Faith and Theology EssayThe Significance, Meaning and Role of Faith and Theology
In this paper I will compare Augustine and John Paul II reflections on the meaning of faith and theology. I will carefully investigate upon their interpretations and opinions regarding the significance and role of Scripture, Tradition and reason. I will also express my own opinion regarding assigned theme.
Augustine is said to be an influential Latin writer, was converted to Christianity, and was the Bishop of Hippo. Augustine wrote On Christian Doctrine where he expressed his ideas and argued for the appropriation of classical culture. He wrote that Christian religion should take and accept things from existing traditions. He gave an example of Egypt people who were pagans, but still they possessed gold and silver, which God gave to them. And Christians have taken it for the better use by the command of God.
So, Augustine inspired Christians to take not only material things from Egyptians, but also use their developed tradition in the right way. He emphasized on the fact that pagan tradition was not totally incompatible with Christian tradition and some truths can be properly used for the proclamation of the gospel. It would have been the task of Christians to accept the tradition and then just to separate things that would have corresponded to their beliefs and claims. Augustine wrote that wisdom as the general notion is eternal and common and each tradition have the possibility to use it and interpret in its own way. Augustine gave an example of Moses, a righteous Christian and a servant of God, who accepted and learned the wisdom of pagan Egyptians.
John Paul II was our contemporary (1920-2005), who wrote Fides and Ratio. In his work he paid very much attention to the relation of Scripture and knowledge people get from it, as well as faith and reason. He compared knowledge conferred by faith with the knowledge conferred by reason and indicates that these two notions are very much connected. John Paul II says that Biblical texts should be read without any prejudices, and not through the frame of reference of the particular tradition, as only in this case it will be possible to distinguish that faith is common and universal, it is the same in Israel and in Egypt and people should be keen enough to see that and to absorb cultural heritage and the knowledge upon the civilizations that do not exist any more. He was sure that knowledge of faith and reason are united. People obtain information regarding what is going on in the world, about historical events, then process and analyze, but John Paul II claims that without faith they are not able to accept it in the right way, it appears to be ‘foreign to the process’. Faith is the thing that connects people with the Creator of everything that is described and what can be analyzed and observed, and without faith there is no sense in everything happening. John Paul II wrote: “Faith sharpens the inner eye, opening the mind to discover in the flux of events the workings of Provenance”. He also wrote that a person can decide what way to go and what decision to make, using the reason, but it is God who decides and directs the man. And that very direction is faith that should be in man’s heart, it is a knowledge about God and everything in the world that cannot be described in words, it is either exists or not. And there cannot be any competition between reason and faith and the kind of knowledge they provide, as they are totally different and still inseparable. A man is not a man without reason, as well he cannot be full without faith. Faith is the mean of communication with God, and reason is the one of with what God had created on the Earth.
So, after thorough examination of readings of both authors it becomes obvious that John Paul II uses more human psychology and investigation in it, when Augustine is more abstract about themes of knowledge and its usage in traditions. John Paul II writes more personal, to each man in particular to decide how to relate to reason and faith, while Augustine writes to the whole nation of Christians to use best from existing traditions, not to reject things without exploration for the adequate usage. Augustine uses more a kind of “cultural approach” for delivering his ideas regarding knowledge and John Paul II speaks individually to each man.
Even though approaches and audiences of John Paul II and Augustine are different, as well as the time they lived and wrote, they have common general idea concerning wisdom and knowledge- things that as simple information can be interpreted in millions of ways, but with the interpretation their true sense would not be changed. This true sense is probably faith, that is in each person’s heart and which directs the kind of interpretation or tradition people choose for themselves. There is no right or wrong tradition or interpretation, they are all equal, and it is just the man’s choice what to believe.
I totally agree with both authors. In my life faith is the most important things. It helps me to distinguish between what is right or wrong for me, as well as to accept worthily everything what is going on, as I understand that it was all created by God and cannot do harm to me and to my spirit. Bible as the historical scripture had always been interesting to me not just from the stand point of my religion and developed traditions, but also as the only source to the information I am not able to get somewhere else. When I am searching for knowledge I try to use the primary sources in order to be able to perceive it from my faith, or when it is not possible, as Bible was written by people and it is their interpretation of what God told them, I still try to choose sources that were written by righteous people, who thought and wrote critically and independently. I am for freedom of faith, intelligibility of knowledge and true wisdom!