A Manual Of Catholic Theology, Based On Scheeben's Dogmatik
Joseph Wilhelm, D.D., PHD. And Thomas B. Scannell, D.D.
With A Preface By Cardinal Manning
Vol. 1. The Sources Of Theological Knowledge, God, Creation And The Supernatural Order
Third Edition, Revised, London, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., Lt.
New York, Cincinnati, Chicago, Benziger Bros.
PART II. THEOLOGICAL KNOWLEDGE CONSIDERED IN ITSELF, OR SUBJECTIVELY.
THEOLOGICAL knowledge should be considered under a twofold aspect: (1) as act of Faith ; and (2) as theological science. Faith assents to revealed truths on the authority of God Who reveals them, whereas theological science, under the guidance of Faith, submits them to examination and discussion in order to gain a clearer and deeper insight into them. This distinction has been disregarded in modern times even more than the various distinctions in the objective principles of theological knowledge. Hence the Vatican Council has dealt with it in detail, especially in the third and fourth chapters of the Constitution concerning Catholic Faith.
See Denzinger, Religious Knowledge, books iii. and iv. (in German); Kleutgen, Theology of the Olden Time, vol. iii. (in German); Schrader, De Fide, utrum ea imperari possit? These three authors have made the best use of the materials contained in the older theological works. See also Alexander of Hales, Summa, p. iii., q. 68, 69; St. Thomas, 2a 2a, q. i sqq.; Quaest. Dispp. De Veritate, q. 14, and various portions of the opusculum, Super Boetium De Trinitate. The question of Faith was exhaustively treated in the century following the Council of Trent. See among the commentators on the Secunda Secundae, Bannez, Salmanticenses, Reding, Valentia, Tanner, Ysambert; Suarez, De Virtut. Theol.; Lugo, De Fide. In English, we have Card. Newman's Grammar of Assent, and Mr. Wilfrid Ward's brilliant little work, The Wish to Believe.
CHAPTER I. FAITH.
SECT. 37. Etymology of the various words used for Faith The true Notion of Faith.
I. The English word Faith is derived from the Latin Fides, and is akin to the Greek [omitted]; Belief is akin to the German Glauben; Creed, Credibility are derived from the Latin Credere. We have, therefore, to examine the four words, fides, credere, [Greek word], and glauben. Both fides and credere convey the fundamental meaning of trowing, trusting (Germ. trauen). Credere is akin to [Greek word], to grasp firmly and to hold; Sanscr. Krat-dha, to give trust, to confide. The noun Fides conveys also the meaning of trust, confidence, and fidelity. The notion of confidence or trust appears in the derived forms, fido, fidentia, fiducia; the notion of fidelity, i.e. firm adherence, in fidelis, fidelitas, and fidus.
[Greek word], so often used in Holy Scripture, comes from [Greek word], which, according to its root bhidh, bhadh, originally meant to bind, fasten, hold fast. It afterwards became specialized in the sense of binding by means of speech that is, to convince, to persuade. We can thus understand how [Greek word] has all the significations of fides. It must, however, be remarked that when used to express some relation between God and man, [Greek word] is used in a passive or middle sense, ([Greek word] = to be bound, convinced, or persuaded, and to allow one's-self to be bound, convinced, or persuaded), and that this use is noticeable everywhere in the Sacred Writings. Hence [Greek word] involves, first, on the part of the [Greek word], the believer, a willing listening and submission ([Greek word], obaudire, obedire) to the commanding call of God, by Whom the hearer allows himself to be bound; secondly, a cleaving to God, to Whom the hearer allows himself to be bound by accepting His good gift, and by entering into a pact, foedus, with Him.
In these are included fidelity and confidence, in a form peculiar to religious [Greek word], namely, as a docile and confident submission to the Divine guidance. The two elements of [Greek word], obedience and fidelity, appear manifestly in the two expressions used to designate the contrary notions, [Greek word], inobedientia, disobedience, and [Greek word], perfidia, faithlessness, and diffidentia, distrust.
The German word Glauben has the same root as lieben, loben, geloben, to love, to praise, to promise; viz. lubh, in lubet, libet = to wish to find good, to approve. Hence it has the radical meaning of accepting willingly and holding fast, approving.
It is plain that these various words, according to their etymology and theological use, do not exclusively refer to acts or habits of the intellect. They often express the affections and dispositions of the will, especially obedience and hope, as based on or aiming at some act of knowledge. As a rule, however, they express acts of the intellect only, in so far as these are dependent on or connected with acts of the will. In Holy Scripture [Greek word] and [Greek word], when used with reference to God, mean, purely and simply, to cling and hold fast to God, and consequently all the acts involved in clinging to God, or any one of them, according to the context. When applied to acts of knowledge, these expressions designate only those which have some analogy with acts of the will, such as to admit, hold, cling to, approve, consent, amplecti, adhaerere, [Greek word]. The sense in which the holding something for true is called fides, [Greek word], is manifold. Thus fides and [Greek word] are often used generically to designate every holding for true, every conviction; nay, they are sometimes used as the technical terms for conviction, like the German Ueberzeugung. On the other hand, to believe is often used as equivalent to mean, think, opine, as expressing a more or less arbitrary assent founded on imperfect evidence.
II. The special signification of the terms Faith, Fides, [Greek word], with which we are now concerned, is assent on authority; that is to say, the acceptance of a proposition, not because we ourselves perceive its truth, but because another person tells us that it is true. The notion of Faith implies that the assent is considered as something good and desirable. Assent on authority results from our esteem for the mental and moral qualifications of the witness, and is, therefore, accompanied by a willing acknowledgment of a sort of perfection in him, and also by a respectful and confiding submission to the authority which that perfection confers Hence Faith is not simply an act of the intellect, but an act commanded and brought about by the will acting on the intellect the assent of the intellect to what is true is determined by the consent of the will to what is good. This consent implies an approbation given to the assent of the intellect, and a willing acknowledgment of the authority of the speaker.
