The Thought of Thomas Aquinas

By Brian Davies | Go to book overview

2 Getting to God

Aquinas holds that God is the Creator of everything and that human beings hold a special place in creation since they are redeemed or brought back to God by God himself in the person of Jesus Christ. Hence it is that, at the start of the Summa theologiae, he declares that he intends to set forth sacra doctrina by treating 'first, of God, secondly, of the journey to God of reasoning creatures, thirdly, of Christ, who, as man, is our road to God'. 1 The vision at work here, which in many ways echoes themes in Platonic thinking, is one in which God is the beginning and end of all things who draws us to himself as the one from whom we come. As M.-D. Chenu famously put it, the Summa theologiae has an exitus-reditus structure which Aquinas conceives of as reflecting the way things are in reality. It deals with a coming from God (exitus) and a return to him (reditus). 2

But from where do we get the idea of God? Aquinas is famous for thinking that the existence of God can be proved by rational argument. That he thought this is about the only thing many people know of him. For them Aquinas is the great (or misguided) champion of the view that belief in God is something which can be vindicated by demonstration. It is therefore worth noting immediately that, in one sense, Aquinas is not at all worried about making out a case for God's existence. He knows of those with no Christian faith (ancient philosophers and 'infidels' as he calls them), but he does not really doubt the reality of God. It is most unlikely that he ever encountered an atheist in the modern sense. Nor does he maintain that anyone has an obligation to weigh up the evidence for theism. There is nothing, he says, 'to stop someone accepting on faith some truth which that person cannot demonstrate, even if that truth in itself is such that demonstration could make it evident'. 3 In common with some

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The Thought of Thomas Aquinas
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Thought of Thomas Aquinas iii
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Contents xiii
  • Abbreviations xvi
  • 1: The Shape of a Saint 1
  • 2: Getting to God 21
  • 3: What God is Not 40
  • 4: Talking About God 58
  • 5: Perfection and Goodness 80
  • 6: Ubiquity to Eternity 98
  • 7: Oneness to Knowledge 118
  • 8: Will to Mercy 139
  • 9: Providence and Freedom 158
  • 10: The Eternal Triangle 185
  • 11: Being Human 207
  • 12: How to Be Happy 227
  • 13: How to Be Holy 250
  • 14: The Heart of Grace 274
  • 15: God Incarnate 297
  • 16: The Life and Work of Christ 320
  • 17: Signs and Wonders 345
  • Select Bibliography 377
  • Index 385
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