Faith, reason and morality

I posted a reply in a blog today (which isn’t showing on the page, for some reason) about the nature of morality and the relationship between faith and reason. Here it is:

Bill Moyer says, “on one end of the spectrum people say, ‘Only religion counts.’ On the other end, ‘Only reason counts.’ How do we keep the public space between reason and faith, where most of us spend our lives, from becoming a no-man’s land of constant warfare?”

Good question.

I, for one, believe that faith and reason are not in conflict with each other but are, in actual fact, complimentary. As G. K. Chesterton’s Fr. Brown quipped in uncovering a criminal in priest’s disguise, “you attacked reason. It’s bad theology”.

“Faith and Reason” (Fides et Ratio) is the title of one of the encyclicals of Pope John Paul II, and it opens with the following words: “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves (cf. Ex 33:18; Ps 27:8-9; 63:2-3; Jn 14:8; 1 Jn 3:2).”

It’s sad that the established tradition of Christian philosophy has been rejected by more recent fundamentalist groups.

Catholics believe that morality, in this sense, is part of the general revelation, a reflection of a greater reality. It is for this reason, and because of our teleological search for God (inclusive of truth, beauty, love and morality), that religions are mostly humanistic, as you say. Of course, myself being Catholic, I do not agree with your assertion that simply looking at a list of world religions confirms that this is universally the case.

As Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft notes in The Uniqueness of Christianity, too often we assume that man’s arduous ascent to God is equivalent to God’s descent to man. The Catholic claim, which is open to investigation, is that it is the one path that God has chosen – the special revelation (as distinct from general revelation). Kreeft suggests, “If he made only one, then… it is humility, not arrogance, to accept this one road from God, and it is arrogance, not humility, to insist that our manmade roads are as good as God’s God-made one.”



2 thoughts on “Faith, reason and morality”

  1. Sorry about your comment not showing up; if a comment has >= 2 links it will go into the “awaiting moderation” inbox, and needs me to approve it. I wasn’t around my blog today.

    Again, I apologize. Your comment is incisive, well thought out, and advances the discussion, which are precisely the kind of comments I enjoy. I’ve approved it; it is posted in full now.

    I’ll set aside some time to read your links and perhaps post again on the subject.

    Thanks for giving me more to think about! — SM

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