9/19/14 ASHLAND, Ohio – In “Faith & Reflection,” his third book in as many years, Ashland University Associate Professor of Philosophy Dr. Jeffrey Tiel approaches faith from a Hellenistic perspective, asking the typically Socratic question: what is faith for? What is its purpose or end?
“To explore this question, I look at the twin traditions of religion and philosophy in tandem,” Tiel explains, “as though they were two strands of a common cord, each fulfilling and spurring on the other.”
“Faith & Reflection” begins with the Socratic call to philosophy, a quest inaugurated by the Oracle of Delphi. Rather than being in conflict with questioning, faith launched philosophical inquiry.
“When we come to Saint Paul we see an appeal back to philosophy, with questions about God’s nature and existence finding their first hints within philosophical reasoning,” Tiel said. “That tradition of mutual support continues throughout the first 1,500 years of the Christian tradition, probably finding its most potent form in the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas.”
But religion isn’t just theory, and so after exploring the metaphysics of faith (the existence and natures of God, angels, demons, ghosts, and the like), the book shifts to the practice of faith by joining real people in their own life challenges.
Starting with a pair of lovers of beauty who discover that religion is anything but ugly, to a man desperate to escape the insulated religious nest into which he was born, the actual difficulties of assimilating one’s life into faith are examined.
The book concludes with a walk through C. S. Lewis’ masterpiece, “Till We Have Faces,” returning the reader back to the pagan tradition for the gripping conclusion of just what the gods might have in mind for human beings.
Tiel explains, “Lewis’ central character wonders, as many of us probably have, if the gods blow us up only to prick and pop us like pointless bubbles. But she eventually grasps the folly of that thinking, wondering how the gods could meet us face to face if we lack faces.”
What, then, does God want with us? What hint does “Faith & Reflection” offer?
Here’s a clue from two quotations from the book. First, “Grace never contradicts nature but rather fulfills it.” And second, “When God makes the saint, he does not unmake the man.” What does that mean? “Human nature is not a mistake,” answers Tiel, “but the vehicle for God to intimately love his creation. Only by returning that love can we ever be fulfilled. The greatest commandment is not an accident.”
The original cover design and artwork for “Faith & Reflection” were provided by Joshua Risner, a former student of Tiel’s, who also collaborated with Tiel on the graphic design and artwork for his “Philosophy of Human Nature” book. Risner completed the artwork, “The Contemplative Virgin,” in 2010 and offered the painting as a gift to the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University in Rome during a summer art study trip led by Tiel.
Tiel, who joined Ashland University in 1998, previously taught at the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., as well as Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. He is an award-winning teacher, known for bringing ancient ideas to life. In addition to “Faith & Reflection,” Tiel also has published “Philosophy of Human Nature,” as well as a supernatural thriller titled “The Search for Melchizedek,” both available at Amazon.com. He is currently completing a book of philosophical sermons and working on the sequel to the “The Search for Melchizedek.”
Ashland University, which has been ranked in the top 200 colleges and universities in U.S. News and World Report’s National Universities category, is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University (www.ashland.edu) values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students. ###