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I have herein summarized and quoted from articles 1-10 of question 113 in the prima secunda of Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologica: “Of the Effects of Grace.” I have organized my summaries more in tune with how Aquinas wrote them: 1) the sed contra (some authoritative statement Aquinas usually wishes to defend), 2) the respondeo (Thomas’s way of explaining things) and 3) adversus (Thomas’s responses to various objections). I begin, however, with IN SUM (my summary of all ten articles of question 113). All quotations from the Summa are taken from the English Translation, Summa Theologica, trans. the Fathers of the English Dominican Province, 5 vols., rev. ed. 1948; repr., Notre Dame, Indiana: Ave Maria Press, 1981.
Some questions to ask when reading: (1) Does Aquinas use the term “remission of sins” forensically to refer to their being forgiven, or does he use this language psychologically to refer to the expelling of the sin within the heart? (2) Where does forgiveness fit into his doctrine of justification? (3) Why does Aquinas choose to tackle the questions he does? Can we discern a larger project driving his agenda? (4) How does Aquinas handle the tension between grace and free will? (5) In Aquinas, why is justification by faith rather than charity? (6) Are there any questionable assumptions made by Aquinas’ Aristotelian anthropology that have been corrected by science (besides the obvious point that science admits of no “soul” that transcends the physical/material)? If so, could his theology of justification be enhanced by holding on to his overall doctrine but updating where necessary? (7) When Aquinas disagrees with objections to his position, is he ultimately disagreeing with them or finding a way to affirm the truth in their objection without it undermining his position? In other words, what posture does Aquinas seem to take towards the objections?
IN SUM :: Justification is the movement of a sinner from a state of interior injustice known as sin to a state of interior justice that expels such sin, caused instantaneously when the grace of God is infused and causes the sinner to accept grace by their free will and freely despise sin and turn from loving it and towards God and loving God. The justice brought about by this grace in the interior of a human soul is such that the human intellect or reason is directed toward God to apprehend God as last end, and directs the human will to submit to the human intellect and therefore love God as last end or ultimate good. Justification is by faith because the will only loves what it first apprehends as a fitting object of love by the intellect or reason, thus faith has a structural priority over charity (love for God) inasmuch as the intellect has a structural priority over the will. Though justification is brought about by faith and is the sinner’s first movement toward God inasmuch as faith is the first effect of grace due to its structural priority, it more especially concerns or consists in charity because justice is especially concerned with the good, and the good is especially the object of the will, and charity is the will’s proper act (love) elevated and perfected.
ST I-II.113.1 :: The justification of the ungodly is the remission of sins.
sed contra :: The remission of sins is justification.
respondeo :: Just as making hot implies a movement towards heat, so justification implies a movement towards justice and includes a rectitude of order. Justification as a virtue implies a making right of man’s act towards his neighbor. Justification as legal justice implies a making right of man’s act in relation to the common good. But justification takes its name from the rectitude of order it implies in the interior disposition of the person who is made just. More specifically, the inferior or lower powers of the person’s soul are made subject to the superior or highest powers of the person’s soul, while the higher powers are in turn made subject to God. Aristotle called this relationship between the higher and lower powers metaphorical justice.
Since Adam was created with original justice, his justice was simply generated, but what the Apostle Paul has in mind by “the justification of the ungodly” is the kind of justice that is brought about in a person by a movement from one contrary to another—namely, from an injustice in the interior of a person’s soul to justice in that same soul. Since movements get their name not from their starting point (whence), but from the direction or termination of the movement (whereto), “this transmutation whereby the remission of sins from a the state of ungodliness to the state of justice borrows its name from its term whereto, and is called justification of the ungodly.”
adversus 1 :: Some might argue that sin is opposed to all virtues, not just justice. Therefore the remission of sins in general is not the same as justification. But I counter that all sin implies the disorder of the human mind—that is, it’s not being subject to God. For this reason, the removal of any sin is called the justification of the ungodly.
adversus 2 :: Some might argue still as follows: everything ought to be named after what is predominate in it, as Aristotle argues (De Anima ii. text. 49). The remission of sins is brought about chiefly by faith according to Acts xv. 9 and by charity according to Proverbs x.12). Hence justification should be named after faith and charity rather than justice. But I counter this argument as follows: faith and charity imply that the human mind is directed to God by the intellect (faith) and will (charity), but because justice implies a rightness of order in general the transmutation is named justification rather than charitification or faithification.
adversus 3 :: It could be said that the remission of sins is one and same with being called. A person called is afar off, and those afar off from God are so by sin. Yet one is called prior to being justified if we go by Romans 8:30. However, I would counter that being called refers to God’s help in exciting and moving our mind to give up sin, but God’s motion is not the remission of sins, but it’s cause. God’s moving and exciting our mind to give up sin must be distinguished from it’s effect, which is our giving up of sin. The former is the cause of their remission, while the latter is their remission.
