John Paul II on Why Faith and Reason go Together
Amid a Hostile Modernity, an Invitation to Dialogue
LONDON, OCT. 11, 2003 (Zenit) - Not all commentators are impressed by the 25th anniversary of John Paul II. The British daily Guardian's writer Hywel Williams, in an Oct. 4 article, described this papacy as one that "has been relentlessly hostile towards modernity, castigating all questioning as faithlessness." In addition to rejecting the Pope's ecumenical efforts as a sham, Williams argued that John Paul II has promoted a "peasant church" based on unquestioning obedience.
This sort of characterization of John Paul II as promoting a backward vision of the Church and its doctrine is not new, and is often accompanied by sneering references to an allegedly medieval Polish view of society. However, these writers usually show little signs of familiarity with the outpouring of John Paul II's magisterium in the last 25 years, or of his philosophical works that predate his papal election.
In fact, those who call themselves "liberal" or "progressive" often prefer to dismiss religion as inferior to their enlightened ideas. Dinesh D'Souza, writing in the Wall Street Journal's editorial page Oct. 6, drew attention to a recent claim by philosopher Daniel Dennett. The latter, writing in the New York Times, said that atheists now favor being referred to as "brights."
Counting himself among this group, Dennett explained that a "bright" rejects a supernatural view of the world. "Mr. Dennett," noted D'Souza, "like many atheists, is confident that atheists are simply brighter -- more rational -- than religious believers."
The superiority of rational inquiry was also upheld by British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. In a readers forum published Feb. 20 on the Web site of the British daily Independent, Dawkins affirmed his atheism. He contended that belief in God is something you can grow out of, just as children stop believing in Father Christmas, a.k.a. Santa Claus. Asked what he would do if after death he found himself facing up to St. Peter at the gates of heaven, Dawkins replied that he would admit his error: "But I was wrong for the right reasons. Those guys in there were right. But just look at their reasons."
The discipline of economics also provides ample scope for thinkers who find little time for religion's role in society, as Robert Nelson explained in a 2001 book. In "Economics as Religion," he lamented how the social sciences have for many become the religion of the modern age.
Economists, Nelson said, became the proselytizers of a form of secular religion that based its hopes on material progress. He noted that one of the founders of the influential University of Chicago economics department, Frank Knight, held that one of the main threats to freedom was the Christian religion.
A later generation of Chicago economists, including the 1992 Nobel Prize winner Gary Becker, dismiss as an illusion biblical teachings such as the Ten Commandments. Instead, they see economic self-interest as the key force driving human behavior. Nelson observed, however, that no one has been able to devise a value-neutral economics, and that whatever economic method is selected, there is bound to be a set of value assumptions behind it.
Complementary, not opposed
John Paul II probed the relationship between human reason and religious faith in the encyclical "Fides et Ratio," published five years ago last Sept. 14. In it the Pope observed how people are driven to discover the truth, in order "to understand themselves better and to advance in their own self-realization" (No. 4). He added: "On her part, the Church cannot but set great value upon reason's drive to attain goals which render people's lives ever more worthy" (No. 5).
But the Pope also defended the value of Christian Revelation, explaining that it is an "absolute truth, it summons human beings to be open to the transcendent, while respecting both their autonomy as creatures and their freedom" (No. 15). As such, it is not the product of human reason, but an anticipation of the ultimate vision of God.
John Paul II argues that faith and reason complement each other. Within the natural order of human intelligence we desire to know the truth about what surrounds us. "This is what has driven so many inquiries, especially in the scientific field, which in recent centuries have produced important results, leading to genuine progress for all humanity" (No. 25).
This process of inquiry does not remain only at a scientific level. People search for values that can be chosen and pursued in their lives, "because only true values can lead people to realize themselves fully, allowing them to be true to their nature." The encyclical continues: "The truth of these values is to be found not by turning in on oneself but by opening oneself to apprehend that truth even at levels which transcend the person" (No. 25).
This search extends to looking for a truth that explains the meaning of life, explained the Pope. And such a truth as this is attained not only through an individual's human reason, but also by trusting "other persons who can guarantee the authenticity and certainty of the truth itself" (No. 33). This trust in other people who can guarantee the truth for us is not only a practice common to the area of Revelation, notes John Paul II. "Who, for instance, could assess critically the countless scientific findings upon which modern life is based?" (No. 31).
Unfortunately, modern philosophy has tended to move further and further away from Christian Revelation, the Pope observed. Some forms of atheism regard "faith as alienating and damaging to the development of a full rationality" (No. 46). In the field of scientific research, "a positivistic mentality took hold which not only abandoned the Christian vision of the world, but more especially rejected every appeal to a metaphysical or moral vision."
