The relation between reason, faith, and charity.

St Thomas famously calls natural theology the “praeambula fidei” or “preamble to the faith”. Later on, he uses this to object to the idea that faith has any merit:

Objection 1. It would seem that to believe is not meritorious. For the principle of all merit is charity, as stated above. Now faith, like nature, is a preamble to charity. Therefore, just as an act of nature is not meritorious, since we do not merit by our natural gifts, so neither is an act of faith.

He responds saying:

Reply to Objection 1. Nature is compared to charity which is the principle of merit, as matter to form: whereas faith is compared to charity as the disposition which precedes the ultimate form. Now it is evident that the subject or the matter cannot act save by virtue of the form, nor can a preceding disposition, before the coming of the form: but after the advent of the form, both the subject and the preceding disposition act by virtue of the form, which is the chief principle of action

Summa Theologiae, II-II, 2, art 9.

To give an example,  [natural theology/faith/charity] relate like [computers/internet/ blogging] or like [metal/knife/cutting] or like [man/ mechanical knowledge/ fixing a car]. St. Thomas’s idea of “faith and reason” is contained in this (the first two steps) and the dynamic of faith and reason is itself a part of a larger move towards charity (which it self is a motion towards beatitude, but this is a separate point, and not so much a fourth step). A great deal can be mined out of this comparison. While there is something to be seen in understanding that faith and reason are like two wings of a bird, or like getting to the edge of the shore and jumping off the boat, the real paradoxes of faith and reason require that we see them as related like metal and knives or like computers and the internet. In all of this, we can’t forget the further relation and distinction that both nature and faith have to charity (which also involves a relation and distinction between charity and faith/ nature).

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