Aquinas and the Concept of Relations

When it comes to the concept of relation there is some clarification that must first take place.  To the everyday person, relation means someone to whom you are related.  At the base level this is correct, but philosophically it goes a little deeper.  This is especially true when discussing relations in connection with the Trinity.  St. Thomas Aquinas’s concept of relations included paternity and filiation (Garrigou-Lagrange Introduction).

Paternity and filiation, of course, ae completely different things.  A man can at the same time be a father and a son.  He is father to a child, and a child, or offspring to someone else.  He is not able to be both to the same person.  The idea here is that paternal relation delineates a distinction between persons.  In the Trinity the Son is not able to be the Father because the Father is paternal.  It shows a distinction between the two, and though they are of the same substance they are separate.  Regarding this concept Aquinas states, “Thus the Father has communicable being, but He is a distinct person by the paternity, which is opposed to filiation; similarly, active spiration is opposed to passive spiration” (Garrigou-Lagrange Introduction).

If paternity denotes the relationship of the Father and Son, then what is filiation?  Paternity is a term that applies to fatherhood and filiation is a term that implies sonship.  This was a key point in Aquinas’s opposition to the Scotists.  The Son is distinguished from the Father through filiation alone, but within God paternity and filiation are personal properties (Garrigou-Lagrange Ch. XIV).  In filiation the Son has all the perfections from all eternity that the Father has.  This is done through generation and it is perfect based on relation.

One objection to the idea of filiation is the fact that Jesus said that the Father was greater than he (John 14:28).  Is not Jesus saying that he is somehow less than the Father?  That is what those wo object to the Trinity would have you believe?  Jesus says this because he lacks the relation of paternity.  This is something that is wholly unique to the Father.  They are the same essence and paternity in the Father in filiation in the Son (Garrigou-Lagrange Ch. XIV).  Divine filiation is not less than, or somehow subordinate, to paternity.  If that were the case then the Son would lack perfection, and that would not make him divine.  To think that way would lead us into many of the Christological heresies that the Church had already dealt with.  Regarding this Aquinas writes, “Thus divine filiation is not less perfect than divine paternity, just as in the triangle either angle at the base is not less perfect than the angle at the apex” (Garrigou-Lagrange Ch. XIV).

Regarding paternity, Aquinas answered an objection that stated that divine persons were brought about by active and passive origins (Garrigou-Lagrange Ch. XIV).  Generation is active and active generation is something that comes from the Father.  This is a relation of Paternity and the very act refers to the Son.  This does not change the existence of the Son or modify it in some way.  They are still the same essence, but in relation to one another one is paternal.

In Conclusion, St. Thomas Aquinas wrote many things that advanced our understanding of the Trinity.  His explanation from scripture and philosophy helped elaborate on earlier work done on the Trinity by St, Augustine.  It is important to understand the distinctions between paternity and filiation, because to misunderstand can lead to error in discussing the Trinity.

 

Works Cited

Garrigou-Lagrange, Reginald.  The Trinity and God the Creator.  https://www.ewtn.com/library/THEOLOGY/TRINITY.HTM#05, accessed November 13, 2018

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The Trinity and Knowability

The Trinity is a mystery that is dogma and must be believed for one to call themselves a Christian.  This is a leap of faith, because though we know it is true, we are not able to understand everything about it.  Do we need to understand everything about it in order to believe?  Some would say that to believe we must have absolute knowledge of the subject.  To not have this knowability is a contradiction in eyes of many.

There are many things that we have knowledge of, but we do not know absolutely.  The medical field is constantly changing and filled with new advances, but just a few decades ago the damage of cigarettes on the human body was not well known.  Is this a contradiction in the medical field?  Do we not adhere to the advice of our doctor because we do not have an absolute knowledge of his field?  To have that line of thinking borders on insanity.

