Wednesday 28th January 2015

Home » Our Catholic Faith » Currently Reading:

God Comes To Meet Man

May 3, 2014 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By DON FIER

Last week, a topic was taken up that was immediately addressed in the first chapter of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC): man’s capacity to know God by reason alone. It was demonstrated in two basic, commonsense ways that “by natural reason man can know God with certainty, on the basis of His works” (CCC, n. 50). The supporting arguments focused around what we can directly observe or easily discern in two of God’s most magnificent works of creation, “the physical world and the human person” (CCC, n. 31).
This week, we will turn our attention to “another order of knowledge, which man cannot possibly arrive at by his own powers: the order of Divine Revelation” (CCC, n. 50). However, before doing so, it would be instructive to briefly examine philosophical ways that we can know God by reason, ways that were beautifully developed in the 13th century by a great doctor of the Church, St. Thomas Aquinas.
In his classic masterpiece, the Summa Theologiae (STh), St. Thomas proved that “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’” (CCC, n. 34). In part I, question 2, article 3 of his Summa, the Angelic Doctor posited five proofs by which one can know of the existence of God by reason alone: 1) motion, 2) efficient cause, 3) possibility and necessity, 4) grades of perfection to be found in things, and 5) the governance of the world. St. Thomas showed that God is the Prime Mover, the First and Uncaused Cause, the Necessary Being, the Absolute Perfect Being, and the Supreme Intelligent Designer.
All of these ways of demonstrating the existence of God are based on truths or principles that are self-evident and that cannot rationally be denied.
One example of a self-evident truth used by St. Thomas is the principle of contradiction (or non-contradiction) which Fr. John Hardon, SJ, defines as “the universal law of being and thought that something cannot both be and not be at the same time in the same respect.”
It is outside the scope of this series to give a detailed explanation of each of the five proofs of St. Thomas. However, we will briefly look at one of the ways — the third way — that of possibility (or contingency) and necessity. Basically, this proof holds that if there was ever a time when there was nothing, there could not ever be anything, for only nothing can come from nothing. For anything to be, there must have existed from all eternity a necessary being with no beginning from which everything else received its being. This necessary being is God.
As Professor Charles E. Rice points out in his book 50 Questions on the Natural Law, Julie Andrews had it right in the 1965 musical film The Sound of Music when she sang the lyric: “Nothing comes from nothing. Nothing ever could.”
We have now established in several ways that man, through unaided reason and with certainty, can know of God’s existence as well as many of His attributes. At the same time, however, we also know that a great mysteries such as the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Real Presence are beyond the finite intellectual powers of man to understand. Simply put, some of the truths of our faith, upon which our salvation depend, are beyond the capacity of man’s finite intellect to discern. As put forth by St. Thomas Aquinas, it is therefore “necessary for the salvation of man that certain truths which exceed human reason should be made known to him by Divine Revelation” (STh, I, Q. 1, art. 1).
At the same time, St. Thomas goes on to explain that even “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.” In other words, even what man is capable of knowing through reason alone will not be equally known by all and, in fact, may be misunderstood or not known at all by some. As such, God’s Revelation serves not only to enlighten us with truths we could not otherwise come to know, but also allows us to more clearly and definitively understand the truths we can know by reason.
On top of that, an important consideration to take into account is that the intellectual gifts and talents, the time available for thought and study, and many other factors vary widely from individual to individual.
Clearly, then, we are dependent on God’s Divine Revelation — and our response to His revealed word is faith. As Fr. Hardon puts it, “Faith and Revelation are related as cause and effect. God reveals Himself and, if we respond, we believe. His Revelation, therefore, implies God’s awareness of the limitations of our mind.” We believe by faith when we accept as fact things definitively taught by Scripture, Sacred Tradition, or the Church’s magisterial teaching that cannot be verified by sense experience, scientific methods, or logic alone. Faith and reason, then, are both ways of knowing — they are “like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth” (Pope John Paul II, Fides et Ratio, Preamble). Furthermore, faith and reason are complementary; there is nothing in Revelation that is inconsistent with reason.
The First Vatican Council took up the topic of faith and Revelation and in 1870 promulgated the Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith, or Dei Filius (DF). It does a masterful job of explaining the relationship between reason, Revelation, and faith. For the purposes of bringing additional clarity to our current considerations, one section is well worth quoting in detail:
“The divine mysteries, by their very nature, so far surpass the created understanding that, even when a revelation has been given and accepted by faith, they remain covered by the veil of that same faith and wrapped, as it were, in a certain obscurity, as long as in this mortal life we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, and not by sight. Even though faith is above reason, there can never be any real disagreement between faith and reason, since it is the same God Who reveals the mysteries and infuses faith, and Who has endowed the human mind with the light of reason. God cannot deny Himself, nor can truth ever be in opposition to truth. The appearance of this kind of specious contradiction is chiefly due to the fact that either the dogmas of faith are not understood and explained in accordance with the mind of the Church, or unsound views are mistaken for the conclusions of reason” (DF, chapter 4).
So why did God choose to reveal Himself to us? In a word, His only motive was love: “It pleased God, in His goodness and wisdom, to reveal Himself and to make known the mystery of His will” (CCC, n. 51). In His great love, God wished to make mankind “capable of responding to Him, and of knowing Him, and of loving Him far beyond their own natural capacity” (CCC, n. 52). In other words, He wants us to have everything necessary to satisfy the natural desire for happiness that is written into our hearts. For left on our own, without God’s supernatural Revelation and aid, attaining the final end for which we were created would be impossible.

+    +    +

(Don Fier serves on the board of directors for The Catholic Servant, a Minneapolis-based monthly publication. He and his wife are the parents of seven children. Fier is a 2009 graduate of Ave Maria University’s Institute for Pastoral Theology. With the full blessing of Raymond Cardinal Burke, Fier is doing research for writing a definitive biography of Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ.)

Share Button

Comment on this Article:

Notre Dame theologian known for books, liberal stands, dies

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — The Rev. Richard McBrien, a University of Notre Dame theologian known for his unabashed liberal stands on various church teachings and his popular books on Catholicism, died Sunday in his native Connecticut, according to the…Continue Reading

Bankruptcy case brings financial fears for Catholic schools

As president of an inner-city Catholic grade school that depends critically on donations, Helen Dahlman admits to an unconventional fundraising strategy. “We believe in miracles, so we pray a lot,” said Dahlman, who leads Risen Christ School in south Minneapolis,…Continue Reading

Cardinal: No pro-life victory without reaching the marginalized

Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2015 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- For the pro-life movement to truly succeed, it must fight not only abortion, but also the broader “throwaway culture” wherever life is being discarded, said Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston…Continue Reading

70 Churches Destroyed in ‘Anti-Charlie Hebdo’ Protests

The Christian community in Niger says it is in shock in the wake of weekend violence that has claimed the lives of 10 people and led to the destruction of dozens of places of worship and Christian homes. The protest,…Continue Reading

ITALY: Muslims smash, urinate on statue of Mary

A man was kneeling in prayer before the statue of the revered Madonna, with the photograph of a loved one in hand, in the small chapel of St. Barnabas in Perugia (Italy), when he was attacked by five “immigrants.” The…Continue Reading

At new in-flight press conference Francis says good Catholics are not required ‘to be like rabbits’

Catholics fail to practise “responsible parenthood” when they have too many children, Pope Francis has said during an in-flight press conference on the way home from Manila. He also denounced the teaching of “gender theory” in schools, likening it to…Continue Reading

CRUX’s “spirituality columnist” is “devastated” the Pope upholds Catholic teaching

Margery Eagan appears to be angling for a job as editor of National “Catholic” Reporter. Or perhaps spokesman for the LCWR: The news that Pope Francis has strongly defended the Church’s ban on artificial birth control left me, in a word, devastated. Goodness. Even…Continue Reading

St. Paul-Mpls. archdiocese declares bankruptcy in response to abuse lawsuits

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Friday, saying it cannot meet its financial obligations from an unprecedented wave of clergy sex abuse lawsuits. The move freezes lawsuits against the church, protecting the archdiocese…Continue Reading

Pope Francis strongly defends church teaching against contraception

Pope Francis issued his strongest defense yet of church teaching opposing artificial contraception on Friday, using a rally in Asia’s largest Catholic nation to urge families to be “sanctuaries of respect for life.” Francis also denounced the corruption that has plagued…Continue Reading

Bella Dodd, who rejected Communism in favour of faith, is a lesson for young jihadis

Her story shows how easily the best human impulses can be twisted to evil Having blogged last week about John Beaumont’s book, The Mississippi Flows Into The Tiber, with all the extraordinary, uplifting and grace-filled stories of conversion that it…Continue Reading

Fox News’ Bret Baier, actor Gary Sinise cancel on Catholic group after gay gripes

FOX News Channel’s chief political anchor, Bret Baier, has shown himself to have a thinner skin than might be guessed from his on-air persona.  Baier has caved in to pressure from the homosexual activist group ‘Good as You’ to back…Continue Reading

Federal judge strikes down South Dakota’s gay marriage ban

SIOUX FALLS – A federal judge has declared South Dakota’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional, but has stayed the decision pending appeal. U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier on Monday issued a summary judgment in favor of the six couples who filed…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our new website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for over 145 years in our weekly print edition. Now we are introducing the online daily version of our print journal.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to subscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 145 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.

 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

A Powerful Weapon: 15 Quotes on the Holy Rosary

We live in evil times. I hardly need elaborate the multitude of crises that fill the globe. Sadly, many are being swept away by this flood of evil and are succumbing to an overwhelming anxiety and discouragement. But no matter how tempting it is, we must not shrink back. We must pray and fast with a living faith and a firm confidence—and there is no better way to…Continue Reading

12 Ways to Become a Committed Catholic Man

There is a Catholic “man-crisis.” Large numbers of men who were baptized Catholic have left the Church and the majority of those who remain are “Casual Catholic Men”, men who do not know the Catholic faith and don’t practice it. This large-scale failure of Catholic men to commit themselves to Jesus Christ and His Church has contributed to the accelerating…Continue Reading

Today . . .

General Audience: Pope Focuses On Role Of Father In Family Life

pope7115

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis called on fathers to be present in the lives of their children pointing out that the absence of a ‘father figure’ can have grave consequences. Speaking on Wednesday during the weekly General Audience, the Pope continued in his catechesis on the family, choosing to focus on the dignity and role of fathers. He said that teaching…Continue Reading

Pope’s Morning Homily: Obeying God’s Will is the Path to Holiness

Rome, January 27, 2015 (Zenit.org) Junno Arocho Esteves Obedience to the will of God is the path of holiness. This was the main theme of Pope Francis’ homily during his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta. Today’s first reading from the Letter to the Hebrews explained that the sacrifices of old were not enough “for it is impossible that…Continue Reading

Pope Francis: Women First And Foremost In Transmitting Faith

pope714

(Vatican Radio) The primary and indispensable role of women in transmitting the faith to new generations: this was the focus of Pope Francis’ remarks to the faithful following the readings of the day at Mass on Monday morning in the chapel of the Santa Marta residence in the Vatican. On the day when the Church celebrates the memory of Saints…Continue Reading

Pope Angelus: Jesus Wanted United Christians

(Vatican Radio) On Sunday and before the Angelus, the Pope recalled the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and its theme, “Give me a drink”, the sentence uttered by Jesus to the Samaritan woman. He told the faithful gathered that the “desire for unity” of the disciples of Jesus is part of our “thirst not only material for water, but…Continue Reading

Culture Of Life 101 . . . “Should Catholic Hospitals Use The Morning-After Pill For Rape Victims?”

