Appeared in Summer 2001, Vol. XXVI, No. 2
Catholic theology has always recognized that to be receptive to God’s word, the human person needs to be properly disposed. After all, not all who witnessed the miracles of Jesus believed. Some had eyes to see, some did not. Traditionally, this subjective requirement has gone under the designation of the praeambulae fidei, the preambles of the faith. Included among the preambles, for example, would be God’s unicity and spirituality. Unless a person was open to these characterizations of God, that person would be unreceptive to the faith. For instance, an entrenched materialist is going to be closed to divine revelation. The most famous case of someone with this stumbling block is, of course, St. Augustine. His inability to see even the possibility of a spiritual being prevented him from returning to the religion in which he was baptized. In his famous work, the Confessions, Augustine relates that it was his encounter with Platonic philosophy that brought him over this hurdle, even though it did not yet convert him.
The traditional importance of the praeambulae fidei is emphasized in Richard McBrien’s popular work, Catholicism.
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