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God the Father in the Theology of St. Thomas Aquinas

Series:

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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Chapter 1: The Revelation of the Father 41

Extract

Chapter 1: The Revelation of the Father The purpose of this chapter is to make clear that Aquinas’ speculative theology is consciously and firmly rooted in the revelation of God the Father through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit, as witnessed by the Scriptures.1 That is, as Aquinas understands it, the Father is revealed in the words, deeds and very person of Christ, which revelation is completed by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Thus, terms like “properties,” “consubstantiality,” “person,” “relation,” and “notion” are not invented out of thin air; they are derived from the Church’s reflection on the words of Christ himself. In Aquinas’ view, the doctrine of relations is not a human construct fabricated four centuries after Christ but is contained in the Bible, even if not in obviously explicit terms. Aquinas’ speculative theology, which we shall examine in the subsequent chapters, is thus not some absurd gratuitous exercise but is based on what God has said and done! A review of selected passages from the Thomistic corpus, especially his biblical commentaries, and chiefly the Commentary on John, will suffice to make this point. Our exposition will be divided into two major parts, treating how the Father is revealed (I) by the Son and (II) by the Holy Spirit. In these sections, our strategy is simply to allow Thomas to speak for himself; by quoting him at length, the evidence will be clear enough. I. The Father is revealed by the Son We find it most natural to...

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