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Shawn Hughes wrote:

Hi, guys —

I hope all is well with everyone!

I have been reading books on the Saints, like St. John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, etc.

I've noticed a lot of personal struggles they went through and how they would explain things in a language that (today) doesn't make a lot of sense, due to our understanding of scientific understanding i.e. psychology, germ theory, etc.

  • How are we to understand Aquinas, Augustine, and other saints, when we apply our scientific understanding as we know today, rather than their pre-scientific view of the way of the world was?



  { How are we to appreciate the earlier saint's pre-scientific, unrealistic view of the world? }

Paul replied:


Advances in science usually does not mean re-interpretation of a pre-modern theologian's words.

We know theologians aren't infallible, even the ones who have been doctors of the Church.

The great things they have taught is always examined and formulated by the Magisterium if it relates to doctrine on faith or morals. The Magisterium always has access to contemporary science, but even much more important, the promise of Christ that the Holy Spirit will lead and guide her teachings throughout the centuries.



Shawn replied:

Hi Paul,

That's not really what I meant. Here is some examples:

  • Understanding of how the universe really is compared to pre-scientific understandings.
  • Knowing that demons that cause psychological problems are really chemical imbalances that can be explained.
  • The understanding of germ theory.
  • St. John of the Cross would describe certain tortures in his mind, but we can now know that it was not a curse, demon, etc. but a pre-scientific understanding of how the mind works.
  • Some Early Christians saw a meteorite crash into the moon. They said it was satan that did this but now we know its just a thing that happens in our universe.

It's just hard for me to read:

  • the Bible
  • books that the saints wrote, or
  • anything pre-scientific

and put much faith in it, when they're scientific explanations.

  • How can I not lose my faith?!



Paul replied:

Sean —

The answer to your final question is rather simple.

Because Christ ensured the world that His Truth (Word) and Life (Grace) — those things necessary for salvation — will always be infallibly preserved by the Holy Spirit until He comes back again at the end of the age.


Richard replied:

Hi, guys —

  • Is there some confusion about what Christian faith means?

Christian faith is man's response to God revealing Himself. God has revealed truths about Himself which man could not know otherwise, and these truths are the object of faith.

If I say I believe that God is a Trinity, I am using the divine virtue of faith, accepting a truth which I could only know because God has revealed it.

If I say I believe that the moon is 400,000 kilometers away, I am not using the divine virtue of faith because the distance to the moon is something that mankind can know without God revealing it.

So there are two realms of knowledge:

  1. the natural, and
  2. the supernatural.

Discoveries about the natural sciences are all in the realm of measurable, observable phenomena. They are all about physical facts or observable behaviors.

The Revelation from God which comes to us from Jesus Christ, and which the Church continues to present through the centuries, isn't about those things.

God has revealed truths about Himself which are outside of that realm of physical, measurable phenomena. God reveals matters which no science can prove or disprove.

  • Science cannot tell humanity whether God is a Trinity.
  • It cannot prove or disprove whether the death of Jesus atones for our sins.

These are things that we can only know because God has revealed them as truths and He gives us the power called the virtue of divine faith, which enables us to recognize and accept them.

The lives of the saints are matters of history. We know them because of human testimonies to the events. They happened after the age of the Apostles, when the divine revelation of Christ was completed so faith isn't really involved.

So when you read a saint's writings, and you find the saint speaking about the natural world in a way that doesn't reflect modern biology or psychology, that's OK. It doesn't overturn any of the religious doctrines which the Church considers to be divinely revealed.

I hope this helps!

— Richard Chonak

Shawn replied:

Yes, Richard!

Thank-you! That is was what I needed to hear! : )

That makes sense, thank you sir.

Blessings to you all,


Paul replied:


Perhaps one more thing to consider.

The Church also teaches that the ordinary Magisterium can teach infallibly on matters of faith and morals that have a necessary logical or historical connection to divine revelation.

Moral principles taught by the Church can be both infallibly taught and understood deeper through time and scientific advancement. For example, killing the innocent has always been forbidden, but our understanding the concept of innocent and how it is applied can be deepened with time.


Shawn replied:


I can see the truths of this world through the Church, that's for sure. I just beat myself up and think that I'm sinning because I don't understand all the teachings of the Church.


Mike replied:

Hi, Shawn —

Don't worry. You're not the only one.

There are many truths we can know but some we can never know with our limited human mind.


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