Authentic evangelization and dialogue demand assent to the existence of Truth

From Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical Fides et Ratio (1984):

As an understanding of Revelation, theology has always had to respond in different historical moments to the demands of different cultures, in order then to mediate the content of faith to those cultures in a coherent and conceptually clear way. Today, too, theology faces a dual task. On the one hand, it must be increasingly committed to the task entrusted to it by the Second Vatican Council, the task of renewing its specific methods in order to serve evangelization more effectively. How can we fail to recall in this regard the words of Pope John XXIII at the opening of the Council? He said then: “In line with the keen expectation of those who sincerely love the Christian, Catholic and apostolic religion, this doctrine must be known more widely and deeply, and souls must be instructed and formed in it more completely; and this certain and unchangeable doctrine, always to be faithfully respected, must be understood more profoundly and presented in a way which meets the needs of our time”.107

On the other hand, theology must look to the ultimate truth which Revelation entrusts to it, never content to stop short of that goal. Theologians should remember that their work corresponds “to a dynamism found in the faith itself” and that the proper object of their enquiry is “the Truth which is the living God and his plan for salvation revealed in Jesus Christ”.108 This task, which is theology’s prime concern, challenges philosophy as well. The array of problems which today need to be tackled demands a joint effort—approached, it is true, with different methods—so that the truth may once again be known and expressed. The Truth, which is Christ, imposes itself as an all-embracing authority which holds out to theology and philosophy alike the prospect of support, stimulation and increase (cf. Eph 4:15).

To believe it possible to know a universally valid truth is in no way to encourage intolerance; on the contrary, it is the essential condition for sincere and authentic dialogue between persons. On this basis alone is it possible to overcome divisions and to journey together towards full truth, walking those paths known only to the Spirit of the Risen Lord.109 I wish at this point to indicate the specific form which the call to unity now takes, given the current tasks of theology.

107 Address at the Opening of the Council (11 October 1962): Acta Apostolicæ Sedis [AAS] 54 ( 1962), 792.
108 Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian Donum Veritatis (24 May 1990), 7-8: AAS 82 (1990), 1552-1553.
109 In the Encyclical Letter Dominum et Vivificantem, commenting on Jn 16:12-13, I wrote: “Jesus presents the Comforter, the Spirit of truth, as the one who ‘will teach’ and ‘bring to remembrance’, as the one who ‘will bear witness’ to him. Now he says: ‘he will guide you into all the truth’. This ‘guiding into all the truth’, referring to what the Apostles ‘cannot bear now’, is necessarily connected with Christ’s self-emptying through his Passion and Death on the Cross, which, when he spoke these words, was just about to happen. Later however it becomes clear hat this ‘guiding into all the truth’ is connected not only with the scandalum Crucis, but also with everything that Christ ‘did and taught’ (Acts 1:1). For the mysterium Christi taken as a whole demands faith, since it is faith that adequately introduces man into the reality of the revealed mystery. The ‘guiding into all the truth’ is therefore achieved in faith and through faith: and this is the work of the Spirit of truth and the result of his action in man. Here the Holy Spirit is to be man’s supreme guide and the light of the human spirit”: No. 6: AAS 78 (1986), 815-816.

Fides et Ratio 92

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