Whether to Believe God, to Believe that there is a God, and to Believe in God are rightly Distinguished as Acts of Faith
We proceed to the second article thus:
1. It seems that to believe God, to believe that there is a God, and to believe in God are not rightly distinguished as acts of faith. For only one act springs from a single habit, and faith is a single habit, since it is a single virtue. It is therefore wrong to attribute several acts to faith.
2. Again, what is common to all acts of faith should not be regarded as an act of faith of a particular kind. Now |to believe God| is common to all acts of faith, since faith takes its stand on the first truth. It seems wrong, therefore, to distinguish this from other acts of faith.
3. Again, we cannot regard anything as an act of faith, if it can be affirmed even of unbelievers. Now even unbelievers |believe that there is a God.| We should not, therefore, regard this as an act of faith.
4. Again, movement towards an end is an act of the will, the object of which is the good, or the end, whereas belief is an act of the intellect, not of the will. Now |to believe in God| implies movement towards an end. It should not then be regarded as one distinguishable kind of belief.
On the other hand: Augustine makes this distinction in De Verbis Domini (Sermo 61, cap.2), and also in Tract.29 in Joan.
I answer: the act of any power or habit is understood from the relation of that power or habit to its object. Now the object of faith may be considered in three ways. As we said in reply to the third point in the preceding article, to believe is an act of the intellect as moved by the will to give its assent. The object of faith may therefore be understood either in relation to the intellect itself, or in relation to the will which moves the intellect, and there are two ways in which the object of faith is related to the intellect, as we said in Q.1, Art.1. In the first place, it is the material object of faith. The act of faith is then |to believe that there is a God,| since nothing is an object of faith unless it relates to God, as we said also. In the second place, the object of faith may be understood in its formal meaning, as the ground upon which the intellect assents to something as a matter to be believed. The act of faith is then |to believe God,| since the formal object of faith is the first truth, on which a man takes his stand when he assents to what he believes on the strength of it. Finally, the object of faith may be considered in relation to the intellect as moved by the will. The act of faith is then |to believe in God,| since the first truth is referred to the will, having the character of an end.
On the first point: these three do not denote different acts of faith, but one and the same act in different relations to the object of faith. The reply to the second point is then obvious.
On the third point: unbelievers do not |believe that there is a God| in the sense in which this can be regarded as an act of faith. They do not believe that God exists under the conditions which faith defines. Hence they do not really believe that there is a God. As the philosopher says (9 Metaph., text 22), |with incomposites, to know them imperfectly is not to know them at all.|
On the fourth point: as we said in 12ae, Q.9, Art.1, the will moves the intellect and the other powers of the soul to the end. In this regard the act of faith is said to be |to believe in God.|