Skip to comments.[Ecumenical] CCC Paragraphs 26-49 (The Desire for God)
Posted on 06/20/2008 7:13:24 PM PDT by markomalley
THE PROFESSION OF FAITH
"I BELIEVE" - "WE BELIEVE"
26 We begin our profession of faith by saying: "I believe" or "We believe". Before expounding the Church's faith, as confessed in the Creed, celebrated in the liturgy and lived in observance of God's commandments and in prayer, we must first ask what "to believe" means. Faith is man's response to God, who reveals himself and gives himself to man, at the same time bringing man a superabundant light as he searches for the ultimate meaning of his life. Thus we shall consider first that search (Chapter One), then the divine Revelation by which God comes to meet man (Chapter Two), and finally the response of faith (Chapter Three).
MAN'S CAPACITY FOR GOD
I. THE DESIRE FOR GOD
27 The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for:
28 In many ways, throughout history down to the present day, men have given expression to their quest for God in their religious beliefs and behavior: in their prayers, sacrifices, rituals, meditations, and so forth. These forms of religious expression, despite the ambiguities they often bring with them, are so universal that one may well call man a religious being:
29 But this "intimate and vital bond of man to God" (GS 19 § 1) can be forgotten, overlooked, or even explicitly rejected by man.3 Such attitudes can have different causes: revolt against evil in the world; religious ignorance or indifference; the cares and riches of this world; the scandal of bad example on the part of believers; currents of thought hostile to religion; finally, that attitude of sinful man which makes him hide from God out of fear and flee his call.4
30 "Let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice."5 Although man can forget God or reject him, He never ceases to call every man to seek him, so as to find life and happiness. But this search for God demands of man every effort of intellect, a sound will, "an upright heart", as well as the witness of others who teach him to seek God.
II. WAYS OF COMING TO KNOW GOD
31 Created in God's image and called to know and love him, the person who seeks God discovers certain ways of coming to know him. These are also called proofs for the existence of God, not in the sense of proofs in the natural sciences, but rather in the sense of "converging and convincing arguments", which allow us to attain certainty about the truth. These "ways" of approaching God from creation have a twofold point of departure: the physical world, and the human person.
32 The world: starting from movement, becoming, contingency, and the world's order and beauty, one can come to a knowledge of God as the origin and the end of the universe.
And St. Augustine issues this challenge: Question the beauty of the earth, question the beauty of the sea, question the beauty of the air distending and diffusing itself, question the beauty of the sky. . . question all these realities. All respond: "See, we are beautiful." Their beauty is a profession [confessio]. These beauties are subject to change. Who made them if not the Beautiful One [Pulcher] who is not subject to change?8
33 The human person: with his openness to truth and beauty, his sense of moral goodness, his freedom and the voice of his conscience, with his longings for the infinite and for happiness, man questions himself about God's existence. In all this he discerns signs of his spiritual soul. The soul, the "seed of eternity we bear in ourselves, irreducible to the merely material",9 can have its origin only in God.
34 The world, and man, attest that they contain within themselves neither their first principle nor their final end, but rather that they participate in Being itself, which alone is without origin or end. Thus, in different ways, man can come to know that there exists a reality which is the first cause and final end of all things, a reality "that everyone calls God".10
35 Man's faculties make him capable of coming to a knowledge of the existence of a personal God. But for man to be able to enter into real intimacy with him, God willed both to reveal himself to man and to give him the grace of being able to welcome this revelation in faith. The proofs of God's existence, however, can predispose one to faith and help one to see that faith is not opposed to reason.
III. THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD ACCORDING TO THE CHURCH
36 "Our holy mother, the Church, holds and teaches that God, the first principle and last end of all things, can be known with certainty from the created world by the natural light of human reason."11 Without this capacity, man would not be able to welcome God's revelation. Man has this capacity because he is created "in the image of God".12
37 In the historical conditions in which he finds himself, however, man experiences many difficulties in coming to know God by the light of reason alone:
38 This is why man stands in need of being enlightened by God's revelation, not only about those things that exceed his understanding, but also "about those religious and moral truths which of themselves are not beyond the grasp of human reason, so that even in the present condition of the human race, they can be known by all men with ease, with firm certainty and with no admixture of error". 14
IV. HOW CAN WE SPEAK ABOUT GOD?
39 In defending the ability of human reason to know God, the Church is expressing her confidence in the possibility of speaking about him to all men and with all men, and therefore of dialogue with other religions, with philosophy and science, as well as with unbelievers and atheists.
40 Since our knowledge of God is limited, our language about him is equally so. We can name God only by taking creatures as our starting point, and in accordance with our limited human ways of knowing and thinking.
41 All creatures bear a certain resemblance to God, most especially man, created in the image and likeness of God. The manifold perfections of creatures - their truth, their goodness, their beauty all reflect the infinite perfection of God. Consequently we can name God by taking his creatures" perfections as our starting point, "for from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator".15
42 God transcends all creatures. We must therefore continually purify our language of everything in it that is limited, image-bound or imperfect, if we are not to confuse our image of God--"the inexpressible, the incomprehensible, the invisible, the ungraspable"--with our human representations.16 Our human words always fall short of the mystery of God.
43 Admittedly, in speaking about God like this, our language is using human modes of expression; nevertheless it really does attain to God himself, though unable to express him in his infinite simplicity. Likewise, we must recall that "between Creator and creature no similitude can be expressed without implying an even greater dissimilitude";17 and that "concerning God, we cannot grasp what he is, but only what he is not, and how other beings stand in relation to him."18
44 Man is by nature and vocation a religious being. Coming from God, going toward God, man lives a fully human life only if he freely lives by his bond with God.
45 Man is made to live in communion with God in whom he finds happiness: When I am completely united to you, there will be no more sorrow or trials; entirely full of you, my life will be complete (St. Augustine, Conf. 10, 28, 39: PL 32, 795}.
