CORONAVIRUS UPDATE: The library is closed effective Tuesday, March 24th.
Continuing services will include: access to online materials; reference, class or research consultations; and assistance with securing expanded online access to curriculum-based and/or research materials. For more information see the Georgetown Libraries COVID-19 Updates and Resources page and the Library's COVID-19 FAQ.

or browse databases: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z #

You are here

[p. 65]

Chapter I
Faith and the Beatific Vision

In the opening sentence of his first formal treatise on faith, Scheeben says:

First of all, with regard to faith, nothing more lofty or more profound can be said about its nature than that it is a preliminary and an anticipation of the visio beatifica. Precisely in this fact lies its supernaturality, that by faith as by the vision we are raised to the knowledge proper to God, that through His light we may know Him in His own light, inaccessible to nature, — with this difference, that in faith our elevation is imperfect, as in the vision it will be perfect(1).

It is undoubtedly significant of the youthful Scheeben’s mentality that he should thus seize immediately upon what is “theologically the chief truth”(2) about faith, and the point wherein is concentrated all its mystery. It is moreover interesting to note that in the statement just given he touches upon what we shall later see to be one of his leading ideas: “by faith we are raised to the knowledge proper to God”. However, the immediate point is that he regards the emphasis of this aspect of faith as being demanded by traditional Catholic thought: only thus, he says, can we do justice to the teaching of the Scriptures, the Fathers and the Church, all of whom present faith as a new creation, a marvelous light, a gift “toward whose acquisition nature can make not even the smallest beginning.”(3) Furthermore, it is precisely to a neglect of this doctrine that he attributes the deformations in the theology of faith current in his time. In

[p. 66]

his earlier work he assigns as the reason for this neglect “rationalistic views, and the lack of a sharp analysis of the notion of faith”(4). Later in the Dogmatik, when reaffirming its cardinal importance, he assigns another reason: loss of contact with the scholastic tradition:

Much less was there in these systems(5) any mention, or indeed any idea of the . . . inner relation of the theological faith to the beatific vision, which is as decisive for the supernatural character of faith as it is for the supernatural character of revelation . . . and which consequently was selected by the older theologians, following especially St. Thomas, as the starting point for the determination of the nature of faith(6).

It is then to the great thinkers of the past that Scheeben looks for his inspiration. That he was wholly right in attributing a profound significance to this particular doctrine in the teaching of St. Thomas, no one will deny. With deliberate insistence St. Thomas posits as his very definition of faith: “habitus mentis qua inchoatur vita aeterna in nobis, faciens intellectum assentire non apparentibus”(7). Moreover in each of the three places where the formula occurs he is engaged with the exegesis of the Pauline definition of faith, and the phrase “qua inchoatur vita aeterna in nobis” is intended as a transcription of St. Paul’s “substantia rerum sperandarum”. Hence it is clear that for St. Thomas this notion was at the very heart of the dogma of faith; upon it too he bases in greatest part his philosophical development of the dogma, its theology, metaphysics, psychology(8).

Naturally Scheeben’s appeal to St. Thomas invites to a comparison of their respective theories, and to an

[p. 67]

estimate of the fidelity of Scheeben’s thought to that of his avowed master (9). This comparison and estimate we shall be in a position to make, at least in certain broad lines, at the end of this and the ensuing section.

In the exposition of Scheeben’s thought we must begin by indicating briefly how his doctrine on the relations between faith and the beatific vision finds an organic place in his whole theory of “super-nature”(10). The background of it is, in fact, his development of “the mystery of God in the creature”, which, as he formulates it:

is a certain extension of the inner divine processions over the creature, in that God prints upon it the image of His Son in the form of a participation in His own nature, and thus in it regenerates His own Son; in that moreover He breathes into the creature His own Spirit, and thus binds it to Himself in the most intimate communion of life and love(11).

The doctrine of faith as the anticipation of the beatific vision finds its natural insertion into these two fundamental mysteries of the supernatural order, our adoption as the children of God in the image of His Son, our participation in the divine nature, and the consequent communion in the divine life with which we are thus “graced”. Even in his earliest work, the Natur und Gnade, Scheeben’s thought has reached a quite extraordinary detail and maturity. There, by a striking exploitation of the data of Scripture, especially of St. John, and only to a lesser extent of St. Paul, Scheeben establishes the continuity of faith and vision (expressed by the word “inchoatio”) in terms of the divine sonship(12) that is ours by grace: briefly, as

[p. 68]

children of God and sharers in His nature, it is our fundamental privilege and power to know Him with a new knowledge, as Father, perfectly in the vision, imperfectly in faith: Faith is essentially a “participation in the divine knowledge”, and as such a prelude to the vision. Secondly, he establishes the superior perfection of the vision in terms of the two stages distinguished by Scripture in the possession of our sonship and of its corresponding heritage. So much for a bald, and inadequate statement.

The illuminative principle guiding Scheeben’s exposition in its details is the notion of the eternal generation of the Son of God as the prototype of our own regeneration by grace. On this principle he insists often:

The life to which we have been born is not any sort of a life; it is the divine life which God Himself possesses and which He communicates in its fullness to His only-begotten Son(13).

Herewith is furnished us the key to an understanding of our own lofty dignity:

The relations which we as children have to God are to be measured by the standard of those which the only-begotten natural Son of God has to his Father(14).

And particularly to be considered, as leading to the point to be made in the present discussion, is our relation to the Father as His heirs. In this connection Scheeben invokes the doctrine of St. John on the Divine Word:

In the Holy Scriptures St. John is accustomed to give as the special prerogative of the Son of God, which he enjoys above all created nature, this one that as He is the Word of the Father, proceeding

[p. 69]

from His knowledge and His mouth, and precisely for this reason is His Son, His exact image and in all things His equal, so also and as such He possesses in the vision of the Father His essential life and His heritage(15).

The text is of course John 1, 18:

Here the relation of the Son to the Father seems to be characterized, and hence also our own relation seems to be exactly designated. The grace of the sonship and the life of children of God consists precisely in this, that they receive the truth and the light by which the Word of God is His natural Son. For this truth and this light, contained in the vision of God, are the proper privilege of the Son who is in bosom of the Father, while the servant stands without, and cannot enjoy the sweet vision of the Father’s face(16).

