Faith and Reason – Which to Choose

If repetition is the mother of all learning, as theologian Thomas Aquinas famously said, then preparation is the father of success. Slow, steady application of what we learn ensures a positive result. Aquinas was one of the most influential medieval thinkers and the founder of the Thomistic school of theology. According to his biography, his revolutionary view was that reason and faith were compatible. Not only were they compatible they could work in collaboration: Aquinas believed that revelation could guide reason and prevent it from making mistakes, while reason could clarify and demystify faith.

Conflicts between your intuitive and rational functions can be resolved when you let them work together to create solutions, as opposed to seeing them as adversaries. Intuition often feels exasperated by rationality’s restriction, much like you feel when someone challenges what is obvious to you. If you are not conscious of doubt’s value, however, critics who upset you are mirroring your own misgivings. On the other hand, when you are overly rational you reject unusual ways of looking at a problem because it is unproven. Then you miss out on opportunities that can change your own and others’ lives for the better.

The See Saw Between Opposites

You will probably swing from one extreme to the other during your lifetime, from doubt to faith, hopefulness to despair, and then back again until you reach equilibrium, the balance Aquinas offered to his times. Again, repetition is vital to learning, just as adequate preparation minimizes defeat. Each time we lose hope, we can modify our objectives and try again. Each time we persevere through doubt, we can build on that achievement.

For example, think back to a time when you took on more than you could handle and then suffered a great loss, emotionally and financially. What warning did you overlook? Were you following the lead of someone you thought knew more than you? Were you longing to escape from current difficulties, too eager to slow down and check the facts?

If you were not prepared to deal with the consequences of what impatience set in motion you are not alone. Millions of people were devastated by the aftermath of the financial meltdown that began in 2007. A global tragedy could have been prevented had reason overruled buyers’ and bankers’ irrational enthusiasm. The black humor of the movie “The Big Short” describes how blind faith (and greed) led to a worldwide collapse that destroyed many lives. Like the only non-drinkers at a wild party, the honest characters in the movie were up against mass collusion and denial. Paradoxically, their down to earth viewpoint made them wealthy.

Craving Versus Need