"The good of the grace of one soul is greater than the good of the nature of the whole universe"
- St Thomas Aquinas Ia IIa, q.24, a. 3, ad 2

— A Commentary on the First Part of St Thomas' Theological Summa

by Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O. P.


Second article: whether sacred doctrine is a science (cont)

Second doubt. With what theological conclusions is this article concerned? It is chiefly concerned with conclusions strictly so called, with those that are inferred by a discursive process which is not only explanatory but also objectively illative, and that establish a new truth which is deduced and distinct from the two truths enuntiated in the premises. In other words, it is a new truth that is not formally but virtually revealed.

It must be noted that there can thus be several distinct truths of the same thing even of the same divine reality; because, although God is most simple as an entity, yet He can be the object of different habits and even more so of different judgments or truths in the same science. Thus three distinct truths are enunciated in the following syllogisms: Every intellectual being is free. But God is intellectual. Therefore God is free.(16) Being is consequent upon person. But in Christ there is only one person. Therefore in Christ there is one being. (17)

These are examples of objectively illative reasoning by which we aquire a new truth. For to say that "God is intellectual," and "God is free," is to enunciate two distinct truths, two true judgments (truth is formally in the mind), although these are enunciated of the same divine reality. If this were not so, we should have to say with the nominalists that the divine names, such as mercy and are synonymous.(18) Father Marin Sola does not stress this point sufficiently in his new theory on the evolution of dogma,(19) about which more will be said later on.

On the other hand, the theological conclusion improperly so called, which is obtained by an explicative process of reasoning is not a new truth but one that has already been revealed and is now more explicitly proposed. Thus the infallibility of the Supreme Pontiff speaking ex cathedra is the same truth as that revealed by Christ when He said: "Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build My Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (20) In the explicative process of reasoning there may be some inference resulting therefrom which is merely of subjective import, or as far as we are concerned, but in itself it means no addition to knowledge. In this way there is no acquisition of a new truth, but the truth that was formally and implicitly revealed is expressed in another form and more explicitly.

On the contrary, in the objectively illative process a new truth is acquired, which is not formally but virtually revealed, and which is deduced from what has been revealed, as in the proposition: t here is one being in Christ. In this we see the specific distinction between theology and faitll, which latter is not a discursive science.

Third doubt. When is the discursive reasoning proper or truly illative? It is generally admitted that such is the case when the conclusion is contained in the premises, as the property is contained in the essence, or the effect in its cause. We have an example of this in the following syllogism: every man is free; but Christ is truly a man; therefore Christ has human liberty (which is distinct from His divine liberty). But this truth thus deduced is otherwise revealed in that it has been revealed that Christ freely obeyed and merited for us. Another example is the following: every man can acquire knowledge by experience and observation; but Christ was truly a man; therefore Christ had acquired knowledge (and not only infused knowledge and the beatific vision). A third example would be: it was fitting that Christ, like His apostles, should have the gift of tongues; but this gift presupposes infused knowledge; therefore Christ had infused knowledge.

On the contrary, we have, the case of discursive reasoning improperly so called, if the conclusion is contained in the whole, or the singular in the universal, or the implicit in the explicit. The following is an example: all men have sinned in Adam; but Abraham was a man; therefore he sinned in Adam. Likewise in the following syllogism: Christ died for all men; but Abraham was a man; therefore Christ died for him. In the same way it is shown that Christ died for the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom He redeemed, but by preservative redemption.

Fourth doubt. What theological conclusions are definable by the Church as dogmas of faith, such that their contradictory propositions would not only be erroneous but heretical? All know the difference between these two terms: erroneous and heretical. A proposition is said to be erroneous when it is against a theologically certain conclusion, and heretical when it is against the faith.

