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  • Intrinsically Evil Acts and the Relationship between Faith and Reason
  • Josef Seifert

The encyclical Veritatis Splendor teaches many truths that are also accessible to human reason, above all the existence of intrinsically evil acts. Therefore, Veritatis Splendor is also closely related to the teachings of Fides et Ratio that deals more systematically with the fundamental role of human reason for faith.

I. Faith and Reason (Fides et Ratio)

Fides et Ratio (No. 1) calls faith and reason the two wings on which we soar toward truth. Without reason no faith. Although human reason alone is not sufficient to recognize that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God, without the natural knowledge of truth, the Gospel message could be neither understood nor believed in.

1. Faith Presupposes Rational and Natural Knowledge of Truth

In the Creed, we confess faith in the Creator, Redeemer, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal life. We could not believe any of these and other truths of faith if we did not understand what the word "truth" means and that the truth of each statement of the Creed must be in accordance with reality in order to be true. If one interprets truth differently—for example, only as an object of human or social consent—one undermines or even denies the whole faith. The resurrection of the dead would be nothing but the object of social agreement or merely an opinion that we only adopt to give meaning to our lives and that just possesses some psychological or political function.1 [End Page 102]

Holy Scripture implies this same concept of truth as fundamental for faith:

16 For if the dead are not raised, neither is Christ risen;

    17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is in vain; . . .

    19 If in this life alone we hope in Christ, we are the most miserable of all men.

Epistle to the Corinthians, 15, 12–21.

We understand by our reason the nature of truth as an agreement (an adaequa-tio) of a judgment with reality. The judgment is true if the state of affairs it asserts is the case and false if it is not. The declaration that "there is only ONE God" is true if indeed there is only one God; it is false if there are many gods or no God. Holy Scripture implicitly presupposes the same notion of the truth of a proposition, without explaining the character of truth as adequatio in a philosophical way.2 All men possess this understanding of truth; philoso-phy only illuminates and understands more clearly what we already knew in a prephilosophical manner.3

As St. Paul so clearly expresses the fact that our belief in resurrection solely has value if it is true that Christ has risen from death, we could call St. Paul, and with him St. Thomas, who likewise insists on truth as foundation, the "apostle and the doctor of truth," as Pope John Paul called them. Both teach also the inseparable relationship between reason and faith. There are countless other "truths of reason," without the knowledge of which faith would not be possible. For example, without understanding the beauty of forgiveness and mercy, it would be impossible to realize the beauty of the revelation of divine mercy. [End Page 103]

2. Natural Knowledge as the "Third Source" of the Knowledge of Truth besides the Two Sources of Revelation

God wants all men to know the truth about His divine attributes and His deeds, and He wants us to worship Him "in spirit and in truth." Knowledge of the truth about God and man, and a life founded on this knowledge of the truth, a vita ex veritate, are therefore the basic program of Christian life. St Augustine even describes our eternal beatitude as "gaudium de veritate," as joy over the truth.

The Catholic Church does not solely recognize the supernatural divine revelation of the truth communicated through the Holy Scripture, as if it were the only font of divine revelation, but also the oral tradition. The Catholic Church shares this faith with the Orthodox Church. Both base their recognition on sacred oral tradition on Sacred Scripture itself, which contradicts the sola...


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pp. 102-132
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