46 When he listens to the message of creation and to the voice of conscience, man can arrive at certainty about the existence of God, the cause and the end of everything.
47 The Church teaches that the one true God, our Creator and Lord, can be known with certainty from his works, by the natural light of human reason (cf. Vatican Council I, can. 2 § 1: DS 3026),
48 We really can name God, starting from the manifold perfections of his creatures, which are likenesses of the infinitely perfect God, even if our limited language cannot exhaust the mystery.
49 Without the Creator, the creature vanishes (GS 36). This is the reason why believers know that the love of Christ urges them to bring the light of the living God to those who do not know him or who reject him.
1 Vatican Council II, GS 19 § 1.
For GS quote, see "works cited," below
2 Acts 17:26-28.
Acts 17:26 And he made from one every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation, 27 that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him. Yet he is not far from each one of us, 28 for `In him we live and move and have our being'; as even some of your poets have said, `For we are indeed his offspring.'
3 GS 19 § 1.
For GS quote, see "works cited," below
4 Cf. GS 19-21; Mt 13:22; Gen 3:8-10; Jon 1:3.
For GS quote, see "works cited," below
Mt 13:22 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is he who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the delight in riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.
Gen 3:8-10 8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, "Where are you?" 10 And he said, "I heard the sound of thee in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself."
Jon 1:3 3 But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD.
5 Ps 105:3.
Ps 105:3 3 Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!
6 St. Augustine, Conf. 1,1,1:PL 32,659-661.
See works cited, below
7 Rom 1:19-20; cf. Acts 14:15,17; 17:27-28; Wis 13:1-9.
Rom 1:19-20 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse;
Acts 14:15-175 "Men, why are you doing this? We also are men, of like nature with you, and bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. 16 In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways; 17 yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good and gave you from heaven rains and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness."
Acts 17:27-2827 that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him. Yet he is not far from each one of us, 28 for `In him we live and move and have our being'; as even some of your poets have said, `For we are indeed his offspring.'
Wis 13:1-9 1 For all men who were ignorant of God were foolish by nature; and they were unable from the good things that are seen to know him who exists, nor did they recognize the craftsman while paying heed to his works; 2 but they supposed that either fire or wind or swift air, or the circle of the stars, or turbulent water, or the luminaries of heaven were the gods that rule the world. 3 If through delight in the beauty of these things men assumed them to be gods, let them know how much better than these is their Lord, for the author of beauty created them. 4 And if men were amazed at their power and working, let them perceive from them how much more powerful is he who formed them. 5 For from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator. 6 Yet these men are little to be blamed, for perhaps they go astray while seeking God and desiring to find him. 7 For as they live among his works they keep searching, and they trust in what they see, because the things that are seen are beautiful. 8 Yet again, not even they are to be excused; 9 for if they had the power to know so much that they could investigate the world, how did they fail to find sooner the Lord of these things?
8 St. Augustine, Sermo 241, 2:PL 38,1134.
2. How did they know it? By its works. Question the beauty of the ground, the beauty of the sea, the beauty of this vast and immense (278) atmosphere, the beauty of the sky; question the harmony which reigns among the stars, the sun which clarifies the day by its rays, the moon which decreases darkness of; the night which succeeds. at the day, the animals which are driven in water, those which live on the ground and those which flies in the airs, as well of hearts as one does not see and so much bodies which strike the glances, so much visible beings which it is necessary to direct and so much of invisible beings which direct them; question all that. All does not answer it: Looks at, admires our beauty? Their beauty even is an answer. However, which made these changeable beauties, if not immutable Beauty?
So also being pressed on the man himself to rise until the knowledge of the Creator of the whole universe, they examined the two parts its being, the body and the heart. It was to examine what they carried, the body that they saw, the heart that they did not see and without which however it was impossible for them to see the body. The eye undoubtedly for was had the body of the sight, but with the inside there was something to look by this opening. Also this house falls in ruins when that left there which lives it, these members dissolve when that left which directs them, and it is because the body falls thus in decomposition which it takes the name of corpse: cadit, corpse. But what? Aren't the eyes yet intact? They are opened, and yet they do not see. Here are ears, more nobody to hear; here is a language, more musician to put it moving. The philosophers thus questioned these two parts of themselves, the visible body and the invisible heart; and they noted that the invisible part overrides the visible part, that the heart which is concealed with the glances is better than the body which strikes the glance. They saw, they probed, they appreciated these two substances and moreover they recognized that both changeable are considered in humanity. There what of changes doesn't print with the body succession of the ages, the disease, food, the re-establishment and exhaustion, the life and death? As for the quite higher and admired heart recognized by them very invisible that it was, it have also surprised in it undeniable changes, because it goes from wanting with not-wanting, of science to ignorance, the memory to the lapse of memory, fear to the audacity, wisdom to the madness. Since it also is changeable, one was not to stop with it; also these philosophers passed in addition to seeking what is immutable.
(Note: the above is a computer translation from a Swiss (French) location. If somebody has a good English translation, please post it)
9 GS 18 § 1; cf. 14 § 2.
For GS quote, see "works cited," below
10 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh I,2,3.
See "Works Cited" for these extracts
11 Vatican Council I, Dei Filius 2:DS 3004; cf. 3026; Vatican Council II, Dei Verbum 6.
See "Works Cited" for these extracts
12 Cf. Gen 1:27.
Gen 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
13 Pius XII, Humani generis, 561:DS 3875.
See "Works Cited" for these extracts
14 Pius XII, Humani generis, 561:DS 3876; cf. Dei Filius 2:DS 3005; DV 6; St. Thomas Aquinas, STh I,1,1.
See "Works Cited" for these extracts
15 Wis 13:5.
Wis 13:5 5 For from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator.
16 Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, Anaphora.
A portion of the Anaphora:
It is proper and just to sing hymns to You, to bless You, to praise You, to thank You, to worship You in every place of Your kingdom; for You are God ineffable inconceivable, invisible, incomprehensible, ever existing, yet ever the same, You, and Your only-begotten Son, and Your Holy Spirit; You brought us forth from non-existence into being, and raised us up again when we had fallen, and left nothing undone, until You brought us to heaven and bestowed upon us Your future kingdom. For all this we give thanks to You, and to Your only-begotten Son, and to Your Holy Spirit, for all that we know and that we do not know, the manifest and the hidden benefits bestowed upon us. We thank You also for this ministry, which You have willed to accept from our hands, even though there stand before You thousands of archangels, myriads of angels, Cherubim and Seraphim, six winged, many-eyed, soaring aloft on their wings.
17 Lateran Council IV:DS 806.
Chap.2.The Error of Abbot Joachim *
431 We condemn, therefore, and we disapprove of the treatise or tract which Abbot Joachim published against Master Peter Lombard on the unity or essence of the Trinity, calling him heretical and senseless because in hisSentenceshe said: "Since it is a most excellent reality-the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and it is not generating, nor generated, nor proceeding." * Thus he (Joachim) declares that Peter Lombard implies not so much a Trinity as a quaternity in God, namely the three Persons and that common essence as a fourth, openly protesting that there is no matter which is the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; neither is there essence, nor substance, nor nature, although he concedes that the Father, and the Son. and the Holy Spirit are one essence, one substance, and one nature. But he says that unity of this kind is not true and proper, but is something collective and similar, as many men are called one people, and many faithful, one Church, according to the following: "Of the multitude believing there was one heart and one mind" [ Acts 4:32]; and, "He who clings to God is one spirit with him" [ 1 Cor. 6:17]; likewise, "He who . . . plants and he who waters are one" [ 1 Cor. 3:8]; and, "we are all one body in Christ" [ Rom. 12:5]; again in the Book of Kings [Ruth]: "My people and your people are one" [Ruth 1:16]. Moreover, to add to this opinion of his he brings the following most powerful expression, that Christ spoke in the Gospel about the faithful: "I will, Father, that they are one in us as we are one, so that they may be perfected in unity" [John 17:22 f.]. For not, (as he says), are the faithful of Christ one, that is, a certain one matter which is common to all, but in this way are they one, that is, one Church because of the unity of the Catholic faith; and finally one kingdom, because of the union of indissoluble love, as in the canonical letter of John the Apostle we read: "For there are three that give testimony in heaven, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one" [ 1 John 5:7], and immediately is added: "And there are three who give testimony on earth, the Spirit, the water, and the blood, and these three are one" [ 1 John 5:8 ], as is found in certain texts.
432 We, however, with the approval of the sacred Council, believe and confess with Peter Lombard that there exists a most excellent reality, incomprehensible indeed and ineffable, which truly is the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, at the same time three Persons, and anyone of the same individually; and so in God there is Trinity only, not a quaternity; because any one of the three Persons is that reality, namely, substance, essence or divine nature, which alone is the beginning of all things, beyond which nothing else can be found, and that reality is not generating, nor generated, nor proceeding, but it is the Father who generates, the Son who is generated, and the Holy Spirit who proceeds, so that distinctions are in Persons and unity in nature. Therefore, although "one is the Father, another the Son, and another the Holy Spirit, yet they are not different" * but what is the Father is the Son and the Holy Spirit entirely the same, so that according to the true and Catholic Faith they are believed to be consubstantial. For the Father from eternity by generating the Son gave His substance to Him according to which He Himself testifies: "That which the Father has given to me is greater than all things" [John 10:29]. But it cannot be said that He (the Father) has given a part of His substance to Him (the Son), and retained a part for Himself, since the substance of the Father is indivisible, namely, simple. But neither can it be said that the Father has transferred His substance to the Son in generating, as if He had given that to the Son which he did not retain for Himself; otherwise the substance would have ceased to exist. It is clear, therefore, that the Son in being born without any diminution received the substance of the Father, and thus the Father and the Son have the same substance, and so this same reality is the Father and the Son and also the Holy Spirit proceeding from both. But when Truth prays to the Father for His faithful saying: "I will that they may be one in us, as we also are one" [ John 17:22]: this word "one" indeed is accepted for the faithful in such a way that a union of charity in grace is understood, for the divine Persons in such a way that a unity of identity in nature is considered, as elsewhere Truth says: "Be . . . perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect" [Matt. 5:48 ], as if He said more clearly, "Be perfect" in the perfection of grace "as your heavenly Father is perfect" in the perfection of grace, that is, each in his own manner, because between the Creator and the creature so great a likeness cannot be noted without the necessity of noting a greater dissimilarity between them. If anyone, therefore, shall presume to defend or approve the opinion or doctrine of the above mentioned Joachim, let him be refuted as a heretic by all.
433 Yet on this account we do not wish to detract from the monastery in Florence (whose founder is Joachim himself), since both the institution there is regular and the observance salutary, especially since Joachim himself has ordered all his writings to be assigned to us, to be approved or even corrected by the judgment of the Apostolic See, dictating a letter which he signed with his own hand in which he firmly confesses that he holds that Faith which the Roman Church, which (the Lord disposing) is the mother and master of all the faithful, holds. We reprove also and we condemn that very perverse dogma of the impious Almaricus, whose mind the father of lies has so blinded that his doctrine must be considered not so heretical as insane.
18 St. Thomas Aquinas, SCG I,30.
THE NAMES THAT CAN BE PREDICATED OF GOD
 From what we have said we can further consider what it is possible to say or not to say of God, what is said of Him alone, and also what is said of Him and other things together.