In answer to this we say:
1) All theologians are agreed that the theological conclusion improperly so called is definable as a dogma. The reason is that it is not a question here of a new truth that has been deduced, but of a truth that has already been formally but confusedly or implicitly revealed, such as the infallibility of the Supreme Pontiff when our Lord said: "Thou art Peter. ..." Then the discursive reasoning is only explicative, or at most subjectively but not objectively illative. In this case the discursive method explains only the subject or predicate of the proposition that is expressly revealed Thus it has been revealed that Christ is truly God and truly man. But for true humanity a rational soul is an essential requisite.. Therefore Christ had a rational soul. This conclusion defined against Apollinaris.(21)

For this same reason particular propositions included in an expressly revealed universal proposition are definable as dogmas of faith. Thus we conclude that Abraham contracted original sin, for the universal proposition that has been expressly revealed, "in whom (Adam) all have sinned," (22) covers all particular cases. This assertion is generally admitted by theologians.

2) A conclusion deduced even by a truly illative process of reasoning from two principles that are of faith, is also definable as a dogma of faith.(23) The reason is that, although the conclusion is reached by the illative process, yet specifically as such it is of faith. It is impllicitly revealed, indeed, in the two revealed premises; for a new idea is not introduced, and the connection between predicate and subject can be affirmed by reason of the formal revelation. It is, as it were, the logical explanation of the two propositions taken together that are of faith.

3) A theological conclusion that is deduced by an objectively illative process of reasoning from one premise that is of faith, and another founded on reason, is not of faith in itself, nor can it be for us defined as a dogma of faith. The reason is that this is a new truth that is not simply revealed, but is simply deduced from revelation and is only virtually revealed.(24)

We have an example of this in the following syllogism: being is consequent upon person, so that there is only one substantial existence for each person; but in Christ there is only one person; therefore in Christ there is only one being, namely, the one and only substantial existence for the two natures.(25)

In this discursive method, the major is founded on reason, and the minor is of faith. Hence in the conclusion the connection between the predicate and the subject cannot be affirmed solely on account of the authority of God revealing, but partly because of the revelation contained in the minor, and partly on account of the light of natural reason, by which we are impelled to give our assent to the major premise. Therefore this conclusion belongs directly to theology and not to faith.

In other words, this conclusion is not simply revealed (not even implicitly), but it is simply deduced from revealed principles and is only virtually revealed. Hence if the Church were to propose it as a dogma of faith, the contradictory of which would be heresy, the Church would be uttering what is false, because it would propose as simply revealed and to be believed on the authority of God revealing, what is not simply revealed but merely deduced from what is revealed. But the Church can condemn infallibly as erroneous the denial of such a deduced conclusion.

Another example: infused knowledge is necessary so that the human intellect may not remain imperfect but may know, for instance, various languages not known by one's natural powers; but it was not to be thought of that Christ's human intellect even in this life should be imperfect; therefore Christ even in this life had infused knowledge.(26) This conclusion is not of faith, nor is it definable as a dogma of faith.

In these truly illative processes of reasoning a new truth is inferred in that from the premise known by the natural power of reason (especially if this premise is the major), a new truth is introduced, and we have not merely an explanation of the subject or predicate of the revealed proposition. Such conclusions - (if not otherwise equivalently revealed in Sacred Scripture or tradition) are not defined by.the Church. But the Church sometimes condemns, and even infallibly, as erroneous, opinions that deny theologically, certain conclusions.

For a more complete explanation of the conclusion just stated, we must add that, according to the Vatican Council, "all those things are to be believed with divine and Catholic faith which are contained in the word of God written or handed down, and which the Church, either by a solemn judgment or by her ordinary and universal teaching, proposes for our belief as having been divinely revealed."(27) This is the definition of dogma. But that which is only connected with what is revealed, cannot be said to be simple and strictly revealed, but is distinguished from what is revealed as being deduced from it.

Moreover, if the Church defined as a dogma such a conclusion, it would not only be infallibly guarding and explaining the deposit of the faith, but it would be perfecting the teaching that is of faith and would be establishing new dogmas; for by this definition it would be declaring of faith what before was not of faith, either in itself or for us.

Finally, if the above-mentioned theological conclusions were definable as dogmas of faith, then all theologically certain conclusions, even those most remote, would be equally definable as dogmas, and all conclusions condemned as erroneous could be condemned as heretical in the strict sense of the term. thus a great part of the Theological Summa and, especially so, practically the whole treatise on God and His attributes, rigorously deduced from revealed principles, could become dogmas of faith.

