Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Paraphrasing the Summa: First part, Question 1, Article 5

Question 1: The nature and extent of sacred doctrine.

Is Christian doctrine revealed by God?  Does it teach us about the supernatural as well as the natural?

Article 5. Whether sacred doctrine is nobler than other sciences?

Is Christian doctrine more important than other sciences?

Objection 1. It seems that sacred doctrine is not nobler than other sciences; for the nobility of a science depends on the certitude it establishes. But other sciences, the principles of which cannot be doubted, seem to be more certain than sacred doctrine; for its principles — namely, articles of faith — can be doubted. Therefore other sciences seem to be nobler.
Christian doctrine is not superior to any other science because it is based upon faith.  Since faith is not provable and since many do not believe, then Christian doctrine is not superior to other sciences whose articles can be proven and demonstrated.
Objection 2. Further, it is the sign of a lower science to depend upon a higher; as music depends on arithmetic. But sacred doctrine does in a sense depend upon philosophical sciences; for Jerome observes, in his Epistle to Magnus, that "the ancient doctors so enriched their books with the ideas and phrases of the philosophers, that thou knowest not what more to admire in them, their profane erudition or their scriptural learning." Therefore sacred doctrine is inferior to other sciences.
Christian doctrine is also inferior to other sciences because, as the great St. Jerome admits in his letter to Magnus, the ancient teachers of the Christian faith relied more on philosophy than on the divine revelation of God.  Therefore, its own instructors did not consider it a superior science.
On the contrary, Other sciences are called the handmaidens of this one: "Wisdom sent her maids to invite to the tower" (Proverbs 9:3).
 No, says St. Thomas.  In fact, the lesser sciences are called the servants of this one, as it is also recorded in Sacred Scripture.
I answer that, Since this science is partly speculative and partly practical, it transcends all other speculative and practical.
Christian doctrine is so grand that it encompasses and exceeds all other sciences, whether they ponder truth or apply it.
Now one speculative science is said to be nobler than another, either by reason of its greater certitude, or by reason of the higher worth of its subject-matter. In both these respects this science surpasses other speculative sciences;
One soft or contemplative science may be said to be superior to another because it is considered more certain or because of the greater value of its material.  Christian science exceeds all sciences for both these reasons.
in point of greater certitude, because other sciences derive their certitude from the natural light of human reason, which can err; whereas this derives its certitudefrom the light of divine knowledge, which cannot be misled:
There is no greater certitude than that which is revealed by God.  Therefore, Christian Doctrine in Scripture and Tradition is infallible when taught by the Catholic Church.
in point of the higher worth of its subject-matter because this science treats chiefly of those things which by their sublimity transcend human reason;
And what more beautiful and of greater value than truths revealed by God which can not be discovered by the unaided human mind?   
while other sciences consider only those things which are within reason's grasp.
Whereas, other sciences are limited to those things which man can understand. 
Of the practical sciences, that one is nobler which is ordained to a further purpose, as political science is nobler than military science; for the good of the army is directed to the good of the State.
As for the applied sciences, some of them serve other sciences and are therefore inferior to those which they serve.  For instance military science serves political science because the army is at the service of the state.   
But the purpose of this science, in so far as it is practical, is eternal bliss; to which as to an ultimate end the purposes of every practical science are directed. Hence it is clear that from every standpoint, it is nobler than other sciences.
Christian Doctrine, however, contains God's plan of salvation for mankind.  There is no greater purpose and all other sciences serve to achieve this purpose.  Therefore, Christian Doctrine is the greatest of all sciences. 
Reply to Objection 1. It may well happen that what is in itself the more certain may seem to us the less certain on account of the weakness of our intelligence, "which is dazzled by the clearest objects of nature; as the owl is dazzled by the light of the sun" (Metaph. ii, lect. i).
As for certitude.  It appears to us that other sciences which can be proven in human fashion are more certain than the articles of faith expressed in Christian Doctrine.  But there is nothing more certain than the truths revealed by God.
Hence the fact that some happen to doubt about articles of faith is not due to the uncertain nature of the truths, but to the weakness of human intelligence;
The truth does not depend upon our ability to understand it.  The fact that some humans doubt Christian doctrine does not make Christian doctrine less certain. 
yet the slenderest knowledge that may be obtained of the highest things is more desirable than the most certain knowledge obtained of lesser things, as is said in de Animalibus xi.
And it is better for humans to minimally grasp these divinely revealed truths because of their greater worth, than for them to have an absolutely certain understanding of the profane things taught in other sciences.  Thus says St. Albert the Great in his book, "de Animalibus, chapter XI".

Reply to Objection 2. This science can in a sense depend upon the philosophical sciences, not as though it stood in need of them, but only in order to make its teaching clearer.
Christian doctrine does not depend upon philosophy to provide principles upon which it stands.  But only uses philosophical articles in order to better express its own.
For it accepts its principles not from other sciences, but immediately from God, by revelation.
Because the principles of Christian doctrine come directly from God. 
Therefore it does not depend upon other sciences as upon the higher, but makes use of them as of the lesser, and as handmaidens: even so the master sciences make use of the sciences that supply their materials, as political of military science. That it thus uses them is not due to its own defect or insufficiency, but to the defect of our intelligence, which is more easily led by what is known through natural reason (from which proceed the other sciences) to that which is above reason, such as are the teachings of this science.
Since Christian doctrines come directly from God, they exceed our capacity to understand them.  Therefore, examples are drawn from other disciplines, which are more accessible to us, in order that the weakness of our intellect may draw analogies from these worldly truths and begin to understand the higher principles of Christian doctrine.

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