Often, when one discusses their faith, the topic of reason crops up.
Many times it goes along the lines that reason goes against faith, that to
'blindly' follow Church teaching is against reason and that we should think
for ourselves. The argument is somewhat valid but only to a point. Faith is
not devoid of reason, but faith takes us to where reason cannot go.
Ever been in a Fun House's Hall of Mirrors? You see yourself in the
mirror, short and wide. Your head is bigger than your body. Your eyes
tell you that you look like that, but you know, by reason, that you don't.
In magic acts, our eyes see women being cut in half, turning into tigers, or
disappearing from being locked in a container of water. We see this, our
eyes, our reason tells us that this actually occurred, but we know that it's
only an illusion, a trick.
We also see other areas where faith and reason mix. Has anyone actually
seen an atom? Or the particles that make it up? Yet we know that they
exist? Why? Because we have faith in the scientists who, due to their
study, education, etc, have told us they are there. The ancients had all sorts
of theories, myths, as to how we get wind. Yet we know that it comes from
the rotation of the earth coupled with pockets of warm and cold air, and
other factors. To the ancients, this explanation would sound absurd, and
pure simple logic would point to some 'god' making the air move. And as for
air, we don't see it, but we feel an 'invisible' force moving around us, and
we have no way of knowing the various gases that make it up simply by looking
at it. No, we believe and trust in these things because 'experts' have told
us they are there and how they occur.
One other example. For centuries, people accepted Euclid's statement
that the shortest distance between two points was a straight line. Very
logical, almost simply so. However, what about on a globe? Ah, the
shortest line may not be a straight line. That's why many flights from NYC
to London go via Greenland rather than directly to their destination. So,
simply 'thinking' for ourselves can lead to errors, mistakes.
Let's say that you see a table and it appears to be an oval. You see
the oval, therefore, by reason, you say it's an oval table. But someone else
tells you that it's square. Is he wrong? Not if he can show you. Now
imagine he takes you for a closer look, and the table you thought was an oval
was actually a square one under a covering with an oval opening. Or how many
times have you mistaken a dark navy blue for black?
So it is with so much of Church teaching, with Scriptures. In the late
60's and 70's, a cult of young 'Christians' (calling themselves the Children
of God) said that true Christians had to denounce their parents, that their
parents were their enemies. Their basis for this was logical from Scripture.
"Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to
bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her
mother-in-law; and a man's foes will be those of his own household. He who
loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son
or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me;" (Matthew 10:34-37).
Simple isn't it? There it is in black and white. For a Christian to
love and honor their parents, to not renounce their parents is against
Scripture. But that's not what Christ was talking about was it? After all,
did that mean that God's command to "Honor your father and your mother" was
now null and void? If this is so, then the charge that Scripture is full of
contradictions is true. However, St. Augustine writes:
"No error is to be admitted in the Bible, not even concerning things of
but little importance….If any statements should seem contrary to truth, we
must not accuse the Author of the Book of falsehood: we should rather
conclude, either than (a) the text is defective; or (b) that the interpreter
has mistaken the meaning; or (c) that we have misunderstood."
To discern what the passage means, we need to go further into the
Scriptures, and even history.
"If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you.
If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are
not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates
you. Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than
his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you; if they kept My
word, they will keep yours also" (John 15:18-20).
As just one example of many, we see how St. Francis of Assisi's father
denounced his son before all of Assisi. We know of many who, coming to
faith, were rejected by their parents, their friends, etc. Indeed, their
'enemies' became those in their own houses.
But these are simple examples. There are far more complicated things.
