Vol I No. 7
Daily Thought

St. Thomas Aquinas on the Creed: Part Two

by William J. Martin

Prologue: What is Faith?

The Nature and Effects of Faith –The first thing that is necessary for every Christian is faith, without which no one is truly called a faithful Christian. Faith brings about four good effects. The first is that through faith the soul is united to God, and by it there is between the soul and God a union akin to marriage. “I will espouse you in faith.” (Hosea ii. 20) When a man is baptized the first question that is asked him is: “Do you believe in God?” This is Because Baptism is the first Sacrament of faith. Hence, the Lord said: “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved.” (St. Mark xvi. 16) Baptism without faith is of no value. Indeed, it must be known that no one is acceptable before God unless he have faith. “Without faith it is impossible to please God. (Hebrews xi. 6) St. Augustine explains these words of St. Paul, “All that is not faith is sin. (Romans xiv. 23), in this way: “Where there is no knowledge of the eternal and unchanging truth, virtue, even in the midst of the best moral life is false.”

St. Thomas teaches us that without faith, we cannot hope to understand the Apostles’ Creed since its enumerated articles are not accessible to certain knowledge but belief. Faith or belief relates to the disposition and faculty of soul that is closest to God. God is an invisible Spirit. He cannot be grasped, held, known, or understood by the human mind. He cannot be pinned down and contained within the human mind. And thus, the most honest means by which we can know and hold on to God is by faith. This is the faith that seeks both to understand and to commune with God. Faith is on the way to both but in possession of neither. Thus, given human finitude and fallenness, man relates best and most honestly to God by faith. Faith is on the way back to God. I say back because we come from God and are made to return to Him.

So, we must look at the effects of faith. We come to know things first by their effects and only thereafter in their causes. The first effect of faith is union or communion with God. What binds me to God is faith. By faith and belief, I come into communion with the Maker. How or in what way is rather beyond me. I believe in God must first mean that I am with God and God is with me. We are united. I cannot prove or demonstrate this truth by way of tangible evidence –that I might, say, put in a test-tube or lay out before your senses for perception. I believe in God is a trust and confidence that I have at the outset as I begin to articulate my faith. I believe that ‘if I go up into heaven, thou art there, and if I go down into hell, thou art there also.’ (Psalm ciiiix. 8) This is because I believe that God is being, knowing, and loving. God is Father, Word, and Spirit. God is that being that knows all things and loves all things in immediate proximity to them. I believe in God –the God who makes and creates all things, who has made and created me, and who even now makes and creates a creature like myself who can have faith and believe.

My faith in God involves not only trust and confidence but an entrusting of myself to Him, much like the entrusting of a man to a woman or a woman to a man in Holy Matrimony. With this ring, I thee wed. With my body, I thee worship. And with all my worldly goods, I thee endow. (1662 BCP, Solemnity of Holy Matrimony) A man gives his body, soul, and spirit to his lady. His lady returns the favor to her lord and both become one flesh. The same pertains with God. I give myself wholly to God. God gives himself wholly to me. And we become one spirit.

I believe also that our union will produce pure goodness and joy. My desire for unending goodness and joy is founded on my faith in God, His Son, and His Spirit. I believe that I need to be saved. I desire to be saved because I believe that it alone will bring me true knowledge and love of God’s goodness with unending joy. I believe that this reality can come to me through the Church alone and her Sacraments. I believe that the first Sacrament to bind me God, through Christ, and by the Spirit, is Holy Baptism. In Holy Baptism, I believe that I was incorporated into Christ’s Body. In Holy Baptism, I believe that others lifted me into that body by their belief and sponsorship of my soul as Godparents. I reaffirmed my belief in Holy Confirmation when I came into possession of the faith –that was mine only by substitution until that time. Holy Baptism is mine today because I believe that God the Father has incorporated me into the body of Christ’s death, resurrection, ascension, and glorification through the Holy Spirit. Holy Baptism is mine today because my faith in God the Holy Trinity is alive and productive of virtue. Faith in God alone generates goodness and virtue of the kind that leads back to God’s kingdom. All that is not faith is sin. Faith believes in order to embrace salvation. Without faith man tends only towards death –first towards temporal death and then towards that death that is dead to God forever in Hell. Virtue and good works can only ever have merit, value, and worth if they are consecrated by the man who believes in order to know and who knows in order to love. Without knowledge of the eternal and unchanging truth, virtue is limited and constrained to serve earthly and selfish ends that lead to damnation.