The discussion on the rationality of a transcendent being continues unabated over at PseudoPolymath. Mark and Jim continue to wrangle over whether it is possible or necessary to determine whether God is rational. The discussion has sidelined into issues of theodicy and Romans 9, prompting Mark to provide this treatment of the difficult passage.

Work and sickness have kept me away from blogging, and the discussion has consequently moved beyond me, but I thought I would offer a few reflections. In his concise reply to my post, my brother asked this provocative question: “if transcendent thoughts are “utterly other,” how is it possible to judge them “not irrational?”” The question is beautifully framed, and difficult to answer. Mark and Keith’s replies are, I think, spot on. But, as Chesterton understood, there are thoughts that stop thought, and I think my brother has hit on one. If the transcendant thoughts are not rational, then it seems any rational basis for judging anything is lost. If the fundamental reality of the world is will, rather than reason, then all reason can be reduced to the irrational will that undergirds all. The end result is that the stopping point for any question will not be a rational stopping point, but rather an irrational power. Because there is no Answer that will make sense of the universe, there can be no answers that will make sense of our experience.
The ability to question well–to ask and hope for answers–depends upon a logos at the center of the universe. The fact that we do question indicates that we are looking for answers that make sense–that rationally explain the reality. The question itself, as with all questions, seems to point to the rational structure of the universe. The question is its own answer.

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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.

3 Comments

  1. You could show that there is a rationality inherent in the universe, and yet the transcendence of that rationality is a non sequitur. Perhaps my confusion–which I will say has not been abated by anything anyone has yet written, here or elsewhere–is due to the fact that “transcendence” and “utterly other” are such slippery concepts. Are they equivalent?

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  2. […] MatthewLee (brother of Jim Anderson of Decorabilia) @ Mere Orthodoxy comments on the ongoing debate over reason and religion sparked by the Pontiff’s little lecture in Germany. Jim had remarked on the, ahem, unusual choice in my defense of this in quoting Keirkegaard in a defense of rationality for one of the main points of Keirkegaard’s thrust is on the unrational “leap” of faith required by Christianity. However, I think in the main this was actually a better choice than I might have imagined for the following “reason”. But in part, as framed by Matthew a key question being raised by Jim is “if transcendent thoughts are “utterly other,” how is it possible to judge them “not irrational?”” […]

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  3. […] I’ve been mostly busy working on other projects this week, so I haven’t done much blogging, but I wanted to point out this comment from Jim: You could show that there is a rationality inherent in the universe, and yet the transcendence of that rationality is a non sequitur. Perhaps my confusion–which I will say has not been abated by anything anyone has yet written, here or elsewhere–is due to the fact that “transcendence” and “utterly other” are such slippery concepts. Are they equivalent? […]

    Reply

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