A Word in Season
Faith-Knowledge: Truth Centered on an Encounter with God
Knowledge of truth is central to faith. So what is at the center of all truth? God!
As we continue to examine Pope Francis's encyclical, Lumen Fidei (LF), we come to chapter two, titled "Unless You Believe You Will Not Understand." Chapter highlights discuss the shortcomings of certain approaches to understanding truth, the relationship between truth and love, and faith and reason as it relates to science, and the need for faithful theology.
Faith is founded on the trustworthiness and fidelity of God, the secure source of all truth. Faith is not some kind of pie-in-the-sky, feel-good way of life. It is real; it is anchored in the eternal, unchanging, all-powerful God. While faith touches our emotions, it is not reducible to emotionalism; its truth is reasonable and knowable.
Faith without truth does not save, it does not provide a sure footing. It remains a beautiful story, the projection of our deep yearning for happiness, something capable of satisfying us to the extent that we are willing to deceive ourselves. Either that, or it is reduced to a lofty sentiment which brings consolation and cheer, yet remains prey to the vagaries of our spirit and the changing seasons, incapable of sustaining a steady journey through life. (LF 24)
Francis meets the crisis of truth in our age head-on. People seeking truth often get sidetracked with either of two reductionist views of truth: scientism and relativism. Scientism's perspective examines only measurable, and technologically quantifiable objective truths. Relativism takes subjective ideas as truths in themselves, yet these ideas are not necessary universal to all people. In which case a sense of truth might be one thing for one person, and a different thing for another. Both approaches toward truth are narrower than the full truth that is found in God.
Lumen Fidei upholds the deep bond that exists between faith and truth. The question of truth "deals with something prior to ourselves... the origin of all that is..." (LF 25) The encyclical asks: "Can Christian faith provide a service to the common good with regard to the right way of understanding truth?"
The implied "yes" introduces the concept of how love helps us to know truth. The encyclical suggests that, in God, love and truth are inseparable. This means as we come to know truth in its fullness we can discover the love of God. Similarly, as we come to know the love of God, we discover all truth.
The truth and love that God offers is universal for all people, not reducible to relativism. It is also a truth and love that contains the mysteries beyond the universe as well, and is therefore beyond the measurability scales of scientism.
The key, therefore, to the right way of knowing truth is through God. This is born of an encounter with this loving God, and faith in this God. As we have seen earlier in the encyclical, faith gives us "new eyes" to see and experience reality.
Faith transforms the whole person precisely to the extent that he or she becomes open to love. Through this blending of faith and love we come to see the kind of knowledge which faith entails, its power to convince and its ability to illumine our steps. Faith knows because it is tied to love, because love itself brings enlightenment. Faith's understanding is born when we receive the immense love of God which transforms us inwardly and enables us to see reality with new eyes. (LF, 26)
Pat Gohn is a Catholic writer, speaker, and the host of the Among Women Podcast and blog. Her book Blessed, Beautiful and Bodacious: Celebrating the Gift of Catholic Womanhood is published by Ave Maria Press. Subscribe to “A Word in Season” via email or RSS.