11 The Pharisees came forward and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him.
12 He sighed from the depth of his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.”
13 Then he left them, got into the boat again, and went off to the other shore.
I’m not sure of the context here and what God is telling me here. My understanding is that the Church condemns fideism, i.e. the idea that God requires pure faith from us without reason, or that all knowledge is an act of faith. Moreover, note 1 Thes. 5:21 (from “Church Order”):
12 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who are laboring among you and who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you,
13 and to show esteem for them with special love on account of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.
14 We urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, cheer the fainthearted, support the weak, be patient with all.
15 See that no one returns evil for evil; rather, always seek what is good [both] for each other and for all.
16 Rejoice always.
17 Pray without ceasing.
18 In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.h
19 Do not quench the Spirit.
20 Do not despise prophetic utterances.
21 Test everything; retain what is good.
22 Refrain from every kind of evil.
So it appears to me that testing and requiring signs is part of being a faithful subject – the Jews were to do so to verify the prophet’s authenticity (hence we know Muhammad isn’t a true prophet, from the lack of miracles), just as the Church does today to verify that people are in heaven.
Ver. 11. Jesus Christ did not consent to the petition they made him, because there will be another time for signs and wonders, viz. his second coming, when the powers of heaven shall be moved, and the moon refuse her light. This his first coming is not to terrify man, but to instruct and store his mind with lessons of humility, and every other virtue. (Theophylactus)
Ver. 12. Jesus Christ fetches a deep sigh on account of their obduracy, and says; why do these ask for a miracle to confirm their belief, when they resist the authority of so many miracles, which are daily performed under their eyes? (Bible de Vence) — A sign shall not be given. But by a Hebrew form of speech, if divers times is put for a negative. (Witham)
Bible de Vence seems to be correct, that they were rather acting like the unbelieving atheist, “Why doesn’t God just part the clouds and appear in the sky?” both making an unreasonable request and insulting God as if He were a servant to dispense favors on demand.
But if this is the case, then why does Jesus say so generally, “this generation”, as if it was everyone alive at that time? What are we to take from it today, especially in light of the entirety of revelation, e.g. 1 Thes. 5:21?
Also, it seems to me that God requires an element of uncertainty, perhaps because if we had “solid evidence” then our relationship with God would be obligatory rather than voluntary. Do you agree that for this reason all reports of miracles are unverifiable (e.g. Our Lady of Fatima’s Miracle of the Sun is hearsay from the 1910’s Portugal, Our Lady of Akita’s miracle of healing and statue shedding tears is hearsay from the 1980’s Japan, all remote places; likewise, the Resurrection is hearsay from 2000 years ago), requiring faith that they actually happened? Yet it seems our relationship with God is already obligatory – as Peter says in John 6:68, “to whom shall we go?” etc. There is no other way to happiness, and God created us with a need for happiness.
So what is the relationship between faith, evidence, and reason? Does God withhold evidence to require faith (to be bolstered by reason)? Always, sometimes, or never? How concrete a sign is God willing to give us? How is withholding evidence not counteracting our reason which demands evidence for certainty? What is God telling us in Mark 8 here?
I did read St. John Paul II’s “Fides et Ratio” a while ago (perhaps over a year ago), but I found it to be nothing more than a series of platitudes and learned little from it. For example, from a random paragraph:
No less important than research in the theoretical field is research in the practical field—by which I mean the search for truth which looks to the good which is to be performed. In acting ethically, according to a free and rightly tuned will, the human person sets foot upon the path to happiness and moves towards perfection. Here too it is a question of truth. It is this conviction which I stressed in my Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor: “There is no morality without freedom… Although each individual has a right to be respected in his own journey in search of the truth, there exists a prior moral obligation, and a grave one at that, to seek the truth and to adhere to it once it is known”.(25)
He says a bunch of true things that one learns from studying the faith (e.g. reading the Catechism) and living a Christian life, but I don’t recall him answering the questions I’ve asked here.