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Fides et Ratio / On the Relationship between Faith and Reason

4.8 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0819826695
ISBN-10: 0819826693
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 131 pages
  • Publisher: Pauline Books & Media (December 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0819826693
  • ISBN-13: 978-0819826695
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 5 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #387,148 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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In Fides et Ratio, Pope John Paul II is addressing Catholic bishops regarding the value and relationship philosophy holds in regards to theology. The purpose of the encyclical letter is to stem certain abusive tendencies among theologians that distort divine revelation and to urge a new interest in philosophy as a means of articulating Christian truth. Divine revelation by its very nature proposes to man certain truths not naturally accessible to man from the standpoint of pure reason. Methodical reason, however, can explore these revealed truths in relation to established universal objective principles. A symbiotic relationship can therefore develop between theology and philosophy in which theology provides direction to the human quest for meaning and understanding and philosophy provides the language and method for articulating divine revelation. Divine and natural truth cannot be at odds since they both emanate from the God who is Truth, Jesus Christ.

The Holy Father addresses the fact that much of modern philosophy bears a mistrust of reason and has abandoned metaphysical studies, having no confidence in the existence of universal truths. This has led to a crisis of meaning and contributes to the phenomenon of widespread despair and the culture of death. Finding universal truths to be confining, and limiting as regards freedom, modern philosophy has abandoned their pursuit and focuses upon utilitarian endeavors. The Holy Father warns that such a path, as embodied in such philosophies as the will to power, are ultimately self-destructive and lead to a disintegration of the human community. To deny the existence of universal truth is ultimately to deny existence. Nothing could be said to exist, not even one's own phenomenological experience.
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In the Christian tradition, Philosophy and Theology have not always sat together easily. While theologians from Clement of Alexandria to Augustine to Aquinas have embraced Philosophy eagerly and used it extensively in their theology, for others such as Tertullian, Luther, Calvin, or Nygren, Philosophy has been a source of corrupting errors which ruin faith or of poisonous skepticism which destroys faith and endangers salvation itself.

In the Catholic tradition however, Philosophy has often been an essential tool used to clarify issues and matters of faith. In this regard, Catholicism is often strongly condemned by both the Orthodox, who claim (particularly when it came to utilising philosophical logic in trying to understand God) from departing from the Patristic 'mindset' of the Fathers, or from Protestants, who claimed Philosophy and Logic were unbiblical or distorted plain scriptural truths and merely put a massive man-made barrier between God and the Christian believer, as well as corrupting pure Apostolic and Biblical Christianity by introducing ideas from Greek philosophy or metaphysics into the faith itself (a claim strong amoung thinkers ranging from Luther and Calvin to Karl Barth, Adolf Von Harnack, and Anders Nygren, all very powerful theologians in their own right, whose insights cannot lightly be disregarded).

Pope John Paul's encyclical is an important defence of the role reason and philosophy have to play in theology, especially in the sense of participating in God's wisdom. This concept goes back to Augustine and Aquinas, and also to an extent in the Eastern tradition, whereby the mind of the Christian partakes in the mind of God or God's attribute of wisdom, and in so doing learns to understand the mysteries of faith better and thus grows in faith.
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The book titled FIDES ET RATIO/ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FAITH AND REASON is a well written compact book based on the late Pope John Paul's (1978-2005)1998 Letter to the Bishops. Pope John Paul II informed the Bishops of the responsibity of Catholic teachers and scholars to seek bona fide knowledge and to use such in teaching the Faith. The fact that the dialogue and debate re Faith and Reason has been ongoing for about 2,000 years was not lost on Pope John Paul II.

Pope John Paul II was clear that the Catholic Church has been no stranger to debate, intellectual confrontation, etc. He was clear that one of the problems that distorted scholarship, teaching, and study has been philosophical pride which Pope John Paul II warned could warp serious learning and an honest quest for honesty and truth. He expressed dismay of what could be called indifferent pluralism which can lead to distrust of knowlege. Pope John Paul II wrote what Catholic scholarship is not based on false self imposed speculation but reaches to what could be called God's Truth.

Pope John Paul II made a good case that what Catholics have known was that reason was important, but above reason was what may be termed the Great Unknown or God. In other words, philosophy and faith were not hostile to each other. What Pope John Paul II wanted readers to know was that reason, knowledge, etc. brought men closer to God. Another tenet that Pope John Paul II held was that the better men and women studied knowledge the closer they could be to God and freer of ignorance. Such a quest should be done without arrogance because more is not known than is known. As men know more, the more they realize what they do not know.
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