EG 242-243: Dialogue Between Faith, Reason, And Science

Vasnetsov_Maria_MagdaleneEvangelii Gaudium looks at the “Dialogue between faith, reason and science.” It will be just these two sections.

Instead of the adversarial approach between religion and science so often celebrated in our culture, Pope Francis suggests we look at a synthesis instead.

242. Dialogue between science and faith also belongs to the work of evangelization at the service of peace.[Cf. Propositio 54] Whereas positivism and scientism “refuse to admit the validity of forms of knowledge other than those of the positive sciences”,[Fides et Ratio 88] the Church proposes another path, which calls for a synthesis between the responsible use of methods proper to the empirical sciences and other areas of knowledge such as philosophy, theology, as well as faith itself, which elevates us to the mystery transcending nature and human intelligence. Faith is not fearful of reason; on the contrary, it seeks and trusts reason, since “the light of reason and the light of faith both come from God”[Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa contra Gentiles, I, 7; cf. John Paul II, Fides et Ratio 43] and cannot contradict each other. Evangelization is attentive to scientific advances and wishes to shed on them the light of faith and the natural law so that they will remain respectful of the centrality and supreme value of the human person at every stage of life. All of society can be enriched thanks to this dialogue, which opens up new horizons for thought and expands the possibilities of reason. This too is a path of harmony and peace.

This has it right. Faith has nothing to fear from reason. And more, our concern as people of faith is advancing the Gospel and advocating for the value of every human person. Not that the bitty details on things like human origins or the structure of the universe trip us up.

The evidence from the natural world tell us there was no Adam and Eve, and that the sun and planets do not circle the Earth. It should make no difference. The spiritual point of Adam and Eve is to communicate personal, loving, and involved God. The spiritual point of an Earth-centered existence is to honor the persons created and loved by God. As long as keep our focus on the essentials of this and other points, we remain faithful to the Gospel, and on the path to harmony and peace with others.

243. The Church has no wish to hold back the marvelous progress of science. On the contrary, she rejoices and even delights in acknowledging the enormous potential that God has given to the human mind. Whenever the sciences – rigorously focused on their specific field of inquiry – arrive at a conclusion which reason cannot refute, faith does not contradict it. Neither can believers claim that a scientific opinion which is attractive but not sufficiently verified has the same weight as a dogma of faith. At times some scientists have exceeded the limits of their scientific competence by making certain statements or claims. But here the problem is not with reason itself, but with the promotion of a particular ideology which blocks the path to authentic, serene and productive dialogue.

Pope Francis, one of the first popes in a while trained in the sciences, has a good bead on the situation. Scientists and theologians each make pronouncements within their areas of expertise. When people of the two groups come together, it is the time for mutual discernment and dialogue. There, we find great enrichment, especially when such conversations are respectful and above all, attuned in listening to the other.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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