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The Scientific Method Applied to Faith

May 14, AD 2014 29 Comments


Ask a question: If a woman assents to the truths of faith, then she is obliged to accept the Church’s moral teaching on, for instance, reproduction. She may wonder if too much will be demanded of her, or whether she can endure it.

Hypothesis: By assent of the intellect and will, she believes she will be offered the grace to do God’s will. In the practice of prudence, she hopes she can see the bigger picture well enough to navigate motherhood. She hopes she can see reality with honesty, make sound judgments, reason to good decisions, and carry through to right actions. In the practice of justice, she hopes she can be open to her husband and her children fairly and love them as they are. In the practice of fortitude, she hopes she can have courage when courage is needed and endurance when endurance is required. In the practice of temperance, she hopes she can moderate pleasure toward what is good and achieve “selfless self-preservation.” (Joseph Pieper, The Four Cardinal Virtues. NY: Harcourt, Brace, and World, Inc., 1965, p. 147.)

Prediction: She has faith that the commands of God are true, even though she does not know exactly what to expect in her temporal life. She is certain in her hope for everlasting life with God, the eternal source of all life and love.

Test: She obeys the commands of Christ and the teachings of the Church. She participates in the Sacraments. She prays. She is open to receiving grace.

Data and Analysis: She hears the voice of God guiding her. She sees that she can trust herself to determine good decisions and actions, and she has confidence. She sees that she enters into a deeper relationship with God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, with the Blessed Mother, with the whole Church, the saints, her guardian angel, her husband, children, family, friends, and sometimes even her enemies, and she has security. She sees that she can trust herself to face difficulty and survive it, and she has peace. She sees that she can both enjoy the pleasures of life and control indulgence, and she has happiness.

Replication: So she takes another step in faith, and prays that she is granted the grace to grow in virtue, this time with more hope and love than before. When she fails, she confesses it, accepts more grace, and keeps trying.

External Review: The evidence of faith is all around her, spiritually and tangibly, in her heart and mind, in the daily life of her marriage, in the children she did not think she could raise, in the children she lost, in the pain she did not think she could survive, in the friendships that grew deeper, in the relationships that are wounded because she has hope they will heal, in nature—and dare she say—in the sun and flowers and the air she breathes, a pervading inner peace and strength that is beyond her, even amid turmoil.

Sharing: And she shares with others what she has learned from testing faith in her life. She evangelizes.

Hello, and thank you for reading. I am a wife, mother of seven, and joyful convert to Catholicism. I write from my tiny office in a 100-year-old restored Adirondack mountain lodge. Read more about me here, with pictures. Find me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter. "Like" my Facebook page Science Was Born of Christianity to follow updates about my book. God bless you!

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  • Bill S

    I kinda give up. Even though I know, from a strictly historical viewpoint, that the Bible, which presents the basis for the Christian faith, consists of stories that men sat down and wrote for the purpose of encouraging people to believe in one god of one chosen people, I have to admit that many who follow the Christian faith are able to accomplish seemingly superhuman results. What does it matter that little of what they believe can be proven to be in any way factual?

    • Stacy Trasancos

      Something I recently understood (from a course on virtue), Bill, that never occurred to me before, is that without faith, hope, and love for God, practicing the other virtues doesn’t make sense. Why worry about prudence, justice, fortitude, or temperance if the ultimate goal in life is death?

      That’s not something to bicker over in a comment box. Just something to ponder.

      • Bill S

        A person who exhibits prudence, justice, fortitude, or temperance has a leg up in survival of the fittest. A prudent, just, strong and temperate person is to be emulated and gives his or her genes a greater overall chance of being replicated and passed on to future generations. These are qualities that have evolved in the human species and we have come to value them. You can call them gifts of the Holy Spirit if that makes you value them more, but they are traits passed from one successful generation to the next. No?

        • Charles C

          Are justice,prudence,fortitude,temperance and honor genetic or are they developed,taught, refined and respected over time. Sounds little like traditions, religion, philosophy and all such things that are difficult to physically quantify and evaluate with the scientific method. Science evolved from concepts such as these. I agree with Stacey that not much matters if the ultimate goal of life is death. Something to think about.

          • Bill S

            “I agree with Stacey that not much matters if the ultimate goal of life is death.”

            People may or may not set goals for themselves and some (I would think very few) might set death as their ultimate goal. Death is our ultimate destiny, but I wouldn’t set it as a “goal”. A bucket list could be considered a set of goals for one’s life.

            Of course, those who set eternal goals for themselves are in a class by themselves. It doesn’t matter because you breath your last breath expecting to step into eternity, you lose consciousness and you never learn that you are going to cease to exist. You just do and no one knows the difference. People assume you went to heaven, hell or purgatory. What do they know?

          • Charles C

            I agree, we won’t know whether eternity exists until we arrive. I don’t see where much if anything is lost by endeavoring to live a virtuous life. On the other hand……..
            You totally ignored my point. ” Are justice,prudence,fortitude,temperance and honor genetic or are they developed,taught, refined and respected over time?”

          • VelikaBuna

            We won’t know if tomorrow exists until we arrive there.

        • newguy40

          Prudence, justice, fortitude are not inheritable traits like blue or green eyes. Pls point to the prudence gene.

          If these were traits as you indicate, how would one explain Nazi Germany?

          • Bill S

            “Pls point to the prudence gene.”

            That’s a nonsensical request. You point to the blue eyes gene. Traits such as patience and fortitude can be instilled in us as children or even as adults. They can also be passed on genetically.

            What do you think happened in Nazi Germany? Do you think the whole German population lost all virtue?

