October 28, 2006

Reason and Faith

What should a college graduate of the 21st century know? This was the question in front of a Harvard comittee. The answer to which, includes, "the role of religion in contemporary, historical, or future events -- personal, cultural, national, or international."

The Harvard committee rightly noted that students coming to college today struggle with an academy that is "profoundly secular." This was not always the case, at Harvard or at many other universities. For centuries scholars, scientists and artists agreed that convictions of faith were wholly compatible with the highest levels of reasoning, inquiry and creativity. But in recent centuries this assumption had been challenged and assertions of faith marginalized in, and even banished from, academic departments and university curricula. Requiring courses in "Reason and Faith" would be a welcome step toward reintroducing faith to the academy.

What should be the content of such courses? The Harvard committee hastens to explain that its proposal is not for "religious apologetics." Rather, the courses it envisions would offer an examination of "the interplay between religion and various aspects of national and/or international culture and society." They would deal not so much with the relationship between reason and faith as with reasoning about faith, religion and religious institutions and their impact in the world.