 Since it is possible to find in God every perfection of creatures, but in another and more eminent way, whatever names unqualifiedly designate a perfection without defect are predicated of God and of other things: for example, goodness, wisdom, being, and the like. But when any name expresses such perfections along with a mode that is proper to a creature, it can be said of God only according to likeness and metaphor. According to metaphor, what belongs to one thing is transferred to another, as when we say that a man is a stone because of the hardness of his intellect. Such names are used to designate the species of a created thing, for example, man and stone, for to each species belongs its own mode of perfection and being. The same is true of whatever names designate the properties of things, which are caused by the proper principles of their species. Hence, they can be said of God only metaphorically. But the names that express such perfections along with the mode of supereminence with which they belong to God are said of God alone. Such names are the highest good, the first being, and the like.
 I have said that some of the aforementioned names signify a perfection without defect. This is true with reference to that which the name was imposed to signify; for as to the mode of signification, every name is defective. For by means of a name we express things in the way in which the intellect conceives them. For our intellect, taking the origin of its knowledge from the senses, does not transcend the mode which is found in sensible things, in which the form and the subject of the form are not identical owing to the composition of form and matter. Now, a simple form is indeed found among such things, but one that is imperfect because it is not subsisting; on the other hand, though a subsisting subject of a form is found among sensible things, it is not simple but rather concreted. Whatever our intellect signifies as subsisting, therefore, it signifies in concretion; but what it signifies as simple, it signifies, not as that which is, but as that by which something is. As a result, with reference to the mode of signification there is in every name that we use an imperfection, which does not befit God, even though the thing signified in some eminent way does befit God. This is clear in the name goodness and good. For goodness has signification as something not subsisting, while good has signification as something concreted. And so with reference to the mode of signification no name is fittingly applied to God; this is done only with reference to that which the name has been imposed to signify. Such names, therefore, as Dionysius teaches [De divinis nominibus I, 5, De caelesti hierarchia II, 3], can be both affirmed and denied of God. They can be affirmed because of the meaning of the name; they can be denied because of the mode of signification.
 Now, the mode of supereminence in which the abovementioned perfections are found in God can be signified by names used by us only through negation, as when we say that God is eternal or infinite, or also through a relation of God to other things, as when He is called the first cause or the highest good. For we cannot grasp what God is, but only what He is not and how other things are related to Him, as is clear from what we said above.
Vatican Council II, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes)
18. It is in the face of death that the riddle a human existence grows most acute. Not only is man tormented by pain and by the advancing deterioration of his body, but even more so by a dread of perpetual extinction. He rightly follows the intuition of his heart when he abhors and repudiates the utter ruin and total disappearance of his own person. He rebels against death because he bears in himself an eternal seed which cannot be reduced to sheer matter. All the endeavors of technology, though useful in the extreme, cannot calm his anxiety; for prolongation of biological life is unable to satisfy that desire for higher life which is inescapably lodged in his breast.
Although the mystery of death utterly beggars the imagination, the Church has been taught by divine revelation and firmly teaches that man has been created by God for a blissful purpose beyond the reach of earthly misery. In addition, that bodily death from which man would have been immune had he not sinned(14) will be vanquished, according to the Christian faith, when man who was ruined by his own doing is restored to wholeness by an almighty and merciful Saviour. For God has called man and still calls him so that with his entire being he might be joined to Him in an endless sharing of a divine life beyond all corruption. Christ won this victory when He rose to life, for by His death He freed man from death. Hence to every thoughtful man a solidly established faith provides the answer to his anxiety about what the future holds for him. At the same time faith gives him the power to be united in Christ with his loved ones who have already been snatched away by death; faith arouses the hope that they have found true life with God.
19. The root reason for human dignity lies in man's call to communion with God. From the very circumstance of his origin man is already invited to converse with God. For man would not exist were he not created by Gods love and constantly preserved by it; and he cannot live fully according to truth unless he freely acknowledges that love and devotes himself to His Creator. Still, many of our contemporaries have never recognized this intimate and vital link with God, or have explicitly rejected it. Thus atheism must be accounted among the most serious problems of this age, and is deserving of closer examination.
The word atheism is applied to phenomena which are quite distinct from one another. For while God is expressly denied by some, others believe that man can assert absolutely nothing about Him. Still others use such a method to scrutinize the question of God as to make it seem devoid of meaning. Many, unduly transgressing the limits of the positive sciences, contend that everything can be explained by this kind of scientific reasoning alone, or by contrast, they altogether disallow that there is any absolute truth. Some laud man so extravagantly that their faith in God lapses into a kind of anemia, though they seem more inclined to affirm man than to deny God. Again some form for themselves such a fallacious idea of God that when they repudiate this figment they are by no means rejecting the God of the Gospel. Some never get to the point of raising questions about God, since they seem to experience no religious stirrings nor do they see why they should trouble themselves about religion. Moreover, atheism results not rarely from a violent protest against the evil in this world, or from the absolute character with which certain human values are unduly invested, and which thereby already accords them the stature of God. Modern civilization itself often complicates the approach to God not for any essential reason but because it is so heavily engrossed in earthly affairs.
Undeniably, those who willfully shut out God from their hearts and try to dodge religious questions are not following the dictates of their consciences, and hence are not free of blame; yet believers themselves frequently bear some responsibility for this situation. For, taken as a whole, atheism is not a spontaneous development but stems from a variety of causes, including a critical reaction against religious beliefs, and in some places against the Christian religion in particular. Hence believers can have more than a little to do with the birth of atheism. To the extent that they neglect their own training in the faith, or teach erroneous doctrine, or are deficient in their religious, moral or social life, they must be said to conceal rather than reveal the authentic face of God and religion.
20. Modern atheism often takes on a systematic expression which, in addition to other causes, stretches the desires for human independence to such a point that it poses difficulties against any kind of dependence on God. Those who profess atheism of this sort maintain that it gives man freedom to be an end unto himself, the sole artisan and creator of his own history. They claim that this freedom cannot be reconciled with the affirmation of a Lord Who is author and purpose of all things, or at least that this freedom makes such an affirmation altogether superfluous. Favoring this doctrine can be the sense of power which modern technical progress generates in man.
Not to be overlooked among the forms of modern atheism is that which anticipates the liberation of man especially through his economic and social emancipation. This form argues that by its nature religion thwarts this liberation by arousing man's hope for a deceptive future life, thereby diverting him from the constructing of the earthly city. Consequently when the proponents of this doctrine gain governmental rower they vigorously fight against religion, and promote atheism by using, especially in the education of youth, those means of pressure which public power has at its disposal.
21. In her loyal devotion to God and men, the Church has already repudiated(16) and cannot cease repudiating, sorrowfully but as firmly as possible, those poisonous doctrines and actions which contradict reason and the common experience of humanity, and dethrone man from his native excellence.
Still, she strives to detect in the atheistic mind the hidden causes for the denial of God; conscious of how weighty are the questions which atheism raises, and motivated by love for all men, she believes these questions ought to be examined seriously and more profoundly.
The Church holds that the recognition of God is in no way hostile to man's dignity, since this dignity is rooted and perfected in God. For man was made an intelligent and free member of society by God Who created him, but even more important, he is called as a son to commune with God and share in His happiness. She further teaches that a hope related to the end of time does not diminish the importance of intervening duties but rather undergirds the acquittal of them with fresh incentives. By contrast, when a divine instruction and the hope of life eternal are wanting, man's dignity is most grievously lacerated, as current events often attest; riddles of life and death, of guilt and of grief go unsolved with the frequent result that men succumb to despair.
Meanwhile every man remains to himself an unsolved puzzle, however obscurely he may perceive it. For on certain occasions no one can entirely escape the kind of self-questioning mentioned earlier, especially when life's major events take place. To this questioning only God fully and most certainly provides an answer as He summons man to higher knowledge and humbler probing.
The remedy which must be applied to atheism, however, is to be sought in a proper presentation of the Church's teaching as well as in the integral life of the Church and her members. For it is the function of the Church, led by the Holy Spirit Who renews and purifies her ceaselessly,(17) to make God the Father and His Incarnate Son present and in a sense visible. This result is achieved chiefly by the witness of a living and mature faith, namely, one trained to see difficulties clearly and to master them. Many martyrs have given luminous witness to this faith and continue to do so. This faith needs to prove its fruitfulness by penetrating the believer's entire life, including its worldly dimensions, and by activating him toward justice and love, especially regarding the needy. What does the most reveal God's presence, however, is the brotherly charity of the faithful who are united in spirit as they work together for the faith of the Gospel(18) and who prove themselves a sign of unity.
While rejecting atheism, root and branch, the Church sincerely professes that all men, believers and unbelievers alike, ought to work for the rightful betterment of this world in which all alike live; such an ideal cannot be realized, however, apart from sincere and prudent dialogue. Hence the Church protests against the distinction which some state authorities make between believers and unbelievers, with prejudice to the fundamental rights of the human person. The Church calls for the active liberty of believers to build up in this world God's temple too. She courteously invites atheists to examine the Gospel of Christ with an open mind.
Above all the Church known that her message is in harmony with the most secret desires of the human heart when she champions the dignity of the human vocation, restoring hope to those who have already despaired of anything higher than their present lot. Far from diminishing man, her message brings to his development light, life and freedom. Apart from this message nothing will avail to fill up the heart of man: "Thou hast made us for Thyself," O Lord, "and our hearts are restless till they rest in Thee."(19)
36. Now many of our contemporaries seem to fear that a closer bond between human activity and religion will work against the independence of men, of societies, or of the sciences.
If by the autonomy of earthly affairs we mean that created things and societies themselves enjoy their own laws and values which must be gradually deciphered, put to use, and regulated by men, then it is entirely right to demand that autonomy. Such is not merely required by modern man, but harmonizes also with the will of the Creator. For by the very circumstance of their having been created, all things are endowed with their own stability, truth, goodness, proper laws and order. Man must respect these as he isolates them by the appropriate methods of the individual sciences or arts. Therefore if methodical investigation within every branch of learning is carried out in a genuinely scientific manner and in accord with moral norms, it never truly conflicts with faith, for earthly matters and the concerns of faith derive from the same God. (6) Indeed whoever labors to penetrate the secrets of reality with a humble and steady mind, even though he is unaware of the fact, is nevertheless being led by the hand of God, who holds all things in existence, and gives them their identity. Consequently, we cannot but deplore certain habits of mind, which are sometimes found too among Christians, which do not sufficiently attend to the rightful independence of science and which, from the arguments and controversies they spark, lead many minds to conclude that faith and science are mutually opposed.(7)
But if the expression, the independence of temporal affairs, is taken to mean that created things do not depend on God, and that man can use them without any reference to their Creator, anyone who acknowledges God will see how false such a meaning is. For without the Creator the creature would disappear. For their part, however, all believers of whatever religion always hear His revealing voice in the discourse of creatures. When God is forgotten, however, the creature itself grows unintelligible.
Vatican Council II, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum
6. Through divine revelation, God chose to show forth and communicate Himself and the eternal decisions of His will regarding the salvation of men. That is to say, He chose to share with them those divine treasures which totally transcend the understanding of the human mind. (6)
As a sacred synod has affirmed, God, the beginning and end of all things, can be known with certainty from created reality by the light of human reason (see Rom. 1:20); but teaches that it is through His revelation that those religious truths which are by their nature accessible to human reason can be known by all men with ease, with solid certitude and with no trace of error, even in this present state of the human race. (7)
Vatican Council I,
Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith
Chapter 2 On revelation
The same Holy Mother Church holds and teaches that God, the source and end of all things, can be known with certainty from the consideration of created things, by the natural power of human reason : ever since the creation of the world, his invisible nature has been clearly perceived in thethings that have been made.  t was, however, pleasing to His wisdom and goodness to reveal Himself and the eternal laws of His will to the human race by another, and that a supernatural, way. This is how the Apostle puts it : In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days He has spoken to us by a Son  . It is indeed thanks to this divine revelation, that those matters concerning God which are not of themselves beyond the scope of human reason, can, even in the present state of the human race, be known by everyone without difficulty, with firm certitude and with no intermingling of error. It is not because of this that one must hold revelation to be absolutely necessary; the reason is that God directed human beings to asupernatural end, that is a sharing in the good things of God that utterly surpasses the understanding of the human mind; indeed eye has not seen, neither has ear heard, nor has it come into our hearts to conceive what things God has prepared for those who love Him  . Now this supernatural revelation, according to the belief of the universal church, as declared by the sacred council of Trent, is contained in written books and unwritten traditions, which were received by the apostles from the lips of Christ Himself, or came to the apostles by the dictation of the Holy Spirit, and were passed on as it were from hand to hand until they reached us . The complete books of the old and the new Testament with all their parts, as they are listed in the decree of the said council and as they are found in the old Latin Vulgate edition, are to be received as sacred and canonical.
These books the Church holds to be sacred and canonical not because she subsequently approved them by her authority after they had been composed by unaided human skill, nor simply because they contain revelation without error, but because, being written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their Author, and were as such committed to the Church. Now since the decree on the interpretation of holy scripture, profitably made by the council of Trent, with the intention of constraining rash speculation, has been wrongly interpreted by some, we renew that decree and declare its meaning to be as follows: that in matters of faith and morals, belonging as they do to the establishing of Christian doctrine, that meaning of holy scripture must be held to be the true one, which Holy Mother Church held and holds, since it is her right to judge of the true meaning and interpretation of holy scripture. In consequence, it is not permissible for anyone to interpret holy scripture in a sense contrary to this, or indeed against the unanimous consent of the fathers.
Vatican Council I, Canon 2
2. On revelation
1. If anyone says that the one, true God, our creator and lord, cannot be known with certainty from the things that have been made, by the natural light of human reason: let him be anathema.
2. If anyone says that it is impossible, or not expedient, that human beings should be taught by means of divine revelation about God and the worship that should be shown him : let him be anathema.
3. If anyone says that a human being cannot be divinely elevated to a knowledge and perfection which exceeds the natural, but of himself can and must reach finally the possession of all truth and goodness by continual development: let him be anathema.
4. If anyone does not receive as sacred and canonical the complete books of sacred scripture with all their parts, as the holy council of Trent listed them, or denies that they were divinely inspired : let him be anathema.
St. Augustine, Confessions
1. Great are You, O Lord, and greatly to be praised; great is Your power, and of Your wisdom there is no end. And man, being a part of Your creation, desires to praise You, man, who bears about with him his mortality, the witness of his sin, even the witness that Thou resistest the proud, yet man, this part of Your creation, desires to praise You. Thou movest us to delight in praising You; for You have formed us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in You. Lord, teach me to know and understand which of these should be first, to call on You, or to praise You; and likewise to know You, or to call upon You. But who is there that calls upon You without knowing You? For he that knows You not may call upon You as other than You are. Or perhaps we call on You that we may know You. But how shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? or how shall they believe without a preacher? And those who seek the Lord shall praise Him. For those who seek shall find Him, and those who find Him shall praise Him. Let me seek You, Lord, in calling on You, and call on You in believing in You; for You have been preached unto us. O Lord, my faith calls on Youthat faith which You have imparted to me, which You have breathed into me through the incarnation of Your Son, through the ministry of Your preacher.
10, 28, 39: PL 32, 795.
CHAPTER XXVIII-TIME IN THE HUMAN MIND, WHICH EXPECTS, CONSIDERS, AND REMEMBERS.
But how is that future diminished or consumed, which as yet is not? or how that past increased, which is now no longer, save that in the mind which enacteth this, there be three things done? For it expects, it considers, it remembers; that so that which it expecteth, through that which it considereth, passeth into that which it remembereth. Who therefore denieth, that things to come are not as yet? and yet, there is in the mind an expectation of things to come. And who denies past things to be now no longer? and yet is there still in the mind a memory of things past. And who denieth the present time hath no space, because it passeth away in a moment? and yet our consideration continueth, through which that which shall be present proceedeth to become absent. It is not then future time, that is long, for as yet it is not: but a long future, is "a long expectation of the future," nor is it time past, which now is not, that is long; but a long past, is "a long memory of the past." I am about to repeat a Psalm that I know. Before I begin, my expectation is extended over the whole; but when I have begun, how much soever of it I shall separate off into the past, is extended along my memory; thus the life of this action of mine is divided between my memory as to what I have repeated, and expectation as to what I am about to repeat; but "consideration" is present with me, that through it what was future, may be conveyed over, so as to become past. Which the more it is done again and again, so much the more the expectation being shortened, is the memory enlarged: till the whole expectation be at length exhausted, when that whole action being ended, shall have passed into memory. And this which takes place in the whole Psalm, the same takes place in each several portion of it, and each several syllable; the same holds in that longer action, whereof this Psalm may be part; the same holds in the whole life of man, whereof all the actions of man are parts; the same holds through the whole age of the sons of men, whereof all the lives of men are parts.
CHAPTER XXIX-THAT HUMAN LIFE IS A DISTRACTION, BUT THAT THROUGH THE MERCY OF GOD HE WAS INTENT ON THE PRIZE OF HIS HEAVENLY CALLING.
But because Thy loving-kindness is better than all lives, behold, my life is but a distraction, and Thy right hand upheld me, in my Lord the Son of man, the Mediator betwixt Thee, The One, and us many, many also through our manifold distractions amid many things, that by Him I may apprehend in Whom I have been apprehended, and may be re-collected from my old conversation, to follow The One, forgetting what is behind, and not distended but extended, not to things which shall be and shall pass away, but to those things which are before, not distractedly but intently, I follow on for the prize of my heavenly calling, where I may hear the voice of Thy praise, and contemplate Thy delights, neither to come, nor to pass away. But now are my years spent in mourning. And Thou, O Lord, art my comfort, my Father everlasting, but I have been severed amid times, whose order I know not; and my thoughts, even the inmost bowels of my soul, are rent and mangled with tumultuous varieties, until I flow together into Thee, purified and molten by the fire of Thy love.
