St. John Paul II‘s encyclical letter Fides et Ratio begins, “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).”
The Catholic Church, both in its historical antecedents and current teaching, integrates faith and reason in its heritage across thousands of years. The Old Testament declares, “Hear now my reasoning” Job 13:6, Sirach, “Blessed is the man who meditates on wisdom and who reasons intelligently” Sir 14:20, and finally God himself: “Come now, let us reason together” Is 1:18. The Talmud is filled with reasoned arguments among the sages to arrive at a right understanding of God‘s law for his people Israel. The Catholic Church holds St. Thomas’ Summa Theologica as the sine qua non for reason as applied to the existence of God and in fact all of Catholic teaching.
- A quite special place in this long development belongs to Saint Thomas, not only because of what he taught but also because of the dialogue which he undertook with the Arab and Jewish thought of his time. In an age when Christian thinkers were rediscovering the treasures of ancient philosophy, and more particularly of Aristotle, Thomas had the great merit of giving pride of place to the harmony which exists between faith and reason. Both the light of reason and the light of faith come from God, he argued; hence there can be no contradiction between them.
- More radically, Thomas recognized that nature, philosophy’s proper concern, could contribute to the understanding of divine Revelation. Faith therefore has no fear of reason, but seeks it out and has trust in it. Just as grace builds on nature and brings it to fulfilment, so faith builds upon and perfects reason. Illumined by faith, reason is set free from the fragility and limitations deriving from the disobedience of sin and finds the strength required to rise to the knowledge of the Triune God. Although he made much of the supernatural character of faith, the Angelic Doctor did not overlook the importance of its reasonableness; indeed he was able to plumb the depths and explain the meaning of this reasonableness. Faith is in a sense an exercise of thought; and human reason is neither annulled nor debased in assenting to the contents of faith, which are in any case attained by way of free and informed choice.
Holy Mother Church seeks to justify faith by reason to avoid the pitfall of fideism, the idea that truths of faith do not depend on any rational presupposition, which makes faith purely a question of personal conviction. At the same time, the Church seeks to avoid rationalism, the opposite error, that God’s revelation is entirely constrained by reason, as if man were the measure of the truth of faith. We offer as evidence St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica. St. Thomas begins with the question, “Do we need a science before science?” That is, do we need to address whether God exists? And second, finding in the affirmative, he addresses whether God exists.
Rabbi Paul wrote, “When I am weak, then I am strong” 2 Cor 12:10. It looks like a paradox, but is not. When we’re strong we’re often tempted to rely on our own fallen intellect and will, but when we’re weak we rely on Rabbi Yeshua‘s infinite intellect and will.
St. Thomas maintains a very high level of reason in his analysis of whether God exists, as he does everywhere in the Summa. He begins with sacred doctrine. He breaks each question into its logical elements. For each element, he brings up the most prominent objections to it. He then brings forward evidence opposed to those objections. He follows that with his own analysis of the matter, and in light of his analysis he replies to the original objections, often stating the objections to his thesis in a clearer and more logical way than their own advocates do.
St. Thomas offers five approaches to evidence in reason for God‘s existence S. Th. I, 2,3. The Catechism concisely summarizes: § 34 “The world, and man, attest that they contain within themselves neither their first principle nor their final end, but rather that they participate in Being itself, which alone is without origin or end. Thus, in different ways, man can come to know that there exists a reality which is the first cause and final end of all things, a reality ‘that everyone calls God.'”
Let’s talk faith. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” Heb 11:1. Suppose I have no faith that Idaho exists. I’ve seen descriptions of it in tourist books, but I’ve never actually driven to Idaho. I’ve never seen a Welcome to Idaho highway sign of the kind I’ve seen on other highways when I drive across a state boundary. My friends will say, “But Idaho does exist. You can get in your car and drive there whenever you wish.” Most atheists find such empirical evidence reasonable. But when I say, to see God‘s miracles go to Lourdes, in France, they don’t want to go.
Let’s talk reason. Two billion Christians propose something truly extraordinary, eternal life in a place of unsurpassed joy, and empirical evidence for it, yet most atheists refuse to spend less than a month’s income in travel and lodging costs to see for themselves whether evidence exists for such a place. The potential benefit so far outweighs the cost that we have to ask whether refusal constitutes an act of reason, or an act of religion, faith in the proposition that God does not exist.
Dr. Anthony Rizzi
More recently, I came across Dr. Anthony Rizzi who is both a noted physicist and also recognized by Catholic Answers as a Thomist. He would be able to explain all this in ways I could understand. You can too.
Dr. Rizzi explains it all:
Science Before Science 1 14:19
Science Before Science 2 14:18
Science Before Science 3 14:37
Science Before Science 4 14:37
Science Before Science 5 13:09
Science Before Science 6 13:09
Science Before Science 7 14:07
Science Before Science 8 14:07
Science Before Science 9 14:09
Father Robert Spitzer
Physics and the Existence of God 1:36:37
God and Cosmological Fine-Tuning 2:01:59
Can Modern Science Prove the Existence of God? 44:47
What radical atheists don’t want you to hear.
Finding God Through Faith and Reason
The Heavens Proclaim the Glory of God
1 Episode 1 of 13 26:35
2 Episode 2 of 13 26:46
3 Episode 3 of 13 24:15
4 Episode 4 of 13 27:08
5 Episode 5 of 13 26:08
6 Episode 6 of 13 26:25
7 Episode 7 of 13 28:48
8 Episode 8 of 13 28:50
9 Episode 9 of 13 26:32
10 Episode 10 of 13 24:38
11 Episode 11 of 13 26:54
12 Episode 12 of 13 26:35
13 Episode 13 of 13 26:32
The Anthropic Principle
Father Spitzer’s Further Observations
Finding True Happiness 1:08:56
Finding Happiness 1:31:23
Why Suffering 8:45
How to Suffer Well 47:36
Near Death Experiences 52:53