DCMission Statement

Thursday, August 25, 2011

DCMission Video: "Is Belief Reasonable?"


CG said...

Fixed Father Bryan Jerabek's name from "Bran" to "Bryan."

I had a good long discussion on Faith and Reason with an anti-religion atheist yesterday that coincides somewhat with this video. It seems that the most prevalent mindset in our contemporary culture is that reason and logic are the only methods for discovering truth. It is hard to even begin to converse about Truth (which exists independently from our methods of faith and reason for understanding Truth) when one completely rejects faith as a method of understanding Truth. The atheist seemed dumbfounded that I could have faith (as I typically express myself through logic) since he saw faith and reason as incompatible with each other.

Father Phil O'Kennedy (Diocese of Birmingham, AL) said something on faith and reason in one of his Homilies earlier this year that struck me. Unfortunately I can't really even paraphrase it, but my take on faith is informed by it as well as an analogy on the scientific process that Father Bryan Jerabek (Diocese of Birmingham, AL) gave last year in one of his Homilies. Having faith in something is not a blind acceptance. We should be able to express our reasons (read as personal explanations rather than "logic" or "reasoning") for our faith. These reasons are not our faith in this Truth, and they don't change the Truth. They are rather the path our journey has taken in our search for Truth - the trigger that allowed us to examine and understand the Truth better.

These reasons for our faith shouldn't have to be a comprehensive scientific proof, either. How many of the "facts" of science have we, as individuals, accepted on faith and have never verified or tested out, but have used in our work. The reason we give for the acceptance of these scientific facts is the consensus of the scientific community. Shouldn't an individual's personal reasons for faith seem more powerful than others' consensus from the perspective of a individualistic atheist? Of course one can only take others' reasons for faith at face value because we can only appreciate another person's journey to the extent we can share in their experiences.

In this particular discussion with the atheist, he actually asked my reasons for faith (not very common as most of these "discussions" are really just an excuse for the atheist to preach/dictate their own beliefs to others). I shared some of my personal reasons for my faith as well as aspects of my faith, finally getting the opportunity to replace the nebulous word "Truth" with the more appropriate words: God; the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.

Eric M. said...

"Having faith in something is not a blind acceptance." Very true. Many people today automatically associate "faith" with blind acceptance. On the contrary, C.S. Lewis said "Faith is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted in spite of your changing moods." He makes a good point, though I do think there's a little more to Christian faith than this sort of definition might suggest. I heard Fr. Robert Barron say in a lecture that (paraphrased) "faith is not on the near, shallow side of reason; faith is on the far side of reason." I think this illustrates well the proper relationship between faith and reason. The intellectual pursuit of truth takes us to a certain point and faith takes us the rest of the way. Faith is not sub-rational, it is supra-rational. Reason and logic ultimately point beyond themselves to realities that cannot be fully understood by them.

I'm glad to hear that he actually asked for your reasons, which I agree is unusual for the anti-theist crowd. It's always nice to stop talking in abstractions and give things their proper names.

Patrick L. said...

"We should be able to express our reasons (don't read as "logic" or "reasoning") for our faith. These reasons are not our faith in this Truth ... They are rather the path our journey..."

So, the reasons are neither logic nor our faith itself. They are the path. I'm wondering what terminology the Church uses to describe this. Is this journey perhaps our participation in God's grace and the conformation of our will to His? My perception of Truth in general - even how I think of what it is - has changed as I get older and learn more. Is man's relationship to Truth active or passive? It is both, but part of the journey I think is learning in what respects it is active and in what respects it is passive.

"Of course one can only take others' reasons for faith at face value because we can only appreciate another person's journey to the extent we can share in their experiences."

I believe one distinction that atheist scientists draw between the consensuses within our Faith and their consensuses within science is that all their consensuses are, reportedly, experimentally verifiable (set aside the fact that many people today will argue over whether a "belief" in global warming is reasonable). But if they were to put an equal amount of effort into learning the Faith as they do in studying (rather than performing themselves) the experiments that others have done, I believe they would be in a much better place.

It would be, I think, easy for atheist scientists to fall into the trap of thinking that the idea of God is simply a construction of man to serve the purposes of: 1) a mechanism to sustain societal stability, and 2) a defense mechanism for the human condition to assist him in sustaining psychological stability. The former, I have convinced myself, is obviously not true, because history has shown us that oftentimes man's service to God is in conflict with societal stability (e.g. St. Thomas More or the current fight against widespread abortion).

On the latter point, this is one comment that resonated with me in William F. Buckley's 'Nearer My God' that I think is relevant enough to mention here:

"[Russell] Kirk left the impression that people who contemplate conversion and consult priests are driven by psychological disorders. Yes; but psychological distress (or 'want') can be the symptom of spiritual hunger. Even if I thought I could competently handle the psychoanalytical vocabulary, I would let it alone, and say simply this: that I know human beings who are unhappier than they would be if they believed that God could give solace, and that He cared."

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