Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Need for Prudence

There is an opinion piece by Sr. Anne Codd, "resource person" (eyeroll) for the the Council for Pastoral Renewal and Adult Faith Development of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, in today's Irish Times.

The piece itself is fine and makes many good points, but I think Sr. Codd may have lacked prudence and judgement in filing such an article with The Irish Times, at least when it comes to one passage.

This is the passage to which I refer:

In the Christian tradition faith is understood and experienced as a gift. God invites humanity to faith, reaching out to naturally and primarily through the love of family, and through sharing the life of the faith community: “[The] discovery of love as a source of knowledge, which is part of the . . . experience of every man and woman, finds authoritative expression in the biblical understanding of faith.”

We do not reason our way to faith. But is faith reason-able? Yes. The dialogue between believing and knowing is the focus of the second chapter of Lumen Fidei. Human experience – loving relationship, scientific exploration and theology itself – all inform faith and are in turn lit up by faith.

The Irish Times heading for the article is: "We do not reason our way to faith, but faith can be reason-able". And in the comments snakepit below, on the online version, a commenter makes the inevitable gibe: "We do not reason our way to faith. But is faith reason-able? Yes."
So there you have it - proof or explanation not required or given. Could have cut the whole piece down to this and saved a of time.

(I know that it is probably a mistake to ever read the comments section of any newspaper article, and certainly not those in The Irish Times or The Guardian, since the commenters there tend to be shrill fanatics who bear no resemblance to ordinary people. But sometimes I can't help it.)

I think believers should exercise great prudence in how they present their faith in such a hostile forum. We must be all things to all men, and handing atheist zealots ammunition on a silver platter is not a good idea.

Sr. Codd is, of course, perfectly accurate in what she says-- we do not reason our way to Christian faith. The Catechism of the Catholic Church boldly proclaims, in article 47, that "The Church teaches that the one true God, our Creator and Lord, can be known with certainty from his works, by the natural light of human reason." So we can know God through reason, but faith in Christ and the Christian revelation is a different matter.

As article 35 puts it: "Man's faculties make him capable of coming to a knowledge of the existence of a personal God. But for man to be able to enter into real intimacy with him, God willed both to reveal himself to man and to give him the grace of being able to welcome this revelation in faith. The proofs of God's existence, however, can predispose one to faith and help one to see that faith is not opposed to reason."

Faith is not sub-rational, but super-rational. It is not a substitute for rational thought, but it soars into heights which unaided reason cannot attain.

As Blessed Pope John Paul the Second said, in his magnificent encylical Faith and Reason:

Similarly, fundamental theology should demonstrate the profound compatibility that exists between faith and its need to find expression by way of human reason fully free to give its assent. Faith will thus be able “to show fully the path to reason in a sincere search for the truth. Although faith, a gift of God, is not based on reason, it can certainly not dispense with it. At the same time, it becomes apparent that reason needs to be reinforced by faith, in order to discover horizons it cannot reach on its own”.

My belief in the Christian revelation is not based upon whim, or an act of intellectual submission, or mere emotion. I could write an article (at least) ten times the length of this one on my reasons for believing that the Catholic faith is true. However, ultimately I know that my faith is a gift from God, and that all my thinking and reasoning would be in vain without this.

In a society that is more and more unfamiliar with the teachings of Christianity, and which contains so many elements that are positively hostile to Christianity, I think that Christians should be very, very careful to avoid giving unbelievers the impression that we are "fideists"-- that is, that we believe without any evidence, or even contrary to evidence.

Catholics should also let the world know, at every opportunity, that fideism has been officially rejected by the Catholic Church, and that anyone who claims that a belief in God is purely mystical or emotional, or a matter of choice between unknowable alternatives, is not adhering to Catholic doctrine. We should be careful not even to be misunderstood as making such claims. Too much is at stake to do otherwise.


  1. A gift for you....truth.

    Our heavenly Father will NOT put any child of his into a hell fire no matter what their sins, whether they repent or not. Sin doesn't scare God! He created it Isa 45:7 to teach us ALL the knowledge of good and evil Gen 3:22 for our eternal placement in his coming kingdom. Throwing a child of his into a hell fire has never entered the heart or mind of God to ever do such a thing Jer 7:31, Jer 19:5. Anyone preaching a hell fire or second death for any child of God has been deceived into teaching lies. The whole world has believed in the god of hate murder and revenge (The devil Rev 12:9). The true word of God John 1:1 is now delivered Rev 12:5 and proven on this weblog diary http://thegoodtale.blogspot.com

    God chose a woman Rev 12 to be the prophet raised up of her brethren Acts 3:21-23 like unto Moses Num 12:3 delivering the true word Rev 12:17, Luke 8:11 and power of God boldly as Elijah, Matt 17:3 to the whole world as a witness Matt 24:14.

    The true Gospel (Gospel means Good Tale) turns the hearts of the Father's to the children of God Luke 1:17. A true witness delivereth souls...Proverbs 14:25. All souls are now delivered John 8:32. My 1260 days are done Rev 12:6.A righteous judge gathers ALL EVIDENCE BEFORE making a judgment 1 Cor 6:2,

    1 Thes 5:21, Pro 18:13 . Our ALMIGHTY God Luke 1:37 has an eternal place for all of his children in his coming world Rev 21 either on the NEW EARTH Ezek 37:26 or on a new planet in the NEW HEAVENS Matt 25:30, Acts 10:34, Rom 14:11,Heb 8:11, 1 John 1:9 according to their works Rev 20:13.

  2. Worst gift I got since Pet Semetary 2. Thanks all the same.