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Faith and Reason

Yesterday I was privileged to have a conversation with a young woman whose faith is very important to her.  It is inspiring to me to see such faith in young people. She is currently doing an internship and we were talking about the work environment in which finds herself.  It isn’t easy to find a workplace that values our Catholic beliefs.

She spoke about a person who told her he didn’t understand how she could be a person of faith and a critical thinker.  To this person faith calls people to blind obedience. They figured Christians believed just because God said so and we didn’t think for ourselves.  People who think like this reject faith in favor of critical thinking.

Our faith in no way rejects critical thinking.  Proverbs 4:5 tells us to “get wisdom, get understanding.”  Not only does our church not reject reason, it sees the ability to reason as a gift from God.  The gift of reason is part of what distinguishes us from other creatures in God’s creation.

God created us with a desire to learn.  Since the beginning of time, the scope of human knowledge has grown exponentially fueled by this desire to learn.  Yet what we know today is nothing compared to the knowledge that God has.

We have a God whose love for us is absolute and we can trust that anything God reveals to us is good but we can use the gift of reason to learn more about faith so that we better understand our faith.  This in turn gives us the ability to make decisions on how we apply our faith to situations today.  The most recent books in the Bible were written 2,000 years ago.  It is through the gift of reason and the Holy Spirit that we make decisions on how the Bible applies to our lives today.

To truly understand and believe we must use the gifts of faith and reason together.  Knowing this, Pope John Paul Ii wrote Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason).  It can be a weighty document but it is a wonderful description of the relationship of faith and reason. In paragraph 53, he quotes Dei Filius from Vatican I, “Even if faith is superior to reason there can never be a true divergence between faith and reason, since the same God who reveals the mysteries and bestows the gift of faith has also places in the human spirit the light of reason.”  In paragraph 42, he describes the function of reason as “to find meaning, to discover explanations which might allow everyone to come to a certain understanding of the contents of faith.”

Faith and Reason as both awesome gifts.  Faith is the greater gift because it is what we are created for.


Fr. Jeff

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