Faith and Reason: The Whyful Confronting of Whylessness
Faith believes. Reason questions. The two belong together
Man must accept the whyless truths, so that he may be whyful. To borrow from Voegelin, man deforms himself if he does not accept the whyless truths just as much as he does if he is not whyful.
Voegelin believed that all men and women--and this included Christians--ought to ask questions. In fact, Voegelin believed that "by refusing to ask the questions, or by loading them with premises devised to make the search impossible," man deforms himself.
This is in keeping with the best of Catholicism. As one example of this, we might point to St. Anselm's famous treatise Cur Deus Homo? Its very title is a question: Why Did God Become Man? As another example, read St. Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologiae; the thing is riddled with questions (and answers).
In his famous Apologia Pro Vita Sua, Cardinal Newman, who had a marvelously inquiring mind, stated that "ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt." As he understood the subject, "difficulty and doubt are incommensurate." Difficulty and doubt are as different as night and day.
Difficulties lead to questions, questions lead to the search for answers, and the search, more often than not, leads to answers. As Voegelin noted in his essay, "question and answer are held together, and related to one another, by the event of the search."
Jesus asked questions of his followers and his enemies. Certainly, if Jesus asked questions and asked others to ask themselves questions, then asking questions cannot be wrong. "Do you love me?" Jesus asked Peter. (John 21:16). "Why are you sleeping?" Jesus asked his disciples in Gethsemane. (Luke 22:46). For convenience, the Archdiocese of Washington as posted a (not exhaustive) list of "100 Questions Jesus Asked and You Ought to Answer."
Mary also asked questions: "How can this be?" she asked the angel Gabriel when she had conceived a child without knowing a man. (Luke 1:34) This was right before her great act of faith and obedience: Fiat mihi! Be it done!
Catholicism is St. Augustine's and St. Anselm's credo ut intelligam, I believe that I may understand. But it is also Abelard's intelligo ut credam, I understand that I may believe. It understands that truth is a dynamic interplay of both faith and reason, since both reason and faith come from God.
Faith believes. Reason questions. The two belong together, and they ought never be separate.
"Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth--in a word, to know Himself--so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves," wrote John Paul II, in the opening words of his encyclical Fides et ratio.
Blessed John Paul observed that man's heart--in whatever time, whatever culture, wherever he lives--always asks "the fundamental questions which pervade human life. Who am I? Where have I come from and where am I going? Why is there evil? What is there after this life?" FR, 1.
In almost all cases, therefore, God wants us to be whyful. It is one of the joys of being human that we should ask questions, be convinced there are answers, search for those answers, and (we hope) to find them.
But though we are meant to be whyful, there are boundaries where questions can no longer be asked about reality, where we no longer can expect answers. There is a place where reason reaches a limit, and we peer out as it were into the very edge of reason, where there is a sort of a wall.
We might call it the wall of whylessness.
This wall of whylessness is reached at reason's end where the self-evident principles of theoretical or practical reason are reached. Here, there is no "why" for them; they just are, and their opposite is unthinkable. To deny them is simply to fall in absurdity or fundamental skepticism that leads to reason's despair (and often moral despair).
In his play Alcestis, the Greek playwright Euripides has this dialogue between Admetus and Heracles (528-29):
Heracles: Existence and non-existence are deemed to be separate things.
Admetus: You have your view on this, Heracles, and I have mine.
Admetus has clearly taken an untenable position. He denies what is. He abandons objective truth, abandons reason, and his words end up being nothing but so much blabber.
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