Knowing God through Creation
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No person should ever be ignorant of God's existence. By using the reasoning powers of our minds we can come to know that there is a God, who created the wonderful world in which we live. This is true even for those who do not have the gift of faith. The great apostle Saint Paul reminded the Christians of Rome about this truth: Ever since the creation of the world his (God's) invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made (Rom 1:20).
Everywhere in the universe we find order and design. Order and design are sure signs of God's hand in creation. To explain order and design as the results of "chance" is really quite foolish. For example, consider an ordinary wrist watch. Do you really believe that it just happened to come into existence? That the metal out of which it is made happened to form itself into the shape of a watch? Even more astonishing, could the numbers on its face "just happen" to arrange themselves in the proper order and with just the right amount of space so as to keep perfect time? Of course not! Then consider the many wondrous things in the universe, a million times more complex than a watch: the solar system, an insect, the individuality of each human body, etc. Do you think that these all just happened without anyone commanding and directing their creation?
Along with knowing that God exists, we are able to learn a little about him through the study of creation. By seeing the great power of the ocean with its waves and tides, we learn that its Maker must be great and powerful as well. The beautiful aromas and colors of spring flowers tell us that their Creator must be pleasing and beautiful too. All of God's creatures tell us something about him; they all reflect a bit of his greatness, beauty, and power.
Learning about Ourselves through Reason
Just as we can come to know about God by the use of our reasoning power, so we are able to learn about ourselves by examining our own selves, our desires, and our actions. One of the first things we notice is that we have a body much like some animals. We have legs in order to walk and eyes with which to see. This reminds us that we are a part of God's physical creation.
When we look at the differences between us and the animals, however, we soon see that we are greater . . . for we are intelligent and free. We have control over our actions and are able to decide or choose what we will do. Consider this example: there is a dog who has cruelly treated by being locked in a cage without food or water for two days. Someone discovers this poor dog and bring him some food. When this nourishment is placed in front of him, the dog must eat it; he has not choice. The urge for nourishment will force him to jump at the bowl and chomp at the food until it is gone. A dog acts on instinct alone. It has no free will. Now consider this same cruel treatment being done to a man, as was the case with many prisoners of war. If nourishment is brought to the prisoner as a bribe to get him to betray his country, he may freely choose to give in and eat. Or he can refuse to betray his homeland and remain without food. He has the gift of free will by which he is able to decide for himself what he will do.
This freedom shows us that we are very different from the rest of the animal world; we have a spiritual part of us that can think, choose, and decide. We call this spiritual part the soul. Thus we can learn that human beings have a physical body and spiritual (invisible but real) soul.
Human Reason and the Gift of Faith
As wonderful as the mind of man is, it can only go so far in learning about God and the purpose of human life. To know more about these mysteries we need the help of God, who gives us the gift of faith. This gift is the firm belief that something is true because God has revealed it to be so - and the sure knowledge that God cannot deceive us. Faith can also mean the set of truths we believe as Catholics.
As we have seen, reason can show us that God exists and let us know something about ourselves, but it cannot give us this firm belief in the truths of our faith. But reason can help us to see that the teachings of Jesus are true. How? By looking at the great miracles he worked. Reason tells us that no mere man could do such things as turn water into wine, give sight to the blind, and, especially, rise from the dead!
Revelation Perfects Our Knowledge of God
We saw earlier, that God must be powerful and beautiful because he has created such wondrous things in our world. We learned this from using our minds in the study of creation. But we can learn so much more about God by studying Bible, which is one of the ways he reveals himself to us. Revelation (God making himself known to mankind) makes our knowledge of him more perfect and complete.
From revelation we learn that God is present everywhere and to every person. God is a spirit: this means that he has no physical body which limits him to any one time or place. The Bible reminds us of this mystery: Where can I go from your spirit? From your presence where can I flee? If I go up to the heavens you are there; if I sink to the nether world, you are present there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall guide me, and your right hand hold me fast (Ps 139:7-10).
We also learn that God knows everyone and everything; all that ever was, all that is, and all that ever will be: He plumbs the depths and penetrates the heart; their innermost being he understands. The Most High possesses all knowledge and sees from of old things that are to come: he makes known, the past and the future and reveals the deepest secrets. No understanding does he lack; no single thing escapes him (Sir 42:18-20).
Jesus revealed the greatest truth about God: that there are three Persons in the one true God. We call this the mystery of the Trinity. In the Trinity there is God the Father ( first Person), God the Son (second Person - he became man as Jesus Christ), and God the Holy Spirit (third Person).
From the Scriptures we receive the beautiful revelation that God is love (1 Jn 4:6), and we know that it was this love that moved him to create our universe, making man only a little less than the angels and giving us the wonderful gift of reason.
Used with the permission of The Ignatius Press 800-799-5534
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