Day 21 – Faith and Reason
“Believe that you may understand,” says Augustine; but he also says, “understand that you may believe.” Belief is “to think with assent.” This is a conviction that comes from a basic classroom experience: one cannot progress much in one’s studies unless one learns first to trust in the teacher’s word. Understanding – the exercise of the faculty of reason – works on data that are often received on trust. Thus, reason is complemented by faith. It is also a given experience that what one has learned on the word of another, is deepened and perfected in research and inquiry. In this second case, reason builds on what has been heard, noted and memorized. This whole learning process applies even to the big questions of life: “Who am I?” “What am I here for?” “What is happiness?” “How can I be happy?” “Why is there so much evil?” etc. To these questions, the Church – Mother and Teacher – hands on what she herself has received from the deposit of faith entrusted to her. What the Church gives is not a product of human research done according to accepted scientific principles; rather, what she gives comes from quite another source, God – the Creator of all.
The reasoning of a Christian works within the ambit provided by God’s revelation regarding Himself, the world and man, as interpreted by the Church. This way, the Christian is assured of a way of looking at things that is not arbitrary but guaranteed by the authority of the Revealer Himself. “Faith” and “Science” cannot be in conflict so long as we remember that “Faith” answers the question “Why?” while “Science” answers the question “How?” This means that one can be a good scientist without ceasing to be a Christian. And, in fact, it is the Church’s conviction that real Christians make excellent scientists.