Faith And Reason

by Franco Marchetti

In the classroom I have two major themes and one of them is the relationship between faith and reason. I tell my students that faith and reason are two of God's greatest gifts and both lead to knowledge. Through reason we come to know many things about the world around us, even the existence of God. Through faith we come to know the deeper truths about God and salvation that fall short of or go beyond the natural powers of reasons. I tell them that faith is the supernatural complement to reason.

One of the greatest challenges facing the Church today is the erroneous notion that faith and reason are incompatible. In her desire to spread the gospel, Holy Mother Church constantly finds herself head to head with ever an increasing number of people that either deny the truths of the Church or man's ability to reason to truth.

Many people fall prey to two extremes that remove them further from the splendor of truth. My students tell me they know people that rely solely on reason. Their outlook on life is completely dissociated from Revelation. They say that only empirical science, and not religion, can tell us what is real. However, among these people some even go so far as to deny that anything can really be known. They say that all positions are equally valid. No one is right and no one is wrong. This, by the way, leads to moral and ethical relativism, which is a very grave danger to society and is misleading to our children.

My students also know people that embrace a naive, almost fundamentalist like faith which is at best suspicious of reason and at worst all together hostile to it. Faith in this case is reduced to emotion, cute stories and angels. It is anti-rational.

It is clear that people today have increasingly lost faith in reason and its ability to lead us to truth and people have lost faith in faith which is the perfection of reason. As a high school teacher I realize that young people desire to seek the truth and want to know what role reason has in this search. In this regard credit is due to the many teachers who help their students in their search for truth by showing them the intimate connection between faith and reason.

On a worldwide scale, Pope John Paul II is keenly aware of this serious problem which has infected modern thought and has driven man further from the pursuit of truth and further away from God. In his latest encyclical entitled Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason) the Holy Father reiterates the Church's teaching that faith and reason go hand in hand. He describes them as two wings that carry us to our Father in heaven. The Vicar of Christ wants the message out that philosophy and science must return to the search for ultimate truth and realize that truth can be found, but not apart from God who is truth. Therefore, it is also the duty of our schools to teach our children the beauty of faith, in its entirety and its relation to reason. This is valid whether we are learning religion or science, history or the arts. The truths of the faith cannot contradict the truths discovered in the laboratory or elsewhere because truth cannot contradict truth. Philosophy and theology, faith and reason, science and religion should be our companions on our journey to everlasting life.

For Pope John Paul II, and the Church, Christ is the one that ultimately gives meaning to our lives and the lives of young people because Christ "reveals man to himself". Jesus points to the Father in heaven and fulfills all our desires. He is the answer to every scientific and philosophical inquiry. Our Lord himself says, "I am the way, the truth and the life." Yes, faith is reasonable and we must have reasons for our faith and so I say to young people...what are the reasons for your faith?

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