[The Miniature Question Box]
No, this false doctrine of Luther destroys the very essence of supernatural faith. Faith may be defined as a supernatural virtue which disposes the mind to assent freely, with certainty, and on the authority of God to all the truths He has revealed. It is essentially an intellectual act, as St. Paul teaches (1 Cor. XIII. 12; 2 Cor. X. 5). St. Paul defines it as "the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not" (Heb. XI. 1). St. Thomas explains this definition as follows: "When faith is said to be evidence, it is distinguished from opinion, suspicion and doubt, in which the adherence of the intellect to something is unstable; when it is said to be of things that appear not, faith is distinguished from knowledge and understanding by which a thing is apparent; when it is said to be the substance of things to be hoped for, it is distinguished from faith, as commonly understood, which is not directed to happiness or to the object of hope."
The assent of faith is directed by the will under the influence of divine grace. The will plays a most important part in the act of faith. St. Paul says that "with the heart, i.e., a good will, we believe unto justice" (Rom. X. 10). Our Lord frequently attributed the unbelief of the Jews to their hardness of heart, and their obstinancy of will (Mark III. 5; XVI. 13; Luke XXIV. 25). The act of faith is a meritorious act, for the Lord said: "He that believeth shall be saved" (Mark XVI. 16). It must, therefore, be a free act of the will. A good will puts aside all passion, prejudice, and human respect. It resolutely faces the problems of religion, and does not cease its pursuit of the truth, because the road is beset with difficulties.
Many men fail to believe, not because of intellectual difficulties, but because the truth goes counter to their passions, imposes obligatory laws, demands of them great sacrifices, and puts definite limits to their independence.
Both intellect and will must receive a special grace from God, before a man can make an act of faith. For as our Lord says: "No man can come to Me, except the father who has sent Me, draw him" (John VI. 44). Or as St. Paul puts it: "For by grace you are saved through faith, for it is the gift of God" (Eph. II. 8). The Vatican Council echoes this teaching of the Scriptures, when it declares: "No person can assent to the Gospel teaching with a view to attain salvation, without the illumination and inspiration of the Holy Spirit."