Faith, Reason, and Knowledge: A Parable

Robert Harris
Version Date: May 1, 2013

The Story

Reason was calmly riding his bicycle toward the Mountain of Truth when he happened to notice Temptation lying on a soft blanket among the flowers by the road. "Hey there," Temptation said, winking at Reason, who was so startled that he nearly crashed his bike. "You must be tired from all that pedaling. Why don't you stop and rest awhile?" She patted the blanket next to her. "We could, um, talk." As she said this, she curled a lock of  her long hair around her finger.

Reason tried to pull himself together. “I don’t think so,” he said. “I’ve got a mountain to climb.” Reason tried to stand firm and still, but his legs were being shaken by Weakness and Indecision.

“Are you sure? The mountain isn't going anywhere. You have lots of time. Why not spend a little of it with me?" Temptation gave herself a glance over and then ran her fingers through her hair ever so alluringly.

Reason looked around for Confidence as he tried to shake off Weakness and Indecision, but, to his dismay, he saw that Confidence had joined Pride and both were climbing the Mountain of Error.

Reason wanted to get back on his bicycle, but Indecision wouldn't let him. Weakness kept whispering in his ear, "Are you mad? Here's your chance! Look at her!" Fortunately, Courage and Determination, who had been practicing their sword fighting nearby, happened to look over just then and saw Reason struggling with Indecision. Determination flung Weakness completely off the road and into a bramble bush, while Courage gave Indecision a body slam that knocked the breath out of him.

"Come on, let's go," the two said to Reason.

Thus emboldened, Reason grew convinced that he could not only escape Temptation, but that  he could climb the Mountain of Truth. He nodded a farewell to Temptation and turned to go. Temptation, instead resenting the rebuff, smiled broadly and said, "Not today? No worries. I'll always be here."

The three approached the base of The Mountain of Truth and noticed how steep, craggy, and difficult the climb was. The three climbed together for a long while, but eventually Courage said he needed to rest awhile. Reason, urged on by Determination, kept climbing. His hands were bloodied, his feet blistered, his knees bruised from the rocks when his feet slipped,but he continued the arduous climb.

After what seemed like forever, at the end of a long and thirsty struggle, Reason and Determination finally neared the summit. But here was a new difficulty. The top jutted out all around the circumference of the mountain, making it impossible to get to over it. "That's it," said Determination, looking over his own bruises. "I've had enough." And with that, he sat down.

"But we're so close," Reason said, plaintively.

"I've heard that before," said Determination, looking away. Reason looked around idly for inspiration, but all he could see was Despair at the bottom of the mountain, mocking him and urging him to jump to his doom.

"Kill myself?" said Reason, with indignant surprise. "That would be irrational."

"Hey," Determination said, "if you want to kill youself, I can help you."

"No, thanks," Reason said, now understanding that Determination wasn't really a thinker. He was more of a supporter to help doing things, whether wise or foolish.

Well, Reason was about to plop himself on the ground to rest before he went back down the mountain to punch the lights out of Despair (for Reason sometimes had a bit of a temper). But just then, a slender arm reached over the edge from above and held out a welcoming hand. Surprised and joyful, Reason gladly accepted the offer and with the helper’s aid and his own struggling, managed to get over the ledge and up onto the top of the Mountain of Truth.

Imagine Reason’s surprise and delight when he saw that his rescuer was a beautiful woman with long, golden hair. “Who are you, “ he asked the girl, “and how long have you been here?”

“My name is Faith,“ answered the girl, “and I have been here all my life.”

Many days were required for Faith to explain how, while she was still a very young girl, Hope had introduced her to Trust, Hope's husband, and he had described a path to the top. He pointed to the mountain as he spoke, but the path was barely visible from below. “Trust really gave good directions,” said Faith, “and with the encouragement of Hope, I followed the path all the way up. I could see only a few feet or even one turn at a time in front of me, but I never got lost. It wasn't long before I got to the top. And I’ve been here ever since." During these times of explanation, Faith and Reason, inhaling together the soft air atop the Mountain of Truth, began to feel an interest in each other beyond the agreeableness of mutually informative conversation. In a word, the two soon fell in love and got married.

In the natural course of events, the couple was blessed with a child named Knowledge.

The Moral

There can be no Knowledge without Faith and Reason working together on Truth.

The Interpretation

Faith is the foundation for all knowledge and must come first. We must have faith in the source of knowledge—faith in the book, the instructor, the writer, the speaker. Faith depends on trust, and you must trust the authority and veracity of the statements that claim to be knowledge or you cannot ever gain knowledge. Even if you want to get knowledge through your own, immediate sensory experience, you must have faith that appearances don’t deceive you, that you are perceiving and interpreting correctly, and that what you are experiencing is rationally intelligible.

And reason must join faith so that what you believe is reasonable. Reason must join with faith because reason alone cannot find knowledge. Reason alone working inductively from particulars to generalizations always runs the risk of the black swan—the exception that falsifies the generalization. And reason alone working deductively faces the risk that the starting premises are flawed, therefore rendering the conclusion fallacious.


Where does Love fit into this parable, you ask? The entire story will have to wait. But for now, know that Love is the daughter of Knowledge. For explanation, I quote Brother Lawrence in The Practice of the Presence of God (1693):

We must know before we can love. In order to know God, we must often think of Him; and when we come to love Him, we shall then also think of Him often, for our heart will be with our treasure.

Let all our employment be to know God: the more one knows Him, the more one desires to know Him. And as knowledge is commonly the measure of love, the deeper and more extensive our knowledge shall be, the greater will be our love: and if our love of God were great we should love Him equally in pains and pleasures.

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About the author:
Robert Harris is a writer and educator with more than 25 years of teaching experience at the college and university level. RHarris at virtualsalt.com