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Nature And Grace by Aquinas

Article Six Whether Sacred Doctrine is Wisdom

Whether Sacred Doctrine is Wisdom

We proceed to the sixth article thus:

1. It seems that sacred doctrine is not wisdom. No doctrine which derives its principles from elsewhere is worthy of the name of wisdom. As it is said in Metaph.1, cap.2: |the wise man must order, and not be ordered.| Now the preceding article makes it plain that sacred doctrine derives its principles from outside itself. It follows that it is not wisdom.

2. Again, wisdom proves the principles of other sciences, and is accordingly called the head of the sciences in 6 Ethics 7. But sacred doctrine does not prove the principles of other sciences. It follows that it is not wisdom.

3. Again, sacred doctrine is acquired through study. But wisdom is infused, and is accordingly numbered among the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit in Isa.11. It follows that sacred doctrine is not wisdom.

On the other hand: it is said at the beginning of the law, |this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations| (Deut.4:6).

I answer: this doctrine is the wisdom of all wisdoms, absolutely so, and not only in respect of one kind of wisdom. The wise man orders and judges, and we may say that a man is wise in respect of a certain genus of things when he takes account of the highest cause of that genus, since we judge inferior things by means of a higher cause. An architect who plans the form of a house is said to be wise in regard to buildings, and is called a master-builder in distinction from the subsidiaries who hew the wood and prepare the stones. Thus it is said in I Cor.3:10: |as a wise master-builder, I have laid the foundation.| Again, a prudent man is said to be wise in what matters for the whole of human life, since he directs his human actions to their proper end. Thus it is said in Prov.10:23: |a man of understanding hath wisdom.| Hence he who attends to the absolute and highest cause of the whole universe, which is God, is called wise above all. That is the reason why wisdom is also defined as the knowledge of divine things, as Augustine explains (12 De Trin. c.14). Now it is the quintessence of sacred doctrine that it treats of God as the highest principle, as he is known only to himself, and to others by revelation, not merely as he is known through creatures in the philosophical way spoken of in Rom.1:19: |Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them.| Hence sacred doctrine is especially said to be wisdom.

On the first point: sacred doctrine does not derive its principles from another human science, but from divine knowledge, whereby all our knowledge is ruled as by the highest wisdom.

On the second point: the principles of other sciences are either self-evident and indemonstrable, or proved by natural reason in some other science. But the special principles of this science are founded on revelation, not on natural reason. It is not therefore for sacred doctrine to prove the principles of other sciences, but only to judge them. It repudiates anything in the other sciences which is inconsistent with its truth, as wholly false. Thus it is said in II Cor.10:5: |Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God.|

On the third point: since wisdom judges, and since there are two ways of judging, there are two kinds of wisdom. One may judge as the result of inclination, as does a man who has the habit of virtue, who judges rightly of the things which virtue requires him to do because he is inclined to do them. Thus it is said in 10 Ethics 5 and in 3 Ethics 4: |the virtuous man is the measure and rule of human actions.| One may also judge as the result of knowledge, as one who is versed in the science of morals can judge of virtuous actions even though he is not virtuous. The wisdom which is defined as a gift of the Holy Spirit judges of divine things in the first way, according to I Cor.2:15: |he that is spiritual judges all things,| and as Dionysius relates (2 Div. Nom., lect.4): |Hierotheus was taught not only by learning, but by the experience of divine things.| This doctrine, on the other hand, judges in the second way, since it is acquired through study, even though its principles are received through revelation.

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