On truth and knowing: Who speaks for man?
Gustavo Martin lives in Madrid, Spain. He got in touch because he attends Mountain View Church, which was started by Christian Associates. This essay was written originally for his quarterly newsletter Tertullian’s Table. I was keen to post it on OST partly because it offers a healthy perspective on the emerging church but also because it sets the debate within the broader framework of a Catholic-Evangelical dialogue. Andrew
Madrid September 14 2008, Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
I have for some time been in the habit of encouraging Evangelicals and Catholics to explore the best that each has to offer to the larger church. Catholics often find much of modern evangelical theology and biblical studies both challenging and refreshing. Conversely, to many contemporary evangelicals who first explore Veritatis Splendor, Deus Charitas Est, or Fides et Ratio, the ground feels strangely firm beneath their feet. I want to take time, once more, to engage in this exercise in Christian ecumenism, by taking a look at a topic of great importance to all XXI century Christians alike: The relationship of interdependence between faith and reason. This topic is particularly interesting in light of the prevailing canon of postmodernism which denies the very possibility of verifiable knowledge and truth, and the various approaches to engaging with postmodernism made by Catholics and evangelicals.
Ten years ago today, Pope John Paul II published his encyclical letter Fides et Ratio, Faith and Reason. Like a meteor landing in the middle of the ocean, its ripples are still being felt along the shores, and its impact and relevance sensed by Christians and non-Christians alike. Fides et Ratio is several things, but, perhaps most surprisingly, it’s a clarion call from the Bishop of Rome to philosophers everywhere to break free of their self imposed limitations and take up again with renewed energy and enthusiasm their high calling to philosophize. Michael Peters of the University of Illinois does well to warn his fellow academics: “[Fides et Ratio] ought not to be dismissed by philosophers too quickly or in summary fashion. The text is even handed…it is historically well informed and built on a genuine concern for humanity [my emphasis].”1
I would like to begin by selectively summarizing some of the key ideas in this document, ideas which I will later relate to topics such as the church´s witness in and to a post-modern culture, and to certain forms of the emergent church movement being promoted today by certain “post evangelicals.” My intention is to weave my selection of strands from the papal document into a brief but cogent lectionary of biblical epistemology, capable of providing Evangelicals much needed ammunition for their engagement with postmodernism, both outside and, especially, within the church. Rather than a detailed summary of the encyclical, therefore, I will highlight the points most relevant to the discussion that will follow. That said, the details selected for discussion should provide a fair and representative sampling of the papal document.