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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 6: The Father in the Economy 303


Chapter 6: The Father in the Economy In this chapter, we consider God the Father’s relationship to his creatures, as viewed by St. Thomas Aquinas. In order to understand Aquinas’ account of the Father in the economy, we must first clarify the application of the term “father” to God, which can refer either to the person of the Father or to God, the whole Trinity.1 According to Aquinas, God the Father is, properly speaking, the Father of the eternal Son, and the whole Trinity is the “Father” of creatures—who are thus “sons” by analogy to the eternal Son’s relationship to God the Father.2 Even so, as we shall consider in detail, the Father’s proper role in the Trinity is borne out in his actions in the economy. Our exposition will unfold therefore as follows: after a clarification of (I) the whole Trinity taken as the Father of creatures, we will examine (II) the Father’s proper mode of action in the economy, considering the Father (A) as the unoriginate origin of all creatures and (B) as the ultimate end of rational creatures.3 Thomas’ discussion of the Father in relation to his creatures appears chiefly in the Sentences Commentary, the Commentary on John, and the Summa Theologiae. We will see that, on one hand, Thomas insists on calling the whole Trinity “Father” in order to affirm God’s transcendent uncreated majesty over against creatures, and that, on the other hand, he confirms the dignity of sanctified rational creatures, who are able to...

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