The Relation of Reason to Faith

Bruno Niederbacher

in The Oxford Handbook of Aquinas

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780195326093
Published online May 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

The Relation of Reason to Faith

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  • History of Western Philosophy
  • Philosophy of Religion



The article explains how Aquinas conceived the relation between reason and faith. In Aquinas's view the object of faith is God as the first truth and the last end of human longing. The object of faith is related to both, intellect (truth) and rational appetite (last end). Aquinas argued that only those truths belong to the object of faith, which is believed on God's authority. Aquinas called such truths credibles. Aquinas explored the kind of the act involved by doing two things. Firstly, he tried to situate the kind of assent involved in the act of faith by comparing it to other acts of assent to propositions. Second, Aquinas distinguished three aspects of the one interior act of faith with the aid of the traditional formula to believe that God (credere Deum), to believe God (credere Deo), to believe in God (credere in Deum). Aquinas defined the virtue of faith as ‘a habit of the mind whereby eternal life is begun in human beings, making the intellect assent to what is not apparent’. Aquinas claimed that sacred doctrine is a science (scientia). Thus, he thought that the content of faith can fulfill the highest rationality conditions as Aristotle developed them in the Posterior Analytics. The first and most obvious aspect of reason in Aquinas's account of faith is that one believes on the basis of divine testimony

Keywords: faith; credere in Deum; credibles; credere Deo; scientia

Article.  5350 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Philosophy of Religion

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