Monday, November 30, 2009

Albert the Great on Implicit Faith

Article 4
Whether an article [of faith] binds one to believe explicitly or implicitly?

To the fourth is sought, when it is said that an article binds one to believe, whether it binds one to believe explicitly or implicitly?

Now it seems that it binds one to believe implicitly.

1. By authorities: for man is not bound to believe those things said which in no way are made clear to the understanding, from which proceeds everything believable, as was established above. But what even the angels do not know, in no way are clear to man. “Who is this who comes from Edom?”(Isaiah 63:1) A gloss of Jerome says on this: “It is declared openly, that certain angels did not fully know the mystery of the incarnation, until it was accomplished.”

2. The same [is shown] from the letter to the Ephesians: “That the manifold wisdom of God may be made known to the princes and powers in the heavens, etc.” (Ephesians 3:10) Therefore it seems that neither is man bound to know this explicitly.

3. The same [is shown] from Chrysostom in his third homily upon John: “We are greatly honored, because the angels learned together with us by the voice of John.”

4. The same [is shown] by the verse “Collect the fragments which abound lest they be wasted,” (John 6:12) the Gloss says: “The fragments are the sacred mysteries, which the common people cannot grasp.” Therefore it seems that one is not bound to believe the articles [of faith] explicitly.

5. The same [is shown] from the letter to the Ephesians “What is the dispensation of the mystery hidden from eternity in God,” (Ephesians 3:9) the Gloss says “I.e, kept secret from every age of creatures, and existing only in the knowledge of God.”

6. The same [is shown] by reason thus: In the demonstration of knowable things, something happens to be known implicitly in the universal, which nevertheless can be doubted in the particular; just as we know universally that every triangle has three angles equal to two rights, and nevertheless I am able to doubt of this wooden triangle whether it has three angles equal to two rights. Therefore much more can this happen in faith, which is wholly above reason.

7. The same [is shown thus]: if it should be said that the articles [of faith] bind to explicit belief, already many would have been damned, and would be damned even today, who do not know the distinction of the articles [of faith].

8. Furthermore, according to this even other things than the articles [of faith] would bind to belief: because it is said “By faith we understand the world to have been framed by the word of God, that from invisible things visible should be made.”

9. The same [is shown thus]: By faith Moses, having been born was hidden for three months, etc. Also by faith Rahab the harlot did not perish with the unbelievers, and there are many of these sort of thing which do not belong to the articles [of faith], and nevertheless they are received under faith as following faith. Therefore it seems that someone is not bound to believe explicitly.

10. Furthermore, this is said in the letter in the second part of the distinction.

Sed Contra:

1. Boethius says that evil is not avoided unless known: but one is bound to avoid infidelity against any article [of faith]. Therefore one is bound to know something explicitly.

2. The same [is shown from the verse] “But I testify to every man circumcising himself, that he is a debtor to perform the whole law.” Therefore likewise, to the one receiving faith it is necessary to believe all the articles [of faith] explicitly.

3. The same [is shown thus]: if it sufficed one to believe implicitly omnipotence and redemption in any manner one wishes, then all the philosophers and many heretics had implicit faith: but this is false. Therefore explicit faith is required.

4. The same [is shown from Leviticus]. it is said of the cleansing of the leper, “He shall offer for his own cleansing a sextarium of oil” and the Gloss says, that the sextarium of oil is the measure of faith, which if it is more, overflows, but if less, it is deficient. Therefore one is bound to offer the whole measure of the articles [of faith].

5. The same [is shown from Deuteronomy]. Moses is commanded that clearly and openly he should write upon the rocks, and the Gloss says that the rocks are the common people. Therefore one is bound to believe the articles [of faith] clearly and distinctly.

6. Likewise, faith is from hearing, but hearing through the word of Christ, as it is said in Romans X, 17. But hearing explains all things, and similarly the word of God proposes nothing implicitly: therefore it seems that the faithful also ought to believe something explicitly.

7. Likewise, we see that common people are held and examined about the most hidden articles of Faith: and if they are found to fall away and to be ignorant, they are considered as heretics: therefore it seems that they are bound to know and believe explicitly.