As a result, the danger exists that priorities other than the well-being of the human person will occupy the center of scientific research. The Pope warned that technological progress runs the risk, not only of being guided by a market-based logic, but of succumbing "to the temptation of a quasi-divine power over nature and even over the human being."
John Paul II expressed his hope that modern reason and revealed truth can be reconciled. Revelation should not debase the discoveries and legitimate autonomy of reason. But, on the other hand, reason should be "conscious that it cannot set itself up as an absolute and exclusive value," and "must never lose its capacity to question and to be questioned" (No. 79).
Concluding the encyclical, John Paul II called upon everyone "to look more deeply at man, whom Christ has saved in the mystery of his love, and at the human being's unceasing search for truth and meaning" (No. 107). He called upon people to enter within the "horizon of truth," where it will be possible for "people to understand their freedom in its fullness and their call to know and love God as the supreme realization of their true self."
Far from proposing a peasant Church, John Paul II is inviting a dialogue between faith and modern thought that requires an openness to truth in its fullest extension.
https://www.catholic.org CA, US
Catholic Online - Publisher, 661 869-1000
Faith, Reason, Pope John Paul II,
More Catholic PRWire
Showing 1 - 50 of 4,718
A Recession Antidote
Monaco & The Vatican: Monaco's Grace Kelly Exhibit to Rome--A Review of Monegasque-Holy See Diplomatic History
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.
A Royal Betrayal: Catholic Monaco Liberalizes Abortion
Dna. Maria St.Catherine De Grace Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.
Embrace every moment as sacred time
Mary Regina Morrell
Letting go is simple wisdom with divine potential
Mary Regina Morrell
Father Lombardi's Address on Catholic Media
Pope's Words to Pontifical Latin American College
Prelate: Genetics Needs a Conscience
State Aid for Catholic Schools: Help or Hindrance?
Scorsese Planning Movie on Japanese Martyrs
2 Nuns Kidnapped in Kenya Set Free
Holy See-Israel Negotiation Moves Forward
Franchising to Evangelize
Catholics Decry Anti-Christianity in Israel
Pope and Gordon Brown Meet About Development Aid
Pontiff Backs Latin America's Continental Mission
Cardinal Warns Against Anti-Catholic Education
Three words to a deeper faith
Relections for Lent 2009
Wisdom lies beyond the surface of life
Mary Regina Morrell
World Food Program Director on Lent
Pope's Lenten Message for 2009
Keeping a Lid on Permissiveness
Glimpse of Me
The 3 stages of life
Sex and the Married Woman
A Catholic Woman Returns to the Church
Modernity & Morality
Just a Minute
Catholic identity ... triumphant reemergence!
Edging God Out
Burying a St. Joseph Statue
George Bush Speaks on Papal Visit
Sometimes moving forward means moving the canoe
Mary Regina Morrell
Easter... A Way of Life
Papal initiative...peace and harmony!
Proclaim the mysteries of the Resurrection!
Jerusalem Patriarch's Easter Message
Good Friday Sermon of Father Cantalamessa
Papal Address at the End of the Way of the Cross
Cardinal Zen's Meditations for Via Crucis
Interview With Vatican Aide on Jewish-Catholic Relations
Pope Benedict XVI On the Easter Triduum
by Catholic Online
- Stem cell study provides new hope for MS patients
- International study shows stem cells can stop MS and relieve symptoms ...
- Pope Francis explains a crucifix is not just for decoration
- Bl. John of Parma: Saint of the Day for Tuesday, March 20, 2018
- Daily Reading for Wednesday, March 21st, 2018 HD Video
- 'Living Lent': Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent - Day 35
- Daily Readings for Tuesday, March 20, 2018
- Daily Reading for Tuesday, March 20th, 2018 HD
- Daily Reading for Monday, March 19th, 2018 HD
- Daily Reading for Sunday, March 18th, 2018 HD
- The Earth is Dying: Human impact continues to shape the future of the planet HD
Learn about Catholic world
Inform - Inspire - Ignite
Catholic Online Saints
Your saints explained
Catholic Online Prayers
Prayers for every need
Catholic Online Bible
Complete bible online
Catholic Online News
Your news Catholic eye
Today's bible reading
Products and services we offer
Catholic Online Shopping
Catholic medals, gifts & books
The California Network
Inspiring streaming service
Learn the Catholic way
Teacher lesson plans & resources
Support Free Education
Tax deductible support Free education