IlI. The part played by the will in this sort of Faith resembles any other sort of deference to authority. It consists in submitting to a legitimate order or call to perform some action. The person who gives the order is the author of the action rather than he who actually performs it, whence comes the term Authority. In ordinary cases we are invited rather than commanded to assent on the authority of another. We may have some doubt, as to his knowledge or veracity, and even if we have no such doubt, he has no power or right over us. But when the author or speaker is the Supreme Lord, Infinite Wisdom, and Infinite Truth, He is entitled to exact complete consent of our will, and to set before us His knowledge, not merely as a basis, but even as a rule, of conviction. The act of Faith is, however, distinguishable from most other acts of submission to authority by the peculiarity that the authority which exacts it must also make it possible, and must co-operate in its production. This is brought about by the Divine Author constituting Himself the guarantee of the truth of what He communicates. The speaker, in virtue of the moral perfection of His will, guarantees that He communicates only what He knows to be true; and that, moreover, by virtue of the perfection of His intellect all danger of error is excluded, thus offering to the mind of the hearer a foundation for certitude, surer than the latter's own personal knowledge.
IV. The manner in which authority asserts itself to and is received by a believer varies according to the nature of the authority and of the communication made. The nearest approach to Divine authority and Divine Faith is found in the relations between parents and their offspring. Parents have a natural superiority and dominion over their children, as being the authors of their existence; hence their authority, unlike that of any other person, is in itself, apart from any external legitimation, sufficient to command the assent of their children. And in like manner, the respect and reverence due to parents cause the child to take for granted their knowledge and veracity. The relation between God and man is a sort of spiritual paternity (cf. Heb. xii. 9) whereby we are entitled to address Him as Our Father. Human parents, although their children reasonably assume their knowledge and veracity, may, however, deceive or be deceived. But our Heavenly Father is Infinite Wisdom and Truth itself.
SECT. 38 Nature of Theological Faith.
I. Theological Faith is assent given to the Word of God in a manner befitting its excellence and power. It is also termed Divine Faith, in opposition to human faith that is, faith founded on the authority of man Supernatural Faith, because it leads to supernatural salvation and has God for its Author and Generator; Christian Faith, because its subject-matter is the Revelation made by Christ, and because it is interwoven with the Christian economy of salvation; Catholic Faith, because it is assent to the doctrines proposed by the Catholic Church. These four appellations are not exactly synonymous, but they all designate the same act, though under different aspects.
II. The nature of Theological Faith has been clearly defined by the Vatican Council, sess. iii., chap. 3 Seeing that man wholly dependeth upon God as his Creator and Lord, and seeing that created reason is entirely subject to Uncreated Truth, we are bound to submit by Faith our intellect and will to God the Revealer. But this Faith, which is the beginning of man's salvation, the Church confesseth to be a supernatural virtue, whereby, with the help of God's grace, we believe what He revealeth, not because we perceive its intrinsic truth by the natural light of out reason, but on account of the authority of God the Revealer, Who can neither deceive nor be deceived. For Faith, according to the Apostle, is 'the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not' (Heb. xi. 1)
This definition means (1) that Theological Faith is faith in the strictest sense of the word that is to say, assent on authority, implying an act of the intellect as well as an act of the will; (2) that it is faith in an eminent degree, because it implies unlimited submission to God's sovereign authority and an absolute confidence in His veracity, and is therefore an act of religious worship and a theological virtue ; and (3) that it is influenced, not only externally by Divine authority, but also internally by Divine Grace, and consequently is supernatural. These three characteristics of Theological Faith distinguish it from all natural knowledge with which the Rationalists confound it, and also from all forms of rational or irrational, instinctive emotional Faith.
The classical text Heb. xi. 1, is quoted by the council in confirmation of its teaching. It describes Faith as the act of spiritually seizing and holding fast things that are beyond the sphere of our intellect things the vision of which is the object of our hope and the essence of our future happiness. It tells us that Faith is a conviction pointing and leading to the future vision, and even anticipating the fruition of it. Hence it implies that Faith, like the future vision itself, is a supernatural participation in the knowledge of God and a likening of our knowledge to His, inasmuch as our Faith has the same subject-matter as the Divine knowledge, and resembles it in its inner perfection. The literal meaning of the text is as follows: The substance, [Greek word], of things to be hoped for is a giving in hand, as it were, a pledge and security for the future good gifts, and so a sort of anticipation of their possession; the evidence [Greek word], of things that appear not, [Greek word], is an evident demonstration, a clear showing, hence a perfect certitude and conviction, concerning things invisible. These expressions are applicable to the habit of Faith without any figure of speech; to the act of Faith they apply only figuratively as being the result of the giving in hand and the clear manifestation. Moreover, these relations of our Faith to the Beatific Vision bring out, as clearly as the definition of the council, the difference between Theological Faith and every other sort of faith or knowledge.
III. We are now in a position to trace the genesis of Theological Faith. The believer, moved by grace, submits to the authority of God and trusts in God's veracity, and strives to conform his mental judgment to that of God and to connect his convictions in the closest manner with God's infallible knowledge. Grace makes this connection so perfect that a most intimate union and relationship are established between the believer's knowledge and the Divine knowledge; the excellence and virtue of the latter are thus communicated to the former, and mould it into an introduction to and participation of eternal life.
IV. We subjoin some remarks on the use of the term Faith in theological literature. Fides is used to signify either the act (credere, fides qua creditur); or the principle of the act gratia fidei, lumen seu virtus fidei); or its subject-matter (fides quae creditur), especially the collection of creeds, definitions, and the like. A distinction is sometimes drawn between Explicit and Implicit Faith, founded upon the degree of distinctness with which the act of Faith apprehends its subject-matter; also between Formal Faith, which supposes an explicit knowledge of the motive and an express act of the will, and Virtual Faith, which is a habit infused or resulting from repeated acts of Formal Faith, and produces acts of Faith as it were instinctively without distinct consciousness of Formal Faith. The expression Credere Deum signifies belief in God as the subject-matter of the act I believe that God exists; Credere Deo means belief on the authority of God I believe what God says; Credere in Deum implies both of the former meanings I believe in God on God's authority.
