Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Finding God

Michael Liccione has a piece up on Pontifications dealing with the passage from Vatican I's Dogmatic Constitution of the Catholic Church which says that God's existence can be discerned in nature by the light of human reason:

If anyone says that the one true God, our Creator and Lord, cannot be known with certainty in the natural light of human reason through the things that have been made: let him be anathema (Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith, Chapter 1, Canon 1 [8 December 1869])

This is a favorite quote in certain quadrants of the Catholic Bogsphere, and has been the topic of some debate on Amy Welborn's blog.

Michael puts forward the interesting question of to what extent our ability to do "natural theology" has been destroyed by the fall. In other words, now that man has in him the inborn flaws stemming from mortal sin, and now that the world as a whole is fallen in disordered, has our ability to discern God's existence from nature diminished?

Certainly, it seems that our ability to be convinced of God's existence would seem to be diminished, in that man is now untrusting and proud in a way that we assume he was not before the fall. But is God's hand in creation less clear? Is creation less obviously "wonderfully made"?

Now clearly, humans have since the earliest times discerned God's existence from nature. Indeed, many argue that one of the things that distinguishes humans from the rest of the animal kingdom is that we have an inherent religious sense which (so far as anyone can tell) no other creature has.

Michael doesn't miss that, however. His question is (if I understand it right): When primitive tribes looked on the sky and discerned a god of thunder or a god of stars or when Plato (through the workings of human reason rather than divine revelation) discerned the existence of The Good and Justice and Beauty -- did these men do so because God's existence can be plainly discerned in nature or because the grace won for man by Christ was active in their hearts even before his historical suffering and death.

In a sense, I wonder if it's a question without a difference: whether people discern God's existence from nature by means of pure human reason or by means of reason assisted by the invisible action of God's grace, the result is clearly the same. And yet, it does seem somehow that it is a worthwhile question which it is.

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