There is no tension between the trinity and its knowability.  The Trinity was revealed very slowly in scripture because to reveal it right away would lead Israel into Tritheism.  They simply would not have understood it.  The members of the Trinity were together at one time at the baptism of Christ, and Christ mentioned all three.  For those who have issues believing the Trinity, St. Augustine asks a very interesting question.  Do you believe Jesus rose from the dead though you have never seen anyone else do the same (Augustine 7.5)?  We love the Lord Jesus though we have never seen him, and we love the other members of the Trinity as well.  We see the handiwork of the Trinity all around us.  The Trinity is one God with three persons, and we love them because they are God.  It does take an element of faith like most things in life.  That illumination that faith provides assists in understanding it a bit more.  If we fully understand everything there is to know about God, then he ceases being God.

 

Works Cited

Augustine of Hippo. Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/130101.htm&gt;, accessed November 11, 2018.

The Need for Formal Formulation of Trinitarian Dogma

In the early church many were attempting to understand the divinity of Christ, and in extension the Holy Trinity.  Today, we have the benefit of the Church correcting false ideas.  However, when these ideas were formulated there was not a dogmatic decree regarding the Trinity though the dogma had been taught in the earliest days of the church.  The heresies of Monarchianism, Sabellianism, Subordinationism, and Arianism required that the church formally formulate the Trinitarian doctrine.

Dynamic Monarchianism taught that the Father was true God, and that Christ was a man who was indwelled with a divine spirit (Preuss 126).  Patripassian Monarchianism takes it a step further by acknowledging Christ as divine but does not go far enough as the two are not of the same substance.  Sabellianism, or Modalism as it is also called, taught that God manifested himself in different modes and that there was only one person of the Godhead.  In short, God was made up of one person (Garrigou-Lagrange Ch.5).  Arianism denied the divinity of Christ and taught that He was a creation of the Father (Lecture Notes), and this was also the Arian view of the Holy Spirit.  In that regard, he was subordinate to the Father.  The heresies mentioned all have elements of subordinationism, because in various respects the divinity of Christ and the Holy Spirit is lowered.

With these heresies being taught the souls of the faithful were at risk.  The church rightly saw that an attack on the persons of the Trinity was a salvific issue.  Afterall, if Christ was not fully divine then his sacrifice on the cross meant little or nothing.  The church responded to the heresies, and formally defined the Trinity at the Council of Nicea in 325.

 

Works Cited

Garrigou-Lagrange, Reginald.  The Trinity and God the Creator.  https://www.ewtn.com/library/THEOLOGY/TRINITY.HTM#05, accessed November 13, 2018.

Preuss, Arthur. The Divine Trinity.  https://archive.org/details/divinetrinityad00pohlgoog, accessed November 12, 2018.

Why Are There 27 Books In The New Testament?

There are many things that may come to an individual’s mind when it comes to sacred scripture.  Some may ask why there are so many translations.  Some may wonder if the Bible as we know it fell from the sky at Pentecost.  However many have questions on how we have the books we have.  For sure it was long and arduous process, but it was one guided by the Holy Spirit and the church.

One rule that was used to determine inclusion of the twenty seven books was linkage to an Apostle, or apostolic origin.  In the first three centuries after the church started there were many books bearing the name of various Apostles.  As an example there was the Gospel of Thomas, Luke, Peter, and the proto gospel of James.  In addition to these there were several hundred Acts and Apocalypses.  Some of these writings were spurious and contradicted the Gospel being preached by the church.

Apostolic origin does not mean that it has to be written by an apostle, but that an Apostle “stands behind writing in such a way that the essential teaching is preserved within it (Nichols, page 104).”  This would explain why the Gospel of Luke was included in the canon.  Great care was made to ensure that writings had apostolic backing, and if they did not they were denied canonical status.

Another rule that was used in determining if a book was worthy of the canon was its conformity to the faith of the church.  Would a collection of Holy writings from any religion be deemed authoritative if they contradicted each other?  The answer to the question is obvious.  The church used great care in determining that the twenty seven books in the canon were in compliance with what the church taught.