SECT. 39.The Formal Object or Motive of Faith.
I. To the question, Why do we believe? or What is the motive of our Faith? many answers may be given. Some motives of Faith are similar to those which induce us to elicit other free acts of the will. They may be grouped under the head of what is fitting and useful (decens et utile, or justum et cornmodum), and are the following: Faith contributes to our moral perfection, and leads to our eternal salvation; it ennobles the soul and satisfies the moral necessity of submission to and union with God; it enriches and elevates our mental knowledge by increasing its store and by strengthening its certitude. As a rule, however, when we speak of the motive of Faith we understand that by means of which the act of Faith is produced. In the case of Theological Faith this is the Word of God, whence the name theological, that is, relating immediately to God, is applied to this sort of Faith. We believe truth proposed to us because it is the Word of God word founded upon Divine Authority, and therefore entitled to the homage of our intellect and will.
II. Divine Authority influences Faith in a twofold manner: it is a call to Faith and it is a testimony to the truth of Faith. As a call to Faith, Divine Authority is the expression of the Divine will and power to which man is bound to submit. As a testimony to the truth of Faith, Divine authority acts as the Supreme Truth, guaranteeing the truth of the Faith and supplying a perfect foundation for certitude. In both respects the Divine authority is based upon God's Essence, in virtue of which He is the Highest Being, the Uncreated Principle of all things, the Possessor of all truth, the Source of all goodness. Hence the classical form God is the motive of Faith inasmuch as He is the First Truth. Now God is the First Truth in a threefold sense: in being (in essendo), because of the infinite perfection of His Being; in knowledge (in cognoscendo), because He possesses infinite knowledge ; in speech (in dicendo), because, being infinitely holy, He cannot deceive. Divine authority, as the motive of Faith, acts on the will. The will, moved by respect and confidence, reacts upon the intellect, urging it to elicit an act of Faith in what is proposed by the Infallible Truth. As in every act of faith, of whatever kind, the believer bases his assent on the knowledge and veracity of the witness, so in the case of Divine Faith, the will urges the intellect to base its assent upon the infallible knowledge and veracity of the great First Truth. The motive of Faith is impressed by the will upon the intellect as a light which enlightens and manifests the truth of the Word proposed, which thus in its turn acts on the intellect directly and not merely by means of the will. Again the motive of Faith that is, God as the First Being and First Truth is at the same time, conjointly with the contents of Revelation, the end and object towards the apprehension of which the will moves the intellect.
SECT. 40.The Subject-Matter of Faith.
I. A proposition or fact becomes the subject-matter of Faith when God reveals it and commands us to believe it on His authority. When these two conditions are fulfilled, Faith finds in God both its substance and its evidence (Heb. xi. 1). All such truths must be believed with Divine Faith properly so-called. In the following cases it is doubtful whether, or at least how far, a truth can be believed with Divine Faith.
1. Truths which are revealed only mediately and virtually that is, evidently inferred from truths directly and immediately revealed are the subject-matter of Theological Knowledge rather than of Divine Faith. If, however, God intended to reveal them, and if they were known to the first promulgators of Revelation, some theologians (e.g. Reding) think that they may be believed with Divine Faith. But most theologians (e.g. Suarez, Lugo, Kleutgen) are of [the] opinion that Divine Faith is possible in the case of these truths only when they are authoritatively proposed by the Church. The reason is that the proposal of them by the Church takes the place of the immediate proposal by God Himself, and assumes the form of an extensive interpretation of the Divine Word.
2. Truths which only indirectly belong to the domain of Revelation (supra, § 5, II.) are primarily the subject-matter of human knowledge; they become the subject-matter of Faith when the Church has authoritatively proposed them for belief. In such cases God Himself gives testimony by means of the Church, which acts as His plenipotentiary and ambassador. The assent given resembles Theological Faith in this, that it springs from respect for the knowledge, veracity, and authority of God, and is infallible. Nevertheless, as this assent is not directly founded upon God's knowledge but rather upon the knowledge possessed by the Church, there is an essential difference between Theological Faith and the assent given to truths indirectly connected with Revelation. The latter, which is called Ecclesiastical Faith, is less perfect than the former, but still, by reason of its religious and infallible character, is far above any purely human faith. Many theologians, notably Muzzarelli, declare that these truths are the subject-matter of Divine Faith on account of the Divinely promised infallibility of the Church. They claim Divine Faith especially for matters connected with morals and for the canonization of Saints, because an error in either would tell against the divinely revealed sanctity of the Church, while the latter is moreover based upon the miracles wrought by God in proof of the holiness of His Saints. We may observe, in reply, that the relation of moral matters with the sanctity of the Church only indirectly bases Faith in them on God's knowledge. Again, the miracles wrought through the intercession of holy persons are not direct revelations, but are only indications of the Divine Will which the Church interprets, and consequently Faith founded upon them is only Ecclesiastical Faith.
II. Foremost among the attributes of the subject-matter of Faith is its truth. Whatever is proposed for our belief must be true in itself. Still, Faith does not suppose in the believer a direct knowledge of the truths which he believes, nor an illumination of his mind similar to that of the Beatific Vision. On the contrary Faith being the evidence of things that appear not, implies that its subject-matter is inaccessible to the natural eye of the mind, even when revealed; it is the peculiar excellence of Faith that it makes the unseen as certain to our minds as the seen (Heb. xi. 27). Trusting in God's knowledge and veracity, Faith glories in truths above reason, and delights in mystery; it transcends all human faith and science, inasmuch as it embraces objects far beyond the sphere of the human mind. But although the things that appear not are the proper subject-matter of Faith, it must not be supposed that absolute invisibility is required. The relatively invisible can also be made its subject-matter (cf. St. Thom. 2a. 2ae. q. I, a. 3: Utrum objectum fidei possit esse aliquid visum, and a. 4: Utrum possit esse scitum).
III. In accordance with its being the substance of things to be hoped for, and in accordance with the intentions of its Author, Faith aims at giving us the knowledge of the things concerning our future supernatural happiness. Hence, God Himself, in His invisible Essence, as He is and as He will reveal Himself to the blessed in the Beatific Vision, and God's Nature as the principle which causes our supernatural perfection and beatitude by communicating Itself to us, are the chief subjects of Faith. Hence we see again how much the subject-matter of Faith transcends all human knowledge, for no natural faculties can reach the heights or fathom the depths of the Divine Essence and its relations with the soul of man (cf. I Cor. ii.). Indeed, the whole supernatural economy of salvation is subordinate to the belief in God as the final object of our eternal beatitude.
IV. Faith is founded on God's knowledge and veracity; it has God and His Divine Nature for its subject-matter; and it tends to the Beatific Union with Him. Seeing to a certain extent, as it were, all things in God and through God, it not only reduces all its own tenets to a certain unity in God, but also apprehends in God and through God all created truth, and judges of all created things with reference to God, Who is their ultimate End and immutable Ruler. Faith is therefore, in a certain sense, what modern philosophers call a transcendental knowledge. Adhering to God in all humility, it effects what philosophers have vainly attempted by their exaggeration of the natural powers of the human mind (Matt. xi. 25).
SECT. 41 The Motives of Credibility.
I. To enable us to elicit an act of Divine Faith in a revealed truth, the fact of its being revealed must also be perfectly certain to us. Without this perfect certitude we could not reasonably assent to it on the authority of God. Hence Innocent XI condemned the proposition; The supernatural assent of Faith necessary for salvation is compatible with merely probable knowledge of Revelation, nay even with doubt whether God has spoken (prop. xxi.). No certitude is perfect unless based upon reasonable motives. We cannot, therefore, accept with certitude any proposition as being the word of God without Motives of Credibility that is, marks and criteria clearly showing the proposition to be really the Word of God.
The Motives of Credibility are not the same thing as the Motives of Faith. The former refer to the fact that a particular doctrine was originally revealed by God; the latter refer to the necessity of believing generally whatever God has revealed. Both are the foundation of the reasonableness of our Faith. This will be clear if we bear in mind that the assent given in an act of Faith is inferential Whatever God reveals is true; God has revealed, e.g., the mystery of the Blessed Trinity; therefore the mystery is true. The Motives of Faith are the reasons for assenting to the major premise; the Motives of Credibility are the reasons for assenting to the minor. The Motives of Faith that is to say, God's knowledge and veracity are, however, so evident that no one can call them in question; whereas the Motives of Credibility that is, the proofs that a given doctrine is of Divine origin are by no means self-evident, but are the object of the fiercest attacks of unbelievers. It is on this account that, in dealing with the reasonableness of Faith, stress is laid principally upon the Motives of Credibility.
The chief errors concerning the Motives of Credibility are: (1) Rationalism, which denies the possibility of any reasonable certainty in matters said to be revealed. (2) Protestantism, at least in some of its forms, which substitutes for external criteria inward feelings and consolations. (3) Some Catholic Theologians have also erred by assigning too prominent a place to these inward feelings. Against these errors the Vatican Council has defined the Catholic doctrine on the nature of the certitude concerning the fact of Revelation, and has especially declared how the proposition by the Church of doctrines as revealed, is a legitimate promulgation of the Divine word: In order that the submission of our Faith might be in accordance with reason, God hath willed to give us, together with the internal assistance of the Holy Ghost, external proofs of His Revelation, namely, Divine facts and, above all, miracles and prophecies, which, while they clearly manifest God's almighty power and infinite knowledge, are most certain Divine signs of Revelation adapted to the understanding of all men. Wherefore Moses, and the Prophets, and especially Christ our Lord Himself, wrought and uttered many and most manifest miracles and prophecies; and touching the Apostles we read, 'They going forth preached the word everywhere, the Lord working withal, and confirming the word with the signs that followed' (Mark xvi. 20). And again, it is written, 'We have the more firm prophetical word, whereunto you do well to attend, as to a light that shineth in a dark place' (2 Pet. i. 19). But in order that we may fulfil the duty of embracing the true Faith, and of persevering therein constantly, God, by means of His Only Begotten Son, hath instituted the Church, and hath endowed her with plain marks whereby she may be recognized by all men as the guardian and mistress of the revealed word. For to the Catholic Church alone belong all the wonders which have been divinely arranged for the evident credibility of the Christian Faith. Moreover, the Church herself by her wonderful propagation, exalted sanctity, and unbounded fertility in all that is good, by her Catholic unity and invincible stability, is both an enduring motive of credibility and an unimpeachable testimony of her Divine mission. Whence it is that like a standard set up unto the nations (Isai. xi. 12) she calleth to her them that have not yet believed, and maketh her children certain that the Faith which they profess resteth on the surest foundation (sess. iii., chap. 3).
The Catholic Church therefore teaches (1) that we must have a rational certitude of the fact of Revelation in order that our Faith may be itself rational; (2) that this certitude is not founded exclusively on internal experience, but also, and indeed chiefly, on external and manifest facts; (3) that these external and manifest facts which accompany the proposition of Revelation can produce a perfect certitude of the fact of Revelation in the minds of all; and (4) that these facts not only accompany the original proposition of Revelation, and thus come down to us as facts of past history, but that by means of the unity and stability of the Church they are perpetuated in the same way as the promulgation of the Divine Word, and are at all times manifest to all who inquire.
