Origen on Rationalism and Belief

In Contra Celsum, Origen responds to each line of critique to the Christian faith by Celsus. One such critique is the irrationality of the common folk. According to Celsus, they are gullible for a lack of eduction, they do not nor give reasons for what they believe, they commonly respond to questions with ‘Do no ask questions; just believe’ and ‘your faith will save you’.

Origen’s response is intriguing because, according to Origen, the study of Scriptures is an act of the mind, it is rational to believe in God, and faith corresponds to rationality.

My answer to this is that if every many could abandon the business of life and devote his time to philosophy, no other course ought to be followed but this alone. For in Christianity, if i make no vulgar boasting, there will be found to be no less profound study of the writings that are believed; we explain th obscure utterances of the prophets, and th parables in the gospels, and innumerable other events or laws which have a symbolic meaning. However, if this is impossible, since, partly owing to the necessities of life and partly owing to human weakness, very few people are enthusiastic about rational thought, what better way of helping the multitude could be found other than given to the nations by Jesus? — Contra Celsum 1.9

Origen continues to critique Celsus’ same ideas by portraying belief in God, who has a great mind, is more rational than taking a sea voyage or sowing seed or taking a wife in marriage.

…is it not more reasonable for a man to trust in God than in the outcome of a sea voyage or of seed sown in the earth or of marriage to a wife or any other human activity? For he puts his faith in the God who created all these things, and in him who with exceptional greatness of mind and divine magnanimity ventured to commend this doctrine to people in all parts of the world, and who incurred great risks and a death supposed to be disgraceful, which he endured for the sake of mankind. — Contra Celsum 1.11

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