Comparing Augustine’s Understanding of the Roles between Faith and Reason with Thomas Aquinas

Comparing Augustine’s Understanding of the Roles between Faith and Reason with Thomas Aquinas

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Comparing Augustine’s Understanding of the Roles between Faith and Reason with Thomas Aquinas

Augustine was a significant Christian thinker in theology. He adopted classical thoughts to Christian theology on faith and reasoning and established a powerful and influential theological system. He emerged in the late 4th century as a defender of the Christian faith (Grove, 2021). While Thomas Aquinas was in theology was an immensely influential Dominican friar, theologian, and priest in the tradition of scholasticism. In the theological field, Thomas Aquinas was a protuberant proponent of natural theology and founder of Thomism, a school of thought that included theology and philosophy. Generally, being a believer, he argued that God was the provider of light of natural reason and light of faith. However, before comparing the greater theologists, it is important to understand the relation of faith to reason. The relation between faiths to reason has been an important foundational theological and apologetic question as discussed in chapter 1 by (Mcgrath, 2018). In the philosophy of religion, faith relates to reason because theological faith is over and above reason. Therefore, it is not subjected to criteria generally used by reasoning beings. Based on this, faith and reason are distinct, and each governs their independent domain faith and reason have been considered two major sources of justification in theology for religious belief (Mcgrath, 2018).

In their theological contribution, Augustine and Thomas Aquinas discussed the dichotomy of faith and reason and outlined the relationship between the two terms in philosophical and theological explorations. Despite being in existence in different centuries, Augustine began at the end of the 4th century to the early beginning of the 5th century, while Thomas’s writing came in the 13th century. Augustine’s understanding of the role between and reason from’ Getting Started’ is well illustrated. Augustine argued that human reason and philosophies based upon it greatly impact theology. Augustine’s understanding of faith and reason in Christian doctrine, he felt that intellectual autopsy into the faith has to be understood as faith as a way of seeking understanding (Mcgrath, 2018). Still, in his understanding to believe is a way to reason (think) with assent. Augustine’s understanding of faith and reason was based on Plato’s perspective. Through his theological understanding, he alleged that the use of reason, which in his understanding included history, natural science, and logic, were beneficial facts to clarify the Christian faith. Therefore, since faith and reason govern different domains, Augustine believed Christians do not have to resort to reason because he claimed faith is superior to reason. Thus, Augustine’s understanding was that faith came first in cases when reason controverts Christians. Moreover, as a result, Augustine’s attitude changed and shaped Christians’ discussion concerning reason till the early modern era (Mcgrath, 2018).

However, focusing on and comparing Thomas Aquinas’ understanding of the role(s) between faith and reason to that of Augustine, Aquinas is understood and believed to have reconciled faith and reason. Based on Aquinas’s understanding of faith and reason, he claimed faith is justification in terms of proof, predominantly the five ways to prove God’s existence. His clear understanding of faith claims that it is a justified belief, and faith justification is based on the success of the five ways. Being an Aristotle, Aquinas argued that faith has its kind of evidence and the Aristotelian epistemic virtue of certitude. Through his argument, he reconciled faith and Aristotelian reason. As indicated by Mcgrath (2018), Thomas Aquinas argued that supernatural evidence has to be revealed and claimed that human reason on its own could not hope to have or gain access to divine mysteries. Moreover, as a result, he shaped Christian theologians because reason helps us to reflect on revelation.


Grove, K. G. (2021). Augustine on Memory. Oxford University Press.

Mcgrath, A. E. (2018). Theology: the basic readings. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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