John Paul II’s Fides et Ratio how he understands the relationship between faith and reason.

As philosophers like Frederic Nietzsche have pointed out, Christianity tends to curtail the full meaning of human existence by making it devoid of spontaneity and adventure. In other words, faith in God is made incompatible with ‘seeking’ in its broadest sense. Faith, it would then seem, is merely an “illusion which blocks the path of a liberated humanity to its future.” (p.1) As a result, faith is referred to as darkness. Yet, an attempt was made to accommodate faith with the light of reason. Such room would open up in those areas and moments where the light of reason alone proved insufficient. Faith was thus understood “either as a leap in the dark, to be taken in the absence of light, driven by blind emotion, or as a subjective light, capable perhaps of warming the heart and bringing personal consolation…” (p.2)

With faith thus relegated to a role subordinate to that of reason, it’s value will have to be revived, for when faith fades away, true enlightenment is not possible. In contrast to the light of reason, the light of faith is “capable of illuminating every aspect of human existence. A light this powerful cannot come from us but from a more primordial source: in a word, it must come from God.” (p.2) Faith, in this context is an invocation on part of God to reveal his love toward us. It is upon this timeless, unconditional love that we gain support in our lives.

Even the Second Vatican Council and the institution it left behind is a council on faith. The Council, despite having originated from skepticism, resolved to “restore the primacy of God in Christ to the centre of our lives, both as a Church and as individuals.” (p.3) The Council thus showed how faith is quintessential for us to lead well-rounded lives. Moreover, faith accepts God’s and his disciples’ words as the foundation upon which build our spiritual life. Even in the event of the Resurrection, Christ proves himself to be a trustworthy witness, “deserving of faith and a solid support for our faith.” (p.7) Had he not kept his word and risen from the dead, it would have undermined faith in him. We thus see the value of evidence and reason even in the process of concretizing faith.

Finally, as we learn from prophetic texts, while we need knowledge, we equally need faith, without which “truth does not provide a sure footing…it merely remains a beautiful story, the projection of our deep yearning for happiness, something capable of satisfying us to the extent that we are willing to deceive ourselves.” (p.10)

Works Cited:

Lumen Fidei, Encyclical Letter To the Bishops Priests and Deacons Consecrated Persons and the Lay Faithful on Faith, Published by FrancisEncyclicals.

John Henry Newman, Discourse 10, Faith and Private Judgment, Newman Reader, Published by The National Institute for Newman Studies, 2007.