QUESTION 2: OF THE ACT OF FAITH
We must now consider the act of faith, and (1) the internal act; (2) the
Under the first head there are ten points of inquiry:
(1) What is "to believe," which is the internal act of faith?
(2) In how many ways is it expressed?
(3) Whether it is necessary for salvation to believe in anything above
(4) Whether it is necessary to believe those things that are attainable
by natural reason?
(5) Whether it is necessary for salvation to believe certain things
(6) Whether all are equally bound to explicit faith?
(7) Whether explicit faith in Christ is always necessary for salvation?
(8) Whether it is necessary for salvation to believe in the Trinity
(9) Whether the act of faith is meritorious?
(10) Whether human reason diminishes the merit of faith?
Article 1: Whether to believe is to think with assent?
Objection 1: It would seem that to believe is not to think with assent.
Because the Latin word "cogitatio" [thought] implies a research, for
"cogitare" [to think] seems to be equivalent to "coagitare," i.e. "to
discuss together." Now Damascene says (De Fide Orth. iv) that faith is
"an assent without research." Therefore thinking has no place in the act
Objection 2: Further, faith resides in the reason, as we shall show further on
(Question , Article ). Now to think is an act of the cogitative power, which
belongs to the sensitive faculty, as stated in the FP, Question , Article .
Therefore thought has nothing to do with faith.
Objection 3: Further, to believe is an act of the intellect, since its object
is truth. But assent seems to be an act not of the intellect, but of the
will, even as consent is, as stated above (FS, Question , Article , ad 3).
Therefore to believe is not to think with assent.
On the contrary, This is how "to believe" is defined by Augustine (De
Praedest. Sanct. ii).
I answer that, "To think" can be taken in three ways. First, in a
general way for any kind of actual consideration of the intellect, as
Augustine observes (De Trin. xiv, 7): "By understanding I mean now the
faculty whereby we understand when thinking." Secondly, "to think" is
more strictly taken for that consideration of the intellect, which is
accompanied by some kind of inquiry, and which precedes the intellect's
arrival at the stage of perfection that comes with the certitude of
sight. In this sense Augustine says (De Trin. xv, 16) that "the Son of
God is not called the Thought, but the Word of God. When our thought
realizes what we know and takes form therefrom, it becomes our word.
Hence the Word of God must be understood without any thinking on the part
of God, for there is nothing there that can take form, or be unformed."
In this way thought is, properly speaking, the movement of the mind while
yet deliberating, and not yet perfected by the clear sight of truth.
Since, however, such a movement of the mind may be one of deliberation
either about universal notions, which belongs to the intellectual
faculty, or about particular matters, which belongs to the sensitive
part, hence it is that "to think" is taken secondly for an act of the
deliberating intellect, and thirdly for an act of the cogitative power.
Accordingly, if "to think" be understood broadly according to the first
sense, then "to think with assent," does not express completely what is
meant by "to believe": since, in this way, a man thinks with assent even
when he considers what he knows by science [*Science is certain knowledge
of a demonstrated conclusion through its demonstration.], or understands.
If, on the other hand, "to think" be understood in the second way, then
this expresses completely the nature of the act of believing. For among
the acts belonging to the intellect, some have a firm assent without any
such kind of thinking, as when a man considers the things that he knows
by science, or understands, for this consideration is already formed. But
some acts of the intellect have unformed thought devoid of a firm assent,
whether they incline to neither side, as in one who "doubts"; or incline
to one side rather than the other, but on account of some slight motive,
as in one who "suspects"; or incline to one side yet with fear of the
other, as in one who "opines." But this act "to believe," cleaves firmly
to one side, in which respect belief has something in common with science
and understanding; yet its knowledge does not attain the perfection of
clear sight, wherein it agrees with doubt, suspicion and opinion. Hence
it is proper to the believer to think with assent: so that the act of
believing is distinguished from all the other acts of the intellect,
which are about the true or the false.
Reply to Objection 1: Faith has not that research of natural reason which
demonstrates what is believed, but a research into those things whereby a
man is induced to believe, for instance that such things have been
uttered by God and confirmed by miracles.
Reply to Objection 2: "To think" is not taken here for the act of the cogitative
power, but for an act of the intellect, as explained above.
Reply to Objection 3: The intellect of the believer is determined to one object,
not by the reason, but by the will, wherefore assent is taken here for an
act of the intellect as determined to one object by the will.
Article 2: Whether the act of faith is suitably distinguished as believing God, believing in a God and believing in God?
Objection 1: It would seem that the act of faith is unsuitably distinguished
as believing God, believing in a God, and believing in God. For one habit
has but one act. Now faith is one habit since it is one virtue. Therefore
it is unreasonable to say that there are three acts of faith.
Objection 2: Further, that which is common to all acts of faith should not be
reckoned as a particular kind of act of faith. Now "to believe God" is
common to all acts of faith, since faith is founded on the First Truth.
Therefore it seems unreasonable to distinguish it from certain other acts
Objection 3: Further, that which can be said of unbelievers, cannot be called
an act of faith. Now unbelievers can be said to believe in a God.
Therefore it should not be reckoned an act of faith.
Objection 4: Further, movement towards the end belongs to the will, whose
object is the good and the end. Now to believe is an act, not of the
will, but of the intellect. Therefore "to believe in God," which implies
movement towards an end, should not be reckoned as a species of that act.
On the contrary is the authority of Augustine who makes this distinction
(De Verb. Dom., Serm. lxi---Tract. xxix in Joan.).
I answer that, The act of any power or habit depends on the relation of
that power or habit to its object. Now the object of faith can be
considered in three ways. For, since "to believe" is an act of the
intellect, in so far as the will moves it to assent, as stated above
(Article , ad 3), the object of faith can be considered either on the part of
the intellect, or on the part of the will that moves the intellect.
If it be considered on the part of the intellect, then two things can be
observed in the object of faith, as stated above (Question , Article ). One of
these is the material object of faith, and in this way an act of faith is
"to believe in a God"; because, as stated above (Question , Article ) nothing is
proposed to our belief, except in as much as it is referred to God. The
other is the formal aspect of the object, for it is the medium on account
of which we assent to such and such a point of faith; and thus an act of
faith is "to believe God," since, as stated above (Question , Article ) the formal
object of faith is the First Truth, to Which man gives his adhesion, so
as to assent to Its sake to whatever he believes.
Thirdly, if the object of faith be considered in so far as the intellect
is moved by the will, an act of faith is "to believe in God." For the
First Truth is referred to the will, through having the aspect of an end.
Reply to Objection 1: These three do not denote different acts of faith, but one
and the same act having different relations to the object of faith.
This suffices for the Reply to the Second Objection.
Reply to Objection 3: Unbelievers cannot be said "to believe in a God" as we
understand it in relation to the act of faith. For they do not believe
that God exists under the conditions that faith determines; hence they do
not truly imply believe in a God, since, as the Philosopher observes
(Metaph. ix, text. 22) "to know simple things defectively is not to know
them at all."
Reply to Objection 4: As stated above (FS, Question , Article ) the will moves the
intellect and the other powers of the soul to the end: and in this
respect an act of faith is "to believe in God."
Article 3: Whether it is necessary for salvation to believe anything above the natural reason?
Objection 1: It would seem unnecessary for salvation to believe anything above
the natural reason. For the salvation and perfection of a thing seem to
be sufficiently insured by its natural endowments. Now matters of faith,
surpass man's natural reason, since they are things unseen as stated
above (Question , Article ). Therefore to believe seems unnecessary for salvation.
Objection 2: Further, it is dangerous for man to assent to matters, wherein he
cannot judge whether that which is proposed to him be true or false,
according to Job 12:11: "Doth not the ear discern words?" Now a man
cannot form a judgment of this kind in matters of faith, since he cannot
trace them back to first principles, by which all our judgments are
guided. Therefore it is dangerous to believe in such matters. Therefore
to believe is not necessary for salvation.
Objection 3: Further, man's salvation rests on God, according to Ps. 36:39:
"But the salvation of the just is from the Lord." Now "the invisible
things" of God "are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are
made; His eternal power also and Divinity," according to Rm. 1:20: and
those things which are clearly seen by the understanding are not an
object of belief. Therefore it is not necessary for man's salvation, that
he should believe certain things.
On the contrary, It is written (Heb. 11:6): "Without faith it is
impossible to please God."
I answer that, Wherever one nature is subordinate to another, we find
that two things concur towards the perfection of the lower nature, one of
which is in respect of that nature's proper movement, while the other is
in respect of the movement of the higher nature. Thus water by its proper
movement moves towards the centre (of the earth), while according to the
movement of the moon, it moves round the centre by ebb and flow. In like
manner the planets have their proper movements from west to east, while
in accordance with the movement of the first heaven, they have a movement
from east to west. Now the created rational nature alone is immediately
subordinate to God, since other creatures do not attain to the universal,
but only to something particular, while they partake of the Divine
goodness either in "being" only, as inanimate things, or also in
"living," and in "knowing singulars," as plants and animals; whereas the
rational nature, in as much as it apprehends the universal notion of good
and being, is immediately related to the universal principle of being.
