Why do we need faith and reason? Aren’t they opposed to each other?
Faith and reason both pursue the truth, truth comes from God, and God never contradicts Himself. If there ever seems to be a contradiction between faith and reason, then we made a mistake, often divorcing faith from reason.
There are a lot of bad explanations of how faith and reason work together. A common one is: ‘Reason starts out carrying the ball down the field. But it can only get so far on its own. When it runs into trouble, it laterals the ball over to faith, which takes the ball the rest of the way.’
This is a bad explanation. It looks like faith can do it all by itself. Why then do we need reason?
Well, without reason, faith tends to drift away into superstition. Reason keeps faith’s feet planted firmly on the ground.
On the other hand, faith is above reason—not against it, but above it. Faith then lifts reason to heights that it could not reach on its own.
For example: From Jesus’ claims in the Gospel, it has been argued that Jesus is either a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord Himself. Reason can study the character of Jesus and conclude: liars do not tend to be so selfless, loving, caring, and compassionate. I don’t think Jesus is a liar. And Jesus does not have the egotism, narcissism, inflexibly, dullness, and predictability of someone who is mentally ill. I don’t think Jesus is a lunatic. All that’s left is that He really is the Lord.
So, although reason cannot get you there all on its own, it can make some very helpful observations once it has been lifted up by faith. You see, the two work together.
In the words of St. John Paul II: “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves” (Introduction to Fides et Ratio, John Paul II, 1998).