APOLOGIA (9) — Is God the subject of sacred science?

 

Anastasios

 

Objection 1: When we speak of the sacred, we imply many things that are not related with God.

Objection 2: We speak of sacred in many religious traditions, but lots of them don’t recognize “a god” but different deities, or even emptiness. So sacred science is not related with God.

Objection 3: We are not able to ascertain the nature of God, so He cannot be the subject of any science.

Objection 4: Science needs “hard proof” and we cannot prove God or he will not be God if our mind can understand Him.

On the contrary in Proverbs (1:7) we read that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”

I answer that God is certainly the subject of sacred science. As Saint Thomas Aquinas says at the beginning of his Summa Theologiae: “The relation between a science and its object is the same as that between a habit or faculty and its object. Now properly speaking, the object of a faculty or habit is the thing under the aspect of which all things are referred to that faculty or habit, as man and stone are referred to the faculty of sight in that they are colored. Hence colored things are the proper objects of sight. But in sacred science, all things are treated of under the aspect of God: either because they are God Himself or because they refer to God as their beginning and end. Hence it follows that God is in very truth the object of this science. This is clear also from the principles of this science, namely, the articles of faith, for faith is about God. The object of the principles and of the whole science must be the same, since the whole science is contained virtually in its principles. Some, however, looking to what is treated of in this science, and not to the aspect under which it is treated, have asserted the object of this science to be something other than God—that is, either things and signs; or the works of salvation; or the whole Christ, as the head and members. Of all these things, in truth, we treat in this science, but so far as they have reference to God.”

So even if we speak of other things, these things, however, are always ordained to God that is our last harbor. Saint Augustine in Confessions (Book X) has also said: “Let me know Thee, O Lord, who knowest me: let me know Thee, as I am known. Power of my soul, enter into it, and fit it for Thee, that Thou mayest have and hold it without spot or wrinkle. This is my hope, therefore do I speak; and in this hope do I rejoice, when I rejoice healthfully. Other things of this life are the less to be sorrowed for, the more they are sorrowed for; and the more to be sorrowed for, the less men sorrow for them. For behold, Thou lovest the truth, and he that doth it, cometh to the light. This would I do in my heart before Thee in confession: and in my writing, before many witnesses. And from Thee, O Lord, unto whose eyes the abyss of man’s conscience is naked, what could be hidden in me though I would not confess it? For I should hide Thee from me, not me from Thee.” So sacred doctrine is an attempt to know something more about God so that we may know something more about ourselves too.

Reply to objection 1: The studies of Rudolf Otto (1869-1937) certainly are very important to understand something more about “the sacred.” In The idea of Holy he stated: “In this book I have ventured to write of that which may be called non-rational or supra-rational in the depths of the divine nature. I do not thereby want to promote in any way the tendency of our time towards an extravagant and fantastic irrationalism , but rather to join issue with it in its morbid form. The irrational is today a favorite theme of all who are too lazy to think or too ready to evade the arduous duty of clarifying their ideas and grounding their convictions on a basis of coherent thought. This book, recognizing the profound import of the non-rational for metaphysics, makes a serious attempt to analyze all the more exactly the feeling which remains where the concept fails, and to introduce a terminology which is not any the more loose or indeterminate for having necessarily to make use of symbols.”

Reply to objection 2: As said before, even if we have to cultivate a healthy ecumenism, we don’t have to think that everything is true and good. So, even if other religions may have some elements of truth, the full truth is only in the revelation of God through Jesus Christ and in His Church.

Reply to objection 3: Saint Thomas Aquinas has said: “Although we cannot know in what consists the essence of God, nevertheless in this science we make use of His effects, either of nature or of grace, in place of a definition, in regard to whatever is treated of in this science concerning God; even as in some philosophical sciences we demonstrate something about a cause from its effect, by taking the effect in place of a definition of the cause.”

Reply to objection 4: We need to be careful not to think as sacred about science and its methods. This mistake was already rebutted by Paul Feyerabend in his book Against method.

 

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