The church was able to do this by utilizing the oral tradition that was handed down from the Apostles.  As a Nichols documents “around 190 a bishop in Antioch stopped people from using the Gospel of Peter on the grounds that its author did not regard the human body of Jesus as real (Nichols, page 104).”  The church teaches that Christ was a real person, divine, and bled on the cross.  This writing taught that Christ was a spirit that entered into a man that was being crucified.  There were many writings like this floating around, and since they did not pass the test of orthodoxy they were not included in the canon.

Thirdly the writing had to be valued by the church that was respected for its own Apostolic origin (Nichols, page 104).  Perfect examples of this are the Epistles of Saint Paul.  There is little doubt that these writings are his for he states at the end of letters that he wrote them with his own hand.  Also he wrote them to churches that he started and they knew him very well.  These churches preserved these letters and read them in their liturgies.

Using these three criteria, the fathers of the church started to develop the New Testament.  The letters of Paul were among the first to be recognized in 90 ad and were being assembled in small collections.  The four Gospels were decided on around the year 200.  There were various canons proposed, but the Pauline letters and the four gospels seemed to have staying power.  Other books such as Revelation and Hebrews were battled over.  Some areas of the church accepted them and others did not.  There were also books with no apostolic link that were considered such as the Shepherd of Hermas and Clements letter to the Corinthians.  However they did not meet the criteria previously discussed and were denied canonical status. Through many debates and hefty quarrels we know that the canon was final by the end of the fourth century (Nichols, Page 105).

 

References

Nichols, Aiden. The Shape of Catholic Theology: An Introduction to Its Sources, Principles, and History. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press.

St. Augustine and the Trinity

The Trinity is a doctrine that some have had issue with since the earliest days of Christianity.  The great church father, St. Augustine, was not immune to having to deal with Christological heresies.  Though the heresies are Christological, they deal with the Trinity because Christ is the second person of the Trinity.  If a there is a false understanding of who Christ is, then there is a false understanding of what the Trinity is.  In discussing these various heresies, St. Augustine wrote treatise titled On the Trinity.  This has become known as one of his most difficult works and it took him sixteen years to complete (Augnet 2135).  His work is gift to all of us and shows various arguments supporting the equality of divine persons against Christological heresies.

In chapter one, St. Augustine warns the reader of those who commit heresy through the misuse of reason.  They fall into error by misinterpreting the sacred text through crude love of reason (Augustine Ch.1).  By doing so they miss the point of the text and somehow twist scripture to mean something it does not intend.  In all fairness, this is still something that happens today regarding the Trinity.  In chapter five, Augustine speaks of the unity of the divine persons.  He does this specifically by describing how the three persons are one, how they have individua work, and yet work together.  Augustine states in regard to their work, “Father does some things, the Son other things, and the Holy Spirit yet others” (Augustine Ch.5.8).  The Holy Spirit is the spirit of both the Father and the Son and was not begotten.  Just like the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit has no beginning or end.

In Chapter six Augustine seems to be teaching against a type of modalism that was going around.  Some were saying that God was not immortal because he changed into the Son and Holy Spirit through time, or that somehow Christ was less that the Father.  Augustine brilliantly answers with scripture.  This is still a method that is effective today.  He quotes John 1:1 to show that Christ has always existed, and that the scriptures call Him God (Augustine Ch. 6.9).  He then alludes to the baptism of Christ in Matthew chapter 3 to show the unity and equality of the three.  Jesus is present, it was the Father’s voice that spoke, and it was the Holy Spirit that was present in the dove.  This shows that they all exist at the same time, in unity, equality, and that it is not one form changing to another.

In proving his case of equality among the Trinitarian persons, St. Augustine looks to 1 Corinthians 8:6 which states, “yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist” (NRSV).  This verse affirms the divinity of Christ by mentioning him in the same sentence as God.  Notice also how all things exist through the Father and the Son?  Each person of the Trinity has a clause, or duty, assigned.  One is not more important than the other, but they all work together for our redemption and salvation (Augustine 6.12).

