15 July 2016
Memorial of St Bonaventure
In the Church there’s a tension between simple faith and the use of our human intellect. And this comes and goes through the centuries. Right now in history, the tension is moderately high. Pope Benedict put it very succinctly when he said that: People don’t listen to theologians anymore; instead, they simply follow the examples of others.
And it isn’t necessarily a criticism. There’s something to be said for simply following others in faith; ultimately, that’s what we aspire to in our relationship with God. But, at the same, blindly following those attract us—without giving it any thought—can be a problem.
Now, the problem with the Pharisees wasn’t their lack of commitment to the faith; the problem was that they stopped thinking about their faith and what God asked of them. They were blindly following the Law of Moses. And in their blindness they missed the mark. And we see this in our culture today.
With the internet, we have an unimaginable amount of information at our disposal—more than ever before in human history. And yet, it’s been said that our culture is producing some of the most ignorant generations. And the problem seems to be a lack of critical thinking. It’s scary to come across someone who’s blindly following something they saw on the internet, and they’re incapable of reflecting on it. It’s like giving a child a loaded gun.
Information is powerful. Faith and raw belief are powerful. But we have to know how to harness that power, and to use that power responsibly. And that only comes with using our brains. Now, Jesus tried to guide the Pharisees toward understanding. But they wouldn’t listen. And, in the Church, we have such intellectual giants as Saint Bonaventure, Saint Augustine, Saint Thomas Aquinas, and many, many others. They help us to understand the faith we profess.
Faith without understanding is fanaticism. But faith guided by reason and understanding keeps us from being carried away. And so, remember to pray and have faith. Remember to love one another and be merciful. But also remember to exercise the mind: read, study, and be curious about God and our faith.