III. The following paragraphs will serve to explain and prove the doctrine just stated.
1. First of all it is evident that our Faith cannot be a reasonable worship unless sound reasons, distinct from Revelation and the result of our own inquiries, persuade us of the fact that the doctrines proposed for our belief are really the Word of God. If we believe without any reason, our Faith is manifestly irrational. On the other hand, if we believe for revealed reasons exclusively, our Faith is also irrational, because we thereby fall into a vicious circle. We do not, however, maintain that the assent must be purely rational.
2. It is not necessary, according to the teaching of most theologians, nor is it implied in the terms of the Vatican definition, that the certitude of the fact of Revelation should be invariably, in each and every case, absolutely perfect. It is enough if it appears satisfactory to the believer, and excludes all doubt from his mind; in other words, a subjective and relative certitude is sufficient. But this applies especially to the cases of children and uneducated persons, and even then it supposes that those persons upon whose human testimony they rely have a perfect and objective certitude. Cf. Haunold, Theol. Spec., lib. iii., tract ix., c. 2; also Bishop Lefranc de Pompignan's controversy with a Calvinist, Sur la Foi des Enfants et des Adultes ignorants, in Migne's Curs. Theol., tom. vi., p. 1070.
3. Among the signs of the Divine origin of a doctrine must be reckoned the inner experiences of the believer. The effects of grace upon the soul are especially important. Nevertheless, these inner experiences cannot be either the exclusive or even the primary criteria of the Divine origin of a doctrine, because they are subjective, that is, restricted to the person who feels them, liable to illusions, and can be felt only after the fact of the Revelation of the doctrine has been otherwise apprehended. The Faith is proposed by public authority, and exacts public and universal obedience. It must therefore be supported by public and plain signs of its Divine origin.
4. Among the external signs of the fact of Revelation purely human testimony has a place only in so far as it bears witness to the Divine facts connected with Revelation to those persons who cannot personally apprehend them. The proper criterion of the Divine origin of a verbal communication, as might be expected from the nature of the thing, and also according to the teaching of the Church, consists in external, supernatural, and Divine facts or effects, which God intimately connects with the proposition of His Revelation, and by which He signifies to us His will that we should believe that He has spoken.
5. As God has ordained that His word should be proposed to the faithful by the ministry of authentic witnesses, the first point to be established is the Divine mission of these witnesses. Although in theory it would be conceivable that it was only the first promulgators of the Faith who had their mission attested by Divine signs, and that this fact should have been handed down to us in the same way as any other historical event, nevertheless, as a matter of fact, and as might be expected from the nature of Faith and Revelation, God has ordained that the signs or criteria of Divine origin should uninterruptedly accompany the preaching of His doctrine. The fact of Revelation is thereby brought home to us in a more lively, direct, and effective manner. This question is of the greatest importance at the present time, when the Divine mission of even Christ Himself is the object of so many attacks. When the Divine mission of the Church was denied, and thereby the existence of a continual, living testimony was rejected, Faith in the Divine mission of Christ thenceforth rested upon merely historical evidence, and so became the prey of historical criticism. Besides, without a continuous Divine approbation, Christ's mission becomes such an isolated fact that its full significance cannot be grasped. Some Catholic theologians, in their endeavours to defend Christianity and the Church on purely historical grounds, have not given enough prominence to the constant signs of Divine approbation which have accompanied the Church's preaching in all ages. The Vatican definition has therefore been most opportune. It is now of Faith that the Church herself is an enduring motive of credibility and an unimpeachable testimony of her Divine mission. Her wonderful propagation, in spite of the greatest moral and physical difficulties, not only in her early years, but even at the present day; her eminent sanctity, as manifested in her Saints, combined with their miracles; her inexhaustible fertility in every sort of good work; her unity in Faith, discipline, and worship; her invincible constancy in resisting the attacks of powerful enemies within and without for more than eighteen centuries: all these are manifest signs that she is not the work of man, but the work of God.
6. The certitude of the fact of Revelation must be in keeping with the firmness required by Faith. Hence all theologians teach that the demonstration of this fact from visible signs, such as prophecies and miracles, must be so evident as to generate a certitude excluding all doubt and fear of error a certitude sufficient to place a reasonable man under the obligation of adhering to it. This, however, does not mean that the evidence must be of the most perfect kind, so as to render denial absolutely impossible. The proofs of the fact of Revelation may admit of unreasonable dissent, as is manifest by daily experience. Our judgment on the credibility of the fact of Revelation It is worthy of belief that God has revealed these things ; they must, therefore, be believed, is formed with reference to God's veracity and authority; that is to say, the signs and wonders appear as indications of God's command to believe and as pledges of His veracity. Now, it is clear that the moral dispositions of the inquirer exercise the greatest influence upon such a judgment. If he has a love of truth, a deep reverence for the authority and holiness of God, and firm confidence in God's wisdom and providence, he easily sees how incompatible it would be with the supreme perfection of God to give such positive indications of the existence of a revelation if in fact He had made no revelation at all. The inquirer is confronted with the dilemma: Either God is a deceiver or He has given a revelation to mankind; and his good dispositions urge him unhesitatingly to accept the latter alternative. On the other hand, if he has a dislike for, or no interest in, the truth, and if he is wanting in submission to God and confidence in Him, he will endeavour to persuade himself that the signs do not come from God, or are not intended to prove a revelation. It is possible to refuse assent to the fact of Revelation by rebelling against Divine authority, and treating God as a deceiver, and herein consists the enormity of the sin of infidelity. Hence St. Paul says, Having faith and a good conscience, which some rejecting have made shipwreck concerning the faith (I Tim. i. 19). Cf. Card. Newman, Occasional Sermons, v., Dispositions for Faith.
