Fides et Scientia
In recent years, it has become more and more evident that the scientific community has not only begun to dismiss elements of faith in their research, but also has begun to ridicule those who believe in a creator. Scientists are beginning to view faith in a religion as illogical. As a faithful Catholic, this gives me great pause. This attitude may, in fact, be contrary to the very nature of science, that is the search for truth. It is in my search for truth that I have discovered the beauty of my faith and the harmony that must be achieved between faith and rational inquiry into the mysteries of humanity and the universe. In examining Creation as revealed by the Bible, an interesting line of reasoning has arisen. In this light, discussions on reason itself, as well as discussions on the Big Bang Theory and the Theory of Evolution, have become fascinating topics for me to explore. Through my exploration of the mysteries of humanity and the universe, I have come to believe that there is no contradiction between faith and science; furthermore, I believe that when faith and rational scientific thinking are united one can discover that which is in our nature to seek, the ultimate truth.
First, one must explore whether faith is compatible with reason. For if faith is not compatible with reason, faith is not worth believing. This maxim is based on the principle of noncontradiction, the undeniable statement that truth cannot contradict truth. Reason seeks all that can be understood, discovered, and proved by the human mind (Kreeft and Tacelli, 2003, p. 15). The conclusion that we are left with is that faith must be proven by reason. If what we have been taught by faith is true and worth believing, then it must be provable through rational thought. Before exploring further into any faith, this proposition must be addressed. What my faith has at the core is the belief in a creator. Therefore, the existence of God must be explained by reason.
It is my belief that God can, indeed, be proven by reason. The secular world states as true that all things must have a cause to come into being. People of faith can use this maxim in order to derive an argument from causality for the existence of God. That is, all things must have a cause for them to come in to existence. However, this cannot be traced back until infinity B.C. At some point, there had to be something that was not caused into being that was the root cause of everything. This uncaused causality is God (Kreeft and Tacelli, 2003, p. 20). A similar argument can be made from motion. In nature, some things are in motion. Any object in motion must be set in motion by another moving object. Similar to causality, this cannot be traced to find a first MOVER, unless there is an unmoved mover. This unmoved moved mover is called God. Furthermore, one can make the argument that there is a clear design in nature. Nature is ordered and not chaotic. Either this order comes from chance or an intelligent designer. The odds of this happening randomly are staggering. It is highly unlikely that chaos created order. Only through an intelligent mind is creation of order likely. The last proof I will offer for the existence of God comes from Saint Anselm of Canterbury. He proposed that God means “that than which a greater cannot be thought” (Kreeft and Tacelli, 2003, p.23). The idea that God exists resides in our minds. Therefore, one could conceive a notion that there could be something greater than God that exists in reality. However, this impossible because God was previously defined as “that than which a greater cannot be thought”; therefore, God exists (Kreeft and Tacelli, 2003, p.23). All three of these examples used logic to prove the existence of God. It can be assumed, therefore, that if the base of faith can be proved through reason, then all that flow logically from that proposition can also be proven through reason.
Now that it has been demonstrated how reason can affirm faith, it would be prudent to discuss further how faith and reason can work together. As Blessed Pope John Paul II wrote in the beginning of his encyclical Fides et Ratio (1998), “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth” (p. 7). Together faith and reason can find the truths that neither can discover on their own. Saint Thomas Aquinas once said that “whatyou neither see nor grasp, faith confirms for you, leaving nature far behind” (Bl. Pope John Paul II, 1998, p. 23-24). It is also important to note that it is not wise to think that faith trumps reason. Pope John Paul II (1998) confirms this when he says, “Even if faith is superior to reason there can never be a true divergence between faith and reason, since the same God who reveals the mysteries and bestows the gift of faith has also placed in the human spirit the light of reason” (p. 71).For the great Saint Augustine “the great unity of knowledge, grounded in the thought of the Bible, was both confirmed and sustained by a depth of speculative thinking” (Bl. Pope John Paul II, 1998, p. 54). This is the subject of Fides et Ratio, the relationship between faith and reason. He delved deep into the Church’s history and how it has embraced philosophy and rational thought. It is this relationship which humans use in order to seek that which is within our nature to seek, the truth. Later in the encyclical, Pope John Paul II (1998) says that “(t)he desire for truth, therefore, spurs reason always to go further; indeed, it is as if reason were overwhelmed to see that it can always go beyond what it has already achieved” (p. 56-57). He also adds, “It is faith which stirs reason to move beyond all isolation and willingly to run risks so that it may attain whatever is beautiful, good and true. Faith thus becomes the convinced and convincing advocate of reason” (Bl. Pope John Paul II, 1998, p. 76). Rational thinking only takes you so far and discovers only temporal truth. However, when faith is mingled with reason, metaphysical truth can be discovered. With faith, the human mind uses its tool, reason, to discover that which transcends the senses.
The human mind by its very nature searches for the ultimate meaning behind our lives. In this search, mankind, throughout the years, has made several attempts to discover how things came to be. In earlier times, this study focused on God. However, as technology has advanced, these searches began to take on a more secular approach. Some have said that these theories contradict the very faith I hold dear. However, they are mistaken. As previously stated, truth cannot contradict truth and God exists. That leaves the question “How does one reconcile one’s faith and the theories which supposedly contradict faith?”. Two such theories must be examined, the Big Bang Theory and the Theory of Evolution.
