Does God Have a Nature? (Aquinas Lecture 44)


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Part I. Normative ethics

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Aquinas indicates that human beings are enlightened by "the light of natural knowledge," which insofar as it is light is such by participation in the "true light," which is the Word. He adds, "If any one is not enlightened, it is due to himself, because he turns from the light that enlightens. For Aquinas, reason, "the light of nature," is itself a gift of God to human beings in the original creation of humanity that is capable of knowing not only that God exists, but that God is good, wise, and powerful.

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Where reason falls short, because of its finitude, its rootedness in sense perception, and the errors brought about by sin, is that, without the aid of revelation, it cannot know the truths of salvation. This "Thomistic" assumption should have a familiar ring in Reformed circles. It is paralleled by the very first sentence of the Westminster Confession--as also by the second article of the Belgic Confession, and Calvin's commentary on the passage.

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Oliphint's claim that Aquinas' reading has "no basis" in the text of Scripture becomes an indictment of Calvin and the Reformed tradition as well. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae , Ia, q. Benedict M. Oliphint, Aquinas, pp. Aquinas, Summa theologiae , IaIIae, q. Note here that "practical matters" is a reference to the praxis dimension of theology which relates both to the moral life of Christians and to promise of salvation, as distinct from the contemplative dimension of theology which relates to the knowledge of "divine things.


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Oliphint, Aquinas , p. Fabian Larcher and James Weisheipl, with intro.

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Thomas Aquinas, In omnes D. Pauli Apostoli Epistolas , 3 vols. I, Ad Romanos , lectura 6 pp. Follow us. Home Blog Articles Contributors Reviews.

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To be continued Aquinas, Commentary on the Gospel of John , I, p. Aquinas, Ad Romanos , lectura 6 p.

Aquinas Reconsidered

Aquinas, Ad Romanos , lectura 7 pp. These "ultimately incompatible principia " are, according to Oliphint, "the neutrality of natural reason I propose to take up the two questions that are the focus of Oliphint's book, the problem of knowledge, specifically knowledge of God; and in a second part of the review, Aquinas' understanding of the analogy of being, the proofs, and the relationship of divine simplicity to the Trinity. Concluding comments will follow as a third part. Oliphint rests his examination of the praeambula fidei on Ralph McInerny's recent study as if McInerny argued that the preambles, namely, the proofs of Thomas' Summa , are autonomous "purely philosophical" arguments, products of "pure nature" p.

What McInerny actually says is that "It is obvious that the phrase 'preambles of faith' is one devised and used from the side of belief; it is the believer who compares truths about God that he holds only thanks to the grace of faith and those truths about God that philosophers come to know by way of demonstrative proof. Oliphint is mistaken in his reading of Thomism as attempting to merge the antithetical "principia" of a neutral "natural reason" and the truth of revelation.


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When Aquinas makes his distinction between those truths concerning God that can be known through human reason and those that exceed the capability of reason and must be known by revelation, he is not segmenting off rational from revealed truths: rather he is placing his entire rational presentation within the compass of sacred doctrine which deals with God "not only so far as he can be known through creatures just as philosophers knew him Underlying the theological project of Aquinas' two Summas is the assumption that what is true is true whatever its immediate source, given that all truth ultimately comes from God who is true.

Aquinas' project is not an attempt to synthesize incompatibles. The basis for this particular misinterpretation appears in Oliphint's definition of duplex veritatis modus , incorrectly rendered as "truth in two ways" and "double ways of truth.


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  5. The mistranslation is probably what leads Oliphint to confuse duplex veritatis modus with duplex veritas or "double truth. Aquinas affirms a twofold way of knowing truth about God--but he denied double truth. From Aquinas' perspective, reason teaches that God exists which is true and revelation teaches that God exists which is true : there is no incompatibility between the rational and the revealed truth, because it is the same truth, but in the case of revelation in a different "mode" because from a higher, clearer source. It is also does not follow from the absence of a discussion of the noetic effect of sin in Aquinas' praeambula that the issue was not broached and understood in his theology.

    One need look no further than Aquinas' Summa theologiae to find that he views "weakness, ignorance, malice, and concupiscence The problem is most apparent in Oliphint's highly selective use of Aquinas' commentary on John , which leaves out the portions that undermine his argument. Aquinas indicates that human beings are enlightened by "the light of natural knowledge," which insofar as it is light is such by participation in the "true light," which is the Word.

    He adds, "If any one is not enlightened, it is due to himself, because he turns from the light that enlightens. For Aquinas, reason, "the light of nature," is itself a gift of God to human beings in the original creation of humanity that is capable of knowing not only that God exists, but that God is good, wise, and powerful. Where reason falls short, because of its finitude, its rootedness in sense perception, and the errors brought about by sin, is that, without the aid of revelation, it cannot know the truths of salvation.

    This "Thomistic" assumption should have a familiar ring in Reformed circles. It is paralleled by the very first sentence of the Westminster Confession--as also by the second article of the Belgic Confession, and Calvin's commentary on the passage.

    Explaining Thomas Aquinas' Proofs

    Oliphint's claim that Aquinas' reading has "no basis" in the text of Scripture becomes an indictment of Calvin and the Reformed tradition as well. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae , Ia, q. Benedict M. Oliphint, Aquinas, pp. Aquinas, Summa theologiae , IaIIae, q.

    Note here that "practical matters" is a reference to the praxis dimension of theology which relates both to the moral life of Christians and to promise of salvation, as distinct from the contemplative dimension of theology which relates to the knowledge of "divine things. Oliphint, Aquinas , p. Fabian Larcher and James Weisheipl, with intro.

    Does God Have a Nature? (Aquinas Lecture 44) Does God Have a Nature? (Aquinas Lecture 44)
    Does God Have a Nature? (Aquinas Lecture 44) Does God Have a Nature? (Aquinas Lecture 44)
    Does God Have a Nature? (Aquinas Lecture 44) Does God Have a Nature? (Aquinas Lecture 44)
    Does God Have a Nature? (Aquinas Lecture 44) Does God Have a Nature? (Aquinas Lecture 44)
    Does God Have a Nature? (Aquinas Lecture 44) Does God Have a Nature? (Aquinas Lecture 44)

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