Is it possible to be a heretic knowingly?
Disciple What is the force of that distinction?
Master Some people think to prove demonstratively by that distinction that your objections are not conclusive.
Master By the first part [of the distinction] they prove as follows that some people can unknowingly be heretics: he who believes in general that the whole christian faith is true and yet believes that the Old Testament or the Gospel of Luke contains many errors, because he thinks that the Old Testament or the Gospel of Luke does not pertain to christian faith, is properly a heretic, especially if he is pertinacious. (For otherwise anyone could say without heretical wickedness that all of the gospels do not pertain to christian faith.) But such a person is not knowingly a heretic because he does not believe that he is opposed to the Christian faith in anything. Someone can be unknowingly a heretic, therefore, just as the Manichees were unknowingly heretics because they thought that they were truly christians and considered that all other christians who accepted the Old Testament were heretics erring against christian faith.
Disciple Tell me how reply is made to the objections touched on above.
Master Those objections are based on the ambiguity of "implicit faith". For there is a true implicit faith which excludes every pertinacious assertion of any heretical wickedness at all. And that implicit faith is sufficient for the one having it to be catholic and faithful. There is another false implicit faith, by which, that is, it is believed to be true that "the christian faith is true", but another faith than that which is truly christian is held to be christian. The manichees had such faith because they believed that the christian faith is true; but they called christian that faith which in point of fact is not christian; indeed it is opposed to the christian faith. And so it is with all who are unknowingly heretics, that although they believe that it is true that the christian faith or the faith of the universal church is true, yet they regard as christian a faith which in point of fact is not christian, although they believe that it is christian. And they are therefore heretics, although unknowingly so.
Disciple Do some people who believe that the christian faith is true have false faith?
Master No one has false faith for the reason that he believes that the christian faith is true; but in believing that a particular faith is christian which in point of fact is not christian he has false faith. Thus Arius did not have false faith because of the fact that he believed that the christian faith is true and that the Gospel contains the truth, but he had false faith in believing that the Son of God is not equal to the Father and that this pertains to catholic faith.
Disciple Those arguments are still not refuted because they are based on the proposition that every true implicit faith is sufficient for the one having it to be catholic and faithful.
Master: A distinction is made about faith, because there is a certain infused faith which even baptised children are said to have; and about this [faith] the proposition which you assume could be granted; according to this no one would be unknowingly a heretic. Another faith is that which is acquired and this is a credence by which anyone adheres without doubting to some assertion. And in this sense the proposition is false because not every such implicit and true faith is sufficient for the one having it to be catholic and faithful. For although no one is unfaithful because of any true faith, yet someone having a true faith could be unfaithful because of some other false faith.
Disciple Point out, with respect to that subject only, what is said to the proposition that he who believes that the whole christian faith is true has faith in every truth which pertains to christian faith.
Master This is denied about the faith that makes someone catholic, unless, while believing that the whole christian faith is true, he considers no faith to be christian except that alone which truly is christian.
Text and translation by John Scott.
Copyright © 1999, The British Academy.