Saturday, July 12, 2014

Faith is a Kind of Knowledge


1.  Finally, he asks about the knowledge of God to be had in the present life through grace, and whether it is higher than the knowledge of God available through the use of natural reason.  He gives three objections.

2.  First he cites Denys, to the effect that even one who knows God through grace in the present life, knows him without knowing his essence, and therefore in effect does not know him at all.  This same sort of unknowing is what characterizes the indirect knowledge available through natural reason, though, so it seems that the knowledge given in grace is not essentially higher.

3.  Second, he observes that both the knowledge given through grace and the knowledge possible through natural reason are acquired by the use of the imagination.  Thus, passing through the same faculty, one cannot be essentially higher than the other.

3.  Third, he quotes Gregory the Great, who seems to distinguish between faith and knowledge.  Thus if the faith given through grace in this life is not knowledge, then it cannot be a knowledge superior to that available through natural reason.

4.  For the Sed Contra he cites Paul, who contrasts the knowledge given in faith with the the ignorance of the pagan philosophers.

5.  In the Corpus he explains how the knowledge we have through grace is superior to naturally available knowledge of God.  He says that both kinds of knowledge depend on images received and the intelligible light which enables us to abstract the forms from those things.  Intelligible light, recall from earlier in this question, is another way of referring to the power of the intellect to receive a given form, i.e. to make intelligible to itself an object it is united to.

6.  Now, under natural reason, the images by which we know God are the images of ordinary sensible things, and the intelligible light by which we understand them is our own natural power of understanding.  But under grace, the natural light of the human intellect is augmented by the light of grace, so that what we understand of God from sensible things and from the accounts given to us of revealed truth, is more intelligible.  Additionally, in some cases under grace the mind is given images and other phantasms which conduce to supernatural understanding of divine things otherwise unavailable to the human intellect.  His illustration of this is the appearance of the voice from heaven and the dove at the baptism of Christ.

7.  He answers the objections as follows.  To the first he says while knowledge given through grace in the present life is not adequate to know God’s essence, this knowledge does give us a greater ability to know him through his effects, and are introduced into certain mysteries of the divine essence (e.g. the Trinity).

8.  To the second he says that even though the imagination is employed, images received through grace or made more intelligible by the light of grace disclose greater knowledge than they could by the merely natural use of our faculties.

9.  To the third he reaffirms that faith is a kind of knowledge, inasmuch as through faith the intellect is determined to a knowable object (God revealing himself), but it differs from both ordinary knowledge and the vision of God’s essence in that the determination or reference to the object is not made by vision of the object, but by seeing the one who testifies to the object.  Interestingly this puts faith in an odd position.  In terms of the way the evidence of faith is held, it is in a way inferior to the ordinary sciences available to the human mind, where the first principles can be known directly in experience.  Faith does not give us a perfect science of its object, because its ultimate object is the essence of God, which is hidden from us in the wayfaring state.  Nevertheless, because the testimony of faith is believed on the authority of God himself revealing himself, its evidence outstrips that of any naturally available science.  


- Denys says that in this life all our knowledge of God is as of one unknown.
- Faith and Natural Reason both acquire knowledge through the imagination.
- The object of faith is unseen and therefore faith is not knowledge.

- Natural knowledge is based on the natural light of the intellect and images received from sensible objects.
- Under grace the light of the intellect is augmented supernaturally, so that we can see more of the divine nature in sensible objects we behold.
- Under grace sometimes images and visions are given which are matter for a more profound understanding of divine things.

- In faith we know the effects of God more clearly, and know certain mysteries of the Essence unavailable in natural knowledge.
- By the light of grace the images received in the imagination are more conducive to knowledge of God.
- In faith the intellect is determined to a particular knowable object, not by vision but by testimony.

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