8. Likewise, let us suppose that a certain simple old and pious person, who has reverence for his pastor, of whom he knows no evil, hears heresy from his own pastor and believes it, because he thinks whatever he says ought to be believed. Surely we would not say that he is damned if he dies in such a state? Or if it becomes known, surely he would not be burned as a heretic? It seems not, because ignorance excuses from the whole. But if you should say that he should be burned, it follows that he will be bound to know the articles [of faith] explicitly, even if not taught by another: because if he should be taught, it will be necessary for him to be taught by his own pastor.

9. Likewise, Charity concerns loving God and neighbor, and it is necessary to know both distinctly. Therefore since Faith is related in a similar way to the articles [of Faith], it seems that faith ought to know distinctly the articles [of Faith].

Solution. Without precedent, I say that neither before the coming [of Christ], nor after, is one bound to explicitly know the articles [of Faith] without divine revelation and teaching, but implicitly; but with this supposition [held] most certainly without doubt: that revelation belongs to the Church, and is always made by the Church. And whoever are greater, are called such because by them others are instructed: And this is done in one way now, in another way formerly. For formerly revelation was made for the manifestion of the articles[of Faith], but now it is made for their exposition, because everything has been declared which is necessary to be believed. Therefore simple people before and after the coming, are not bound to believe explicitly, but implicitly only, except inasmuch they are taught by greater people, and are able through teaching to perceive with understanding. Those who preceded [the coming] were less bound on account of the teaching which was then in shadow, but those who came after are more bound on account of the open teaching of the truth.

It should be said therefore to the first against what is objected, that Boethius speaks the truth. But there is a twofold knowledge, namely, explicit and implicit. For it is not necessary for me to know every evil in particular, but only under the counsel of the wise, so that if something should happen which is uncertain whether it is evil, I may go to the wise, and I will avoid [making] this judgment. Likewise, if a new doctrine is proposed in the Faith, I may go to a priest, and I may believe his judgment, or not.

To the next it should be said that he is a debtor to the whole of Faith implicitly, so that he may disbelieve nothing of the whole.

To the next it should be said that philosophers and heretics do not believe implicitly, because they disbelieve. But the man who believes implicitly does not disbelieve any article, although he does not know them explicitly.

To the next it should be said that the measure is filled by not disbelieving anything, as was said.

To the next it should be said that this is a caution to explain often and clearly to the laity. But this can be done now in the time of grace, and nevertheless because they have a dull sense, they are not bound to understand explicitly just as it is explained to them. For they receive the explanation according to the power of their own understanding, and not according to the will of the one explaining. But before the coming this could not happen except as the time then permitted, namely in shadows and types. And these were bound less than those.

To the next it should be said that although faith is received distinctly in hearing, nevertheless by the simple that which is heard is not understood, except under a covering, and not distinctly, just as was said before.

To the next it should be said that the laity should not be considered heretics because they do not know to distinguish some articles. But they should be considered heretics when they pertinaciously contradict them when they are explained to them. For they cannot be considered heretics unless they have already received something from heretics contrary to the articles of faith; for if they should be burned because they do not know to distinguish or explicate the articles, the inquisitors themselves ought to be burned, since neither do they know many things well.

To the next it should be said that, in this case the Doctors answer in doubt; but nevertheless all are in agreement that it is a mortal sin to disbelieve an article pertinaciously. But if someone doubts an article while being prepared to change, they say that it is a human temptation. Whence certain persons said that if such a one should persevere in pius works, insofar as he is able, God would illumine her to not believe the priest in such a teaching. But if she does not do whatever she can, then it would be imputed to her own blindness. But this response is uncertain, and cannot be supported by any reason. Therefore others said differently, that if it is about a clear articles which is solemnized in the Church, then she ought to speak to other people, to see whether it is commonly said. For faith is not of an individual, but held in common. And thus she could be instructed. However, if it concerns some more hidden teaching, as for example that fornication is not a sin, or that the body of Christ is not on the altar, but is signified, she ought not to receive this because it is above her own powers, [to understand whether or not it is true] except under the condition that the universal church believes this. And thus she would remain in implicit faith, especially in the case concerning the body of Christ, since in the case of fornication, even the very baseness of its act shows that it is a mortal sin. Nevertheless, this latter case happens often in confession, on account of the lust of the priest who tries to persuade women of this.

To the last it should be said that the case is not similar with charity. For charity is not concerned with the account [of God and neighbor], but only with the object, and it does not distinguish [between God and neighbor], since it loves neighbor only materially; but faith is mixed with a certain knowledge and understanding, and not all are capable of this understanding.