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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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Chapter 5: Father Spirator 245


Chapter 5: Father Spirator “The Father can be known by common spiration insofar as he is the principle of the Holy Spirit by breathing forth Love.”1 In this chapter, we will consider issues related to the Father as he is known by the notion of common spiration, which “distinguishes the Father from the Holy Spirit but unites him to the Son.”2 The Holy Spirit receives rather limited mention in ST I, q. 33, appearing only where the Father is discussed as a principle of the Son and the Holy Spirit (a. 1) and as well in the consideration of the Holy Spirit as possibly called unbegotten (a. 4). Since the name “Father” specifies a relation to the Son, the question on the person of the Father naturally focuses on the Father’s begetting the Son and the Father’s being unbegotten. That is, the notions of paternity and innascibility receive Thomas’ attention in q. 33 almost to the exclusion of common spiration, which is not to be dealt with until the person of the Holy Spirit is considered in qq. 36-38. As we shall see, Thomas in no way neglects the Holy Spirit, but the questions dealing with the divine persons in the Summa Theologiae follow the order of the personal names. For an understanding of the Father as Spirator of the Holy Spirit, we will follow the relevant articles of Thomas’ exposition of the Holy Spirit in the Summa Theologiae, filling out this presentation where necessary with material from...

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