ST I-II.113.2 :: The infusion of grace is required for the remission of guilt—that is, for the justification of the ungodly.
sed contra :: An infusion of grace is required for the remission of sins, for we are justified freely by grace.
respondeo :: Sin creates an offense to God, and offenses are only removed when the person who has been offended is at peace with the soul of the person who offended. Therefore the remission of sins implies that God must be at peace with the one who sinned. “This peace consists in the love whereby God loves us.” As part of the divine actuality God’s love is eternal and unchangeable, but it’s effect on human persons can be interrupted inasmuch as we fall short of it through sin. The effect of divine love in us (that can be interrupted by sin) is grace, and it is by grace that a person is made worthy of eternal life, and by sin that a person is made unworthy of eternal life. Hence we could not conceive of the remission of guilt apart from the infusion of grace.
adversus 1 :: Now it might be argued that persons can be moved from one contrary without being led to another if the contraries are not immediate, and the state of guilt and grace are not immediate, for there is a middle state—namely, the state of innocence where a person is in neither state. Hence a person can be pardoned his guilt without being brought to a state of grace. But I counter that although there is a middle state imaginable where we would neither be hated by God nor moved to a state of grace, but simply pardoned of our wrongs, such a middle state would only be conceivable in a state of innocence, for once a person sins this creates an offense, and pardoning an offense requires more than neutrality, but a special good will. God’s special good will is called grace. Thus, although a person before sinning may be in a state without guilt and also without grace, once sin is introduced and pardon is necessary to restore peace, the remission of guilt requires the infusion of grace.
adversus 2 :: One might argue that the remission of guilt consists in the Divine imputation whereby God does not impute our sin to us. However, such imputation requires the divine act of God’s love which implies a certain effect of grace (as we have established in Q 110.1). Thus, not imputing sin implies a certain effect in the person whose sins are not held against her. In other words, the divine imputation only proceeds from the same Divine love that is grace.
adversus 3 :: One might argue that sins which are contraries allow for sins to be remitted without grace, as a person guilty of wastefulness is thereby remitted of the sin of miserliness. However, these sins may be contrary to one another in the ways they turn from God, but they are alike inasmuch as they both turn from God, wherein their sinfulness lies. Furthermore, without grace the guilt of sin remains even if the act of it passes away.
ST I-II.113.3 :: A movement of free-will is required for the justification of the ungodly.
sed contra :: It is written that “every one that hath heard of the Father, and hath learned, cometh to Me,” but learning implies assent to the teacher, hence no one comes to the Father (by justifying grace) without a movement of free will.
respondeo :: Justification happens when God moves a person to justice, but God always moves everything in its own manner, according to its nature and not against it. It is human nature to have free will, thus when God moves a person to justice this cannot be without a movement of the free will. “But he so infuses the gift of justifying grace that at the same time He moves the free-will to accept the gift of grace, in such as are capable of being moved thus” (that is, not infants or those in a comma).
adversus 1 :: Infants are not capable of the movement of free will, nor are madmen and mentally disabled who have never had a movement of their free will. They are an exception and are justified by the infusion of their souls through a sacrament apart from a movement of their own free will. In the case of someone who had use of their free will but lost it through sickness or sleep, they can only be justified if they intended to make use of the sacrament of Baptism or any other sacrament before they lost the use of their free will, otherwise the sacraments will not help them obtain justifying grace.
adversus 2 :: Some might argue that Solomon was moved to wisdom in his sleep, yet the movement of the free will does not occur during sleep. Hence the gift of sanctifying grace could also be given apart from the movement of free will. But this is wrong on multiple levels. In the first instance, Solomon wasn’t given the gift of wisdom during his sleep, but it was rather announced to him in his sleep based on a pervious desire, or else it was “the sleep of prophecy” wherein the will is able to move. Secondly, the gift of wisdom perfects the intellect which precedes the will, whereas the gift of justifying grace has especially to do with ordaining a person to the good, and the good is especially the object of the will.
adversus 3 :: One might argue that grace is preserved without a movement of the will, and this preservation is by the same cause that brings grace about in the first place. Hence it can be brought about or infused apart from a movement of the will. However, the preservation of grace does not require a transmutation of the soul, but only a continuation of the divine influx that caused the transmutation. The infusion of grace in justification, however, does require a transmutation of the soul and therefore a proper movement of that soul is required in order for it to be moved according to its own manner, which involves the movement of the will.
