Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/255

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this applied corrective we are enabled to attribute to God the perfections manifested in intelligence, will, power, personality, without making the objective content of our idea of God merely the human magnified, or a bundle of negations. The extreme of Anthropomorphism, or of defining God in terms of man magnified, is thus avoided, and the opposite extreme of Agnosticism discounted. Necessity compels us to think God under the relative, dependent features of our experience. But no necessity of thought compels us to make the accidental features of our knowledge the very essence of His being. The function of denial, which the Agnostic overlooks, is a corrective, not purely negative, function; and our idea of God, inadequate and solely proportional as it is, is nevertheless positive, true, and valid according to the laws which govern all our knowing.

VII. The will to Believe.—The Catholic conception of faith is a firm assent, on account of the authority of God to revealed truths. It presupposes the philosophical truth that a personal God exists who can neither deceive nor be deceived, and the historical truth of the fact of revelation. The two sources of knowledge—reason and revelation—complete each other. Faith begins where science ends. Revelation adds a new world of truth to the sum of human knowledge. This new world of truth is a world of mystery, but not of contradiction. The fact that none of the truths which we believe on God's authority contradicts the laws of human thought or the certainties of natural knowledge shows that the world of faith is a world of higher reason. Faith is consequently an intellectual assent; a kind of superadded knowledge distinct from, yet continuous with, the knowledge derived from experience.

In contrast with this conception of faith and reason as distinct is the widespread view which urges their absolute separation. The word knowledge is restricted to the results of the exact sciences; the word belief is extended to all that cannot be thus exactly ascertained. The passive attitude of the man of science, who suspends judgment until the evidence forces his assent, is assumed towards religious truth. The result is that the "will to believe" takes on enormous significance in contrast with the "power to know", and faith sinks to the level of blind belief cut off from all continuity with knowledge.

It is true that the will, the conscience, the heart, and divine grace co-operate in the production of the act of faith, but it is no less true that reason plays an essential part. Faith is an act of intellect and will; when duly analyzed, it discloses intellectual, moral, and sentimental elements. We are living beings, not pure reasoning machines, and our whole nature cooperates vitally in the acceptance of the divine word. "Man is a being who thinks all his experience and perforce must think his religious experience."—Sterrett, "The Freedom of Authority" (New York, 1905) p.N 56.—Where reason does not enter at all, we have but caprice or enthusiasm. Faith is not a persuasion to be duly explained by reference to subconscious will-attitudes alone, nor is distrust of reason one of its marks.

It is also true that the attitude of the believer, as compared with that of the scientific observer, is strongly personal, and interested in the object of belief. But this contrast of personal with impersonal attitudes affords no justification for regarding belief as wholly blind. It is unfair to generalize these two attitudes into mutually exclusive philosophies. The moral ideal of conscience is different from the cold, impartial ideal of physical science. Truths which nourish the moral life of the soul, and shape conduct, cannot wait for acceptance, like purely scientific truths, until theoretical reason studies the problem thoroughly. They present distinct motives for the conscience to appreciate actively, not for the speculative reason to contemplate passively. Conscience appreciates the moral value of testimonies, commands their acceptance, and bids the intellect to "ponder them with assent".

It is wrong, therefore, to liken the function of conscience to that of speculative reason, to apply to the solution of moral and religious questions the methods of the exact sciences, to give to the latter the monopoly of all certitude, and to declare the region beyond scientific knowledge a region of nescience and blind belief. On the assumption that the knowledge and the definable are synonymous terms, the "first principles of thought" are transferred from the category of knowledge to that of belief, but the transfer is arbitrary. It is too much to suppose that we know only what we can explain. The mistake is in making a general philosophy out of a particular method of scientific explanation. This criticism applies to all systematic attempts to divide the mind into opposite hemispheres of intellect and will, to divorce faith completely from knowledge. Consciousness is one and continuous. Our distinctions should never amount to separations, nor should the "pragmatic" method now in vogue be raised to the dignity of a universal philosophy. "The soul with its powers does not form an integral whole divided, or divisible, into non-communicating compartments of intellect and will; it is a potential inter-penetrative whole". (Baillie, "Revue de Philos.", April, 1904, p. 468.) In the solidary interaction of all man's powers the contributions furnished by will and conscience increase and vivify the meagre knowledge of God we are able to acquire by reasoning.

VIII. Agnosticism and the Doctrine of the Church.—The Agnostic denial of the ability of human reason to know God is directly opposed to Catholic Faith. The Council of the Vatican solemnly declares that "God, the beginning and end of all, can, by the natural light of human reason, be known with certainty from the works of creation" (Const. De Fide, II, De Rev.) The intention of the Council was to reassert the historic claim of Christianity to be reasonable, and to condemn Traditionalism together with all views which denied to reason the power to know God with certainty. Religion would be deprived of all foundation in reason, the motives of credibility would become worthless, conduct would be severed from creed, and faith be blind, if the power of knowing God with rational certainty were called in question. The declaration of the Council was based primarily on scripture, not on any of the historic systems of philosophy. The Council simply defined the possibility of man's knowing God with certainty by reason apart from revelation. The possibility of knowing God was not affirmed of any historical individual in particular; the statement was limited to the power of human reason, not extended to the exercise of that power in any given instance of time or person. The definition thus took on the feature of the objective statement: Man can certainly know God by the "physical" power of reason when the latter is rightly developed, even though revelation be "morally" necessary for mankind in the bulk, when the difficulties of reaching a prompt, certain, and correct knowledge of God are taken into account. What conditions were necessary for this right development of reason, how much positive education was required to equip the mind for this task of knowing God and some of His attributes with certainty, the Council did not profess to determine. Neither did it undertake to decide whether the function of reason in this case is to derive the idea of God wholly from reflection on the data furnished by sense, or merely to bring out into explicit form, by means of such data, an idea already instinctive and innate. The former view, that of