The reality of our sonship brings with it, as a heritage, a new knowledge of God that would otherwise be denied us; it admits us to the possession of that truth and light in which consist the riches of the Father, and which constitute His legacy to His Son, and to us in His Son.

Thus far the parallelism between ourselves and God’s only Son holds good. But then a great difference enters. For Him the possession of His sonship is identically and fully the possession of His heritage(17); by His eternal generation He receives the nature of the Father in all its plenitude, and with that nature He receives the Father’s eternal life in all its infinite actuality. Not so with us. We are indeed the children of God and His heirs, but we have not yet entered upon our full heritage, our full divine life:

[p. 70]

with us the obtaining of our sonship is separated from the obtaining of our heritage, but for this reason only, that with us the generation and the birth is two-fold. We are already gene-rated, born of God in the Holy Ghost through the bath of regeneration, but nevertheless we are still waiting for our better regeneration, of which the first is but the pledge and the preliminary(18).

Only through this second generation, which is at once the obtaining of our heritage, shall we become children of God in the most perfect sense, for then the divine life already communicated to us will reach its full development:

For this reason the Scriptures say at times that we are, and at other times that we shall be the children of God, and that we ‘still await the adoption of the children of God'. St. John unites both ideas: “We are now the children of God, but it hath not yet appeared what we shall be” (I John 3, 2). We bear in us the seed which later shall unfold its full blossom. We are now but small children, as it were, in the bosom of the love of God, who cling to Him in childlike love, but then we shall be full-grown sons and men, who manifest in themselves the full splendor of their Father(19).

In developing this idea Scheeben follows St. John a step farther, invoking the principle already mentioned, namely that our adoption as children is in a certain sense an “extension” of the procession of the Eternal Son from the Father, by whom He was sent into the world that He might give to all who should believe in Him the power to become the children of God, receiving into themselves the image of their Heavenly Father:

As a matter of fact, our glory likewise(20)

[p. 71]

consists precisely in this, that we receive the image of God in us and become like to Him. But we receive His image in us, to speak first of the perfect generation, because as St. John says we see Him as He is (I John 3, 2); because namely He fills us with His divine light (the lumen gloriae), whereby we become capable of reflecting in ourselves the essence of God in its proper beauty and splendor, thus to be transformed into His image . . . . Hence by His new generation God communicates to us also the heritage of His Son, which He (the Son) receives by His generation; by it He bestows upon us His light, to transfigure us into His image, and He grants us His knowledge and love that we as children in His bosom may have in the vision of Him our eternal and blessed life(21).

The notion that Scheeben here seizes in the text of St. John is the profoundly mysterious one of the lumen gloriae as the instrument, so to speak, of our second generation: the knowledge of God is a transforming power whereby we are made over into His image; we become like to Him because we see Him as He is(22).

And this same notion serves him in his development of the imperfect stage of our sonship. Here for the light of faith is claimed a function parallel to that of the light of glory, this time however in dependence rather on St. Paul:

Before however it is revealed what we shall be, before the image of our Heavenly Father is engendered in us in its full and complete splendor, and Christ our Life appears, our life is hidden with Christ in God. But nevertheless we do live, and we do bear His image in us; and we are consequently born of God. For the Savior says that He has

[p. 72]

already revealed to us in a way the name of the Father; by faith, says the Apostle, Christ already dwells in our hearts. Faith itself is indeed a light, sunk by the Father of Light in our souls, a dark and hidden light to be sure, but a light that in truth streams just as directly from the source of Eternal Light as the clear beatific vision of God in His Word; faith also is a participation in the knowledge of the Eternal Word. By faith also we already know God as our Father, and we are for this very reason already born of Him by faith, as children in His image. For dark though it be, still the knowledge of faith fills our souls with such a light and splendor that even now we are transformed by it into the image of the Lord, since by faith we are already ‘light in the Lord’ (Eph. 5, 8), Who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. Of faith too is to be understood the word of the Apostle: ‘But we all with faces unveiled (that is, not covered with a veil, as if we knew God only through creatures, as a poor mirror) beholding the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord’(23). {Italics mine}

And the conclusion is:

Thus we have by the light of faith an anticipation of the glory and the life which we as co-heirs of the Son are to receive as our heritage in the vision of our Father. And as it is by this heritage that we become in fullest measure children of God, so also our first generation communicates to us with the life of the children of God likewise a pledge of our inheritance(24).

[p. 73]

The line of thought hitherto followed may be briefly stated thus: by the grace of our adoption we are destined and admitted to a share in the life of the Father that is by nature accorded only to the Son: this share in the life of the Father consists above all in a share in His own knowledge of Himself, or rather, a share in His Son’s knowledge of Him; to know the Father as He is in Himself (i.e. as Father) is the proper life of the Son, Who is His image; we therefore, born of the Father in the image of His Son, are gifted too with His heritage, the knowledge of the Father. However in the achievement of our supernatural destiny, in our transformation into the image of the Father, two stages are divinely appointed: the perfect stage of vision and the imperfect stage of faith. Nevertheless, for all their differences, both faith and vision are genuine participations in that knowledge of God which is the natural privilege of His Divine Son; both faith and vision are a share in the divine light, which illumines the God-head as such. Since they are such, their effect is to transform us into the image of the Father of Light. It is this last point which is capital. Scheeben puts it definitely, though in his favorite metaphorical terms, when he says:

By faith, as the divine light is us, begins our kinship with the Father of Light. For since the divine nature is the purest light, we achieve kin-ship with it in that we ourselves become light. And so faith, even without love, is still the beginning of our divine filiation, since by it we bear in ourselves the image of the Lord (25).

And elsewhere:

We become like to God, the Father of Light, in that he kindles in us a light like unto His own.

[p. 74]

our likeness to the Father consists precisely in this, that He communicates to us a divine power of knowing; by it we know the divine essence, we reflect and imprint it upon ourselves truly after the fashion of His only-begotten Son Who proceeds from Him as His Word and His reflection; and thus we receive the divine image into ourselves, and so become conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8, 29)(26).

