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Catholic Church and Metaphysics

Sep 10, 2015

Do Catholics believe in metaphysics?

Asked at 10:13 pm on September 10th 2015

Hi Rosa, you could say that what we now call metaphysics was invented by Parmenides, a classic Greek philosopher, sometime around 500BC, and then developed first by Plato, then by Aristotle, from, say 400BC TO 350BC, more or less.

Metaphysics is generally regarded as that area of philosophical reflection that has to do with the question of existence, the key elements of created beings, and the necessity for a First Cause, which is Being in itself.

The first Christian that we know got involved with Greek philosophy was St Paul, in the Acts of Apostles, 17, 16-34, when he attempted to explain the Gospel in a language the philosophers could understand. Later, St Justin Martyr, who died about 150AD, and was a professional philosopher, also used his philosophy to articulate his Christian belief, and I think it was St Clement of Alexandria who said that philosophy for the Greeks was a bit like the Old Testament for the Jewish people – it prepared them for the revelation of Christ. And some great saints, like St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas, were first-class philosophers too.

Much more recently St John Paul II’s encyclical, Faith and Reason brings out how the two approaches, of philosophical reason and of revelation, complement each other, each having its own role to play in Christian culture.

So I wouldn’t say that Catholics ‘believe’ in metaphysics, since that discipline is understandable by reason, not requiring belief. But good philosophy is a great support to Christian belief in the sense that not only is it a help to understanding key issues like the existence of God and an ethics based on what we call natural law. Philosophy also makes it possible for us to dialogue with people who are not Christian.

Very best, Fr Brendan Purcell

Replied at 12:22 am on September 17th 2015

Thank you! I can now reply better to some people who told me Christians don’t believe in metaphysics.

Replied at 04:30 pm on September 19th 2015