ST I-II.113.4 :: A movement of faith is required for the justification of the ungodly.
sed contra :: It is written “Being justified therefore by faith, let us have peace with God.”
respondeo :: A movement of the free will is required for the justification of the ungodly because in justification a person’s mind/soul is moved by God by turning it to himself. Now the first turning to God is by faith, hence a movement of faith is required for the justification of the ungodly.
adversus 1 :: Now one might argue that faith is no more required for justification than any of the other virtues, since Scripture also teaches that fear drives out sin (Ecc 1.27), charity causes the forgiveness of sins (Luke 7.47), humility causes grace (James 4.6), and mercy purges away sin (Prov 15.27). However, the movement of faith is not perfect unless it is quickened by charity, hence the infusion of faith is always accompanied by the infusion also of charity—they are infused together. The free will is moved to God by being subject to Him, hence the acts of fear and humility also concur. When mercy follows justification, it counteracts sin by satisfying for it. When mercy precedes justification it prepares for it inasmuch as the merciful obtain mercy. Mercy can thus both precede justification and concur with other virtues towards justification inasmuch as it is included in the love of our neighbor.
adversus 2 :: One might say that knowledge of God is required for justification, and this can be obtained through natural knowledge or the gift of wisdom and therefore faith is not necessary for justification. But natural knowledge does not turn a person to God as the object of beatitude or the cause of justification, hence such knowledge does not suffice for justification. The gift of wisdom on the other hand presupposes faith.
adversus 3 :: Some might say that because there are many articles of faith it is unreasonable to think a person must think upon all of them when he is first justified, since such thought would require a long delay of time. However, the Apostle says “to him that believes in Him that justifies the ungodly his faith is reputed to justice, according to the purpose of the grace of God.” This makes it clear that faith is required in order to believe that God justifies man through the mystery of Christ.
ST I-II.113.5 :: The justification of the ungodly requires a movement of the free will concerning sin.
sed contra :: It is written “I will confess against myself my injustice to the Lord; and Thou hast forgiven the wickedness of my sin.”
respondeo :: Justification of the ungodly is a certain movement whereby the human mind is moved by God from the state of sin to the state of justice, and this requires an act of the free will to regard both states. Just as in local movement a body is related to the place it moves from as well as the place it moves to, so the human mind whilst being justified must by an act of the free will both withdraw from sin and draw near to justice. If we understand how the will moves as Augustine did, this requires a despising of sin enough to move the will away from it, and a desire for justice enough to move the will toward it.
adversus 1 :: Now some might argue that charity is enough to take away sin, yet charity’s object is clearly not sin. Likewise, therefore, no movement of the free will regarding sin is required. However, one and the same virtue is responsible for the will’s movement to seek one thing and avoid it’s contrary. Thus charity is responsible for both loving God and detesting the sin whereby the soul is separated from God.
adversus 2 :: Now scripture teaches that the one moving forward shouldn’t look back (Philippians 3.13-14), and whoever is striving after righteousness has his sins behind him. Therefore, some conclude that this means no movement of the free will regarding sin is required for justification. However, to return to the things behind in such a case would be to return to loving them. The movement of the will required by justification is the opposite. In fact, the one putting his sins behind him ought to recall his former sins to detest them, for this is the same as to flee from them.
adversus 3 :: Still some will say that expecting a half pardon from God is irreverent, and if a man considers his sins in justification it would need to be all of them, not just some. But this doesn’t seem right, for it would require such a great effort to recall all of one’s sins and even then the sins that have been forgotten could not be forgiven. Hence they conclude that no movement of the free will can be required for justification. Now previous to justificationa person must detest each sin that one remembers, and from this the soul will continue this detestation to all sins in general, for it puts that person in a contrite frame of mind regarding sin such that were each sin to be recalled, they too would be detested. This movement of the free will away from sin co-operates in one’s justification.
ST I-II.113.6 :: The remission of sins ought to be reckoned amongst the things required for justification.
sed contra :: The end must be kept in mind when determining what is required for a thing, for the end is the chief part of everything and the remission of sins is the end of justification.
respondeo :: Four things are required for justification: 1) the infusion of grace, 2) the movement of the free will towards God by faith, 3) the movement of the free will towards sin, and 4) the remission of sins. This all flows from what justification is—namely, a movement whereby the soul is moved by God from a state of sin to a state of justice. In any scenario where one thing is being moved by another, three things are required: 1) the motion of the mover (in justification this would be the divine motion in the infusion of grace), 2) the movement of the moved (in justification this would be a departure from the term whence and an approach to the term whereto), and 3) the consummation of the movement, or the attainment of the end (the attainment of the end in justification is implied in the remission of sins, for in this the justification of the ungodly is completed).
adversus 1 :: One might argue that the the substance of a thing shouldn’t be called a “requirement” of that thing, and since the remission of sins is justification, it shouldn’t be considered also a “requirement” of justification. But the only reason justification is considered to consist in “the remission of sins” is because a movement gets its name or species from its end or term, yet other things are required in order to reach the term.
