Pope John Paul II once wrote that “faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth.”
Faith and reason are faculties of the soul that are aimed at the same ultimate goal, and therefore faith and reason cannot contradict.
Many tenets of faith cannot be adequately tested by reason — for example, no empirical or logical evidence can prove or disprove the belief that God loves us — but other tenets of faith can be placed under philosophical and scientific scrutiny.
For those of us who put such faith in reason, we must recognize that discoveries of certain facts may force us to change our beliefs. For example, if it can be proved that Jesus never rose from the dead, then we must renounce Christianity.
This puts us in an interesting position. If, through the use of reason, we discover a certain fact that conflicts with our religious life, we must change that life.
This illustrates an interesting trend within our present culture. I subscribe to the traditional view that, when truth is discovered, one must respond to that truth by incorporating it into one’s life.
The current trend seems to be the opposite: Nowadays many people respond to the facts not by changing their lifestyle, but changing the facts.
I do not mean this in the Orwellian sense — such fact-changing occurs at a much less noticeable level. Take, for example, the traditional Christian teaching that contraception violates the natural law.
It is a clear fact that artificial birth control is contrary to the natural result of the conjugal act, namely, the inherently good creation of a new life.
But rather than change one’s life in response to this fact, the more common option in today’s world is to change the fact. Many people now claim that the production of life is not the natural result of intercourse.
They do this even though this fact is a central assumption of contemporary evolutionary biology, and there has been no new scientific discovery that has called it into question.
I only raise this example because it gives us a sociological picture of what we deal with on a daily basis. Any time we enter into sin, it is because we would rather ignore the truth than look to God for the strength to change our lives.
Of course, I struggle with this. We all do. But we must remember that we are created by God to respond to the truth through our faculties of faith and reason. When we ignore truth for the pursuit of our own desires, we fail to be the faithful and rational creatures God intended us to be.
Michael Hayes may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.