Jacques Maritain Center : St. Thomas Aquinas / by Ralph McInerny

CHAPTER 5: The Tasks of Theology

Saint, priest, friar, theologian -- it is impossible to think of Thomas Aquinas's life as other than a long and constant meditation on the question he is said to have asked as a child, "What is God?" Meditation on the Scriptures, reading the Fathers, returning again and again to theological accounts of the mysteries of faith, his writing and teaching an integral part of his spiritual life, his effort to become what God wished him to be -- all the activities of his life coalesce and become his response to the divine vocation. If we think his style stark and almost shockingly matter-of-fact as he discusses the Trinity, Incarnation, sacraments, and so forth, we may be reassured to learn that his study and writing were punctuated by pauses for prayer, tearful pleas for light. There are accounts of visions, of mystical experiences, of visitation from the authors of the scriptural books he sought to understand. When he was asked, by letter, for his views on various questions, sometimes lists of dozens of difficulties, he responded quickly, briefly, gladly. His life seems one of disponibility: to God, to his religious vocation, to his duties as a theologian. And the theologian, as the term suggests, is forever pondering about God. In this chapter, we shall be looking at Thomas's teaching on what and how we can have a knowledge of, a science of, God.

We are bound to wonder why a man who believed that God has revealed himself in Christ, that Scripture and tradition convey God to us in a special way, that grace and the sacraments enable us to share in the divine life, should have spent as much time as he did studying such pagan thinkers as Aristotle. What could a pre-Christian, non-Jewish thinker tell about God that would not be exceeded by Revelation? His interest in Aristotle cannot be explained as the fulfillment of an academic duty. The fact is that few if any of his commentaries on Aristotle are the result or record of actual teaching. Furthermore, the bulk of his commentaries on Aristotle was written rather late in his career. This is not to say that Thomas lacked a motive broader than personal interest; the difficulties that heterodox interpretations of Aristotle were causing in the academic community, particularly at the University of Paris, would have been a great incentive. In other words, it could be argues that Thomas's concern with the work of Aristotle was fundamentally a theologian's interest, since he was, in effect, defending the faith against real or apparent philosophical errors. Nevertheless, and we shall be returning to this, the great point that Thomas makes is that it is possible, quite apart from religious belief, to arrive at knowledge of God. Such knowledge, he felt, had been achieved by the pagan philosophers, and the philosophical effort aimed at such knowledge is metaphysics.

I. Ontology or Theology?

In an earlier chapter, when discussing the division of theoretical philosophy into three sciences -- natural science, mathematics, and metaphysics -- we saw that Thomas introduced the notion of separation in order to emphasize what is peculiar to metaphysics. In the context, it was clear that metaphysical considerations bear on things that are separate from matter and motion. That raises a problem, however. On the one hand, metaphysics is considered to be a wisdom, a more ranging and comprehensive science than the other particular sciences, and so, if not itself a particular science, then a general science. The concern of metaphysics is, in some sense, with everything with whatever is. It is the conception of metaphysics as a general science that we capture by using the title ontology. On the other hand, insofar as it is said to be concerned with what exists apart from matter and motion, metaphysics would seem to be a particular science among others, having a subject matter or concern quite distinct from those of sciences like natural science and mathematics. These are not concerned with things that are separate from matter and motion. If metaphysics is concerned with this special class of things, it can be denominated from them and called theology. Which view of metaphysics is the correct one?

The question can be seen as a textual one, bearing on those books of Aristotle that are collectively called Metaphysics. In our own time, the conviction has grown on scholars that not only must this work be recognized as put together after Aristotle's death by a hand other than his own, it must also be seen as a pastiche, a gathering together of materials which, while they may bear some family resemblance to one another, nonetheless do not add up to a coherent unified literary work. In short, the books of the Metaphysics do not contain any single doctrine or science. More particularly, for the question we have raised, sometimes the books of the Metaphysics proceed as if metaphysics were ontology and at other times they proceed as if it were theology.{1}

Werner Jaeger, more than any other single scholar, put this problem at the center of Aristotelian studies in this century. It seemed to him that something of an evolution can be traced in the Metaphysics as it has come down to us. That is, in what would seem to be its earlier parts (not confined to the first books of the transmitted work), Aristotle assumes that the science beyond natural science and mathematics is concerned with things which are beyond this world, where "beyond" functions in a way it would for Plato. There are things whose existence is independent of space and time and the other conditions pertaining to the evanescent things of sense experience. Such things may be described as divine, just because their claim on existence is not menaced by change. In his early Platonic period, Jaeger suggested, Aristotle quite naturally thought of metaphysics as concerned with such transcendent, divine things as with its subject. As he matured intellectually and became more distinctively Aristotelian, Jaeger feels, Aristotle lost his youthful Platonic faith and doubted that there was any kind of reality other than physical objects.{2} Thus he gravitated toward the conception of metaphysics as ontology, as a general science of the acknowledged sciences, namely natural science and mathematics, whose task would be to consider the assumption of these sciences which are too broad to fall within the scope of their own considerations. For example, both the naturalist and the mathematician assume that it is impossible for a thing to be and not to be at the same time and in the same respect, or -- a variation on this assumption -- that the same proposition cannot be true and false at the same time and in the same respect. Since these assumptions are common to natural science and to mathematics, they cannot be peculiar to either. Such common considerations are taken up by metaphysics in the guise of ontology, whose subject matter is being as being, being in common, the common conditions of anything whatsoever.{3}

In one passage, as Jaeger observes, Aristotle, seemingly aware that a statement of the three speculative sciences leaves unclear which understanding of metaphysics is the correct one, tries to retain both conceptions. "For one might raise the question whether first philosophy is universal or deals with one genus. i.e., some kind of being." How does Aristotle answer this question? "We answer that if there is no substance other than those which are formed by nature, natural science will be the first science; but if there is an immovable substance, the science of this must be prior and must be first philosophy, and universal in this way, because it is first. And it will belong to it to consider being qua being -- both what it is and the attributes which belong to it qua being."{4} Whatever else may be said of this passage, it has to be described as difficult. For jaeger it amounts to a sort of despairing acceptance of an impossible amalgam: Aristotle knows it must be either/or, yet he pleads for both/and.

We have already observed in Chapter 2 how different a conception of the writings of Aristotle modern philology entertains from that which guided such a commentator and expositor as Aquinas. In the case in point, the Metaphysics, Thomas seems to be unaware of massive literary difficulties with the text. He was of course using a translation, indeed several translations, and he often remarks on the differences among versions. But as for the doctrinal tenor of which the text is the vehicle, here Thomas sees a unified development, a coherent intellectual effort, a single science. Already in the Proemium to his commentary, Thomas has resolved the problem that animated Jaeger's work.{5}

Wherever many things are for the sake of the same end, it is fitting that they be directed to that end. Thus, in a political community, all are governed by one for the sake of the common good, and in the individual, the body is governed by the soul for the good of the individual. So too the many sciences which are sought for the sake of human happiness or perfection should be directed to this end by one science, which can be called wisdom, since it is the mark of the wise man that he can govern: nam sapientis est alios ordinare.

Such a science will be concerned with the most intelligible objects, and these can be understood in three ways. First, taking our cue from the process of learning, where certitude is gained when the causes of a given phenomenon are learned, we can say that intelligibility is a function of knowledge of causes and that the highest degree of intelligibility is had when things are known through their first, or primary, causes. Second, taking our cue from the difference between intellect and sense, we notice that the former is concerned with the universal thus, the more universal they are, the more objects pertain to intellect and the more intelligible they will be. "By which it meant being and those things which follow on being, like one and many and potency and act. Such things ought not to be left undetermined since without knowledge of these complete knowledge of what is peculiar to a species or genus cannot be had." Thomas goes on to say that since these are common to any science, they are not appropriately treated ex profeso by a particular science and thus should be taken up by a common science. Third, taking our cue from the nature of intellectual knowledge, namely its immateriality, we can say that those things which are most separate from matter are most intelligible. "Those things are most separate from matter which not only abstract from individual matter, like natural forms considered as universal by natural science, but from sensible matter entirely. And not only considered separately, like mathematicals, but things which exist separately, like God and the intelligences."{6}

If wisdom or first philosophy is concerned with the most intelligible objects, that phrase turns out to be ambiguous since it covers first causes, common conditions of anything whatsoever, and God and the angels. Thus, Thomas seems to complicate the issue further by proposing three rather than only two possible subjects of metaphysics. Anticipating this bewilderment, he immediately adds that all these fall to the consideration of one science. First he identifies first causes and God and angels, that is, separate substances. That leaves us with the problem Jaeger saw. Here is Thomas's resolution of that issue.

One and the same science considers a given genus and the causes proper to that genus, just as natural science considers the principles of natural body. Thus it belongs to the same science to consider separate substances and common being, which is the genus of which the substances mentioned are the common and universal causes. From this it is clear that although this science considers the three things mentioned earlier, it does not consider each of them as its subject, but only common being. This is the subject of the science whose causes and properties we seek; the causes of the subject are not themselves the subject of the science.{7}

It can be seen that the only way Jaeger can have the problem he has with the Metaphysics is to assume that there is competition between two possible understandings of the subject of the science. That is, the suggested split between ontology and theology is interesting only if we assume that there is a distinction between subject matters involved. Unless there is a science which has, as its subject matter, separate substance, there is no possibility of the particular science Jaeger means by theology. Thomas denies that Aristotle did, or even could propose as the subject of a science, divine being in the sense of separate substance. If a science is to consider God and separate substance, it can do so only if it has a subject matter of which God is the cause. Thus, metaphysics is a theology insofar as it is an ontology, that is, its subject matter is common being (ontology) and its concern with God (theology) is with the first cause of its subject.