Pius XII, Concerning some False Opinions Threatening to Undermine the Foundations of Catholic Doctrine, Humani Generis
Disagreement and error among men on moral and religious matters have always been a cause of profound sorrow to all good men, but above all to the true and loyal sons of the Church, especially today, when we see the principles of Christian culture being attacked on all sides.
2. It is not surprising that such discord and error should always have existed outside the fold of Christ. For though, absolutely speaking, human reason by its own natural force and light can arrive at a true and certain knowledge of the one personal God, Who by His providence watches over and governs the world, and also of the natural law, which the Creator has written in our hearts, still there are not a few obstacles to prevent reason from making efficient and fruitful use of its natural ability. The truths that have to do with God and the relations between God and men, completely surpass the sensible order and demand self-surrender and self-abnegation in order to be put into practice and to influence practical life. Now the human intellect, in gaining the knowledge of such truths is hampered both by the activity of the senses and the imagination, and by evil passions arising from original sin. Hence men easily persuade themselves in such matters that what they do not wish to believe is false or at least doubtful.
3. It is for this reason that divine revelation must be considered morally necessary so that those religious and moral truths which are not of their nature beyond the reach of reason in the present condition of the human race, may be known by all mean readily with a firm certainty and with freedom from all error.
4. Furthermore the human intelligence sometimes experiences difficulties in forming a judgment about the credibility of the Catholic faith, notwithstanding the many wonderful external signs God has given, which are sufficient to prove with certitude by the natural light of reason alone the divine origin of the Christian religion. For man can, whether from prejudice or passion or bad faith, refuse and resist not only the evidence of the external proofs that are available, but also the impulses of actual grace.
5. If anyone examines the state of affairs outside the Christian fold, he will easily discover the principle trends that not a few learned men are following. Some imprudently and indiscreetly hold that evolution, which has not been fully proved even in the domain of natural sciences, explains the origin of all things, and audaciously support the monistic and pantheistic opinion that the world is in continual evolution. Communists gladly subscribe to this opinion so that, when the souls of men have been deprived of every idea of a personal God, they may the more efficaciously defend and propagate their dialectical materialism.
6. Such fictitious tenets of evolution which repudiate all that is absolute, firm and immutable, have paved the way for the new erroneous philosophy which, rivaling idealism, immanentism and pragmatism, has assumed the name of existentialism, since it concerns itself only with existence of individual things and neglects all consideration of their immutable essences.
7. There is also a certain historicism, which attributing value only to the events of man's life, overthrows the foundation of all truth and absolute law, both on the level of philosophical speculations and especially to Christian dogmas.
8. In all this confusion of opinion it is some consolation to Us to see former adherents of rationalism today frequently desiring to return to the fountain of divinely communicated truth, and to acknowledge and profess the word of God as contained in Sacred Scripture as the foundation of religious teaching. But at the same time it is a matter of regret that not a few of these, the more firmly they accept the word of God, so much the more do they diminish the value of human reason, and the more they exalt the authority of God the Revealer, the more severely do they spurn the teaching office of the Church, which has been instituted by Christ, Our Lord, to preserve and interpret divine revelation. This attitude is not only plainly at variance with Holy Scripture, but is shown to be false by experience also. For often those who disagree with the true Church complain openly of their disagreement in matters of dogma and thus unwillingly bear witness to the necessity of a living Teaching Authority.
St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica
Part I,1,1. (The Nature and Extent of Sacred Doctrine: Whether, besides Philosophy, any further Doctrine is required?)
OBJ 1: It seems that, besides philosophical science, we have no need of any further knowledge. For man should not seek to know what is above reason: "Seek not the things that are too high for thee" (Sirach 3:23). But whatever is not above reason is fully treated of in philosophical science. Therefore any other knowledge besides philosophical science is superfluous.
OBJ 2: Further, knowledge can be concerned only with being, for nothing can be known, save what is true; and all that is, is true. But everything that is, is treated of in philosophical science treats of all being, even God Himself; so that there is a part of philosophy called theology, or the divine science, as Aristotle has proved (De Metaphysica VI). Therefore, besides philosophical science, there is no need of any further knowledge.
On the contrary, It is written (2 Timothy 3:16): "All Scripture, inspired of God is profitable to teach, to reprove, to correct, to instruct in justice." Now Scripture, inspired of God, is no part of philosophical science, which has been built up by human reason. Therefore it is useful that besides philosophical science, there should be other knowledge, i.e. inspired of God.
I answer that, it was necessary for man's salvation that there should be a knowledge revealed by God besides philosophical science built up by human reason. Firstly, indeed, because man is directed to God, as to an end that surpasses the grasp of his reason: "The eye hath not seen, O God, besides Thee, what things Thou hast prepared for them that wait for Thee" (Isaiah 64:4). But the end must first be known by men who are to direct their thoughts and actions to the end. Hence it was necessary for the salvation of man that certain truths which exceed human reason should be made known to him by divine revelation. Even as regards those truths about God which human reason could have discovered, it was necessary that man should be taught by a divine revelation; because the truth about God such as reason could discover, would only be known by a few, and that after a long time, and with the admixture of many errors. Whereas man's whole salvation, which is in God, depends upon the knowledge of this truth. Therefore, in order that the salvation of men might be brought about more fitly and more surely, it was necessary that they should be taught divine truths by divine revelation. It was therefore necessary that besides philosophical science built up by reason, there should be a sacred science learned through revelation.
