« Prev Art. 6: Whether Matters of Faith ought to be… Next »

Article Six

Whether Matters of Faith ought to be Divided into Certain Articles

We proceed to the sixth article thus:

1. It seems that matters of faith ought not to be divided into certain articles. For we ought to have faith in all things contained in sacred Scripture, and these cannot be reduced to any 228definite number of articles, owing to their multitude. It seems superfluous, therefore, to distinguish articles of faith.

2. Again, art should ignore material distinctions, since they may be endless. Now it was said in the first article that the formal meaning of the object of faith is one and indivisible, since it is the first truth, from which it follows that matters of faith cannot be distinguished in respect of their formal meaning. The material distinction between them by means of articles should therefore be omitted as superfluous.

3. Again, it is said by some that “an article is an indivisible truth about God, which constrains us to believe.” But belief is voluntary, since Augustine says “no man believes, unless he wills to believe” (Tract. 24 in Joan.). Hence it seems unfitting that matters of faith should be divided into articles.

On the other hand: Isodorus says: “an article is a perception of the divine truth, to which it tends.” Now it is only through making distinctions that we can perceive the divine truth, since the truth which is one in God is many in our intellect. Matters of faith should therefore be divided into articles.

I answer: the term “article” appears to be derived from the Greek. Now the Greek ἄρθρον, which in Latin is articulus, signifies the putting together of several distinct parts. Thus the small parts of the body which fit neatly together are called the articles of the limbs. In Greek grammar, similarly, the parts of speech which combine with others to denote gender, number, and case are called articles. In rhetoric, also, certain ways of combining parts of speech are called articles. For Tullius says (4 Rhet. ad Heren.): “it is called an article when the single words which compose an utterance are separated by intervals, in this wise—'By your bitterness, by your voice, by your bearing, you have terrified your adversaries.'”

Hence the Christian belief also is said to be divided into articles, in so far as it is divided into parts which fit together. We said in Art. 4 that the object of faith is something unseen which relates to divine things. Now wherever something is unseen for a special reason, there is a special article. But separate articles are not to be distinguished where many things are known or unknown for the same reason. For example, there is one difficulty in seeing how God could suffer, and a different difficulty in seeing how he could rise from the dead. There are accordingly separate articles on the Passion and on the Resurrection. But that he suffered, was dead, and was buried, present the same difficulty, so that if one is accepted, there is no 229difficulty in accepting the others. These are accordingly all contained in the one article.

On the first point: some matters of belief belong to the faith by reason of what they are in themselves, while some matters belong to it not by reason of what they are in themselves, but only because they relate to other things; just as some propositions are put forward in science for the sake of their own meaning, and others merely as illustrations. Now faith is primarily concerned with what we hope to see in the hereafter, according to Heb. 11: 1: “faith is the substance of things hoped for.” Hence those matters which directly order us to eternal life belong to faith by reason of what they are in themselves. Such are the three persons of God Almighty, the mystery of the incarnation of Christ, and the like, for each of which there is a separate article. Other things in sacred Scripture are proposed for belief not as if their meaning were fundamental, but in order to manifest the aforesaid—for example, that Adam had two sons; that a dead man was brought to life at a touch of the bones of Eliseus; and such things as are related in order to manifest the glory of God, or the incarnation of Christ. There is no need for separate articles corresponding to them.

On the second point: the formal meaning of the object of faith can be understood in two ways. If it refers to the reality itself in which we believe, the formal meaning of all matters of faith is one, since it is the first truth, and the articles of faith are not distinguished in respect of it. But the formal meaning of matters of faith can also be understood in relation to ourselves. So understood, the formal meaning of a matter of faith is that it is “not seen.” It is in this latter regard that the articles of faith are distinguished, as has been shown.

On the third point: this definition of an article is the result of attending to the etymology of the word as if it were derived from the Latin, instead of attending to its true meaning as derived from the Greek. It has therefore no great weight. But it may be said that although no one is constrained to believe by any irresistible compulsion, since belief is voluntary, we are nevertheless constrained by a necessity which derives from the end. For as the apostle says: “he that cometh to God must believe that he is,” and “without faith it is impossible to please him” (Heb. 11:6).

« Prev Art. 6: Whether Matters of Faith ought to be… Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection