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Vol I No. 1
Theology & Liturgy

St. Thomas Aquinas, On the Creed, Part Seven

by William J. Martin

Then, again, if one were willing to believe only those things which one knows with certitude, one could not live in this world. How could one live unless one believed others? How could one know that this man is one’s own father? Therefore, it is necessary that one believe others in matters which one cannot know perfectly for oneself. But no one is so worthy of belief as is God, and hence they who do not believe the words of faith are not wise, but foolish and proud. As the Apostle says: “He is proud, knowing nothing” [1 Tim 6:4].And also: “I know whom I have believed; and I am certain” [2 Tim 1:12].And it is written: “You who fear the Lord, believe Him and your reward shall not be made void” [Sir 2:8].Finally, one can say also that God proves the truth of the things which faith teaches. Thus, if a king sends letters signed with his seal, no one would dare to say that those letters did not represent the will of the king. In like manner, everything that the Saints believed and handed down to us concerning the faith of Christ is signed with the seal of God. This seal consists of those works which no mere creature could accomplish; they are the miracles by which Christ confirmed the sayings of the apostles and of the Saints.

Contrary to the postmodern dogmatic assertion that faith is not part of the usual lives of even non-believers, St. Thomas makes his point. Faith or belief are part and parcel of any human being’s relatively successful non-religious existence. (Of course, all men are religious by reason of making moral choices all the time –but that is for another time.) Faith and belief for St. Thomas are necessary dispositions of intellectual posture without which man could not survive. We believe other people all the time. Jack just stepped out for a few minutes; he’ll return soon. Jill is at the hairdressers but knows that you will be here at 1:00. And so forth. We believe all sorts of things that enable us to continue on or order our lives in a successful fashion. I believe also that Peter is my father. To be sure, if I had to, I could prove it with a DNA test. But belief is as likely to come up with the same answer without bothering with all of that. Believing others is a necessary part of regular and normal human existence. And if we believe others, why shouldn’t we also believe in the One who knows with far more certainty and truth? Belief in God is not irrational and illogical. Rather, it is a rational extension of what is already at work in our belief of other men. It is a rational extension since we are merely reaching beyond others to the One whose knowledge not only informs theirs but makes them believable in the first place. We rest on belief in others because we are made to rest on belief in the cause of belief. God is the cause and reason for belief. Faith seeks understanding and in understanding it comes to certain knowledge of God. Faith seeks to find the source, origin, and cause of all. Faith finds God and comes to know God. Of course, the certainty is not something that can be proved by temporal and created means. It is a believed certainty and this means that it is a gift that is forever being discovered as God rewards relief with the power to overcome sin and infuse righteousness. God proves His own existence through the power that accompanies the faith of the righteous man. Christ is the only righteous man who has ever lived. Christ as Man proves or gives evidence of God’s power, not only in miracles but in His own received ability to conquer sin, death, and Satan on the Cross and to lift human nature into the new life of Resurrection and Ascension. We have faith in this reality because it was witnessed and passed on to us by the Apostles and their successors.

If, however, you would say that no one has witnessed these miracles, I would reply in this manner. It is a fact that the entire world worshipped idols and that the faith of Christ was persecuted, as the histories of the pagans also testify. But now all are turned to Christ—wise men and noble and rich—converted by the words of the poor and simple preachers of Christ. Now, this fact was either miracle or it was not. If it is miraculous, you have what you asked for, a visible fact; if it is not, then there could not be a greater miracle than that the whole world should have been converted without miracles. And we need go no further. We are more certain, therefore, in believing the things of faith than those things which can be seen, because God’s knowledge never deceives us, but the visible sense of man is often in error.

The greatest miracle is the life of Christ. If it is a miracle that so many Christians through the centuries have believed, then we have the facts that prove that Christ is the Son of God and our Mediator, Advocate, Redeemer, and Saviour. If it is not a miracle, then it would be miraculous that the whole world was converted without a miracle. So, the power of God in Christ has proved itself in history either way. And this unseen object of our faith provides us with greater certainty than the operation of our senses in relation to things seen and perceived. The senses deceive us. But the object of our faith does not deceive us. It does not deceive us because God is not a deceiver. We believe that it is far more likely that Christ has conquered sin, death, and Satan, that He has risen, is ascended, is glorified and is Pentecostally present because the God we know does not deceive and always assists His people in need according to the logic and rationality of created substances. Created substances come from God and imitate the laws of His Being. Thus, we believe that this same God brings man to His appointed end by the Law of His Love in Jesus Christ. We believe also that God would not deceive so many in so many ages. Were this not the truth, God would have interceded to correct the error. Some say that God did intercede to correct it through Mohamed. But Mohamed is not to be trusted. His “visions” were not verified by eye-witnesses. He was his own verifier and interpreter. Such alone overcomes the fact that many have been and are to this day deceived by him.  

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