A familiar recent papal topic comes up. My sense is that subjectivity is partly a reaction against what often seems an arbitrary exercise of authority in the world. Many people are prepared to align with absolute truth. The problem is that such truths tend to reinforce their own worldviews. And for people in authority, those truths tend to reinforce the amassing of wealth and power.
34. The light of love proper to faith can illumine the questions of our own time about truth. Truth nowadays is often reduced to the subjective authenticity of the individual, valid only for the life of the individual. A common truth intimidates us, for we identify it with the intransigent demands of totalitarian systems. But if truth is a truth of love, if it is a truth disclosed in personal encounter with the Other and with others, then it can be set free from its enclosure in individuals and become part of the common good. As a truth of love, it is not one that can be imposed by force; it is not a truth that stifles the individual. Since it is born of love, it can penetrate to the heart, to the personal core of each man and woman. Clearly, then, faith is not intransigent, but grows in respectful coexistence with others. One who believes may not be presumptuous; on the contrary, truth leads to humility, since believers know that, rather than ourselves possessing truth, it is truth which embraces and possesses us. Far from making us inflexible, the security of faith sets us on a journey; it enables witness and dialogue with all.
This is key material. Religious leaders, at least the effective ones, know that anything that must penetrate to the heart, must be demonstrated and enabled. Barriers must be stripped away. Pope Francis’s change of tone is part of the deconstruction of barriers.
Nor is the light of faith, joined to the truth of love, extraneous to the material world, for love is always lived out in body and spirit; the light of faith is an incarnate light radiating from the luminous life of Jesus. It also illumines the material world, trusts its inherent order and knows that it calls us to an ever widening path of harmony and understanding. The gaze of science thus benefits from faith: faith encourages the scientist to remain constantly open to reality in all its inexhaustible richness. Faith awakens the critical sense by preventing research from being satisfied with its own formulae and helps it to realize that nature is always greater. By stimulating wonder before the profound mystery of creation, faith broadens the horizons of reason to shed greater light on the world which discloses itself to scientific investigation.
Faith can awaken a critical sense, but it isn’t an automatic thing. There are also fine scientists who lack faith, but do indeed bring an active mode of critique to their investigations. The blending of science and faith needs something of an active intent to achieve the integration suggested above.