Consequently the perfection of the rational creature consists not only
in what belongs to it in respect of its nature, but also in that which it
acquires through a supernatural participation of Divine goodness. Hence
it was said above (FS, Question , Article ) that man's ultimate happiness consists
in a supernatural vision of God: to which vision man cannot attain unless
he be taught by God, according to Jn. 6:45: "Every one that hath heard of
the Father and hath learned cometh to Me." Now man acquires a share of
this learning, not indeed all at once, but by little and little,
according to the mode of his nature: and every one who learns thus must
needs believe, in order that he may acquire science in a perfect degree;
thus also the Philosopher remarks (De Soph. Elench. i, 2) that "it
behooves a learner to believe."
Hence in order that a man arrive at the perfect vision of heavenly
happiness, he must first of all believe God, as a disciple believes the
master who is teaching him.
Reply to Objection 1: Since man's nature is dependent on a higher nature, natural
knowledge does not suffice for its perfection, and some supernatural
knowledge is necessary, as stated above.
Reply to Objection 2: Just as man assents to first principles, by the natural
light of his intellect, so does a virtuous man, by the habit of virtue,
judge aright of things concerning that virtue; and in this way, by the
light of faith which God bestows on him, a man assents to matters of
faith and not to those which are against faith. Consequently "there is
no" danger or "condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus," and whom
He has enlightened by faith.
Reply to Objection 3: In many respects faith perceives the invisible things of
God in a higher way than natural reason does in proceeding to God from
His creatures. Hence it is written (Ecclus. 3:25): "Many things are shown
to thee above the understandings of man."
Article 4: Whether it is necessary to believe those things which can be proved by natural reason?
Objection 1: It would seem unnecessary to believe those things which can be
proved by natural reason. For nothing is superfluous in God's works, much
less even than in the works of nature. Now it is superfluous to employ
other means, where one already suffices. Therefore it would be
superfluous to receive by faith, things that can be known by natural
Objection 2: Further, those things must be believed, which are the object of
faith. Now science and faith are not about the same object, as stated
above (Question , Articles ,5). Since therefore all things that can be known by
natural reason are an object of science, it seems that there is no need
to believe what can be proved by natural reason.
Objection 3: Further, all things knowable scientifically [*Science is certain
knowledge of a demonstrated conclusion through its demonstration] would
seem to come under one head: so that if some of them are proposed to man
as objects of faith, in like manner the others should also be believed.
But this is not true. Therefore it is not necessary to believe those
things which can be proved by natural reason.
On the contrary, It is necessary to believe that God is one and
incorporeal: which things philosophers prove by natural reason.
I answer that, It is necessary for man to accept by faith not only things which are above reason, but also those which can be known by reason: and this for three motives. First, in order that man may arrive more quickly at the knowledge of Divine truth. Because the science to whose province it belongs to prove the existence of God, is the last of all to offer itself to human research, since it presupposes many other sciences: so that it would not by until late in life that man would arrive at the knowledge of God. The second reason is, in order that the knowledge of God may be more general. For many are unable to make progress in the study of science, either through dullness of mind, or through having a number of occupations, and temporal needs, or even through laziness in learning, all of whom would be altogether deprived of
the knowledge of God, unless Divine things were brought to their
knowledge under the guise of faith. The third reason is for the sake of
certitude. For human reason is very deficient in things concerning God. A
sign of this is that philosophers in their researches, by natural
investigation, into human affairs, have fallen into many errors, and have
disagreed among themselves. And consequently, in order that men might
have knowledge of God, free of doubt and uncertainty, it was necessary
for Divine matters to be delivered to them by way of faith, being told to
them, as it were, by God Himself Who cannot lie.
Reply to Objection 1: The researches of natural reason do not suffice mankind for
the knowledge of Divine matters, even of those that can be proved by
reason: and so it is not superfluous if these others be believed.
Reply to Objection 2: Science and faith cannot be in the same subject and about
the same object: but what is an object of science for one, can be an
object of faith for another, as stated above (Question , Article ).
Reply to Objection 3: Although all things that can be known by science are of one
common scientific aspect, they do not all alike lead man to beatitude:
hence they are not all equally proposed to our belief.
Article 5: Whether man is bound to believe anything explicitly?
Objection 1: It would seem that man is not bound to believe anything
explicitly. For no man is bound to do what is not in his power. Now it is
not in man's power to believe a thing explicitly, for it is written (Rm. 10:14,15): "How shall they believe Him, of whom they have not heard? And
how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless
they be sent?" Therefore man is not bound to believe anything explicitly.
Objection 2: Further, just as we are directed to God by faith, so are we by
charity. Now man is not bound to keep the precepts of charity, and it is
enough if he be ready to fulfil them: as is evidenced by the precept of
Our Lord (Mt. 5:39): "If one strike thee on one [Vulg.: 'thy right']
cheek, turn to him also the other"; and by others of the same kind,
according to Augustine's exposition (De Serm. Dom. in Monte xix).
