Can God be known by human beings or not? If the answer is a positive one there is another question. Can God be known only through reason or do we also need revelation in order to be able to know Him? Even if God cannot be known completely by finite human beings living on Earth, we can know many things about Him. According to the Bible knowing God is the main purpose of human salvation:
“3 And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17; 3 NRSV)
Apostles John also had written in one of his epistles about the knowledge of God:
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“14 I write to you, children, because you know the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young people, because you are strong and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” (1 John 2; 14 NRSV)
In order to know God He has to reveal His Person to human beings. He already offered His revelation through human nature in Jesus Christ who was not only divine but also human.
“18 No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son,* who is close to the Father’s heart,* who has made him known.” (John 1; 18 NRSV)
God can be known through the study of natural world which is also revelation. Nevertheless, the natural world was created by God in a very different way than the one described by the two stories of creation from the book of Genesis.
“19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse;” (Romans 1; 19; 20 NRSV)
If Adam and Eve’s alleged sins would have changed the way in which nature was created, Paul wouldn’t have been right in maintaining that God can be known from His creation because that creation wouldn’t have been the same as He had made it.
At first glance it seems that sciences contradict the existence of God because they don’t agree with all that the Bible says about the universe and nature. It has to be said that the sciences don’t automatically reject the existence of God and His eternity even when they don’t agree with what the book of Genesis or other biblical texts maintain about the creation of the universe or the origin of humankind. The sciences rightfully reject the biblical descriptions of the creation of the universe and humankind as being in contradiction with observations made on reality.
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Rejecting the Bible is one thing and rejecting God is another thing. It doesn’t matter how strong is one’s faith in God, he or she can be totally unconvinced that God created the light before the sun or about other similar things contained by the book of Genesis. Even if many texts from the book of Genesis are contradictory and absurd, this isn’t enough reason to discard all faith in an eternal personal God.
The revelation through nature and particularly through human nature shows us the possibility of God’s existence. Revelation in nature reaches its most important scope in human nature. We can find God in us if we allow Him to dwell in our human beings. As Apostle Paul says, Christ in us is the hope of glory. (Colossians 1; 27) Anyone can believe in a personal God on the basis of his or her personal experience with Him even if he or she doesn’t find knowledge of nature in the book of Genesis.
Above all, no scientific data can be interpreted as a categorical rejection of the possibility of God’s existence even if they disagree with the facticity of the narratives from the first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis. Paradoxically, even if revelation in nature is real, sciences cannot prove either the existence of God or His nonexistence from the study of nature, but they open the way towards the understanding of the possibility of His existence. Revelation in everyone’s human nature as the revelation in Christ in order to be confirmed needs the personal experience of the believer with God.
Through the natural world, the existence and eternity of God is fully revealed and that revelation doesn’t need the book of Genesis in order to understand how things had been done. The revelation in human nature is an argument for God’s existence only for the human beings who have personal experiences with Him.
God can be known from nature because through the study of it one can understand that existence didn’t come from absolute nonexistence, hence it is eternal. Nature demonstrates clearly that from absolute nothingness nothing can appear because only existence can generate existence. All phenomena are caused by other existent phenomena, not by nothing at all, no space, no time, no particles, and no nothing. If existence per se is infinite and intelligent this intelligence cannot be other than an infinite intelligence and an infinite intelligence is God.
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The Christian religion teaches that God can be known as a subject through a personal relationship but also through the objects of His creation. The personal relationship between God and every human being is based on a personal experience with Him made possible through personal revelation. At the same time knowing Him through reason is possible and means using sciences to acquire knowledge about the objects of His creation.
Scientific knowledge cannot replace a personal relationship with God and the latter doesn’t need to follow any religious doctrine or dogma in relation to the origins of the universe and humankind. We cannot pretend to know God as a subject only through scientific means because sciences generate an objective way to relate with reality. The personal God can be known in a personal way by every human being who has faith.
Personal revelation and reason don’t contradict each other as long as they keep working together. A personal revelation from God gives us what we cannot know through scientific means. At the same time, any information coming from God is rational and can be understood through human rationality. God is rationality and all irrational and absurd messages don’t come from Him.