Before examining these theories, it is important to address my fellow Christians who believe science to be wrong. They say that because the Bible states that the world was created in six days, it must follow that these scientists who say there was a big bang millions of years ago and that humans evolved from other organisms are wrong. An important distinction must be made here. These Christians, known as creationists, are missing an important point. The Bible is not a scientific textbook; it is a book of theological, not scientific, truth. In the first chapter of Genesis, the creation story is described as happening in six days with God resting on the seventh. What most people overlook is that Genesis has two creation stories, the second appearing in chapter two. These stories are radically different. The one thing that unites them is the Creator. Both stories share the same Creator. That is the theological truth spoken to here; God created everything. On the issue of the six days and the timing of creation, one can look to other verses in other parts of the Bible to explain such information. In Second Peter can be found “With the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day” (2 Peter 3:8) and in Psalms it says “A thousand years in your eyes are merely a day gone by” (Psalm 90:4). The world was not created on a time schedule humans can understand. It was created on God’s time. Furthermore, another interesting fact about Genesis is its genre. Genesis is one of many books compiled into the Bible, each having a specific genre. Some books have different genres from others. Genesis’ genre is that of the mythology/epic genre. It is meant to be treated as an explanation of why things are the way they are to the people of the time period in which it was written. Keeping all of this in mind, the Big Bang Theory and the Theory of Evolution can be examined.
The Big Bang Theory is by no means opposed to faith. An important figure in my Church, the Roman Catholic Church, Father Jose Gabriel Funes, director of the Vatican Observatory, has recently came out and stated that the Catholic Church has nothing against the Big Bang Theory. Moreover, this Vatican scientist even goes so far as to say that the Big Bang Theory helps us to see the beauty of God (Knapp, 2012). One other important thing to note about the Big Bang Theory, and this is key, is the man who formulated this theory, Monsignor Georges Henri Joseph Édouard Lemaître. MonsignorLemaître was a Catholic priest and a professor when he formulated the Big Bang Theory. His intention was not to break away from the faith but to enlighten the faithful. Clearly, one can certainly believe in the Big Bang Theory and in God.
However, on the matter of evolution,there is a bigger debate. As Pope Benedict XVI (2009) puts it in his book Credo for Today: What Christians Believe: “Belief in creation concerns the difference between nothing and something, while the idea of evolution examines the difference between something and something else” (p. 35).The Pope (2009) goes on to say, “(B)elief in creation and the idea of evolution designate not only two different areas of inquiry but also two different categories of thought” (p. 35). These seem to be two different approaches, but they can be reconciled. Pope Benedict goes further in his book to say that evolution, while not proven, does not conflict Christian belief. With the advances in science of the modern age, one must look at the world differently. As the Pope (2009) says, “(C)reation should be thought of, not as a craftsman who makes all sorts of objects, but rather in the manner in which thought is creative” (p. 44). One must not take an either/or approach to creation and evolution. For if it is left at a state of either/or, that would probably end the belief in creation and thereby end a belief in God. We cannot stop believing in God because people of Faith, such as myself, have a strong belief and logical thought process that affirms the existence of God. What he arrives at is a sort of middle ground between evolution and creation. One cannot believe one with out accepting the possibility of the other. Believers of creation must accept the possibility that Man evolved from a single life form. Likewise, it would be wrong for believers of evolution to ignore the possibility that Man was created by an intelligent mind. While evolution has not be proven at this point in time, it is important for people of faith to accept the possibility that it may be true.
Furthermore, while these scientific theories do not contradict faith it is important to make a distinction between the two. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it,
“Basic scientific research, as well as applied research, is a significant expression of man’s dominion over creation. Science and technology are precious resources when placed at the service of man and promote his integral development for the benefit of all. By themselves however they cannot disclose the meaning of existence and of human progress. Science and technology are ordered to man, from whom they take their origin and development; hence they find in the person and in his moral values both evidence of their purpose and awareness of their limits” (CCC 2293).
One has a different end than the other. In the example of creation and evolution, creation asks “Why is there some thing rather than nothing?”; whereas, the Theory of Evolution raises the question “Why does something exist rather than something else?”. Science answers the questionswith the knowledge of the world, but faith answers the questions of why we exist.
In summation, it is fair to state that there is no contradiction between faith and science. Faith and reason are compatible. Furthermore, the existence of God can be explained through reason. When faith and reason unite, they are taken to a new level and more and more can be answered. The Big Bang Theory and the Theory of Evolution can be reconciled to faith. In the end, faith and science do not contradict but they answer two different questions. Science asks, “What?” and faith asks, “Why?”. In this light, uniting faith and reason, as well as science, can help enlighten the human race on the true nature of reality and the purpose of life. In short, faith and science should not be separated and should be united to discover the ultimate truth of our existence.
Catholic Church. Catechism of the Catholic Church. 2nd ed. Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011.
Knapp, A. (2012). Chief vatican astronomer: Big bang is compatible with catholicism. Forbes. Retrieved April 29, 2012, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/alexknapp/2012/02/06/chief-vatican-astronomer-big-bang-is-compatible-with-catholicism/.
Kreeft, P., & Tacelli, R. K. (2003). Pocket handbook of christian apologetics. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Pope Benedict XVI. (2009). Credo for today: What christians believe. San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Pope John Paul II. (1998). Fides et ratio. Boston: Pauline Books and Media.