However, although the subject of this science is common being, the whole of it is said to be concerned with what is separate from matter both in being and in consideration. Because it is not only those things which never exist in matter, like God and intellectual substance which are said to be separate from matter in being and in consideration, but also what can be without matter, like common being. This would not be the case if it were dependent on matter in being.{8}

If there are some things which exist apart from matter, then matter does not necessarily enter into the concept of being. A thing need not be material in order to be; not every being is a material being. It is against the background of this assumption that a science of being as being is generated.

The foregoing provides us with the way in which, for Thomas, questions about God can enter into philosophical discourse. If we inquire after the nature of God, we cannot pursue the question by setting up a science the subject of which would be God, whose nature and properties we then attempt to discover. Why not? The main reason is accessibility The only way we can know of God or talk about him is indirectly, obliquely, by analogy with something else. This dependence of our knowledge of God on our knowledge of something else, on his effects, as it happens, is not a temporary dependence, one that can be ultimately dispensed with. It is a permanent and pervasive and essentially restricts the claims we can make as to our knowledge of God. This is why theology, our knowledge of God, must be a function of our knowledge of something else, why knowledge of God is knowledge of the cause of a subject matter. Of course, such knowledge of God as we can achieve is the ultimate goal of our intellectual quest. To say that our knowledge of God is always and necessarily indirect and analogous is not to say that it is inadvertent, unlooked for, and accidental. Thomas would define philosophy, as a whole, as the quest for wisdom, that is, as the quest for such knowledge of God as is possible to natural reason.

This being said, we must now notice that there are other difficulties concerning the determination of the subject of metaphysics. That subject is designated as being as being, ens commune. 'Being,' however, is a term that has a variety of meanings and it is not immediately clear what meaning or meanings we are meant to have in mind. Indeed, it could be argued that the systematic ambiguity of the term 'being' militates against its usefulness as the denominator of a subject matter. St. Thomas, like Aristotle before him,{9} dwells on this difficulty. Aristotle had said that 'being' is said in many ways, it is an equivocal term, though it may be a deliberately equivocal one. St. Thomas will speak of it as an analogous term. Now this notion of analogous terms, terms with a controlled variety of meanings, is an extremely important one for Thomas, and it is extremely important for our purposes now. It is invoked both to argue that it is possible for there to be a determinate science of being as being and to account for the meaning of terms as they are extended from creatures to God. This indicates the procedure we must follow. First, we will give a sketch of Thomas's teaching on analogous terms or names. Then we will see how this doctrine is called into service to show that there can indeed be a science whose subject is being as being, because 'being' is an analogous term. Next we will return to the question of the nature of theology, in the course of which discussion we will see how analogy is invoked to explain how the names of God are significant.

II. Analogous Terms

When we talk about things, our terms are applicable to them insofar as a given account is associated with the term. For example, a given entity is called a man because the account "rational animal," say, is associated with the term 'man'. The meaning of a term may thus be either the account associated with it or the thing to which the term is applied according to that account. It is the first sense of meaning that Thomas emphasizes, though not exclusively, and it is obvious that each member of the triad is called into play no matter which meaning of meaning we have in mind. The account associated with a term (the ratio nominis) expresses our mental grasp of the thing. When this is a definition or when it is a description, the sorting and comparing involved in such a mental grasp is obvious.{10}

If this can suffice for present purposes, we can now understand what would be meant by saying that a number of things are spoken of univocally. Things are spoken of or named univocally when they share a common term and the same account is associated with that term. Thus Peter and Paul and Hans are called men, each can have 'man' predicated of him, and the same account can be given each time, to wit, "rational animal." The following sort of list is therefore understood:

(1) Peter is a man.

(2) Paul a man.

(3) Hans is a man.

Our attention is drawn to the recurrent term, the predicate of these sentences, and, in the uses assumed, we say that the term means the same thing each time. Given that, the subjects of these sentences can be called univocal as named by the same term having the same meaning.

But of course very often a recurring term does not have the same meaning in the plural of its uses.

(4) A ball is a formal dance.

(5) A ball is a spherical toy.

What we are talking about in (4), like what we are talking about in (5), is called a ball; they share the same name, let us say. But the account we should give of what is named by ball in the two instances varies. Indeed, these sentences express the two different accounts and might be thought of as spelling out the different meanings of the recurrent term in:

(4') Cinderalla went to the ball.


(5') Cousy went to the ball.

Things equivocally named share the same name, but a different account of the name is given its various application or users.

It would seem to be too harsh a doctrine to say that a recurrent use of the term is such that it receives either the same account or quite different accounts in its various uses. Indeed Aristotle distinguished between what he called chance and deliberate equivocation.{11} In the former, the same term in the sense of the same vocal sound or the same orthographic symbol just happens to be associated with different meanings and no reason for the same term's being used is sought. On other occasions, it would seem that quite deliberately we use the same term, even though we would not give the same account of it. What is needed, it would seem is something between univocation and equivocation where the latter is understood as pure or complete equivocation.{12} Deliberate equivocation is Aristotle's suggestion for that less extreme case. When things are deliberately or intentionally spoken of equivocally, they have the same name but not the same meaning nor entirely different meanings. There is some connection or relation short of identity between the various meanings associated with the deliberately or intentionally equivocal term.

(6) Rover is healthy.

(7) A cold nose is healthy.

(8) Dog biscuits are healthy.

The list of sentences (6)-(8) has the recurrent term 'healthy' and we are unlikely to think that the identically same account would be given in each use and we are equally unlikely to think that the accounts given would be utterly unrelated to one another. It is this sort of situation that Thomas has in mind when he says that a term is used analogously or that things are named analogically. They share a common name with a variety of accounts which are related, which are partly the same and partly different.{13}

In order to see what this partial sameness and partial difference in the plurality of accounts associated with a term used analogously consists of, we must introduce the distinction Thomas makes between what a term means (res significata) and the way it means it (modus significandi).{14} This is a distinction within the account or ratio nominis. The what and the way are, as it were, components of the account. Thomas more often than not illustrates the distinction by means of abstract and concrete terms like 'white' and 'whiteness'. What these terms mean is the same, a determinate quality, but the way they mean it differs. The account of whiteness might be "that whereby white things are white" and the account of white "that which has whiteness." This suggests that the abstract term signifies in such a way that what is meant is not signified as an existent thing. The concrete term, on the other hand, signifies what it signifies as existent, as a subsistent thing.

We can restate the definitions of univocals and equivocals by means of the distinction of the what and how.{15} Thus, things are named univocally which share a name that signifies the same what (res significata) in the same way (modus significandi). Things are named equivocally which have a name in common but in which the what signified by the name is different in each case. As for analogy, things are named analogically which have the same name that signified the same what (res significata) in each use but in different way (modus significandi) in each case.

The difference between the abstract and concrete ways of signifying will not be helpful here since in our example, sentences signifying will not be helpful here since in our example, sentences (6)-(8), the recurrent term is concrete. What Thomas will do is to use the abstract term 'health' to stand for what is meant by 'healthy' in each case, and seek the variation of its meanings in the way it is meant. This suggests that the formal pattern for a meaning of 'healthy' is "_____health," such that the different ways of signifying health fill in the blank and constitute a complete meaning. What are candidates for filling in the blanks?{16} Thomas suggests:

a) subject of . . .

b) sign of . . .

c) preservative of . . .

To fill in the blank with (a) gives us the sense of 'healthy' needed for (6); to fill in the blank with (b) gives us the sense needed for (7); and to fill in the blank with (c) gives us the meaning of 'healthy' in (8).

We are now in possession of a clear explanation as to what is meant by a term's having a plurality of meanings which are partly the same and partly different. Their sameness consists in the fact that each meaning involves the same what or res significata, their difference in the variation of mode or modi significandi. But, as it happens, while this is a necessary, it is not a sufficient condition of the analogous name as Thomas understands it. One of the various ways of signifying what the term signifies takes precedence over the others. Not only is there a plurality of meanings of an analogous term, these meanings form an ordered set, they are related as prior and posterior. The primary meaning is also called by Thomas the proper meaning (ratio propria) of the analogous term. And he fashions the following rule: When something is said analogically of many, it is found according to its proper meaning in one of them alone.{17} Secondary meanings of the analogous term are recognized as such insofar as they presuppose the primary way of signifying what the term signifies. Thus, in the example of 'healthy', it is the meaning "subject of health" that is the ratio propria of the name, since the other meanings, "sign of health," for example, presuppose it because a cold nose is a sign of health in that which is a subject of health. So too, food is healthy in the sense of preservative of health in that which is the subject of health.

Needless to say, no word or term is, taken just by itself, univocal, equivocal, or analogous. "Healthy" said of Fido and Rover would be accounted a univocal term, wheras in our sentences (6)-)8), it is used analogously.

