25 October 2006

Motivation (4): Aquinas

St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), Italian church Doctor and philosopher-theologian, would perhaps surprise many of us Protestant evangelicals who react so ascerbically to dry scholasticism and have written off Aquinas as such (at least I did until I actually read him):

"As the intellect is moved by the object and by the Giver of the power of intelligence . . . so is the will moved by its object, which is good, and by Him who creates the power of willing. Now the will can be moved by good as its object, but by God alone sufficiently and efficaciously. . . .

"A thing moved by another is forced if moved against its natural inclination; but if it is moved by another giving to it the proper natural inclination, it is not forced; as when a heavy body is made to move downwards by that which produced it, then it is not forced. In like manner God, while moving the will, does not force it, because He gives the will its own natural inclination. . . .

"Rectitude of the will is necessary for Happiness . . . final Happiness consists in the vision of the Divine Essence, which is the very essence of goodness. So that the will of him who sees the Essence of God, of necessity, loves, whatever he loves, in subordination to God; just as the will of him who sees not God’s Essence, of necessity, loves whatever he loves, under that common notion of good which he knows. And this is precisely what makes the will right. Wherefore it is evident that Happiness cannot be without a right will. . . .

"God is the last end, as that which is ultimately sought for: while the enjoyment is as the attainment of this last end. And so, just as God is not one end, and the enjoyment of God, another: so it is the same enjoyment whereby we enjoy God, and whereby we enjoy our enjoyment of God. And the same applies to created happiness which consists in enjoyment."

--Summa Theologica, 1:604ff.

"Just as it is through the virtue of faith that a man partakes of the divine knowledge by means of the power of his intellect, and through the virtue of charity that he partakes of the divine love by means of the power of his will, so it is through regeneration or recreation of his soul’s nature that he partakes of the divine nature by way of a certain likeness."

--A. M. Fairweather, ed. and trans., Nature and Grace: Selections from the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas, 163.

I can't resist adding this fascinating historical anecdote by Sam Storms (my old Wheaton theology professor who in 2004 started Enjoying God Ministries), found in his notes on Aquinas:

"Lest one regard Thomas as a coldly intellectual theologian, devoid of godly passion, consider the story told of him by one young man. During his final years at Naples, Thomas was working on the conclusion of the Summa (which he never concluded!). A young man entered the room to find Thomas deep in prayer, allegedly floating above the ground (!). A voice was heard coming from the crucifix which Thomas held in hand: 'Thomas, you have written well of me. What reward can I give you for all your labours?' To which Thomas replied: 'Nothing, Lord. Nothing, but You.' Some time later, on Dec. 6th, 1273, he had an experience during Mass that so profoundly affected him that he wrote nothing more. When urged by his friends to complete the Summa, he replied: 'I cannot, for compared with what I have seen and what has been revealed to me [evidently, during the Mass], everything I have written seems like straw.'"

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