Therefore neither is man bound to believe anything explicitly, and it is
enough if he be ready to believe whatever God proposes to be believed.
Objection 3: Further, the good of faith consists in obedience, according to
Rm. 1:5: "For obedience to the faith in all nations." Now the virtue of
obedience does not require man to keep certain fixed precepts, but it is
enough that his mind be ready to obey, according to Ps. 118:60: "I am
ready and am not troubled; that I may keep Thy commandments." Therefore
it seems enough for faith, too, that man should be ready to believe
whatever God may propose, without his believing anything explicitly.
On the contrary, It is written (Heb. 11:6): "He that cometh to God, must
believe that He is, and is a rewarder to them that seek Him."
I answer that, The precepts of the Law, which man is bound to fulfil,
concern acts of virtue which are the means of attaining salvation. Now an
act of virtue, as stated above (FS, Question , Article ) depends on the relation
of the habit to its object. Again two things may be considered in the
object of any virtue; namely, that which is the proper and direct object
of that virtue, and that which is accidental and consequent to the object
properly so called. Thus it belongs properly and directly to the object
of fortitude, to face the dangers of death, and to charge at the foe with
danger to oneself, for the sake of the common good: yet that, in a just
war, a man be armed, or strike another with his sword, and so forth, is
reduced to the object of fortitude, but indirectly.
Accordingly, just as a virtuous act is required for the fulfilment of a
precept, so is it necessary that the virtuous act should terminate in its
proper and direct object: but, on the other hand, the fulfilment of the
precept does not require that a virtuous act should terminate in those
things which have an accidental or secondary relation to the proper and
direct object of that virtue, except in certain places and at certain
times. We must, therefore, say that the direct object of faith is that
whereby man is made one of the Blessed, as stated above (Question , Article ):
while the indirect and secondary object comprises all things delivered by
God to us in Holy Writ, for instance that Abraham had two sons, that
David was the son of Jesse, and so forth.
Therefore, as regards the primary points or articles of faith, man is
bound to believe them, just as he is bound to have faith; but as to other
points of faith, man is not bound to believe them explicitly, but only
implicitly, or to be ready to believe them, in so far as he is prepared
to believe whatever is contained in the Divine Scriptures. Then alone is
he bound to believe such things explicitly, when it is clear to him that
they are contained in the doctrine of faith.
Reply to Objection 1: If we understand those things alone to be in a man's power,
which we can do without the help of grace, then we are bound to do many
things which we cannot do without the aid of healing grace, such as to
love God and our neighbor, and likewise to believe the articles of faith.
But with the help of grace we can do this, for this help "to whomsoever
it is given from above it is mercifully given; and from whom it is
withheld it is justly withheld, as a punishment of a previous, or at
least of original, sin," as Augustine states (De Corr. et Grat. v, vi
[*Cf. Ep. cxc; De Praed. Sanct. viii.]).
Reply to Objection 2: Man is bound to love definitely those lovable things which
are properly and directly the objects of charity, namely, God and our
neighbor. The objection refers to those precepts of charity which belong,
as a consequence, to the objects of charity.
Reply to Objection 3: The virtue of obedience is seated, properly speaking, in
the will; hence promptness of the will subject to authority, suffices for
the act of obedience, because it is the proper and direct object of
obedience. But this or that precept is accidental or consequent to that
proper and direct object.
Article 6: Whether all are equally bound to have explicit faith?
Objection 1: It would seem that all are equally bound to have explicit faith.
For all are bound to those things which are necessary for salvation, as
is evidenced by the precepts of charity. Now it is necessary for
salvation that certain things should be believed explicitly. Therefore
all are equally bound to have explicit faith.
Objection 2: Further, no one should be put to test in matters that he is not
bound to believe. But simple reasons are sometimes tested in reference to
the slightest articles of faith. Therefore all are bound to believe
Objection 3: Further, if the simple are bound to have, not explicit but only
implicit faith, their faith must needs be implied in the faith of the
learned. But this seems unsafe, since it is possible for the learned to
err. Therefore it seems that the simple should also have explicit faith;
so that all are, therefore, equally bound to have explicit faith.
On the contrary, It is written (Job 1:14): "The oxen were ploughing, and
the asses feeding beside them," because, as Gregory expounds this passage
(Moral. ii, 17), the simple, who are signified by the asses, ought, in
matters of faith, to stay by the learned, who are denoted by the oxen.
