Friday, December 16, 2005

Faith + Reason = Married for Life

Good News from the Pope here.


  1. Catholic Exchange today has an excellent article about a conversation the author had with Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati's niece, and the artificial gap between faith and everyday life.

    "Secularism has created a disparity where none ought to exist; namely, in bifurcating the spiritual from the natural and worldly. The spiritual is perceived by the secularist’s eye as rarefied and unrelated to the “real world.” So in order to fully experience the real world and remain grounded, it is thought best to steer clear of theology and talk of the transcendent. But following this path would lead one to work against that which makes the human person most human, namely his transcendent destiny."


  2. It was a delight just to get a hint of this - I hope to find a more complete report of the Pope's speech.

    This might be drawn directly out of GKC's writings - in books as far back as The Defendant he was talking about the need to reunite the various dimensions of human activity:

    "The rebuilding of this bridge between science and human nature is one of the greatest needs of mankind. We have all to show that before we go on to any visions or creations we can be contented with a planet of miracles." [GKC, The Defendant 75]

    But even more dramatic, and in the same pathway as John Paul II's Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason) is this (and I beg pardon for such a lengthy excerpt):

    "...what peril of morbidity there is for man comes rather from his reason than his imagination. It was not meant to attack the authority of reason; rather it is the ultimate purpose to defend it. For it needs defence. The whole modern world is at war with reason; and the tower already reels.
    The sages, it is often said, can see no answer to the riddle of religion. But the trouble with our sages is not that they cannot see the answer; it is that they cannot even see the riddle. ... The modern latitudinarians speak, for instance, about authority in religion not only as if there were no reason in it, but as if there had never been any reason for it. Apart from seeing its philosophical basis, they cannot even see its historical cause. Religious authority has often, doubtless, been oppressive or unreasonable; just as every legal system (and especially our present one) has been callous and full of a cruel apathy. ... But the modern critics of religious authority are like men who should attack the police without ever having heard of burglars. For there is a great and possible peril to the human mind: a peril as practical as burglary. Against it religious authority was reared, rightly or wrongly, as a barrier. And against it something certainly must be reared as a barrier, if our race is to avoid ruin.
    That peril is that the human intellect is free to destroy itself. Just as one generation could prevent the very existence of the next generation, by all entering a monastery or jumping into the sea, so one set of thinkers can in some degree prevent further thinking by teaching the next generation that there is no validity in any human thought. It is idle to talk always of the alternative of reason and faith. Reason is itself a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all. If you are merely a sceptic, you must sooner or later ask yourself the question, "Why should anything go right; even observation and deduction? Why should not good logic be as misleading as bad logic? They are both movements in the brain of a bewildered ape?" The young sceptic says, "I have a right to think for myself." But the old sceptic, the complete sceptic, says, "I have no right to think for myself. I have no right to think at all."
    There is a thought that stops thought. That is the only thought that ought to be stopped. That is the ultimate evil against which all religious authority was aimed. It only appears at the end of decadent ages like our own..."
    [GKC Orthodoxy CW1:235-236]

    But there's more and more and more.

    "And in history I found that Christianity, so far from belonging to the Dark Ages, was the one path across the Dark Ages that was not dark. It was a shining bridge connecting two shining civilizations. If any one says that the faith arose in ignorance and savagery the answer is simple: it didn't. It arose in the Mediterranean civilization in the full summer of the Roman Empire. The world was swarming with sceptics, and pantheism was as plain as the sun, when Constantine nailed the cross to the mast. It is perfectly true that afterwards the ship sank; but it is far more extraordinary that the ship came up again: repainted and glittering, with the cross still at the top. This is the amazing thing the religion did: it turned a sunken ship into a submarine. The ark lived under the load of waters; after being buried under the debris of dynasties and clans, we arose and remembered Rome. If our faith had been a mere fad of the fading empire, fad would have followed fad in the twilight, and if the civilization ever re-emerged (and many such have never re-emerged) it would have been under some new barbaric flag. But the Christian Church was the last life of the old society and was also the first life of the new. She took the people who were forgetting how to make an arch and she taught them to invent the Gothic arch. In a word, the most absurd thing that could be said of the Church is the thing we have all heard said of it. How can we say that the Church wishes to bring us back into the Dark Ages? The Church was the only thing that ever brought us out of them."
    [GKC Orthodoxy CW1:352]

    This entire topic is the second major link I have now encountered between GKC and Cardinal Newman (the first relates to subsidiarity, about which I am preparing a more detailed document). To hear from two Popes bidding us pursue this critical path - as a united human endeavour: theologians, engineers, poets, scientists, musicians, philosophers, and the rest - well, this is a great thrill to see it happen.

    Dale Ahlquist is right. We need to establish Chesterton University.

  3. Chesterton's mind is so wonderful. His vision for what is good is so great. And I love the part about there being no alternative to faith and reason. There isn't any. And it is idle to talk as if there is.

  4. To hear from two Popes bidding us pursue this critical path - as a united human endeavour: theologians, engineers, poets, scientists, musicians, philosophers, and the rest - well, this is a great thrill to see it happen.

    These things were united before the Reformation. The Reformation shattered more than just "a religious scheme." The whole body of scholarship also was severed from itself. Almost all the disciplines listed above were once considered different branches of the same discipline: philosophy.


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