Visitors - Come on in and say hello!

Monday, August 02, 2010

Faith isn't Faith Unless Reason is Involved

I received a very interesting comment on an old post today, and thought it compelling enough to create a post dedicated to it.  Why? Firstly because the individual who left it seemed surprised to find mention of philosophy on a Christian blog, and secondly, because it shows he is very very misinformed about what we as Catholics believe about the relationship between Faith and Reason.  I have published the comment below, but for the sake of making it a bit more readable I have edited it a little for punctuation (capitalized sentences) and bolded the most pertinent sections. I do encourage you to read his entire comment, however, in order to better be able to engage his own position in relation to ours as Catholics.

Hmm...combing Nietzsche ideas with Judeo-Christian ideals, I guess pigs can fly, maybe there is hope for unification among religious theology with philosophy, next unifying science. I won’t convert to a Christian because of this but I am amazed you were opened minded enough to take other ideals to thought, I suggest you finish reading some of Nietzsche books as well as Plato which would be more to your suiting. Im a very spiritual person, taking the positive ideals from Christianly, wiccan, pagans, neopagan, goetia, Taoism, existentialist, metaphorical and literal versions of Satanism and a few ideas from shaman and Buddhism they appear to contradict at first but that is only if you dont read and search for yourself, to me they are all one in the same. I'm not trying to offend you by saying i think of demons as both metaphors and rarely literal neither do i want to often you by showing that i study religion like another philosophy class, I merely want to congratulate you for showing that a faithful Christian can be opened minded enough to add philosophy into their religious beliefs because like most ppl, the stereotype is that they are one sided but as i see from this, you are not. :)

People often accuse Christians of not being "reasonable", of not engaging "reason", of just following "blind faith".  Perhaps that is true of some Christians, but it is NOT true of our religion and our beliefs. Quite frankly, this is why Pope John Paul II published an Encyclical letter called Fides et ratio:  Faith AND Reason (not "Faith INSTEAD OF Reason)!

Before I began my graduate studies in Theology, I remember wondering why seminarians had to study philosophy for four years before entering the major seminary. By the time I completed my degree, it became very very clear. In fact, I struggle most with Christology because I was lacking the philosophical background that would have enabled me to better grasp the terms used, their definitions and their development over the centuries.  I have come to learn that without a solid grounding in philosophy, one cannot fully enter into a study of Theology.  So it was that throughout our three years, our professors brought in different points of philosophy in order to give us that basis. As it is, I now understand the importance of philosophy and of course, the development of theology which was understood through the powers of the human intellect, combing both what we can know of God and our world through natural reason with the supernatural gift of Faith.

This great myth that Christianity as a whole, and Catholicism more specifically, does not engage reason tends to reveal the great intellectual dishonesty of those making such an accusation.

The Church has always used philosophy in the development of theology, whether to properly define terms, to explore the deepest meanings of them and how they apply in light of Divine Revelation.

For anyone who has ears to hear, let them hear:

The Catholic Church is all about FAITH AND REASON!

I offer you this evidence:

St. Justin Martyr's Apologia:

From Chapter 2, Justice Demanded:
Reason directs those who are truly pious and philosophical to honour and love only what is true, declining to follow traditional opinions, if these be worthless. For not only does sound reason direct us to refuse the guidance of those who did or taught anything wrong, but it is incumbent on the lover of truth, by all means, and if death be threatened, even before his own life, to choose to do and say what is right.

Aristides the Philosopher, The Apology :This entire work is reason and faith; it's impossible to take small excerpt without removing it from its proper context.

St. Augustine, Confessions
 As Augustine was firmly philosophical and wrote many works, I offer from his Book 10, Chapter 6 title heading from Confessions: Chapter 6. The Love of God, in His Nature Superior to All Creatures, is Acquired by the Knowledge of the Senses and the Exercise of Reason.

St. Thomas Aquinas:  The Summa Theologica:   This work is a masterpiece of Faith and Reasons, utilizing a particular format which sets forth a question, begins with the objections to the question, supports the objections, and then one by one, replies to them. It is so intensely logical and philosophical that many people struggle with the content. I confess to doing so myself.  St. Thomas utilized the philosophy of Plato, Aristotle and Augustine, among many others.  This document is STILL used today in the serious study of Theology, and although some of it was speculative, we can thank St. Thomas for this work in the aid it became in the development of doctrine over the centuries.