7. The prophecies, miracles, and other signs by which we prove the credibility of the fact of Revelation, must not be confounded with the Motive of Faith, which is the authority and veracity of God. The Motives of Credibility do not produce the certitude of Faith; they merely dispose, lead, and urge the mind to submit to the Divine authority, of which they are signs. This explains the condemnation of Prop. ix. among those condemned by Innocent XI The will cannot make the assent of Faith more firm in itself than is demanded by the weight of reasons inducing us to believe. By the weight of reasons are meant the Motives of Credibility, the rational certainty of which is neither the measure of the confidence with which the will clings to the contents and facts of Revelation, nor the measure of the firmness with which the intellect impelled by the will adheres to them.
8. In order to elicit an act of Faith, we must know not only the fact, but also the contents, of Revelation: in other words, we must know not only that a Revelation has been made, but also the things which have been revealed. The latter are either communicated directly by God or are proposed by His infallible Church. In the former case, Faith is possible even without their being proposed by the Church. The ordinary way, however, in which God makes Faith accessible to mankind is the authoritative teaching of the Church. The object of this teaching is not simply to convey to our minds the knowledge of revealed truth, as a book would do, but to render possible the faith which cometh by hearing, upon which the Apostle insists. By submitting to the testimony and authority of the Church, our Mother, we yield that obedience of Faith which is the result of our reverence for our Heavenly Father, and which is of the very essence of Faith. It is, indeed, more difficult, because more against our pride, to submit to the Church than to God directly but by so doing we act in the true spirit of Faith.
The authoritative teaching of the Church does not supply an entirely independent motive of Faith, or the highest motive, or even a part of the highest motive. It acts rather as an instrument or vehicle of the real motive. The Church sets before us the contents of Revelation as worthy of belief, she proposes detailed points of doctrine as a living and ever-present witness, and demands our assent thereto on the authority of God.
SECT. 42.Faith and Grace.
I. It is not absolutely impossible for man unaided by grace to elicit an act of faith of some kind. Man is naturally able to perceive revealed truth when brought under his notice, and also the authority of God and the motives of credibility. His moral nature, too, prompts him to reverence and honour God. An act of faith of some kind is, therefore, naturally possible. But the act of Faith intended and commanded by God transcends our natural faculties, and is supernatural in two ways: supernatural in its very substance or essence (secundurn substantiam sive essentiam), inasmuch as it is the beginning, the root and foundation of man's salvation; and also supernatural in its mode (secundum modum or secundum quid) by reason of the great difficulty which the natural man finds in embracing the Faith and accepting its consequences. The first-named supernatural character is given by Elevating Grace that is, by grace which raises nature to the supernatural order; the other comes from Medicinal Grace that is, grace which makes up for the shortcomings of nature. The Vatican Council teaches that Faith is a supernatural virtue whereby we believe with the help of God's grace; and it repeats the words of the Seventh Canon of the Second Council of Orange: No man can assent to the gospel preaching, in the manner requisite for salvation (sicut oportet ad salutem consequendam), without the light and inspiration of the Holy Ghost, Who giveth to every man sweetness in assenting to and believing in the truth.
A complete explanation and proof of these various points must be deferred till we come to the treatise on Grace. For our present purpose the following will be sufficient.
II. The definition just quoted teaches directly that Faith is supernatural in its cause and in its object. But the supernatural cause must communicate to the very act of Faith the worth which enables that act to attain a supernatural object. Hence the act itself must be supernatural; it must be substantially different from every merely natural act, and must be capable of attaining an object transcending the natural order. Speaking generally, the supernatural essence of the act of Faith consists in our accepting revealed truths in a manner befitting our dignity of adopted sons of God, destined to the Beatific Vision; and in a manner befitting the paternal condescension of God, Who has deigned to speak to us as His children, and to call and raise us to the most intimate union with Himself. But more particularly it consists in the transformation of our sense of Faith (pius credulitatis affectus) into a filial piety towards God, and into a striving after its supernatural object in a manner commensurate with the excellence of that object; and also in the union and assimilation of our knowledge with the Divine knowledge, so that Faith becomes as it were a participation of God's own Life and Knowledge, and an anticipation and foretaste of the supernatural knowledge in store for us in the Beatific Vision. The supernatural essence of Divine Faith thus contains two elements, one moral, the other intellectual, intimately interwoven but still distinct.
III. Faith is Divine, not only because its certitude is based upon God's authority, but also because God Himself is the efficient cause acting upon the mind of the believer and producing in him subjective certainty. God is the author of Faith as no one else can be. Holy Scripture teaches that Christian Faith requires an internal illumination in addition to the external revelation (Matt. xvi. 17), and, besides the hearing of the external word, the hearing of an internal one, and the learning from an internal teacher (John vi. 45): the external revelation is attributed to the visible Son, the internal to the invisible Father. It follows that Faith cannot be produced by purely external influences, nor can the mind of man produce it by his own natural exertions. Faith must be infused into the soul by Divine light, and must be received from the hand of God.
IV. The acts of the mind preceding the infusion of the light of Faith have merely the character of preparatory dispositions or of co-operation enabling the light of Faith to exert its own power. But even these acts are supernatural from their very outset, and must therefore be the result of the illumination and inspiration of the Holy Ghost. Hence the illumination which gives the soul the immediate inclination and power to elicit a supernatural act of Faith is not the only one to be taken into account. The practical judgment that we can and ought to believe which precedes the pius affectus must itself be the result of a supernatural illumination, otherwise it could not produce a supernatural act of the will. The illumination has also the character of an internal word or call of God, at least so far as it repeats and animates internally the command to believe given to us by external revelation. Nevertheless a natural knowledge of this same practical judgment must be presupposed in order that the supernatural illumination may itself take place. The best way to explain this is to consider the natural judgment as merely speculative until the action of the Holy Ghost transforms it into an effective practical judgment determining the act of Faith.