adversus 2 :: Others might argue that since the infusion of grace is the same thing as the remission of sins just as the lighting of a room dispels it’s darkness, these are not two separate things, but the same. Therefore the remission of sins shouldn’t be considered as a requirement for justification once the infusion of grace has already been listed. But this only holds true when considering the substance of the act of infusion, for by the same act God both bestows grace and remits sin. When considering the infusion of grace on the part of the objects, however, they differ by the difference between guilt, which is taken away, and grace, which is infused.
adversus 3 :: Still some will argue that an effect shouldn’t be enumerated together with its cause when things like this happen simultaneously. The remission of sin is caused by the infusion of grace which moves the free will towards grace and away from sin simultaneously because it is by faith on the one hand, and contrition on the other, whereby sin if forgiven. Therefore the remission of sins shouldn’t be enumerated and divided from its cause in this case as two different requirements for justification. However, this argument misjudges the enumeration I have laid out, which is an enumeration not of a genus into its species, but a division of the things required for the completion of a thing. In such enumerations, it is appropriate to have what precedes and what follows, since some of the principles and parts of a composite thing may precede, and some may follow.
ST I-II.113.7 :: The justification of the ungodly takes place in an Instant, not successively.
sed contra :: The justification of the ungodly is caused by the justifying grace of the Holy Spirit, who comes to people’s minds suddenly according to Acts 2:2: “and suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a mighty wind coming.” The gloss on this verse notes that the Holy Spirit “knows no tardy efforts,” therefore, the justification of the ungodly is not successive, but instantaneous.
respondeo :: “The entire justification of the ungodly consists as to its origin in the infusion of grace. For it is by grace that free-will is moved and sin is remitted. Now the infusion of grace takes place in an instant and without succession. The only thing keeping a form from being impressed upon a subject is that subjects not being disposed to it, but a subject predisposed already has nothing hindering from receiving a form. We have already established that God needs no disposition to infuse grace other than the one he Himself has made—and this sufficient disposition can be gradual or sudden. Natural agents cannot dispose a matter suddenly if the matter is resistant or has some disproportion with the power of the agent, but the stronger the agent the more speedily that agent can dispose matter for a form. Since God’s power is infinite, it can dispose instantly anything whatsoever to its form, and much more the free will of human persons, where the movement is by nature instantaneous. For this reason, the justification of the ungodly by God takes place in an instant.
adversus 1 :: Some might argue that since choice requires deliberation of counsel, which implies a reasoning process, this implies succession. But this type of consideration is not the substance of justification, but a way to justification.
adversus 2 :: One might make the argument that free will’s movement requires actual consideration, but it’s impossible to consider many things actually and at once. But I counter that nothing prevents two things being understood as one, so long as the two things considered are two sides of the same coin and are therefore somehow one, as when we understand the subject and predicate as one affirmation, or as when a person moves away from one place and towards another place at the same time all as one movement. Thus in the justification of the ungodly a person’s free will detests sin and turns to God simultaneously in one movement.
adversus 3 :: Still some might make the case that a form that can be greater or less is received successively by its subject, as blackness and whiteness. Grace may be greater or less, therefore, the infusion of grace is not received suddenly by its subject but successively. But this is flawed reasoning, for the reason a form is not received instantly in the matter is not that it can inhere more or less, otherwise light would not suddenly illuminate. The reason form inheres gradually is owing to the disposition of the matter or subject as we have seen.
adversus 4 :: It could be argued that the free will’s movement co-operates and is meritorious, hence it must proceed from grace, without which there can be no merit. But a thing receives its form before operating by this form. Hence grace must be infused first before the free will can move towards God and away from sin. Hence justification cannot be all at once. However, I counter that in the same instant a form can be acquired and begin to operate, as when fire is received it also moves upward in the same instant.
adversus 5 :: Finally, some argue that if grace be infused this implies an instant when it first dwells in the soul. Likewise, for sin to be forgiven, there must be a last instant that man is in sin. If it’s the same instant, opposites would be in the same instant simultaneously—inhering grace and inhering sin would be included in the same instant. But this argument fails to see that the succession of opposites in the same subject in time are different than those that are above time. Affections and intellectual concepts are not measured by continuous time, but by discrete time. In these, there is a last instant in which the preceding is, and a first instant in which the subsequent is, but there need by no time in between since there is no continuity of time. The human mind, which is justified, is, in itself, above time even though it is subject to time accidentally [inasmuch as it understands with continuity and time with respect to phantasms]. We must rather say that there is no last instant in which sin inheres, but a last time, whereas there is a first instant that grace inheres in which sin, which inhered in all previous time, no longer inheres.
