THE HARMONY OF FAITH AND REASON
Wednesday, June 09, 2010
By Fr. Mark Mary

Rome, Italy (EWTN): Oftentimes, our popular media culture pits faith against reason. People of faith are often characterized as unreasonable or unscientific at best, and, sometimes, as backwards and against human progress. Certainly, it is possible for us to make claims that our faith does not require. But there is no contradiction between faith and reason, for we find that each has its own autonomy, stability, laws and order. Many of our greatest scientists, artists and educators have been people of faith. There is no contradiction between faith and reason because they come from the same source, God.

Catholics believe that God is the source of all truth and He cannot contradict Himself. He made the world which the scientist seeks to understand. The scientist discovers an order to the created world that was put there by God. A Divine Intelligence or a Divine Reason is behind the created world; the scientist strives to understand that order behind the phenomena which he observes. So, our faith supports science because we believe in a created and orderly world by a Divine Intelligence which science seeks to understand.

The ultimate issue is that faith and reason are two ways of knowing truth. Faith opens us up to a world above which our natural abilities cannot achieve on their own. Our belief in God and His revelation to us of Himself is a level of knowledge that we cannot acquire on our own. By seeing the order and beauty of the natural world, we can reason that there must be a Creator. The human person himself is a witness and image of the Divine Creator, for our ability to love, to know, and the existence of conscience speaks of a spiritual soul that is not of this world. So it is reasonable that God exists, but by the act of faith, by the act of entrusting ourselves to Him, much more is revealed to us.

The natural law is written upon our hearts, but the mysteries of our faith must be revealed. The Trinity, the Incarnation, the Redemption wrought by the paschal mystery of Christ, and all the mysteries of our Blessed Lords life are things that have to be revealed to us and accepted by faith. While faith is a gift from God, it is also a human act where we decide, by Gods grace, to entrust ourselves to Him.

But love seeks to go farther, it seeks to understand. By the use of reason, we come to a deeper understanding of Gods revelation. We study and ponder revelation, in scripture and tradition, to find reasons behind and connections between the mysteries of our faith. We find a beautiful harmony in Gods revelation. The mystery of the Incarnation, for example, can never be fully understood by the use of reason, but only more fully revealed. For us to fully entrust ourselves to God, it must involve our reason or the act of faith would not be a truly human act involving the intellect and will. The intellect seeks to understand, to know, to use its reasoning ability.

This is not to say that we believe in Gods revelation because we understand it first, or that it makes sense to us. We accept Gods revelation on the authority of God Himself, who cannot deceive or be deceived. We believe it as children readily believe and accept what their parents tell them. As the Catechism teaches, we have motives of credibility: the historical testimonies to the Gospel, to the miracles of Jesus, to the saints and their holiness of life, and we also have the longevity of the Church and consistency of her teaching to aid us in our belief in God.

Faith takes us beyond what reason can teach us. But in faiths going farther, it does not contradict or destroy reason. Each needs the other and works together in harmony. Faith corrects our fallen human intellect which has been darkened by original sin and can easily fall into error. Faith stretches reason to go beyond itself by presenting knowledge to the intellect that is unobtainable on its own. However, without reason, faith can fall into mere feeling and experience losing sight of its objective content and guiding principles. Reason perfects the knowledge of faith by seeking to understand and explain the basis for our faith.




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