Article 9, on whether the act of faith is meritorious, has a particular consolation for the theologian. St. Thomas says that not only the assent of faith but also the very decision to consider the things of faith can be meritorious: “doing theology” can be a saving deed!
But in this post I want to focus on St. Thomas’s reply to the third objection. He says this:
Ad tertium dicendum quod ille qui credit habet sufficiens inductivum ad credendum, inducitur enim auctoritate divinae doctrinae miraculis confirmatae, et, quod plus est, interiori instinctu Dei invitantis. Unde non leviter credit. Tamen non habet sufficiens inductivum ad sciendum. Et ideo non tollitur ratio meriti.
In other words, the one who believes does so reasonably, because there are legitimate reasons to believe, including miracles, and he is urged on by the “interior instinct of God inviting.” And yet the one who believes does not have the kind of evidence that would allow him to see the truth for himself.
There are two sides to note here. On the one hand, faith brings reason along to the conclusion that is most reasonable, and this is so true that failure to believe is blameworthy. The evidence in favor of faith is so probable that it becomes in fact unreasonable not to believe. To put it another way, faith perfects reason by carrying it further in its own direction than it was capable of going by itself.
On the other hand, the evidence in favor of faith is never more than probable, and so the act of faith is one that closes the gap between mere probability and certitude: what I can see for myself gets me to probability, and then a graced decision of my will leads me to hold these things with absolute certainty. It can be frustrating that faith is never a “light” in the sense of offering deductive vision. But precisely because it requires this decision, the act of faith is something beautiful and good—something meritorious, something of eternal worth.