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Anima Naturaliter Christiana


A phrase used by tertullian (Apol. 17.6; Patrologia Latina 1:377). Like Hellenistic philosophers, Tertullian looks for knowledge of God from the world outside of man and from the world within man's soul. Thus he appeals even to the witness of the pagan, a witness that he terms the "testimony of the soul naturally Christian" (testimonium animae naturaliter christianae ). Even the pagan, he says, by different exclamations ("Great God!" "Good God!") spontaneously testifies to his knowledge of God (one and unique) and of those Christian truths which belong to the sphere of natural knowledge (De test. animae ).

As used by theologians, this axiom came to mean: (1) the possibility of a knowledge of God and of the natural moral law belongs to the very essence of man (Rom 1.20; 2.1415) and predisposes him to Christianity; (2) a cult (even false and atheistic) is an essential anthropologic element; as a tendency towards transcendence it belongs necessarily to a real individual and collective human existence and thus witnesses to the anima naturaliter christiana; (3) man is naturally open to a possible divine word-revelation; (4) man as a creature of the Trinity and redeemed by Christ is a carrier of Trinitarian and Christologic seals and has an obediential potency that is actualized by a supernatural grace in at least the lowest degree of intensity.

See Also: god, natural law; supernatural existential.

Bibliography: k. rahner, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765) 1:564565 with bibliog. j. quasten, Patrology 2:264266. b. altaner, Patrology 166177 with bibliog. m. schmaus and k. forster, eds., Der Kult und der heutige Mensch (Munich 1961).

[p. b. t. bilaniuk]

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