Galen

Galen

 

In the writings of Galen, an ancient physician, we find many explanations and material that assists the Church’s efforts to reconcile faith and reason.  The foundation of Galen’s writings and opinions was always solid and logical, based on fact.  This style of learning and teaching set the cornerstone for the sciences of today.  It is important to thoroughly understand the definitions of faith and reason when you read these writings. Galen’s manuscripts are full of arguments, styles, methods, and reasons that are a great help to the Church in her efforts.  The writings of Galen, carefully laid out, and perfected by skill and self-taught knowledge, assist the Church in her efforts to reconcile faith and reason.

              Galen’s approach to science is based on fact.  He refuses to even consider an argument based on a hypothesis.  Instead, he researches and studies his profession well, so that he can find the truth about how the human body works, and the purposes of each organ.  He did not accept someone’s teachings that he knew were false, rather, he sought out the truth from men who had come before him and studied well, and really were knowledgeable about anatomy and medicine.  He relied heavily on his predecessors, such as Plato, Aristotle, Hippocrates, and the like, who also believed in basing study on fact.  The writings of these great masters, as well as their attitude, shows through Galen, as he strives to do the same that they did: learn as much as he can about the true functions of the human body so that he can help those who are ill and wounded, as well as the other doctors and physicians in ancient Greece and Rome.  Galen was an intelligent man who chose his teachers and mentors well, and refused to believe something simply because it was easier that having to search for the truth.  

            When you are trying to use Galen’s writings to help you to reconcile faith and reason, it is extremely important to understand what exactly faith and reason are, and the difference between the two, as well as what exactly is meant by the word “reconcile”.  By reconcile, we mean to make consistent or congruous.  Not necessarily make them the same things on the same level, but at least make it so that they can co-exist, and work together.  Reason, according to the dictionary is “a sufficient ground of explanation or motive; a rational ground or motive”.  Simply put, that means something is reasonable if you can prove it completely and totally, like math.  2 + 2 will always equal 4, no matter what you do, it is a proven fact, and needs no faith to be true.  That brings us to our next definition: faith- firm belief in something for which there is no proof.  This is the opposite of reason.  With faith, you personally have to choose if you are going to believe something.  There is no proof out there to convince you of something.  You have to just accept it and believe it.  Is it possible to use various arguing techniques to reconcile faith and reason?  Does Galen give us an example of these methods in his Faculties?  Well, read on.

                   When Galen approaches a problem, he first looks at what he has.  He examines the things that he is trying to prove, as well as any facts that may pertain to the problem.  One such fact that he used a great deal was referred to as “Genesis, Growth, and Nutrition.”  This was the coming into existence, the maturation of the existing being, and the activity, sustenance, and society that it needed to survive. Finally, using reasoning, proofs, and knowledge, he reaches the answer.  This same approach may be used in the Church’s efforts.  We have our problem: reconcile faith and reason.  We have our given facts: There had to be a beginning, there has to be an end, there has to be a way that the universe began, and there has to be a way for it to end.  The “way” was what created the universe, what made it come to completion, and what maintains it.  (Genesis, Growth, and Nutrition, as Galen would say)  This “way” must be eternal, (has existed for forever, and will exist forever, as well as possess several other qualities that I won’t go into now.)  We have our answer: That “way” is what we call God.  You can’t see him, you can’t physically feel, taste, or touch him, but He must exist.  Once you have this fact, you can go on to prove all the others.  The above is simply an example of how you can use proven facts to prove other things, and how Galen’s writings assist in that process.  I won’t go into all of the countless others right now, as it would take years to write, and even longer to thoroughly understand!  Just let me say this to sum up all that I’ve said: Galen’s mental processes, together with the Church’s techniques, allow you to reconcile faith and reason. 

            The writings of Galen, carefully laid out and perfected by skill and self taught knowledge, assist the Church in her efforts to reconcile faith and reason.  Galen’s logical arguments and methods allowed him to prove things about the human body.  The definitions of faith and reason show us exactly what we must do to reconcile the two.  The Church can use the same methods that Galen used to do this.  And so, I would like to leave you with this final thought: Galen was able to prove many things by thinking logically and rationally.  How can you use the same methods to work through questions that arise in your life, whether about society, education, or religion?

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