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The Reasonableness of Faith in God

Catechesis by Papa Benedict XVI      
General Audience in Paul VI Hall, Wednesday 21 November 2012 - in Arabic, Croatian, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear brothers and sisters,
We are advancing in this Year of Faith, carrying in our hearts the hope of rediscovering how much joy there is in believing and of finding again the enthusiasm of communicating to all the truths of faith. These truths are not a simple message about God, particular information about Him. Instead they express the event of the encounter of God with men, a salvific and liberating encounter, which realizes the deepest aspirations of man, his desire for peace, for fraternity, for love. Faith leads us to discover that the encounter with God enhances, perfects and elevates that which is true, good and beautiful in man. Thus it happens that, while God reveals Himself and lets Himself be known, man comes to learn who God is and, in knowing Him, discovers his very self, his own origin, his own destiny, the grandeur and dignity of human life.

Faith permits an authentic knowledge about God which involves the whole human person: it is a "knowing", that is a knowledge that gives flavour to life, a new taste to existence, a joyful way of being in the world. Faith is expressed in the gift of oneself for others, in fraternity that makes solidarity, capable of loving, defeating the loneliness that makes us sad. This knowledge of God through faith is thus not only intellectual, but vital. It is the knowledge of God-Love, thanks to his own love. The love of God then makes one see, opens one's eyes, allowing one to know the whole of reality, beyond the narrow perspectives of individualism and subjectivism which disorientate consciences. The knowledge of God is thus an experience of faith and implies, at the same time, an intellectual and moral pathway: touched in our deepest selves by the presence of Jesus's Spirit in us, we overcome the horizons of our egoisms and open ourselves to the true values ​​of existence.

Today, in this catechesis, I would like to focus on the reasonableness of faith in God.
Catholic tradition has from the very beginning rejected what is called fideism, which is the will to believe against reason. Credo quia absurdum (I believe because it is absurd) is not a formula that interprets the Catholic faith. Indeed, God is not absurd, rather He is mystery. Mystery, in turn, is not irrational, but the superabundance of meaning, of significance, of truth. If, looking at the mystery, reason sees darkness, it is not because in the mystery there is no light, but rather because there is too much of it. Just as when a man's eyes are turned directly towards the sun to look at it, they see only shadows; but who would say that the sun is not bright, on the contrary it is the source of light! Faith allows us to look at the "sun", God, because it is the welcoming of his revelation in history and, so to speak, it truly receives all the brightness of the mystery of God, in recognizing the great miracle: God has approached man and has offered himself to man's knowledge, acceding to the creaturely limits of man's reason (cf Vatican Council II, Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum, 13). At the same time, God, through his grace, illuminates reason, opens to it new, immeasurable and infinite horizons. This is why faith constitutes a stimulus always to seek, never to stop and never to slacken in the inexhaustible discovery of truth and reality. The prejudice of certain modern thinkers, according to whom human reason would be blocked by the dogmas of faith, is false. It is exactly the opposite which is true, as the great masters of Catholic tradition have demonstrated. St Augustine, before his conversion, sought the truth with so much restlessness, through all the available philosophies, finding them all unsatisfactory. His strenuous rational search was for him a significant pedagogy in view of the encounter with the Truth of Christ. When he says, "Understand so as to believe and believe so as to understand" (Sermons, 43, 9: PL 38, 258), it is as if he were recounting his own experience of life. In front of divine Revelation, the intellect and faith are not strangers or antagonists but are both conditions for understanding the meaning, for receiving the authentic message, for approaching the threshold of the mystery. St Augustine, together with so many other Christian thinkers, is witness to a faith which is exercised with reason, which thinks and invites one to think. Following in his wake, St Anselm says in his Proslogion that Catholic faith is fides quaerens intellectum, where the search of the intelligence is an interior act to believing. It will be above all St Thomas Aquinas - strong in this tradition - who will confront the reason of philosophers, showing how much new fruitful rational vitality comes to human thought from the grafting of the principles and truths of Christian faith.

The Catholic faith is thus reasonable and also nourishes our trust  in human reason. The First Vatican Council, in the dogmatic Constitution Dei Filius, affirmed that reason is by measure able to know with certainty the existence of God through the way of creation, whereas it is only to faith that belongs the possibility of knowing "easily, with absolute certainty and without error" (DS 3005) the truths concerning God, in the light of grace. Furthermore, the knowledge of faith is not against right reason. Blessed Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical Fides et ratio, summarized it thus: "Man's reason is neither annulled nor debased by assenting to the contents of faith; these are in any case reached by a free and informed choice" (n 43). In the irresistible desire for truth, only a harmonious rapport between faith and reason is the right path that leads to God and to the full realisation of oneself.

