By Étienne Gilson, Armand Augustine Maurer, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies
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Extra info for Christian philosophy: an introduction
They do not even conceive it as endowed with a substantial form, for substantial forms are not perceptible to the senses. On the contrary, the qualities of bodies, which are accidental forms, can be perceived by the five senses. THE CAUSE OF B E I N G 17 According to the first philosophers, then, reality consisted of matter, which is substance, and accidents, which are caused by the constitutive principles of material substance or elements. They needed nothing else in order to explain the appearances of the sensible world.
Above all (and this is our only concern), no philological science could tell us the meaning an inspired author gave to his words, for the sacred writer is by definition a person who tries to utter truths beyond human comprehension. He must use words that everyone else does in order to express thoughts that are not those of everyone else. For the philologist, the words of the Pentateuch have the meaning they would have had in the mouth of anyone speaking about a topic of conversation familiar to his contemporaries.
Some are upset to hear that natural reason is fallible, even when it makes use of first principles. It is simply a fact that it makes mistakes. It is certain that the existence of God is rationally demonstrable, but not all the demonstrations of it that are offered are conclusive. Suppose a philosopher like St. 3 The least we can say is that the proof is not certainly conclusive. If it were not, what would be the position of a philosopher, in this case one who is also a theologian and a saint, who would think himself dispensed from believing that God exists, with the excuse that he knows it with certainty by a rational demonstration whose value in fact is uncertain?