Magazine article The Christian Century

Faith and Reason Are Compatible, Says Pope

Magazine article The Christian Century

Faith and Reason Are Compatible, Says Pope

Article excerpt

In his 13th encyclical, released on the eve of his 20th anniversary as leader of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope John Paul II has called for the reconciliation of faith and reason, which, according to some, have been at odds in Western thought since the Enlightenment. "Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth," the 78-year-old pontiff writes in Fides et Ratio (faith and reason), the 36,000-word encyclical issued on October 15.

The document is sharply critical of Western philosophy for spreading a culture of despair and also for failing to address the fundamental questions of life, including "Who am I? Where did I come from and where am I going? Why does evil exist? What happens after this life?" Some observers have been surprised by the pope's positive view of reason in the encyclical, in which he accuses Western philosophy of being too "modest."

At a press conference on October 15 in Rome to launch the document, the archbishop of Lublin, Jozef Miroslaw Zycinski, explained that in the encyclical the pope is offering an alternative to New Age thinking. "A flight to facile irrationalism is today being put forward in the name of protest against the great ideas developed by the philosophical systems of the past," Archbishop Zycinski said. "Naive faith in UFOs, astrology and New Age [religion] is meant to replace the philosophical questions of the past about the meaning of life and value systems. Sympathizers with alternative cultural models suggest that the place which has been occupied until now by a `rational animal' should be taken by a brainless `homo ludens' who puts irony and happenings before reflection. …

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