What’s the relationship between faith and reason? That should be answered with a question: Which reason are you talking about? Aza Goudriaan (Reformed Orthodoxy And Philosophy, 16251750: Gisbertus Voetius, Petrus Van Mastricht, And Anthonius Driessen, 56) notes that Petrus van Mastricht distinguished three types of reason:
“reason can be considered ‘as an instrument, as an argument, or as a norm and principle.’ Instrumental reason is ‘necessary, in whatever inquisition of truth.’ Argumentative reason is ‘useful, namely in order that we confirm also by natural reasons the truth that is taken from Scripture as its first and unique principle.’ But for normative reason Reformed theology has no place.”
He gives reasons why reason cannot be normative: Scripture speaks of the blindness and imperfection of reason, for instance, and Scripture includes mysteries and paradoxes that “contradict reason.” Besides, “Christ, the prophets and the apostles send us back never to reason, but always to Scripture” (57).
On this basis, van Mastricht offered a thorough attack on Descartes, who, he thought, ultimately subordinated the Bible to philosophy:
Philosophers claim that “the relationship between theology and philosophy tend to equate the two, the steps that follow imply the ‘superiority and domination’ of philosophical thought. One of these steps is the hypothesis that the Bible ‘speaks in natural matters in accordance with the erroneous opinion of the people.’ Moreover, ‘the judgement about places of Scripture regarding natural matters—of whether they are accurate or popular—is to be left to philosophers.’ In addition, the conclusion is drawn that the Bible should not be considered a source book for physical knowledge. A further step is made when philosophical criticism suggests that ‘Scripture, in practical and moral matters, speaks in accordance with the erroneous opinion of the people.’ Then, the suggestion is made that even ‘in matters of faith’ the Bible is not to be taken at its word, as it is claimed to ‘speak in accordance with the erroneous opinion of the people’ in this realm too. It is not difficult to see that on this trajectory finally the conclusion seems inescapable that philosophy is a superior means to finding out truth” (60).
It’s almost a pre-history of the course of modern biblical studies, foreseen at the outset. And it puts one in mind of Milbank’s axiom that if theology doesn’t not position and control other discourses, it will itself be positioned.