Monday, September 13, 2010

Faith with Reason

Deprived of reason, faith has stressed feeling and experience, and so run the risk of no longer being a universal proposition. It is an illusion to think that faith, tied to weak reasoning, might be more penetrating; on the contrary, faith then runs the grave risk of withering into myth or superstition. By the same token, reason which is unrelated to an adult faith is not prompted to turn its gaze to the newness and radicality of being.
John Paul II, Fides et Ratio, 48.

We are going through this encyclical at the beginning of my Thomistic Thought class in order to properly situate not only Thomas' accomplishment, but to see how he fits in to the current thinking of the Magisterium.

I love this above passage. Some people would say that JPII is attempting to do the impossible: coordinate faith and reason, such disparate sciences, such - so many would claim - contradictory sciences. As a theologian I am not interested in the lack of faith of the world, but rather in the lack of reason in believers. My primary task is to serve the faith of believers, and it is impoverished, says JPII, when "tied to weak reasoning." This is not to say that being smart and intellectually accomplished is more godly. It is, however, to say that your faith and your reason have to keep pace with each other. This occurs, when, for instance, people become masters of certain specific sciences, say, political science, but do not attempt to grow in their understanding of the Word of God. They are content to know the Creation Narrative in no way more intimately than the literal sense, as they understood it as children. They see the Flood as nothing more than an arbitrary display of divine power; Christ's miracles in the same way. They are intimidated by the criticisms of unbelievers, and, thus, tend to segregate the world of experience from the world of belief. It is okay not to know - I don't know most things, even the things upon which I possess a certain expertise - it's God - how do you know God? - but this doesn't mean that you shouldn't try to enrich your knowledge of the Faith by plunging both mind and heart into the life of God. The best place to start, I think, is with the Fathers. They are not immune to the limitations of time and place, but they are specially privileged with the grace to transcend them to some degree. In other words, you don't need a PhD in History or Patristics to gain a great deal from them. They were especially attuned to the needs of every day believers, were convinced in the power of reason and in the power of God's revelation in Scripture.

All I am saying is, put as much time into developing your faith and you do your knowledge of other sciences.

It is easy to spot those who do not. Either they think they cannot, or it cannot. Experts in any other field can. Theology is a divine science, equal to any challenge presented to it.

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