Academic journal article Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture

Reason, Faith, and Obedience

Academic journal article Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture

Reason, Faith, and Obedience

Article excerpt

I. Truth: Binding the Will to the Intellect

CERTAIN PROBLEMS EMERGE when we consider the relationship between reason, faith, and obedience. At first glance, the need for reason and faith to be related may be self-evident even if the exact manner in which they are to be related may require considerable thought. What may not be so evident is why and how obedience figures into this equation. Reason and faith are ordered to knowledge--what is known through our natural human faculties or what is to be believed because of divine revelation. Thus, reason and faith pertain to our human intellectual ability to know. Obedience, by contrast, relates not to the intellect but to the will--the free sub-mission of the will to some superior authority. What, then, unites the knowable content that pertains to the intellectual activity of reason and faith and the will's obedient submission to some superior authority? The answer to this question is simple: truth. (1)

Our human intellect is ordered to and finds its fulfillment in coming to know the truth, either through our reason or through divine revelation, and our will finds its fulfillment in freely submitting itself, in obedience, to the truth known by the intellect either through reason or through faith. Here, there is primacy of our intellect in that our will subordinates itself to the intellect; that is, the truth known by our intellect compels our will to submit in obedience to the known truth. Truth, then, binds our will to our intellect for our will obediently acknowledges and submits to the truth that our intellect places before it.

II. Love: Binding the Intellect to the Will

However, the reverse is also the case in that our intellect is subordinate to our will. Our will is ordered to the truth in that it loves to submit itself to the known truth. Thus, our will arouses within our intellect a love for the truth, and it is this love of the truth that compels and guides our intellect to order itself properly in our search for the truth. Here our will, with its love for the truth, holds primacy: love binds our intellect to our will so that the love generated by our will compels our intellect to seek the truth in love. The circle is closed when our intellect, having been aroused by our will, lovingly finds the truth and presents this truth to our will to elicit, in turn, its obedient loving submission to the truth.

Thus, we, as human persons, love the truth in that we find our perfection in knowing the truth. Furthermore, we love the truth in that we find our perfection in freely submitting ourselves in obedience to the truth. It is this twofold love of the truth, through our intellect's ability to know the truth and through our will's ability to submit freely in obedience to the truth, that progressively perfects us by fashioning us into what we are truly meant to be--beings who lovingly know the truth and so lovingly obey the truth.

St. Bonaventure states: "Again, a hatred of falsehood is implanted in the soul. But every hatred takes its origin in love. Therefore, the love of the truth is even more firmly implanted in the soul; and this is especially true with reference to that truth in whose likeness the soul is made." (2) The ultimate truth that is known in love and freely obeyed in love, and thus the truth through which we, as human persons, come to complete perfection, is, as Bonaventure intimates, the truth of the Triune God--the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Pope John Paul II beautifully summarized all of the above right at the onset of his encyclical, Fides et ratio: "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." (3)

What metaphysical basis founds our epistemological ability, as human beings, to know and love the truth and so be obedient to it? …

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