Catholicism on knowledge/authority
- As per the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, Roman Catholicism
teaches that God has not determined everything that shall be and
shall occur. Therefore there must be a realm of possibilities and
facts outside of God's control. Furthermore, man is partly
automomous in his reasoning capability. That is to say, he may
arrive at knowledge independently of God's revelation. To the extent
that man may discover truth on his own without God he is autonomous.
Hence, the Catholic view of knowledge requires that man must be
somewhat autonomous. This leads to the Catholic view of authority,
which is subject to man's interpretation. Since man may gather and
posess true knowledge apart from God, he may interpret facts
independantly to determine God's truth. There is no reason for him
to take God's revelation at face value because that is only one
option for his discovery of truth. He may also investigate and
determine it on his own by using reason and examining the facts.
Therefore all truth is interpreted by man in the Catholic view.
There is no authority higher than man. In the interest of order and
uniformity Rome has designated a hierarchichal group of "expert" men
to interpret truth and teach the rest of mankind, especially
the "pope". She requires dogmatic adherance to their dictates. Yet
she cannot provide the unbeliever with a convincing reason to follow
these "experts" rather than his or her own conclusions.
The natural man sees himself as autonomous and seeks knowledge by
examining data and interpreting it against his own experience. The
Catholic apologist supports this conception of himself as fitting and
proper. He expects the natural man to examine the facts to come to
truth. The Catholic presents facts and evidences for Christianity in
expectation that the autonomous individual will examine them and
realize that it is the truth. Yet the natural man is not neutral in
the matter. He is a rebel against God, and has much at stake in the
question. He does not want the Christian God to exist because in
that case he is in big trouble. Therefore the natural man will
always "suppress the truth in unrighteousness." Rom 1:18 The
Catholic does not challenge his conception of individual autonomy so
he has no reason to accept any more of Christianity than what may
seem reasonable to him personally. Catholicism is unable to
challenge the natural man's independent interpretation of truth.
In Contrast the Protestant position recognizes God as the source of
all knowledge and all being. These attributes rest on his exhaustive
(complete) self-knowledge and self-existence. God needs to reference
point outside of Himself to define His existence. It is self-
defined. God has created the universe outside of Himself as a
separate realm of existence, which owes its existence to Him in every
point. God is the ultimate reference point by which all things
exist. Nothing can exist except in relation to the self-existent
one. God is determinitive in that he determines all things, all
knowledge, and all existence. Nothing may occur outside of His
sovereign will. He has foreordained everything that happens. There
are no neutral facts independent of God, for they all reflect Him and
exist in relation to Him. In this man is dependent on God for all
knowledge. Man may only have the knowledge that God pleases to give
to him of the universe. Man may have perfect knowledge as God grants
it to him, but must always have incomplete knowledge because he is a
God created man to recieve knowledge from Him and reconstruct it in
creation. He was not to arrive at knowledge independently, but
recieve all knowledge from God. At the fall of man, Eve questioned
whether God was the ultimate source of all knowledge. She desired to
have an ultimate authority of her own to determine and interpret her
own existence independently of God. Once she rebelled against God as
the source of all knowledge, she lost the ability to make any sense
of herself or the world around her. Apart from God no knowledge is
possible. Although fallen man examines evidences from nature to
determine his own existence, his efforts to explain his own existence
must always fall short because he has cut himself off from the
fountain of knowledge, the ultimate reference point by which all
Only by confronting the sinner with the mistake of his entire system
of thought can the Christian lead him to the truth. The sinner views
himself as autonomous, and it is the Christian's job to show him that
he cannot arrive at any knowledge independently of God's revelation,
and that he is a rebel against God deserving His wrath. However the
natural man does not want to abandon his own intellectual
independence. Though the Protestant can conclusively demonstrate the
necessity by logic, only the Holy Spirit can enable the natural man
to accept what he already knows inside. He must start with the
source of all knowledge if he is to understand anything for what it
is. The Catholic, by validating the sinners peception of self-
autonomy, cannot provide him any logical reason for abandoning his
own authority of interpretation.
7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools
despise wisdom and instruction.
For Christ's Crown and Covenant!
- --- In email@example.com, "Dan Fraas"
> As per the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, Roman CatholicismWhere does Aquinas say this? I can find where he says that God knows
> teaches that God has not determined everything that shall be and
> shall occur.
all things, God's providence extends to all things, God predestines
and reprobates men, but I cannot find him saying that God has not pre-
determined that which shall come to pass.
- "And thus in the state of perfect nature man needs a gratuitous
strength superadded to natural strenth for one reson, viz., in order
to do and wish supernatural good; but for two reasons, in the state
of corrupt nature, viz., in order to be healed, and furthermore in
order to carry out works of supernatural virtue, which are
meritorious. Beyond this, in both states man needs the Divine help,
that he may be moved to act well." Thomas Aquinas--Summa Theologica,
Vol 7. p. 150
Here Aquinas speaks of a finite capacity to do good that he describes
as incomplete and in need of God's "superadded gratuitous strength"
to do what is good. Man before the fall and after the fall simply
needs divine "help" to make his own right decisions. This capacity
to make "meritorious" decisions independently and autonomously of
God's will creates a realm of possibility beyond God's control. God
cannot determine all things if he does not determine all human
decisions and actions.