Fall 2001

Metaphysics as Mediator Between Revelation and the Natural Sciences

W. Norris Clarke

The aim of this issue of Communio, following the invitation of Pope John Paul II in his Encyclical Fides et Ratio, is to explore the integration of the various modes of knowing into a fully mature Christian wisdom. The fundamental integration is between faith, which gives us access to the truths of divine revelation, concerning the inner life of God and his special plans for human salvation, which we could not otherwise know by our own unaided reason, and reason, which gives us access to truths about our universe capable of being known by our own natural powers of reason. This basic division of the sources of Christian wisdom is given graphic expression by the favorite medieval image of the “two books” God has given us to read: the Book of Nature and the Book of Revelation. Both are by the same author, hence in principle cannot contradict each other, although they may sometimes appear to do so in our ongoing process of trying to understand them more fully. They are rather complementary, and both need to be read, St. Thomas warns, if we are to know adequately what God wants us to know about himself and our human destiny. This process can also be described by another eloquent traditional formula, coming down to us through Augustine, Anselm, etc.:“faith seeking understanding (fides quaerens intellectum).”


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