One of the major concerns of classical philosophy was to purify human notions of God of mythological elements. We know that Greek religion, like most cosmic religions, was polytheistic, even to the point of divinizing natural things and phenomena. Human attempts to understand the origin of the gods and hence the origin of the universe find their earliest expression in poetry; and the theogonies remain the first evidence of this human search. But it was the task of the fathers of philosophy to bring to light the link between reason and religion. As they broadened their view to include universal principles, they no longer rested content with the ancient myths, but wanted to provide a rational foundation for their belief in the divinity. This opened a path which took its rise from ancient traditions but allowed a development satisfying the demands of universal reason. This development sought to acquire a critical awareness of what they believed in, and the concept of divinity was the prime beneficiary of this. Superstitions were recognized for what they were and religion was, at least in part, purified by rational analysis. It was on this basis that the Fathers of the Church entered into fruitful dialogue with ancient philosophy, which offered new ways of proclaiming and understanding the God of Jesus Christ.
43. A quite special place in this long development belongs to Saint Thomas, not only because of what he taught but also because of the dialogue which he undertook with the Arab and Jewish thought of his time. In an age when Christian thinkers were rediscovering the treasures of ancient philosophy, and more particularly of Aristotle, Thomas had the great merit of giving pride of place to the harmony which exists between faith and reason. Both the light of reason and the light of faith come from God, he argued; hence there can be no contradiction between them.44
48. This rapid survey of the history of philosophy, then, reveals a growing separation between faith and philosophical reason. Yet closer scrutiny shows that even in the philosophical thinking of those who helped drive faith and reason further apart there are found at times precious and seminal insights which, if pursued and developed with mind and heart rightly tuned, can lead to the discovery of truth's way. Such insights are found, for instance, in penetrating analyses of perception and experience, of the imaginary and the unconscious, of personhood and intersubjectivity, of freedom and values, of time and history. The theme of death as well can become for all thinkers an incisive appeal to seek within themselves the true meaning of their own life. But this does not mean that the link between faith and reason as it now stands does not need to be carefully examined, because each without the other is impoverished and enfeebled. Deprived of what Revelation offers, reason has taken side-tracks which expose it to the danger of losing sight of its final goal. Deprived of reason, faith has stressed feeling and experience, and so run the risk of no longer being a universal proposition. It is an illusion to think that faith, tied to weak reasoning, might be more penetrating; on the contrary, faith then runs the grave risk of withering into myth or superstition. By the same token, reason which is unrelated to an adult faith is not prompted to turn its gaze to the newness and radicality of being.
For its part, dogmatic theology must be able to articulate the universal meaning of the mystery of the One and Triune God and of the economy of salvation, both as a narrative and, above all, in the form of argument. It must do so, in other words, through concepts formulated in a critical and universally communicable way. Without philosophy's contribution, it would in fact be impossible to discuss theological issues such as, for example, the use of language to speak about God, the personal relations within the Trinity, God's creative activity in the world, the relationship between God and man, or Christ's identity as true God and true man. This is no less true of the different themes of moral theology, which employ concepts such as the moral law, conscience, freedom, personal responsibility and guilt, which are in part defined by philosophical ethics.
The truth of the biblical texts, and of the Gospels in particular, is certainly not restricted to the narration of simple historical events or the statement of neutral facts, as historicist positivism would claim. 111 Beyond simple historical occurrence, the truth of the events which these texts relate lies rather in the meaning they have in and for the history of salvation. This truth is elaborated fully in the Church's constant reading of these texts over the centuries, a reading which preserves intact their original meaning. There is a pressing need, therefore, that the relationship between fact and meaning, a relationship which constitutes the specific sense of history, be examined also from the philosophical point of view.
In this respect, it is easy to see why, in addition to theology, reference to catechesis is also important, since catechesis has philosophical implications which must be explored more deeply in the light of faith. The teaching imparted in catechesis helps to form the person. As a mode of linguistic communication, catechesis must present the Church's doctrine in its integrity, 118 demonstrating its link with the life of the faithful. 119 The result is a unique bond between teaching and living which is otherwise unattainable, since what is communicated in catechesis is not a body of conceptual truths, but the mystery of the living God. 120
V. Who that reads or hears these words, would not be led by their very sound to imagine even this, that though the Israelites really enjoyed temporal privileges, such as possession of the land of Canaan, a peaceable government, a flourishing kingdom, prosperity as subjects, long life, and the like, yet they had no benefits that were true and permanent; by which one can scarce forbear thinking, that they had no communion with the Messiah, nor part in his peculiar blessings, as reconciliation with God, peace of conscience, reformation after the image of the divine purity, foretastes of the joys of heaven, and a happy removal of the soul from this to an immortal life For these, if any, are deservedly and usually called true and permanent benefits, and salvation itself. Whoever therefore affirms, that very great temporal privileges, and in the same breath denies that such as were true and permanent were bestowed on, and salvation itself, disclosed to the Israelites, speaks in such a manner as to suggest to the mind of the reader that the spiritual blessings of the soul and eternal life were neither bestowed on nor discovered to them.
XIII. But let us take a more distinct view how well the brethren maintain their ground by scripture. 1st, We allow that the apostle, Heb. 2:3, by salvation understands that great happiness, whose cause was then present and the Gospel in its perfect state, wherein the salvation now begun to be impetrated, and soon to be fully so is declared; and it is certain, salvation in that sense was not before the manifestation of Christ, nor did the Israelites enjoy it. But he that would illustrate this, should distinguish between this salvation already impetrated or obtained, and salvation about to be impetrated; or between salvation and the promise of salvation; and not as our author does, between salvation and temporal benefits. For certainly eternal salvation was given and manifested to Israel, though the cause of salvation as it now appears, and the work of salvation as already begun, could not be preached to them. Because, what Christ had promised and engaged was at that time sufficient to procure salvation, to be manifested and bestowed.
XIV. 2dly, None will deny that true benefits are sometimes opposed to typical, but this observation is altogether foreign to the case in hand, unless the brethren mean, that the Israelites enjoyed only typical good things, but were destitute of those true or spiritual blessings which were signified by the typical. What we just quoted from the preface to the Psalms, and which I own I do not sufficiently understand, seems to tend to this. But let these things pass. Let us go on with what is perspicuous. Moses indeed who was a servant, could not bestow those true blessings; yet Christ, who was the same yesterday and to-day, bestowed on believers even under the Mosaic economy true benefits, in and with the typical. And when they deny, that true benefits were bestowed on Israel, I cannot think they will reckon remission of sins, and redemption, and a new creation, &c. among the number of those which were typical, and they own that these were bestowed on Israel. To what purpose then is the inculcating here a distinction between true and typical benefits But, say they, the blotting out the hand-writing, and that glorious degree of adoption, are true benefits. Are they so And is not also remission itself, the hand-writing not being yet blotted out, and adoption itself, though not in that degree, to be reckoned among the true benefits Did the types of the Israelites only prefigure that measure of grace peculiar to the New Testament; not saving grace itself, which is common to both dispensations Were their sacraments signs only of this grace which is freely bestowed on us, and not also of that of which they themselves were made partakers Let the learned authors tell me I pray, whether the new creation, redemption, remission of sins, adoption, friendship with God, and the salvation of the soul, both in heaven and on earth, and the like spiritual blessings, which the Israelites enjoyed, belong to the law, and are given by Moses, or to the truth and grace, which came by Christ If they affirm the latter, as I imagine they will, I again beg of them to explain what the passage quoted from John makes to the purpose