Any meaningful revelation from God has always a rational content through which it expresses its message. Through rationality in this context I understand what isn’t confused, contradictory, absurd, or contrary to everyday facts. Through rationality I also understand what is commonly understood through this term, meaning what is agreeable to reason; reasonable, sensible, having or exercising reason, sound judgment, or good sense.
St. Thomas Aquinas, a great medieval theologian and philosopher, asked why we need revelation at all if we can already know God by reason. He then answered his own question.
“Few people, he writes, would acquire adequate knowledge about God by mere exercise of the intellect. Some people lack talent to think with acumen; others are too busy with necessities imposed on them by their daily lives and would not give much time to the leisure of contemplative inquiry as to reach the highest peak at which human investigation can arrive, namely the knowledge of God. Finally, some, being indolent, do not make the needed effort to learn about God properly.”
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St. Thomas goes on to state that the truth about God is so profound that we can acquire it only after a long training. Secondly, young people are prisoners of their fillings and passions and their condition is not suitable to acquire the knowledge of God. St. Thomas Aquinas continued in his analysis of the relation between reason and faith:
“Therefore if the only way open to us for the knowledge of God were solely that of the reason, the human race would remain in the blackest shadows of ignorance. For then the knowledge of God, which especially renders men perfect and good, would come to be possessed only by a few, and these few would require a great deal of time in order to reach it” (Summa Contra Gentiles 1,4; trans. Anton C. Pegis).
In St. Thomas Aquinas’ view, because of our errors in judgment many human beings cannot see the truth of things even if that truth is thoroughly demonstrated. For the same reasons, something erroneous can look to be right by its apparently correct argumentation. For these motifs, the truths concerning divine things have to be presented to human beings by way of faith. For Thomas Aquinas, there are truths for which divine revelation is absolutely necessary..
“Finding the creator and father of this universe is toilsome and, after he has been found, it is not possible for everyone to speak of him”. (imaeus, 28,c; see Albert Vanhoye, S.J. - “The discourse at the Areopagus and the universality of truth” in Oss. Rom. 24 Feb. 1999)
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If Plato found God not being a believer, he could have found Him only through reason, not through faith. This would be an example that God can be found through reason alone.
Vatican I, in 1870, articulated as a doctrine of the faith the teaching that divine revelation is absolutely necessary for humans in order to gain access to supernatural truths; heaven and divine adoption are truths that lie beyond the natural sphere, and can be known only through revelation.
If we need revelation for the knowledge of so-called supernatural truth it means that we don’t need it for the natural realities which can be analysed only by reason. Is the problem of the origins of the universe in the natural or in the supernatural domain? In my opinion, the issues regarding the origin of the cosmos are in the natural domain because its beginning happened in the natural world. Everything which happens in the natural world is a theme for the study of the sciences of nature.
Even if for the era before the Big Bang science doesn’t have the necessary means to investigate reality, that reality is nevertheless natural. For what happened during and after that initial event there are scientific possibilities of research and the phenomena are in the natural domain. Even God, a supernatural Reality, has His own nature. As far as we don’t know what God’s nature is we cannot really make clear delimitations between natural and supernatural. God having a different nature than human beings doesn’t mean that He is supernatural. Supernatural cannot mean above any nature because there isn’t anything, not even God, without a particular nature. If the spiritual nature is different than the material nature, it has its own consistency, but the former, we don’t know, hence we cannot define it. We only suppose that there is a spiritual nature but we don’t know what it is. If there is a spiritual nature it is possible that it is very closely linked to the material nature in ways which are still unknown.
How the universe exists and why it exists are two different questions and they are related. The answer to the first of these questions can make easier the finding of the answer to the second one. Why the universe exists is a question which can be answered by science but also by theology and philosophy. It is wrong to adjudicate all the problems of the origins of the universe exclusively to one domain, either to science or to religion. At the same time, it must be emphasised that religion without scientific arguments cannot contradict direct observations made be science.