III Analogy and the Subject of Metaphysics

It is this doctrine on analogous terms that enables Thomas to explain, closely following Aristotle, how it is that there can be a science of being as being. This sounds, of course, as if one were proposing a science whose concern is everything. But how could such a concern have sufficient focus for a science, given the manifest diversity of the things that are? This is what Aristotle and Aquinas are emphasizing when they say that 'being' means many things. Being is not a genus. As if to be were to be a type or sort of thing. To be is to be something or other, and there is no one kind of thing. Thus it would seem that there must be sciences of being, different sciences for different types of being, and that there cannot be a single science of being as being. This difficulty, we remember, is not handled by the previous discussion as to how the theoretical sciences differ from one another. That distinction was made in terms of the different modes of defining. But to say that metaphysics deals with things which are separate from matter both in being and consideration does not of itself tell us how such things are sufficiently one to form the subject of a single science.{18}

If the observation that 'being' has many meanings is the statement of a problem, it is also the indication of its solution insofar as we think of the way in which the analogous term has many meanings. If such a term as 'healthy' has, as an analogous term, many meanings, there is nonetheless an order among those meanings such that one of them is principal and primary and presupposed by the other meanings. Now if 'being' has many meanings in the way in which the analogous term has many meanings, then we know we are not faced with diversity pure and simple. But what sort of list are we to have in mind where being is the recurrent term that is to be interpreted as analogous?

(1) John is human.

(2) John is six feet tall.

(3) John is tan.

(4) John is seated.

Let us begin with this list. Where is the recurrent common term? 'Is'? This might be regarded as a mere copula joining predicate and subject term, and its sense might then be: the conjunction obtains or is true. For our purposes, we shall take these four sentences to say that John is in various ways; he is said to be in various way; he exemplifies various modes of being. Thus we are interested in is-human, is-six-feet-tall, is-tan, and is-seated.

Furthermore, we can take any one of our sentences and notice that it implies other sentences.

(1) John is human.

(1') John is animal.

(1'') John is alive.

(1''') John is a substance.

(1'''')John is a being.

So too from (2), we can get:

(2) John is six feet tall.

(2') John has length.

(2'') John is extended.

(2''') John is quantified.

(2'''')John is a being.

From (3):

(3) John is tan.

(3') John is colored.

(3'') John is qualified.

(3''') John is a being.

We can see that the implications here go only in one direction. If every human is animal, not every animal is human: if every animal is alive, not every living thing is animal; if every living thing is a substance, not every substance is living. Our generated lists of sentences go from more specific or determinate to less specific or generic designations. The most generic expression in a given line is what Aristotle and Thomas mean by a category, a supreme genus.{19} The categories express irreducible general types or ways of being and are what is had in mind when it is said that 'being' means many things or has many meanings.

Can we now apply more directly the doctrine on analogous names to this situation? We remember that the analogous name was described as one that has several meanings, each of which signifies the same what or res significata in a different way or modus significandi. What is the pattern here, in the way in which "_______health" is the pattern for the different meanings of 'healthy' used analogously? It is: "_____existence."{20} What are the different ways of signifying this res significata in the case of the categories? That which exists in itself and not in or as an aspect of another is the substantial mode of being. That for which to be is in another, as a modification or accident of another, is the accidental mode of being. Furthermore, this accidental mode of being presupposes the substantial mode of being, since that whose being is to be in another is, ultimately, in that which exists in itself. This latter then is the primary or principal mode of being, the ratio propria entis. Since this sense of 'being' is presupposed by the other and secondary senses, a science of being as being can concentrate on the principal mode of being, and that is what produces the unity of the science. The various meanings of 'being' make up an ordered set, and the science of being is chiefly and primarily concerned with that which is in the primary sense. And this is to say that the science of being as being is chiefly and primarily the science of substance.{21}

IV. The Two Theologies

Thus far we have seen how Thomas understands the nature of the philosophical effort to achieve knowledge of God. Let us call this conception of metaphysics philosophical theology or natural theology. Clearly what is involved here is a knowledge of God that is available to any man in principle, whether or not he is a religious believer. Indeed, the chief historical example of such natural theology would be, for Thomas, the Metaphysics of Aristotle. Equally clearly, Thomas maintains that God had revealed himself to men and that those men who in faith accept this revelation thereby attain knowledge of God. Of course, not every believer is a theologian if we restrict this term to the sense it would have as derived from natural theology. The man of faith is not, as such, one who has a science of God, demonstrative knowledge of God's existence and of his attributes. Nor is the man of faith necessarily a theologian in a new sense of the term deriving from a conception of theology different from natural or philosophical theology. It is this new sense of theology that we now want to examine.

While there are many texts and passages in Thomas that might serve as our guide in this matter, we shall select the treatment to be found in the exposition of the De trinitate of Boethius,{22} where St. Thomas asks whether divine science is concerned with things which exist without matter and motion. This text has the advantage of building on matters we have lately been looking at.

Every science, Thomas begins, studies a subject matter and considers the principles of its subject, since knowledge of the principles and causes of its subject is the perfection of science. We know that the subject matter (genus subjectum) of a science is to be found as the subject of the conclusion of a demonstrative syllogism, since it is precisely such syllogisms which constitute a science. In the strongest sort of demonstrative syllogism, one in which the conclusion affirms a property of the subject, the middle term is the definition of the subject. The definition of a thing expresses its formal principles. Thus, in this paradigmatic demonstrative syllogism, it is the constitutive principles of the subject which explain its possession of the property. The principles of a subject are, however, of two kinds. Thomas remarks. Some principles are in themselves complete natures or things that are nonetheless causally explanatory of other things. As example he cites the way in which heavenly bodies, things in themselves, are causal principles with respect to earthly bodies. Principles of this kind can pertain to a science as the causes of its subject, but they can also constitute the subject of a distinct science. The second kind of principle is that we cited in referring to the strongest type of demonstrative syllogism, principles which are not in themselves complete natures or things, but are only principles of complete natures or things, for example, unity of number, point of line, matter and form of physical body. Principles of this sort are considered only in the science concerned with the things of which they are the principles as with its subject matter.

Just as for any determinate genus or subject matter there are common principles which extend to everything contained within that genus, so there are common principles which extend to every being just insofar as it is a being. These common principles of being are of two kinds. Some are common by way of predication, they can be said of any being whatsoever in the way in which 'form' is predicable of all forms; others are common by way of causality, in the way in which numerically one sun is a principle with respect to al generable things. Those principles common to all beings in the first way are said to be common by way of analogy, that is, all beings have the analogously same principles. As for the second kind of common principles of being, what is meant is this: there are certain numerically distinct things which are principles of all other things. For example, the principles of accidents are reduced to the principles of substance, and the principles of corruptible substances are reduced to incorruptible substances as to their principles, and thus by a kind of graded order all beings are reduced back to numerically distinct principles. These ultimately explanatory principles of all beings are beings in the fullest sense, and this entails, for reasons we need not here go into, that they are separate from matter and motion. Such beings, Thomas says, may be called divine because, as Aristotle said, if the divine obtains anywhere it must be in such immaterial and unchangeable things.

These divine things which are the principles of all beings and are nonetheless distinct things in themselves can be considered in two ways: first, insofar as they are the common principles of all beings, of being as being; second, insofar as they are themselves distinct things. Nonetheless, because such principles, although in themselves they are maximally intelligible, relate to our minds as does the sun to the eye of a nightbird, they cannot be known by us except insofar as we are led to knowledge of them from their effects. And this is precisely how they are treated by the philosopher, a way suggested by St. Paul's remark that the invisible things of God can be known through created effects.

Hence divine things of this sort are treated by philosophers only insofar as they are principles of all things, and therefore are treated in that science where what is common to all beings is studied, whose subject is being as being, a science philosophers call divine science. There is however another way of knowing such things, not as they are manifested through their effects, but as they have manifested themselves. This way is mentioned by the Apostle in First Corinthians, 2:11 ff. "What is of God no one knows save the spirit of God. We however do not accept the spirit of this world, but the spirit which is from God, in order that we might know." And, in the same place, 2:10: "God has revealed it to us through his spirit." In this way divine things are treated as they subsist in themselves as the subject of the science, and not merely insofar as they are principles of things.{23}

Thus it is that Thomas distinguishes two kinds of divine science or theology. First, there is that divine science which considers divine things, not as the subject of the science, but as principles of the subject, and this is the theology which the philosophers pursue and which is also known as metaphysics. Second, there is a divine science which considers divine things in themselves as the subject of the science, and this is the theology which conveyed in Holy Scripture.

We shall have to say many more things before this distinction between the two kinds of theology becomes clear, but for the moment we can appreciate that the difference stressed here is indeed striking, namely, whether the divine is the cause of the subject of the science (natural or philosophical theology) or itself the subject of the science (supernatural or scriptural theology). If the former theology is in principle accessible to any man, the latter presupposes that one accepts Scripture as conveying truths about God. But such an acceptance is what is meant by faith. Therefore, the second and new kind of theology Thomas is speaking of here is restricted to men of faith, and it will be concerned with those truths about himself that God has revealed, and which would otherwise have remained unknown.

Returning now to the question he is addressing, Thomas says that both theologies are concerned with things that exist apart or separate from matter and motion, but differently insofar as there are two ways of understanding the phrase "separate from matter and motion." In a first sense, it might be of the very nature or definition of a thing that is said to be separate that it can in no way exist in matter and motion, things like God and the angels. In another sense, a thing may be such that it is not of its nature or definition that it be in matter and motion, but it can be apart from matter and motion although sometimes it is found in matter and motion; things like being and substance and potency and act are separate from matter and motion because they do not need to exist in matter in motion, unlike mathematicals whose dependence on matter is such that although they can be considered or understood without sensible matter, they do not exist apart from sensible matter. Philosophical theology is concerned with things separate from matter and motion in this second sense, whereas the theology conveyed by Holy Scripture is concerned with things separate from matter and motion in the first sense.

We see that the distinction between the two kinds of theology depends upon the givenness of faith; without faith, without the acceptance as true of what God has revealed, there would not be a theology distinct from natural or philosophical theology. Indeed Thomas distinguishes two kinds of truth about God. "Some things which are true of God exceed in every way the capacity of human reason to understand, for example, that God is three and one. Some truths are such that they can be attained by natural reason, such as, that God exists, that He is one, and the like, which even philosophers have demonstratively proved of God, led by the light of natural reason."{24} If the Trinity of Persons in God exceeds the capacity of human reason, it is clear that it cannot be understood, and, if not understood, it is difficult to see in what sense it can be the concern of a science of theology. The acceptance as true of what is not understood is a description of faith, and this is clearly a different mental stance than knowledge. The two fold a distinction of truths about God would thus seem to be distinction between what is known about God and what is believed about God. On several occasions, St. Thomas speaks of those truths about God which thus seem to be a distinction between what is known about God and what is believed about God. On several occasions, St. Thomas speaks of those truths about God which are accessible to unaided natural reason as preambles of faith (preamblula fidei. A consideration of the force and meaning of this phrase will cast further light on the two theologies.

V. Faith and Theology

One of the puzzling things about Thomas's insistence that some truths about God can be known by unaided human reason, that is, independently of faith, is that the truths he has in mind are surely among those that believers believe. Nonetheless, the distinction he is making is not meant to be merely historical, as if at one time such truths as that there is a God and only one God were arrived at by means of proofs whereas now proofs have given way to faith. He himself spends quite a bit of time devising and defending proofs of God's existence. It is inevitable that we should wonder about the status of such proofs for the believer. Thomas believed from his mother's knee the truth of the proposition "There is a God." This truth is an object of his faith. Yet he is saying that this same truth is, for philosophers, an object of knowledge. Is he himself to be numbered among those philosophers? If so, what happens to the distinction between believed and known truths? If not what is the point of his patient elaboration of proofs? It seems inescapable to conclude that "There is a God" is at once an object of knowing and of believing, at least in the sense the some men know it and others believe it. St. Thomas insists that the same truth cannot be known and believed by the same person at the same time. Does this mean that once the believer succeeds in fashioning a sound proof, he ceases to be a believer? Does this mean that believed truths can be changed into known truths and is that perhaps the function of the new kind of theologian Thomas would distinguish from the philosophical theologian? These and other difficult questions seem to lurk behind the phrase praembula fidei.

A. Some Mental Acts

To follow Thomas here we must first get clear on the difference between knowing and believing, a difference Thomas develops with reference to yet other mental acts or mental states{25} One knows or believes that something or other is true. Thus we can express the objects of these mental acts by the variable for a proposition, p. What we want to know, accordingly is Thomas's understanding of the difference between "knowing that p" and "believing that p." In discussing this difference, Thomas will add to the mix such mental acts as "thinking (opining) that p" and "doubting that p."

(1) When I know that p, p is true and -p is false.

Values for p are such that they are either true or false. Knowledge is had when there is a determination of the truth of p. S. Thomas's way of expressing himself derives from the following elementary consideration. If p is either true of false, then if p is true, -p is false, and if -p is true, p is false. Thus Thomas will say that, in knowing, the mind assents determinately to one side of a contradiction. To know that p is to know that p is true and -p is false.

We may recall here the distinction Thomas draws between knowing as intelligere (intellectus) and knowing as scire (scientia). In a narrow and proper sense of knowing, our determination of the truth of p is inferred from the truth of other propositions; to know something in this sense is mediated cognition. For Thomas, as we have seen, scire and scientia are tied to syllogism, so much so that the object of science or knowledge is the conclusion of a demonstrative syllogism known to be true because it validly follows from true premises. Not every proposition to which the mind gives determinate assent is mediate, however. Thomas also allows for immediate or self-evident truths, that is, propositions which are such that the connection between predicate and subject is not grasped through a middle term but is grasped as soon as one knows the meaning of the constitutive terms. Needless to say, for Thomas, knowing

what the terms mean is not simply a matter of knowing how we use words. When I know the whole is greater than its part, this is not simply to know a truth about 'whole' and 'part,' but about wholes and parts. But that is a long story.

(2) When I think (opine) that 'p, -p may be true.

Opinion embraces a proposition whose contradictory might turn out to be true. Needless to say, there are some values of p such that p and -p can be simultaneously true. Some men have beards and some men do not have beards. In such a case, p and -p are not contradictories. We have contradictories only when, if p is true, -p is false, and if -p is true, p is false. When we think or opine that p, we do not with confidence or certainty reject -p as false. In the case of knowledge, whether it bears on self-evident truths or, in the proper sense of the term, on mediated or inferred truths, the contradictory is determinately excluded. The object of opinion may also be arrived at as a conclusion from premises, but the premises do not express evidence that is conclusive for the truth of p. No doubt there are degrees of opinion. Perhaps that is why doubt can be associated with opinion.

(3) When I doubt that p, I think or opine that -p.

To think or opine that -p is not to be completely sure of p, and thus to fear that p may be true. This is not to say that in thinking that -p, I equally think that p, If the evidence indicates the truth of -p, I will doubt that p. To hold that p or -p is not to have an opinion. A jury that reported that the accused is either innocent or guilty as charged has not delivered a verdict.

Perhaps this can suffice as a sketch of "knowing that p" and "thinking that p" and "doubting that p." For our purposes, knowing and opining or thinking are the most important mental states, since it is with references to them that Thomas will express what he means by "believing that p." It may be well to say here once and for all that Thomas, like ourselves, often uses "thinking" or "opining" to express what has here been defined as "knowing." So too he will often use "knowing" and "believing" interchangeably, and the same can be said of "believing" and "thinking." What we have just witnessed is his assigning of definite meanings for these terms for a specific purpose. In doing this, Thomas appeals to the way we talk, being guided by ordinary Latin just as we should be by ordinary English, but he is not engaged in an effort to say what these terms ordinarily or always mean in every usage. The fact that "think" and "know" and "believe" can be interchangeable in some contexts is, while true, not helpful when our purpose is to assign meanings to these terms which will distinguish different mental acts or states. It is the mental acts which differ, even though we sometimes speak of them one way and sometimes in another. Once the difference between the mental acts is clear, "know" and "think" and "believe" can be given more or less technical meanings that will cause the remarks in which they occur to diverge slightly from ordinary talk.

Given his quasi-technical accounts of "knowing that p" and "thinking that p," St. Thomas adds his account of "believing that p."

(4) We believe that p is true and that -p is false on the basis of authority.

Armed with his definitions, Thomas will argue for the following theses:

(5) It is impossible for a person simultaneously to know that p and to believe that p.

(6) It is impossible for a person simultaneously think that p and to believe that p.

If "believing that p" differs from both "knowing that p" and "thinking that p," belief nonetheless bears similarities to both knowledge and opinion. In common with "knowing that p," "believing that p" totally excludes the possibility that -p might be true. To believe that p is true is to have no doubt that -p is false. In common with "thinking that p," "believing that p" is not grounded on conclusive evidence of the truth of p. For purposes of completeness, we can add that "believing that p" is unlike the "knowing that p" that occurs when the value of p is a self-evident truth.

If like "knowing that p," "believing that p" entails the falsity of -p this is not because the believed p follows validly from true premises, nor is it because, as with "thinking that p," the true premises, nor is it because, as with "thinking that p," the preponderance of the evidence indicates the truth of p. I may think that Notre Dame will defeat Alabama and I may think that balk-headed males are more amorous than their hirsute confreres. In both cases, I may marshal evidence to support my claim, even as I agree that one who maintains the contrary is not willfully opaque, ignorant, obtuse, and so on. In the case of belief in the Trinity or Incarnation, on the other hand, it makes little sense to say that the evidence seems to indicate their truth. One's assent to the truth of p and his rejection of -p as false is explained, in the case of belief, not by conclusive evidence, but by reliance on authority.

B. Two Kinds of Belief

It will be seen that, in this discussion, St. Thomas is concerned to clarify the nature of religious belief. Nonetheless, we can get some help toward understanding the contrasts he is drawing by appealing to instances of belief that involve one man's trusting in another. Let us say that, in conversation with you, I assert that p and you ask me why I say that. I answer that my Uncle Seymour told me that p. My assertions that p reposes on the fact that I trust my Uncle Seymour. I did not mention him when I asserted that p, in the scenario I have in mind, but, if pressed, I would admit to this avuncular source of my confidence. Let us assign a value to p. Let us imagine that what I said was, "People who lay their ungloved hands on hot stoves get burned." You asked why I say this and I bring in Uncle Seymour. I could of course be the empirical type and arrange for a hot stove to lay my ungloved hand on. More cautiously, I could secrete myself in a broom closet and observe the reaction of others when they laid their ungloved hands on the hot stove. Then when you ask me why I say that p, I need no longer bring in Uncle Seymour as the explanation of my assertion.

