Catechism of the Catholic Church
Part One: The Profession of Faith
Section One: "I Believe - You Believe"
Chapter One: Man's Capacity for God
I. The Desire for God
27 The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is
created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to
himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he
never stops searching for:
The dignity of man rests above all on the fact that he is called to
communion with God. This invitation to converse with God is addressed to
man as soon as he comes into being. For if man exists it is because God
has created him through love, and through love continues to hold him in
existence. He cannot live fully according to truth unless he freely
acknowledges that love and entrusts himself to his creator.
28 In many ways, throughout history down to the present day, men have
given expression to their quest for God in their religious beliefs and
behaviour: in their prayers, sacrifices, rituals, meditations, and so
forth. These forms of religious expression, despite
the ambiguities they often bring with them, are so universal that one may
well call man a religious being:
From one ancestor [God] made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and
he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places
where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope
for him and find him - though indeed he is not far from each one of us.
For "in him we live and move and have our being."
29 But this "intimate and vital bond of man to God" (GS 19 # 1) can be
forgotten, overlooked, or even explicitly rejected by man.
Such attitudes can have different causes: revolt against evil in the
world; religious ignorance or indifference; the cares and riches of this
world; the scandal of bad example on the part of believers; currents of
thought hostile to religion; finally, that attitude of Sinful man which
makes him hide from God out of fear and flee his call.
30 "Let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice." Although man can
forget God or reject him, He never ceases to call every man to seek him,
so as to find life and happiness. But this search for God
demands of man every effort of intellect, a sound will, "an upright
heart", as well as the witness of others who teach him to seek God.
You are great, O Lord, and greatly to be praised: great is your power and
your wisdom is without measure. And man, so small a part of your creation,
wants to praise you: this man, though clothed with mortality and bearing
the evidence of Sin and the proof that you withstand the proud. Despite
everything, man, though but a small a part of your creation, wants to
praise you. You yourself encourage him to delight in your praise, for you
have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in
II. Ways of Coming to Know God
31 Created in God's image and called to know and love him, the person who
seeks God discovers certain ways of coming to know him. These are also
called proofs for the existence of God, not in the sense of proofs in the
natural sciences, but rather in the sense of "converging and convincing
arguments", which allow us to attain certainty about the truth.
These "ways" of approaching God from creation have a twofold point of
departure: the physical world, and the human person.
32 The world: starting from movement, becoming, contingency, and the
world's order and beauty, one can come to a knowledge of God as the origin
and the end of the universe.
As St. Paul says of the Gentiles: For what can be known about God is plain
to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever Since the creation of the
world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been
clearly perceived in the things that have been made.
And St. Augustine issues this challenge: Question the beauty of the earth,
question the beauty of the sea, question the beauty of the air distending
and diffuSing itself, question the beauty of the sky. . . question all
these realities. All respond: "See, we are beautiful." Their beauty is a
profession [confessio]. These beauties are subject to change. Who made
them if not the Beautiful One [Pulcher] who is not subject to change?
33 The human person: with his openness to truth and beauty, his sense of
moral goodness, his freedom and the voice of his conscience, with his
longings for the infinite and for happiness, man questions himself about
God's existence. In all this he discerns signs of
his spiritual soul. The soul, the "seed of eternity we bear in
ourselves, irreducible to the merely material", can have its origin only
34 The world, and man, attest that they contain within themselves neither
their first principle nor their final end, but rather that they
participate in Being itself, which alone is without origin or end. Thus,
in different ways, man can come to know that there exists a reality which
is the first cause and final end of all things, a reality "that everyone
35 Man's faculties make him capable of coming to a knowledge of the
existence of a personal God. But for man to be able to enter into real
intimacy with him, God willed both to reveal himself to man, and to give
him the Grace of being able to welcome this revelation in faith.(so) The
proofs of God's existence, however, can predispose one to faith and help
one to see that faith is not opposed to reason.
III. The Knowledge of God According to the Church
36 "Our holy mother, the Church, holds and teaches that God, the first
principle and last end of all things, can be known with certainty from the
created world by the natural light of human reason." Without this
capacity, man would not be able to welcome God's revelation. Man has this
capacity because he is created "in the image of God".