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As far as the book of Genesis doesn’t offer a coherent description of the creation of the world from the era correlative with the scientifically identified period after the initial event of the Big Bang, a description which can be verified through the study of nature, there isn’t any value in the conclusions based on its texts. Many contradictions and absurdities in the texts lead to the conclusion that the first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis are mere human products. The presumption is that the word of God can be neither contradictory nor absurd.
This problem of the origins of the universe is so important that all means must be employed in order to reach some conclusions. If we accept this assumption, we will be closer to the ongoing disputes between science and religion.
There isn’t a supernatural discovery in the Bible about the origins of the cosmos. Where else can be found such revelation of the origins of the universe if not in the Bible? The only remaining place is the natural world. Why wouldn’t God show to scientists the right path through knowledge if He wants humankind to have an understanding of origins of the universe? If God really wanted to give us the understanding of how the universe came to be, He didn’t do that through the book of Genesis, but He can do it by revealing important information to scientists working in that field of knowledge.
“Religion without science is blind, science without religion is lame/font>.”]
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More and more people accept spirituality as a complement to science, the combination of both being capable of giving a more complex image of reality. The same view is expressed by the author of the following quotation:
“Science and religion are two sides of the same coin. Recent scientific discoveries have unknowingly provided evidence that supports the multi-dimensional nature of reality that Hindus, Buddhists, Gnostics and abbalists have known about for thousands of years. By combining modern scientific facts with ancient spiritual knowledge we can begin to uncover the whole truth and bring unity out of the existing duality. There can be only one true reality, but we will never know the whole truth if we only look from one perspective and hold on to our preconceived ideas.”
The competence of sciences and religion regarding the beginning of the universe and of the human races is a very important issue. Do they have competence in the same areas of reality, or is each of them competent in a certain domain? What exactly is the sphere proper to scientific cosmology, and what of religion? The two differ greatly through the methods employed so the frontier between the competence of modern sciences and of religion must be also given by the most adequate method of study of the object. What is the most legitimate manner of investigation of the origins of the universe? Can the reading of two pages in the Bible, the first two chapters from the book of Genesis, be considered to be more relevant than countless efforts made by many scientists for the understanding of the universe? The affirmation that the book of Genesis is more informative or more relevant than the scientific discoveries on the topic isn’t reasonable.
What is the stronghold of religion, the sphere where it cannot be contested in connection to our universe? Is there such an area of human knowledge which is only confined by the boundaries of religion? Which would this be? Can we understand the infinite dimension of reality only through scientific methods? Probably the area where religion in its more philosophical expression is called to give us enlightenment, is the infinite dimension of reality, where the sciences cannot use their usual methods of research. experience with God isn’t necessarily
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The intuition of infinity given by a personal based on deductive reasoning but is an authentic opening towards the wholeness of reality. Is there an infinite dimension of reality or did all existence start from absolute nothingness? This is the most important problem of the debate between science and religion and a personal experience with God can become a gate for entering into the infinite dimension of existence per se.
The modern sciences are the only valid instrument when dealing with direct observation on the reality, measurements, experiments, theories and predictions. What can we do in the situation when the so-called revelation and the results of modern sciences contradict each other? Which one can we follow when drawing conclusions? We are pushed to choose between one and the other if they don’t agree among themselves, and if they cannot be brought to a common denominator.
I fully agree with this assertion which synthesises very well the reason for which I write this study. The Christian religion changes fundamentally if one rejects the authenticity of the narratives of creation and of the Flood from the book of Genesis. Many other texts of the O.T. can be put in doubt but none of them are as fundamental for the Christian religion as the first 11 chapters from the book of Genesis, which present God as a Person who created our universe with all its components from quasi nothing. If one contests this creation from quasi nothing the entire vision of the cosmos changes dramatically. God isn’t any more the supreme Creator who contradicts all known laws of nature in order to realise a universe based on those laws.
At the same time, the theology constructed by the apostle Paul about the first and the second Adam, isn’t relevant any more if one considers that Adam is not a historical personage. This conclusion is based on the observation that Paul treated the story of the creation of Adam quite literally. That being said, this doesn’t mean that new theologies are not possible, or that a better explanation of Jesus’ mission on Earth wouldn’t be even more revealing. In my view, faith in God shouldn’t be that closely related with the narratives from the first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis.
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