Vol I No. 7
Daily Thought

St. Thomas Aquinas On the Creed: Part Four

by William J. Martin


The third good that comes from faith is that right direction which it gives to our present life. Now, in order that one live a good life, it is necessary that he know what is necessary to live rightly; and if he depends for all this required knowledge on his own efforts alone, either he will never attain such knowledge, or if so, only after a long time. But faith teaches us all that is necessary to live a good life. It teaches us that there is one God who is the rewarder of good and the punisher of evil; that there is a life other than this one, and other like truths whereby we are attracted to live rightly and to avoid what evil. “The just man lives by faith”[Hab 2:4]. This is evident in that no one of the philosophers before the coming of Christ could, through his own powers, know God and the means necessary for salvation as well as any old woman since Christ’s coming knows Him through faith. And, therefore, it is said in Isaiah that “the earth is filled with the knowledge of the Lord” [11:9].

St. Thomas encourages us to embrace faith or right belief through an examination of its effects. Effects inspire the soul to long for their causes. Faith and right belief are the causes we seek as means to good and holy living. The third good is the right direction that faith gives to our lives. Faith seeks the knowledge and love of God. Faith believes that God’s being, knowing, and loving ought to be molding, informing, and defining human life. Right direction is the effect that results from knowledge of living rightly. Living rightly comes to us by way of revelation in Scripture. It might also come by way of reason, but then only after a long, hard, and exhausting search for it. Faith believes that Holy Scripture reveals the content of living rightly.

First, faith believes that there is one God who rewards the good and punishes evil. Man is made to know the good and to will it into his life. He is made to see the evil and to avoid it. Goodness comes from God and conveys its own reward. Evil is the absence of God’s goodness and punishes a man with the effects of alienation from the God’s goodness. When a man embraces the goodness of God, he is cleansed, purified, and perfected by God’s being. When a man embraces the goodness of God, he submits to God’s knowing and wisdom and is enlightened. When a man embraces the goodness of God, he aligns his life with God’s will and desire and is thankfully looked after. Man who believes in the one true God will be benefited by God’s goodness since it alone generates true knowledge and happiness in man’s life.   

Faith teaches us also that there is life other than this one. Faith embraces God’s goodness as what will move a man from earth to heaven, from the creation back to the Creator, and from a world full of temptation to one absolutely free of it. Faith teaches man that man is made to be reconciled to God not only in this life but even forever. So faith teaches man to begin to get right with God through repentance and amendment of life since without this process of assimilation to God’s Wisdom and Love a man will be punished with eternal damnation.

Faith believes in the content of Holy Scripture’s revelation. Therefore, faith believes mostly in that revelation which redeems and saves fallen and sinful man. Faith believes and is made just by the righteousness of God’s Word made flesh, Jesus Christ. Faith believes in what man cannot do. The philosophers did not come to the knowledge of God the Father, in the Son, and by the Spirit. They had no knowledge of the salvation which can only and ever be the loving work of God in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ reveals God’s work of salvation for sinful man. Jesus Christ reveals Himself to be God’s work of salvation. Faith believes in what it cannot be, cannot rationally discover, cannot ingeniously produce, and cannot attain to. Faith believes in God’s Grace in Jesus Christ. The faith of any old woman is greater than the rational knowledge of God possessed by a philosopher. Why? The philosopher’s knowledge does not and cannot save him. His knowledge is limited to fallen human nature. He may know God from a distance, but he cannot bridge the gap between himself and God, between creation and the Creator, or between earth and heaven. The faith of any old woman submits to Christ without philosophy. Such faith must bind us all together in one Body as we all submit in belief to what our reason could never obtain. The faith of any old woman is the pattern and model of the Christian’s union with God the Father, through the Son, and by the Spirit. Such faith in God’s good work alone can save and reconcile all men to God. Faith discovers what reason can never find.