Sufficient has been said to show the general lines of Scheeben’s development of the relations between faith and the beatific vision, as contained in the Natur und Gnade. It is not necessary to comment on his rhetoric, much of it rather good. More important is the revelation of a number of viewpoints, ideas and methods that were fundamental in his thought right from the earliest years of his literary activity.

I might note first of all the constant recurrence in the passages quoted of St. James’ characterization of God as “the Father of Light”(27); for Scheeben, this was the epithet that most exactly designed by analogy the nature of God. Corresponding to it is the oft-repeated description of “supernature” in terms of light, in obvious and acknowledged dependence on the text of St. Paul, Ephesians 5,8(28). A third correspondence is the traditional notion of faith as a light, “sunk by the Father of Light into our souls”, which have themselves become light, and thus like to Him; this notion streams all through Scheeben’s thought on faith(29).

A second and correlative idea, to which attention has already been called, is that of faith as “a participation in the knowledge of God”, or elsewhere, “in the knowledge of the Divine Word”. It is important to

[p. 75]

observe that this notion, which, as we shall see, comes into even greater prominence in the Dogmatik, is already strongly underlined in the Natur und Gnade. One must definitely see in it the master-idea that captivated Scheeben’s imagination, and dominated and directs to a preponderating extent his theology of faith. Whether the emphasis he places on it resulted ultimately in an undue submergence of some of the other elements of his thought, will have later to be determined. No other theologian has so capitalized the idea, and at all events, it would be interesting to know just what led him to this emphasis. Of course the idea in itself, with its mystical overtones, would be such as to appeal to his particular quality of mind. And finding it in tradition(30), he would naturally seize upon it; one is inclined to think that it corresponded to what may be regarded as one of his fundamental “experiences” of faith, the more so in that Scheeben was more conscious of the plenitude of the possession of God to be had by faith than he was of that mysterious “absence” of its object which was an affliction to the far more exigent spirit of St. Thomas(31). Nevertheless, the idea itself is definitely marked in St. Thomas(32), and one must see, I think, Thomistic inspiration in Scheeben’s use of it(33).

At the same time, in addition to the fact that he saw in this formula the aptest and most forceful expression of the supernaturality of faith and of its basically mystical nature(34), other considerations of a more systematic character doubtless contributed to its emphasis in his system. His thought was of course always of an essentially synthetic character(35); and in building up the other master-idea of his theology, namely that of “supernature” as the “image of the

[p. 76]

supreme spiritual and intellectual nature of God”(36) in which we participate by grace, the notion of supernature’s “fundamental activity”(37) as a participation in the knowledge of God comes readily to hand; the two formulas complement one another. This is particularly true when one considers on the one hand his insistence on the necessity of studying the new nature and its powers in their stage of highest developments, namely in the vision(38), and on the other hand the parallelism, already noted, that he is fond of instituting between the light of faith and the light of glory(39).

It is this last point which aids us in grasping the import Scheeben attaches to the formula: faith is an anticipation of the beatific vision. In his own way, he grasped the absolute centrality of the vision and man’s destiny to it, that is characteristic of Thomistic theology(40). For him the vision was essentially a participation of God’s knowledge of Himself, operated by “God’s light”(41). To say then that faith is an anticipation of the vision is to assert that it too is a participation in God’s knowledge of Himself(42). The two formulas are synonymous.

The actual similarities which Scheeben sees between faith and the vision, i.e. the aspects under which faith is a participation in the divine knowledge and hence an anticipation of the vision, may be classed under two heads.

The first has already been indicated in the formula: faith is a share in the knowledge of the Eternal Word. Its characteristic then is to know the Father as Father, to know God “as He is in Himself”, since this is the privilege of the Son:

faith coincides with the vision in regard to the chief object which it knows. This is true not

[p. 77]

merely insofar as the two in some way or other know the same object (as objectum materiale commune), but also insofar as the aspect under which it is known is the same in both cases (ratio formalis sub qua cognoscitur). The fact is that faith is an anticipation of the vision of God. Consequently faith, like the vision, knows God not merely insofar as He is reflected in created nature and is thus knowable by ascension from it: it knows God as He is in Himself, independent of all connection with created nature as such. Hence that which faith knows in God is something supernatural, not for God Himself, but in reference to the manifestation of God in created nature. We shall see later in detail that this consists chiefly in the inner revelation and unfolding of the Godhead in the Trinitarian processions(43).

In this sense then faith is a participation in the knowledge of God: it is an introductory glimpse into the inner life of God, whose substantial expression in the Word and the Spirit we are later blissfully to contemplate. Here is a field of knowledge proper only to the divine mind; hence to share it is to share God’s knowledge of Himself.

There is a further meaning to the notion of faith as a participation in the knowledge of God and an anticipation of the vision, that comes to expression when Scheeben is actually constructing his argument for the supernaturality of faith from its relation to the vision:

In faith we learn by anticipation that knowledge (Wissenschaft) of His that we are to obtain possession of in the visio beatifica. As this (the vision) cannot be effected by our light, but only

[p. 78]

by God’s light, so also that learning, insofar as it is directed to that knowledge by way of an introduction and preparation, cannot be achieved by our light, but only by the divine light. The learning itself elevates us above nature, in that our Teacher does not in some way or other communicate to us something that He knows, but wills to lift us right up to the plane of His knowing. Hence His knowledge must come into immediate contact with us (muss uns unmittelbar nahe treten) in all its sublimity, and we must lift ourselves, or rather be lifted up to it(44) {Italics in text}.

In this passage there is question not of the objective but of the subjective side of faith. Faith not only shares in God’s knowledge by sharing its object, it is itself a definitely Godlike type of knowing, operated in us by “God’s light”; in faith we are lifted up to the plane of God’s knowing; by faith we are somehow brought into an immediate contact with God(45).

