Teachings for an Unbelieving World is a newly discovered work written by St. John Paul II—then Archbishop Karol Wojtyła of Kraków—in the years just after Vatican II. He uses St. Paul’s sermon to the people of Athens in Acts 17 as a framework for articulating the faith in a culture of skepticism and unbelief. These thirteen brief reflections provide compelling teaching for Catholics in today’s post-Christian world and give fresh insight into JPII’s pontificate. This is the first English-language publication of this important work.
St. John Paul II composed these thirteen reflections at a unique point of convergence in history—the closing of Vatican II in 1965 and the 1966 observance of one thousand years of Christianity in Poland.
Teachings for an Unbelieving World is an extended meditation on Acts 17 where Paul speaks to the cultural elite of Athens after he observed an altar of an unknown god in the city. Quoting from both the Bible and the documents of Vatican II, John Paul II draws timely wisdom from the apostle’s mission to bring the truth of the Gospel to a worldly culture of sophistication and disbelief, one not unlike our own.
The future pope reveals Paul’s memorable encounter as an enduring framework to boldly present the core truths of Catholic faith to those living under Poland’s communist regime. In so doing, JPII demonstrates how relevant Paul’s words are today and equips us to meet the challenges of proclaiming the faith in our times.
Teachings for an Unbelieving World affirms the continuity of Catholic faith about:
- humanity’s place in God’s creation;
- our search for meaning, truth, and freedom;
- addressing a culture of unbelief;
- the gift of redemption in Jesus Christ;
- the grace of the Holy Spirit;
- the role of the Church in the world;
- the power of the Eucharist;
- the redemptive and self-giving nature of human love; and
- the importance of prayer.
Trim size: 5.5 x 8.5 inches
Imprint: Ave Maria Press
Reflections on Paul’s Sermon at the Areopagus
Little wonder that St. John Paul II—then Archbishop Karol Wojtyła—who lived Vatican II as a Pentecostal experience summoning the Church to mission, should be fascinated by St. Paul and the Areopagus. And as pope, Wojtyła would put evangelism at the very center of his teaching, using the image of the Areopagus in the encyclical Redemptoris Missio (The Mission of the Redeemer) to illustrate the sectors of late-modern and post-modern society where the laity were particularly fit to be the agents of evangelization: the worlds of science and the media, the environmental and women’s movements, the worlds of politics, culture, and economics. All of these Mars Hills awaited disciples willing to propose the true God as the answer to the twenty-first century’s confusions about unknown gods or false gods. And it was John Paul II’s purpose to call everyone in the Church to be a missionary disciple.
Never Before Published in English
The English language edition of this work is presented in a way that attempts to balance the importance of its contents with the historical significance of the manuscript as a window into the mind and heart of its author during the fascinating period in which it was written. Therefore, words that were underlined by Archbishop Karol Wojtyła in the original handwritten Polish manuscript have been maintained here and are rendered in italics throughout the text.
Examples of the Reflections on Paul’s Sermon at the Areopagus:
An Unknown God
Religion is the expression of a search that goes beyond what is visible, toward an “Unknown God,” as the inscription on the Athenian altar demonstrates. For the Apostle Paul, this inscription was the proof of the Athenian's religious belief more than all the statues of the gods he had seen on other altars.
The Truth of the Resurrection
At the Areopagus of Athens, the apostle does not speak of the Cross, but concentrates on the Resurrection. The Resurrection, however, is inseparable from the Cross, just as the Cross—death on the Cross—is inseparable from the Resurrection. It is precisely the Resurrection that confirms the power of God and the wisdom of God expressed in the Cross of Christ.
Receive the Holy Spirit
The Church appeared to the world in her full identity. She was revealed as God’s “New Covenant” with humankind in the crucified and risen Christ: a Covenant being fulfilled in the power of the Holy Spirit. Peter’s words on the day of Pentecost testify that the apostles, “baptized in the Holy Spirit,” became witnesses of Christ and his Gospel in the world. Christ sent them to proclaim him not only in Jerusalem, in Judea, and in Samaria, but “to the ends of the earth.”
“This book is one of the great hidden treasures unearthed in our time.”
From the introduction by Scott Hahn
Catholic theologian, author, and speaker
“What a joy to read this newly discovered series of reflections on the famous passage in Acts where Paul speaks to the skeptical Greeks about the ‘unknown God.’ Each brief teaching is a gem, taking us ever-deeper into the mind of St. John Paul II and the mystery of salvation.”
Mary Ann Glendon
Professor of law at Harvard University
Former US ambassador to the Holy See
“Here, then, is the antidote to modernity’s tendency to dumb down the human person.”
From the foreword by George Weigel
Distinguished Senior Fellow and William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies
Ethics and Public Policy Center