Friday, April 3, 2009
Kalb on TLS
James Kalb, author of The Tyranny of Liberalism, kindly reviews The Last Superstition over at his blog. I thank him for his comments, but would want to clarify a couple of points. First, it’s not Christianity per se the truth of which I argue for in the book, but rather the truth of certain praeambula fidei or “preambles” of the Christian faith, namely the existence of God, the immortality of the soul, and the reality of the natural moral law. (To be sure, I do think that there are compelling arguments for the truth of Christianity specifically, but making that case would take another book.) And while I do hold that faith often involves (in Kalb’s words) “the habit of standing by views that are demonstrably correct in the face of nonrational temptations to abandon them” – this is, as I argue in TLS, what we do when we continue to trust in the goodness of God in the face of evil – I would not say that that is all there is to faith. In the strict theological sense, faith is an assent to truths known to be divinely revealed, and which could not be known other than through divine revelation (e.g. the Trinitarian nature of God). Part of what I wanted to emphasize in the book is that (contrary to the usual caricature) faith does not involve an ungrounded will to believe; though it involves trusting in what divine authority has revealed, the claim that such-and-such really has been revealed is nevertheless something for which rational arguments should (and, in the case of the central claims of Christianity, can) be given. But precisely because that which is “taken on faith” in this way cannot be known directly through philosophical arguments, it is bound to be more mysterious to us than that which can be directly known in that way. So, I agree with Kalb that we should avoid too rationalistic an account of the object of faith – my point was rather that the act of faith is still perfectly rational.