Fides et Scientia Quaerens Intellectum

| By on Faith and Science Seeking Understanding

Welcome to fides et scientia quaerens intellectum.  This possibly pretentious sounding title, which translates as “Faith and Science Seeking Understanding,” comes from a Latin phrase associated with the eleventh century theologian Anselm: fides quaerens intellectum.  He wrote in his book Proslogium (which had Fides Quaerens Intellectum as the original title), “For I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand.  For this also I believe,—that unless I believed, I should not understand.”  This echoes Augustine’s statement some 700 years earlier, “For understanding is the reward of faith.  Therefore do not seek to understand in order to believe, but believe that thou mayest understand.”

In both Augustine and Anselm, faith is prior to to understanding.  Sometimes this is interpreted as fideism—the view that you just have to believe, regardless of the evidence or lack thereof.  That interpretation is pretty hard to find in their work, though.  They were deeply involved in providing reasons for faith. The better interpretation of faith seeking understanding is that we who believe are in a continuous project of working out our faith, of coming to understand the implications our believing has for all areas of life.

Of course there is a different question about how one came to believe.  Not a lot of people become Christians simply because they were rationally persuaded by arguments (though some do).  There are all sorts of ways that people are converted to Christianity.  I personally know one thoughtful Christian who originally adopted the faith because he was given an evangelistic tract on a street corner by a stranger, and another who gave his life to Christ at a Benny Hinn crusade.  These are not in themselves what philosophers would call justifying reasons.  But today these guys do have justifying reasons for their faith (in my opinion) because they have sought understanding from within the framework of faith.

This is the meaning of the C.S. Lewis quote in the sidebar of this blog, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”  In this sense, faith is a way of seeing things, not just a set of propositions to be assented to.  Of course there is some propositional content to Christian faith (e.g., “There is a God” and “Jesus resurrected from the dead”).  But the “faith seeking understanding” approach takes it as artificial to wrench the propositions away from a much more complex way of life and examine them in isolation.  Instead, we examine the way of life by working out its fruitfulness as a way of seeing things.

In the Middle Ages, reflection on the natural world was understood to be included in the project of faith seeking understanding.  I added scientia to the phrase primarily for the rhetorical effect of linking it explicitly with today’s science and faith dialogue (and secondarily because it makes a better acronym!  FESQI rhymes with “pesky”).  My big picture intention for this blog is to post articles that will help to articulate and develop the way of seeing which is committed to the truth of Christianity and to the acceptance of modern science—both understood in broad strokes.  Being committed to these does not mean blind trust (or fideism) or an unwillingness to examine the commitments.  But rather than examining isolated propositions, the arguments for the correctness of the BioLogos approach to faith and science on this blog will come primarily in the form of how well they illuminate everything else we look at.  

More specifically, can we work out the view of Evolutionary Creation in such a way that it provides a coherent perspective on what we know about the world through theology and through science? That is the goal of FESQI.  

I’d be happy for you to join me in the project.  I’ll patrol the comments section, joining in the discussion when I can.  Or if you’ve got an idea for a post, contact me and give me a pitch; I plan on regularly featuring guest authors.  I’d also like to review new and current books in the field of science and religion; let me know if you’d like to be a reviewer.  If you have other ideas for how to foster an online community of people who desire to think carefully about science and Christianity (and who are committed to interacting with each other graciously), I’d love to hear them.

May God add his blessing to this work as we endeavor to serve him.

 

Notes

Citations

MLA

Stump, Jim. "Fides et Scientia Quaerens Intellectum"
http://biologos.org/. N.p., 24 Sep. 2015. Web. 21 February 2017.

APA

Stump, J. (2015, September 24). Fides et Scientia Quaerens Intellectum
Retrieved February 21, 2017, from http://biologos.org/blogs/jim-stump-faith-and-science-seeking-understanding/fides-et-scientia-quaerens-intellectum

About the Author

Jim Stump

Jim Stump is Senior Editor at BioLogos. As such he oversees the development of new content and curates existing content for the website and print materials. Jim has a PhD in philosophy from Boston University and was formerly a philosophy professor and academic administrator. He has authored Science and Christianity: An Introduction to the Issues (Wiley-Blackwell, 2017) and co-authored (with Chad Meister) Christian Thought: A Historical Introduction (Routledge, 2010, 2016). He has co-edited (with Alan Padgett) The Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012) and (with Kathryn Applegate) How I Changed My Mind About Evolution (InterVarsity, 2016).

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