The truths of Catholicism depend on Revelation, or God informing us about Himself and His plan for us. But belief in revelation is not a jump in the dark. It rests on more fundamental principles that can be accessed through the use of human reason. Take God’s existence, for example. It’s quite possible to arrive at the conviction of God’s existence through reason alone, without any religious faith. For instance, the contingency of the Universe—its inability to explain its own existence—may lead one to the conviction that there must be some ultimate reality that is the ultimate cause of all else that exists. Most humans throughout history have come to the conviction that there is a transcendent other, the so-called “numinous experience,” even without Christian faith.
So God’s a starting point. But the next key step towards revelation via the path of reason centers on the person of Jesus of Nazareth. The historical Jesus demands our attention. Unlike other religious figures who focused on the content of their teachings, Jesus focused on himself. He called himself the “way, the truth, and the life,” declaring that access to God depended on him. Jesus claimed to be God in the flesh. He boldly declared that “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn. 14:9). His enemies were quite aware of his claims: Charges of blasphemy were among the reasons that led to his crucifixion.
To me, it seems that either Jesus was either telling the truth or was crazy. If it were the latter, we should have no good reason to validate his claims. But in fact, we do: his moral character, his prophetic knowledge, his limitless love, his prophetic fulfillment, and his many miracles all testify to his integrity and the consistency of his claims. Chief of all is his Resurrection, which he had predicted and was witnessed by as many as 500+ people.
Ultimately, when it comes to Jesus, there are two options: He’s either divine, or he’s deranged. What’s ruled out is a middle position—that Jesus was merely a good teacher. Claiming equality with God and requiring full allegiance are simply not the marks of a mere moral teacher.
So through the use of just reason alone, we can begin to see the Jesus of history as the Christ of faith, as the latter only makes sense with what we know from the former.
As the walking, talking revelation of God, Jesus is the central figure of all religious truth. Jesus had a real ministry in history, but his ministry was meant for all peoples. One ought to expect, then, for Jesus to have ensured a way for this mission to be carried on in his absence. This is where the third foundation comes in: the Church. The Church, the community of Christ’s followers, continues Jesus’ ministry. In order to safeguard all that he revealed nearly 2,000 years ago, Jesus founded his church with a visible structure and identifiable features. Because of this, there is a tangible presence of this church throughout the ages. Jesus promised that the “gates of hell” would not overcome his church. Well, the Catholic Church maintains full continuity with Christ from the first century onward. Therefore, in the Catholic Church, people today can be in touch with Jesus of Nazareth, who revealed God and his plan for us.
Pages upon pages have been written about God, Jesus, and the Church. So in a short blog post like this, I can at least say that my interaction with the available information has led me to a deepened faith in the God of Revelation, his embodiment in the Jesus of history, and his continual presence in the Church. For me, my use of reason leads to faith. Catholicism is reasonable.