One of my heroes of the 20th century is Pope John Paul II. He has not only been a great leader for his church and his faith, but a significant statesman and one who provided critical political (yes, political in the philosophical sense) and moral conviction during the momentous final years of Soviet and Eastern European Communism. His 1994 book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, offers insight on the great theological concerns of our times on an accessible level: the existence of God, the dignity of man, pain and suffering, evil, and the relationship among the various Christian faiths and between Christianity and other faiths. Most of all it is about hope for all mankind in his motto, “be not afraid”. Recently, I completed a second reading of his September 1998 encyclical to the Catholic bishops, Fides et Ratio, on the relationship between faith and reason. Here is his magnum opus, a broad sweep of ninety pages of distilled wisdom from a life of philosophical and theological study. In it, he traces the historical relationships between and among faith and reason, philosophy, science, revelation, and empiricism, pointing out many of the false philosophical idols and sophistries along the way, many of which are with us today in the forms of the various postmodern ideologies. Finally, he calls for a return to true, speculative philosophy as “an inquiry that can help greatly to clarify the relationship between truth and life, between event and doctrinal truth, and above all between transcendent truth and humanly comprehensible language.” I have often thought that our intellectuals have failed us in leading us away from this inquiry over the past century. Hopefully, John Paul II has helped redirect us.
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