I answer that, The unfolding of matters of faith is the result of Divine
revelation: for matters of faith surpass natural reason. Now Divine
revelation reaches those of lower degree through those who are over them,
in a certain order; to men, for instance, through the angels, and to the
lower angels through the higher, as Dionysius explains (Coel. Hier. iv,
vii). In like manner therefore the unfolding of faith must needs reach
men of lower degree through those of higher degree. Consequently, just as
the higher angels, who enlighten those who are below them, have a fuller
knowledge of Divine things than the lower angels, as Dionysius states
(Coel. Hier. xii), so too, men of higher degree, whose business it is to
teach others, are under obligation to have fuller knowledge of matters of
faith, and to believe them more explicitly.
Reply to Objection 1: The unfolding of the articles of faith is not equally
necessary for the salvation of all, since those of higher degree, whose
duty it is to teach others, are bound to believe explicitly more things
than others are.
Reply to Objection 2: Simple persons should not be put to the test about subtle
questions of faith, unless they be suspected of having been corrupted by
heretics, who are wont to corrupt the faith of simple people in such
questions. If, however, it is found that they are free from obstinacy in
their heterodox sentiments, and that it is due to their simplicity, it is
no fault of theirs.
Reply to Objection 3: The simple have no faith implied in that of the learned,
except in so far as the latter adhere to the Divine teaching. Hence the
Apostle says (1 Cor. 4:16): "Be ye followers of me, as I also am of
Christ." Hence it is not human knowledge, but the Divine truth that is
the rule of faith: and if any of the learned stray from this rule, he
does not harm the faith of the simple ones, who think that the learned
believe aright; unless the simple hold obstinately to their individual
errors, against the faith of the universal Church, which cannot err,
since Our Lord said (Lk. 22:32): "I have prayed for thee," Peter, "that
thy faith fail not."
Article 7: Whether it is necessary for the salvation of all, that they should believe explicitly in the mystery of Christ?
Objection 1: It would seem that it is not necessary for the salvation of all
that they should believe explicitly in the mystery of Christ. For man is
not bound to believe explicitly what the angels are ignorant about: since
the unfolding of faith is the result of Divine revelation, which reaches
man by means of the angels, as stated above (Article ; FP, Question , Article ). Now
even the angels were in ignorance of the mystery of the Incarnation:
hence, according to the commentary of Dionysius (Coel. Hier. vii), it is
they who ask (Ps. 23:8): "Who is this king of glory?" and (Is. 63:1):
"Who is this that cometh from Edom?" Therefore men were not bound to
believe explicitly in the mystery of Christ's Incarnation.
Objection 2: Further, it is evident that John the Baptist was one of the
teachers, and most nigh to Christ, Who said of him (Mt. 11:11) that
"there hath not risen among them that are born of women, a greater than"
he. Now John the Baptist does not appear to have known the mystery of
Christ explicitly, since he asked Christ (Mt. 11:3): "Art Thou He that
art to come, or look we for another?" Therefore even the teachers were
not bound to explicit faith in Christ.
Objection 3: Further, many gentiles obtained salvation through the ministry of the angels, as Dionysius states (Coel. Hier. ix). Now it would seem that the gentiles had neither explicit nor implicit faith in Christ, since they received no revelation. Therefore it seems that it was not necessary for the salvation of all to believe explicitly in the mystery of Christ.
On the contrary, Augustine says (De Corr. et Gratia vii; Ep. cxc): "Our
faith is sound if we believe that no man, old or young is delivered from
the contagion of death and the bonds of sin, except by the one Mediator
of God and men, Jesus Christ."
I answer that, As stated above (Article ; Question , Article ), the object of faith
includes, properly and directly, that thing through which man obtains
beatitude. Now the mystery of Christ's Incarnation and Passion is the way
by which men obtain beatitude; for it is written (Acts 4:12): "There is
no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved."
Therefore belief of some kind in the mystery of Christ's Incarnation was
necessary at all times and for all persons, but this belief differed
according to differences of times and persons. The reason of this is that
before the state of sin, man believed, explicitly in Christ's
Incarnation, in so far as it was intended for the consummation of glory,
but not as it was intended to deliver man from sin by the Passion and
Resurrection, since man had no foreknowledge of his future sin. He does,
however, seem to have had foreknowledge of the Incarnation of Christ,
from the fact that he said (Gn. 2:24): "Wherefore a man shall leave
father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife," of which the Apostle
says (Eph. 5:32) that "this is a great sacrament . . . in Christ and the
Church," and it is incredible that the first man was ignorant about this
But after sin, man believed explicitly in Christ, not only as to the
Incarnation, but also as to the Passion and Resurrection, whereby the
human race is delivered from sin and death: for they would not, else,
have foreshadowed Christ's Passion by certain sacrifices both before and
after the Law, the meaning of which sacrifices was known by the learned
explicitly, while the simple folk, under the veil of those sacrifices,
believed them to be ordained by God in reference to Christ's coming, and
thus their knowledge was covered with a veil, so to speak. And, as stated
above (Question , Article ), the nearer they were to Christ, the more distinct was
their knowledge of Christ's mysteries.
