Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

8/21/2013 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Perhaps the two wings of reason and faith that inform the Catechism may, with a bit of grace and with some sincere prayer, find their way into your mind and heart and therein engender love, love of the God-man Jesus, the Logos (Reason) made Flesh (John 1:14), in whom "we see our God made visible and so are caught up in love of the God we cannot see."

Highlights

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

8/21/2013 (1 year ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: faith, reason, Lumen Fidei, Fides et Ratio, secularism, empiricism, Andrew M. Greenwell


CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - "The Church is a house with a hundred gates," wrote G. K. Chesterton in The Catholic Church and Conversion, "and no two men enter at exactly the same angle."  Whatever angle is taken by any one man or any one woman, there are two things that must accompany any pilgrim: faith and reason. 

Anyone who thinks he can reach Christ without the use of his reason is on a fool's quest.  He won't become a Christian.  Rather, he will become a Fideist, or worse, will fall into superstition. 

Anyone who thinks he can reach Christ without faith is horribly misguided.  He will not become a Christian.  Rather, he will become a Pelagian, or worse, a Rationalist, or even worse, a Skeptic.  

When Blessed John Paul II wrote his encyclical on faith and reason Fides et Ratio in 1998, he did not entitle it Fides aut Ratio--Faith or Reason, but Fides et Ratio, Faith and Reason.

"Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of the truth," he famously wrote.

Ultimately, it is the burden of that encyclical to show that faith and reason lead to the same answer: Jesus Christ and His Church, the Catholic Church.

As Chesterton again wrote, this time in his essay "Why I am a Catholic," his difficulty with explaining to others as to why he had become Catholic  was "that there are ten thousand reasons all amounting to one reason: that Catholicism is true."

Just as reason will lead to the conclusion that there must be one God, it will lead inescapably to the conclusion that the only true faith is the Catholic Faith.  St. Paul said that faith will lead one to recognize that there is "one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."  (Eph. 4:5-6). 

Unfortunately, reason can be dreadfully slow in coming to its conclusions.  That's why G. K. Chesterton observed that reason might need to be jump started, as it were, by faith.  Yet G. K. Chesterton was insistent that right reason would lead one invariably--given enough time--to the Catholic creed:  "If every human being lived a thousand years, every human being would end up . . .  in the Catholic creed," he wrote in his essay on William Blake.

The other possibility was, of course, that someone would use wrong reason for a thousand years, in which case he would end "in utter pessimistic skepticism."

In the area of faith and reason, there are some basic questions no inquiring mind can ignore.
In his Critique of Pure Reason, the Enlightenment philosopher Kant famously identified three such questions, which, ultimately in his Logic he distilled into one.

Was kann ich wissen?  Was darf ich hoffen?  Was sol ich thun? 

What can I know?  What dare I hope?  What shall I do?

These three he distilled into: Was ist der Mensch?  What is man?

Now poor Kant made a categorical mistake by supposing the answers to these questions could be attained by pure reason, and pure reason alone.  Like a bird with one wing--even if that wing is huge--Kant fluttered about impressively, but never got off the ground and certainly never approached anything like the God of Jesus Christ or his Church.  In fact, his efforts seem to have landed him into some serious skepticism thinking he could never know even the world, much less God. He was condemned only to know what he thought about the world.

An honest person will come to the same conclusion that Pope Francis did in his recent encyclical, Lumen Fidei:  "Slowly but surely . . . it would become evident that the light of autonomous [i.e., pure] reason is not enough to illumine the future. . . . As a result, humanity renounced the search for a great light, Truth itself."

In his encyclical Faith and Reason, Blessed John Paul II put the Kantian questions in a different form, perhaps a form more in keeping with his phenomenological and personalist bent.  He called them the fundamental questions, and he identified five of them:

Quis egomet sum?  Who am I?
Unde venio?  Where have I come from?
Quoque vado?  And where am I going?
Cur mala adsunt?  Why is there evil?
Quid nos manet hanc post vitam?  What is there after this life?

These five fundamental questions branch out into ten thousand difficulties.  But as Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman observed, "Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt."  Questions and difficulties are the grist of reason and the stuff of faith.

