Reason or Religious Affections

Reason or religious affections — a false dichotomy in divine revelation as a legacy of the early modern construction of divine agency in the world
Robert Brennan, October 2013.




The Rev. Dr Robert Brennan PhD, MAppSci, BA (hon), BTh, BSc is an ordained Uniting Church minister with a background in industrial physics and theology.

His doctoral thesis is entitled ‘Augustine, Perfection and Inspiration: a stumbling block to the dialogue between theology and science’.


The early nineteenth century saw the development of a dichotomy in affirming the notion of divine revelation in the world. One the one hand it was assumed that Christian faith could be supported by reasoned argument based on evidence from the books of nature or scripture or by appeal to the religious affections, the subjective inward sensation of God's action felt in the human heart. On the other hand, it was assumed that if these under serious scrutiny were to become subject to doubt then the Christian faith would be relegated to intellectual limbo. The intellectual tension developed by this dichotomy is evident in the life and work of anumber of significant figures in the nineteenth century, but also colours contemporary dialogue between theology and science.

It is argued that this dichotomy is false and came about as a consequence of the understanding of divine agency which developed in early modernity from a combination of late medieval understanding of the divine perfections, the notion of the two books of God's revelation — scripture and nature, and a generic adaptation of Augustine's understanding of anthropology in relation to divine agency inspiration.

It will be suggested that there are other ways forward for dialogue which can avoid what often looms as an impasse in discussion.


Key words

Divine self-disclosure, religion, science, Darwin, Huxley, divine agency, divine revelation, religious affections

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