Religious faith is not in opposition to reason. The purpose of faith is to discover truths that are of the highest importance to us yet are unavailable to us through purely naturalmeans. Wittgenstein famously said in his Tractatus that “even if all possible scientific questions are answered, the problems of life have still not been touched at all.”7 The point is that the game of science is conducted on a field, and the most important questions of life— Why am I here? What should I love? What should I live for?—lie outside that field. Faith is an attempt to reach beyond the empirical realm and illuminate those questions. Both Kant and Wittgenstein say this is impossible, but they mean it is impossible as a project of reason alone. Perhaps there is another way.

Confronted by the supreme questions of human existence, philosopher Brian Magee writes, “We are like soldiers besieging a castle who have sought endlessly and in vain to find a way of penetrating its walls and whose only hope, whether they realize it or not, lies in a different mode of entry, a tunnel that will bring them up inside the fortress without penetrating the walls at all.” This account is an excellent description of how faith seeks a route that has been closed to reason. The goal is the same, to find the truth, but faith journeys on when reason has given up the chase. If the agnostic wishes to put down his satchel and quit, he cannot begrudge the believer who is willing to try a new path to reach the summit.

The believer uses faith to gain access to a new domain, that of revelation. There is no other option here because reason has quite frankly run out of steam. The believer hopes that revelation will expose truths otherwise hidden to reason. The believer embraces faith not “blindly” but rather with his “eyes wide open.” The Christian relies on faith not to suppress his native powers but to guide them so that they may see more clearly. He expects revelation to reactivate and guide his reason. Augustine’s dictum is applicable here: “Believe and you will understand.” That is why religious believers are so perplexed when atheists accuse them of jettisoning their intellectual abilities. Social critic Michael Novak says that “using reason is a little like using the naked eye, whereas ‘putting on faith’ is like putting on perfectly calibrated glasses … to capture otherwise invisible dimensions of reality.”