Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Reasonableness of Faith

This fullness which Jesus brings to faith has another decisive aspect. In faith, Christ is not simply the one in whom we believe, the supreme manifestation of God’s love; he is also the one with whom we are united precisely in order to believe. Faith does not merely gaze at Jesus, but sees things as Jesus himself sees them, with his own eyes: it is a participation in his way of seeing.

In many areas in our lives we trust others who know more than we do. We trust the architect who builds our home, the pharmacist who gives us medicine for healing, the lawyer who defends us in court. We also need someone trustworthy and knowledgeable where God is concerned. Jesus, the Son of God, is the one who makes God known to us (cf. Jn 1:18).
Christ’s life, his way of knowing the Father and living in complete and constant relationship with him, opens up new and inviting vistas for human experience. Saint John brings out the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus for our faith by using various forms of the verb "to believe". In addition to "believing that" what Jesus tells us is true, John also speaks of "believing" Jesus and "believing in" Jesus. We "believe" Jesus when we accept his word, his testimony, because he is truthful. We "believe in" Jesus when we personally welcome him into our lives and journey towards him, clinging to him in love and following in his footsteps along the way.

To enable us to know, accept and follow him, the Son of God took on our flesh. In this way he also saw the Father humanly, within the setting of a journey unfolding in time. Christian faith is faith in the incarnation of the Word and his bodily resurrection; it is faith in a God who is so close to us that he entered our human history. Far from divorcing us from reality, our faith in the Son of God made man in Jesus of Nazareth enables us to grasp reality’s deepest meaning and to see how much God loves this world and is constantly guiding it towards himself. This leads us, as Christians, to live our lives in this world with ever greater commitment and intensity.
Lumen Fidei 18

Reflection – Classic Benedict here, even as we do our ‘Tuesdays with Francis’ reading through the encyclical. Also a bit on the long side, but I couldn’t really cut this fine paragraph down. My comments will be correspondingly short.

Pope Benedict Emeritus points out here, as he often has in his writings, that ‘faith’ is not some weird thing unique to religious people. Everyone engages in an act of faith whenever we trust the knowledge of another person without ourselves verifying the truth of the matter. And life in the world is unlivable without that kind of faith: we cannot fly on an airplane, go to a doctor, learn from a teacher, or eat a meal we did not personally cook without it.

We all know that we cannot personally master every corner of reality and of our own certain knowledge determine the truth of every matter. So we take the knowledge of the experts and go with it, always knowing that they might be fallible, but choosing to live in a species of ‘faith’ in various areas. It is such a commonplace reality that we hardly even think of it—only someone suffering from a paranoid disorder has any difficulty with it.

And yet, when it comes to ultimate truths—God, the human person, the meaning of life, death, the future, good and evil, suffering—there is a long tradition of thought that says ‘faith’ is unacceptable, that only what we ourselves determine to be true by our intellect is worthy of our intellectual assent.

You know, maybe I’m thick as a plank here, but I don’t see any logic in that argument. If I decide for perfectly valid reasons that my family physician is a trustworthy man and so take his advice on this or that course of action, this is fine. But if I decide for perfectly valid reasons that Jesus is Trustworthy in a more ultimate way and that He has communicated Himself to me through His Catholic Church, and consequently base my whole life on that judgment of my intellect, it is not fine, somehow? I don’t see any logical basis for that distinction.

Anyhow, there’s a great deal else going on in this section from the encyclical, and I may come back to it tomorrow, but it is good to consider the reasonableness of faith here—so often we blithely accept the opposition of faith and reason that the modern world throws up at us. Really, they are more in tandem with each other than opposition. Reason indicates to us we should trust the word of another; we accept that word as true (act of faith), and then can use our reason to take deeper hold of why and how this word is a trustworthy one. Reason-faith-reason is a normal pattern, as is the alternate one of faith-reason-faith. And that’s all I have time and space for today. Tomorrow, more on this subject…


  1. Well...I am not quite understanding you. ...
    As I see it, one cannot possibly believe he does not already know. I mean how can you believe in something you know nothing about?
    plus, what one believes in and trusts must be reasonable. If asked to believe in the divinity of a cat, or to place one's trust in a golden idol, one would refuse- on the basis that it is just not reasonable to do so. Faith must have its reasons, it must be built upon knowledge, it can't be true and blind. Right? Finally, knowledge itself is often built upon faith. one cannot come to know thru absolute skepticism. If anything is known at all, it is because there exists a certain faith in human knowing possibilities and a real trust that the objects of knowledge are really "showing themselves" and the mind and the senses and the emotions are not acting crazily. real persons , in relation to history especially- must have certain knowledge and certain reasons for giving their trust.

    Sometimes when you give this trust, or fiat ?, you are able to go deeper ( as they say) and finally come into knowledge of your own..and understand things you never would have understood before.

    Also, as I see it, faith is always personal. each person must believe for herself. no one can believe for another. Many people may believe the same things because of a unity of knowledge, reason, experience and convictions. There can be a community of faith and a unity of faith- that happens when people truly love each other. But, this community and unity necessarily begins and rests on a confession of personal faith in God.

    For faith to become stronger, it must be used. Each person lives according to the measure of faith one has, however small, weak or imperfect it is. God honors this, trust in God and the certitude of his presence is given and with God's help many things which were never before imagined become possible...

    I am sort of waxing on...I guess sometimes I think if I keep writing, I will understand you. Am I close to understanding you?

    1. PS thanks for Rome. I loved that!

    2. You understand me perfectly! As (almost) always, we have very different ways of expressing ourselves, but in this case, we agree absolutely. Praise God!

  2. Miracles are a retelling in small letters the same story written across the entire universe in letters sometimes too large for some of us to see. CS Lewis

  3. No. But, I loved that book.

    It is from a collection of essays that were not previously published. It is from an essay in the book called God in the Dock..which was out together not by CSLewis but Walter Hooper who edited his literary estate. This particular essay is just called miracles which the Book says was preached as a sermon in St Jude on the Hill church in London 11/26/42


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