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Saint's teaching on faith and reason helps 'overcome' modern atheism, teaches Holy Father

.- During his Wednesday audience, the Holy Father explored the teachings of the renowned scholar, St. Thomas Aquinas, asserting that saint's work emphasizing faith and reason “helps us overcome certain objections raised by modern atheism” which “denies that religious language possesses objective meaning and holds that it only has a subjective or merely emotional value.”

The Pope opened his catechesis on June 16 by discussing an intellectual conflict during the time of St. Thomas, where many were convinced that secular philosophy and the theological works of the Church Fathers were at odds with one another.

The “burning question was whether ... a philosophy elaborated without reference to Christ and the world of faith, and that elaborated bearing Christ and the world of faith in mind, were compatible or mutually exclusive,” said the Pontiff.

“Thomas,”  he explained, “was firmly convinced that they were compatible, and that the philosophy elaborated without Christ was awaiting only the light of Jesus in order to be made complete.”

“The novelty of Thomas, what determined his path as a thinker, was this: to demonstrate the independence of philosophy and theology, and at the same time their inter- relation.”

According to St. Thomas, the Pope added, “faith consolidates, integrates and illuminates the heritage of truth acquired by human reason. The trust St. Thomas places in these two instruments of knowledge (faith and reason) can be explained by his conviction that both come from a single wellspring of truth, the divine Logos which works in the area of both creation and redemption.”

After establishing the principle of reason and faith, the Holy Father recalled how St. Thomas makes it clear that both follow different mental processes.

“Reason accepts a truth by virtue of its intrinsic evidence, either mediated or direct; faith, on the other hand, accepts a truth on the basis of the authority of the revealed Word of God.”

“This distinction ensures the autonomy of the human sciences, ... and the theological sciences. However this does not mean a separation; rather, it implies mutual and advantageous collaboration. Faith, in fact, protects reason from any temptation to mistrust in its own capacities and stimulates it to open itself to ever broader horizons,” he noted.

“The entire history of Christian theology is, in the final analysis, the exercise of this duty of the intellect, which shows the intelligibility of the faith, its inner structure and harmony, its reasonableness and its capacity to promote the good of man,” the Pope asserted.

“The correctness of theological reasoning and its true cognitive significance is based on the value of theological language which, according to St. Thomas, is principally a language of analogy,” the Pope added. “Analogy recognizes shared perfections in the created world and in God."

St. Thomas, he remarked, based his doctrine of analogy, “not only on purely philosophical arguments, but also on the fact that, with the revelation, God Himself spoke to us and, thus, authorized us to speak about Him.”

The Holy Father emphasized the importance of this doctrine which, he said, “helps us overcome certain objections raised by modern atheism which denies that religious language possesses objective meaning and holds that it only has a subjective or merely emotional value.”

St. Thomas' moral theology is deeply relevant to modern society in that “the theological and moral virtues of man are rooted in human nature,” said Pope Benedict.

“Divine Grace accompanies, supports and encourages ethical commitment but, according to St. Thomas, all men and women, believers and non- believers, are of themselves called to recognize the requirements of human nature as expressed in natural law, and to draw inspiration therefrom when formulating positive law; that is, the laws produced by civil and political authorities to regulate human society.”

“When natural law and the responsibility it implies are denied,”  he warned, “the way is thrown dramatically open to ethical relativism at an individual level, and to totalitarianism at a political level.”

“Defending the universal rights of man and affirming the absolute value of the dignity of the person presupposes a foundation: and is not this foundation natural law, with the non-negotiable values it contains?”

“Thomas,” the Holy Father said in his concluding remarks, “presents us with a broad and trusting view of human reason.”

“Broad, because it is not limited to the area of empirical-scientific reason but open to all of existence and therefore also to the fundamental and inescapable questions of human life; trusting, because human reason, especially if it welcomes the inspiration of Christian faith, promotes a civilization which recognizes the dignity of the person, the inviolability of his rights and the cogency of his duties.”


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April 24, 2014

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