In 1879 a papal encyclical declaring that all RC seminaries and universities instruction is to be based on the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas.
Aquinas gives form to RC, he formed the Catholic mind. The Reformation didn’t affect all of Europe. RC is the largest percentage of western Christianity. It dominates in terms of numbers. It accommodates to the culture around them.
The recovery of Aristotelean writings affected Thomas. They were rediscovered while he was a young child.
There are two main writings in particular of Thomas that I shall draw upon in my account.
Suma Contra Gentiles (Summa = summary the height of learning)
Thomas lived in the times Europe is recovering Aristotle’s writings – all ancient wisdom is now available.
Little by little it is translated into Latin, learned circles are all agog, especially the Papal court to which Aquinas is closely linked.
Previosuly, writings had been influence by Plato and neoplatonism. Platonism has several stages: middle (meso) and new (neo).
Upto 13th century philosophical writings were oriented to platonic philosophy which is very different to Aristotle’s.
At the end of his life Aristotle became an empiricist and a hylomorphist. Hylomorphism = everything is made of stuff.
From Aquinas on – there was a big turnaround – oriented to Aristotle.
Can you use biblical material and orient it to Aristotle and it still have biblical material? We shall see.
Hylomorphism divides everything into matter an form. Matter is nature, form is culture. Form is what is given to nature that they are presented with. Hylomorphism was suggested to Aristotle as he walked among the artists in Athens.
Culture is rationality, rational soul, the realm of the State. Nature is bodies.
They didn’t distinguish between culture, forming and rationality. (We can’t so culture unless rational, but they are not the same.)
There are two things world (nature) and us men (culture). In man there is a body and a rational soul. But again, it doesn’t distinguish human society and State. Inclined to identify the role of government with the whole of human society. Common instruments must prevail – government.
Abraham Kuyper: the State does have a level of interest in say education, but the State must know its limitations or The State controls education.
In the US the State is beginning to say submit to the board of education – State and society are co-terminus. State is society, society is the State. Parents have no God-instituted rights, subordinated to the State.
Aquinas was a Christian – don’t forget that, he was a very serious and pious Christian. All he did was to honour Jesus – can still have that intention and make mistakes.
All ancient wisdom went to use to glorify Christ the King. Aquinas takes this wisdom over, but sees something is missing: faith.
Faith becomes the realm of the supernatural. In Aquinas there is a natural order of things, the law of the State is natural law.
The State belongs to the natural order. He took over the lower world, it lacks something. Faith is a gift added above and beyond nature.
Thomas begins from Aristotle (who is a pagan), says it lacks something – he adds faith to it.
When god created man – he created him a natural being. This is our essential nature. Our essential nature, is what we have to be man., a physical body and a rational soul.
Thomas was reading scripture in the light of Aristotle. He then added the gift of faith (it is a gift and so not an essential part of our nature).
Essential Nature + Faith
At the fall, faith was lost, no longer had faith relation with God.
The Holy Spirit then adds faith again. It always remains a gift.
Abraham Kuyper in the 19th century said this is not what the scriptures mean by faith. According to Aquinas unbelief is the lack of, or loss of, faith. But this is not the way the Bible talks of it. The Baal worshippers had a very real faith, though it was misdirected. It was directed towards a substitute. Faith is always in man’s life – the question is, where is it directed? We have to distinguish its structure and its direction.
Faith belongs to the essential structure of human life – there is no man who lives who doesn’t exercise faith.
There is no word in the OT like the Greek philosophical word nature. There are a number of expressions that refer to what God created. They refer to 9i) what God created (ii) what God created and is now fallen away.
In Aquinas ‘nature’ is perfectly normal as far as it goes. All that is needed is an addition of faith.
Natural man possesses truth up to a point, but lacks something – this attitude is common in nature/ grace thinking. It justifies logical thought itself.
Nature is scripture is abnormal, in Thomas it is normal
For Thomas Grace is the supplementation, an enrichment, like the icing on a cake.
Grace does not add to what is good in itself – takes what is dead and turns it to life. It turns the whole thing around – it is not some enrichment.
Thomas Aquinas’s concept of faith, nature, grace and supernatural is not biblical.
His concept of body and soul we will look at next time.