The argument is sufficiently obscure, especially in its deduction of these properties of faith from the fact that it is an anticipation of the vision. However since the way to its clarification lies through a discussion of Scheeben’s theory of supernatural acts, and in particular of his theory as to the workings of the light of faith, we must be content for the present with having indicated the chief point: it is definitely in the subjective aspect of faith, i.e. faith as a cognition, that we must seek to complete the meaning of Scheeben’s favorite formula: faith, as an anticipation of the vision, is a participation in the knowledge of God. This point immediately suggests another, also to be established later, namely that for Scheeben the subjective quality of faith as a cognition plays a decisive role in the determination of its supernaturality.

[p. 79]

One addition is here to be made. Since so far we have been examining only the doctrine of the Natur und Gnade, it may be well to introduce a pertinent quotation from the Dogmatik, with the purpose of showing that the broad lines of Scheeben’s early thought endure in his later work:

More in particular, the supernaturality of the intellectual assent becomes clear from the fact that according to the Apostle faith is the substantia rerum sperandarum, hence an anticipation of the future possession of the res sperandae or of the knowledge to be had in the lumen gloriae, hence not merely preparatio but inchoatio vitae aeternae. Accordingly as the assent of faith belongs to the same order of cognition as the visio beatifica, so also the grace of faith after the analogy of the lumen gloriae is called lumen fidei, and its communication is called illumination. Now, since the visio beatifica is a participation in God’s own life, —for which reason its light must be an emanation of the Godhead’s own light, —so must faith be a participation in God’s own knowledge. Consequently faith must contain such a union and assimilation to the divine knowledge as only God Himself can infuse into us(46).

The points of similarity with what we have already seen are too clear to need comment, while the same essential obscurity remains: what is the subjective nature of the assent of faith, as operated by God’s own light? This must be regarded as one of the cardinal questions to claim our attention.

The present section may be concluded with a few remarks on the subject of Scheeben’s “Thomism”, as it stands so far revealed. It would of course not be

[p. 80]

difficult to show his fidelity, if not to the architectonic lines, certainly to the fundamental positions of St. Thomas with regard to the supernatural order and the nature of grace(47); however it is rather to the question of faith that we must confine ourselves.

We have already seen that Scheeben’s basic conception of faith as a participation in the knowledge of God can claim for itself a Thomistic inspiration. Yet there can be no doubt that in pursuing and emphasizing this Thomistic idea Scheeben goes far beyond St. Thomas himself, and thereby imparts to his theory on relations between faith and the vision an accent that is definitely not Thomistic. This difference of accent is already indicated in the difference of their respective formulas. St. Thomas’ specific is: “fides est habitus mentis qua inchoatur vita aeterna in nobis”; Scheeben however definitely prefers the phrase: “anticipatio visionis beatificae”, a phrase which is not found in St. Thomas(48). If this be a question of nuance, at least the nuance is important. And one might give it expression by saying that in Scheeben’s formula the relations between faith and the vision are conceived in more intellectual and static terms, whereas St. Thomas’ formula imparts to them a meaning distinctly more dynamic and affective.

The sense of this antithesis comes clear from a consideration of the divergent backgrounds of their respective theories. St. Thomas, notably in the profoundly suggestive second article of De Veritate, q. xiv, projects his definition of faith against the background of a metaphysics of final causality, as applied to the problem of human beatitude(49). His ground principle is:

Nihil autem potest ordinari in aliquem finem nisi

[p. 81]

praeexistat in ipso quaedam proportio ad finem, ex qua proveniat in ipso desiderium finis: et hoc est secundum quod aliqua inchoatio finis fit in ipso; quia nihil appetit nisi in quantum appetit aliquam illius similitudinem(50).

The principle, — which postulates a real pre-continence and pre-figuration of a being’s final perfection in the as yet imperfect being, as the source of its tendency to that perfection(51), — is then applied to the question of human beatitude, both “natural” and “supernatural”. And therefrom results St. Thomas’ favorite parallelism between divine faith and the “first principles” of reason, which constitute the “inchoatio beatitudinis naturalis”(52). The whole passage gives the notion of faith as an active principle, informing and elevating nature, and imparting to it the power effectively to direct itself to its supernatural destiny, the life eternal that consists in the immediate vision of God. An essential point is that the vision is conceived in its teleological relation to man, i.e. as his divinely appointed last end, in which he is to find that perfect realization of himself in which must consist his beatitude. Correlatively, faith is conceived essentially as the fundamental principle of purposeful striving toward that final self-perfection; this it is, not only in that it reveals to man a supernatural beatitude as really obtainable, by revealing it to be God’s will for him, but also in that it equips him with a power proportioned to its achievement. In this sense, as an application of the universal metaphysical principle, faith is an inchoatio vitae aeternae, an imperfecte habere finem.

Hence the term “dynamic”, used to characterize St. Thomas’ concept of faith. For him faith was a new

[p. 82]

orientation of human life toward a new end beyond the reach of nature, at least of its effective strivings; it was the impression by God of a new dynamism upon human thought, desire and action. And since this new dynamism is impressed, not directly and primarily upon the intellect, but upon the will(53), which “the Holy Spirit . . . corrects from infidelity to faith”(54), and is communicated by the will to the intellect in the form of an assent by which the intellect “obeys the will which is adhering to God”(55), hence it is that this dynamism must be conceived and qualified as “affective”(56). Thus conceived, faith becomes, in virtue of the Thomistic doctrine on final causality, a real though only inchoative possession of that full self-perfection, that full divine life which is one day to fulfill its finality, in the clear, transforming vision of God. And this is the fundamental Thomistic conception of faith, the sum of its intellectual and affective content: it is the “primum principium motus in Deum”(57), and as such it is necessarily a real possession, in potency and exigence, of the term of that motion: “finis fidei . . .. salus animarum” (1. Peter 1-19).

