‘God is love’ (1 John 4:8)
June in Rome meant exam time for the seminary community. All of us are at different stages – be it in age, years in the seminary or attended universities, or, indeed, spiritual and personal growth. This year I completed the philosophy degree (PhB) at the Angelicum University. With the humidity rising and the sun beating down ever more intensely, we set about revision and exams.
Since this was my last year of philosophy, I had to revise the past three years’ worth of study for a comprehensive final exam, as well as complete six other exams to finish the course. Aristotle, writing in ‘The Metaphysics’, says that ‘by nature, every human desires to know’. Whether it be in a practical knowledge or trade, such as carpentry or music, or a speculative knowledge such as philosophy or mathematics, everyone engaged in a certain field wants to develop their abilities and potential.
The purpose of philosophy, which usually begins with a sense of awe and wonder, is to consider reality – the world and the universe. There is no reference to God or theology at first, but a critical and rational reflection on human experience looking at both the natural or ‘material’ world and those things called spiritual or ‘immaterial’. Philosophy is a love of wisdom, of true things, yet it also includes the great ideas of human history, touching the fundamental question of existence: why is there something rather than nothing? What is a human being? Does God exist and, if so, what type of God anyway? What does it mean to reason? The list is endless...
Theology, on the other hand, picks up where reason leaves off, so to speak. There should never be a conflict between faith and reason, since both find their intelligible origin in God who is Life, Love and Truth. A basic principle is that two things cannot be said of the same thing, in the same respect and at the same time, so that they would contradict each other. God, for example, cannot be both loving and non-loving at the same time. The most coherent of philosophers recognised the need for a God who is the immaterial Sustainer of creation and who acts as the rational principle underpinning all rational thought. In the sending of His Beloved Son for our salvation, it is clearly revealed to us that God is not only loving but that He is love itself (1 John 4:8). In Jesus, we meet the unconditional Love of God personified. This is our creed and, it is fair to say, no human philosophy has ever come close to such an alluring truth, given to us, as it was, by God Himself in the flesh.