The first scripture reading of today in the Church’s liturgical calendar, reminds me first, of an argument I had with a colleague. In this argument, he was of the opinion that one cannot know God, or the fact that he exists except by some mystical experience. I, on the other hand, was of the opinion that God can be known by the light of human reason from creation. And this is exactly what the book of wisdom is trying to affirm in its 13th chapter.
The Church has always taught this truth. Many saints and holy men of God throughout the Church’s history have taught this too. One of these spiritual masters, St. Thomas Aquinas, is very significant on this note.
A good study of world and religion history, especially the history of philosophy reveals that the ancient thinkers or philosophers were not first of all preoccupied with the question, ‘Does God Exist?’. Rather, it was after they had questioned the beauty and existence of the created things in the world, that further down in history, they began to ask about their origin. And even when they asked about the origin of all created things, they did seek for it in things created as well. Sometime, a philosopher, Anaximenes, said it was air, another, Thales, the miletian, said it was water, another, fire, and yet another earth. And then, again, as reasons were known for the reason why it shouldn’t be any of those, even Empedocles said it was a combination of the four.
Coincidentally, the writer of wisdom adds,’but either fire, or wind, or the swift air, or the circuit of the stars, or the mighty water, or the luminaries of heaven, the governors of the world, they considered gods.’
These were the beginnings of the search for God. But he was eventually found. It was Aristotle who proved the logic of first cause, to show that a God, an uncreated creator, an unmoved mover, an uncaused cause, certainly must exist.
And so looking at the world around us, God’s creation, can in fact, lead us to God. Which is what the writer of wisdom affirms when he says, ‘All men were by nature foolish who were in ignorance of God, and who from the good things seen did not succeed in knowing him who is, and from studying the works, did not discern the artisan…’
St. Paul re-echoes this in his letter to the Romans 1:18-20, ‘For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men, who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made, so they are without excuse.’ And as though St. Paul has read the book of wisdom, the book of wisdom has this to say, ‘For from the greatness and beauty of created things, their original author, by analogy, is seen’.
But dearest friends, this leads us to discover that faith and science are not in themselves contradictory. Faith in God, leads us to understand the inner life of God, and to live as God’s children in this world, whereas science in discovering the created things of God, marvels at the creator. Both faith and the knowledge of science come from God and should lead to God. We all know that as Christians, our faith is necessarily translated or expressed in the life we live, in our communities, and the the things we do to alleviate suffering, help the poor, and make life a better place, this is exactly what science helps us to do. That in discovering the beautiful things God has created for our disposal, we may use them to achieve an increase in our community and hence in the expression and full living out of our faith life.
But there is such a thing as a blind faith, which can happen when science and reason are excluded. And this is what a lot of us may be suffering from. The fact is that, the truths of God cannot be contrary to right human reason. And this is because, it is even God who has given us the brain and the mind to think and reason, that we may of our own accord appreciate him, his works, and make personal decisions with our free will. So if God has given us the gift of faith and that of reason, why should we think that faith is unreasonable, and entirely opposed to reason. Those who take this route, make a lot of mistakes and end up sad later. The truth is that faith in God, although beyond reason, is not contrary to it.
Nothing Christ taught us was unreasonable. And this is the more reason why in his stories and parables, we can reconcile and appreciate the truths of reality which he tries to communicate to us…because they are reasonable. There was a time when, as new gadgets such as computers and phones, were being produced in the world of technology, people, who thought themselves highly spirited, felt, the world was about to end. But now, a lot are on facebook, and other social media, and they have the latest phones. Now people realize that they can also spread the gospel through these social media. I have also noticed that many Christians especially in my part of the world, out of ignorance, tend to class those that do not believe in God and are against religion under the name, ‘scientists’. Have they forgotten that Gregor Mendel, the propounder of the laws of genetics was an Augustinian Monk? And that many of them are scientists, in as much as they study science subjects and aspire to be professors in those fields?
Finally, science needs faith to tamper it. For in as much as scientific discoveries can be used for the good of man, there is still such a thing as a wise and foolish use or love for the created things of God. And a foolish love for created things can lead one to love the gifts and forget the giver. It is to this that the writer of wisdom adds when he says, ‘For they search busily among his works, but are distracted by what they see, because the things seen are fair’. And so, faith needs to guide science towards the wise use of the created things of God, using them to their ultimate purpose, and allowing them to really guide the discoverer into the knowledge of the creator. ‘Now if out of joy in their beauty they thought them gods, let them know how far more excellent is the Lord than these; for the original source of beauty fashioned them. Or if they were struck by their might and energy, let them from these things realize how much more powerful is he who made them’. We know how biological weapons have been instruments of war, and how they have also done a great blow to humanity. We also know how artificial contraceptives have degraded the dignity of the human person, the sanctity of sexual union through the wanton increase in fornication and premarital sex, and have increased the rate of abortion, especially where they have failed to work.
A thing is good, when it fulfills the purpose for which it was created. This is a natural fact. If we know this, we would also understand that, for a created thing to have a purpose, having in mind to create it for that purpose, has ordained in it a kind of Law, a kind of order, in which that which is created, is to be used for this and not something else. In the creation of the world, this is called the Natural Law or the Natural Order. When a thing, or object, or created thing is used for another thing, contrary to the purpose for which God has created it, a sin is committed, an evil is done. It is to faith which peers into the inner life of God, and which is the custodian of his laws and deeper mysteries to dispense them accordingly and hence, to hold things in their divine order, by holding souls in their right order. Little wonder the bible tells us in 1Tim 3:15-16, that the Church is the pillar and the foundation of the truth.
And so, to those who still think that reason and science are what has taken them away from God, the writer of wisdom says, ‘But again, not even these are pardonable. For if they so far succeeded in knowledge that they could speculate about the world, how did they not more quickly find its lord?’
You can be a logical thinker and a scientist, and still be a Christian.