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

APPENDIX III. Immediate Consciousness of God in the Patristic Writings.

SEVERAL distinguished scholars of our own century have been of opinion that in the writings of the early defenders of the Christian faith, particularly in those of St. Justin, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and St. Augustine, passages were found which showed that their authors, in opposition to scholasticism, believed in an immediate natural knowledge of God. Thorough information on this subject is given by Kleutgen, Philosophie Scholastique (translated from the German), nn. 427-489. He shows that the meaning of the sayings alleged in no way disagrees with the common teaching of the schoolmen.

The passages to which our opponents appeal. may aptly be divided into two classes, inasmuch as in some of them the knowledge of God is spoken of as belonging to human nature, whilst in others man is said to know truth in God, the First, Unchangeable Truth.

Careful examination shows, however, that the first class of passages do not imply any belief in an innate idea of God, or any direct intuition of Him in His relation to finite beings. They are only designed to express strongly that human reason, connaturally developed and applied, cannot fail to arrive at the knowledge of the Creator.

As regards the other statements, which affirm that we know truth in God, their real import is that the natural light of our reason, by which we perceive truth, is in its existence and activity a sort of faint copy of God, the self-existing Infinite Truth, and caused by Him. We say in common parlance that we see things of this world in the light of the sun. By this phrase we imply indeed a dependence of our actual vision of things round about us upon the influence of the sun. Yet we do not imply a gazing at the sun as the reason why we are able to see things. In a similar way, St. Augustine says in answer to the question, Where we see the truth of our affirmations? that we see it neither in ourselves nor in other men, but in God, the Unchangeable Truth.{1} By this assertion he impresses upon us the dependence of our ability for discerning truth upon Divine creation and concurrence; but he can in no way be said to advocate an immediate consciousness of God, as is well shown by Kleutgen, loc. cit. n. 472, seq.

{1} Confess. Lib. XII. C. 25.

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