After grace had been revealed, both learned and simple folk are bound to
explicit faith in the mysteries of Christ, chiefly as regards those which
are observed throughout the Church, and publicly proclaimed, such as the
articles which refer to the Incarnation, of which we have spoken above
(Question , Article ). As to other minute points in reference to the articles of
the Incarnation, men have been bound to believe them more or less
explicitly according to each one's state and office.
Reply to Objection 1: The mystery of the Kingdom of God was not entirely hidden
from the angels, as Augustine observes (Gen. ad lit. v, 19), yet certain
aspects thereof were better known to them when Christ revealed them to
Reply to Objection 2: It was not through ignorance that John the Baptist inquired
of Christ's advent in the flesh, since he had clearly professed his
belief therein, saying: "I saw, and I gave testimony, that this is the
Son of God" (Jn. 1:34). Hence he did not say: "Art Thou He that hast
come?" but "Art Thou He that art to come?" thus saying about the future,
not about the past. Likewise it is not to be believed that he was
ignorant of Christ's future Passion, for he had already said (Jn. 1:39):
"Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him who taketh away the sins [Vulg.:
'sin'] of the world," thus foretelling His future immolation; and since
other prophets had foretold it, as may be seen especially in Isaias 53.
We may therefore say with Gregory (Hom. xxvi in Evang.) that he asked
this question, being in ignorance as to whether Christ would descend into
hell in His own Person. But he did not ignore the fact that the power of
Christ's Passion would be extended to those who were detained in Limbo,
according to Zach. 9:11: "Thou also, by the blood of Thy testament hast
sent forth Thy prisoners out of the pit, wherein there is no water"; nor
was he bound to believe explicitly, before its fulfilment, that Christ
was to descend thither Himself.
It may also be replied that, as Ambrose observes in his commentary on
Lk. 7:19, he made this inquiry, not from doubt or ignorance but from
devotion: or again, with Chrysostom (Hom. xxxvi in Matth.), that he
inquired, not as though ignorant himself, but because he wished his
disciples to be satisfied on that point, through Christ: hence the latter
framed His answer so as to instruct the disciples, by pointing to the
signs of His works.
Reply to Objection 3: Many of the gentiles received revelations of Christ, as is
clear from their predictions. Thus we read (Job 19:25): "I know that my
Redeemer liveth." The Sibyl too foretold certain things about Christ, as
Augustine states (Contra Faust. xiii, 15). Moreover, we read in the
history of the Romans, that at the time of Constantine Augustus and his
mother Irene a tomb was discovered, wherein lay a man on whose breast was
a golden plate with the inscription: "Christ shall be born of a virgin,
and in Him, I believe. O sun, during the lifetime of Irene and
Constantine, thou shalt see me again" [*Cf. Baron, Annal., A.D. 780]. If,
however, some were saved without receiving any revelation, they were not
saved without faith in a Mediator, for, though they did not believe in
Him explicitly, they did, nevertheless, have implicit faith through
believing in Divine providence, since they believed that God would
deliver mankind in whatever way was pleasing to Him, and according to the
revelation of the Spirit to those who knew the truth, as stated in Job
35:11: "Who teacheth us more than the beasts of the earth."
Article 8: Whether it is necessary for salvation to believe explicitly in the Trinity?
Objection 1: It would seem that it was not necessary for salvation to believe
explicitly in the Trinity. For the Apostle says (Heb. 11:6): "He that
cometh to God must believe that He is, and is a rewarder to them that
seek Him." Now one can believe this without believing in the Trinity.
Therefore it was not necessary to believe explicitly in the Trinity.
Objection 2: Further our Lord said (Jn. 17:5,6): "Father, I have manifested
Thy name to men," which words Augustine expounds (Tract. cvi) as follows:
"Not the name by which Thou art called God, but the name whereby Thou art
called My Father," and further on he adds: "In that He made this world,
God is known to all nations; in that He is not to be worshipped together
with false gods, 'God is known in Judea'; but, in that He is the Father
of this Christ, through Whom He takes away the sin of the world, He now
makes known to men this name of His, which hitherto they knew not."
Therefore before the coming of Christ it was not known that Paternity and
Filiation were in the Godhead: and so the Trinity was not believed
Objection 3: Further, that which we are bound to believe explicitly of God is
the object of heavenly happiness. Now the object of heavenly happiness is
the sovereign good, which can be understood to be in God, without any
distinction of Persons. Therefore it was not necessary to believe
explicitly in the Trinity.
