Faith and Reason

My husband and I had a debate a while back about the need for philosophy when studying theology. Or rather, whether one needs philosophy to understand God and His plan for us. He argued that both are necessary, while I naively professed that theology alone was adequate (based on the philosophy majors that I encountered in university)!

My current coursework on Apologetics covered this and here is my response (on December 1) to the question on how faith and reason relate in the life of all people.


“Firstly, we need to trace this back to Saint Thomas Aquinas who demonstrated the harmony between faith and reason. He sees reason and faith as two ways of knowing.

“Faith” is what we can know by God’s revelation through the Bible and Tradition, and the study of this is theology. Faith is a gift of grace and a work of the Holy Spirit. Faith embodies virtues that help one understand God’s plan. It requires one to fully trust God and agree to His revelations, an act of the mind and the will.

“Reason” is how we come to know based on logic and experience. Philosophy is the study of truth influenced by reason. Reason provides the fundamentals of faith and makes revelations believable. Without reason, faith is pure superstition as Bishop Robert Barron would argue.

While people try to seek the truth through reason, the meaning of life cannot be answered by this alone. Instead, faith builds on reason, and we need both in order for man to understand himself, the world and God. Pope Benedict affirms, in an address at a congress, that both are necessary to understand reality and live properly.

Pope John Paul the Second outlines in his encyclical, Fides Et Ratio, how faith/ theology supports reason/ philosophy.

Human reason is weak and prone to mistakes. Without revelation, reason cannot be fully correct. Faith inspires reason to discover truths and protects a person from intellectual pride. Philosophical pride prevents a person from understanding the truth and the person becomes disordered. Making truth more palatable and watered down to pander to the masses results in a corruption of truth, and this resembles Adam before the Fall.

As such, both faith and reason are necessary for the life of all people.

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