BRO JOBY PULICKAKUNNEL
Faith and Philosophy: References to the Major Philosophical Trends of Lumen Fidei
Dear scholars, who have been enlightened by the light of faith,
Have you ever thought what a philosopher has to do with Lumen Fidei, an encyclical letter on faith? Through our continuous deliberation on this encyclical letter, we understand the necessity a philosophical evaluation of this letter.
What is the philosophical gist of this encyclical letter? We can say that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI measures the light of autonomous reason against the light of faith. He wants to protect the Christian dogmas from the challenges of the modern thinking patterns like extreme relativism, subjectivism, pragmatism and the technological interpretation of truth.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI seems to be an Augustinian and thus reaches up to the Platonic notion of remembrance of truth. Hellenistic philosophical trend is visible in this encyclical letter. He sustains the objective validity of the Christian dogmas. “In 1969 he wrote that, ‘the organ by which God can be seen cannot be a non historical ratio naturalis (natural reason), which just does not exist, but only the ratio pura i.e. purificata (purified reason) or, as Augustine expresses it echoing the gospel, the cor purum (pure heart).’’’He explained that the faith comes from love, which purifies the sight. He tries to combine the faith with reason, reasonably.
Faith is not a private matter; but it is necessarily a social or ecclesial one. The subjective truth cannot overcome the objective absolute truth. For him, the faith illumines the reason and the relationship of faith and reason is intrinsic. Criticism of the idea of reason as an independent and sovereign act of the human is the central theme of this letter. Love and reason are the twin pillars of the reality. Reason and faith converge in the heart through the Divine Love. Love is the wisdom and it is the source of faith. Lumen Fidei also emphasizes the importance of the faith and memory relationship.
Even if it is so, there exist many philosophical criticisms against this encyclical letter. This letter is accused of its idealization of church. The people who criticize the letter say that it presupposes an ideal world, where the common people cannot reach. Some other people oppose the letter accusing that it proclaims a Eurocentric Philosophy. They say that this letter has nothing to do with the eastern world and its traditional philosophical background. For some, the letter seems to have a pessimistic approach towards the postmodern tendencies of the society. A contextual study of this letter is needed to examine these remarks, which are beyond our objective in this short paper.
How should we assess the philosophical trends in this letter? The objective validity and the credibility of the dogmas cannot be questioned. But, the interpretative approach towards them can be evaluated. It seems that the Pope uses the western analytical method to introduce his ideas on faith and reason. His arguments are indebted to the Hellenistic Philosophy, especially Plato. The Neo-platonian thinking pattern of St. Augustine dominates in the second chapter of this encyclical letter. In our study of the encyclical letter, we find that faith and reason are introduced as separate. Then we see that the Pope has tried to bring them together and affirms that these are inseparable.
In Lumen Fidei, the Pope tries to interpret the Biblical text about faith in terms of the Western philosophical system. Readers may confront a natural communication problem between the synthetic and analytical ways of interpretation of the Hebrew and Greek thought. For the people of east faith and reason are intertwined. They cannot say which of the two, faith or reason, comes first. The knowledge leads to the faith and the faith leads to the knowledge and so on. (FAITH KNOWLEDGE). When Pope John Paul II wrote Fides et Ratio, he appealed to the Christians in Asia, especially India, to use their rich philosophical and religious heritage to interpret the Christian faith (No.72). Such an openness is not found in the Lumen Fidei. But, that approach is not ruled out by the encyclical letter. The contextualization of Lumen Fidei for Indian Christians should mean, taking up this task and interpreting Christian faith in the light of the rich Indian philosophical heritage.
How can we, the Christians in India make an interpretation of Christian faith in terms of the philosophical and religious background of our country?