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Beyond reciprocity

In our present culture, we have a better grasp of what is at stake when we confess our faith in God. Theology as reasoning faith needs to rely on the cultural world, which means it should rely on the sciences as well. However, faith still offers an entirely different perspective from which to evaluate reality. In spite of its structural closeness to the sciences, faith in an overall sense is never inductive. Rather, as Aristotle suggests in the opening sentence of this chapter, faith works ‘from the first principles’. That is, the starting point of faith is the fact of divine revelation. Revelation can be seen in two ways: as the fact itself (revelatio qua) and as its contents (revelatio quae). While the contents of revelation have been the same throughout the centuries, the question ‘what is revelation?’ may receive a better answer. Revelation is not merely propositional or historical, it is not only about certain doctrines formulated in a language nobody speaks today and it is not about a description of mythological figures in clumsy historical texts. Revelation is first of all about God’s infinite love disclosed in the act of self-donation in the person of his Son for the salvation of human beings. Revelation is better understood today as radical revelation, the utmost act of love by God to save us from our mistakes, failures and sins. Radical revelation calls for radical faith, a faith which involves entire human persons and opens them to the infinite and self-giving love of God.[1]

This understanding of faith defines our attitude to the sciences in our contemporary culture. Theologically, we need the sciences so that we may better understand what faith means in our culture today. This attitude, however, not only outlines the structure of reciprocity in which faith and the sciences react to one another in fruitful ways but also enacts an approach which does not understand faith in term of a function. Faith is not merely the functional faith of Polanyi’s personal knowledge. Its structures do not merely parallel the structures of scientific thinking. Faith is about something more important, namely our salvation. Faith, ultimately, may be compared to love, this unique human phenomenon in which everything becomes secondary with respect to the only purpose we perceive in love: to be united with the beloved one. Faith is about total self-donation for the realization of the unity of the loving soul with the loving God. Faith is an irreplaceable relationship which does not tolerate anything in-between; its only thought, will and desire, its only reality is embodied in the beloved one. If we lose sight of this ultimate nature of faith, we become unable to understand its fundamentally non-functional character. Faith can be fruitful for the sciences, and it also can be purified by them in many ways, but ultimately faith is something absolute coming from, and groping for, the Absolute.

Study questions

  • 1. What are the two kinds of reasoning characteristic of faith and science?
  • 2. Which are the models of relationship between faith and science?
  • 3. What role has faith played in the development of the sciences?
  • 4. What role has science played in the development of faith?
  • 5. Why cannot faith be merely functional in science?

Further reading

Barr, Stephen M., Modern Physics and Ancient Faith (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2003).

Dixon, Thomas, Science and Religion: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).

Jaki, Stanley, The Savior of Science (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2000).

Polkinghorne, John, Belief in God in the Age of Science (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003).


  • [1] See Balazs Mezei, ‘Faith and Reason’, in Lewis Ayres (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Catholicism(Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2015).
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