ST I-II.113.8 :: The infusion of grace is naturally the first of the things required for the justification of the ungodly.
sed contra :: The cause is naturally prior to its effect, and the infusion of grace is naturally the cause of whatever is required for the justification of the ungodly. Therefore, it is naturally prior to it.
respondeo :: The four things required for the justification of the ungodly are all simultaneous in time rather than successive, as we have established. But in the order of nature, one is prior to another logically. Thus the first is the infusion of grace, the second, the free-will’s movement towards God, the third, the free will’s movement away from sin, and the fourth, the remission of sins. This is because in every movement the motion of the mover is naturally first (this would be the infusion of grace), the disposition of the matter or the movement of the moved is second (this would be the free will’s movement towards God). The end or term of the movement of the moved is last (this would be the free will’s movement away from sin). Since sin is detested because it is against God, the movement towards God is prior to the movement away from sin. The remission of sins is last inasmuch as it is caused by the end or term of the movement.
adversus 1 :: Some argue that we withdraw from evil before drawing near to the good per Psalm xxxiii.15 “turn away from evil, and do good.” Thus the remission of sins is naturally prior to the infusion of grace. But I counter that withdraw from a term and approach to another can be understood in more than one way. From the perspective of the thing moved, the withdraw of a term naturally precedes the approach to a term because in the subject of movement the opposite which is put away is prior to the opposite attained by the movement. On the part of the agent, however, it’s the other way around since the form pre-existing in the agent acts to remove the opposite form, as the sun by its light acts for the removal of darkness, and illumination is thus logically prior to the removal of darkness even though on the part of the atmosphere being freed from darkness is prior to illumination—even though both are simultaneous in time. Since the remission of sin is about the God who justifies, the infusion of grace is considered prior to being freed from sin, but if we look at it from the perspective of the justified, being freed from sin is prior to the obtaining of justifying grace. In other words, the whence of justification is sin; the term whereto is justice. Grace causes both the forgiveness of sin and the obtaining of justice.
adversus 2 :: Others argue that the disposition naturally precedes the form to which it disposes and the free will’s movement disposes for the reception of grace. Therefore, it naturally precedes the infusion of grace. And this is true from the perspective of the moved, for the disposition of the subject precedes the reception of the form in the order of nature. However, the disposition of the subject follows the action of the agent that disposes. The free will’s movement, then, precedes the reception of grace in the order of nature, and follows the infusion of grace. [NOTE: disposing grace vs. infusing grace refer to the same grace from different perspectives here—but Aquinas does not distinguish it’s effects by giving them different ends or names]
adversus 3 :: Sill one might make the case that since sin hinders the soul from freely tending to God, and such hinderance must be removed before the soul can freely move towards God, the remission of sins and the free will’s movement against sin must be considered naturally prior to the infusion of grace. But I counter that Aristotle has pointed out that the soul’s movements toward the speculative principles or the practical end comes first, even though in exterior movements the removal of hindrances are prior the attainment of the end. Likewise the free-will’s movement is a movement of the soul, so in the order of nature it moves towards God as to its end prior to removing impediments of sin.
ST I-II.113.9 :: The justification of the ungodly is God’s greatest work.
sed contra :: Ps cxliv.9 says “his tender mercies are over all his works” and in a collect it is said “O God, Who dost show forth Thine all-mightiness most by pardoning and having mercy.” And Augustine said “for a just man to be made from a sinner, is greater than to create heaven and earth.”
respondeo :: This can be seen in a number of ways. From the perspective of the mode of action in which creation is the greater work since God creates something from nothing, or on the part of what is made, in which case the justification of the ungodly is greater since it results in eternal good and a share in the Godhead, whereas the universe’s good terminates at the good of mutable nature. This is why Augustine says “heaven and earth shall pass away, but the justification of the ungodly shall endure.” Keep in mind the word “great” also can be seen in more than one way. In absolute quantity glorification is greater than the gift of grace that sanctifies the ungodly. In proportionate quantity the gift of grace that justifies the ungodly is greater than the gift of glorification that justifies the just because the gift of justification so far exceeds the worthiness of the subject who deserves punishment instead. Those who are glorified on the other hand, by the fact of their justification are worthy of the gift of glorification.
adversus 1 :: It might be argued that by justification we only obtain the grace of a foreigner or traveller, but glorification causes us to obtain heavenly grace and is therefore greater. But this objection has been answered already, as this looks at the question in terms of what is made rather than mode of action, and also in absolute quantity rather than proportionate quantify.
adversus 2 :: It could also be argued with good reason that justification of the ungodly is ordained only to the good of one person, but the creation of heaven and earth benefit the universe and is therefore greater. But this applies only if we consider both in the same genus since the good of the universe is greeter than the good of one. The good of grace in the one justified, however, is greater than the good of nature in the whole universe.
adversus 3 :: It could be argued with good reason that to create something from nothing is greater, for when God did this there was nothing to co-operate with the agent as in justification. Since in justification God creates something from something, and there is co-operation, but in creation God creates something from nothing, creation is a greater work than justification. But as we have already established, this considers only the manner of acting as the criterion for being greater, not what is made. If what is made be considered the criterion, the justification of the ungodly is greater, as we have established.