V. The secondary and relatively supernatural character of Faith, although less important, is nevertheless more apparent. Faith is beset with difficulties arising partly from the intellectual and moral conditions of our nature and partly from the obligations which Faith imposes upon the intellect and will of the believer. Without the help of God's grace man could not surmount these difficulties, and consequently the act of Faith would be, even in this respect, morally impossible. All men, however, have not the same difficulty in believing. Hence the necessity for God's assisting grace is not absolute but relative, varying with the moral and intellectual dispositions of the persons to whom Revelation is proposed.
SECT. 43.Man's co-operation in the Act of FaithFaith a Free Act.
I. Although so many external causes are brought to bear on the act of Faith, and although God is its principal cause, nevertheless the act of Faith is a Human Act and a Free Act. According to the Vatican Council it is, as we have seen, essentially an act of obedience, an entire submission of the intellect and the will. It is therefore not simply a passive or receptive act, nor a blind, instinctive act, nor an act forced upon us by Divine grace or by the weight of demonstration. The Council of Trent (sess. vi. chaps. 4-5) describes Faith as a free movement towards God, implying a twofold operation: hearing His outward word and receiving His inward inspiration. The Vatican Council further explains the Tridentine doctrine in sess. iii., chap. 3. It speaks of yielding free obedience to God, thus meeting the rationalistic assertion that the assent of Christian Faith is the necessary result of human arguments. The same doctrine may be gathered from Holy Scripture, which always speaks of the act of Faith as a free and moral act, an act of obedience, of worship, and the like: cf. Rom. iv. 20; Mark x. 22; John xx. 27; Matt. xvi. 17; Luke i. 45; Matt. ix. 29; Rom. iv. 3-20 sqq.; Gal. iii. 6.
II. The Council of Trent also indicates the positive character of the free act of the will determining the act of Faith: the will determines the act of Faith freely because its moral dispositions move it to obey God. Besides this primary liberty of Faith, there is also a secondary liberty, arising from the non-cogency of the motives of credibility, which allows the will to withhold its consent and leaves room for doubt and even denial. Hence every act of Faith must be determined by an act of free will. The non-cogency of the motives of credibility may be referred to three causes (a) the obscurity of the Divine testimony (inevidentia attestantis); (b) the obscurity of the contents of Revelation; (c) the opposition between the obligations imposed upon us by Faith and the evil inclinations of our corrupt nature.
III. In eliciting the act of Faith man's freedom is elevated to the supernatural order. This supernatural dignity and excellence lead to a supernatural and Divine freedom of the mind, the freedom of the children of God, the freedom from error and doubt, the full and perfect possession of the highest truth in the bosom of the Eternal Truth. Its childlike simplicity is really the highest sense, and leads to the highest intellectual attainments, whereas infidelity leads only to folly. No more children tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the wickedness of men, by cunning craftiness (Eph. iv. 14; cf. Luke x. 21).
SECT. 44. The Supreme certitude of Faith.
I. Faith requires the fullest assent, excluding every doubt and every fear of deception, and including the fullest conviction that what is believed cannot be other than true. No other faith answers to the excellence and force of God's infallible truth. Faith is thus essentially different from mere opinion without certitude, and also from so-called practical or moral certitude. The certitude of Faith, as regards the firmness of assent, is essentially higher and more perfect than the certitude of science. The motive of Faith, which is the authority of God, is more trustworthy than the light of our reason, by which we obtain scientific certitude. We are bound therefore to reject unconditionally any doubts or difficulties arising from the exercise of our reason. As theologians say, the certainty of Faith is supreme, surmounting all doubts and rising above all other certainties (certitudo super omnia). The Vatican Council, as we have seen, declares Faith to be a complete submission of the mind, consisting in the perfect subjugation of the created intellect to the uncreated Truth. And the council also enjoins the unconditional rejection of any scientific inquiry at variance with the Faith (sess. iii. c. 4).
II. In order to understand this, a threefold distinction must be made.
1. The supreme certitude of Faith is appreciative in its nature that is to say, it includes and results from a supreme appreciation of its motive, but is not necessarily felt more vividly than any other certitude. As a rule, this certitude is felt even less vividly than human certitude based upon unimpeachable evidence.
2. The supreme firmness of Faith must likewise be distinguished from the incapability of being shaken which belongs to evident human knowledge.
3. That the certitude of Faith is supreme does not imply that all other certitude is untrustworthy, or that we must be ready to resist evident human certitude apparently conflicting with the Faith. A real conflict between Faith and reason is impossible.
III. The high degree of certitude which belongs to the act of Faith is attained and completed by means of the supernatural light of Faith which pervades all the elements of the act. This light, being, as it were, a ray of the Divine Light, participates in the Divine infallibility and cannot but illumine the truth. The certitude produced by it is therefore Divine in every respect, and so absolutely infallible that a real act of Faith can never have falsehood for its subject-matter. This has been defined by the Vatican Council, repeating the definition of the Fifth Lateran Council: Every assertion contrary to enlightened Faith (illuminatae fidei, i.e. Faith produced by Divine illumination) we define to be altogether false (sess. iii., chap. 4). The words illuminatae fidei signify the Faith as it is produced in the believer, as distinct from the external objective proposition of revealed truth, and also as distinct from the act of human faith. In like manner the Council of Trent states that Faith affords a certitude which cannot have falsehood for its subject-matter (cui non potest subesse falsum). The light of Faith cannot be misapplied to belief in error; nevertheless it is possible for man to mistake an act of natural faith in a supposed revelation for a supernatural act elicited by the aid of the light of Faith. Some external criterion is needed whereby we may distinguish the one from the other. Such a criterion is supplied by the Faith of the Church, which cannot err. Catholic Faith carries with it the consciousness that it is Divine Faith produced by Divine light, whereas the self-made faith of Protestants cannot assert itself as Divine without leading to fanaticism.