This situation can be generalized. The student of science or the specialist in a given area of science may assert that p where the value of p is some scientific result, and yet reply, when pressed, that he asserts that p because Professor Seymour said so or because he has just read an article in the Alaskan Journal of Tropical Studies. In such cases, believing that p is of course in principle replaceable by knowing that p. Trust or faith in such a case, the acceptance of p as true on the basis of authority, need not be a terminal mental state but only a stage on the way to knowledge. Oportet addiscentem credere, Aristotle and the student must trust or believe, but not because that is his goal. His goal is knowledge.{26}

In the case of religious belief, believing that p is the acceptance of the truth of p (and the falsity of -p) on the authority of another and is, moreover, a mental state or attitude toward p that cannot, at least in this life, be replaced by knowing that p. When the believer asserts that there is a Trinity of Persons in God or that Christ is both God and man, the basis of his conviction is the authority of God. As St. Thomas puts it, the formality under which assent is given to one side of a contradiction in the act of faith is Deus revelans: God revealing.{27}

The distinction between knowledge and opinion, on the one hand, and faith, on the other, seems to come down to a distinction between evidence and motive. When I assert a self-evident truth, the evidence is intrinsic to the judgment made. When I assert a mediated truth, as I do in both knowledge and opinion, the grounds, or evidence, for what I assert is found elsewhere than in the proposition I assert. The elsewhere, of course, refers to the premises from which the proposition is derived as a condition. If the evidence, whether conclusive or probable, of the conclusion is said to be extrinsic to it, it is not extrinsic in the same way or to the same degree that the motive for assent to a believed truth is. My knowledge that the internal angles of a plane triangle add up to 180 degrees may be necessarily derived from other truths, and my opinion that life exists only on earth may be grounded in a great deal of information, but in both cases there is a connection between the proposition known or opined and the propositions which express the evidence from which it is concluded. One need only think of the relation between the terms of a syllogism. In the case of belief, the motivation for assent, namely, the trustworthiness of the authority, is quite extrinsic to the content of the proposition believed. I may have good grounds for trusting Uncle Seymour, but those grounds are not evidence for the truth of the claim I now take his word for.

It has been suggested earlier that there are two kinds of belief, the ordinary kind in which we take another's word that something is the case, and the extraordinary kind where our authority is God revealing. Let us use subscripts to distinguish them.

(4a) When I believe1 that p, I accept p as true on someone's say-so, but I can in principle establish the truth or probability of p and thus dispense with the appeal to someone's say-so.

(4b) When I believe2, that p, I accept p as true on God's say-so or authority, and I cannot, in this life, replace my dependence on his authority with knowledge that p is true.

Values of p as the object of believing2 would be such truths as "There are three persons in one divine nature" and "Christ has both a human and divine nature." In believing1, so long as my mental state is one of belief, I have a motive for assenting to or accepting the proposition as true, but I have no evidence for it. The same is true of believing2, with the addendum that my condition is not even in principle corrigible or alterable in this life.

In the case of believing1, when attention is shifted from the content of the proposition believed to be true to our motive for thinking so, we can of course inquire into our justification for thinking that so-and-so is trustworthy. Thus, it might be said that in trusting Uncle Seymour on the truth of p, we are believing both p and Uncle Seymour. St. Thomas will say that we believe someone and something.{28} This does not preclude our having reasons for trusting our source. In the case of believing, that justification may be found in the fact that on many past occasions Uncle Seymour has told me things that I took to be true on his say-so and subsequently found to be true on the basis of evidence. The scientist might give as justification for his taking as true what he reads in a learned journal the fact that sometimes n the past he has established the truth of its reports. Believing, taking another's word for the truth of something, can thus be seen to be an expedient, a pis aller, a corrigible condition, since in any given instance of it p can in principle be known, established on the basis of evidence.

Of course it would be practically impossible to verify every claim accepted on the word of others in the scientific community, say, but this is a practical and not a theoretical constraint.

The veracity or trustworthiness of the authority on whom we rely for our conviction of the truth of p when we believe, that p is a different matter. It would not do to suggest that since divine revelation has proved its veracity in the case of the Trinity, I am justified in relying on it in the case of the Incarnation, or vice versa. All instances of believing, would seem to be on the same footing. We might try to circumvent the problem in one fell swoop by saying that God is truth or that God is veracious, and that therefore it makes no sense to doubt what God says. Any human witness is fallible and might mislead, but God, being what and who he is, cannot deceive. Now the assertion that God can neither deceive nor be deceived occurs in the Act of Faith and this suggests that God's veracity is an object of faith, is itself within the circle of faith, and thus could not be external to it as a truth which props up or supports the truths constitutive of faith. We cannot show that faith is reasonable by invoking what is itself an object of faith. While all this is undoubtedly true, what Thomas calls the preambles of faith suggest a way in which it can be claimed that trusting God can be rationally grounded, by appeal to something independent of faith. Furthermore, signs, wonders, and miracles clearly have a preparatory role with regard to faith. We will return to Thomas's views on these matters. First we must clarify the meaning of preambles of faith.

C. Preambles of Faith

That clarification requires the distinctions we have made among knowing, opining, doubting, believing1, and believing2.The phrase, preambula fidei, is taken to cover those truths about God which can be known by men independently of revelation. In other words, the so-called preambles of faith are possible objects of knowledge. The truths of faith are not, of course, possible objects of knowledge.

Let us recall the thesis set down earlier which we said followed from the clarifications and definitions we have been engaged I making.

(5) It is impossible for a person simultaneously to know that p and to believe that p.

We now see that this means it is impossible for a person at one and the same time to accept something as true on evidence and not to accept it as true on evidence, or to accept something as true merely on another's say-so and not to accept something as true merely on another's say-so, at the same time and in the same respect. This thesis can be construed in a number of ways given our distinction between two kinds of believing. (5) is true as it stands for both kinds of believing, but it has different implications insofar as it is understood of the one kind of belief or the other.

(5a) It is impossible for the same person simultaneously to know that p and to believe, that p.

The point of this restatement is to bring out the fact that objects of believing1 can also be objects of knowledge. The teacher may know an astronomical truth and the pupil believe1 the same truth on the teacher's say-so, the two mental acts bearing on the same truth at the same time. And the same person can believe, that p at t1 and know that p at t2.

(5b) It is impossible for any man in this life to know that p if p is an object of believing2.

This is the strongest form of the thesis. With it before us, let us take as examples of preambles of faith that there is a God and that there is only one God. While it would be difficult to give a complete list of the preambles of faith, we will shortly state the criteria for any truth counting as such a preamble.

Preambles of faith are distinguished from truths of faith, the mysteries of faith. The former are truths about God which can be known by men relying on their natural powers alone. The truths of faith, on the other hand, would seem to be those truths about himself which God has revealed to men. The truths or mysteries of faith are such that, had they not been revealed by God, we would have remained unaware of them; they are accepted as true because God has revealed them and not, indeed never in this life, because we understand them and thus know them to be true.

Needless to say, the claim that truths of faith cannot be known by us means that they cannot be understood by us. We know them in the sense of knowing what has been proposed for one belief, we can know what God has revealed without knowing it in the sense of understanding it.

Relying on Romans 1:19-20, St. Thomas holds that men can, from the visible things of this world, come to knowledge of the invisible things of God.{29} This means that the world provides evidence for the existence of God. St. Thomas held that Aristotle had fashioned a sound argument for the existence of God, and he himself proposed a number of other arguments he clearly takes to be sound and conclusive. Now this means that "God exists" or "There is a God" can be a value of p in the schema: I know that p. But is not "God exists" or "There is a God" a value for p in the schema: I believe that p? If so, neither (5) nor (5a) would be violated, but surely it is (5b) that comes into play. Does not the believer believe that there is a God because God has revealed himself? But if he believes2 that there is a God because God has revealed himself? But if he believes that there is a God, then it cannot be known that there is a God according to (5b). This instance is fundamental, of course, but the very way in which Thomas speaks of the preambles of faith seems to threaten the notion with incoherence. The preambles of faith are those truths that God has revealed which can nonetheless be known. But if they are revealed, they must all be believed2. And then (5b) gives trouble not only for one instance but for the whole set of preambles of faith. St. Thomas's position here would therefore seem to be incoherent.

To see how St. Thomas avoids contradicting himself, we must allow that the faith of the religious believer comprises both believing1 and believings2. That is, it would seem to be a common state of affairs for the religious believer to accept on the authority of divine revelation both truths about God which are in principle knowable and truths about God which are not knowable in this life. One brought up in the faith would believe that there is a God and that there is only one God, that he is intelligent, etc., where the etc. is meant to embrace any or all preambles of faith. But preambles of faith are by definition knowable in principle. Nor would the believer normally distinguish these from such other believed truths as the Trinity and Incarnation. But if God's existence can be known and if a believer comes to know it, he can no longer be said to believe this truth. The doctrine of preambles of faith thus comes down to this: among the things the religious person believes on the authority of divine revelation, there are some truths which are really objects of believing1, although the bulk of the objects of his faith are objects of believing2. When this is recognized, there is no inconsistency in saying that one who first believed that there is a God comes to know that there is a God. (5a) applies to this situation, whereas (5b) applies to those objects which are de fide, mysteria, objects of believing2.

Because he holds that there are sound arguments for the existence of God and that we can come to know some of the attributes of God, St. Thomas holds that some of the truths about God that we have believed from our mother's knee are in principle knowable. Thus, insofar as they are objects of belief, they are in much the same class as those truths we accept on the authority of Uncle Seymour. Not every truth about God, indeed only a few, that we have believed from our mother's knee can be known in the sense of understood by us. Here faith is the only way in which they could be held to be true. Thus religious faith comprises believing1 and believings2, and the preambles of faith are the object of the former, while what is a mystery of faith is the object of the latter.

We need further clarifications. How can something that we believe be recognized as a preamble of faith? Why should God reveal to men things that men can know? Is it reasonable to give our assent to claims we cannot know and understand? Is the God of the philosophers the same as the God of revelation?

1. Criteria for Preambles

The following would seem to be the criteria for preambles of faith. Those truths about God which have been proposed for our belief but which can be understood, that is, known, because they can be derived from or deduced from other known truths, are preambles of faith and not properly of faith or de fide. Thomas's conception of human intellection leads him, as we have seen, to the view that the proper object of the human mind is the nature of physical objects. Thus, as a general rule, what can be known by us will be the natures and properties and accidents of physical objects. The scope of knowledge is broadened by the recognition that, by reflecting on it as it bears on the natures of physical objects, our intellection is not itself a physical activity. This suggests that other than physical things can be known by us to the degree that they are made manifest from our knowledge of the physical. The same is true of knowledge of God. To the degree that his existence and some of his attributes can be known from what we know of physical objects, he too comes, to that degree, within the range of human understanding. Some of the things that have been revealed by God about himself are like this. The application of the criteria is twofold, historical and speculative, though these are not fully distinct. By historical I mean this: insofar as Thomas finds that prior to or independently of revelation men have devised proofs for truths that have been revealed, he can conclude that those truths need not have been revealed. Of course, this presupposes that on analysis the proposed proofs are judged to be sound. Thus, the historical application of the criteria of preambles of faith involves the speculative task of assessing and/or formulating sound proofs for the truths about God in question. There is therefore no a priori way of telling which revealed truths are preambles of faith, though tradition and the common consent of the faithful have labelled some truths as mysteries of faith, truths like the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the forgiveness of sins, and so forth. Even of the mysteries of faith, proofs have been sought, but with results that seem at least in retrospect to have been predictable. "Notice that (the truth) that God is three and one is believable alone and can in no wise be demonstratively proved, although for it some non-necessary arguments have been fashioned which are not very probable except to the believer."{30}

2. Why Reveal the Knowable?

Why has God revealed to men truths that are naturally knowable? Thomas holds that it is fitting that both preambles of faith as well as mysteries of faith have been proposed to us for belief. If preambles of faith were left to human inquiry alone, several unfortunate results would ensue. First, few men would have knowledge of God since there are many impediments to the arduous inquiry needed for such knowledge, among them the lack of natural talent, the want of the requisite leisure, and finally lassitude. Second, the few who did achieve demonstrable knowledge of God would do so only after a long period of time. This follows from the fact that metaphysics presupposes for its pursuit almost the totality of other knowledge. Thus the young, both because of their lack of the prerequisite knowledge and because they are distracted by passion and emotion, would not be among those who know there is a God. Third, even such knowledge of God as is laboriously and after much expenditure of time achieved would have the admixture of error and falsity. For all these reasons, Thomas concludes, it is both fitting and an index of the divine mercy that even knowable truths about God have been revealed so that certainty about such important matters can be had from the outset.{31}

Accepting What Cannot be Understood

Is it reasonable to give our assent to claims that cannot in principle be understood by us in this life? This is of course a most important question. Is believing2 a rational act, an act in accord with human nature, or does it go against the human grain, denying and flouting the universally human? It is not unheard of to find religious believers who insist that the mysteries of faith are in conflict with what we know, that revealed truth overturns and upsets mere human calculation, that faith is, humanly considered, an absurdity. There is something to be said for this, if only because it echoes St. Paul's remark that our faith is a scandal and a folly to Jew and Gentile. In some sense of the term, religious faith goes against the human grain. If we insist that every truth must be intelligible to us, if we make our capacity to understand the measure of intelligibility and truth, then faith will seem a scandalous folly. It is far more characteristic of Thomas, however, to insist on the way in which faith perfects and brings to fruition our most basic natural desires. More specifically, he will argue that to believe -- because God has revealed them -- truths that we cannot comprehend is rational and justifiable.

Thomas discusses this question in Chapters 5 and 6 of the First Book of the Summa contra gentiles, but rather than recount what he says there, let us fashion an argument from the concept of preambles of faith. In the case of believing, as we have seen, taking something to be true on someone's say-so is replaceable for coming to know the truth in question. Prior to acquiring knowledge of the truth, one could say that his belief in it is reasonable because he could come to know it. That is, we do not take someone's word for the truth of something that we know to be false. And if we do not know it to be true when we believe it, we nonetheless believe that it is true. It is that antecedent conviction that is sustained when we do indeed come to know it. Furthermore, since it is practically impossible to convert all our beliefs into items of knowledge, we would take it to be reasonable to trust a source which has proved in some instances to be trustworthy. Even if in the rare case our Uncle Seymour should mislead us, the fact that for the most part he does not makes it reasonable to trust him even in the rare case. Very well. If now we consider that the preambles of faith are among the things that God has revealed, and if it is the case that these can be known after having been believed, then we might argue that the rest of what God has revealed, the mysteries of faith, are also intelligible in themselves, if not now to us. And of course it must be added that the acceptance of the mysteries of faith as true in this life is done with the conviction that in the next life what these propositions express will be seen to be the truth.

What such an argument amounts to is not a demonstration of the truth of the mysteries of faith; rather it hopes to show that, since some of the things that have been revealed can come to be known to be true, it is reasonable to accept the rest as true even though they are not understood and thus not yet known to be true.

The God of the Philosophers

Is the God of the philosophers the same as the God of faith? The most basic of the preambles of faith is surely that there is a God. Indeed, it can be said that any other truth that we believe implies this one, namely, that there is a God. That God is one nature and three persons, that Christ is both God and man, make sense only on the assumption that there is a God. This suggests a logical sense of the phrase "preambles of faith." Furthermore, as a preamble of faith, the truth that there is a God involves, for Thomas, the claim that there are sound proofs for the existence of God. It has been held that, even if it is allowed that there are sound proofs for the existence of God, the God who is thereby proved to exist is not the same as the God believers believe to exist. On this interpretation, the difficulties we saw with (5b) would not arise, since it is not what was believed that would come to be known. Let us look more closely at this, since it is a perennial source of contention.

The position we now wish to sketch would have it that the proposition "God exists" does not have the same valence when it is the conclusion of a demonstration, and thus a philosophical achievement, that it has when it is an object of faith. Pascal distinguished the God of the philosophers from the God of Abraham and Isaac, thereby suggesting that the God who is known is not the God who is believed.{32} The position may perhaps be developed in this way. It is clear from St. Thomas's presentation of the Five Ways of proving the existence of God {33} that he does not think that "God exists" would ever as such appear as the conclusion of a proof. After each proof, he observes that what has been shown to exist is what we mean by God.{34} What occurs as the subject of the proposition which is the conclusion of the proof is a determinate description of God, for example, first unmoved mover, first efficient cause, ultimate final cause, and so on. It is this plurality of descriptions which makes possible a plurality of proofs of God's existence. We can now put the Pascalian point this way: God is known to exist or is proved to exist under descriptions which differ from those self-descriptions God provides in revelation. It was Thomas's contemporary Bonaventure's contention that one can simultaneously know and believe the same truth,{35} for example, that God is one, a contention that conflicts with (5), (5a), and (5b). Bonaventure's subsequent exposition, however, makes clear that the object of simultaneous belief and knowledge is not really an identical object. If one can know and believe at the same time that God is one, this is so because Bonaventure interprets this to mean that one knows there is not a plurality of gods and believes that the unique God is a Trinity of Persons. Since "one" is taken in several senses, "there is one God" is not the same proposition as known and as believed.

We have interpreted Pascal's point about the God of the philosophers and the God of Abraham to mean that God is known under some descriptions and is believed under quite different descriptions. Bonaventure's claim that we can know and believe the same truth was seen to be a version of this. Now, while there is nothing incoherent about this position as stated, it is questionable whether its assumptions are true. If we should say, for example, that the philosopher may come to know God as first cause (and Thomists who think that Thomas granted Aristotle too much in interpreting the Greek philosopher as proving this must allow that Thomas himself fashioned such a philosophical proof), it is difficult to see how knowing God in this way differs from what believers have believed of him from their mother's knee. Do we not, in the creed, profess our belief in God as creator of heaven and earth? True, there are those who suggest that creation is a theological concept, apparently meaning by that that apart from faith one cannot grasp the total dependence of all else on God which is the import of creation ex nihilo{36} While this contention, if true, would preserve the radical difference between knowledge and faith, the difference seems bought at too high a price. Indeed, it seems headed in the direction of saying that whatever philosophers claim to know about God is false.

In any case, Thomas's position is quite straightforward. If religious faith incorporates both believing1, and believings2 and it is possible that some believers who believed1 that there is a God later come to know that there is a God, surely it is the same truth that was once believed and is now known. We would make a shambles of the concept of preambles of faith if we should say that the objects of believing1 differ formally from what men can in principle know. For this reason, the Pascalian point, unless it is restricted to believings2 is unacceptable. With respect to some descriptions of God, the God of the philosophers and the God of believers (as believing) is the same.