Linked with this aspect of faith is another, prominent in the thought of St. Thomas, namely that of faith giving birth not to the joy of the possession of God, but primarily to the desire of possessing Him: “ex quo provenit in ipso desiderium finis”. Faith, as already noted, meant for St. Thomas essentially a “quest” of the “Deus absens”, Who is “finis omnium desideriorum”(58). And this profound religious intuition, so intimately Augustinian, is justified in St. Thomas by his strict Aristotelian theory of cognition, which forbade making the regime of faith anything but a provisory and

[p. 83]

transient, restless and unsatisfactory stage in the working out of human destiny(59). Here is the third structural rib in St. Thomas’s theory. Faith, as an assent to mystery on pure authority, an intellectual acceptance of that which is unintelligible, an apprehension of that which is absent from the mind, cannot bring rest to the human spirit: “in cognitione fidei invenitur operatio imperfectissima quantum ad id quod est ex parte intellectus, quamquam maxima perfectio invenitur ex parte objecti”(60). And this imperfection of faith is a correlative of its nature as a beginning, a preparation; we are as little schoolchildren in whose minds has been “planted”(61) the knowledge of those things “whereby we are to be led to life eternal”(62). Only hope and love can render this state of violence supportable, as only hope and love can plunge us into it; and so in the darkness we trustingly “cling to the truth which consists in the divine knowledge”(63). The Master, “perfectus sui cognitor”, puts us in possession of His own knowledge, thus to draw us to the possession of Himself. Thus only at last does the notion of faith as a share in the knowledge of God enter into the thought of St. Thomas, —an essential notion, certainly, but one wholly subordinate to the dynamic concept of faith as the “primus motus mentis in Deum” - beatificantem.

My purpose in sketching, inadequately of course, certain of the guiding lines of St. Thomas’ analysis of faith is merely to show how far from them Scheeben’s own thought moves. It is quite obvious that his formula, faith is an anticipation of the beatific vision, fails completely to suggest, either in itself or in its developments, the theological, metaphysical, and religious riches wherewith St. Thomas’ formula is

[p. 84]

pregnant. With its exclusively intellectual connotations, it leaves quite untouched the only starting point from which one may hope to develop adequately the nature of faith as revealed to us in the Pauline description, rephrased by Trent: fides est substantia rerum sperandarum, initium salutis. The point in question is, in M. Chenu’s phrase, “(le) dynamisme affectif de la foi en quête du Dieu béatifiant”(64). Hence with regard to the relations between faith and the beatific vision we must judge Scheeben to have fallen considerably short, not only in his earlier but in his later work, of the doctrine of his supposed master, St. Thomas. This can be said without any prejudice to the genius of the disciple, —that genius was sufficiently great to allow us to take cognizance of its limitations. Certainly no one will deny the striking nature of his speculative gifts in the strictly theological order, and one must admit that his philosophy had all the soundness of Rome. But it is another question whether to him were vouchsafed the specific gifts of a metaphysician, epistemologist, critical philosopher. At least in his handling of the subject of faith they are not conspicuous.

I have then indicated the most profound difference that separates Scheeben’s thought from that of St. Thomas with regard to faith and the vision. The difference is interesting in a triple respect. First of all, considering the times in which Scheeben lived, it is interesting to see his devotion to St. Thomas, and the sure intelligence with which he seized St. Thomas’ fundamental position in the question of faith. Scheeben had indeed an unerring instinct in appreciating fundamental positions. Secondly, it is interesting to see how he characteristically did not penetrate nor

[p. 85]

develop along its own lines the thought upon which he evidently wished to draw. Just as he refused to commit himself wholly to one master, though that master be the Angelic Doctor, so also he refused to follow any master’s inner ways of thought. St. Thomas builds his theory of faith upon the basis of a theory of natural intelligence, its finality and its significance for the problem of human destiny. Scheeben never - either in his earlier or in his later works - reaches out for anything philosophically so ultimate. Apart even from the fact that such theorizing was foreign to his mentality, his actual preoccupations forbade it. His thinking, as we shall see more fully later, was historically conditioned, —he lived very much in the nineteenth century. And in his Natur und Gnade he threw himself into the task of restoring to his age the concept that it had lost, the concept of what he calls “Christian ontology”(65). This aim had its consequences upon his doctrine on faith. He evolves it exclusively in terms of the fundamental reality of the specifically supernatural order, namely the new nature which is ours by grace, whose basic activity is the knowledge of God had in faith. Into this scheme of course the beatific vision, which is the fulfillment of faith, and whose light is imperfectly shared in faith, is introduced for its supreme illustrative value. But the third element of the Thomistic trio, the third “light” which was so important for St. Thomas, has no structural place in Scheeben’s theory. Whether one considers the defect so serious as to render all his speculations ultimately inadequate, will depend of course to a decisive extent on one’s own theories. At all events, the point I wish to make - the last - is this, that Scheeben’s only partial grasp of St. Thomas’

[p. 86]

thought, and his preoccupations with his own aims, were destined to have considerable effect upon his theology of faith. First of all, it imparted to his early thought a predominantly intellectual character. Then later when he did actually develop up the affective aspect of faith into its requisite prominence (under the pressure of still more definitely apologetic preoccupations, as we shall see), it was only to establish between it and the intellectual aspect an antithesis which he had no means of reducing. He had missed the key to the problem, which St. Thomas might have given him, and the key which he fashioned for himself would not work. That also we shall see.


