Approaching Faith and Reason
Everyone here knows the importance of having faith in both God and Roman Catholicism, but it would also not be too hard for one to imagine how some have not yet thought about the ‘reason’ aspect. An important question to bear in mind: where is faith without reason? In essence, faith exists in harmonious concord with reason, helping the Church Militant to better understand God, their adherence to the Catholic faith and the world around them. Like Exothermic and Endothermic reactions in the field of Chemistry, where heat escapes from the System to influence the temperature of the Surroundings and vice versa. Such a concept would in turn take the shape of a sliced half of an apple, continuously revolving in a constant cycle that first leaves away from the apple’s core and then back to it.
Both faith and reason are akin to two equals within a Catholic couple, whose devotion to the other has been bonded by the Sacrament of Matrimony. Within a Catholic marriage, a spouse supports the household be securing a financial backbone, whereas the other provides an ideal household environment to support the upbringing, the Catholic education, of the children that were born under this union. Neither the Catholic man nor the Catholic woman in that marriage is superior (or, God forbid, inferior) to the other, for both provide similar roles for the sake of a common purpose. Or, as Pope St. John Paul II would say in the Papal Encyclical, Faith and Reason: “There is thus no reason for competition of any kind between reason and faith: each contains the other, and each has its own scope for action.”
To have Reason is to give one a purposeful meaning to have Faith in God and the Catholic faith. Under no circumstances can that relationship be disrupted, lest the Church Militant lose sight of what is truth, what can be made certain on whether it came from Divine Providence or not. No doubt, like the recent attempts made to make the Sacrament of Matrimony less than ideal for young people, so did Pope St. John Paul II raised the issue that recent trend have made to keep Faith and Reason separated. This separation can only have severe consequences to how the Church Militant interprets and perceives reality, which St. John Paul II notes:
Deprived of what Revelation offers, reason has taken side-tracks which expose it to the danger of losing sight of its final goal. Deprived of reason, faith has stressed feeling and experience, and so run the risk of no longer being a universal proposition. It is an illusion to think that faith, tied to weak reasoning, might be more penetrating; on the contrary, faith then runs the grave risk of withering into myth or superstition. By the same token, reason which is unrelated to an adult faith is not prompted to turn its gaze to the newness and radicality of being.
One of the most significant aspects of our current situation, it should be noted, is the ‘crisis of meaning’. Perspectives on life and the world, often of a scientific temper, have so proliferated that we face an increasing fragmentation of knowledge. This makes the search for meaning difficult and often fruitless. Indeed, still more dramatically, in this maelstrom of data and facts in which we live and which seem to comprise the very fabric of life, many people wonder whether it still makes sense to ask about meaning. The array of theories which vie to give an answer, and the different ways of viewing and of interpreting the world and human life, serve only to aggravate this radical doubt, which can easily lead to scepticism, indifference or to various forms of nihilism.
‘Indifference’, ‘superstition’, ‘doubt’, ‘scepticism’ and similar terms that St. John Paul II mentions in Fides et Ratio refer to the results of when the harmonious tandem between Faith and Reason; like the aforementioned half of a sliced apple being sliced again in two with a knife. For the Church Militant, there was in fact a ‘knife’ that sliced Faith and Reason within the confines of the Second World War. In that context, it meant the loss of a reason to fight and the subsequent loss of faith in one’s nation to pursue a final victory.
During World War II, the Germans pursued a wartime strategy called “Weltanschauungskrieg” (German for “Worldview Warfare”; oftentimes mistranslated into English as “Psychological Warfare”), in conjunction with their more well-known “Blitzkrieg,” of which was “designed to achieve the ideological, political, or military objectives of the sponsoring organization.” This strategy was deliberately done through “exploitation of a target audience’s cultural-psychological attributes and its communication system” (Simpson 11). Exactly how Weltanschauungskrieg ties into the overall discussion of this is because of how the strategy relies on the traits inherent in manipulative trickery, which in essence entailed the distortion of the target audience’s perceptions and interpretations on reality; how they distinguish between right and wrong. In other words, the sight of Stukas, Panzers and StuGs and Panzergrenadiere were not Weltanschauungskrieg incarnate. Rather, it was the disorienting siren wails of oncoming Stukas, the fast-moving Panzers causing havoc behind the Front, the mighty cannons of the StuG tanks destroying protected fortifications and Panzergrenadiere mopping up the remaining resistance.
While the Church Militant may have issues trying to figure out how the following could relate to the ongoing separation of Faith and Reason from each other, hold on. The importance of this is to recognize how the fundamentals of Weltanschauungskrieg can apply from the spiritual level, as well as that of an individual Catholic’s perceptions on reality. For this author, a “Geistlicher-Weltanschauungskrieg” (Spiritual-Worldview Warfare) might be the best term to refer to the faithful being forced to deal with the numerous ‘superstitions’ and ‘doubts’ that come with worldviews that are contrary to Catholic teaching.
In essence, it is important for all Catholics to remember that defending the faith also has its own set of tactics. For instance, the idea of using St. Thomas Aquinas’ method of argumentation in attacking the opposition’s strongest argument is similar to that of Elastic Defense, the concept that was emphasized as a countermeasure against the Blitzkrieg. Rather than focusing all of one’s energy in defending the faith, one should instead have counterarguments behind their main argument, so that when the latter is broken, the opposition will continue to meet resistance. The important goal in that case is to maintain a flexible posture that ensures the balance between Faith and Reason. The same logic also applies to other methods used to verbally defend and justify the Catholic faith.
Therefore, in retrospect, at this current moment of multiple opposing opinions and perceptions, it helps a lot to maintain a sound balance between Faith and Reason. As stated earlier, both serve to help the other, and in turn aid the Church Militant in understanding themselves, God and the world around them.
Mit herzlichen Grüßen,
To be continued…
John Paul II, Pope. Encyclical Letter, Fides Et Ratio, of the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II: To the
Bishops of the Catholic Church On the Relationship between Faith and Reason.
Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 1998.
Simpson, Christopher. Science of Coercion: Communication Research and Psychological
Warfare, 1945-1960. New York: Oxford UP, 1994. Print.