So, in answering these fundamental questions and their difficulties, how do we come about right reason and avoid the reason that leads to skepticism?

First, we have to reject the modern belief (and it is a belief, entirely based upon faith or unstated assumptions), that reason is limited to the things we see: empiricism or scientism.  In his book A Fractured Relationship, Father Thomas J. Norris describes this event as the loss of "strong reason," and the adoption of "weak reason."  We have to re-acquire "strong reason."

Other ways of phrasing this arbitrary restriction on reason which leads to its blindness to greater Truth are as follows.  The poet William Blake called it a "single vision," a sort of myopia that gave rise to "Newton's sleep."  We have to rouse ourselves from Newton's sleep and gain binocular vision, as it were.

While recognizing the importance of "weak reason" called ratio, the medieval philosopher recognized a "strong reason," one more contemplative and disposed to answering the fundamental questions, which he would have called intellectus or simplex intuitus.  We need to regain contemplation.

The sociologist Max Weber referred to this limitation of reason as something akin to putting our reason into a stahlhartes Gehäuse, an "iron cage" or "hardened steel-like shell."  We need to take our reason out of the cage (or Plato's cave) and let it ponder on the greater reality out there.

The historian of modern secularism Charles Taylor has called this the adoption of an "immanent frame" of reference, one that by arbitrary faith excludes the possibility of a "transcendent frame."  We have therefore to get out of the restrictive frame of reference, and adopt a broader one.

Whatever one may call this burden under which we labor and from which we must emancipate ourselves, it is in each and every instance a restriction, a limitation, a lack of confidence in reason that we have to reject.

We have to experience a conversion of reason from the dark anti-faith of the Enlightenment which has caged it, tamed it, emasculated it, weakened it.

The Canadian theologian Bernard Lonergan studied the problem of the "immanent frame," the "iron cage" of secularity, "Newton's sleep," or "weak reason."  He proposed that we adopt "transcendental precepts" in our reason as the means out of this modern intellectual trap. He identified four precepts:

Be attentive.
Be intelligent.
Be reasonable.
Be responsible.


Ultimately, by striving to be attentive, by being intelligent about what our senses tell us about the world, by behaving reasonably toward reality, and by being responsible intellectually and morally, Lonergan believed that, with the help of a little actual grace, we might be lead to a three-fold conversion over time: an intellectual conversion, followed by a moral conversion, which ultimately would lead to a religious conversion.

But for most of us, this may be too long a process. We don't all have a thousand years and we don't all have leisure, so if we have not yet accepted Christ and His Church as the only true answers to the questions  Who am I?  Where have I come from?  Where am I going?  Why is there evil? And what is there after this life?  Then we had better get started or find a short cut.

To be sure, the problem has already been thought out by minds greater than most of ours, and by a teaching authority founded by Christ.  Rather than starting from scratch, you could pick up the Catechism of the Catholic Church, for therein you will find faith and reason, wonderfully combined, wonderfully synthesized. 

And who knows?  Perhaps the two wings of reason and faith that inform the Catechism may, with a bit of grace and with some sincere prayer, find their way into your mind and heart and therein engender a flutter of love, love of the God-man Jesus, the Logos (Reason) made Flesh (John 1:14), in whom "we see our God made visible and so are caught up in love of the God we cannot see."  (Christmas Preface I)

It happens.  I knew an erstwhile Baptist woman who, at age 12, happened upon a Baltimore Catechism and before she closed the book, she knew it to be God's truth, and against the chagrin of her parents, walked to the closest Catholic Church and asked the priest to be let in.  And she was Catholic ever since.

-----

Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He is married with three children.  He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum.  You can contact Andrew at agreenwell@harris-greenwell.com.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for July 2015
Universal:
That political responsibility may be lived at all levels as a high form of charity.
Evangelization: That, amid social inequalities, Latin American Christians may bear witness to love for the poor and contribute to a more fraternal society.



Comments


More Living Faith

Pope Francis warns of 'genocide' as Christian Persecution increases globally Watch

Image of

By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Christians all over the world are suffering from increasing prejudice and persecution. It is no secret that Islamic extremism and repressive governments are trying hard to perpetuate the oppression of Christianity. Pope Francis has been moved to warn of "a form of ... continue reading


Catholic priest who blessed atomic bomb crews -- and his conversion

Image of

By Tony Magliano

Seventy years ago, on August 6, 1945, the single most destructive weapon ever unleashed upon human beings and the environment - the atomic bomb - was dropped by an American B-29 bomber on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, killing approximately 80,000 people. Three days ... continue reading


'Let Jesus satisfy your hunger for God': Pope Francis encourages people to make offers to God Watch

Image of Pope Francis reflected on the Sunday reading from the Gospel of John in which a vast crowd follows Jesus, but lacks enough food to eat.

By CNA/EWTN News

Jesus Christ's miraculous multiplication of the loaves shows that he offers "fullness of life for hungry man," Pope Francis said Sunday. He encouraged everyone to offer what little they have to God so that God can multiply their gifts and good deeds. Vatican ... continue reading


What to wear to church: What's more important, physical or inner beauty? Watch

Image of

By Hannah Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Wearing your best outfit or putting on a little makeup in preparation for Church isn't too looked down upon. A leading Christian writer shared with Crosswalk.com what she has realized over years of church participation. Although she loves beautiful clothes and make-up, ... continue reading


'Nothing can separate me from the love of God': The first American Ebola patient shares his profound realization on deathbed Watch

Image of

By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

He was the first American who contracted the deadly Ebola virus - fearful and sick, Dr. Kent Brantly came to realize something important for Christians and their relationship with God. Amid the pain and moments of uncertainty, from being diagnosed positive with ... continue reading


J. Matt Barber: The Meaning of Life

Image of Matt Barber is founder and editor-in chief of BarbWire.com. He is an author, columnist, cultural analyst and an attorney concentrating in constitutional law.

By J. Matt Barber

So this was rock bottom. The day, which yet again wore into night with fast food and old Bonanza reruns, would end like all the rest. Where were my car keys? As I searched in preparation for another trip to the liquor store, I made my way to my bedroom and opened ... continue reading


'There is no hope, no life, no hope for an end': 'Donor fatigue' setting in among those helping Christians in Middle East fleeing ISIS Watch

Image of Refugees now realize that they will be unable to return to their homes in Iraq or Syria.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

With no end in sight, "donor fatigue" is setting in for those trying to help Middle Eastern Christians fleeing ISIS. There appears to be no solutions, only increasing refugees and more need. The refugees' situation is only getting worse. Refugees now realize ... continue reading


Giant cross at veteran memorial to stay standing with game-changing agreement made Watch

Image of

By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Legal battle over the issue of a giant cross standing over a veterans' memorial has been a long and tedious fight, but an agreement may now put it all to rest, keeping the monument on the land. Atheists and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have filed legal ... continue reading


A MIRACLE? Virgin Mary painting caught on tape moving lips along with the Lord's Prayer (VIDEO) Watch

Image of

By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The lips on a painted image of the Virgin Mary, on display at the St. Charbels Church in New South Wales, Australia, were reportedly witnessed moving along with the reading of the Lord's Prayer. MUNTINLUPA, PHILIPPINES (Catholic Online) - The video featuring the Virgin ... continue reading


Many accuse Pope Francis of socialist, even communist leanings - is he? Watch

Image of The gift of a

By CNA/EWTN News

Pope Francis' recent trip to Latin America has rekindled questions about whether he endorses socialism, or even communism. Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - The gift of a "communist crucifix" from Bolivia's president Evo Morales and uncertainty over the Pope's response ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Leviticus 25:1, 8-17
1 Yahweh spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai and ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 67:2-3, 5, 7-8
2 Then the earth will acknowledge your ways, and all ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 14:1-12
1 At that time Herod the tetrarch heard about the ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for August 1st, 2015 Image

St. Alphonsus Marie Liguori
August 1: Bishop, Doctor of the Church, and the founder of the ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter