Day 4 deals with the first part of the CCC: The Profession of Faith. It touches on just over half of the first chapter of the first section of part one.
Section 1: “I Believe” — “We Believe”
- 26 We begin our profession of faith by saying: “I believe” or “We believe”. […] Faith is man’s response to God, who reveals himself and gives himself to man, at the same time bringing man a superabundant light as he searches for the ultimate meaning of his life.
To be able to profess the faith, it is necessary to outline what that profession entails and that is a belief. What that belief is—as Catholics it is seen in the Creeds—needs to be outlined, given a root for the belief, and then fleshed out in terms of doctrine. But to say what faith is defined as is an important step.
Chapter 1: Man’s Capacity for God
I. The desire for God
- 27 The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself…
- 28 In many ways, throughout history down to the present day, men have given expression to their quest for God in their religious beliefs and behavior: in their prayers, sacrifices, rituals, meditations, and so forth. These forms of religious expression, despite the ambiguities they often bring with them, are so universal that one may well call man a religious being…
- 29 But this “intimate and vital bond of man to God” (GS 19 § 1) can be forgotten, overlooked, or even explicitly rejected by man…
- 30 …Although man can forget God or reject him, He never ceases to call every man to seek him, so as to find life and happiness. But this search for God demands of man every effort of intellect, a sound will, “an upright heart”, as well as the witness of others who teach him to seek God.
The desire for God is something that I’ve always had a struggle with in my faith. I used to think that it was a pursuit of knowledge, and a greater understanding of existence, that drove me to learn more about the world (in my rejection of God). It took some reflection to realise that the desire for God was at the root of my pursuits and that desire was what ultimately brought me back to God. Paragraph 29 reminds me that, as much as God loves us and wishes for us to be in communion with Him, man has the choice (and free will) to reject that (as I did). But paragraph 30 calls to mind the Good Shepherd in His constant pursuit to call us back. It’s assurance that He calls us but we need to give “every effort of intellect, a sound will, ‘an upright heart’, as well as the witness of others”.
II. Ways of coming to know God
- 31 Created in God’s image and called to know and love him, the person who seeks God discovers certain ways of coming to know him. These are also called proofs for the existence of God, not in the sense of proofs in the natural sciences, but rather in the sense of “converging and convincing arguments”, which allow us to attain certainty about the truth. These “ways” of approaching God from creation have a twofold point of departure: the physical world, and the human person.
- 32 The world: starting from movement, becoming, contingency, and the world’s order and beauty, one can come to a knowledge of God as the origin and the end of the universe.
- 33 The human person: with his openness to truth and beauty, his sense of moral goodness, his freedom and the voice of his conscience, with his longings for the infinite and for happiness, man questions himself about God’s existence. In all this he discerns signs of his spiritual soul. The soul, the “seed of eternity we bear in ourselves, irreducible to the merely material”, can have its origin only in God.
- 34 The world, and man, attest that they contain within themselves neither their first principle nor their final end, but rather that they participate in Being itself, which alone is without origin or end. Thus, in different ways, man can come to know that there exists a reality which is the first cause and final end of all things, a reality “that everyone calls God”.
- 35 Man’s faculties make him capable of coming to a knowledge of the existence of a personal God. But for man to be able to enter into real intimacy with him, God willed both to reveal himself to man and to give him the grace of being able to welcome this revelation in faith. The proofs of God’s existence, however, can predispose one to faith and help one to see that faith is not opposed to reason.
I think that need for proof, and scientific proof most especially, was a hindrance in “coming to know God”. I was never satisfied with somebody me something and just following it without question; I grew up with encyclopedias so I needed to reference everything. The way the CCC puts proofs as distinct from science is valuable in that it allows the proof of God, a God that is not only a supreme being but also deeply personal, to be the convergence of many sources and convincing as a result of those arguments. It’s still quite a lot to wrap my head around but it allows clarity.
To see the world, the earth, and existence as a creation and product of God is something I never considered as a proof for the existence of God or a way to know Him. But St. Paul makes it clear that God is manifested in creation, “his eternal power and deity… clearly perceived in the things that have been made”. And regarding St. Augustine, it is clear (to me, at least) that if God is not good then He would not have made creation to be aesthetically (at the very basis) pleasing to humanity.
To come to know God in humanity goes back to the desire of God and His call to be in communion with Him. If there is a desire to come to know more of existence, to even question one’s existence, then I think there is a leaning towards life beyond matter on this world. To seek communion with a being who stands outside creation (for it was He who created) implies a state outside of mere existence and matter and, as the CCC puts it, is a sign of a spiritual soul. I think that the questions we hold of eternity or of existence are beginnings in which we seek to discern for our soul. And if that soul exists outside of material existence, then it would have to come from a God who is outside of that material existence, as the CCC clearly puts it.
So if the world, which is reflective of God, and humanity, whose soul is from God, are ways by which we can come to know God, then I think we should strive for a greater understanding of the divine presence in both or our “participat[ion] in Being itself”. The CCC makes it clear that there are different means by which we come to this, to know God as “the first cause and final end of all things” and “a reality ‘that everyone calls God’”.
It is up to us to discern these and build on what we find, that is the proofs however anecdotal or personal they may be, because our faculties make us “capable of coming to a knowledge of the existence of a personal God”. So as the CCC outlines, God “willed both to reveal himself to man and to give him the grace of being able to welcome this revelation of faith”. So then it is clear that faith does not oppose reason as reason may be one of the ways that God’s revelation is welcomed in a man’s faculty. But, going back to paragraph 29, we can ultimately make the decision to accept or reject these revelations. I think that is a hurdle for the contemporary intellectual, to humble oneself to accept the fact that not everything is found by the might of man but given in the revelation of God (however that might manifest itself).
(October 14 for September 18, 2012)