes, 1596-1650, considered mathematical reasoning key to understanding certainty (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 3675). Because he was able to think, and to think of a God who was greater than he, Descartes was ready to accept both the existence of God and of himself, then sought to prove existence of other things (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 3683). While many saw his philosophy as overly skeptical, some embraced his ideas and used them to proceed to discussion of the interaction between the material and the immaterial. The means of communication between the two realms was a matter of serious debate.
Meanwhile, in Britain, John Locke was working with how we learn from experience, which may occur within us, outside of us, or as God moves in ways we may not be able to comprehend (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 3722). The role of judgment and probability was a challenge to Locke, who wished to avoid the idea of divine action as much as possible (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 3730). While Locke considered Christianity probable, he viewed it simply as an articulation of natural laws which could be readily grasped by anybody (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 3738).
Another alternative of the time, Deism, asserted a naturalist belief in some sort of a god in a world of natural consequences (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 3754). Deism was fairly persuasive for those who had simply slipped into a lax version of Christianity. It did not deal well with the type of reasoning used by David Hume.
Hume (1711-1776) asserted that substance and cause-effect relationships may, in fact, not exist (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 3770). The conclusions we make from appearances do not necessarily have adequate evidence.
In France, at the same time, Voltaire satirized various philosophies, deciding that life consists of a progressive act of discovery about ourselves and our world (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 3800). The purpose of government is for the benefit of the subjects. This view, held by Voltaire’s followers, led to the French Revolution (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 3808). Along with Voltaire, Rousseau advocated government existing for the sake of the people. Religion and other institutions were part of the problem, not the solution (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 3815).
Immanuel Kant, 1724-1804, reached a conclusion that ideas were data which could be categorized (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 3831). Objective knowledge ceases to exist, as it only becomes knowledge after we have manipulated and categorized it (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 3838). Religion may be a useful moral category, but there is no way of proving an absolute (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 3846). Kant’s work left areas of debate open in such a way that much of modern and postmodern philosophy has built on his arguments.
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