By BRIAN CLOWES (Editor’s Note: Brian Clowes has been director of research and training at Human Life International since 1995. For a compact disc with more than 320 patient information pamphlets for all of the different types of abortifacients, e-mail him at bclowes@hli.org.) + + + Even with all of the different contraceptives and abortifacients…Continue Reading

Obama’s Tax On Stay-At-Home Moms

By TERENCE P. JEFFREY President Obama’s disrespect for motherhood has manifested itself in policies ranging from support for same-sex marriage to defense of a form of abortion that involves forcing a baby into a drug-induced premature delivery and then leaving that little one to die. When it comes to the most vulnerable and innocent human…Continue Reading

A Book Review… Dietrich Von Hildebrand’s Heroic Witness In Perilous Times

By STEPHANIE BLOCK My Battle Against Hitler: Faith, Truth, and Defiance in the Shadow of the Third Reich by Dietrich von Hildebrand. Translated and edited by John Henry Crosby with John F. Crosby, Image Books (2014); $28.00; 335 pages. My Battle Against Hitler, a posthumously published memoir and collection of essays by “20th century Doctor…Continue Reading

“I Can’t Breathe”… The Plight Of The Preborn

By REY FLORES (Editor’s Note: This article is reprinted from www.all.org, the website of American Life League. All rights reserved.) + + + This past year has seen race relations decline as a result of a well-orchestrated attempt by a corrupt government that wants to divide us at all costs. And the propaganda peddlers known…Continue Reading

“Flee Immorality,” Church Unity, & Right To Life March

By JOHN F. KIPPLEY (Editor’s Note: John F. Kippley is the author of Sex and the Marriage Covenant: A Basis for Morality and other books and articles. With his wife Sheila, he is a coauthor of Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach and cofounder of NFP International. This commentary appeared on his January 18 blog…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Pope’s Address At Meeting Of Families In Manila… Set Out On The Path The Lord Sets For Each Of You

MANILA (ZENIT) — Here is a translation of the Holy Father’s January 16 address at a Meeting With Families at the “Mall of Asia Arena” in Manila. In his text, Pope Francis praised the courage of Pope Paul VI in writing Humanae Vitae. ZENIT News Agency provided the text; all rights reserved. + + + The angel of the Lord…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World.. Papal Bloopers And Catholic Teaching

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK Pope Francis continues to grab headlines, not only by setting a new record for drawing the largest crowd in history, but also by his question and answer sessions on the planes to and from his pastoral visits. On the plane to the Philippines, the Pope responded to questions about free speech and violent responses to…Continue Reading

Mary’s Perpetual Virginity . . . The Faith Of The Early Christians

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 6 What did the Early Christians believe about the Catholic doctrine on the perpetual virginity of the Mother of Jesus? Those men, women, and children who sacrificed everything for the true faith — even their very own lives? They were imprisoned, tortured, murdered. Some were burned alive, racked, beheaded. Others were crucified, flayed alive,…Continue Reading

I Believe — We Believe

By DON FIER Over the past three weeks of this series on the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), we have been reflectively examining the characteristics of the indescribably wonderful gift of faith that Almighty God has so generously availed mankind. As so adeptly summarized in the Compendium of the CCC, we know that faith is “the supernatural virtue which…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Q. I remember a nun telling us back in Catholic school that after God ejected Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, He promised that He would eventually send them a Messiah. Where is that in the Bible? — M.R., Indiana. A. In chapter 3 of the Book of Genesis. Actually, the promise was made before God expelled our…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Mutien Marie Wiaux

By CAROLE BRESLIN A few decades ago, when Catholic schools taught religion from the Baltimore Catechism, one of the first questions children learned was, “Why did God make you?” The answer was, “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next.” The Catechism…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Anthony Of Egypt, Abbot

By CAROLE BRESLIN While we can understand that God is infinite, it is difficult to comprehend the stretch of such infinity. Certainly our finite minds cannot begin to comprehend it. Hence, since our minds our finite, the more we have cluttering our minds with worldly affairs such as possessions, relationships, and activities, the less time and room we have in…Continue Reading