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God the Father in the Theology of St. Thomas Aquinas


John Baptist Ku

God the Father in the Theology of St. Thomas Aquinas is an exposition of Aquinas’ theology of God the Father as a coherent whole. Surprising as it might be, there has not been an extended treatment of Aquinas’ theology of God the Father. Three misconceptions are addressed: (1) the idea that Aquinas’ speculative Trinitarian theology is detached from Scripture; (2) the supposition that in Aquinas’ understanding, the Father’s relation to the Holy Spirit is an afterthought to the Father’s relation to the Son; and (3) the view that for Thomas, the Father has no proper mode of action in the created universe – since Thomas maintains that in all ad extra activity, the Trinity acts as a single principle. Two less polemical, more perennial issues are discussed as well. First, the concept of relation, as the key to a coherent account of three distinct persons in one same divine essence, emerges as an important theme in Aquinas’ exposition of the Father’s paternity and innascibility. Second, Aquinas understands the Father as the source of unity in the Trinity and as the beginning and end of the whole created universe. It becomes clear that St. Thomas places forceful emphasis on the Son’s equality to the Father and on the radical difference between the creator and the creature.


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Introduction 1


1 In chapter 1, we briefly showcase Aquinas’ exegesis of Scriptures pertaining to the Father, in order to demonstrate that his speculative theology of the Father is no mere academic exercise but rather springs from the Church’s tradition and the revelation of Jesus Christ, as recorded in the Bible. In chapters 2–6, we examine the Father’s innascibility (ch. 2), principiality (ch. 3), name (ch. 4), spiration (ch. 5), and action in the created order, with special attention to adoptive sons (ch. 6). Four of these chapters (2 – 4 and 6) correspond to the four articles of ST I, q. 33, which provides our overall structure. We place the first chapter, on Thomas’ use of Scripture, at the beginning to situate the later chapters in proper context, and we must insert the fifth chapter, on spiration, since as noted above, the Summa Theologiae does not treat the Father’s relationship to the Holy Spirit until ST I, qq. 36-37. The treatment of spiration naturally follows the expositions of the other two notions of the Father (innascibility and paternity) and precedes the consideration of the Father in the created economy. In our preliminary note, we begin with a review of the basic terms of discussion in Aquinas’ Trinitarian theology, namely: “procession,” “relation,” “notion,” “property,” “hypostasis,” “supposit” and “person.” Next, we study different modes of signification of these terms. For instance, we examine how some terms might be applied concretely and others abstractly, or some applied formally and others operationally. Finally, we retrace...

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