I could go on and on, but as I only have one lifetime, one can find far more at New Advent: Fathers.

As our Church is a living Church, we have philosophers and theologians from our own age. John Paul II and Benedict XVI are both serious philosophers;  George Weigel in Witness to Hope has a very large section in his book describing the philosophy of John Paul II, who himself gave us the great Papal Encyclical, "Fides et Ratio". 

An excerpt:

  "On her part, the Church cannot but set great value upon reason's drive to attain goals which render people's lives ever more worthy. She sees in philosophy the way to come to know fundamental truths about human life. At the same time, the Church considers philosophy an indispensable help for a deeper understanding of faith and for communicating the truth of the Gospel to those who do not yet know it." (FR, 5)

It should be clear by now that the Catholic Church has always used philosophy as a handmaid to the higher science of Theology. It is through the use of philosophy, and thus, human reason, that the Church has been able to engage the human mind and heart in order to better open them to the higher powers of the soul through the light of Grace in the supernatural gift of Faith.

St. Paul himself spoke, in his letters, to the fact that children do childish things, but when they grow they must put away those things of childhood. So it is with Faith. A child may not be able to reason to the degree as an adult and will accept certain things on "blind faith", and so they must. But as the child grows, so does his intellect and he finds that he has questions about not just the natural world, but about the Creator; these questions are written upon his very heart!

My own "reversion" if that is what one wants to call it, was one of reason. I did not know my faith, I  did not know my religion and did not understand it. I found I needed to seek the Truth, and in so doing, I had to study.

I am not Catholic through "blind faith" but through faith seeking understanding. Through the use of reason in light of Divine Revelation.

I am Catholic because it is Truth, and it is the fullness of Truth, it is the fullness of Christ. That is not to say that I know everything there is to know, but rather, I believe what I know, submit willfully to those things I do not understand, and will continue to use my intellect to seek understanding for those questions that may yet remain.

Faith without reason isn't faith; it's a sham.

And that's all I have to say about that.


Joe of St. Thérèse said...


Smiley said...

Between a reason which, in conformity with its own nature that comes to it from God, is directed to the truth and is accustomed to know what is true, and a faith which reinforces itself at the selfsame divine source of every truth, no basic conflict can arise. for rather, faith confirms the rights which are proper to natural reason. it presupposes them. For its acceptance presupposes that freedom which is proper only to a rational being. that said, it is nonetheless true that faith and science belong to two different orders of knowledge, which cannot be superimposed the one on the other. And here, furthermore, it becomes plain that reason cannot do everything of itself; it is finite. It has to be embodied in a multiplicity of partial types of knowledge and is expressed in a plurality of individual sciences. It can grasp the unity binding the world and truth to their origins only within partial modes of knowledge. In so far as they are sciences, even philosophy and theology are limited attempts that can only grasp the complex unity of truth in its diversity - that is, within a latticework of open and complementary kinds of knowledge.
The 'learned' and the 'clever' have worked out their own view of God and the world, and they are disinclined to change it. They believe that they know all there is to know about God , that they have the final answer, that they have nothing more to learn. And This is why they reject 'the good news', for its strikes them as quite alien and conflicting with the main tenets of their Weltanschauung. The Gospel message proposes certain paradoxical reversals which their 'common sense' cannot accept.
As it was in the day of Jesus, so it is today, and yet today in perhaps a very particular way. We live in a culture which subjects everything to critical analysis, and which does this while often regarding partial criteria as absolute. By their very nature these criteria are unsuitable for perceiving the world of realities and values which eludes verification by the senses.
Christ didn't ask us to give up our reason. How indeed could he, since it as he who gave it to us? What He does ask is that we should not give in to the Tempter's old suggestion that we can be 'like God' (cf Genesis 3:5)
Only those who accept their intellectual and moral limitations and recognize their need for salvation can make themselves once more open to faith and in faith encounter, in Christ, their redeemer.

Adoro said...

Smiley ~ That's a great quote from Fides et ratio! :-)

Fr. John Mary, ISJ said...

If the critics of the Catholic Faith only could hear how reasonable and sane (although difficult and challenging!) the tenets of the Faith are, they just might change their tune.
Prejudice and pride (not the J. Austin book:<)!) can keep folks from dealing with reality, I'm afraid.
Grace; all is grace.
And then God moves one to deeper union in Truth, Beauty, Goodness and Unity.