Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Bleg: Good writing about the relationship between reason and Catholic faith

A good friend asks:
For years now I've been waiting for someone to preach to Catholics that philosophy reinforces rather than challenges our faith. I picture it like what Scott Hahn did for Catholics and popularizing the Bible (embrace it, don't fear it).

I have not devoted the time to read up on the topic to see what is already out there but I imagine it would use JPII's Fides et Ratio and personalism as a jumping off point (basically Thomast). Kind of allowing church-going Catholics to more firmly occupy the shifting ground between fundamentalism and materialism, without criticizing either or apologizing but rather celebrating the richness of our own faith.

Do you know anyone out there who is writing like that now?
I don't, though I am now going to print out Fides et Ratio which I may have read before but can't remember. Just reading the first few paragraphs was pretty exciting. (No, I'm not kidding. That's how I roll.)

Any suggestions for my friend?


  1. For a popular-level look at the marriage between faith and reason, anything by Dr. Peter Kreeft is golden. His "Summa of the Summa", "Philosophy 101", and "Socrates Meets..." series may be particularly helpful.

  2. I can't recommend highly enough the Magis Center for Reason & Faith by Fr. Robert J. Spitzer, S.J., Ph.D. MCRF is the Internet's best resource for intellectual exploration of faith, reason, physics, and philosophy. Fr. Spitzer is the author of "New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy"


  3. Also, Fr. Spitzer's latest book (Ten Universal Principles: A Brief Philosophy of the Life Issues) looks like a good resource. The title might be a little misleading, sounds like it's about pro-life issues, but the description makes it look more general (philosophy of life).

    Another "key word" to use in searching for the harmony of faith and philosophy is "natural law." It is the philosophical tradition that looks at truths known through reason alone that are equivalent to or support revealed truths in the Catholic faith. I haven't read any stuff lately, but someone like Russell Hittinger's The First Grace or Charles Rice's 50 Questions about Natural Law are good resources. I haven't read those specific books but I have read other stuff from these guys and they are solid.

    Peter Kreeft has written some stuff from this point of view as well, but Brandon Vogt already made excellent recommendations.

  4. I recently read Fides et Ratio and it was a good read. If you want the ebook version let me know.

  5. Michael Flynn does a good job of merging reason, philosophy, and Catholicism in his blog posts. In the serious philosophy realm, look up Brandon Watson's "Siris" blog, Ed Feser's blog, and James Chastek's "Just Thomism" blog.

  6. Thank you for the offer, Jeff! Tom has been using my Kindle lately so I went ahead and printed it out (real paper - gasp!). But I did think of the yeoman work you've been doing in the ebook area on these sorts of documents ... and another time I will be knocking at your door for one. :-)

  7. I'd also recommend J. Budziszewski, a professor of government at UT Austin. (My sister is a friend of his daughter.) I read his What We Can't Not Know a few years ago and it's a great read. He's also got a couple of books aimed at college students, written in the form of dialogues, which address a variety of common questions but very much in the line of looking at the reasonableness of faith.

    From his Amazon bio:
    "He specializes in ethics, political philosophy and the interaction of these two fields with religion and theology. Budziszewski has written widely, in both scholarly and popular venues, about a variety of moral and political issues including abortion, marriage, sexuality, capital punishment, and the role of judges in a constitutional republic. His principal area of publication is the theory of natural law. He has been a leading advocate for natural law theory over the past twenty years. In this context, he has given particular attention to the problem of moral self deception: What happens when human beings tell themselves that they don't know what they really do. Among his research interests are also virtue ethics and the problem of tolerance."