The Four Tenets of the Church

The Catholic Church has four basic tenets: tradition, universality, reason, and analogy. Tradition includes all the teachings contained in the Bible. Universality — remember, the word Catholic comes from the Greek word for “universal” — is the openness to all truth, unfettered by any particular culture and unrestricted to all human beings. The last two tenets, analogy and reason, are both used in our quest to understand the Catholic mysteries. Analogy is a common logic device that helps us understand God through our knowledge of the created world; reason and philosophy are both pre-eminent in the Church's thinking.

St. Augustine, one of the great fathers of the Church, had this to say about the important relationship between faith and reason. The right use of reason is “that by which the most wholesome faith is begotten … is nourished, defended, and made strong.”

Human powers of reason aside, God does not leave the faithful to figure out his mysteries on their own. The Bible reveals God's wisdom and teachings and is an essential part of divine revelation. Catholic doctrine holds that neither the Gospels nor the Bible's other books are self-explanatory. To understand these texts and see the truths they contain, people need the guidance of the Church. The highest authority in interpreting the Scriptures is the pope.

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