A parallel situation in Thomistic doctrine is found in the case of natural law. Many truths of practice have been revealed to men by God which in principle need not have been because they are naturally knowable by men. The precepts of the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments, are natural law precepts according to St. Thomas. God told men that murder is wrong, although this is a truth that men can grasp independently of God's say-so. Such precepts have been revealed and thus can be accepted on the authority of God, but they are, so far as their content goes, knowable independently of divine revelation. God told men that murder is wrong, but it is not wrong simply because God said so, and in insisting on the principle, one is not demanding religious faith of those who have not got it. But surely all this would be nonsense if it were not the same precept that can either be accepted on authority or known to be true.{37}

The animus against the concept of preambles of faith, particularly as it is associated with traditional natural theology, arises from the apparent connotations of the term "preamble." St. Thomas seems to have accepted this term because he felt it expressed well the general maxim that grace presupposes nature, builds on it, and does not destroy it.{38} He does not, however, mean to suggest that the community of believers consists by and large of people who, having first acquired knowledge of God -- that he exists, is one, and so on -- come to believe2 truths that he has revealed in principle as well as things that can never be understood in this life, and religious believers do not as a rule distinguish the one kind of truth from the other. But if the concept of preambles of faith does not entail that natural theology is chronologically prior to faith in the strong sense, it does mean that some of the truths to which we have given our religious assent are knowable in via and thus can be seen to be objects of believing1. Our condition relative to them is not unlike the belief of the scientist that certain claims he himself has not verified are nonetheless true. As for St. Thomas, it is abundantly clear that his contention that the objects of believing1 can be replaced by knowledge in no way commits him to the thesis that, in this life, the objects of believings2 can be known to be true or be understood.

5. Preambles and Mysteries of Faith

Let us return to the most delicate matter of all. If some of the truths to which we have given the assent of faith can be known, what is the importance of this knowledge, when and if had, for those truths which are and remain de fide, of faith in the strong sense, believing2? It will be appreciated how easily the claim thatmen can come to know and understand truths that they previously believed could be misunderstood if we had not distinguished believing1 and believing2. And yet, do we not want to say that believing2 is in some way affected by the success of the program suggested by the concept of preambles of faith? We have already indicated how it permits us to say that is reasonable to assent to truths we do not and cannot in this life understand. Let us be clear how it is not affected. The fact that we can come to know a truth that we previously believed1, for example that there is a God and only one God, in no way diminishes the necessity that the believer, be he wise or simple, accept as true, solely on the authority of God, the truth of the Trinity, of the Incarnation, of the Resurrection, of the Forgiveness of Sins, and so forth. The most accomplished metaphysician is in exactly the same condition as the most unsophisticated sacristan with respect to what is the de fide. What is more, and this is of crucial importance, knowing that there is a God and only one God, knowing any and all of the preambles of faith, does not entail any of the de fide truths. The accomplished metaphysician we mentioned may very well be a nonbeliever, and his knowledge that there is a God does not compel him to believe2 what God has revealed of himself. It was kierkegaard's unfounded fear that natural theology commits one to this absurdity.{39}

6. Proofs of Faith?

But are there not proofs of what is of faith in the strong sense? Signs, wonders, and miracles will occur to us as possible antecedents to the assent of faith.{40} One who produces signs and wonders, one who works miracles, gains our attention for what he says, and his miracles may serve as motives for accepting as true the claims he makes about himself. I am proceeding on the assumption, warranted by Aquinas,{41} that while a miracle or sign is observable by both the believer2 and the unbeliever, the two interpret differently what they see. The believer interprets them as the works of God, the unbeliever does not. The reasons are complex but may be suggested by the following: crowds saw and heard and witnessed Christ, yet not everyone believed him to be what he claimed to be. Of those who saw and heard and did not believe, we cannot say that in witnessing works they recognized as divine, they did not recognize them as divine. To see a miracle as a miracle presupposes faith and does not precede faith.{42}

We have reached a point where, thanks to the distinction between knowledge and faith, we can better understand the distinction Thomas makes between two kinds of theology, philosophical theology, on the one hand, and the theology based on Holy Scripture , on the other. The latter presupposes faith but is not identical with it. But before seeing the nature of this second kind of theology and its typical tasks, we must first devote a few pages to the examination of one of the proofs that Thomas devised to show that there is a God.

VI Proving That God Exists

Such a proof is something that could be and, according to Thomas, has been successfully fashioned by philosophers. The interest of the theologian, in the new and second sense proposed by Thomas, in such proofs is clear from the import of the concept of preambles of faith. Such a proof, if sound, will exhibit to the believer that some of the things God has revealed, indeed that which is implicit in everything that has been revealed, are true and this will provide him with a basis for saying that it is therefore reasonable to hold that all that God has revealed is true. Furthermore, such a proof, if sound, should be seen to be so by anyone, whether or not he is a believer. Thus, in concerning himself with proofs and generally with the preambles of faith, the theologian is seeking to establish an area of communication between believer and nonbeliever. Some believers and some nonbelievers may come to agree that an argument for the existence of God is sound. As we have seen, for the nonbeliever to accept such a sound proof does not compel him to become a believer. Nonetheless, to have a sound proof for the existence of God removes one impediment to faith, since a man who knows there is a God knows that there is someone who could have revealed what the believer believes God has revealed.

Proofs for the existence of God divide historically into two kinds, the a priori and the posteriori. The chief example of the first kind is the so-called Ontological Argument fashioned by St. Anselm of Canterbury in his Proslogion. St. Thomas gives extremely short shrift to the Anselmian proof.{43} He himself holds that any sound proof of the existence of God will have as premises known truths about beings other than God. That is, it will be a posteriori. He himself, in the Summa theologiae, sketches five such proofs, the famous quinque viae, five ways of proving that there is a God. Of the five he holds that the first , the one from motion, is the most manifest. Nonetheless, we shall here consider his third proof.{44}

The third way of proving the existence of God is based on the possible and the necessary.

(1) Some of the things that are, since they are generated and corrupt, can either be or not be.

(2) It is impossible that everything that is should be such that it can either be or not be.

(3) Whatever is such that it can not-be at some time is not.

(4) Thus if everything were such that it could either be or not be, at some time there was nothing.

(5) But if once there was nothing, there would be nothing now, since that which from not being comes to be requires a cause which is.

(6) Therefore if once there were was nothing, nothing could have come to be, and even now there would be nothing, which is clearly false.

(7) Therefore not everything is possible and there must be something which is necessary.

(8) That which is necessary either has a cause of its necessity from elsewhere, or it does not.

(9) It is impossible that all necessary beings should have a cause of their necessity outside themselves.

(10) Therefore there must be a necessary being whose necessity is not caused by another but which is necessary of itself.

(11) Such a necessary being all call God.

It will be seen that this proof has two major stages; the first, (1)-(7), establishes a realm of necessary beings, and the second, (8)-(10), arrives at something that is necessary per se and that is taken to be descriptive of God.

In the first stage of the proof, it is the transition from (3) to (4) which seems to pose the greatest difficulty. It is easy enough to grant that a thing that has come into being did not exist at a prior time. But does it follow that if everything were of this kind, there was some prior time when nothing at all existed? If we think of human generations, for example, it is quite easy to concede that for any man there was some prior time when he did not exist and the same would be true of his father, his grandfather, his great-grandfathers, and so on and on. For anyone of them, there is a prior time when that thing did not exist. In 1920, Peter I did not exist; in 1900, Peter II did not exist; and in 1875, the eponymous Peter did not exist. Thus a time when Peter III did not exist is a time when Peter I does exist. In short, there seems no need to have one particular time at which no such thing exists simply because, for each of them, there is a prior time when it did not exist. St. Thomas would thus seem to be guilty here of a rather elementary logical error, a quantification mistake. It is not unlike the fallacy involved in moving from the truth that every road ends somewhere to the proposition that there is somewhere that each and every road ends -- Rome perhaps.

Perhaps there is some way of interpreting what Thomas has said that will not involve him in so simple a mistake. Indeed, in order to make the mistake alleged, one would have to ignore just the point Thomas seems to be making. He clearly wants to say that it is incoherent to claim that everything that is has come into being since such things require a preexistent cause in order to come into being. But if the cause to which appeal is made itself came into being, then the generalized problem remains: why should there be anything like this at all? To say that the reason lies in the fact that there was something else like that before does not address what I am calling the generalized problem. There is a transition here from a discussion of this and that thing which has come into being to a concentration on that sort or kind of thing. And what Thomas is saying is that not everything which is could be that sort of thing. That is the point of (4). Granted the existence of such things, each of which is such that before it was it was not, there is of course no need that each member of the class not be simultaneously. But, again, if we ask why there should be things like that at all, the answer that would explain one of them by appeal to another simply begs the question.

It has been suggested that, in order to get such a series of possible beings going, one need only imagine one of them popping uncaused into existence.{45} Of course, Thomas could not accept this. Something which has come into existence must have been caused to exist; to say that its existence is uncaused is in effect to say that it is per se and that in turn is to say that it is necessary and that it could not have existed. And this is against the hypothesis.

It is just a matter of seeing things a certain way to suggest that it is impossible that whatever is is such that at one time it was not? Perhaps it is not a matter of two radically different ways of answering a question so much as it is a matter of honoring or not honoring the question. To return to our earlier example, of course the father is a cause of the son's coming to be, as the grandfather is a cause of the father's coming to be, but Thomas wants us to ask why there should be things of that kind at all. What the first stage of his proof seeks to establish is that in order for there to be things of this kind, things that can be, there must be things of another kind, things that must be.

