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Nature And Grace by Aquinas

Article Two Whether Unformed Faith is a Gift of God

Whether Unformed Faith is a Gift of God

We proceed to the second article thus:

1. It seems that unformed faith is not a gift of God. For it is said in Deut.32:4: |His work is perfect.| But unformed faith is imperfect. It is therefore not the work of God.

2. Again, just as an act is said to be deformed because it lacks the form which it ought to have, so is faith said to be unformed because it lacks the form which it ought to have. Now it was said in 12ae, Q.79, Art.2, that a deformed act of sin is not due to God. Neither then is unformed faith due to God.

3. Again, whomsoever God heals, he heals completely. For it is said in John 7:23: |If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day?| Now by faith a man is healed of infidelity. Hence anyone who receives the gift of faith from God is healed of all his sins. But this is possible only by means of faith which is formed. Formed faith only, therefore, is a gift of God. It follows that unformed faith is not a gift of God.

On the other hand: the gloss by Augustine on I Cor., ch.13, says that |the faith which lacks charity is a gift of God| (Sermo 5).

I answer: lack of form is a kind of privation. A privation sometimes belongs to the specific nature of a thing. At other times it does not, but is merely added to something which already conforms to its specific nature. For example, deficiency in the balance of the fluids of the body belongs to the specific nature of sickness, whereas darkness does not belong to the specific nature of the atmosphere, but is something added to it. Now when we assign a cause to anything, what we understand to be assigned as its cause is that which causes the thing to be of its own specific nature. Hence we cannot say that anything is the cause of a thing to whose specific nature a privation belongs, if it is not the cause of this privation itself. We cannot, for example, say that anything is the cause of bodily sickness, if it is not the cause of unbalance in the fluids of the body. On the other hand, we can say that something is the cause of the atmosphere, even if it is not the cause of its darkness.

Now in faith, lack of form is not a privation which belongs to the specific nature of faith itself. For faith is said to be unformed because it lacks a form which is added to it from without, as we said in Q.- 4, Art.4. The cause of unformed faith is therefore that which is the cause of faith simply as faith, and this, as we said in the preceding article, is God. Unformed faith is therefore a gift of God.

On the first point: although unformed faith lacks the perfection which pertains to it as a virtue, it is nevertheless perfect in the perfection which suffices for the nature of faith.

On the second point: as we said in Pt. I, Q.48, Art.1, ad 2, and in 12ae, Q.71, Art.6, the deformity of an act belongs to its specific nature as a moral act. For an act is said to be deformed when it lacks the form which is intrinsically right for it, in view of the circumstances in which it is performed. Hence we cannot say that God is the cause of an act which is deformed, because he is not the cause of its deformity. But he is nevertheless the cause of the act, considered as an act. Or we may say that deformity not only implies lack of the form which a thing ought to have, but also implies a contrary disposition so that deformity in an act is like falsehood in faith. Just as an act which is deformed is not due to God, neither is a faith which is false. But acts which are good in themselves are due to God even when they lack the form of charity, as often happens among sinners; just as unformed faith is due to God.

On the third point: one who receives faith from God without receiving charity is not entirely healed of infidelity, since the guilt of his former infidelity is not removed. He is healed partially only, so that he ceases from such sin. For it often happens that a man desists from one act of sin through God causing him to do so, but is prevented from desisting from another by the impulsion of his own iniquity. Thus God sometimes gives a man the gift of faith without the gift of charity, just as he gives to some men the gift of prophecy, or something similar, without charity.

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