Chapter I

  1. Natur und Gnade (ed. Grabmann) p. 237.
  2. M.D. Chenu: La psychologie de la foi dans la Théologie due XIIe siècle: Etude d’histoire littéraire et doctrinale du XIIIe siècle: Ilème ser; pg. 172.
  3. Natur und Gnade p. 237.
  4. Ibid. p. 237.
  5. He refers to those of Hermes and Günther, and apparently also, though less directly to Kuhn’s.
  6. Dogmatik II, 1, n. 658.
  7. II q.4, a. 1 c; also De Ver. q. 14, a. 2 c; in Ep. ad Hebr. c. xi, 1.1.; cf. in Eph. c. iii, 1. 5: Jam in nobis res sperandas per modum cujusdam inchoationis (fides) facit subsistere.
  8. Cf. Schumpp: Der Glaubensbegrif,f des Hebräerbriefes and seine Deutung durch den hl. Thomas von. Aquin. Divus Thomas (Fribourg) XI (1933) pp. 397-410. Cf. especially p. 405, on St. Thomas’ fidelity to Greek Patristic exegesis. Cf. also M. Mathis: The Pauline pistis-upostasis according to Hebrews 11, 1. Washington (Catholic University) 1920.
  9. It is from St. Thomas that Scheeben took “the plan and principles” of the Natur und Gnade (ibid. p. 31). Obviously it is no good discus-sing the question whether or not Scheeben was a “Thomist”; thus put, the question has no meaning. It has been often enough pointed out that he consistently refused loyalty to any “school” (cf. I. Jeiler: Lit. Handw. 1877, col. 86; Grabmann: Scheebens Auffassunq vom Wesen ued Wert der theologischen Wissenschaft, in: Matthias Joseph Scheeben, Der Erneuerer katholischen Glaubenswissenschaft; p. 105: Es wird meines Erachtens sehr schwer sein, Scheeben aus einer Schule zu erklären oder in eine Schule einzureihen”. Et sqq.) Scheeben himself more than once energetically repels the suggestion that he was interested in “eine jedem Fortschritte entsagende Repristination der alten Scholastik” (Vorwort to Mysterien. p. xi), about which there was at the time such a hue and cry. Significant also is his criticism of the “Thomism” of C. von Schäzler as “somewhat crude” (cf. Katholik 1868 I, p. 699 ff.); it was his only objection to a theologian whom he otherwise valued highly. Hence it can here be a question merely of signalizing certain Thomistic ideas that Scheeben utilized for his own purposes, and more particularly, of adopting the principles of St. Thomas as a standard and measure of criticism.
  10. Though the word is not established in English, it does conveniently for a translation of Scheeben’s central concept of Uebernatur. for his defence of the term (not his own coinage) cf. Natur und Gnade p. 33; for the development of its meaning ibid. pp. 58-60.
  11. Mysterien, p. 187.
  12. Scheeben would object to the term “sonship” (Sohnschaft). It is however the consecrated term in English; we cannot say “childship”, though it would turn the German “Kindschaft” better.
  13. Natur und Gnade _ p. 141. Cp. Casini-Scheeben: p. 275. 330 etc.
  14. Ibid. p. 144; cf. pp. 126-128, 131 ff, 146 ff, etc. The substance of Scheeben’s development of this idea he derives from St. Thomas, III, q. 23, a. 3; cf. Natur und Gnade p. 131 note. It may be remarked that the notion is classic with the Greek Fathers; cf. Hugo Rahner: Die Gottesqeburt. Zeitschr. f. kath. Theologie LIX (1935) p. 351-365.
  15. Natur und Gnade, p. 157.
  16. Ibid. p. 156.
  17. Ibid. p. 152-3.
  18. Ibid. p. 154.
  19. Ibid p. 154. It is interesting to note that the metaphor in the last sentence is found in Maximus Confessor (Liber Ambiguorum PG 91. 1068 B; cf. Rahner 1. cit. pp. 376-383, especially p. 380, on Maximus, to whom Scheeben was particularly attracted; cf. Natur und Gnade p. 243 note - where he is called Maximus Martyr — and p. 282). Scheeben’s patristic erudition, even at the time of writing the Natur und Gnade, was truly remarkable.
  20. I.e. like the glory of the Son, of which he has just been speaking.
  21. Natur und Gnade 156-7.
  22. Cf. Casini-Scheeben p. 337, where he quotes I John 3, 2 and 2 Cor 3, 18, two of his favorite texts quoted also in Mysterien p. 619. Cf. also Dogmatik II, 3. n. 704, where he quotes St. Thomas, I, q. 12, a. 5. The notion is of course genuinely Thomistic; cf. ibid. ad 3m; a. 6c; C. G. II, c. 53; De Ver. q. 10, a. 7 c.; Sum. Th. I, q. 27, a. 1 ad 2m.
  23. Natur und Gnade pp. 159-160.
  24. Ibid. p. 160. For the same cycle of ideas cf. Mysterien p. 623-630, esp. 627.
  25. Natur und Gnade p. 178.
  26. Ibid. pp. 146-7.
  27. The text is James 1, 17. Literally the phrase: apo tou patros ton photon means “from the creator of the stars”, —this from its Old Testament background. However the allegorical sense, in which Scheeben constantly uses the text, is quite legitimate, and even indicated by the context. Cf. J. Chaine, L’Epitre de S. Jacques (Paris, 1927) p. 24.
  28. Natur und Gnade p. 180.,215 etc. Cp. Mysterien p. 619: grace operates an “Umgestaltung in das Lichtbild der Gottheit”. Correlative is his constant use of “Verklärung” as the term best suited to indicate the effects of grace and of glory: ibid. p. 618.
  29. Cf. Hugo Lang: Die Lehre des hl. Thomas von Aquin von der Gewissheit des übernattürlichen Glaubens, pp. 77 sq., on St. Thomas’ use of the same meta-phor: “Von alien tiberlieferten Analogien zieht Thomas nur eine einzige zur durchftihrenden Systematisierung seiner Ansichten vom Grunde der Glaubensgewissheit heran. Am häufigsten and bezeich-nendsten wird bei ihm der Glaubenshabitus mit dem Licht verglichen”, p. 77. The metaphor is of course Aristotelian, but also traditional in theology: “Im Uebrigen war die Vergleichung des Glaubenshabitus mit dem Licht and seine letzte Herleitung aus dem Lichte Gottes in Schrift, Väterlehre and Schulüberlieferung festverwurzelt”, p. 78.
  30. Cf. the interesting quotation from Pseudo-Dionysius, Natur und Gnade . p. 243 note.
  31. Cf. S. Th. II-II q. 5, a. 1 ad 1m on the diffe-rence between Adam’s faith and ours:“non erat in eis fides qua ita quaereretur Deus absens, sicut et nos”. M. de la Taille calls attention (Rech. Sc. Pel. 18 (1928) p. 317) to the two types of mystics: “selon les divers temperaments et les circonstances diverses, l’un est plus sensible à l’aspect du vide, et l`autre à la plénitude”. He is speaking of course of genuine mystical experience, which however is essentially of the same order as faith, in his opinion. It may be noted that Scheeben was fully, conscious of the obscurity of faith too: Mysterien 614; 741. On the double “experience” of faith, cf. also R. Guardini, Vom Leben des Glaubens, pp. 119-120.
  32. In Lib. Boeth. de Trin. q. 2 a. 2 c:
    “Et sic de divinis duplex habetur scientia: una quidem secundum modum nostrum . . . . Alia secundum modum ipsorum divinorum, ut ipsa divina secundum seipsa capiantur: quae quidem perfecte nobis in statu viae est impossibilis, sed fit in nobis quaedam illius cognitionis participatio et assimilatio ad divinam cognitionem, in quantum per fidem nobis infusam inhaeremus ipsi veritati primae propter seipsam. I-II q. 110, a. 4 c: “per potentiam intellectivamhomo participat cognitionem divinam per virtutem fidei.”
    De Ver. q. 14, a~ 8 6: “fides . . . facit intellectum hominis adhaerere veritati quae in divina cognitione consistit, transcendendo proprii intellectus veritatem . . . .fides . . . .hominem divinae coqnitioni conjungit per assensum.”
  33. Cf. Dogmatik I, p. 291 note, where he quotes De Ver. q. 14, a. 8. I do not find him anywhere using the texts from the In Boeth. de Trin. or the Prima Secundae, both of which approach more closely to his own formula: Teilnahme an der g8ttlichen Erkenntnis. It remains always some-what doubtful whether he actually derived the idea from St. Thomas, or merely sought in St. Thomas confirmation of it.
  34. On the mystical nature of faith he insists: e.g. Natur und Gnade p. 120; cp. p. 162.
  35. Cf. the statement of his method of procedure in Natur und Gnade p.120; cp. p. 162.
  36. Natur und Gnade p. 233; cp. p. 127. It should be remarked that one of Scheeben’s greatest services to theology was precisely his emphasis upon this basic Thomistic doctrine, that by grace “habet anima quoddam spirituale esse” (De Virt.·in Com. a. 1 c). The theology of the “Aufklarung”, had lost it completely, and it was not a little threatened by the moralism of Tubingen: cf. Natur und Gnade p. 148, where Staudenmaier is named. Scheeben’s position is well put by Schmaus:
    “Das Wesen des Christentums ist nicht zunächst ein Tun, sondern ein Sein. Christsein heisst nicht zunächst seine Gesinnung nach der Gesinnung Gottes ausrichten. . . . Christentum ist nicht in erster Linie eine Gesinnungsgemeinschaft mit Gott. Es ist vielmehr in erster Linie eine Seinsgemeinschaft mit Gott. In treuer Bundesgenossenschaft mit Konstantin von Schäzler hielf Scheeben these Lehre gegen Kuhn aufrecht”.

