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Friday, 20 March 2015

Knowledge of Divine Things Part Ten Fides et Ratio Part Three

One begins, always, with Scripture, and the conviction that there is a knowledge "peculiar to faith" which enlightens the mind.

Restating almost to the letter the teaching of the First Vatican Council's Constitution Dei Filius, and taking into account the principles set out by the Council of Trent, the Second Vatican Council's Constitution Dei Verbum pursued the age-old journey of understanding faith, reflecting on Revelation in the light of the teaching of Scripture and of the entire Patristic tradition. At the First Vatican Council, the Fathers had stressed the supernatural character of God's Revelation. On the basis of mistaken and very widespread assertions, the rationalist critique of the time attacked faith and denied the possibility of any knowledge which was not the fruit of reason's natural capacities. This obliged the Council to reaffirm emphatically that there exists a knowledge which is peculiar to faith, surpassing the knowledge proper to human reason, which nevertheless by its nature can discover the Creator. This knowledge expresses a truth based upon the very fact of God who reveals himself, a truth which is most certain, since God neither deceives nor wishes to deceive.6

Some things we can know from natural reason and some from the Holy Spirit, remembering that one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is knowledge. Also, to some, God gives infused knowledge, especially with regard to understanding Scripture. One is given insights in prayer and meditation.

9. The First Vatican Council teaches, then, that the truth attained by philosophy and the truth of Revelation are neither identical nor mutually exclusive: “There exists a twofold order of knowledge, distinct not only as regards their source, but also as regards their object. With regard to the source, because we know in one by natural reason, in the other by divine faith. With regard to the object, because besides those things which natural reason can attain, there are proposed for our belief mysteries hidden in God which, unless they are divinely revealed, cannot be known”.7 Based upon God's testimony and enjoying the supernatural assistance of grace, faith is of an order other than philosophical knowledge which depends upon sense perception and experience and which advances by the light of the intellect alone. Philosophy and the sciences function within the order of natural reason; while faith, enlightened and guided by the Spirit, recognizes in the message of salvation the “fullness of grace and truth” (cf. Jn 1:14) which God has willed to reveal in history and definitively through his Son, Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Jn 5:9; Jn 5:31-32).

The purpose of all grace consitutes uniting us with Christ. The study of Scripture, an act of reason as well as faith, brings us to deeper understandings of Christ, ourselves and history.

 By this Revelation, then, the deepest truth about God and human salvation is made clear to us in Christ, who is the mediator and at the same time the fullness of all Revelation”.8
11. God's Revelation is therefore immersed in time and history. Jesus Christ took flesh in the “fullness of time” (Gal 4:4); and two thousand years later, I feel bound to restate forcefully that “in Christianity time has a fundamental importance”.9 It is within time that the whole work of creation and salvation comes to light; and it emerges clearly above all that, with the Incarnation of the Son of God, our life is even now a foretaste of the fulfilment of time which is to come (cf. Heb 1:2).

Catholics must see themselves in context, in the context of salvation history. Without context, we cannot discover who we are and the goal of our lives, our cultures, our societies.

For the People of God, therefore, history becomes a path to be followed to the end, so that by the unceasing action of the Holy Spirit (cf. Jn 16:13) the contents of revealed truth may find their full expression. This is the teaching of the Constitution Dei Verbum when it states that “as the centuries succeed one another, the Church constantly progresses towards the fullness of divine truth, until the words of God reach their complete fulfilment in her”.11
12. History therefore becomes the arena where we see what God does for humanity. God comes to us in the things we know best and can verify most easily, the things of our everyday life, apart from which we cannot understand ourselves.
In the Incarnation of the Son of God we see forged the enduring and definitive synthesis which the human mind of itself could not even have imagined: the Eternal enters time, the Whole lies hidden in the part, God takes on a human face.

To study salvation history is to learn about the relationship between individual men and God and the People of God and God.

Without context, one stumbles about looking for other identities. See my posts on identity. We assent to Revelation and thereby, open ourselves to the Holy Spirit to inform our intellect, as the Scriptures are full of mystery. For some of us, this becomes habit over the years.

The Council teaches that “the obedience of faith must be given to God who reveals himself”.14 This brief but dense statement points to a fundamental truth of Christianity. Faith is said first to be an obedient response to God. This implies that God be acknowledged in his divinity, transcendence and supreme freedom. By the authority of his absolute transcendence, God who makes himself known is also the source of the credibility of what he reveals. By faith, men and women give their assent to this divine testimony. This means that they acknowledge fully and integrally the truth of what is revealed because it is God himself who is the guarantor of that truth.

Once we acknowledge truth to the extent we can, God meets us more than half-way to enlighten our minds through His grace.

This is a great mystery, that reason is enlightened by faith, and faith is enlightened by reason. One actually becomes more intelligent the more one studies the faith and Scripture. The more one knows, the more one is aware of the immense mystery of God.