On the contrary, In the Old Testament the Trinity of Persons is
expressed in many ways; thus at the very outset of Genesis it is written
in manifestation of the Trinity: "Let us make man to Our image and
likeness" (Gn. 1:26). Therefore from the very beginning it was necessary
for salvation to believe in the Trinity.
I answer that, It is impossible to believe explicitly in the mystery of
Christ, without faith in the Trinity, since the mystery of Christ
includes that the Son of God took flesh; that He renewed the world
through the grace of the Holy Ghost; and again, that He was conceived by
the Holy Ghost. Wherefore just as, before Christ, the mystery of Christ
was believed explicitly by the learned, but implicitly and under a veil,
so to speak, by the simple, so too was it with the mystery of the
Trinity. And consequently, when once grace had been revealed, all were
bound to explicit faith in the mystery of the Trinity: and all who are
born again in Christ, have this bestowed on them by the invocation of the
Trinity, according to Mt. 28:19: "Going therefore teach ye all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy
Reply to Objection 1: Explicit faith in those two things was necessary at all
times and for all people: but it was not sufficient at all times and for
Reply to Objection 2: Before Christ's coming, faith in the Trinity lay hidden in
the faith of the learned, but through Christ and the apostles it was
shown to the world.
Reply to Objection 3: God's sovereign goodness as we understand it now through
its effects, can be understood without the Trinity of Persons: but as
understood in itself, and as seen by the Blessed, it cannot be understood
without the Trinity of Persons. Moreover the mission of the Divine
Persons brings us to heavenly happiness.
Article 9: Whether to believe is meritorious?
Objection 1: It would seem that to believe in not meritorious. For the
principle of all merit is charity, as stated above (FS, Question , Article ).
Now faith, like nature, is a preamble to charity. Therefore, just as an
act of nature is not meritorious, since we do not merit by our natural
gifts, so neither is an act of faith.
Objection 2: Further, belief is a mean between opinion and scientific
knowledge or the consideration of things scientifically known [*Science
is a certain knowledge of a demonstrated conclusion through its
demonstration.]. Now the considerations of science are not meritorious,
nor on the other hand is opinion. Therefore belief is not meritorious.
Objection 3: Further, he who assents to a point of faith, either has a
sufficient motive for believing, or he has not. If he has a sufficient
motive for his belief, this does not seem to imply any merit on his part,
since he is no longer free to believe or not to believe: whereas if he
has not a sufficient motive for believing, this is a mark of levity,
according to Ecclus. 19:4: "He that is hasty to give credit, is light of
heart," so that, seemingly, he gains no merit thereby. Therefore to
believe is by no means meritorious.
On the contrary, It is written (Heb. 11:33) that the saints "by faith .
. . obtained promises," which would not be the case if they did not merit
by believing. Therefore to believe is meritorious.
I answer that, As stated above (FS, Question , Articles ,4), our actions are
meritorious in so far as they proceed from the free-will moved with grace
by God. Therefore every human act proceeding from the free-will, if it be
referred to God, can be meritorious. Now the act of believing is an act
of the intellect assenting to the Divine truth at the command of the will
moved by the grace of God, so that it is subject to the free-will in
relation to God; and consequently the act of faith can be meritorious.
Reply to Objection 1: Nature is compared to charity which is the principle of
merit, as matter to form: whereas faith is compared to charity as the
disposition which precedes the ultimate form. Now it is evident that the
subject or the matter cannot act save by virtue of the form, nor can a
preceding disposition, before the advent of the form: but after the
advent of the form, both the subject and the preceding disposition act by
virtue of the form, which is the chief principle of action, even as the
heat of fire acts by virtue of the substantial form of fire. Accordingly
neither nature nor faith can, without charity, produce a meritorious act;
but, when accompanied by charity, the act of faith is made meritorious
thereby, even as an act of nature, and a natural act of the free-will.
Reply to Objection 2: Two things may be considered in science: namely the
scientist's assent to a scientific fact and his consideration of that
fact. Now the assent of science is not subject to free-will, because the
scientist is obliged to assent by force of the demonstration, wherefore
scientific assent is not meritorious. But the actual consideration of
what a man knows scientifically is subject to his free-will, for it is in
his power to consider or not to consider. Hence scientific consideration
may be meritorious if it be referred to the end of charity, i.e. to the
honor of God or the good of our neighbor. On the other hand, in the case
of faith, both these things are subject to the free-will so that in both
respects the act of faith can be meritorious: whereas in the case of
opinion, there is no firm assent, since it is weak and infirm, as the
Philosopher observes (Poster. i, 33), so that it does not seem to proceed
from a perfect act of the will: and for this reason, as regards the
assent, it does not appear to be very meritorious, though it can be as
regards the actual consideration.
