Appeared in Summer/Autumn/Winter 2002, Vol. XXVII, No. 2, 3, 4
The encyclical letter, Fides et Ratio, explains the complementary nature of two forms of knowledge, philosophy and theology, based on their shared source of truth. Almost from the inception of Christianity this notion was sustained by noted Catholic thinkers. Among the authors that the encyclical credits for this understanding of faith and reason are Clement of Alexandria, Origen, the Cappadocian Fathers, Dyonisius, St. Augustine, St. Anselm, St. Albert the Great and St. Thomas Aquinas. The latter two recognized the rightful autonomy that philosophy has, but from the late medieval period onward the legitimate distinction between philosophy and theology became “more and more a fateful separation.” During the nineteenth century, the exaggerated rationalism of some thinkers made philosophy and natural sciences almost completely independent from the contents of faith. In turn some theologians reacted with fideism, a mistrust of reason and man’s natural capacity to know God.
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