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4.8 out of 5 stars
Fides et Ratio / On the Relationship between Faith and Reason
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on April 22, 2015
This is my first book that I have read by Pope John Paul II. I could not believe as I was reading the book that his writings emphasize so much of the interaction and the working together of theology and philosophy to adequately present and defend the truth as expressed and understood in Christianity. The last chapter titled "Current Requirements and Tasks" and the conclusion brings together the meat of the content. And in just one short chapter, Pope John Paul remarkably present the competing world views (nihilism, scientism.....) as inadequate and in fact untrue and how with the proper use of theology and philosophy, we can bring these false ideas into subjugation. Great work. Now I am more eager to read "The Gospel of Life". Thanks to God and also to Pope John Paul II.
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on April 23, 2013
While he acknowledges straightaway that reason and faith complement each other - indeed, they cannot work without each other - John Paul II cites numerous contemporary philosophical concepts hindering man's capacity to fully pursue the fundamental questions of existence: Who am I? Where have I come from and where am I going? Why is there evil? What is there after this life? While John Paul II does not apologetically explain the Magisterium's position on such questions - Fides et Ratio thinks big picture from page one onwards - it calmly and succinctly addresses that there will always be a need for mankind to ponder such questions while identifying thoughts and states of mind that detract from pursuing the truth, posing a tremendous danger that we are seeing played out on an every day basis.

Fides et Ratio, the 1998 mature epic isn't as comprehensively sprawling as Redemptor Hominis (1979) or as Church focused as Redemptoris Missio (1990), but is nevertheless the conclusion to a staggering trifecta of encyclicals on man and society John Paul scribed in the mid-late 1990s, following Veritatis Splendor (1993) and Evangelium Vitae (1995). It's like the Lord of the Rings trilogy - the position of man as a being of good, a being created by God, lost in a world of abandonment to its own self, relying on its own creations and thinking rather than trusting in the natural and divine work of the Creator. And there's now 78 year old Pope Wojtyla still seeing Truth through the fog of the world.

Fides et Ratio wastes no time in coming out swinging, like the opening D-Day scene in Saving Private Ryan (also released in 1998), building as its foundation that faith and curiosity for it is built in man to find it. St. Anselm was never used so potently as in the book's first act: "To see you was I conceived, and yet I have yet to conceive that for which I was conceived". This is man's dilemma, John Paul writes, today. He cites - among other cultural malaises - nihilism as weakening's man's pursuit of truth and its passive acceptance of relativism. Is it no coincidence that four months before the encyclical was promulgated, the arguably funniest sitcom on American television, Seinfeld, concluded its nine year run? Relying on a show about nothing while resorting to making fun of other people for its humor, Seinfeld cashed in on a culture slowly adrift, thinking individually and not as a community seeking the greater good. Among other detractors to faith and reason complementing each other to pursue the meanings of life, John Paul writes, are scientism "which leads to the impoverishment of human thought", pragmatism, which relies on practical considerations - especially dangerous in the political sphere, John Paul warns. While written in the waning years of the Clinton presidency and in the height of the president's impeachment, John Paul was looking ahead, to what would be transpiring 15 years later: "The scientistic mentality has succeeded in leading many to think that if something is technically possible it is therefore morally admissable."

For its insight, Fides et Ratio feels a little pruned, a little soft on its attacks. While effectively establishing the necessity for faith and reason especially in an increasingly secular world, it could have been more widespread on exposing the roadblocks to uniting faith and reason. Still, he acknowledges the difficult road ahead and leaves it up to us to better ourselves in preparing for combat. While chiefly written to bishops around the world, Fides et Ratio speaks to all who are concerned about humanity's direction; a prophecy in 1998 that saw dangers ahead for a world in the third millennium. It's as sobering as the time to come.
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on May 2, 2006
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. Truth, conversely, does not bind freedom, but is rather freedom's sole path. Any philosophy that denies the existence of truth is ultimately of no human value since it is absolutely at odds with lived experience. Human beings base their lives, their existence, upon what they know - whether through reason or divine revelation. If nothing can be know, as so much of modern philosophy contends, then our lives, our civilization, is groundless and doomed to fall. Truth, however, is inherently sought after by the human person and no matter what the philosophers say, man will not allow it to die. The Church for its part must insure that the articulation of revealed Christian truth proceeds within linguistic methods of reasoning, themselves based upon natural truth that in its own manner proceeds from God.
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on June 22, 2017
A good book for my library.
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on July 21, 2011
About a year ago, a Jesuit priest delivered a sermon on EWTN that denigrated philosophy, saying it was a ladder up which the mind climbed only to find nothing at the top. A longtime lover of philosophy, I sent EWTN an email in rebuttal but was told that this priest was not accepting any communications because of "the high-profile nature of his position." This pretty much sums up conservative Catholic opinion about modern philosophy, that it a futile dive into relativism and results in nothing but blasphemy.
Upon the beatification of John Paul II, I decided to paint his portrait and, in so doing, got inspired to look into his writings. I didn't expect to find anything profound, since he was said to be the Apostle of Conservatism, but the title of this Encyclical caught my eye. I started to read it online, and then decided to buy a copy. I was surprised to see that he actually criticized fideism, the view that theology should depend solely on faith and revelation.
Fideism is especially strong today in light of the demise of metaphysics and the lack of trust in reason and philosophy to resolve the radical question, "Why is there something rather than nothing?" But this question, so profoundly brought to light by Martin Heidegger (whom John Paul II does not recognize, but Benedict XVI does), is undeniable and unshakeable. It is not an evil desire that results from the Fall, but a gift from God that leads us toward faith and the conquest of despair.
Of significant interest is the claim that the Catholic Church does not espouse any particular philosophy or philosopher, yet St. Thomas Aquinas looms large in any philosophical stance the Magisterium takes. This is ironic in light of the fact that the medieval philosophers were as opposed to one another as Aristotle and Plato, realist and idealist. Though taught in Catholic colleges, this philosophical war is not promoted by the Church primarily because, if one digs deep into the writings of Aquinas, Augustine, and Bonaventure, one will find statements that refute the idea that human life begins at conception, i.e., God would never infuse a human soul into a thing that looks like a pollywog. Their concepts of the human soul differed greatly, which led to the inevitable Cartesian discourse on method, the Kantian critique of pure reason, and the Husserlian bracketing of phenomena.
Apologetic and officious, this Encyclical gives marching orders to Catholic bishops to promote soul-searching philosophy, as if it were at a standstill. It ignores the works of Emmanuel Levinas, Teilhard de Chardin, Jacques Derrida, and Jean-Luc Marion. Great philosophers are not molded, and neither are they born again. They just happen. This Encyclical gives Christian philosophers room to think without following the Summa Theologica. After all, Aquinas abandoned it also.
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on September 27, 2016
Wonderful book and excellent transaction!
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on May 9, 2016
One of St. Pope John Paul II's greatest and most important encyclicals!
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on November 28, 2011
This edition is economical but well done. The encyclical is a great example of John Paul II's thought: penetrating, faithful, yet worldly. It is the work of a man of deep and wide learning. I really enjoy it.

It is not light reading, but it is accessible to the non-specoialist, like me.
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on June 25, 2013
This little book gives clarity to a great many questions dealing with faith and reason. It is bautifully written with reason and logic wrapped up in an illuminating spirituality.

John Paul II was obviously a very learned man. Beyiond that, he was also an excellent communicator... much to my benefit.
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on May 16, 2014
This writing is a gift to the world. I recommend it without reservation. Maybe its just me but I had to read it slowly to catch full meaning.
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