Intelligo Ut Credam (I Know in Order to Believe) by Kenneth A. Holt The influence of Aristotle on Thomas Aquinas is evident from the fact that Thomas gave had to give knowledge gained by human reason quite a different value from what was usual in the theological tradition. There was no disputing the fact that reason has its own independence against faith. The new desire for knowledge, for science, had to be taken seriously. Earlier theologians had proved the justification for reason alongside faith. But, as he shows in the introductions to his two Summas, "Thomas felt compelled to prove the justification for faith alongside reason (rationem fidei)."1 This was a completely new challenge which forced him to think through the relationship between faith and reason in a new, fundamental way. For Thomas, there was no question that philosophy exists in its own right alongside theology. Not by permission of the church, but because of the nature of the order of creation. "The creator God himself has endowed human beings with understanding and reason. Science is a daughter of God because God is the Lord of the sciences (Deus scientiarum dominus)."2 If one takes this seriously, the result is a liberating shift for all theology: a shift towards the creaturely and empirical, a shift towards rational analysis, and a shift towards scientific research. To be more precise, Thomas understood that in view of the new significance of reason, it was no longer appropriate to seek to combine the whole of reality without distinction into one great philosophical and theological union of reason and faith. Augustine s thought was no further use here, important though it remained in other spheres. No, in this time, no thought was publicly defensible in which philosophical truth was not a superior one with revealed truth, in which philosophical arguments could not be used for interpretation of the Bible and, on the other hand, biblical quotations could not be used as a basis for philosophical thought. So what was required? Another, purer method which created an utterly rational basis for theology. So we understand Thomas only if we understand his basic interpretative reasoning decision. It consists in a fundamental distinction between the modes of knowledge, levels of knowledge, and thus the sciences: 1) There are two different human modes of knowledge (directions of knowledge) - it is important to analyze precisely what natural reason is capable of and what comes from faith through grace. 2) There are two different human levels of knowledge (perspectives of knowledge) - it is important to distinguish precisely what human beings know, as it were from below , within the limits of their horizon of experience, from what they know from above , from God s own perspective through inspired Holy Scripture. In other words, what belongs on the lower level of natural truths and what belongs on the upper level: revealed, supernatural truth.
3) So, there are two different sciences - a precise distinction must be made between what philosophy can know in principle and what theology can know. What are we to learn from Aristotle (the philosopher) and what are we to learn from the Bible? So according to Thomas, human reason is given a wide sphere in which it can be independently active in knowledge. For even the existence and properties of God, God s work as creator, the existence of an immortal soul, and many ethical insights are "natural truths which human beings can know, indeed demonstrate by reason alone, without revelation."3 And faith? Faith, in the strict sense is, necessary for the acceptance of certain higher truths of revelation. These include the mysteries of the Trinity or the incarnation of God in Jesus of Nazareth, and also the primal state and last state , the fall and redemption of human beings and the world. These truths transcend human reason; they cannot be proved rationally but are beyond reason, though they should not be confused with "irrational" truths, which can be refuted rationally. Because of this twofold possibility of knowing God, and the twofold mode of knowing the truth about God, while philosophy (including the philosophical doctrine of God) and theology are not to be separated, since they speak of the same God, they are to be distinguished because the speak differently of God. Here philosophy proceeds rationally from below , from the creation and creatures, while theology proceeds, in faith, from above , from God. Nevertheless, reason and faith, philosophy and theology, should support each other since, being both rooted in the one truth of God, they are compatible. In this theology intelligo ut credam (I know in order to believe) stands in the foreground instead of Augustine s credo ut intelligam (I believe in order to know).4 1. T. Aquinas; Treatise on Law; pp. 63 2. H. Kung; Great Christian Thinkers; pp. 109 3. T. Penelhum; Immortality; pp.92 4. http://www.epas.utoronto.ca:8080/ loughlin/index.html Bibliography: St. Thomas Aquinas Treatise on Law Gateway, 1970 Hans Kung Great Christian Thinkers Continuum, 1996 Terence Penelhum (Editor) Immortality Wadsworth, 1973 Stephen Loughlin s Homepage - Aquinas http://www.epas.utoronto.ca:8080/ loughlin/index.html