I recently heard a Christian radio host declare that we are experiencing a resurgence of pagan culture. Why would we see such a resurgence? He assured his listeners: “When you kick the Christian God out of culture, you succumb to the errors of human reason!” Man’s reason can lead him to truth, and the Catholic Church praises the faculty of reason for distinguishing man from the animals. The idea that reason necessarily errs perplexed me, so I decided to turn to St. Thomas Aquinas for clarity.
St. Thomas raises a similar question in the Summa Theologiae: does man really need more than human reason or philosophy? St. Thomas concludes, “yes.” Human reason needs to be aided by divine revelation because there are truths about God which are beyond the grasp of human reason. We can, for example, know through reason alone that God exists, but we cannot ascertain that God is Trinitarian. Man learns this truth through Christ’s testimony that he is the Son of God (Jn 5:18) and that both are united with the Holy Spirit (Jn 14:26).
St. Thomas adds that there are other truths about God which are ascertainable through reason alone but which “would only be known by a few, and that after a long time, and with the admixture of many errors.” Man can, for example, ascertain that God is one being, but men have erred on this truth throughout history. St. Thomas identifies this error: “Gods are called many by the error of some who worshipped many deities, thinking as they did that the planets and other stars were gods, and also the separate parts of the world.” We should not be surprised, then, if a resurgence of paganism occurs in our increasingly God-less culture. The man on the radio was right: “When you kick the Christian God out of culture, you succumb to the errors of human reason!”
How can we avoid these errors of human reason and help others to do the same? We must take it upon ourselves to raise wisdom up into the revelation of God. St. Paul shows us the way in his address to the Athenians:
“You Athenians, I see that in every respect you are very religious. For as I walked around looking carefully at your shrines, I even discovered an altar inscribed, ‘To an Unknown God.’ What therefore you unknowingly worship, I proclaim to you” (Acts 17:22-23).
Our culture worships its own deities by placing earthly goods above God. We can proclaim our Christian God to the people around us by openly discussing our faith with them and by acting in accord with that faith. Do not be ashamed when your co-worker, friend, or acquaintance looks embarrassingly at you when you pray before meals. Do not shy away from their questions that arise in the days and weeks that follow.
We must bring our God to the culture as an offer of fulfillment. We are not called to abandon culture. We are called to allow Christ to redeem culture through us, in whom the Holy Spirit dwells. Inform your curious observers that we all need divine revelation in order to find fulfillment since “the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom” (1 Cor. 1:25). Offer them some wisdom that is attainable by reason alone, and then be sure to offer them the wisdom of God that comes through Divine Revelation. Pick up a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church to read alongside your Bible. And then share what you learn with others so that we might stop the resurgence of pagan culture by reintroducing people to the Christian God. The next time I hear a Christian radio host mention a resurgence of pagan culture, I shall call his radio show and explain to him the reasoning that St. Thomas provides to support his claim.
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