Man's Capacity for God

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Simplified

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I Believe (26)

Understanding what "to believe" means:

  1. Man's search for God (Chapter One)
  2. God coming to man by Revelation (Chapter Two)
  3. Man responding in faith (Chapter Three)

Called to Search for God (27-28)

God has placed a desire for himself in every person. He draws man to himself and facilitates man's search. Man is called to speak with God and be in communion with him (Second Vatican Council).

Historically, man's religious beliefs have been expressed in diverse ways. These religious expressions show that man is a "religious being." "God made all peoples that they would search for him" (Acts 17:26-27).

Inhibiting Factors (29-30)

Many factors (ignorance, evil, desire for riches, bad example, teachings hostile to religion) lead man to reject his "vital bond to God." Out of fear, man hides himself (Gen 3:8-10).

God still calls man to seek him, and every person must search for God with his intellect, will and "an upright heart." "You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you" (St. Augustine).

Proofs for God's Existence (31-32)

Proofs for God's existence come from arguments which converge, convince and provide ways for man to know God. These proofs are found in the physical world and man's inner world.

Paul writes clearly: "What can be known is evident to them (pagans) because God made it evident to them. He is perceived in what he has made" (Rom 1:19-20). Augustine states that all human beauty is a witness to God.

Proofs from within the Person (33)

Man is endowed with a sense of moral goodness. By his conscience, man asks about God's existence. This shows that man has a spiritual soul (the seed of eternity) which comes directly from God.

So the world and the human person can begin to exist, they must participate in a Being Who has no origin and no end. The person must realize that the goal of human existence is God himself.

The Power of Reason (35)

Man can reason to the existence of a personal God. However, God has also chosen to reveal himself. Rational proofs can show that revealed truths are not opposed to reason.

Reason's Power and Limits (36-38)

Man, by reason alone, can know that God exists through the created world which God has made (First Vatican Council). Therefore, man can accept God's revelation.

However, serious obstacles exist. First, religious truths cannot be seen. Second, religious truths demand self-sacrifice. Third, man experiences inner disordered appetites. Man is easily persuaded to consider as false what he does not want to acknowledge as true (Pius XII - Humani Genesis).

Therefore, man needs revealed truths, even those which man can grasp by reason (such as God's existence).

The Limits of Human Language (39-40)

The intellect (unaided by the Bible) can grasp some truths about God. Therefore, a dialogue with all peoples (atheists, philosophers, etc.) is possible.

Yet, we are limited and can speak about God only with human language.

Describing God (41-43)

We begin to describe God according to his creatures (which reflect his goodness).

We also "purify" our language because human words fall short in describing him.

Although limited, our language can still attain to God (sometimes expressing only what God is not).

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