Insights with Emily: the path of ordered reason

By Emily Salerno-Oswald
Scriptural Columnist

Many people in the secular world today do not believe that God is real. These people have poured much of their energy into their minds and that which their minds can fully comprehend by Reason (notice the capital ‘r’).

Reason has become a god of its own for many people—and a false one at that.

It is important to remember that reason is not inherently bad. However, if it is idolized, it can lead a person away from the one true God.

On the contrary, if it is utilized in faith and humility, it cannot fail to lead us to the discovery of the truth of the existence of God.

When did mankind begin believing that reason could be trusted more than all other human faculties?

Can reason never fail us? Can reason never deceive? Can evidence never mislead? Can senses never lie?

Empiricists seem to think so. However, there exists a kind of evidence which contradicts sensory evidence.

There exists, for example, the real phenomenon of one’s eyes playing tricks on them. Experiments make it clear that we can miss things that are right in front of our eyes if our attention has been directed to focus on a different thing.

An object could pass right before us and because we are not paying attention to it, do not expect to see it, or do not subconsciously consider it relevant to our field of visual focus, we do not register that we have seen it at all.

Can we really say that seeing is believing? What about the things that we don’t see… or rather, fail to see? Do those things simply not exist?

Let’s take things a bit further, leaving the world of psychology for a moment and venturing into the realm of philosophy. Consider the things we can “see” in our imagination and our mind’s eye.

How do we have the ability to conceive of intangible realities like God and Heaven if none of them are real? Why can our minds imagine at all?

What good is that ability if it is not tethered to actual reality in any way? In other words, if it serves no purpose in the physical world, then why does imagination exist at all?

But what if it is tethered to our physical reality? Many times, we imagine in order to actualize, so that something which once only existed in the imagination can come to substantial fruition in the real world.

Don’t you think there’s something to that? Philosophers like Duns Scotus would argue that certain things that we can conceive of in the imagination but cannot make into actualized substances in the physical world still very much exist.

When it comes to God, Scotus would say that by virtue of being able to conceive of Him, His existence is insinuated. I think this concept could apply to many realities beyond the physical realm and beyond the domain of reason.

Furthermore, there exists many problems that simply cannot be solved by reason alone. Emotions are just one example of such a problem.

Frequently, emotions just do not make rational sense. Does that mean we ignore them? Does that mean we simply say that they are not real?

No; emotional problems often require emotional rather than rational solutions. You can’t rationalize away your sadness… but a good hug will do it. Why is that?

It seems that many things we encounter daily exist outside of the realm of reason. Why, then, is believing in God such a stretch for so many people?

Believing in love, humanity, truth, goodness, beauty, gravity, the dark matter of space… all of these are things that we cannot physically see or touch but we easily accept as real. Why should God be any different?

Reason as an end in itself simply is not enough. It is fallible and even disappointing if we use it as the supposed answer to all of life’s problems. It will not satisfy on its own.

However, if it is coupled with faith, then the ultimate Truth and End of all things can be found.

God allows us to use our faith and reason to find him. I think He knows we simply can’t resist longing to acquire knowledge.

That desire—which was distorted into wanting to know as much as God (or even more than God)—got us into so much trouble in the Garden of Eden. But, God lets us use this desire in its properly ordered context to find Him.

Don’t let your reason blind you from finding Him. Instead, use it to look for Him with everything within you, everything you have, for the rest of your life.

Don’t let your reason go to waste; it is a gift given in order to draw you to God. If you use it for its intended purpose, you won’t be disappointed.

Mark 12:30- “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

Matthew 7:7-8- “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”