          • newguy40

            It isnt a nonsensical request when you state that these can be passed on genetically. I am merely asking you to provide scientific evidence to ground that assertion. Can you?

            By your statement virtue as an inheritable trait would lead inevitably thru fitness for reproduction to lead to a virtuous culture. Clearly, that was not the case in Nazi Germany as the Hitler, Goerings, Himmlers could never have been born.

          • Bill S

            If you want to learn more about genetics look at the characteristics of dogs that are bred based on those characteristics. A virtue like patience can be taught and also bred. Some breeds are better at some things than others.

            It is nurture AND nature.

          • Charles C

            You are mixing philosophical patience with a genetic quality. Not the same thing. Calmness in a dog breed is not philosophical patience. How many dog philosophers have you met?

          • Bill S

            I don’t know what you mean by “philosophical patience”. I’m just saying that the so-called “gifts of the Holy Spirit” are attributes that our minds put into action by believing they are gifts from the divine.

            We acquire these attributes through nature (genetic) and nurture (environment). There is nothing supernatural about what they are or how they are derived.

          • Charles C

            Sounds like you reject philosophy along with religion. Maybe you should read some. There are many Greek and Roman dissertations. You are familiar with Aristotle, Plato and Socrates, also Shakespeare.

          • Bill S

            I’m only interested in what people have to say now, not hundreds of years ago.

          • newguy40

            And, this tells us practically all we need to know about Bill S. For Bill and some others, history and philosophy only began in 1970. Or, is 1970 too hoary of a past for us to consider?

            “Life’s hard. It’s even harder when you’re stupid.” ―John Wayne

          • Bill S

            I have read plenty of ancient history and philosophy. I just choose to develop my worldview using more current information. Words from antiquity are not any more profound and insightful then those of today.

          • Charles C

            New Athiesm is your God and Richard Dawkins is his prophet. You sure don’t leave any room for discussion. Peace

          • Bill S

            I see it more as a worldview than a god. I agree with Dawkins in all but his devotion to NeoDarwinism. The role of the Christian God as Creator seems rational to me, if not true. The rest I don’t buy. We’ve been down this road before. I enjoy hearing about what you believe and why you believe it. I don’t have to agree with everything you say, but it interests me to hear it. Thanks.

          • Charles C

            It is interesting to know that there is nothing useful, informative, or insightful unless it occurred in your lifetime. I’ll remember that.

          • Bill S

            That’s not exactly how I feel I can appreciate ancient stories for what they are. I can appreciate an epic like “The Illiad” or Genesis.

            But if I am looking for answers to what this life is all about, I consult modern information.

          • Charles C

            Sounds like you classify vintage literature as unreliable fiction. Interesting conclusion……

          • Bill S

            I don’t see why anyone should have a problem. Men sat down and wrote stories, sometimes without doing the necessary research, checking their sources and doing whatever it took to get the story right. They wrote stories. Everyone knows that.

          • newguy40

            “I am merely asking you to provide scientific evidence to ground that assertion. Can you?”

            So, that is a no then, Bill?

            You are indulging both anthropomorphism and lamarckian evolutionary theory.

            You are confusing animal behavior with the supernatural gifts of the holy spirit that can only be given to men by God.

            CCC 1832 The fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory. The tradition of the Church lists twelve of them: “charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity.”

          • Bill S

            “You are confusing animal behavior with the supernatural gifts of the holy spirit that can only be given to men by God.”

            So you say. The so-called “gifts of the Holy Spirit” are nothing but human attributes that believers call upon and use believing they are gifts from a divine source. It is mind over matter.

  • Patsy Koenig

    Stacy, where did this woman, who discovered faith, get her children from? Babies R’ Us? The scenario left out fatherhood entirely! And there’s the rub: the majority of women would like children…it is the usually the potential fathers who don’t want a child, or more children, or who don’t want to go on an NFP-diet. Many men willl not even commit to marriage in the first place. The Hypothesis of your sequence was an error of over-simplification: “By assent of the intellect and will, she believes she will be offered the grace to do God’s will.” WE mus aks daily for God’s Grace; it is only offered IF WE ASK for it, continually, through prayer. Assenting to the teachings of the Catholic Faith will not, in itself, provide the grace a person needs for practicing virtue and for trustining God when it is difficult. A person MUST ask for grace through prayer each day. You mentioned prayer in a side-lined manner; not in a cause & effect manner. Grace is not handed out when a person merely assents to the faith. It is given when it is asked for through prayer. That is not the way you presented it. And that is why so many Catholics and Christians fail to live the life of Faith. They erroneously think that all they need are: assent to the Faith and the Sacraments: in a cause & effect manner. They all know about prayer, but think it is optional and tangenital – like the way you presented it – and few practice it regulary, not knowing that prayer is absolutly essential. (St. Alphonsus Ligouri, Doctor of the Church) It is daily prayer that will bring down the graces each person needs to live the Faith. Without daily prayer, they will not be able to live up to the demands of the Faith, when it is diffiicult. In fact, daily prayer is what is missing from so many Catholic lives; and Protestant lives as well.

    • Stacy Trasancos

      No, the scenario does not leave out fatherhood. If a woman is testing faith, she can’t test being a father, which is one reason I put the father in the picture at the top, the “evidence” of faith, the one with his arms around the rest of the evidences. Nor did the scenario leave out faith. In the scientific method, the “doing” part, the action part, is the “test” part, what is sometimes called the “experiment.” Thus, “She prays.” Prayer is also mention in the replication phase, the next “doing” part. Those are precisely the two place that verb should be.

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