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信仰與理性 Faith and Reason

刊登日期: 2012.11.11
作者: Fr. Thomas Au 區耀邦神父  

 

From the title, some of you are already thinking about the encyclical (通諭) written by Blessed Pope John Paul II in 1998 in which he showed how faith and reason are intertwined and not separable. He wrote it in response to the modern and mistaken notion that matters of faith are somehow irrational, unreasonable. 

Is faith and reason really incompatible? In other words, does having faith means we cannot reason, and if we use our reasoning power we cannot have faith?

“ Faith without reason leads to superstition. ”

Blessed Pope John Paul beautifully pointed out in his encyclical that the ability to reason is what makes man unique of all God’s creation. This gift of reason is tremendously important. When we fail to reason, we can easily fall into superstition, which is with us even now, and fanaticism such as the blind following of ideologies like Nazism of the 1930’s-40’s in Germany or the Red Guards of the 1960’s in China. On a smaller scale, many people may choose to believe in anything when they become desperate. An example of this may be found in otherwise very reasonable persons until someone they care about suffers from a terrible illness like cancer. They would chase after any form of “cure” or “promise of cure” because they suspend their “reason” in their desperation. Other forms of superstition can be seen in our athletes that do certain things or wear certain things because they “always” perform better with them, as if these “things” have some supernatural power of their own.

“ Reason without faith is hopeless. ”

Let me approach it this way. Every scientific discovery begins with an act of faith. Based on reason, the scientists observe some evidence that point to something “more” which, at the moment, is not clear to them. In their research they “open” the veil that keeps them from “seeing” the whole picture. Every scientist is a man or woman of faith. That is why it is “unreasonable” for a scientist to claim reason and faith being incompatible. This gift of “more” than the eye can see comes from God who made us. And it is this promise that is the foundation of “hope” which I will write next time.

In Romans 1:18-23 St. Paul pointedly condemned those who worship man-made gods while ignoring the “reasoning” of one God that is “evident” to all. Later on, St. Thomas Aquinas would lay out his five proofs of existence of God from the same “reasoning”.

I am not convinced what many people claim, that they are either atheists or agnostics. I think they are very mistaken of themselves. They have difficulty using their reasoning, or understanding the reasons presented to them. It is precisely that moment when they could exercise their faith. But instead, they shy away from making the “leap of faith” because they also know that if they do so, they have to change their lives. And they are not ready or willing to do so. That is quite different from saying that they don’t believe in God. In the bottom of their heart, they believe. That is why they hedge their bet by claiming to be agnostic.

On the other hand, those of us who claim to believe in God do not always live as if it were important to believe in God and all that comes with that declaration. We often-times live as if God does not matter. We bear out the claim that religion and faith together has no real meaning in life and in doing so, we obscure the “evidence” of God to those who are seeking Him.

 

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