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Spiritual Experience Works According to the Relativism of Human Experience

Updated on November 29, 2015
Jenny Talaver profile image

Jenny is a Philosophy Major from Ateneo de Zamboanga University. She has been an online writer for three years now.

Faith and reason are two very different aspects of human life that deal with the decision-making calculus of every person. Despite their concrete differences, these two are perspectives of the human person that need to reconcile with each other in order that the person will able to function well and exert full maturity of thought, word and deed. Yes, they can be reconciled to each other, but contrary to the ideals of medieval philosophers, their agreement does not automatically equate to an ABSOLUTE TRUTH that should be followed by all people in this world. Rather than to obsess over the superlatives of existing beings, I choose to focus my viewpoint on examining human experiences in terms of encountering God. All of us, believers and non-believers should bear in mind that God is present truly in our lives when we acknowledge and accept his participating role in our experiences in human life – We can have faith in anything, but true faith is manifested when the believer truly feels and accepts his or her encounter with God.


The way we see our reality and how we acknowledge the presence of a Higher Being is different and relative to our own experiences.
The way we see our reality and how we acknowledge the presence of a Higher Being is different and relative to our own experiences. | Source

Philosophy on Faith and Reason

Many Christian theologians will disagree in what I am saying here, and I have no doubt whatsoever that they will argue that I am advocating for more atheists – simply because my solution to the dilemma of faith and reason throughout the centuries should be based on human experience. But I will state this time and time again. Faith is nothing without conviction, and conviction will only happen when the believer experiences an encounter with God that confirms his faith. All of us will debate on the existence of God in the intellectual context, but I solemnly believe that faith and reason are reconcilable through what we know as “common sense”. Yes, I am an advocate of the principle “Seeing is believing”, not because I do not believe in God, but rather because I want every person to see proofs of God’s existence in everything that they encounter in human life. I agree with the medieval perspective that God indeed exists as the greatest being, but the reconciliation of faith and reason in regards to the matter will be best visualized in the embodiment of spiritual encounters.

Faith and Reason - from a Priest's Perspective

Yes, I was born and raised as a Roman Catholic woman. I have all the conviction to even die as a Catholic. But I respect other religions because they represent the individuality of spiritual encounters. Each of us is created unique, with different personalities, preferences, and life experiences. Hence, the way we see our reality and how we acknowledge the presence of a Higher Being is different and relative to our own experiences. The basis for the variety of religions today is the difference of people in encountering God. A religion is formed when a common denominator is found as these different experiences are shared.[1] God makes Himself felt in the heart of each person. Each nation picks up that vision of God and translates it in accordance with the culture, and elaborates, purifies and gives it a system.[2] The existence of God should not be contained in a single ideology because this act signifies that God cannot be open-minded, when God in truth is open to all people – after all, He created all of us, without any discrimination, right? According to Rabbi Abraham Skorka, those that represent themselves as knowing the absolute truth, judging everyone else and their actions with condescension, have gotten to the frequent practice of the disgraceful pagan principle of fundamentalism and even at some point, extremism (when people use the name of God to legitimize killing people or their beliefs).[3] Personally, I agree with him because I believe that when we assert our religion as the true religion, we disregard God's hand in creation wherein He created us equal yet unique – equal in terms of His love and care for each one of us yet unique in our search to finding Him.

[1] (Skorka 2010, pg. 17)

[2] (Bergoglio 2010, pg. 19)

[3] (Skorka 2010, pg. 20)

Religions, Diversity of Faith

A religion is formed when a common denominator is found as these different experiences are shared.
A religion is formed when a common denominator is found as these different experiences are shared. | Source

Respect Other Religions

Each nation picks up that vision of God and translates it in accordance with the culture, and elaborates, purifies and gives it a system.
Each nation picks up that vision of God and translates it in accordance with the culture, and elaborates, purifies and gives it a system. | Source

Spreading of Religions

Pope Francis

Pope Francis talked extensively on respecting other religions.
Pope Francis talked extensively on respecting other religions. | Source

