External signs

Pius XII’s Humani Generis says the following:

*4. Furthermore the human intelligence sometimes experiences difficulties in forming a judgment about the credibility of the Catholic faith, notwithstanding the many wonderful external signs God has given, which are sufficient to prove with certitude by the natural light of **reason alone *the divine origin of the Christian religion.

And now from the Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith:

4. Nevertheless, in order that the submission of our faith should be in accordance with reason, it was God’s will that there should be linked to the internal assistance of the Holy Spirit external indications of his revelation, that is to say divine acts, and first and foremost miracles and prophecies, which clearly demonstrating as they do the omnipotence and infinite knowledge of God, are the most certain signs of revelation and are suited to the understanding of all.

Later on it says:

6. Now, although the assent of faith is by no means a blind movement of the mind, yet* no one can accept the gospel **preaching in the way that is necessary for achieving salvation without the inspiration and illumination of the Holy Spirit, who gives to all facility in accepting and believing the truth *

How isn’t this contradictory? It seems like this is saying we need the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to be able to have faith, but then also reason alone can bring you to know the Catholic faith is true, so that in the end it’s the Holy Spirit that gives a person recognition that the external signs are proof of Catholicism’s truth. But then it’s not from reason alone that we can recognize these signs, as Pius XII says in his Encyclical, but rather from the Holy Spirit who gives us the faith to be able to how these signs make it credible.

Can someone help me out with this? :slight_smile:

From what I understand, we can come to know God’s primary attributes through the light of human reason alone, but certain divine truths can only be known through faith. So there is a harmony that exists between faith and reason. Reason alone has its limits, and faith alone also has its limits. Its when the two are working together that we come to the deepest understanding of divinity. Although Dei Filius does touch on this, I think that JPII’s Fides et Ratio more clearly expounds on it. There’s that famous quote that calls faith and reason the “two wings on which the human spirit rises to contemplate God”.

The first statement says that we can know God by reason alone. St. Thomas Aquinas formulated five reason-only proofs of God.

But knowing that God exists is not much. We don’t know how God has revealed himself to us (or even if he has done so). This knowledge cannot attain our salvation (though it’s a good start).

The “accepting the Gospel” part is where the Holy Spirit comes in.

No, the first statement is saying that we can know that the Christian religion is of divine origin (founded by God) by reason alone.

But knowing that God exists is not much. We don’t know how God has revealed himself to us (or even if he has done so). This knowledge cannot attain our salvation (though it’s a good start).

The “accepting the Gospel” part is where the Holy Spirit comes in.

This is what I originally thought. But now of course I’m confused.

OK, fine. We can go beyond God to the Christian religion. It takes more philosophy, but we can arrive at this truth. It is much more complicated than “just God,” but it can be done. A good example is the (protestant) author Norman Geisler’s Christian Apologetics.

But that’s not really what you are asking. You are asking if knowing something is the same as accepting (believing) it. It is not. We have learned that knowledge can be wrong. Once we “knew” that the Earth was flat. When we “believe” something, we put aside any ideas that might suggest our belief is wrong. We remain open to considering new evidence, but we accept our existing belief as true.

I “know” a lot about quantum physics that I have a very hard time accepting (believing). Do I accept the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum superposition? Most of the guys that are a lot smarter than me accept it. I accept it “for now,” and hope that someone will come along with something better (I’m rooting for the holographic principle).

Wouldn’t knowing that Christianity is from God necessarily compel someone to believe in it though? Who wouldn’t believe in it if it was proven to be from God?

Note the clause I highlighted in red – the clause clarifies the when & why for the Holy Spirit’s activity that paragraph 6 is speaking about.

Why did you leave off the last sentence in paragraph 4 of Humani Generis?
I’m also including a few lines from paragraph 2.
These lines show that Pius XII also recognized that, due to our wounded nature, reason alone was very often not enough. vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xii/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_12081950_humani-generis_en.html

  1. ……Now the human intellect, in gaining the knowledge of such truths is hampered both by the activity of the senses and the imagination, and by evil passions arising from original sin. Hence men easily persuade themselves in such matters that what they do not wish to believe is false or at least doubtful.

  2. Furthermore the human intelligence sometimes experiences difficulties in forming a judgment about the credibility of the Catholic faith, notwithstanding the many wonderful external signs God has given, which are sufficient to prove with certitude by the natural light of reason alone the divine origin of the Christian religion.** For man can, whether from prejudice or passion or bad faith, refuse and resist not only the evidence of the external proofs that are available, but also the impulses of actual grace.**

If you haven’t read the actual documents involved, it would be good to do so. When you read your quotes in their full context, I think you’ll realize there is no conflict.

Humani Generis vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xii/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_12081950_humani-generis_en.html

First Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith - Session III
(the Session which, in its Chapter 3, contains the quotes you give in your opening post) ewtn.com/library/COUNCILS/V1.HTM

BTW, it would really help if you would supply links for any quotes you give - most especially when the quotes are to official Church statements/documents.

That’s talking about giving full assent of your will to the Catholic faith, right? But what I’m getting at is why couldn’t that naturally follow in a hypothetical situation if reason alone is sufficient for knowing Catholicism is the divine religion?

Why did you leave off the last sentence in paragraph 4 of Humani Generis?

Because it’s irrelevant to what I’m trying to wrap my head around. I’m talking about a hypothetical scenario, not how it necessarily works in real life. If reason alone (without grace) is capable, at least in theory, of knowing the truthfulness of what the Church teaches, then why wouldn’t the will’s consent to fully accepting it naturally follow? The problem seems to be solved if we say that the will has primacy over the intellect, but in the end that won’t work as a real solution.

I guess I’m trying to figure out how this isn’t implicitly endorsing pelagianism.

I’m also including a few lines from paragraph 2.
These lines show that Pius XII also recognized that, due to our wounded nature, reason alone was very often not enough. [INDENT]vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xii/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_12081950_humani-generis_en.html

  1. ……Now the human intellect, in gaining the knowledge of such truths is hampered both by the activity of the senses and the imagination, and by evil passions arising from original sin. Hence men easily persuade themselves in such matters that what they do not wish to believe is false or at least doubtful.

Often hindered, yes. I know so from my own life. But obviously not always hindered, or else saying “reason alone” is entirely meaningless.

[quote=CrossofChrist;]I guess I’m trying to figure out how this isn’t implicitly endorsing pelagianism.
[/quote]

It isn’t pelagianism because coming to the knowledge of the truth of God/Christianity/Catholic Church through human reason alone is not enough to save a person. “Knowledge” does not ensure eternal life.

The Church documents you cite deal with attaining “knowledge” through human reason.
Pelagianism is about conquering sin and thereby attaining eternal life/salvation through human efforts alone.

Human reason can lead us to knowledge, but it cannot strengthen us sufficiently to live out the truths we have come to know.

Perhaps it will help to consider exactly what Pelagiarism preaches:
newadvent.org/cathen/11604a.htm
…,** he (Pelagius) regarded the moral strength of man’s will (liberum arbitrium), when steeled by asceticism, as sufficient in itself to desire and to attain the loftiest ideal of virtue. The value of Christ’s redemption was, in his opinion, limited mainly to instruction (doctrina) and example (exemplum), which the Saviour threw into the balance as a counterweight against Adam’s wicked example, so that nature retains the ability to conquer sin and to gain eternal life even without the aid of grace**. …
The Church denies what Pelagius taught (see bolded parts).

There is no Church document that says we can attain eternal life without the help of God’s grace. Do not confuse attaining knowledge with attaining salvation.
The Church says there is knowledge we can attain thru human reason alone; it never says we can attain salvation through human reason/will alone.

As I was initially responding I think I solved my problem. So thank you. :tiphat:

Here’s what I was originally saying:

Why wouldn’t this knowledge necessarily result in the assent of the will? To use a lousy analogy, say that you have an upcoming exam, and you need to get an A on it. But to get an A on it all you need to do is show up and take the test; it’s based entirely on participation/merely showing up. You know that by merely showing up you’ll get an A, so why wouldn’t you necessarily “give assent of your will” and take the test?

In response to myself, I would say that while we must give our assent to the truth that God has revealed, truth that we can “figure out” by our reason alone, our will doesn’t necessarily follow what our intellect knows because of sin. It takes God’s grace to overcome sin, and that’s something we can’t accomplish by our own will. In the hypothetical exam scenario, even if you knew that by merely showing up you would get an A, “sin”, such as sleeping in through the test or doing something that you consider more enjoyable, prevents you from going to take the test. That’s why “grace” is needed.

And it’s the same with God/salvation.

Gosh, I feel so stupid now for starting this thread. :o

Perhaps this may help, if I may jump in.

The act of faith mentioned in Dei Filius is the theological virtue of faith where, in the words of Vat II citing Dei Filius, “‘The obedience of faith’ (Rom. 13:26; see 1:5; 2 Cor 10:5-6) is to be given to God who reveals, an obedience by which man commits his whole self freely to God, offering the full submission of intellect and will to God who reveals,” and freely assenting to the truth revealed by Him." (Dei Verbum, 5)

This personal act involves not only the assent to truth but the choice to live it faithfully as a disciple of Christ can only be made by the help of God’s grace. I think it is safe to say that being convinced that Christianity is the one true religion is different than the act of committing ones entire life to God in response to His Word and remaining faithful to that commitment.

But the whole of Chap 3 in Dei Filius explains the relationship between faith and grace, and Chap 4 the relation between faith and reason.

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