In short, the knowledge proper to faith does not destroy the mystery; it only reveals it the more, showing how necessary it is for people's lives: Christ the Lord “in revealing the mystery of the Father and his love fully reveals man to himself and makes clear his supreme calling”,18 which is to share in the divine mystery of the life of the Trinity.19

As some of my ex-students would know, I am a great fan of St. Anselm, who renewed the studies in the seminaries by bringing back the Trivium and Quadrivium into the formation of priests.

Here is St. John Paul II on Anselm:

Revelation therefore introduces into our history a universal and ultimate truth which stirs the human mind to ceaseless effort; indeed, it impels reason continually to extend the range of its knowledge until it senses that it has done all in its power, leaving no stone unturned. To assist our reflection on this point we have one of the most fruitful and important minds in human history, a point of reference for both philosophy and theology: Saint Anselm. In hisProslogion, the Archbishop of Canterbury puts it this way: “Thinking of this problem frequently and intently, at times it seemed I was ready to grasp what I was seeking; at other times it eluded my thought completely, until finally, despairing of being able to find it, I wanted to abandon the search for something which was impossible to find. I wanted to rid myself of that thought because, by filling my mind, it distracted me from other problems from which I could gain some profit; but it would then present itself with ever greater insistence... Woe is me, one of the poor children of Eve, far from God, what did I set out to do and what have I accomplished? What was I aiming for and how far have I got? What did I aspire to and what did I long for?... O Lord, you are not only that than which nothing greater can be conceived (non solum es quo maius cogitari nequit), but you are greater than all that can be conceived (quiddam maius quam cogitari possit)... If you were not such, something greater than you could be thought, but this is impossible”.20

But, John Paul II states this.

Christian Revelation is the true lodestar of men and women as they strive to make their way amid the pressures of an immanentist habit of mind and the constrictions of a technocratic logic. 

This line is one of the most important in the entire encyclical. Immanentism denies the transcendence of God (a problem at the synod, imho) and Dr, McInerny writes this from an article here.  

Father John Hardon, in writing on the subject of immanentist apologetics, refers to it as “A method of establishing the credibility of the Christian faith by appealing to the subjective satisfaction that the faith gives to the believer.” Coupled with this emphasis on the subjective, there is a downplaying of the objective criteria of our faith, even to the point of rejecting miracles and prophecies. Purely personal motives for faith, motives that have mainly to do with feelings, are given primary of place. “Religion, therefore, would consist,” Father Bouyer remarks, “entirely in the religious feeling itself.” Reason is marginalized, and the idea of belief, as being essentially the assent of the intellect, loses its currency.

Does this not describe some of the thinking behind the idea that people cannot do the hard things, and that compromise is the only answer?

I believe that this Modernist heresy is one of the many attacking the Church in Rome at this time.
Indeed, all the main heresies, as I noted earlier, are attacking the Church through the great, and perhaps, last war of Satan against the one, true, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church.

Here is McInerney again:

St. Pius X identified two major parts of Modernism; one was agnosticism, the other was immanentism. By agnosticism Modernism denies that man is capable of gaining a reasoned knowledge of God. Thus, with a stroke, it effectively does away with natural theology, that philosophic discipline whose principal task is to show that we can arrive at a knowledge of the existence of God through natural reason. Now, that such is possible is actually a matter of faith for Catholics, as was taught by the First Vatican Council.
Having disposed of natural theology, Modernism then proposes immanentism to explain what religious experience is supposedly all about. Human beings, the Modernists argue, are invested with a “religious sense” which wells up out of the unconscious and creates in us a need for the divine. 
May I comment that I think von Balthasar falls into this category.
It is in response to this need that we positively respond to ideas about the reality and nature of God which, as it happens, are comfortably conformable to our feelings. What this comes down to, in practical terms, is that the “God” to which one gives one’s allegiance is but a fiction of one’s own devising, a pseudo-being having its source nowhere else but in the demands of deep-set emotions. Here Modernism can be said to be reflecting the thought of the nineteenth century atheistic philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach, who argued that what we call God is no more than the imagined product of human longings and wishes.
The Modernist heresies contradict Catholic teaching regarding knowledge, so clearly seen here in the encyclical, through the words of St. John Paul II.

...the words of the Book of Deuteronomy are pertinent: “This commandment which I command you is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven that you should say, 'Who will go up for us to heaven, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?' Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, 'Who will go over the sea for us, and bring it to us, that we may hear and do it?' But the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, that you can do it” (30:11-14). This text finds an echo in the famous dictum of the holy philosopher and theologian Augustine: “Do not wander far and wide but return into yourself. Deep within man there dwells the truth” (Noli foras ire, in te ipsum redi. In interiore homine habitat veritas).21

God wants to share Himself and the mysteries of the world, as well as ourselves to us.

He desires this for each person.

To be continued.....