God exists outside the scientist's lab

July 11, 2011

VATICAN CITY — Subjecting God and his truth to scientific scrutiny represents an incorrect and despotic use of human reason, Pope Benedict said.

Empirical science has done much to further progress and reason is fundamental to faith, the pope said June 30.

There is, however, an incorrect use of reason — a "despotism of reason which becomes the supreme and final judge of everything," he said.

The pope said this use of reason, which is "incompatible with the nature of faith," can be seen in Psalm 95, which recalls Meribah as the place where the early Israelites tested God and "tried me though they had seen my works."

Putting God to some sort of a test is even more pronounced in today's world, where natural science and its empirical method have achieved so much, the pope said.

But there is a limit to how reason is used: "God is not an object of human experimentation. He is a subject and he manifests himself only in a person-to-person relationship," he said.

The pope made his comments during an award ceremony in which he gave the Ratzinger Prize for excellence in theological studies to three European theologians: Italian patristics scholar Manlio Simonetti, a fundamental theologian from Spain, Father Olegario Gonzalez de Cardedal, and Cistercian Father Maximilian Heim, a German theologian who is abbot of a monastery in Austria.

In his talk, Pope Benedict said the correct use of reason in matters of faith is when it is used on a personal level and is driven by love.

"Love wants to know better the person who loves. Love — true love — doesn't make us blind," it makes people see, he said.

Love, the pope said, will satisfy a person's thirst to really know the other, and that is why those who seek the truth are on the path to seeking God.

"This is why authentic theology is so important. Solid faith leads reason to open itself up to the divine, so that reason, guided by love for the truth, may know God even more from up close."

Therefore, theology must be made up of two elements: "humility, which lets us be 'touched' by God, and discipline, which is tied to the order of reason, (which) keeps love from blindness and helps develop its power to see," he said.