We must therefore carefully distinguish between a theological conclusion that is only virtually connected with what is revealed, and a truth that is formally and implicitly revealed. Yet in individual cases it is not always easy to make this distinction. For what seems to the majority virtually connected with that which is revealed to one of prodigious and keener intellect appears to be formally and implicitly revealed. There are Thomists who see in the words of St. Paul, "It is God who worketh in you, both to will and to accomplish, according to His good will," (28) a formally implicit revelation that grace is efficacious of itself and not because God foresees our consent. They come to the same conclusion from the following words of our Lord: "My sheep . . . shall not perish forever, and no man shall pluck them out of My hand . . . and no one can snatch them out of the hand of My Father." (29) In accordance with these texts, for many Thomists, an explicative process of reasoning, and one that is objectively illative, suffices to show that grace is of itself efficacious, because it concerns not a new truth that is deduced, but the same truth more explicitly formulated.(30)"

Objection. Father Marin Sola disagrees, saying that at least if it concerns God, a conclusion obtained by a truly illative process of reasoning from one premise that is founded on reason and another that is of faith, is revealed, because it concerns the same most simple divine reality.(31)

We reply to this objection by appealing to the classical distinction given by Cajetan.(32) That the premises of faith and the abovementioned mentioned theological conclusion concern the same divine reality, as an entity, this I concede; as an object, this I deny. For the same divine reality specifies various specifically distinct habits, as it is variously presented to them as object, namely, as clearly seen, or as obscurely believed, or as the object of the gift of wisdom, or as the object of sacred theology, or as the object of natural theology. With greater reason it can be the object of several propositions in the same science, or of several judgments, which are different truths (truth is formally in the mind) of the same divine reality.

For it is evident that, if for the same divine reality there is only one truth for the divine intellect, which by one intuitive act knows the divine essence, for the created intellect, however, and especially for the human intellect, there are several true judgments and truths concerning the same divine reality, as, for example, God is intellectual, God is free, God is just, God is merciful. But it is now a question not of the divine intellect, but of the human intellect with reference to which a distinction must be made between truth that is revealed and truth that is deduced from what is revealed.

Moreover, by this method, in seeking to avoid nominalism, the mind would revert to the same, according to the theory that claims divine names to be synonymous terms, a theory which is refuted by St. Thomas.(33) Thus divine mercy and justice would be synonymous and it could therefore be said that God punishes by means of His mercy.

Finally, if the above-mentioned opinion were true, then all conclusions in the treatise on God, even those most remote, provided they are metaphysically certain, could be defined as dogmas under pain not only of error, but of heresy in the strict sense. Thus merely revealed truth concerning God, namely, that He is the self-subsisting Being, would suffice to render all conclusions deduced from it such that they could be said to be strictly revealed, and to be believed on the authority of God revealing.

This seems to be an inadmissible exaggeration of the powers assigned to theology, or what is called theologism, and consequently it impairs the superiority of faith to theology.

Instance. For anything to be defined as a dogma of faith, it suffices that it is contained actually and implicitly in what is revealed; but any divine attribute whatever is contained actually and implicitly the divine nature, since this is the self-subsisting Being ("I am who am"); (34) therefore any divine attribute deduced from revelation is a dogma of faith.(35)

Reply. I distinguish the major: provided it is the same truth, this I concede; even if it is a new truth that is deduced, this I deny. And this Father Marin Sola concedes.(36) I contradistinguish the minor that every divine attribute is actually and implicitly contained in the divine nature, and that each is the same truth for the human intellect, this I deny; that each is a new and deduced truth, this I concede.

Explanation. One divine attribute is actually and implicitly contained in another and in the divine nature, considered reduplicatively as a divine reality, this I concede; considered as an object, so that each is the same truth, again I distinguish: that it is so for the divine intellect, I concede; for the human intellect, this I deny.

Otherwise, as we said, all divine names, for instance, justice and mercy would be synonymous terms, and it could be said that God punishes by means of His mercy. Moreover, the revelation of merely one proposition about God would be sufficient, namely, that He is the subsisting Being, so that from this all the deduced attributes and all the metaphysically certain propositions in the treatise on God could be defined as of faith.

