Something to Check Out

October 2, 2009

My favorite branch of theology is called Fundamental Theology. Fundamental theology is basically where faith and reason (philosophy) intersect. It is about revelation itself, as opposed to specific revelations. It answers questions like “How does God communicate with humanity?” and, “How can we even say something meaningful about an infinite God, if our language is finite?”

Far too often, I hear a gross mischaracterization of the nature of “faith.” Many people (religious and non-religious) believe faith is believing in something that is not proven. This is partially true, but incomplete because it separates reason from faith. Faith is really more of a way of living according to core beliefs, which reason can (and should) inform. John Paul II, in his encyclical Fides et Ratio uses the following image to describe the relationship between Faith and Reason:

“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.

There are a couple of comments worth making, the most important being that faith and reason form a cycle of sorts in which we arrive at truth. Faith first gives us a direction in which we pursue knowledge. Reason then helps us clarify our faith, eventually leading to deeper questions over who we are and what our purpose is in life.

Another thing that can be pointed out is that the true origin of questions that arise about faith are put in us by God. It makes my blood boil every time I hear a story of someone who has a question about some aspect of their faith and uses the question itself as grounds to (unreasonably) leave the practice of said faith (*cough – Dan Brown – cough). Still, it makes me even angrier when people of faith ask questions of their priests and lay ministers only to receive inexcusably shallow answers, or even discouragement from asking questions at all.

Folks who are familiar with daily mass at Sacred Heart in Bellingham have surely noticed a very nice elderly gentleman with a cane who sits in the front pew of the Church. His name is Dr. Richard Purtill, and he is professor emeritus of philosophy at Western Washington University (where I graduated from in ’04). Dr. Purtill is an accomplished author and has recently had one of his books (re?)published through Ignatius Press. It is called, Reason to Believe: Why Faith Makes Sense. You can read the introduction by clicking here. If you are interested, you can purchase it through Ignatius press for under thirteen dollars, an absolute bargain.

I’ll be getting my copy soon, but hopefully you’ll have a chance to read it before me.

Off to adoration and Compline to pray for my friend Cory, who just lost his mother in a Scuba Diving accident in Maui. God Bless you all.



  1. Your recent posts are great. If you can stay the course, you will be a great Priest. I found your blog looking for Catholic stuff.

  2. Thank you for the compliment. Unfortunately I can almost promise you that this type of post will not be frequent. I just found myself to have a little extra time this week, which isn’t too common. But I’m happy you appreciate what I’ve had to say.

    Usually I just talk about stupid stuff like sports, movies and music.

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