Welcoming the Light of Dogma | Brian Jones | CWR
The dogmatic teaching of the Church is liberating because truth is not something we create, but a divine gift we receive
During the moral theology class I was teaching this past summer, we read certain sections of St. Thomas Aquinas’ moral treatise in the Secunda Secundae of the Summa Theologiae. In his treatment on the virtue of faith, one question struck me in particular, something that I had read numerous times before, but whose power really caught my eye this time around.
In Question 5, Article 3, St. Thomas considers whether someone who disbelieves one article of faith can have faith in the other articles. While the whole question is worth reading in its entirety, the central, striking passage is from the main body of his response:
Now it is manifest that he who adheres to the teaching of the Church, as to an infallible rule, assents to whatever the Church teaches; otherwise, if, of the things taught by the Church, he holds what he chooses to hold, and rejects what he chooses to reject, he no longer adheres to the teaching of the Church as to an infallible rule, but to his own will.
The heart of St. Thomas’ statement concerns the very nature of faith. Contrary to the mentality of the “new atheists” and those that adhere to the ideology of scientism, much of our everyday lives are characterized by acts of faith. For example, when I walk into a university building on campus, I do not have knowledge that upon entering that the structure will stay in tact. I cannot claim to have a genuine knowledge that such buildings will not collapse if I, or anyone else for that matter, walk inside. What allows me not to be frightened or concerned about the building remaining stable when I am in it stems from an act of trust: I have faith and believe that the building will not collapse. The reason I lack knowledge in this area is that I know almost nothing about engineering, architecture, or any of the necessary skills involved in the building’s construction. Nor was I present when the builders were establishing its foundation and actually constructing the building to get to what it looks like now.
In an analogous way, this is how the gift of supernatural faith works as well.