37 In the historical conditions in which he finds himself, however, man
experiences many difficulties in coming to know God by the light of reason
Though human reason is, strictly speaking, truly capable by its own
natural power and light of attaining to a true and certain knowledge of
the one personal God, who watches over and controls the world by his
providence, and of The Natural Law written in our hearts by the Creator;
yet there are many obstacles which prevent reason from the effective and
fruitful use of this inborn faculty. For the truths that concern the
relations between God and man wholly transcend the visible order of
things, and, if they are translated into human action and influence it,
they call for self-surrender and abnegation. The human mind, in its turn,
is hampered in the attaining of such truths, not only by the impact of the
senses and the imagination, but also by disordered appetites which are the
consequences of original Sin. So it happens that men in such matters
easily persuade themselves that what they would not like to be true is
false or at least doubtful.
38 This is why man stands in need of being enlightened by God's
revelation, not only about those things that exceed his understanding, but
also "about those religious and moral truths which of themselves are not
beyond the grasp of human reason, so that even in the present condition of
the human race, they can be known by all men with ease, with firm
certainty and with no admixture of error". 
IV. How Can We Speak About God?
39 In defending the ability of human reason to know God, the Church is
expresSing her confidence in the possibility of speaking about him to all
men and with all men, and therefore of dialogue with other religions, with
philosophy and science, as well as with unbelievers and atheists.
40 Since our knowledge of God is limited, our language about him is
equally so. We can name God only by taking creatures as our starting
point, and in accordance with our limited human ways of knowing and
41 All creatures bear a certain resemblance to God, most especially man,
created in the image and likeness of God. The manifold perfections of
creatures - their truth, their goodness, their beauty all reflect the
infinite perfection of God. Consequently we can name God by
taking his creatures" perfections as our starting point, "for from the
greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of
42 God transcends all creatures. We must therefore continually
purify our language of everything in it that is limited, imagebound or
imperfect, if we are not to confuse our image of God--"the inexpressible,
the incomprehensible, the invisible, the ungraspable"--with our human
representations. Our human words always fall short of the mystery
43 Admittedly, in speaking about God like this, our language is uSing
human modes of expression; nevertheless it really does attain to God
himself, though unable to express him in his infinite simplicity.
Likewise, we must recall that "between Creator and creature no similitude
can be expressed without implying an even greater dissimilitude"; and
that "concerning God, we cannot grasp what he is, but only what he is not,
and how other beings stand in relation to him."
44 Man is by nature and vocation a religious being. Coming from God,
going toward God, man lives a fully human life only if he freely lives by
his bond with God.
45 Man is made to live in communion with God in whom he finds happiness:
When I am completely united to you, there will be no more sorrow or
trials; entirely full of you, my life will be complete (St. Augustine,
Conf. 10, 28, 39: PL 32, 795}.
46 When he listens to the message of creation and to the voice of
conscience, man can arrive at certainty about the existence of God, the
cause and the end of everything.
47 The Church teaches that the one true God, our Creator and Lord, can be
known with certainty from his works, by the natural light of human reason
(cf. Vatican Council I, can. 2 # 1: DS 3026),
48 We really can name God, starting from the manifold perfections of his
creatures, which are likenesses of the infinitely perfect God, even if our
limited language cannot exhaust the mystery.
49 Without the Creator, the creature vanishes (GS 36). This is the reason
why believers know that the love of Christ urges them to bring the light
of the living God to those who do not know him or who reject him.
Vatican Council II, GS 19 # 1.
GS 19 # 1.
Cf. GS 19-21; Mt 13:22; Gen 3:8-10; Jon 1:3.
St. Augustine, Conf. I, I, I: PL 32, 659-661.
Rom 1:19-20; cf., Acts 14:15, 17; 17:27-28; Wis 13:1-9.
St. Augustine, Sermo 241, 2: PL 38, 1134,
GS 18 # 1; cf. 14 # 2.
St. Thomas Aquinas, S Th I, 2, 3.
Vatican Council I, Dei Filius 2: DS 3004 cf. 3026; Vatican Council II, Dei Verbum 6.
Cf. Gen 1:27.
Pius XII, Humani generis 561: DS 3875.
Pius XII, Humani generis 561: DS 3876; cf. Dei Filius 2: DS 3005; DV 6; St. Thomas Aquinas, S Th I, I, I.
Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, Anaphora.
Lateran Council IV: DS 806.
St. Thomas Aquinas, SCG 1, 30.