01-11-2008 - Traces, n. 10

INSIDE america

Keeping the Quest
for Truth Alive 

The current “crisis of faith” is, above all, a “crisis of thought” that comes from a reductionist view of reason. A reason separated from the “sense of life” questions is quickly trapped by ideology

In the past few weeks, I have been offering a series of lectures at Columbia University on the impact of faith on four areas of human activity: politics, science, economics, and affection. Preparing for these lectures, I realized that these four topics are expressions of the same issue, namely, the relation between faith and reason. I have begun to appreciate more and more the passion for this topic that Pope Benedict XVI has made the central insight of his pontificate. I recall that GS 22 (cf. Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes, No. 22), the affirmation that without Christ we would never know the full truth about our humanity, was Pope John Paul II’s guiding insight; the “broadening of reason” by faith has become that of Pope Benedict XVI.
In fact, both are intimately related, since for Pope Benedict, as a Christian, faith is always faith in Christ. From this perspective, it can be said that faith in Christ broadens human reason in such a way that it will not give up on its quest for the ultimate Truth about human life. That is, Pope Benedict’s contribution to Pope John Paul II’s teaching is to underline GS 22 strongly and further the way in which the truth of GS 22 is confirmed. Seeing Pope Benedict’s insistence on the broadening of reason is not just an important component of the Church’s mission of evangelization today; it is, in fact, it’s central point of departure.
For us, who have been educated by Father Giussani’s charism, it is awesome to see how what he has taught us is so absolutely central for the mission of the Church today. The current “crisis of faith,” he insists again and again, is, above all, a “crisis of thought;” in particular, it is a distorted view of the relation between faith and reason that comes from a reductionist view of reason. At the origin of this distortion is the separation between reason and experience.
As a result of this separation, reason has been separated from the “sense of life” questions, the questions of meaning, purpose, and destiny. Such a reason detached from experience is quickly trapped by ideology. Fr. Giussani defines ideology as the logic of a discourse that starts with a prejudice that it wishes to retain and impose on reality. The enemy of ideology is of course facts, but when reason is separated from experience, facts are relegated to the level of sentimentality, of emotion, of irrational, purely subjective preferences. The result is what Pope John Paul II (in his play, Our God’s Brother) called the “tyranny of intelligence.”
A consequence of this narrowing of reason, explains Fr. Giussani, is the inability to grasp the reality of the Mystery that is the origin and destiny of our existence. The “God question” has thus nothing to do with real life. Instead, it becomes a purely abstract discussion and the fullness of the truth about our humanity is never known. The culture born from this ignorance will never correspond to our true needs and desires, and politics, science, economics, and–above all–love will never be what they can be.