For a dogmatic definition it is necessary that the definition should be the expression of a truth that is the same with what has already been formally and explicitly revealed, and that is not explicitly proposed for our belief. Now even being in general contains actually and implicitly all the modes of being, for these are not outside of being; and yet, concerning these modes, namely, substance, quantity, and quality, new truths are enumerated.

Index Top


16. Ibid., Ia, q. 19, a. 1i, 10.

17. Ibid., IIIa, q. 17, a. 2.

18. Ibid., Ia, q. 13, a.4.

19. In L'Evolution homogene du dogme catholique (French tr., III, 333), we read two propositions that have the same subject differ or are identical in meaning, according to their predicates. If therefore the predicates are really identical, the meaning of the propositions will be also." Although justice and mercy are really identical in God, and not really distinct, the meaning of these two truths is not the same: God is just, God is merciful. This point is of primary importance; if it is denied, we are led involuntarily to the admission of nominalism.

20. Matt. 16: 18.

21. Cf John of St. Thomas, in Ilam, q. 1, disp. 2, a.4, no.16.

22. Rom. 5: 12.

23. Cf. Salmanticenses, De fide, disp. I, dub. IV, no. 127.

24. So say the Salmanticenses (ibid., no. 124), who quote for this same opinion such famous thomists as Cajetan, Capreolus, Bannez, John of St. Thomas, against Vega, Vasquez, Suarez, and Lugo. Cf. Dictionnaire de theol. cath., art. "Explicite et implicite"; also art. "Dogme."

25. Cf Summa theol., IIIa, q. 17, a.2.

26. Ibid., IIIa, q. 9, a. 3.

27. Denz.., no. 1792.

28. Phil 2: 13.

29. John10: 27-29.

30. As for the contrary opinion, namely, that the Church can define as a dogma of faith, theological conclusions in the strict sense of the term, those which are deduced by an objectively illative process of reasoning, cf. Vega, In Trident.,
Bk. IX, chap. 39; Suarez, De fide, disp. III, sect. 11; De Lugo, De fide, disp. I, nos. 268-77.

31 Cf. L'Evolution homogene du dogme catholique, II, 332 f., where we read as follows: "Under pain of falling into nominalism or the subjective conceptualism of Ockham or Aureolus, we must admit that the validity of a proposition does not depend precisely upon the words but upon their objective meaning, the words being but the material element, whereas their signification constitutes the formal element. Two propositions about God, the predicates of which are identical, are really identical in meaning. Two propositions with the same subject (God), differ or are identical in meaning only by reason of their predicates. If therefore the predicates are really identical, the meaning will be, too, and likewise their doctrine.

Father Marin Sola does not take sufficiently into consideration the fact that in these two propositions, "God is intellectual, God is free," and likewise in these two, "God is merciful, God is just," the predicates are not really distinct, for there is only a virtual distinction between the divine attributes. Nevertheless these four propositions are not the same in meaning, nor do they enunciate the same truth, unless we admit the opinion of the nominalists, that the divine names are synonymous terms, such as Tullius and Cicero. This opinion is refuted by St. Thomas (cf. Summa, Ia, q.13, a.4: "Whether names applied to God are synonymous"). From such an admission it would follow that wherever we find "mercy" written, "justice" could be substituted for it, and we could rightly say that God punishes by reason of His mercy. Thus, though his intention is to avoid nominalism, the renowed objector falls into it.

32. Cf. Com. in Iam, q.1, a.3, no. 8.

33. Summa theol., Ia, q.13, a.4.

34. Ex. 3: 14.

35. So says Father Marin Sola, op. cit., II, 342

36. Ibid., p. 333.


"God gives us some things, as the beginning of faith, even when we do not pray. Other things, such as perseverance, he has only provided for those who pray."

St Augustine

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"Whom do you seek, friend, if you seek not God? Seek him, find him, cleave to him; bind your will to his with bands of steel and you will live always at peace in this life and in the next."

St Alphonsus de Liguori

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"God speaks to us without ceasing by his good inspirations."

The Cure D'Ars

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