Credo in Unum Deum

I Believe in One God

What is Faith?

“Faith is the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of
things that appear not.”

Is this a good defininition?
St. Thomas thinks that it is, especially since the Apostle himself gives it. And while the definition is not like a technical definition, St. Thomas contends that it lacks none of the necessary components of a definition. What then is the “substance” of the “substance of things hoped for”? Obviously, it cannot be a substance in terms of the supreme genus as in Aristotelian logic. He says that substance may also be suitably used to indicate the “first beginning of a thing”. Thus it can be said that “the first self-evident principles are the substance of science, because, to wit, these principles are in us the first beginnings of science, the whole of which is itself contained in them virtually.” So then, faith is the first beginning of the things we hope for and do not see. The object of faith then is understood as something unseen, as the second part of the definition says. For what we hope for we do not see, “(Rom. 8:25): ‘We hope for that which we see not’: because to see the truth is to possess it.” 
St Thomas explains “evidence”; that it “is taken for the result of evidence. For evidence induces the intellect to adhere to a truth, wherefore the firm adhesion of the intellect to the non-apparent truth of faith is called ‘evidence’ here. Hence another reading has ‘conviction,’ because to wit, the intellect of the believer is convinced by Divine authority, so as to assent to what it sees not.”
He then goes on to define faith using the form of definition:

Accordingly if anyone would reduce the foregoing words to the form of a definition, he may say that “faith is a habit of the mind, whereby eternal life is begun in us, making the intellect assent to what is non-apparent.”

He further explains,

In this way faith is distinguished from all other things pertaining to the intellect. For when we describe it as “evidence,” we distinguish it from opinion, suspicion, and doubt, which do not make the intellect adhere to anything firmly; when we go on to say, “of things that appear not,” we distinguish it from science and understanding, the object of which is something apparent; and when we say that it is “the substance of things to be hoped for,” we distinguish the virtue of faith from faith commonly so called, which has no reference to the beatitude we hope for.

Therefore, we must next ask what the proper object of faith is.

(All quotes from St. Thomas are from his Summa Theologica, Treatise on Theological Virtues, Question 4, Article 1.)

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June 12, 2008 - Posted by | Catholicism, Controversial, Philosophy, Protestantism, Religion

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