When a 'born again' Christian tells you that the Holy Spirit guided him in
his reading of Scriptures, we may ask, did He do so 'before' he was saved and
imbued with the Holy Spirit? If not, may he not be mistaken? And if he was,
why did he need to declare himself to be saved if he already had the Holy
St. Justin Martyr tells us around 150 AD:
"Neither by nature, nor by human thought can men recognize such great and
divine truths, but the gift which came down from above upon the holy men, who
needed neither art of words, nor skill in captious and contentious speaking,
but only to offer themselves in purity to the energy of the Divine Spirit, in
order that the divine power of itself might reveal to us the knowledge of
divine and heavenly things, acting on just men as a plectrum on a harp or
God gave His Holy Spirit, as a gift, to a few, to write His revealed
wisdom for all men. And foremost is Christ Himself. But if we question the
Apostles 'authority' to teach, can we not also question Christ's? After all,
to those present, He was a man, just another preacher.
"A Pharisee in the council named Gamali-el, a teacher of the law, held
in honor by all the people, stood up and ordered the men to be put outside
for a while. And he said to them, 'Men of Israel, take care what you do with
these men. For before these days Theudas arose, giving himself out to be
somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him; but he was
slain and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After him
Judas the Galilean arose in the days of the census and drew away some of the
people after him; he also perished, and all who followed him were scattered.
So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them
alone; for if this plan or this undertaking is of men, it will fail; but if
it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them.' " (Acts 5:34-39).
Hardly a statement of faith. But it shows that beside Christ, there was
Theudas and Judas the Galilean (among others I'm sure) who people thought was
more than they were. Why would Jesus be seen any differently?
"For I have not spoken on My own authority; the Father who sent Me has
himself given Me commandment what to say and what to speak. And I know that
His commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father
has bidden Me" (John 12:49-50).
Some believed Him and confessed it, some believed Him but were afraid to
confess it, and others didn't believe. So many accept Christ's authority,
but go no further. But Christ gave His authority to His Apostles, the
'hierarchy' of His Church, to teach and guide His Church for all men, in all
places, for all time (ref. Matthew 28:16-20).
Christ commissioned some of His disciples to teach in His name (ref. Luke
10:16) so to hear them was to hear Him, and to reject them was to reject Him.
And likewise, His Father.
We have faith through reason, that Christ is the Son of God Who came to
earth to reveal God's love and and to establish a Church to teach this love.
And then to die and redeem us. But when faced with challenges that the
Church is full of fallible 'men' who have changed the teachings to suit them
and their quest for power, we must, again, turn to faith in Christ.
St. Clement of Alexandria wrote:
"The heretics do away with the true doctrine of the Lord, not interpreting
and transmitting the Scriptures agreeably to the dignity of God and of the
Lord. For the understanding and the cultivation of the pious tradition,
agreeably to the teaching of the Lord through His Apostles, is a deposit to be
rendered to God….For neither the prophets nor the Savior Himself announced
the divine mysteries so simply as to be easily comprehended by all persons
whatever….All things are right to them that understand, says the Scripture:
to those, that is, who perfectly preserve His revealed interpretation of the
Scriptures, according to the Church's rule."
As Scripture shows us:
"All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for
reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of
God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
But it also warns us:
"Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, speaking of this as
he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand,
which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do
the other scriptures" (2 Peter 3:15-16).
And St. Augustine wrote:
"If you find someone who does not yet believe in the Gospel, what would
you answer him when he says, `I do not believe'? Indeed, I would not believe
in the gospel myself if the authority of the Catholic Church did not move me
to do so."
Or as St. Paul tells us, the Church, not the Scriptures, is the pillar and
bulwark of truth. (ref. 1 Timothy 3:15), though the Scriptures are 'profitable'
(useful) for teaching, etc.
So, when faced with questions we cannot answer, or our logic seems to
conflict with the teaching of the Church, 'reason' tells us to submit to the
teachings of the Church, who teaches with His authority. If we refuse to do
this, we may well become like the disciples who fell away (ref. John 6:60) and
not like the Apostles who said, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the
words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that You
are the Holy One of God" (John 6:68-69).
...Believed and come to know that He is the Holy One of God, faith and reason.
Reason for what we can see and understand, faith for that we cannot.
Pax Christi, Pat