To really reconcile faith with reason, we must be able to look inside ourselves. When he was still a cardinal, Bergoglio once urged the people of today to seek the experience of entering the intimacy of their hearts, to know the experience, the face of God.[1] This is what he means by spiritual encounters, as he cites Job’s words: “By hearsay I had heard of you. But now my eye has seen you.” We should not be complacent in our faith, we should look into what our faith really means in our life, and discover the presence of the Living God in every activity we do in daily life. We can never know by reason how God reveals himself in specific circumstances, but we must reasonably understand that each person and each generation must find the path on which they can search for and feel His presence.[2] Consequently, we should shun others for their beliefs because every man is the image of God, whether he is a believer or not. Because we are all created by God, everyone has a series of virtues, qualities, and a greatness of his own.[3] We must be able to treat each other with the respect of our own ignorance to God and the limitations of human reason. We can talk about His qualities and attributes, but in no way can we describe His form. We can gain an understanding of how the world works, but not its essence.[4]

[1] (Bergoglio 2010, pg. 3)

[2] (Skorka 2010, pg. 5)

[3] (Bergoglio 2010, pg. 13)

[4] (Skorka 2010, pg. 14)

The Seriousness of Faith - Pope Francis

Reason must be open to doubts, especially to acknowledge the imperfection of human existence and thoughts. A believer believes with complete faith that God exists, according to how he or she encountered Him. Maimonides explains that He knows everything in its complete form, and should we presume to have the understanding as God, then we ourselves should be perfect beings, the gods of this world.[1] Yet we are not perfect so we must concede that indeed God exists, that he has a hand in everything that happens in this world. If we are reasonable enough, we should know that things do not simply come out of nowhere – they must have a creator. Most people would consider evolution as a directly conflicting principle to belief in creation but we should know the clear distinction of the nature of religious belief and scientific theorizing. Creation, as a belief, is a conviction that affirms that God is the ultimate source and basis of all reality. But evolution is different – it seeks to give an understanding of how life developed on Earth without dealing with the question of the ultimate cause of this development. But when someone is reasonable and determined enough to reconcile faith and reason in this issue, he and the believer will see that explanations of God’s presence in evolution. It is already clear that God’s creativity can be understood in many different ways. He is the unseen guiding hand to help grow and develop living beings in this world, especially as He is behind the environmental changes or the genetic mutations which bring about new forms of life. All of us – believer and nonbeliever alike - must able to reflect deeply on the presence of life on this earth as well as the creative presence of God or a higher being. According to Fr. Michael Moga, SJ, the believer who seeks to understand evolution is faced with two profound mysteries: the mysterious nature of life and mysterious action of God in the world.[2] Ultimately, we must be reasonable enough to acknowledge the mystery of human life and the whole universe. We should be able to understand God’s response in Job 42:5: “I have my reasons which are unknowable to man, with whom doubt will always remain.” Reason must have room for doubt, complementary to faith to acknowledge the limitations of human reason.

[1] (Skorka 2010, pg. 16)

[2] (Moga 2005)

Faith and Reason: A Catholic Perspective

Consequently, religious beliefs should be able to adjust to the changes of time with the justification of human reason. According to Pope Francis, religions refine certain expressions with time, even though it is a slow process because of the sacred bond we have with the received inheritance from the first Christians. Medieval theologians stated this: “The legitimate rule of all progress and the correct standard of all development consist in the inheritance being consolidated through the ages, developed with passing of years and expanded with the passage of time.” [1] While there are certain beliefs that are absolute, we should know that human experience will give way to changes in traditions because of the shifts in context.

[1] (Bergoglio 2010, pgs. 25-26)

Pope Francis on Faith & Reason

Faith and reason ultimately are reconciled by the acknowledgement and acceptance of the person in his encounter with God and all living beings in this world in such a manner that he or she keeps an open mind to other faiths, never discriminative. We should be able to acknowledge that all of us are walking along the journey of life, and to be able to feel God’s presence by acknowledging His imprints in everything that we see is indeed difficult but an ultimately fulfilling way of life.

Faith and Reason

Can faith and reason be reconciled to each other?

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