Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard Boedder, S.J.

CHAPTER V. Solution of Difficulties against the Fundamental Truths of Natural Theology.

SOME of the difficulties urged against the conclusions at which we have arrived have already been partially considered. It was indispensable to the course of our argument not to pass them by unnoticed. But it is necessary to examine them more fully in the present chapter.

SECTION 1. -- Arguments urged by Traditionalists in favour of the opinion, that only by faith can we be certain of God's existence.

108. (1) First Traditionalistic Argument. -- The existence of God is an article of Christian faith. But articles of Christian faith must be believed on the authority of God -- they cannot be proved by natural reason alone. Consequently the existence of God is indemonstrable.{1}

Answer. The term "article of faith" may be taken both in a wider and in a more restricted sense. In a wider sense, every truth revealed by God is an article of faith, even if it is demonstrable by reason. In a more restricted sense, only those dogmas, which, even after their revelation, cannot be proved by reason alone, are articles of faith. Such dogmas are the Mysteries of the Incarnation, of the Blessed Trinity, and others. Many truths of Natural Theology are articles of faith in the wider sense; they form part of the revelation made by God to His Church; but they are not articles of faith, if this term be taken in its more restricted sense. To this class belongs the great fundamental truth of the existence of a Personal God.

If it be urged that from the solution just given it would follow that God had revealed to us His existence and attributes without any need, we answer with St. Thomas,{2} that the revelation even of those truths concerning God and His perfections which can be discovered by reason alone, is a great benefit to mankind. To say nothing in this place of the supernatural graces attached to it, there are three great wants clearly discernible from which, had not these truths been revealed, the human race as a whole would have suffered.

First, without this revelation few men would have a proper knowledge of their Creator. Some would not arrive at it on account of their natural incapacity to inquire into recondite truths, and others could not undertake a satisfactory search on account of the multitude of their occupations. Moreover, a large number would shirk the patient consideration and reasoning without which a more accurate knowledge of the First Cause of all things cannot be attained.

Secondly, if that revelation were not given, the comparatively few, who could and would speculate about Divine things, would take a long time to reach any large or valuable results on account of the difficulty of the speculation. And thus a considerable part of human life would be spent in arduous study of Him, whom we are not created to study so much as to know and love and obey from the dawn of reason.

Finally, on the same hypothesis there would be far more room for erroneous views about God, than there is now, as we may infer from comparing the theories of philosophers with the truths possessed by any child that knows its catechism.

109. (2) Second Traditionalistic Argument. -- It is impossible that the contemplation of finite things should lead to any certain knowledge of the Infinite God.

Answer. It is true that we cannot leap from finite to infinite by one argument. But we can by a chain of arguments. We have to commence by proving that there is a First Cause, and that this First Cause can be but One. After that, it is to be shown that no perfection conceivable is wanting in that Cause which we call God. Thus it appears that one Infinite God really exists, although the notion we have of Him can only be partially positive.{3} That is to say, we cannot express the fulness of God's perfection by mere affirmation; but having affirmed it under a certain aspect, we must signify the rest by excluding all limits from what we have affirmed, saying for instance, God is wise without limit, He is infinitely wise, and the rest.

{1} St.Thomas, Sum. Theol. 1a. q. 2. art. 2. obj. 1. {2} Contra. Gent. i. c. 4.

{3} St. Thomas, Sum. Theol. 1a. q. 2. art. 2. ad 3m.

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