Reply OBJ 1: Although those things which are beyond man's knowledge may not be sought for by man through his reason, nevertheless, once they are revealed by God, they must be accepted by faith. Hence the sacred text continues, "For many things are shown to thee above the understanding of man" (Ecclesiasticus 3:23). And in this, the sacred science consists.
Reply OBJ 2: Sciences are differentiated according to the various means through which knowledge is obtained. For the astronomer and the physicist both may prove the same conclusion: that the earth, for instance, is round: the astronomer by means of mathematics (i.e. abstracting from matter), but the physicist by means of matter itself. Hence there is no reason why those things which may be learned from philosophical science, so far as they can be known by natural reason, may not also be taught us by another science so far as they fall within revelation. Hence theology included in sacred doctrine differs in kind from that theology which is part of philosophy.
Part I,2,3. (The existence of God: whether God exists?)
OBJ 1: It seems that God does not exist; because if one of two contraries be infinite, the other would be altogether destroyed. But the word God means that He is infinite goodness. If, therefore, God existed, there would be no evil discoverable; but there is evil in the world. Therefore God does not exist.
OBJ 2: Further, it is superfluous to suppose that what can be accounted for by a few principles has been produced by many. But it seems that everything we see in the world can be accounted for by other principles, supposing God did not exist. For all natural things can be reduced to one principle which is nature; and all voluntary things can be reduced to one principle which is human reason, or will. Therefore there is no need to suppose God's existence.
On the contrary, It is said in the person of God: "I am Who am." (Exodus 3:14)
I answer that, The existence of God can be proved in five ways.
The first and more manifest way is the argument from motion. It is certain, and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion. Now whatever is in motion is put in motion by another, for nothing can be in motion except it is in potentiality to that towards which it is in motion; whereas a thing moves inasmuch as it is in act. For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality. But nothing can be reduced from potentiality to actuality, except by something in a state of actuality. Thus that which is actually hot, as fire, makes wood, which is potentially hot, to be actually hot, and thereby moves and changes it. Now it is not possible that the same thing should be at once in actuality and potentiality in the same respect, but only in different respects. For what is actually hot cannot simultaneously be potentially hot; but it is simultaneously potentially cold. It is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and moved, i.e. that it should move itself. Therefore, whatever is in motion must be put in motion by another. If that by which it is put in motion be itself put in motion, then this also must needs be put in motion by another, and that by another again. But this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and, consequently, no other mover; seeing that subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are put in motion by the first mover; as the staff moves only because it is put in motion by the hand. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.
The second way is from the nature of the efficient cause. In the world of sense we find there is an order of efficient causes. There is no case known (neither is it, indeed, possible) in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself; for so it would be prior to itself, which is impossible. Now in efficient causes it is not possible to go on to infinity, because in all efficient causes following in order, the first is the cause of the intermediate cause, and the intermediate is the cause of the ultimate cause, whether the intermediate cause be several, or only one. Now to take away the cause is to take away the effect. Therefore, if there be no first cause among efficient causes, there will be no ultimate, nor any intermediate cause. But if in efficient causes it is possible to go on to infinity, there will be no first efficient cause, neither will there be an ultimate effect, nor any intermediate efficient causes; all of which is plainly false. Therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God.
The third way is taken from possibility and necessity, and runs thus. We find in nature things that are possible to be and not to be, since they are found to be generated, and to corrupt, and consequently, they are possible to be and not to be. But it is impossible for these always to exist, for that which is possible not to be at some time is not. Therefore, if everything is possible not to be, then at one time there could have been nothing in existence. Now if this were true, even now there would be nothing in existence, because that which does not exist only begins to exist by something already existing. Therefore, if at one time nothing was in existence, it would have been impossible for anything to have begun to exist; and thus even now nothing would be in existence - which is absurd. Therefore, not all beings are merely possible, but there must exist something the existence of which is necessary. But every necessary thing either has its necessity caused by another, or not. Now it is impossible to go on to infinity in necessary things which have their necessity caused by another, as has been already proved in regard to efficient causes. Therefore we cannot but postulate the existence of some being having of itself its own necessity, and not receiving it from another, but rather causing in others their necessity. This all men speak of as God.
The fourth way is taken from the gradation to be found in things. Among beings there are some more and some less good, true, noble and the like. But "more" and "less" are predicated of different things, according as they resemble in their different ways something which is the maximum, as a thing is said to be hotter according as it more nearly resembles that which is hottest; so that there is something which is truest, something best, something noblest and, consequently, something which is uttermost being; for those things that are greatest in truth are greatest in being, as it is written in De Metaphysica ii. Now the maximum in any genus is the cause of all in that genus; as fire, which is the maximum heat, is the cause of all hot things. Therefore there must also be something which is to all beings the cause of their being, goodness, and every other perfection; and this we call God.
The fifth way is taken from the governance of the world. We see that things which lack intelligence, such as natural bodies, act for an end, and this is evident from their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best result. Hence it is plain that not fortuitously, but designedly, do they achieve their end. Now whatever lacks intelligence cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence; as the arrow is shot to its mark by the archer. Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God.
Reply OBJ 1: As Augustine says (Enchiridion 11): "Since God is the highest good, He would not allow any evil to exist in His works, unless His omnipotence and goodness were such as to bring good even out of evil." This is part of the infinite goodness of God, that He should allow evil to exist, and out of it produce good.
Reply OBJ 2: Since nature works for a determinate end under the direction of a higher agent, whatever is done by nature must needs be traced back to God, as to its first cause. So also whatever is done voluntarily must also be traced back to some higher cause other than human reason or will, since these can change or fail; for all things that are changeable and capable of defect must be traced back to an immovable and self-necessary first principle, as was shown in the body of the Article.
CCC ping for education and discussion.
Please FReepmail me if you want on or off this list. The plans are to have about one chapter a week for discussion, piu o meno.
Wonderful resources! Thanks for including them all. Ping for reflection and later comment.
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