Some may say that the verse mentioned above makes sense, but what of the Holy Spirit?  In Chapter 6, St. Augustine goes to great lengths to show that the Holy Spirit is equal to the Father and the Son.  The Holy Spirit is not something that had a point of origin.  In other words, he is not a creature that had a beginning and that will have an ultimate end.  The Holy Spirit is equal, coeternal, and of the same essence.  Regarding the Holy Spirit St. Paul writes in Philippians 3:3, “For it is we who are the circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and boast in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh” (NRSV).  Also in 1 Corinthians 6:9, St. Paul specifically mentions that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.  We serve, worship, and ask the Holy Spirit for things just as we would the Father and the Son.  That is because they are coequal and God.

Image result for augustine and the trinity

Works Cited

Augustine. On the Trinity From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 3. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/130101.htm&gt;, accessed October 14, 2018.

Augustinians Australia. http://www.augnet.org/en/works-of-augustine/writings-of-augustine/2135-on-the-trinity/, accessed October 14, 2018.

Divine Participation and Possession

The doctrines of divine participation and possession are key principles when it comes to the Christian life. This comes about by sanctifying grace, and through sanctifying grace we become partakers in the divine nature. The doctrines of participation and election are found in many places within sacred scripture. One such verse is 1 Corinthians 6:19 which states, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own” (NRSV)? The Gospel of John, other Pauline epistles, and the first letter of John also describe the indwelling of God.
The early church fathers taught that to participate and began when one is baptized (Gleason 126). This is when sanctifying grace takes over the soul. The unbaptized soul is not capable being possessed by the Divine, but at baptism we become “Christ-bearers” (Gleason 126). St. Augustine also echoes this idea of the indwelling of God. He makes the point that all of creation points to the glory and divinity of God. However, God only dwells in certain things. Those who are not Christians and are not in a state of grace are indwelled with Christ.
There was very little historical development from the end of the patristic era until the scholastic period. This is where St. Thomas Aquinas made the comparison with man and other parts of creation. Only man was created with in the image of God, with intelligence, and only man can be called sons of God and adopted through the gift of grace (Hardon Ch. 5). From there the Protestant reformers made taught the imputation of the merits of Christ and objected to the historic church teaching about perfection in the soul (Hardon Ch. 5). The Council of Trent tried to correct the damage done by the reformers. Trent reiterated church teaching and stated that the baptized were reborn and become friends of God (Hardon Ch. 5).

 

Works Cited

Gleason, R.W. Grace.  New York:  Shead & Ward, 1962.

Hardon, John.  History and Theology of Grace.  Ann Arbor, MI:  Sapientia Press, 2005.

Understanding of Actual Graces

To understand actual grace, it is important to differentiate it from sanctifying grace.  Sanctifying grace is that grace that grace that we receive at Baptism.  Actual grace is that grace that assists us in our daily lives.  It inspires us and guides our minds to focus on the things of God and assists us on our journey to the beatific vision (Hardon Ch.6).

The concept of actual grace has strong roots within the pages of sacred scripture.  In the Psalms the Psalmist is asking God to enlighten and guide him.  St. John write in John chapter six that no one can come to Jesus unless the father calls him (Jn 6:44-46).  The concept continues in Acts 16:14 where the Lord touched the heart of Lydia to follow the instruction of St. Paul. It continues into the book of Revelation where “divine grace operates on the will” (Hardon Ch.6).  Grace is a gift and the gift needs a giver (Gleason 125).  Without the giver our efforts are in vain.

The concept of actual grace in scripture went unchallenged until the Pelagian controversy arose.   This is when St Augustine first gives a detailed explanation in his anti-pelagian writings.  He explains that is God who works within us, and any good that we do is because God operated because our wills require a mover (Hardon Ch. 6).  This sentiment was echoed, though a little differently at the councils of Carthage and Orange.  Carthage noted that the knowledge of what to do and the love for dong it come from God, while Orange added that it is the inspiration and illumination of the Spirit that allows us to do such things.

