Saturday, July 12, 2014

Can God be known by the natural use of reason?


1.  Next he asks whether God can be known by natural reason.  He gives three objections.  The first is from Boethius, who says that reason is incapable of grasping simple forms.  The second is from the fact that natural reason depends on the imagination from which it abstracts intelligible species.  But imagination has only sensible objects, and therefore God cannot be grasped by it.  Third, he says, citing Augustine, that knowledge of God can be had only by the good, whereas natural knowledge can be had by anyone.

2.  His Sed Contra is from the great passage in Paul’s letter to the Romans concerning the natural knowledge of God.

3.  In the Corpus he gives the principle of natural human knowledge of God.  We can naturally know those things given to us through the senses, or which the things we encounter in our senses point us to.  Since we can never experience God by sensation, natural human knowledge is inadequate to know God in his essence.  However the evidence of material realities discoverable through the senses is sufficient to prove the existence of God, and certain characteristics which follow necessarily from the idea of God as the cause of all creatures.  However, this is still infinitely less than the knowledge of God through his essence, since such knowledge is proportioned to the effects, which are infinitely outstripped in this case by the excellence of their cause.

4.  He replies to the objections as follows: First, that the power of reason cannot grasp the absolutely simple by itself, but can determine the existence of such a thing.  Second, that God is known through creatures by the images of his effects, from which is goodness and power are made known.  Third, he distinguishes between the knowledge of God under grace or glory, which is limited to the good, and the knowledge available by natural reason, which is common to all.


- Boethius says the mind cannot grasp what is absolutely simple.
- God cannot be imagined, but imagination is necessary for human knowledge.
- Only the good can know God, but everyone can know what they know by reason.

- Natural knowledge originates in the senses.
- What can be known naturally is either directly sensible or is demonstrable by the evidence of the senses.
- God cannot be known directly by natural reason, but his existence and certain attributes can be known, insofar as sensible things point to him as their cause.

- The mind cannot naturally grasp the simple, but can ascertain its existence.
- God’s image is given to the mind inasmuch as it is imprinted on all of creation.
- Only the good can know God under grace or glory, but natural knowledge is available to both good and bad.

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