Saturday, August 16, 2008

A puzzle regarding Faith and authority

Aquinas on unbelief:
Unbelief may be taken in two ways: first, by way of pure negation, so that a man be called an unbeliever, merely because he has not the faith. Secondly, unbelief may be taken by way of opposition to the faith; in which sense a man refuses to hear the faith, or despises it, according to Isaiah 53:1: "Who hath believed our report?" It is this that completes the notion of unbelief, and it is in this sense that unbelief is a sin. (ST II II 10, 1)
Unbelief, in so far as it is a sin, arises from pride, through which man is unwilling to subject his intellect to the rules of faith, and to the sound interpretation of the Fathers. Hence Gregory says (Moral. xxxi, 45) that "presumptuous innovations arise from vainglory." (ST II II 10, 1 ad 3)

The puzzle that I would like to work on: What is the exact relationship between authority and Tradition and the supernatural virtue of Faith? If the content of the Faith is communicated through Sacred Tradition, can one reject the divinely-given authority of the Church and still have the true theological virtue of faith? And is it possible to accept that there is a divinely-instituted authority while misidentifying who holds that authority? In other words, is that error compatible with the virtue of faith? Can someone who truly believes in sola scriptura have the virtue of faith?

Aquinas on the hatred of God:
As shown above (I-II, 29, 1), hatred is a movement of the appetitive power, which power is not set in motion save by something apprehended. Now God can be apprehended by man in two ways; first, in Himself, as when He is seen in His Essence; secondly, in His effects, when, to wit, "the invisible things" of God . . . "are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made" (Romans 1:20). Now God in His Essence is goodness itself, which no man can hate--for it is natural to good to be loved. Hence it is impossible for one who sees God in His Essence, to hate Him.

Moreover some of His effects are such that they can nowise be contrary to the human will, since "to be, to live, to understand," which are effects of God, are desirable and lovable to all. Wherefore again God cannot be an object of hatred if we consider Him as the Author of such like effects. Some of God's effects, however, are contrary to an inordinate will, such as the infliction of punishment, and the prohibition of sin by the Divine Law. Such like effects are repugnant to a will debased by sin, and as regards the consideration of them, God may be an object of hatred to some, in so far as they look upon Him as forbidding sin, and inflicting punishment. (ST II II 34, 1)

Now if someone knows that a commandment is divinely revealed, and refuses to follow it (and the matter is grave, etc.), that is a mortal sin. Perhaps it is possible to be in invincible ignorance even concerning some of the 10 commandments (broadly understood). However, if one knows that a precept is taught by the Church, and denies the validity of that precept by denying the authority of the one teaching it, is that a sin? Can a Catholic have 'legitimate' doubts about the authority of the Church and still have Faith? Would God move such a doubter through grace towards remedying his error?

Faith is not infused knowledge--it seems that God first move someone to believe in Him (this is easier if he has been baptized and received the infused virtue of Faith). And then, in order for him to receive what God has revealed to us, he must be moved to accept that there is an authority to impart this.

The Bible certainly teaches us certain truths--but is it enough? And does it claim to be the ultimate authority given to us here in this life? Someone who is ignorant of the Magisterium may be moved to accept various truths taught in the Bible through Faith. But certain misunderstandings or even errors may nonetheless remain, and cannot be purged until he is confronted with doubts or arguments against what he accepts on human faith.

Is the Bible so transparent that it can be understood apart from the Rule of Faith? It seems not...
The eunuch was looking for someone to explain the scriptures to him, recognizing (through grace?) that he needed a teacher. By what authority do bible teachers, scripture scholars or commenators teach the meaning of Sacred Scripture?How can their explanations be accepted on anything but human faith?

I was skimming through Cardinal Ratzinger's God's Word: Scripture, Tradition, Office. I should read through it when I have some time...

Friday, August 15, 2008



Western theology could appropriate ἐνέργεια-talk in reference to the acts of the 'new man' and say that they are 'divine'; the question is what is the primary analogate? God Himself? Or something other than God, the Divine Energies?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Monday, August 11, 2008

Sandro Magister: The Pope Theologian Says: The Proof of God Is Beauty

The beauty of art and of music. The wonders of sanctity. The splendor of creation. This is how Benedict XVI defends the truth of Christianity, in a question-and-answer session with the priests of Brixen

A question regarding the theological virtue of faith

I remember writing a paper on the question of theological faith for a class at the seminary; in it I believe I wrote that it is possible for a non-Catholic to possess the virtue of theological faith and yet also hold to certain errors (on the basis of his own will and not through faith). I don't remember the details of that essay. I was reading through the Summa tonight on faith, and came across II II 5, 3. But is it not the case that a sincere Protestant believes that his church is the One True Church of Christ, and assents to the teachings of his church accordingly? A Protestant who does not knowingly and culpably reject the Catholic Church as the true Church, and is unaware that it is the Catholic Church which teaches the truths of the faith.

Through imperfect faith, he can believe in the more important truths (as embodied, for example in the Nicene Creed), which can sustain charity and a Christian spiritual life, and at the same time be ignorant that other 'less important' truths, which he rejects as being 'non-Christian,' actually have been revealed by God?

Faith is not the same as infused knowledge, but is mediated through human beings who have the divinely-given authority to teach. One must believe in God and that He has given authority to His Church to hand on what He has revealed... the error is not in his believing that there is such an authority, but in his identification with a particular person or group of people?

But perhaps the conclusion of this speculation is wrong. I will have to think of some objections when I have time.