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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 3: Father Principle 141

Extract

Chapter 3: Father Principle Thomas Aquinas affirms that the Father is known by his innascibility and by his being a principle of the other divine persons.1 As we have examined the former in chapter 2, we now consider the latter. This chapter will examine ST I, q. 33, a. 1, which considers the Father insofar as he is a principle. We will flesh out the outline suggested by this article, with relevant material from Aquinas’ other works and elsewhere in the Summa Theologiae.2 Our investigation of this article will lead us to reflect on Aquinas’ definition of “principle,” his use of the terms auctor (author) and auctoritas (authority), as well as his understanding of the Father’s personhood being constituted by paternity, the personal property that arises from his being a principle. Our presentation thus unfolds in three parts: I. The Father as a “principle” (ST I, q. 33, a. 1): A. the Father is not a “cause” of the Son and the Holy Spirit (a. 1, corp.; ad 1); B. the Father is “the principle of the whole Godhead” (a. 1, s.c.); C. principiality establishes order but not hierarchy in the Trinity (a. 1, ad 2-3). II. Aquinas’ use of auctor and auctoritas: A. as regards the application of auctor to God, 1. among the divine persons; 2. in the economy; B. concerning divine auctoritas, 1. among the divine persons; 2. in the economy. III. The Father as constituted by his paternity: A. the Father gives birth because he is...

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