ST I-II113.10 :: Justification is not a miraculous work.
sed contra :: Miraculous works are beyond natural power, but Augustine makes clear that to be capable of faith and charity belongs to the nature of humans, but to have faith and charity belongs to the grace of the faithful. Therefore the justification if the ungodly is not miraculous.
respondeo :: Three things are usually found in miraculous works: 1) the active power is divine and the cause therefore hidden, in which case justification can be considered miraculous, 2) the form introduced to the matter is beyond natural power of that matter (as in the resurrection of the dead), in which case justification is not a miraculous work since the soul is capable of, and fit for, grace having been made in the image of God, and 3) something that departs from the usual cause and effect relationship, such as when a sick person beyond the wonted course of healing by nature or medicine is yet suddenly well, and in this matter justification is sometimes miraculous and sometimes not. “For the common and wonted course of justification is that God moves the soul interiorly and that person is converted to God, first by an imperfect conversion, that it may afterwards become perfect; because charity begun merits increase, and when increased merits perfection, as Augustine says.” But sometimes God moves persons to perfect justice all at once, as he did with the apostle Paul, and in which case it was accompanied by miraculous external prostrate. Thus Paul’s conversion is celebrated in the church as miraculous.
adversus 1 :: Some might argue that miraculous works are greater than non miraculous works, and since justification is greater than even miraculous works, as Augustin makes clear, therefore justification must be a miraculous work. But although certain miraculous works are less than the justification of the ungodly in terms of the good that is caused by the work of justification, yet certain miraculous works are beyond the wonted order of such effects, and thus have more of the nature of a miracle than justification does.
adversus 2 :: It could be argued that the movement of the will in the soul works like the inclinations in nature. When God moves natural things against their natural inclination, it is considered a miracle. Since the will of the ungodly is bent on evil, God’s moving it to good, as happens in justification, should be considered miraculous. But I would counter by arguing that for a natural thing to be moved against its inclination is not necessarily a miraculous work, otherwise it would be a miracle for a stone to be thrown upwards. It could only be a miracle if this takes place beyond the order of the natural proper cause (like using a feather to spring a heavy rock upwards in the air). However, only God can justify the ungodly just as much as only heat could warm up cold water, so even in this regard justification of the ungodly cannot be seen as miraculous.
adversus 3 :: One might say that justice is a gift from God just like wisdom is, and it is miraculous for someone to obtain wisdom suddenly without study. Therefore, it is also miraculous for God to justify the ungodly. Wisdom is attained naturally through talent and study, so it is miraculous when this is attained apart from such order. But a person does not naturally acquire justifying grace by his own action ever, so these two works cannot be compared as if they were exactly the same.
Although one of the chief virtues of Aquinas’s Summa is its careful reason and rational consistency, there do seem to be areas of tension in spite of its exceptional logical rigor. What I mean is this: Thomas has positional tensions, even if they are not necessarily logical tensions. If one wished to be critical she might consider his explicit reasons for his positional posture as itself illogical inasmuch as he might appear to be somewhat arbitrary (although as I will argue in my conclusion, he is not being arbitrary).
I hope to show that Aquinas’s humility to the Tradition did not entail his absolute rejection of propositions contrary to the Tradition. Instead, Aquinas sought to simultaneously defend the Tradition while aiming to parse in what senses contrary claims might also be true. For a brief post, one example will have to suffice from his treatise on Charity (which is love for God as last end).
Proper Objects of Charity: A Positional Tension
Thomas excludes irrational creatures from the list of objects of charity on the basis that they can have no share in the rational life of man, since charity consists in a certain fellowship of life in the enjoyment of God; a life that irrational creatures have no share in. However, Aquinas allows the body to be considered an object of charity even though he does not consider the body as having the capacity of reason.
Although our bodies are unable to enjoy God by knowing and loving Him, yet by the works which we do through the body, we are able to attain to the perfect knowledge of God. Hence from the enjoyment in the soul there overflows a certain happiness into the body, viz., the flush of health and incorruption, as Augustine states (Ep. ad Dioscor. cxvii). Hence, since the body has, in a fashion, a share of happiness, it can be loved with the love of charity. (ST II-II.25.6.ad.2)
Here Aquinas concedes that the body does not know or love, but the person can come to know and love through the deeds of the body. The instrumentality of the body in knowing and loving, then, is his basis for allowing the body to be considered an object of charity. Hence the body, being “used” by the person for serving God, can in this way become an object of charity even though Aquinas does not consider the body to have the capacity of reason, which belongs to the soul.
This is not a logical contradiction, however, since in the same way Aquinas allows for irrational creatures to be objects of charity.
All friendship is based on some fellowship in life; since nothing is so proper to friendship as to live together, as the Philosopher proves (Ethic. viii. 5). Now irrational creatures can have no fellowship in human life which is regulated by reason. Hence friendship with irrational creatures is impossible, except metaphorically speaking. … Nevertheless we can love irrational creatures out of charity, if we regard them as the good things that we desire for others, in so far, to wit, as we wish for their preservation, to God’s honor and man’s use; thus too does God love them out of charity. (ST II-II.25.4)
Thus, while considered from a logical perspective, Aquinas is being quite consistent. For he affirms that in the most proper sense of the term charity, irrational creatures and the human body cannot be charity’s object since they do not posses the life of reason. On the other hand, inasmuch as they are instrumental to charity, being used in service to God, they can be considered the objects of charity.
However, when we consider Aquinas from a positional perspective, he has postured himself contrary to the former position (that irrational creatures can be the objects of charity) and in defense of the latter position (that the human body can be the object of charity). To say it yet another way, although the sense in which irrational creatures and the human body can be considered objects of charity—by reason of their being instrumental to knowing and loving—is the same in both cases, Aquinas postures himself contrary to the former and in defense of the latter in his dialogical structure.
Aquinas’s Posture as Humble, Not Arbitrary
Is this arbitrary? It may seem arbitrary to us, but most likely Aquinas postures himself throughout the Summa in such a way as to be defending what he considers to be the sacred Tradition. Thus, he is trying to give priority to the senses of propositions that he thinks have been intended by the Tradition, while still conceding the same logic when found in other propositions set against the Tradition.
This seems the most satisfying solution to Aquinas’s otherwise arbitrary posture—his posture is one of humility to the Tradition. Irrational creatures can be the objects of charity in some sense, but this isn’t as important to Aquinas as the fact that the deep fellowship we have with God, as creatures made in his image, is not something irrational creatures can have. For the same reason the human body can be considered as not the proper object of charity by reason of its lack of the faculty of reason. But this is not as important to Aquinas as polemicizing against the Manichean pretensions about the body having been created by an evil principle, thus in article five he postures himself as for the human body as a proper object of charity.
Aquinas did not simply reject the truth claim of the Manichean absolutely, however, for he concedes that if we consider the body under the aspect of sin and corruption, it must be loathed as an evil.
Our bodies can be considered in two ways, first, in respect of their nature, secondly, in respect of the corruption of sin and its punishment. Now the nature of our body was created not by an evil principle, as the Manicheans pretend, but by God. Hence we can use it for God’s service, according to Rom. vi. 13: Present … your members as instruments of justice unto God. Consequently, out of the love of charity with which we love God, we ought to love our bodies also; but we ought not to love the evil effects of sin and the corruption of punishment; we ought rather, by the desire of charity, to long for the removal of such things. (ST II-II.25.5)
Aquinas is here trying to both defend the Tradition and also affirm what he sees as the truth in Manicheanism, which often quoted from biblical passages, as in objection 1:
It would seem that a man ought not to love his body out of charity. For we do not love one with whom we are unwilling to associate. But those who have charity shun the society of the body, according to Rom vii. 24: Who shall deliver me from teh body of this death? and Philip. i. 23: Having a desire to be dissolved and to be with Christ. Therefore our bodies are not to be loved out of charity. (ST II-II.25.5.obj.1)
In his response to this objection, Aquinas again draws from his synthetically designed distinction.
The Apostle did not shrink from the society of his body, as regards the nature of the body, in fact in this respect he was loth to be deprived thereof, according to 2 Cor v. 4: We would not be unclothed, but clothed over. He did, however, wish to escape from the taint of concupiscence, which remains in the body, and from the corruption of the body which weighs down the soul, so as to hinder it from seeing God. Hence he says expressly: From the body of this death. (ST II-II.25.5.ad.1)
Are we to loathe the body or to love it? Aquinas says, in a word: both (but in different senses). This way of approaching theology might have its misfortunes (such as technical language and “death by a thousand distinctions”), but it has even more to recommend it. By such a synthetic approach, Aquinas has done what so desperately needs imitating in the church today. He fails to allow heat to block out light. Instead of letting his zeal polarize truth claims by defending the Christian Tradition as “true” and attacking every other proposition that seems to contradict it as absolutely “false” or “unbiblical,” he was instead careful to affirm all truth he could see in the opposing positions set against his Tradition.
In doing so, he let as much light in as possible while maintaining the humility necessary in defending a Tradition. If Thomas were to have been so zealous for the Tradition that he failed to look for the truth in other Traditions (which sometimes involved acknowledgment and affirmation of propositions that seemed to be contrary to it), his theological vision would have been myopic and his Summa would not have the synthetic brilliancy that gives it a great deal of its luster and theological durability.
Protestants especially could learn something from Aquinas’s method of synthesis. It is not by accident that the Catholic Tradition (with Thomas as their leading theologian) has been considered the “both/and” tradition, and Protestants have been considered more of an “either/or” tradition (with Luther and Calvin as the leading theologians). I would consider Thomas’s method especially resourceful for ecumenical dialogue, which requires a similar kind of humility that we find Aquinas striving for in his Summa.
