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For some, there's a clear separation of religion from reason, reason from religion.

But that's not the way author C.S. Lewis saw it.

To him, religion and reason went together. That idea was the foundation of a talk on Thursday at Westminster College in Fulton. 

Cliff Cain, who holds the Harrod-C.S. Lewis Professorship in Religious Studies at Westminster College, presented the couple behind the professorship with a framed copy of a TIME magazine cover featuring C.S. Lewis.

Cliff Cain, who holds the Harrod-C.S. Lewis Professorship in Religious Studies at Westminster College, presented the couple behind the professorship with a framed copy of a TIME magazine cover featuring C.S. Lewis.

The talk was the first of the Lewis Legacy Lectures, which are expected to happen once a year. The lectures are part of the Harrod-C.S. Lewis Professorship in Religious Studies, a new professorship started by Jim and Sharon Harrod. Jim Harrod is an alumnus of Westminster College. The couple now lives in Texas, but they visited Fulton to hear the inaugural lecture. 

Cliff Cain, who teaches religious studies at the college, is the first to hold the professorship, so he gave the first lecture. 

Sharon Harrod, Cliff Cain and Jim Harrod share excitement before the inaugural lecture in a new series at Westminster College. The Harrods initiated the Harrod-C.S. Lewis Professorship in Religious Studies as a way to give back to Westminster College. Cain is the first to hold the position.

Sharon Harrod, Cliff Cain and Jim Harrod share excitement before the inaugural lecture in a new series at Westminster College. The Harrods initiated the Harrod-C.S. Lewis Professorship in Religious Studies as a way to give back to Westminster College. Cain is the first to hold the position.

After exploring the life of C.S. Lewis, Cain used the author's ideas about religion and reason to answer the question, “How are the commitment of the heart and the power of the mind, to be related?”

One answer is “fanatical fundamentalism.” 

“The issue is resolved by not using one’s mind at all,” Cain said. “One’s critical reason, one’s thoughts, ones questions, are to be parked in the church lot, or the mosque lot, or the synagogue lot, or the tremple lot, along with one’s car.” 

“Extreme rationalism” is the opposite view. “There’s no mystery in life; there’s no fuzziness in comprehension,” Cain said. “If we’ll just think about it long enough . . . .”

Being on one extreme or the other is like spending all of one's time in Jerusalem, a seat of religion, or in Athens, a seat of knowledge, Cain said. But instead of spending all of one's time in one city or another – instead of abandoning questions in favor of faith, or leaving fait in favor or reason – Cain stressed the importance of balance. 

“It would seem to me that a thinking person of faith is caught – and should be caught – right in the middle of these two extremes,” he said. “A faithful person who thinks and questions is necessarily stuck in a creative, healthy tention between Athens and Jerusalem.”

This story was produced in partnership with KBIA 91.3 FM. 

2 Comments

  1. I agree that I too often find myself at odds with the dogmatism of both science and religion. These words by Barry Lopez resonate with me. This is from his essay “Landscape and Narrative” in which he pays homage to the Native American’s way of knowing.

    “I think of the dignity that is ours when we cease to demand the truth and realize that the best we can have of those substantial truths that guide our lives is metaphorical-a story. And the most of it we are likely to discern comes only when we accord one another the respect the Cree showed the Nunamiut. Beyond this-that the interior landscape is a metaphorical representation of the exterior landscape, that the truth reveals itself most fully not in dogma but in the paradox, irony, and contradictions that distinguish compelling narratives-beyond this there are only failures of imagination: reductionism in science; fundamentalism in religion; fascism in politics.”

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