chapter  4
14 Pages

Rational Religious Faith and Kant’s Transcendental Boundaries

ByChris L. Firestone

The traditional approach to interpreting Immanuel Kant understands his philosophy to put a debilitating boundary line between knowledge and faith. So complete is this separation in the Critique of Pure Reason that a realist religious faith is thought to lack any meaningful grounds in reason whatsoever.1 According to the traditional approach, faith is effectively dead on arrival in Kant’s critical philosophy. Knowledge and understanding are built on the firm foundation of the phenomenal realm; theology and speculation are built on the shifting sands of the noumenal realm. Discursive human reasoning is capable of pursuing truth only via facts about nature, not via faith in supersensible things. Theology, under traditional Kantian strictures, can find no sure footing in either the sensible or the supersensible. God is part of the noumenal realm, and humans (including theologians) are part of the phenomenal realm, and thus humans cannot think or say anything intelligible about God. The gap is too big, too deep, and the bridge that would be required to traverse such a gap is simply too immense for reason to fathom. In fact, the gap is impossible to bridge. References to God in Kant’s philosophy, if that philosophy is to be consistent, are taken merely to be references to an idea or postulate – an intellectual fiction good for the moral life of the one entertaining the idea, but nothing more. In the light of traditional approaches to Kant, theologians have limited options. They can in good conscience choose from among atheism, agnosticism, non-realism and deism.