The second stage of the proof may puzzle us in a quite different way. If a thing necessarily is, how can it be caused to be? One would have thought that the necessary was introduced precisely to block the need for a cause. In order to grasp the sense of this, we must notice that the examples Thomas gives of possible or contingent beings are those which are generated and which corrupt. Such beings, we have seen are composed of matter and form. Their form determines the matter in such and such a way, but the matter remains in potency to other determinations by other forms. Thus, matter is an intrinsic and essential principle of the thing's potentiality not to be. When Thomas speaks of necessary beings, he is thinking of beings which are not composed of matter and form, but are form alone.{46} Thus there is no intrinsic essential possibility of their not being. But if there is no composition of matter and form, there is still a composition of essence and existence. Thus, such beings have no intrinsic principle of nonbeing and therefore are necessary, but they are, so to speak, extrinsically contingent, since the form that is actualized is not the actualization of that form, and there must be an extrinsic cause of that actualization. This leads Thomas to say that not every necessary being can be such that its necessity depends on another, and the procedure here is much like that followed in the first stage of the proof. The upshot is that there must be a being which necessarily and per se exists, and such a being is God.

The reader need not be told that the proof just sketched is extremely difficult to understand and consequently cannot easily be assessed pro or con. The suggestions that have been made as to how the movement of the proof should be understood are themselves open to question. Indeed, there seems to be no chance that any attempt to fashion a sound proof or to express dissatisfaction with it will soon exhaust further relevant remarks, so that such discussions must seem to the non-philosopher, and perhaps in his darker moods to the philosopher too, interminable and without issue. And that is why Thomas, even though he holds that there are sound proofs of God's existence, feels that it is fitting that God has revealed himself to man and certainty can be had on the matter through faith while the philosophical disquisition goes on.

VII. Concluding

When St. Thomas is said to have been a theologian, the sense of the term is taken not from metaphysics or philosophical theology but from the theology based on Holy Scripture. We have said earlier that this theology must not be equated with faith. Surely it would be absurd to suggest that each and every believer, just insofar as he is a believer, engages in the sort of intellectual reflection on faith that we find in the Summas and Disputed Questions. Theology presupposes faith and is not identical with it. And we are prepared from the foregoing to find Thomas speaking of theology on the basis of the Aristotelian conception of science. We have seen him saying that the subject of natural theology is being as being, whereas the subject of scriptural theology is God himself. Furthermore, theology as a science will be made up of arguments and proofs, it will have principles, and so on. But how can theology have principles like other sciences, if principles are assumed in the science precisely because they are self-evident? Surely there are no self-evident truths about God so far as we are concerned. Thomas holds that the principles or starting points of the science of theology are just those truths about God that God has revealed and thus they are accepted by faith. Yet even here he made use of the Aristotelian model and notices that Aristotle allows for a science which accepts its principles from another science, such that truths assumed in the subalternated science are known or proved in the subalternating science. Thus, in natural science we may assume truths from geometry and apply them to physical bodies. In a not wholly dissimilar way, Thomas suggests, the truths that we accept on faith in this life are subalternated to the knowledge of the blessed in heaven, who do not believe but see even as they are seen.{47}

Not only is the model of science drawn from philosophical science, theology as Thomas envisages it makes use of philosophy. This can be taken to mean that the theologian brings to bear on what is believed the totality of human knowledge. He sets down three ways in which theology makes use of philosophy, and these may suffice as a statement of the tasks of theology: (1) Theology makes use of philosophy in order to prove the preambles of faith; and also (2) to cast light upon the mysteries of faith by bringing to bear on them certain similitudes, as Augustine in his De trinitate employs many examples from philosophy to manifest the mystery of the Trinity; (3) philosophy is useful to the theologian for the refutation of objections brought against the mysteries of faith. This employment of philosophy has its dangers, of course, since one might take a philosophical error rather than a truth and, even worse, one might proceed as if the mysteries of faith had to be entirely subjected to the canons of natural reason.{48}

Thomas would of course deny that the mysteries of faith can be inferred from what is naturally known, since this would amount to the absurd identification of faith and knowledge. But, as we have already seen, he is insistent on the fact that religious faith is a reasonable and fitting thing. It is simply false to characterize religious faith as if it were a conscious acceptance of nonsense or absurdity. God is the source of both the natural powers of reason and of revelation and it is silly to suggest that God would propose for our acceptance as true what contradicts what we naturally know to be the case. Faith is above reason, but not against reason. What the believer believes is that the object of his faith is intelligible in itself and will be seen to be so in the next world. That is why one of the major tasks of the theologian is to show that what is believed is not contradicted by what is known. He need not, because he cannot, show directly the truth of what is believed, but he can show the falsity of whatever contradicts what is believed. It is the starting point and assumption of the theologian that this can be done and far from being a sign of his irrationality, it underscores his conviction of the reasonableness of belief. Of course, it is not necessary to show determinately the falsity of what contradicts revealed truth. It suffices to show that it is not necessarily true.

{1} See, on this issue, Werner Jaeger, Aristotle: Fundamentals of the History of His Development (New York, 1934); A. H. Chroust, Aristotle (London and Notre Dame, 1973); Ralph McInerny, "Ontology and Theology in Aristotle's Metaphysics," Melanges à la mémoire de Charles de Koninck (Quebec, 1968).

{2} See Jaeger, op cit.

{3} Aristotle Metaphysics 4.1 and 4.2.

{4} Ibid., 6.1, 1026a27-33.

{5} Thomas Aquinas. In Metaphysicorum libros, Proemium.

{6} Ibid. The reader will be reminded of what Thomas said in commenting on Boethius's De trinitate, q. 5, a. 1.

{7} In Metaphysicorum libros, Proemium. Jaeger seems never to have asked himself whether he himself was asking about two possible subjects of a science, understanding the phrase ex Aristotle.

{8} Ibid.

{9} In Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics 1.6.

{10} See the proemia Thomas wrote to his commentaries on Aristotle's On Interpretation and Posterior Analytics.

{11} Cf. Aristotle Categories, Ch. 1 and Nicomachean Ethics 1.6.

{12} See the proemia Thomas wrote to his commentaries on Aristotle's On Interpretation and Posterior Analytics.

{13} Ibid. Ia, q. 16, a. 6. See Ralph McInerny, The Logic of Analogy (The Hague, 1961).

{14} Summa theologiae, Ia, q. 13, a. 1.

{15} In I Sent., d. 22, q. 1, a. 3, ad 2m. ". . . the equivocal analogous and univocal are differently divided. For the equivocal is divided according to things signified (res significatas), the univocal according to (specific) differences, and the analogous according to diverse modes."

{16} Summa contra gentiles, I, 34.

{17} Summa theologiae, Ia, q. 16, a. 6.

{18} That is, we are still confronted with the problem that "being is said in many ways."

{19} See Categories, Ch. 5, and Thomas's commentary on the Metaphysics, Bk. 5, lectio 9.

{20} Summa theologiae, Ia, q. 44, a. 1.

{21} Commentary on Metaphysics Bk. 4, lectio 1.

{22} In q. 5, a. 4.

{23} Ibid.

{24} Summa contra gentiles, I, 3.

{25} In on Truth, q. 14, articles I and 2. For another version of this, see Ralph McInerny, "The Contemporary Significance of St. Bonaventure and St. Thomas" The Southwestern Journal of Philosophy, 5, No. 2 (1974), 11-26.

{26} summa theologiae, IIaIIae, q. 2, a. 3.

{27} Ibid., Ia, q. 1, a. 3.

{28} Ibid., IIaIIae, q. 2, a. 2.

{29} See Thomas's commentary on Paul's Epistle to the Romans Ch. 1, lectio 6.

{30} Exposition of Boethius's De trinitate, q. 1, a. 4.

{31} Summa contra gentiles, I, 4.

{32} See Romano Guardini, Pascal For Our Times (New York, 1966); and J. H. Broome, Pascal (New York) 1966).

{33} Summa theologiae, Ia, q. 2, a. 3.

{34} Ibid. E.g., "Therefore it is necessary that we arrive at some first mover itself unmoved by anything else, and this all understand to be God."

{35} See Ralph McInerny, Philosophy from Augustine to Ockham, pp. 259-267.

{36} Thomas himself seems to hold, as in On the Eternity of the World, that it is creation in time and not creation ex nihilo which distinguishes the believer's understanding of the way in which the divine causality is exercised.

{37} The point being made emerges from a number of texts when they are juxtaposed: Summa theologiae, IaIIae, q. 90, q. 94, and q. 100, articles, 1, 2, and 3.

{38} ". . . that God exists and the other things known of God by natural reason, as suggested by Rom. 1:19-20, are not articles of faith, but preambles to the articles; faith presupposes natural knowledge as grace presupposes nature and (generally) perfection presupposes the perfectible." Summa theologiae, Ia, q.2, a. 2 ad1m.

{39} I have in mind Kierkegaard's Philosophical Fragments (Princeton, 1962).

{40} Summa contra gentiles, I,6.

{41} Summa theologiae, IIaIIae, q. 6, a. 1.

{42} Ibid.

{43} Ibid., Ia, q. 2, a. 1, ad 2m.

{44} Ibid., Ia, q. 2, a. 3. I have added numbers to the text.

{45} As by Alvin Plantinga in God and Other Minds (Ithaca, 1967).

{46} One contemporary approach may be found in Alvin Plantina, The Nature of Necessity (Oxford, 1974).

{47} Summa theologiae, Ia, q. 1, a. 2.

{48} Exposition of Boethius's De trinitate, q. 2, a. 3.

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