aA
aA
aA
aA
aA
aA
Nature and Grace: Selections from the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas
« Prev Art. 5: Whether Faith is a Virtue Next »

Article Five

Whether Faith is a Virtue

We proceed to the fifth article thus:

1. It seems that faith is not a virtue. Virtue is “that which makes its subject good,” as the philosopher says in 2 Ethics 6, and is therefore directed to the good, whereas faith is directed to the true. It follows that faith is not a virtue.

2. Again, an infused virtue is more perfect than an acquired virtue. Now as the philosopher says in 6 Ethics 3, faith is not regarded as one of the acquired intellectual virtues, owing to its imperfection. Much less, then, can it be regarded as an infused virtue.

3. Again, it was said in the preceding article that formed and unformed faith are of the same species. But unformed faith is not a virtue, since it has no connection with other virtues. Hence neither is formed faith a virtue.

4. Again, the freely given graces are distinct from the virtues, and so is the fruit of the Spirit. Now in I Cor. 12:9 faith is included among the freely given graces, and in Gal. 5:22 it is included in the fruit of the Spirit. Hence faith is not a virtue.

On the other hand: a man is made just by means of the virtues. For “justice is the whole of virtue,” as it is said in 5 Ethics 1. But he is justified by faith, according to Rom. 5:1: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God. . . .” Hence faith is a virtue.

I answer: it is plain from what we said in 12ae, Q. 55, Arts. 3 and 4, that human virtue is that which makes human actions good. Any habit which is invariably the principle of a good action may therefore be called a human virtue. Now formed faith is such a habit. Two things are necessary, however, if the act of belief is to be perfect, since it is the act wherein the intellect finally gives its assent at the command of the will. The intellect must be infallibly directed to its object, which is the truth, and the will must be infallibly directed to the ultimate end, for the sake of which assent is finally given. Now both of these conditions are fulfilled in the act of formed faith. It is of the very nature of faith that the intellect should be in the way of truth at all times, since faith cannot believe what is false, as we said in Q. i, Art. 3. The will of the soul is likewise infallibly directed to the ultimate good by charity, which brings faith to its form. Formed faith is therefore a virtue.

Unformed faith, on the other hand, is not a virtue, since even though it should have the perfection which is necessary on the part of the intellect, it would still lack the perfection which is necessary on the part of the will; just as we said that temperance would not be a virtue if prudence were wanting in the reason, even though there should be temperance in the concupiscible element. (12ae, Q. 58, Art. 4; Q. 55, Art. 1.) An act of temperance requires an act of reason as well as an act of the concupiscible element. So likewise does the act of faith require an act of the will as well as an act of the intellect.

On the first point: “the true” is itself the good of the intellect, since it is the perfection of the intellect. Faith is consequently directed to the good in so far as the intellect is directed to truth by faith. Faith is further directed to the good in so far as it is brought to its form by charity, since the good is then the object of the will.

On the second point: the philosopher is speaking of the faith which trusts in human reason when it accepts a conclusion which does not necessarily follow, and which may be false. Faith of this kind is not a virtue. We are speaking of the faith which trusts in divine truth, which is infallible, and cannot be false. This faith can, therefore, be a virtue.

On the third point: formed and unformed faith do not differ in species as belonging to different species. They differ, however, as the perfect and the imperfect within the same species. Thus unformed faith lacks the perfect nature of a virtue because it is imperfect, virtue being a kind of perfection, as is said in 7 Physics, texts 17 and 18.

On the fourth point: some say that the faith included among the freely given graces is unformed faith. But this is not well said. For the graces mentioned are not common to all members of the Church, wherefore the apostle says: “there are diversities of gifts,” and again, “to one is given this, to another that.” Unformed faith, on the other hand, is common to all members of the Church. Lack of form is not a part of its substance, whereas a gift is gratuitous by its substance. We must therefore say that in this passage faith stands for some excellence of faith, such as constancy, as the gloss says, or the “word of faith.” Faith is also included in the fruit of the Spirit, because it rejoices in its own act, on account of its certainty. As numbered with the fruits in Gal., ch. 5, faith is accordingly explained as “certainty of things not seen.”

« Prev Art. 5: Whether Faith is a Virtue Next »

Advertisements


| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |