Can our Faith engage with the challenge of Reason and Philosophy? How do I answer the questions of people who see Faith as unreasonable? Are Faith and Science bound to clash? For answers to these questions and many others come to this year’s Winter Living Theology with Fr John Moffatt SJ.

A 3-day course for priests, religious and interested lay people
to explore the practical need to explain the faith
in the face of challenges from the modern world.

Supported by the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference
On-going Formation Commission

This course explores three areas in which faith and reason intertwine and occasionally conflict: the development of doctrine, the dialogue with science and philosophy, ethical thought and dilemmas. The aim of the course is to help participants develop their own reasoning in these areas and find a vision of Christianity as wisdom for the world.

Fr John Moffatt is a Jesuit from Britain who arrived in South Africa in 2013. He studied Classics at University and since joining the Jesuits has done further studies in Philosophy and Theology to Masters level. His main work in the UK has been in the Jesuits’ two state secondary schools in London, where he has worked as teacher and chaplain. More recently he was Catholic Chaplain to Oxford University. He has become particularly interested in questions surrounding faith and reason and in developing a positive dialogue between traditional Christianity and secular culture.

He has written and self-published Beyond the Catechism and The Philosopher’s Friend and Tales of Detection. ‘The Way’ Publications is due to bring out a revised version of the former in 2013 entitled The Resurrection of the Word. He has a further collection of essays on

The 3-day course will be delivered in 5 cities around South Africa as follows:

Tues 9-Thurs 11 July

Tues 16-Thurs 18 July

Tues 13-Thurs 15 Aug

Tues 20-Thurs 22 Aug

Tues 27-Thurs 29 Aug

Port Elizabeth – St Luke’s Retreat Centre

Johannesburg – Paulines Centre, Kensington

Bloemfontein – Donovan Hall, Cathedral

Cape Town – Schoenstatt, Constantia

Durban – Glenmore Pastoral Centre

There will also be evening workshops in 2 or 3 parishes in each city.

For details of costs and a registration form please call 011 482 4237 or 076 420 9856
or e-mail

Summary of the Course

Over the three days this course will explore three different domains in which faith and reason intertwine. The purpose of the course is not simply to give you useful information, but to help you develop your own thinking in these areas.

The first session of each day will introduce the topic area. The second session will take the form of a group-work exercise. The third session will develop the topic further in the light of what comes out of the exercise.

The second session is very important. You will have an opportunity to work in groups on questions or problems arising out of the first session. For some people such ‘group-work’ may seem an intimidating prospect. Please do not be intimidated! It is not an examination, it is simply an opportunity to work through ideas for yourself with the help of other people. My hope is twofold, firstly, that you will find the freedom of exploring ideas an enjoyable experience, especially if you haven’t done it for a while, secondly that you will find it easier to follow the third presentation, having worked on some key ideas beforehand.

Tuesday: Reason and Revelation: history, scripture and doctrine


Session 1: Some people occasionally argue for a sharp distinction between the things we know by reason and the things we know by revelation, making a distinction between the Bible and Philosophy. Here we explore the way that human experience and reason became an integral part of sacred scripture. Faith and reason are deeply intertwined in revelation.


Session 2: There were a number of problems raised by early Christian beliefs about God, Jesus Christ and the human self. In this session, we try and use a toolkit of ideas from ancient philosophy to explore possible answers. If you ever wondered what ‘consubstantial’ actually meant, this is where you can work it out.


Session 3: In this session we move on to look at the way modern scientific and philosophical language challenges ancient definitions. We explore possible ways forward in the area of time and being. We look at John Henry Newman’s liberating idea of ‘developing doctrine’.


Wed: Science, Philosophy and Religion


Session 1: For most of human history science, philosophy and religion have been in harmony. Yet today they are often seen as enemies of one another. We will see how some philosophical ideas, together with modern cosmology and the theory of evolution have played a role in making religion seem unreasonable.


Session 2: Your chance to work out an answer to some of those objections to religion.


Session 3: We move beyond the specific problems to questions of being human. We return to the ideas of time and freedom from day one. We look at Karl Rahner’s vision of the relationship between human beings and God.


Thursday: Conflicts between official Church Teaching and popular moral reasoning.


Session 1: We sketch out some of the key grounds for the conflict between official church teaching and wider society. We look at relativism alongside issues in bioethics and sex.


Session 2: We take a set of wide-ranging ethical dilemmas and try and think about the sort of arguments we use to solve such dilemmas. We also try and establish what are the most serious moral problems affecting our society and our world today.


Session 3: We look at moral conflict and Christianity from a different point of view. We attempt to identify possibilities for convergence with wider moral reasoning and reflect on how Christianity can be presented in our time as a wisdom that saves the world.

‘Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises
to the contemplation of truth’: Bl. John Paul II