Faith and reason: the two wings of the human spirit

Fascinating article over at Catholic Stand on the relationship between implicit (personal, informal, natural) and explicit (theoretical, formal) reason, as taught by John Henry Newman.

What is faith? Is it explicit theoretical knowledge, or implicit personal knowledge? Does it even mean anything now that we have science?

JohnHenryNewmanI hope you said faith is the implicit personal knowledge, because that is indeed Newman’s answer. If you have heard yourself say, as many have, that you have no feel for theological discussions about faith in the abstract, you are in Newman’s heart. His ardent desire was for those who possessed a rich personal faith to rejoice in it and be glad. One does not need explicit reason to “justify” the inner foothold. You must never allow your friends or your culture to tell you that your personal knowledge of God is inferior because it is not expressed in a formal theory, or because you can’t “prove it,” or because you don’t use Latin words to describe things.

On the other hand do not be put off by the theoretical knowledge of theology, dogma, or the creeds – these help us think more clearly about the faith that you know in your heart. Perhaps you do not need the assurance. Nevertheless, the Church herself is obligated to pass on the precipitate of faith, the explicit formulation, because it is true. The fullness of a human community is the constant interaction between faith and reason. There is a need for both in the Church. Indeed, the monumental Fides et Ratio by Pope John Paul the Great begins: “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth.”

Read more: John Henry Newman on the psychology of faith and reason.

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