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Article Two

Whether the Object of Faith is Something Complex, in the Form of a Proposition

We proceed to the second article thus:

1. It seems that the object of faith is not something complex, in the form of a proposition. For the object of faith is the first truth, as was maintained in the first article, and the first truth is simple. Hence the object of faith is not something complex.

2. Again, the exposition of the faith is contained in the symbol.4848I.e., the Nicene Creed. Now the symbol does not affirm the propositions, but the reality. For it does not say that God is almighty, but declares: “I believe in God . . . Almighty.” Thus the object of faith is not the proposition, but the reality.

3. Again, faith is followed by vision, according to I Cor. 13:12: “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” Now the heavenly vision is of what is simple, since it is the vision of the divine essence itself. Hence the faith of the wayfarer is likewise in what is simple.

On the other hand: faith is a mean between knowledge and opinion. Now a mean and its extremes belong to the same genus, and since knowledge and opinion are about propositions, it seems that faith is also about propositions. But if faith is about propositions, the object of faith is something complex.

I answer: things known are in the knower according to the manner in which he knows them. Now the characteristic way in which the human intellect knows truth is by means of the combination and separation of ideas, as we said in Pt. I, Q. 85, Art. 5. It is therefore with a measure of complexity that the human intellect knows things which are in themselves simple; just as, conversely, the divine intellect knows without complexity things which are in themselves complex.

The object of faith may then be understood in two ways. If we are referring to the thing itself which is believed, the object of faith is something simple, namely, the thing itself in which we have faith. But from the point of view of the believer the object of faith is something complex, in the form of a proposition. 222Both opinions have been held true by the ancients, and both are true conditionally.

On the first point: this reasoning argues from the object of faith considered as the thing itself which is believed.

On the second point: it is clear from the very manner of speaking that the things in which faith believes are affirmed in the symbol, in so far as the act of the believer terminates in them. Now the act of the believer terminates in the reality, not in the proposition. For we formulate propositions only in order to know things by means of them, in faith no less than in science.

On the third point: the heavenly vision will be the vision of the first truth as it is in itself, according to I John 3:2: “but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” This vision will not then be by way of propositions, but by simple understanding. By faith, on the other hand, we do not apprehend the first truth as it is in itself. We cannot therefore argue about faith in the same way.


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