The theological analysis of actual graces can get quite complex, but it need not be so.  John Hardon defines actual graces as “internal and immediate illuminations of the intellect and inspirations of the human will” (Hardon Ch.6).  They are internal because they allow a person to perform actions that can lead to heaven.  If we are moved to live a life of charity, then this is a work of actual grace.  Actual grace can further be broken down into prevenient grace and cooperating grace.  Prevenient grace precedes our free will to exercise it.  It is the grace that calls us to a particular action.  Cooperating grace is when the graces coincide with our will and assists us in doing what we should do.  In addition to two types of actual grace, there are two theories that seek to describe actual grace.  One is the Molinist notion is based on the simultaneous of God and man’s faculties working together (Hardon Ch. 6).  The other is the Thomist which states that God acts on the mind first to enable the action.

 

Works Cited

Gleason, R.W. Grace.  New York:  Shead & Ward, 1962.

Hardon, John.  History and Theology of Grace.  Ann Arbor, MI:  Sapientia Press, 2005.

Journet, Charles.  The Meaning of Grace.   Princeton: Scepter Publishers, 1997.

Limits of Natural Knowledge

Truth is all around us.  It is something concrete and is not able to be changed.  For one to come to truth one must have a knowledge of that truth.  In this case there is natural and supernatural knowledge.  Man is a creature of reason, and it is through this reason that man differentiates himself from lower creature.  However, there are limitations to natural knowledge, and to understand divine truths, or supernatural knowledge, the grace of God must be present.

For one to know any element of truth, God must first move the intellect to do so .  Supernatural grace is not something needed to know natural knowledge.  This can be seen in many places in sacred scripture, but probably most famously in Romans chapter one.  One of the verses in question is Romans 1:20 which states, “Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse” (NRSV).  Natural knowledge, great as it may be, is limited in scope.  Through natural knowledge we can know that God exists, and we can come to a know the end of things, scientific processes, and we are to relate to each other.

Grace changed things and allows us to obtain supernatural knowledge.  This does not mean that we will be understand all things about the divine, but God touches us and raises us up.  We become fully dependent on God and God works through us.  This supernatural knowledge brought about by grace gives a a reinforcement “to the power of the soul over the body, of reason over the passions, of man over the world, belongs to the sphere of preternatural gifts, which we might call miraculous” (Journet 5.5).  Furthermore, this supernatural knowledge of knowing that we are fully dependent on God and understanding that we cannot do anything apart from him, helps us persevere in grace and charity (Hardon Ch. 3).

 

Works Cited

Hardon, John.  History and Theology of Grace.  Ann Arbor, MI:  Sapientia Press, 2005.

Journet, Charles.  The Meaning of Grace.   Princeton: Scepter Publishers, 1997.

Newman’s Development Hypothesis

After reading Cardinal Newman’s “The Development of Ideas” I came to the conclusion that ideas and doctrine do not just come about.  They started from an idea that was debated, was allowed to germinate, and must be allowed to mature.  This can only be done through debate and reason.  What is interesting is that this work was the turning point of Newman to Catholicism.  As many do he started as an evangelical, then Anglican, and finally seeing the ideas and doctrines that had matured, became a great asset to the Catholic Church.

Newman explains that at first man will have an idea, but will not be sure how to explain.  He may seem like a babbling fool unable to make a coherent point about the idea.  However over time something will be brought to light that will move the idea forward.  This new fact will be debated and judged by many, and after a time there will be something definite that comes from it.  Over time there may even be various views on the same subject, but there will be a definite teaching that came from the original idea.  History will show that great teachings of history can be boiled down to its original idea and this helps us understand it all the more.

This process, especially in terms of doctrine, can take a lot of time to develop.  It has been shaped and formed from many brilliant people with their own take on it.  We all have different experiences and an idea may mean something different to different people.  The ideas that came from the great councils of our church are great examples of this.  All the Bishops gathered together with their own input, and the Holy Spirit guided them in defining doctrine.  There was much debate and everyone learned from another.

Image result for cardinal newman

Works Cited

http://www.newmanreader.org/works/development/index.html

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