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The Phenomenology of Faith:

Fides et ratio


In 1998 Pope John Paul II issued the encyclical Fides et ratio, Faith and Reason. The encyclical begins with the image of the ‘human spirit’ flying like a bird on ‘two wings’, faith and reason. The ‘two wings’ of faith and reason enable the ‘human spirit’ to ‘ris[e] to the contemplation of truth’.1 Beginning from this image of the human spirit as a ‘bird’, the encyclical frequently uses the metaphor of the journey in search of truth. It says, ‘human knowledge is a journey which knows no rest’.2 Old Testament believers were strengthened on their ‘way to truth’ by their certainty that God created them ‘explorers’.3 Fides et ratio speaks of Journeying in Search of Truth along a ‘a path which the human being may choose to take, a path which begins with reason’s capacity to rise beyond what is contingent and set out towards the infinite’.4 The basic metaphor is of the human person as a seeker, flying through the heavens in pursuit of truth. It does not undermine this metaphor when John Paul claims that people only explore because they figure that one day they will find what they are looking for: ‘Only the sense that they can arrive at an answer leads them to take the first step.’5 Human life is a search driven by desire for someone to whom to confide our need for meaning. Human beings are wayfarers travelling through infinite realms, but their journey has a goal and terminus:

men and women men and women are on a journey of discovery which is humanly unstoppable - a search for the truth and a search for a person to whom they might entrust themselves ... In Jesus Christ, who is the Truth, faith recognizes the ultimate appeal to humanity, an appeal made in order than what we experience as desire and nostalgia may come to its fulfillment.6

Human beings have a homing device by which they navigate towards the object of their quest. This is the infinite desire for God. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]

  • [1] John Paul II, Fides et ratio (1998), § Introduction.
  • [2] Fides et ratio, §18.
  • [3] Fides et ratio, §21.
  • [4] Fides et ratio, §24. Italics in the original.
  • [5] Fides et ratio, §29.
  • [6] Fides et ratio, §33.
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