IV. The supreme certitude of Faith implies that we must have the will to remain true to the Faith without doubt or denial, and the firm conviction that it can never be given up on account of its turning out to be false. Hence, every act of Faith is an irreformable act, and possesses a certitude that cannot be shaken. Faith can, however, be destroyed by an abuse of our free-will. Again, we are bound to reform faith which is erroneously thought to be Divine but is applied by mistake to propositions not revealed by God. The Vatican Council, after declaring how God co-operates in the acceptance of Faith and in perseverance therein, concludes thus: Wherefore the condition of those who have by the heavenly gift of Faith cleaved to Catholic truth is by no means on a footing with the condition of those who, led by human opinions, follow a false religion; for those who have received the Faith under the teaching of the Church can never have any just cause for changing or calling the Faith in doubt (sess. iii., chap. 3). And in Canon 6, directed against the doctrines of Hermes, the council enacts, If any one shall say that the condition of the Faithful is on a footing with that of those who have not yet reached the one true Faith, so that Catholics can have just cause for calling in doubt the Faith which they have received under the Church's teaching, until they shall have completed a scientific demonstration of the truth and credibility of their Faith, let him be anathema. Every one who embraces the Catholic Faith binds himself most strictly to adhere to it for ever. I promise most constantly to retain and confess the same [Faith] entire and inviolate, by God's help, to the last breath of my life (Creed of Pius IV.). No excuse can be made for any breach of fidelity, except on the score of ignorance. Every doubt against the Faith must unhesitatingly be rejected as sinful.
SECT. 45. Necessity of Faith.
I. The Necessity of Faith is twofold a Necessity of Necessity Means and a Necessity of Precept. The latter always includes the former, but not vice versa.
The Faith which is a necessary means of justification and salvation is Theological Faith, perfect in its kind. In infants the Habit of Faith is sufficient; in those who have reached the use of reason some act is required bearing in some way on the economy of salvation as revealed by God. Faith, in the broad sense of the word that is, faith founded on the testimony which creatures give of God's existence and providence is not enough (see prop. xxiii., condemned by Innoc. Xl, March 2, 1679). Nor is Inchoate Faith sufficient that is, a faith in the germ, not extending beyond a willingness and readiness to believe. The act of Faith must be complete, and must be based upon a supernatural Divine Revelation. Faith alone can give that knowledge of the supernatural economy of salvation which enables man to dispose his actions in harmony with his supernatural end. This reason is adduced by the Apostle (Heb. xi. 6) to prove that Abel and Henoch, like Abraham, obtained their justification and salvation by means of Faith, although Holy Scripture does not say of them, as of Abraham, that their Faith was founded upon a positive Divine Revelation: Without Faith it is impossible to please God; for he that cometh to God [to serve Him] must believe that He is, and is [becomes, Greek word] a rewarder to them that seek Him.
1. The two points of Faith mentioned in this text are indispensable, because they are the two poles on which the whole economy of salvation turns. There is probably some allusion to the words spoken by God to Abraham: I am thy protector and thy reward exceeding great (Gen. xv. I). Hence the words, that He is, refer to the existence of God, not in the abstract, but as being our God, as leading us on to salvation under the care of His paternal Providence. A belief in His existence, in this sense, is the fundamental condition of all our dealing with Him, and this belief is as much above our natural knowledge as is the belief in God the Rewarder. If, as St. Peter Chrysologus states, the first article of the Apostles' Creed expresses belief in God as our Father, then the words that He is correspond with this article, just as the words that He is a rewarder to them that seek Him correspond with the last article, Life everlasting. Theologians rightly conclude from Heb. xi. 6 that, at least in pre-Christian times, the two points there mentioned were alone necessary to be expressly believed. They suffice to enable man to tend by hope and charity towards God as the Source of salvation.
2. It is an open question whether, after Christ's coming, Faith in the Christian economy is not indispensable. Many texts in Holy Scripture seem to demand Faith in Christ, in His death and resurrection, as a necessary condition of salvation. On the other hand, it is not easy to understand how eternal salvation should have become impossible for those who are unable to arrive at an explicit knowledge of Christian Revelation. The best solution of the difficulty would seem to be that given by Suarez (De Fide, disp. xii., sect. iv.). The texts demanding Faith in Christ and the Blessed Trinity must not be interpreted more rigorously than those referring to the necessity of Baptism, especially as Faith in Christ, Faith in the Blessed Trinity, and the necessity of Baptism are closely connected together. The Faith in these mysteries is, like Baptism, the ordinary normal means of salvation. Under extraordinary circumstances, however, when the actual reception of Baptism is impossible, the mere implicit desire (volum) suffices. So, too, the implicit desire to believe in Christ and the Trinity must be deemed sufficient. By implicit desire we mean the desire to receive, to believe, and to do whatever is needful for salvation, although what is to be received, believed, and done is not explicitly known. The implicit wish and willingness to believe in Christ must be accompanied by and connected with an explicit Faith in Divine Providence as having a care of our salvation ; and this Faith implies Faith and Hope in the Christian economy of salvation (see St. Thom., 2a 2ae, q. 2, a. 7).
II. The Necessity of Precept that is, the obligation arising from the command to believe extends conditionally to the whole of Revelation. As soon as we know that a truth has been revealed, we are bound to believe it explicitly. The number of revealed truths which we are bound to know and believe explicitly, varies with the circumstances and abilities of the individual. There is no positive law concerning them. Every Christian, however, is bound to know explicitly those revealed truths which are necessary for leading a Christian life and for the fulfilment of the duties of his state. It is the general opinion of theologians that there is a grave obligation to know the contents of the Apostles' Creed, the Decalogue, the Lord's Prayer, and all that is required for the worthy reception of the Sacraments and for proper participation in public worship. Cf. St. Thom, 2a 2ae, q. 2, aa. 3-8, with the commentaries thereon.