Reflecting on ‘Fides et Ratio’

Updated August 15, 2019

“It is unthinkable that a search so deeply rooted in human nature would be completely vain and useless.”

— Saint John Paul II

In his encyclical, Fides et Ratio, Saint John Paul II talks about the search for truth. The basis for his claim is that this search is is human nature. The search for truth is among the the elements that make us human. “The capacity to search for truth and to pose questions itself implies the rudiments of a response,” he says (par. 29). The quest for truth is a must. He even says in paragraph 28 that we cannot ground ourselves in doubt, as that would create an existence threatened by fear and anxiety.

To call this situation “unthinkable” (par. 29) is to call it impossible. It is simply not possible for humans to not search for truth because, as John Paul II says, it is “so deeply rooted in human nature.” As humans, we believe truth is within our grasp. Otherwise we would not search for it. Why would we search for something we know to be wholly beyond us?

Many philosophers have argued there is no truth (Uduigwomen). The Pope did not believe this. He argued that “human beings would not even begin to search for something of which they knew nothing or for something which the thought was wholly beyond them. Only the sense that they can arrive at the answer leads them to take the first step” in pursuing the truth (par 29).

While some may believe the search for truth is merely wishful thinking; we can argue this and defend the Pope’s position by saying that the search for truth is what makes us human. It is human nature to search for something bigger. It is our nature to want more. To not search for an end (the truth) would negate our existence according to John Paul II. “The thirst for truth is so rooted in the human heart that to be obliged to ignore it would cast our existence into jeopardy.”

This is something which sets Catholics apart from fundamentalists. Catholics (and many other logical Christians) seek truth, understanding, and reason in their faithnot following blindly.

“Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth.”

Saint John Paul II

Finding the truth we seek is accomplished by using the tools of faith and reason. Understanding why one believes what one believes, why a religion teaches what it does, is the path to a grounded, unwavering faith. Blind faith is easily destroyed when presented with logic and reason.

Works Cited

Saint John Paul II. Fides et Ratio. vatican.va. 2005.

Uduigwomen, Andrew. “Philosophical Objections to the Knowability of Truth: Answering Postmodernism.” quodlibet.net. Quodlibet Journal. Jun 2005. Web.

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