Reply to Objection 3: The believer has sufficient motive for believing, for he is
moved by the authority of Divine teaching confirmed by miracles, and,
what is more, by the inward instinct of the Divine invitation: hence he
does not believe lightly. He has not, however, sufficient reason for
scientific knowledge, hence he does not lose the merit.
Article 10: Whether reasons in support of what we believe lessen the merit of faith?
Objection 1: It would seem that reasons in support of what we believe lessen
the merit of faith. For Gregory says (Hom. xxvi in Evang.) that "there is
no merit in believing what is shown by reason." If, therefore, human
reason provides sufficient proof, the merit of faith is altogether taken
away. Therefore it seems that any kind of human reasoning in support of
matters of faith, diminishes the merit of believing.
Objection 2: Further, whatever lessens the measure of virtue, lessens the
amount of merit, since "happiness is the reward of virtue," as the
Philosopher states (Ethic. i, 9). Now human reasoning seems to diminish
the measure of the virtue of faith, since it is essential to faith to be
about the unseen, as stated above (Question , Articles ,5). Now the more a thing
is supported by reasons the less is it unseen. Therefore human reasons in
support of matters of faith diminish the merit of faith.
Objection 3: Further, contrary things have contrary causes. Now an inducement in opposition to faith increases the merit of faith whether it consist in persecution inflicted by one who endeavors to force a man to renounce his faith, or in an argument persuading him to do so. Therefore reasons in support of faith diminish the merit of faith.
On the contrary, It is written (1 Pt. 3:15): "Being ready always to
satisfy every one that asketh you a reason of that faith [*Vulg.: 'Of
that hope which is in you.' St. Thomas' reading is apparently taken from
Bede.] and hope which is in you." Now the Apostle would not give this
advice, if it would imply a diminution in the merit of faith. Therefore
reason does not diminish the merit of faith.
I answer that, As stated above (Article ), the act of faith can be
meritorious, in so far as it is subject to the will, not only as to the
use, but also as to the assent. Now human reason in support of what we
believe, may stand in a twofold relation to the will of the believer.
First, as preceding the act of the will; as, for instance, when a man
either has not the will, or not a prompt will, to believe, unless he be
moved by human reasons: and in this way human reason diminishes the merit
of faith. In this sense it has been said above (FS, Question , Article , ad 1; Question , Article , ad 2) that, in moral virtues, a passion which precedes
choice makes the virtuous act less praiseworthy. For just as a man ought
to perform acts of moral virtue, on account of the judgment of his
reason, and not on account of a passion, so ought he to believe matters
of faith, not on account of human reason, but on account of the Divine
authority. Secondly, human reasons may be consequent to the will of the
believer. For when a man's will is ready to believe, he loves the truth
he believes, he thinks out and takes to heart whatever reasons he can
find in support thereof; and in this way human reason does not exclude
the merit of faith but is a sign of greater merit. Thus again, in moral
virtues a consequent passion is the sign of a more prompt will, as stated
above (FS, Question , Article , ad 1). We have an indication of this in the words
of the Samaritans to the woman, who is a type of human reason: "We now
believe, not for thy saying" (Jn. 4:42).
Reply to Objection 1: Gregory is referring to the case of a man who has no will
to believe what is of faith, unless he be induced by reasons. But when a
man has the will to believe what is of faith on the authority of God
alone, although he may have reasons in demonstration of some of them,
e.g. of the existence of God, the merit of his faith is not, for that
reason, lost or diminished.
Reply to Objection 2: The reasons which are brought forward in support of the
authority of faith, are not demonstrations which can bring intellectual
vision to the human intellect, wherefore they do not cease to be unseen.
But they remove obstacles to faith, by showing that what faith proposes
is not impossible; wherefore such reasons do not diminish the merit or
the measure of faith. On the other hand, though demonstrative reasons in
support of the preambles of faith [*The Leonine Edition reads: 'in
support of matters of faith which are however, preambles to the articles
of faith, diminish,' etc.], but not of the articles of faith, diminish
the measure of faith, since they make the thing believed to be seen, yet
they do not diminish the measure of charity, which makes the will ready
to believe them, even if they were unseen; and so the measure of merit
is not diminished.
Reply to Objection 3: Whatever is in opposition to faith, whether it consist in a
man's thoughts, or in outward persecution, increases the merit of faith,
in so far as the will is shown to be more prompt and firm in believing.
Hence the martyrs had more merit of faith, through not renouncing faith
on account of persecution; and even the wise have greater merit of faith,
through not renouncing their faith on account of the reasons brought
forward by philosophers or heretics in opposition to faith. On the other
hand things that are favorable to faith, do not always diminish the
promptness of the will to believe, and therefore they do not always
diminish the merit of faith.