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Article Ten

Whether a Reason in Support of the Things of Faith Diminishes the Merit of Faith

We proceed to the tenth article thus:

1. It seems that a reason in support of the things of faith diminishes the merit of faith. For Gregory says: “Faith has no merit when human reason proves it by test” (Hom. in Evang. 26). Thus a human reason excludes the merit of faith altogether, if it provides an adequate proof. It seems, therefore, that any kind of human reason in support of the things of faith diminishes the merit of faith.

2. Again, as the philosopher says in 1 Ethics 9, “happiness is the reward of virtue.” Hence anything which diminishes the nature of a virtue diminishes the merit of it. Now a human reason seems to diminish the nature of the virtue of faith. For it is of the very nature of faith that its object is unseen, as was said in Q. 1, Arts. 4 and 5, and the more reasons are given in support of something, the less does it remain unseen. A human reason in support of the things of faith therefore diminishes the merit of faith.

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3. Again, the causes of contraries are themselves contrary. Now anything which conduces to the contrary of faith, whether it be persecution in order to compel one to renounce it, or reasoning in order to persuade one to renounce it, increases the merit of faith. A reason which encourages faith therefore diminishes the merit of faith.

On the other hand: it is said in I Peter 3:15: “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.”5454Migne: “of that faith and hope which is in you.” Now the apostle would not have given this advice if the merit of faith were to be diminished as a result of it. Hence a reason does not diminish the merit of faith.

I answer: as we said in the preceding article, the act of faith can be meritorious inasmuch as it depends on the will, in respect of assent and not only of practice. Now a human reason in support of the things of faith may relate to the will of the believer in two ways. In the first place, it may precede the will to believe, as it does when a man has no desire to believe, or has not a ready will to believe, unless he is induced to do so by some human reason. If it precedes in this way, a human reason diminishes the merit of faith. We have already said that a passion which precedes choice in moral virtues diminishes the worth of a virtuous action (12ae, Q. 24, Art. 4, ad 1; Q. 77, Art. 6, ad 6). Just as a man ought to perform acts of moral virtue on account of reasoned judgment, and not on account of passion, so ought he to believe the things of faith on account of divine authority, and not on account of human reason.

In the second place, a human reason may follow the will to believe. When a man has a ready will to believe, he rejoices in the truth which he believes, thinks about it, and turns it over in his mind to see whether he can find a reason for it. A human reason which thus follows the will to believe does not exclude merit. Rather is it a sign of greater merit, just as a passion which follows the will in moral virtues is a sign of greater readiness of will, as we said in 12ae, Q. 24, Art. 3, ad 1. This is the import of the words of the Samaritan to the woman, who signifies human reason (John 4:42): “Now we believe, not because of thy saying.”

On the first point: Gregory is speaking of such as have no desire to believe the things of faith otherwise than on the evidence of reason. But when a man is willing to believe them on the authority of God alone, the merit of faith is neither 259excluded nor diminished if he also has demonstrative proof of some of them, such as that God is one.

On the second point: the reasons which are given in support of the authority of faith are not demonstrative reasons, such as could lead the human intellect to intellectual vision. Hence the things of faith do not cease to be unseen. Such reasons remove hindrances to faith, showing that what is proposed in faith is not impossible. They consequently diminish neither the nature nor the merit of faith. But although demonstrative reasons brought in support of the preambles to faith (not in support of the articles) may diminish the nature of faith by causing what is proposed to be seen, they do not diminish the nature of charity, through which the will is ready to believe the things of faith even though they should remain unseen. Hence the nature of merit is not diminished.

On the third point: whatever is hostile to the faith, whether it be the reasoning of a man or outward persecution, increases the merit of faith in so far as it shows that the will is readier and stronger in the faith. Martyrs had greater merit of faith, since they did not renounce the faith on account of persecutions. Men of wisdom also have greater merit, when they do not renounce it on account of reasons brought against it by philosophers or heretics. But things which encourage faith do not always diminish the readiness of the will to believe. Neither, therefore, do they always diminish the merit of faith.


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