This doctrine is easily recognisable in the whole of the New Testament. Saint Paul, writing to the Christians of Corinth, maintains, as we have heard: "While the Jews ask for signs and the Greeks seek wisdom, we instead announce Christ crucified: scandal for the Jews and folly to the Gentiles" (1 Cor 1, 22-23). God has saved the world not through an act of power, but through the humiliation of his only begotten Son: according to human parameters, the unusual modality used by God clashes with the demands of Greek wisdom. Nevertheless, the Cross of Christ has its own logic, which St Paul calls: ho logos tou staurou, "the word of the cross" (1 Cor 1, 18). Here, the term logos means both word and reason and, if it alludes to the word, it is because it expresses verbally that which reason elaborates. Thus Paul sees in the Cross not an irrational event but a salvific fact which possesses its own reasonableness, recognizable in the light of faith. At the same time, he has such confidence in human reason that he is astonished at the fact that many, while seeing the works accomplished by God, persist in not believing in Him. In his Letter to the Romans he says: "Since the creation of the world, men, with their intelligence, can see, through the works of God, that which is invisible: his eternal power and his divinity" (1, 20). Hence, Saint Peter also exhorts the Christians of the diaspora to adore "
in your hearts the Lord Christ, always ready to give a defence to anyone who asks you the reason for the hope that is in you" (1 Pet 3, 15). In a climate of persecution and of a strong need to witness to the faith, believers are asked to justify through motivations based on their adhesion to the word of the Gospel, to give reason for our hope.

The virtuous rapport between science and faith are also founded upon these premises concerning the fruitful link between understanding and believing. Scientific research leads to the knowledge of always new truths about man and the cosmos, we see this. The true good of humanity, accessible in faith, opens the horizon in which its pathway of discovery must move. Therefore, for example, research placed at the service of life and aimed at eradicating diseases should be encouraged. Also important are the investigations to discover the secrets of our planet and of the universe, in the awareness that man is at the summit of creation not so as to exploit it senselessly, but so as to protect it and render it habitable. Thus faith, really lived, does not enter into conflict with science but rather cooperates with it, offering basic criteria that promote the good of all, asking science to renounce only those attempts which - opposing the original plan of God - can produce effects which turn against man himself. It is equally for this that it is reasonable to believe: if science is a precious ally of faith for the comprehension of God's design in the universe, faith permits scientific progress to be realised always for the good and for the truth of man, while remaining faithful to this same design.

That is why it is decisive for man to open himself to faith and to know God and his project of salvation in Jesus Christ. In the Gospel a new humanism, an authentic "grammar" of man and of all reality,
is inaugurated. The Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms: "The truth of God is his wisdom which commands the whole order of creation and of the government of the world. God who, alone, "created heaven and earth" (Ps 115, 15), can alone give true knowledge of every created thing in its relationship to Him" (n 216).

We trust then that our commitment to evangelization may help to give new centrality to the Gospel in the lives of so many men and women of our time. And let us pray that all find in Christ the meaning of existence and the foundation of true freedom: without God, man loses his very self. The testimonies of those who have preceded us and have dedicated their lives to the Gospel confirm it forever. It is reasonable to believe, it is our existence that is at stake. It is worth spending ourselves for Christ, He alone satisfies the desires of truth and of goodness rooted in the soul of every man: now, in the time that passes, and in the endless day of blessed Eternity."


"Je salue avec joie les pèlerins francophones, en particulier ceux des diocèses d’Arras et d’Autun, ainsi que les Focolari du Liban ! L’évangile inaugure un nouvel humanisme et offre une authentique « grammaire » de l’humain et de toute réalité. Puissiez-vous le méditer et faire resplendir sa lumière chaque jour, afin que beaucoup de nos contemporains trouvent dans le Christ le sens de leur existence et le vrai fondement de leur liberté ! Bon pèlerinage à vous tous !

I offer a cordial greeting to the participants in the conference on Catholic and Muslim cooperation in promoting justice in the contemporary world. I also greet the group from CAFOD, with gratitude for the agency’s fifty years of charitable activity on behalf of the Church in England and Wales. Upon all present at today’s Audience, including those from England, Sri Lanka and the United States, I invoke God’s blessings! Thank you.

Von Herzen grüße ich alle Pilger und Gäste deutscher Sprache. An Gott zu glauben ist unserer Vernunft nicht entgegengesetzt. Der Glaube helfe uns, in Christus den Sinn und die Fülle unseres Daseins und den Garant wahrer menschlicher Freiheit zu erkennen. Er ist die Erfüllung unseres Strebens nach dem Wahren und dem Guten. Der Herr segne euch alle.

Saludo a los peregrinos de lengua española, en particular a los grupos provenientes de España, México y otros países latinoamericanos. Invito a todos a descubrir en Cristo el sentido de la existencia y el fundamento de la verdadera libertad. Muchas gracias.

De coração, saúdo todos os peregrinos de língua portuguesa, com destaque para os grupos de Aracruz, Aparecida de Goiânia e Palmas, confiando as suas famílias e comunidades à Virgem Maria e pedindo-Lhe que nelas se mantenha viva a luz de Deus. Sobre vós e os vossos entes queridos, desça a minha Bênção.

البَابَا يُصْلِي مِنْ أَجَلِ جَمِيعِ النَّاطِقينَ بِاللُّغَةِ العَرَبِيَّةِ. لِيُبَارِك الرَّبّ جَمِيعَكُمْ.

Pozdrawiam przybyłych na audiencję Polaków. Witam uczestników Ogólnopolskiej Pielgrzymki Leśników. Niech wasza praca przyczyni się do zachowania piękna przyrody. Witam także grupę niepełnosprawnych i ich opiekunów z Zespołu Szkół Księdza Tischnera w Toruniu. Życzę wszystkim pielgrzymom, by Dziewica Maryja, której Ofiarowanie dzisiaj wspominamy, była dla was wzorem zawierzenia Bogu i pełnienia Jego woli. Niech będzie pochwalony Jezus Chrystus.

Radosno pozdravljam sve hrvatske hodočasnike, a osobito članove Kulturno umjetničkog društva „Okićka Trešnja“ iz Stankova kao i članove Zajednice Krvi Kristove. Krist Kralj, čiji dolazak u vjeri i nadi s radošću iščekujemo, neka čuva i blagoslovi vas i vaše obitelji. Hvaljen Isus i Marija!

Iš širdies sveikinu maldininkus iš Lietuvos, ypatingai mišrujį chorą «Dermė» iš Širvintų!
Linkiu, kad jūsų apsilankymas ir malda Apaštalų ir Kankinių Mieste sustiprintų jūsų žingsnius kasdieniniame tikėjimo kelyje. Viešpats jus telaimina!
Garbė Jėzui Kristui!

Zo srdca vítam slovenských pútnikov, osobitne z Bratislavy, Nitry a Rožňavy.
Bratia a sestry, minulú nedeľu sa v pápežských bazilikách svätých apoštolov Petra a Pavla slávilo Výročie ich posviacky. Nech návšteva týchto starobylých chrámov zveľadí vašu lásku k Cirkvi, ktorá je postavená na apoštoloch.
Všetkých vás žehnám.
Pochválený buď Ježiš Kristus!


I am following with serious concern the escalating violence between the Israelis and the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip. Bearing both the victims and those who are suffering in prayerful remembrance, I feel it is my duty to state once again that hatred and violence are never a solution to problems. Moreover, I encourage the initiatives and efforts of all those who are seeking to obtain a truce and to further negotiations. I also urge all the Authorities of both Parties to make courageous decisions for peace and to put an end to this conflict that is causing such negative repercussions throughout the Middle East, persecuted by so many clashes and in need of peace and reconciliation.

Traduzione in lingua araba:


أُتَابِعُ بِغَايَّةِ القَلقِ العُنْفَ المُتَزَايِدَ بَيْنَ الإسرائيليِّينَ وَالفِلَسطِينِيِّيْنَ فِي قِطاعِ غَزة. وبِجَانِبِ تأكيد الدُعاء مِنْ أَجَلْ الضَّحَايَا ومِن أجلِ جَمِيعِ الَّذِينَ يَتَأَلَّمُونَ، أشعُرُ بِوَاجِبِ إعادةِ التأكيد مَرَّةً أُخرى عَلَى أَن الكَرَاهِيِّةَ والعُنْفَ لَا يَمكِنُ لَهُمَا حَلّ المَشَاكِل. كَمَا  أنَنِي أُشجعُ مُبَادَرَاتِ ومَجْهُودَاتِ الَّذِينَ يَسْعَوْنَ لِلوُصُولِ لِهُدَنَةٍ ولتعزيز المُفَاوَضَاتِ. وأحِثُّ أيضًا السُّلُطاتِ مِن الجَانِبَينِ عَلَى تَبنِي قَرَارَاتٍ شُجَاعَةٍ مِنْ أَجَلِ السَّلاَمِ وَلِوَضْعِ نِهَاِيَّة لصِراعٍ لَهُ تأثِيِرات سَلبِيَّة عَلَى كُلِّ مَنْطِقَةِ الشَّرقِ الأَوسَطِ، المُضْطَرِبَة بِكَثِيرٍ مِن الصراعاتِ والمُحْتَاجَة لِلْسلامِ وَلِلمُصَالَحَةِ .

* * *

E adesso, rivolgo un cordiale saluto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana, in particolare ai fedeli delle parrocchie di San Giovanni Bosco, in Altamura e di San Michele Arcangelo, in Bono; ai rappresentanti della Clinica Odontoiatrica dell’Università degli Studi di Milano e all’Associazione musicale Giacomo Puccini, di Cave. Grazie per la musica.

I now greet with affection the sick, the newlyweds and the young people, especially the students of Beata Maria Cristina Brando School in Casoria. Next Sunday, the last in Ordinary Time, we shall celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King. Dear young people, put Jesus at the centre of your life, and you will receive light and courage from him in every daily decision. May Christ, who made the Cross a royal throne, teach you, dear sick people, to understand the redemptive value of suffering lived in union with him. I hope that you, dear newlyweds, may recognize the Lord’s presence on your journey as a married couple, so as to share in building his Kingdom of love and peace.

Today, the liturgical Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Temple, we are celebrating the Day of Cloistered Religious Life. I would like to assure the Sisters called by the Lord to contemplative life of my own special closeness and that of the entire ecclesial community. At the same time, I renew my invitation to all Christians not to let cloistered monasteries lack spiritual and material support. We are so indebted, in fact, to these people who have consecrated themselves without reserve to prayer for the Church and for the world! Thank you."