Some will be surprised to note that Aquinas believes that justification is by grace alone (sola gratia) and also articulates something very akin to a doctrine of irresistible grace, although he does not call it that (of course). He prefers the term “infallible” (see below).
I have here summarized articles 1 through 3 of question 112 in the prima secunda of Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologica: ”Of the Cause of Grace.” All quotations from the Summa are taken from the English Translation, Summa Theologica, trans. the Fathers of the English Dominican Province, 5 vols., rev. ed. 1948; repr., Notre Dame, Indiana: Ave Maria Press, 1981.
112.1: God Alone is the Cause of Grace
IN SUM: “The cause must always be more powerful than its effect.” Therefore, “nothing can act beyond its species” (I-II.112.1). The gift of grace exceeds all natural created capabilities, “since it is nothing short of a partaking of the Divine Nature, which exceeds every other nature. And thus it is impossible that any creature should cause grace” (I-II.112.1).
Christ’s human nature per se is also not the cause of grace, for Christ’s humanity is “an organ of His Godhead,” as Damascene says in De Fide Orthod. 3:19. “Now an instrument does not bring forth the action of the principal agent by its own power, but in virtue of the principal agent.” In the case of Christ, the principal agent was the Divine Nature joined to his humanity. Thus, while we might say Christ’s humanity caused grace, this must be understood to have taken place by virtue of his Divine Nature. (I-II.112.1.ad.1)
Now created things can be said to cause grace in a certain sense—as we have seen in the case of Christ’s humanity. Likewise, the sacraments of the New Law also cause grace “instrumentally,” but “principally by the power of the Holy Ghost working in the sacraments.” (I-II.112.1.ad.2).
112.2: Some Preparations and Dispositions Are Required for Grace
IN SUM: No preparation for God’s grace moving the sinner to the good is necessary. Grace can be considered to need a preparation only in the case of the bestowal of a habitual gift. Even then, however, the preparation is simultaneous with the infusion of grace, and both are a part of the same operation of God.
Grace considered as God’s moving the soul to good needs no preparation on man’s part to “anticipate” the Divine help. “Rather, every preparation in man must be by the help of God moving the soul to good. And thus even the good movement of the free-will, whereby anyone is prepared for receiving the gift of grace is an act of the free-will moved by God.” In this sense people are sometimes said to prepare themselves for grace even though they are moved “principally from God, Who moves the free-will” (I-II.112.2). Thus, it must be remembered that the free-will only prepares inasmuch as it is moved by God.
Grace considered as a habitual gift of God (the gift of a new disposition in the heart) requires a “certain preparation of grace … since a form can only be in disposed matter” (I-II.112.2). This certain preparation, however, “is simultaneous with the infusion of grace” (I-II.112.2.ad.1). “When God infuses grace into a soul, no preparation is required which He Himself does not bring about” (I-II.112.2.ad.3).
Sometimes people even receive an imperfect preparation that “precedes the gift of sanctifying grace, and yet it is from God’s motion” even thought it precedes justification. (I-II.112.2.ad.1). In other words, God sometimes moves people to the good instantaneously and perfectly (as with the apostle Paul), and sometimes through a process that culminates in perfect preparation. Whether a person is moved instantly or step by step is “of no account” because a person is incapable of preparing herself unless God move her to the good.
No preparation of a person for grace is meritorious of grace. However, perfect preparation and the infusion of grace are both part of the same operation of divine help, and this operation is meritorious of glory. (I-II.112.2.ad.1). Again, “no preparation is required which He Himself does not bring about” (I-II.112.2.ad.1) and “merit can only arise from grace.” (I-II.112.2.ad.2).
“Merit can only arise from grace.” (I-II.112.2.ad.3).
112.3: The Movement of Free-will Does not Necessitate Grace, but God’s Intention Does
IN SUM: No movement of the free will necessarily obtains grace because such movement is the result of grace. However, if God intends to move a person’s free will to obtain grace, it will necessarily happen, since God’s intentions cannot fail.
As already stated, a person’s preparation for grace is wholly from God “as Mover, and from the free-will, as moved.” (I-II.112.3).
No movement of free will necessarily obtains grace, but is rather the result grace. In this sense, there is no necessity about free will obtaining grace. On the other hand, inasmuch as the preparation of a person is wholly worked by God as Mover, it does have a kind of necessity—“not indeed of coercion, but of infallibility—as regards what it is ordained to by God, since God’s intention cannot fail” (I-II.112.3). “Hence if God intends, while moving, that the one whose heart He moves should attain to grace, he will infallibly attain to it” (I-II.112.3).
Any act of the free-will the towards the good is “already informed with grace” (I-II.112.3.ad.1).
If there is any defect in grace in a person, the person is it’s “first cause,” but if there is any bestowal of grace on a person, God is it’s “first cause” (I-II.112.3.ad.2).