Friday, February 23, 2007

Kant on true religion

...because the common man especially has an enduring propensity within him to sink into passive belief, it must be inculcated painstakingly and repeatedly that true religion is to consist not in the knowing or considering of what God does or has done for our salvation, but in what we must do to become worthy of it.

-Immanuel Kant, Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone,
trans. Theodore Greene and Hoyt Hudson (New York: 1960), 123.

One of the most brilliant and influential minds the human race has ever received and yet he managed to get some basic things so thoroughly upside-down.

7 comments:

Benjamin Ady said...

forgive my ignorance, I'm fairly a novice at theology. But how is this so different from James' "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world"?

byron said...

As I see it, James does not speak of our becoming worthy of God's salvation, but of living out our faith. He is very concerned that faith not be mere intellectual assent (even the devils realise that God is in charge), but must result in action, yet it is still faith that is crucial - a deep trust in God which will inevitably be expressed in visiting orphans and widows, and keeping yourself 'unspotted from the world'). It is only that God has first done something (salvation) that means we are able to respond in faith-filled obedience.

AndrewE said...

Yes, this is a remarkable quote. And you're right, Byron: James insists on works because by them he can show me his faith!

Drew said...

If only he had gone onto conclude that we could not, and therefore then proceeded to the previously outlawed proposition...

but then perhaps the entiren subsequent history of philosophy would have been different.

One of Freedom said...

Hey Byron, what is the chapter and paragraph of this quote? I have this on my shelf but it is the Cambridge texts and I haven't had a chance to read it yet. Would love to read the context.

byron said...

Sorry Frank - check out the fine print here.

Jonathan said...

This is probably just a matter of definitions, but I find it helpful to think of true religion as the actions of which Kant and James speak, and that it is something deeper than religion that both saves and enables truer religion. AndrewE's comments on the Aquinas on Law and Gospel post seem relevant.