    (Die Stellunq Scheeben’s in der Theoloqie des 19 Jahrhunderts; Scheeben, der Erneuerer etc. p. 41). However Scheeben’s attitude to Kuhn was quite different from v. Schäzler’s cf. Katholik 1868 1 484-502; II 689-730; review; cf. v. Schäzler’s Neue Untersuchungen.

  37. Natur und Gnade p. 178.
  38. Ibid. p. 173, 233. Significant is the sentence on p. 245, where he points out that the determination of the supernatural character of love is easier than that of faith. “Denn einerseits hat sie den übernattürlichen Glauben schon zur Grundlage; andererseits brauchen wir, um zu erkennen, wie sie eine Teilnahme an der göttlichen Liebe ist, bei ihr nicht erst auf den Zustand ihrer Vollkommenheit im Himmel zurück-zugehen”. The point is that this procedure is necessary in the case of faith, whose super-natural nature as a participation in the divine knowledge comes clear only from a consideration of the vision in heaven, of which faith is the anticipation.
  39. He avails himself most frequently of the dawn-day comparison: Natur und Gnade p. 241; Mysterien p. 619; and often in the more devotional pages of the Herrlichkeiten. The notion of the light of faith as an imperfect participation of the light of glory, of which there will be question later, is of course, definitely Thomistic: e.g. De Ver. q. 14, a. 9 ad 2m.
  40. Cf. Mysterien p. 616: the immediate vision of God is the mystery . . . worin das Mysterium der Inkarnation and der Gnade kulminiert.” On its place in St. Thomas’ theology of the super-natural, cf A. Stolz: Theoloqie der Mystik (Regensburg, 1936), p. 154: “Das Wesen der Gnadenordnung Bestimmung and Ausstattung besagt, mit denen der Mensch den Gottesbesitz, den unmittelbaren Schau auf Erden anstreben and im Jenseits verwirklichen kann”. Cf. ibid. pg. 165.
  41. Cf. e.g. Mysterien p. 623: “Die Verklärung, die Vergöttlichung des Geistes erfüllt denselben so sehr mit göttlichem Lichte, dass er dadurch zu einer Erkenntnis, die an sich nur Gott zukommt, zur unmittelbaren Anschauung des göttlichen Wesens befähigt wird. In dieser Anschauung offenbart sich das ‘lumen gloriae’ in seiner ganzen Tiefe and Erhabenheit”.
  42. Cf. the passages already quoted: “by faith as by the vision we are raised to the knowledge proper to God” (p.9); by faith as by the vision we “receive the truth and the light by which the Word of God is His natural Son” (p.14); “faith also is a participation in the knowledge of the Eternal Word” (p.17); “our likeness to the Father consists in this that He communicates to us a divine power of knowledge” (p.19); other passages from the Dogmatik will occur later.
  43. Natur und Gnade p. 244-5.
  44. Ibid. p. 242
  45. The same idea has been touched on before where he speaks of the light of faith streaming “just as immediately from the source of Eternal Light as the clear beatific vision of God”. Natur und Gnade p. 160 (quoted on p.6).
  46. Dogmatik I, 1, n. 786.
  47. Cf. Stolz’s formulation of the Thomistic concept of grace, identical with that of Scheeben: “Sie ist ein ‘Sich-Gehaben’ (habitus), d. h. ein von Gottes besonderer Liebe in der Seele hervorge-brachtes neues Sein, das ihn befähigt, naturgemäss verdienstvolle Werke zu verrichten, die zum übernatürlichen Ziel der unmittelbaren Gotteschau führen. Diese Auffassung vom Sinn der Gnade ist für die thomistische Theologie grundlegend”. Theologie der Mystik p. 159.
  48. Once he speaks of faith of “seminarium visionis”, in Joann. c. 6. 1. 8, n. 1. The metaphor is in harmony with the thought of De Ver. q. 14 a. 2 c, where the “prima principia rationis” are “semina quaedam sapientiae”.
  49. On the following cf. Stolz: Glaubensgnade and Glaubenslight nach Thomas von A uin (Studia Anselmiana I, Rome 1933), a wholly distinguished and extremely valuable study, a model of its kind for thoroughness, clarity and objectivity. Chiefly in question at the moment is Ch. III: Das Wesen des übernattürlichen Glaubens. Certain reserves however should be made; the author seeks the supernaturality of faith too exclusively on its intellectual side, and with reference to its material object; he does not come to grips with the important Thomistic notion of the light of faith operating “magis per modem voluntatis”, nor in general, with the decisive import of the affective aspect of faith with reference to its supernatural specification. This doubtless because he had certain adversaries (Billot, Rousselot) in mind.
  50. De Ver. q. 14 a. 2. On the importance of this article of G. de Broglie: Sur la place du super-naturel dans la philosophie de S. Thomas (1925) pg.25 note 15: “C’est à cet admirable article qu’il faut toujours en revenir si 1’on veut préciser la conception thomiste de la foi”. He indicates the points requiring classification in the text.
  51. Cf. Stolz op.cit. pp. 56-60: 1. Zielstreben setzt eine inchoatio finis voraus.
  52. Cf. Stolz op. cit. pp. 74-75.
  53. Cf. in Lib. Boeth. de Trin. q. 3, a. 1 ad 4m: “Hic tamen habitus non movet per viam intellec-tus, sed magis per viam voluntatis; unde non facit videri illa quae creduntur, nec cogit assensum, sed facit voluntarie assentiri.”
  54. Second Council of Orange cn. 5.
  55. De Ver. q. 14, a. 4 ad 2m; cf. ibid. a. 3 ad 8m.
  56. For further development of this Thomistic concept of the genesis of faith cf. M. de la Taille: l’oraison contemplative, Rech. Se. Rel. 9 (1919) pp. 278-9; ibid. 18 (1928) p. 303:
    pour S. Thomas l’acte de foi, meme de plus imparfait, a beau etre substantiellement, comme it dit, dans l’intelligence, it n’y est néanmoins que comme un produit de l’amour; l’amour commande le regard, librement determine l’acte, et quant à son exercice et quant à sa specification. Enfin tout ce qui caractérise l’acte de foi entre les autres actes de l’intelligence lui vient de l’amour, l’amour pour la fin dernière qui se propose à croire. La lumière même de la foi descend dans l’esprit par la voie du coeur”.
    Cp. ibid. p. 316. Also E. Hocedez: Valeur Religeuse de l’acte de foi, Gregorianum XV (1934) p. 399, note 38.
  57. Cf. II-II q.7, a.2 c: “a qua quidem impuritate purificatur per contrarium motum, dum sc. tendit in illud quod est supra se, sc. in Deum; in quo quidem mOtu primum principium est fides. Cp. in Lib. Boeth. de Trin. q. 3 a. 2 c:” fidei actus est primus motus mentis in Deum”; the same in Rom. c. 3 lect. 3 and lect. 4. Also In Joann. c. 6, lect. 4, n. 5:“ad Deum venimus non passibus corporis sed mentis, quorum primus est fides.”
  58. II-II q. 4, a. 2 ad 3m.
  59. “La cas de la foi n’est en définitive qu’un aspect particulier de l’immense inquietude humaine qu’exprime plus que toute autre, avec saint Augustine l’âme chretienne: ‘Fecisti nos ad te, et inquietum est cor nostrum donec requiescat in te’. Or c’est dans une thèse d’origine et de facture aristotélicienne que nous trouvons l’expression chez saint Thomas, moins pathétique mais non moins profonde: le thèse du desir naturel de voir Dieu. Tout.le dèterminisme de la ‘nature’ aristotèlicienne vient rendre raison métaphysiquement, dison mieux: thèologiquement, du douloureux appétit de béatitude qui travaillait Augustin”.

    Chenu: La psychologie de la foi, p. 186. Cf. ibid. p. 174 ff.
  60. C.G. 1. III. c. 40; cp. I-II q. 67 a. 3: “imperfectio cognitionis est de ratione fidei, ponitur enim in eius definitione”. “De tous les grands docteurs, je n’en connais point qui méprise autant que lui la foi comme connaissance”. Rousselot: L’Intellectualism de S. Thomas ed. 2, p. 193-4.
  61. QQ. Disp. de Malo q. 5 art. 3. The text is interesting in view of Scheeben’s favorite metaphor, of which mention will be made later: faith is an “Ueberpflanzung” of the divine cognition into the soul. There is no evidence that Scheeben had in mind this text.
  62. II-II q. 1 a. 8 c. Here would belong all the many texts in which faith is represented as a directive force in life and action: e.g. q. 1 a. 7 c: (“credenda” sunt) via in beatitudinem; ib. q. .1. a. 1 c: homo adjuvatur ad tendendum; in Boeth. de Trin. q. 3 a. 1 c: ad humanam vitam in beatitudinem dirigendam; De Ver. q. 14, a. 8 ad 9: per veritatem primam deducimur: etc. The example of the schoolboy occurs four times: II-II q. 2 a. 3 c; De Ver. q. 14, a. 10 c; in Boeth. de Trin. q. 2, a. 1 c (and q. 3, a. 2 c); in Heb. c. 11, lect. 1. Its origins are of course Aristotelian. Both of the notions here mentioned are combined in De Ver. q. 14, a. 11 c: “possibile sit aliquem in statu viae cognoscere explicite omnia illa quae proponuntur humano generi in hoc statu ut rudimenta quaedam quibus se in finem dirigit.
  63. De Ver. q. 14, a. 8 c.
  64. La psycholoqie de la foi p. 178.
  65. Natur und Gnade p. 46; cp. pp. 44. ff.