Volume 88, Issue 3/4, July/October 2011
Theological Themes in Modern Philosophy
Amyraut on Reason and Religious Belief
Moses Amyraut’s 1640 work On the Elevation of Faith and the Humbling of Reason is often misread as advocating the position suggested by its title. In fact, Amyraut constructs a tripartite classification of religious beliefs according to their relation to reason, such that he can affirm truths that are incomprehensible to
reason, while maintaining that reason is the ultimate ground of their truth. He divides religious truths into those delivered by reason, those consistent with reason, and those incomprehensible to reason, as against religious beliefs contrary to reason, which cannot be true; the rationality of each class of truths depends on the rationality of those in the previous class. This classification helps to make sense of the seventeenth-century debate between those (such as Leibniz) who argue that incomprehensible religious beliefs are simply above reason, and those (such as Bayle) who argue that incomprehensible religious beliefs are actually contrary to reason.