McLuhan’s example: Faith’s compatibility with reason [Marshall McLuhan Monday]

We continue to explore Catholic ‘media philosopher’ Marshall McLuhan as a role model for Catholic communicators in the Year of Faith. Read all Marshall McLuhan Mondays here.

Recently, I’ve been discovering the meaning of faith in my own life. It’s a trust in God that requires grace to know and interiorize.

Marshall McLuhan modeled faith in an unmistakable way. His son, Eric, often notes that Marshall’s coming into full communion with the Catholic Church was seen by some as ‘intellectual suicide.’ How could his Catholic faith be compatible with true academic scholarship?

Marshall McLuhan’s colleague Wilson Bryan Key writes,

He was, indeed, a Christian who fervently believed in his faith, but not with the easy, hypocritical phrases of the Fundamentalist Biblepushers, but by the example he tried to set in his daily life. It was frequently difficult to reconcile the astute, critical scholar of history, the brilliant, worldly (catholic, in its nonreligious sense) student of human foible and frailty, with the simple faith he appeared to exhibit toward his God. I once questioned him about the conflict and inconsistency I perceived, between blind faith and intellectual integrity. He replied simply, “I am Catholic! That resolves most of my dilemmas. I can get on with my work. Period!”

McLuhan’s response seems rather terse and confusing. However, it’s when we realize that faith is not blind that we ‘can get on with our work.’ This past week, Pope Benedict XVI’s catechesis was on the rationality of faith. Here’s an excerpt (emphasis mine):

Indeed, although a mystery, God is not absurd. … If, in contemplating the mystery, reason sees only darkness, this is not because the mystery contains no light, rather because it contains too much. Just as when we turn our eyes directly to the sun, we see only shadow – who would say that the sun is not bright? …

God, with His grace, illuminates reason and opens up new horizons, immeasurable and infinite. Therefore, faith is a continuous stimulus to seek, never to cease or acquiesce in the inexhaustible search for truth and reality. … Intellect and faith are not foreign or antagonistic to divine Revelation, they are both prerequisites for understanding its meaning, for receiving its authentic message, for approaching the threshold of the mystery.

Having faith means believing, trusting in God. That trust ‘resolves most of our dilemmas’ and yet compels us to ‘get on with our work’ — to continue seeking Truth. Faith is a great mystery, and yet as Key recalls, McLuhan’s Catholic faith was simple.

Perhaps that’s why Christ so clearly said we need childlike faith. Children are so simple and trusting, yet always asking questions with an excited and unquenchable curiosity.

What role does faith have in your own life?


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