QUESTION 3: OF THE OUTWARD ACT OF FAITH
We must now consider the outward act, viz. the confession of faith:
under which head there are two points of inquiry:
(1) Whether confession is an act of faith?
(2) Whether confession of faith is necessary for salvation?
Article 1: Whether confession is an act of faith?
Objection 1: It would seem that confession is not an act of faith. For the
same act does not belong to different virtues. Now confession belongs to
penance of which it is a part. Therefore it is not an act of faith.
Objection 2: Further, man is sometimes deterred by fear or some kind of
confusion, from confessing his faith: wherefore the Apostle (Eph. 6:19)
asks for prayers that it may be granted him "with confidence, to make
known the mystery of the gospel." Now it belongs to fortitude, which
moderates daring and fear, not to be deterred from doing good on account
of confusion or fear. Therefore it seems that confession is not an act of
faith, but rather of fortitude or constancy.
Objection 3: Further, just as the ardor of faith makes one confess one's faith
outwardly, so does it make one do other external good works, for it is
written (Gal. 5:6) that "faith . . . worketh by charity." But other
external works are not reckoned acts of faith. Therefore neither is
confession an act of faith.
On the contrary, A gloss explains the words of 2 Thess. 1:11, "and the
work of faith in power" as referring to "confession which is a work
proper to faith."
I answer that, Outward actions belong properly to the virtue to whose
end they are specifically referred: thus fasting is referred specifically
to the end of abstinence, which is to tame the flesh, and consequently it
is an act of abstinence.
Now confession of those things that are of faith is referred
specifically as to its end, to that which concerns faith, according to 2
Cor. 4:13: "Having the same spirit of faith . . . we believe, and
therefore we speak also." For the outward utterance is intended to
signify the inward thought. Wherefore, just as the inward thought of
matters of faith is properly an act of faith, so too is the outward
confession of them.
Reply to Objection 1: A threefold confession is commended by the Scriptures. One
is the confession of matters of faith, and this is a proper act of faith,
since it is referred to the end of faith as stated above. Another is the
confession of thanksgiving or praise, and this is an act of "latria," for
its purpose is to give outward honor to God, which is the end of
"latria." The third is the confession of sins, which is ordained to the
blotting out of sins, which is the end of penance, to which virtue it
Reply to Objection 2: That which removes an obstacle is not a direct, but an
indirect, cause, as the Philosopher proves (Phys. viii, 4). Hence
fortitude which removes an obstacle to the confession of faith, viz. fear
or shame, is not the proper and direct cause of confession, but an
indirect cause so to speak.
Reply to Objection 3: Inward faith, with the aid of charity, causes all outward
acts of virtue, by means of the other virtues, commanding, but not
eliciting them; whereas it produces the act of confession as its proper
act, without the help of any other virtue.
Article 2: Whether confession of faith is necessary for salvation?
Objection 1: It would seem that confession of faith is not necessary for
salvation. For, seemingly, a thing is sufficient for salvation, if it is
a means of attaining the end of virtue. Now the proper end of faith is
the union of the human mind with Divine truth, and this can be realized
without any outward confession. Therefore confession of faith is not
necessary for salvation.
Objection 2: Further, by outward confession of faith, a man reveals his faith
to another man. But this is unnecessary save for those who have to
instruct others in the faith. Therefore it seems that the simple folk are
not bound to confess the faith.
Objection 3: Further, whatever may tend to scandalize and disturb others, is
not necessary for salvation, for the Apostle says (1 Cor. 10:32): "Be
without offense to the Jews and to the gentiles and to the Church of
God." Now confession of faith sometimes causes a disturbance among
unbelievers. Therefore it is not necessary for salvation.
On the contrary, The Apostle says (Rm. 10:10): "With the heart we
believe unto justice; but with the mouth, confession is made unto
I answer that, Things that are necessary for salvation come under the
precepts of the Divine law. Now since confession of faith is something
affirmative, it can only fall under an affirmative precept. Hence its
necessity for salvation depends on how it falls under an affirmative
precept of the Divine law. Now affirmative precepts as stated above (FS,
Question , Article , ad 3; FS, Question , Article , ad 2) do not bind for always,
although they are always binding; but they bind as to place and time
according to other due circumstances, in respect of which human acts have
to be regulated in order to be acts of virtue.
Thus then it is not necessary for salvation to confess one's faith at
all times and in all places, but in certain places and at certain times,
when, namely, by omitting to do so, we would deprive God of due honor, or
our neighbor of a service that we ought to render him: for instance, if a
man, on being asked about his faith, were to remain silent, so as to make
people believe either that he is without faith, or that the faith is
false, or so as to turn others away from the faith; for in such cases as
these, confession of faith is necessary for salvation.
Reply to Objection 1: The end of faith, even as of the other virtues, must be
referred to the end of charity, which is the love of God and our
neighbor. Consequently when God's honor and our neighbor's good demand,
man should not be contented with being united by faith to God's truth,
but ought to confess his faith outwardly.
Reply to Objection 2: In cases of necessity where faith is in danger, every one
is bound to proclaim his faith to others, either to give good example and
encouragement to the rest of the faithful, or to check the attacks of
unbelievers: but at other times it is not the duty of all the faithful to
instruct others in the faith.
Reply to Objection 3: There is nothing commendable in making a public confession
of one's faith, if it causes a disturbance among unbelievers, without any
profit either to the faith or to the faithful. Hence Our Lord said (Mt. 7:6): "Give not that which is holy to dogs, neither cast ye your pearls
before swine . . . lest turning upon you, they tear you." Yet, if there
is hope of profit to the faith, or if there be urgency, a man should
disregard the disturbance of unbelievers, and confess his faith in
public. Hence it is written (Mt. 15:12) that when the disciples had said
to Our Lord that "the Pharisee, when they heard this word, were
scandalized," He answered: "Let them alone, they are blind, and leaders
of the blind."