The Thought of Thomas Aquinas

By Brian Davies | Go to book overview

8 Will to Mercy

It should now be obvious that, in spite of his agnosticism, Aquinas has plenty to say about what we need to affirm of God from a philosohical viewpoint and without explicit reference to, or dependence on, Christian revelation. According to him, we have good philosophical grounds for saying that God is the creator of the world ex nihilo. He also thinks that there are philosophical reasons for believing that God is perfect, good, ubiquitous, eternal, unique, powerful, and knowledgeable.

But people who believe in God usually want to assert more of him that this. Pious Christians who plan for the future say that they shall do such and such 'God willing'. They think of God as having will. As a Christian, Aquinas certainly agrees with them, but does he think that their position is philosophically defensible? Does he believe that there are philosophical grounds for ascribing will to God? And does he think the same of the equally prevalent belief that God rules the world with justice and mercy? The God of the Bible is said to be just and merciful. And Aquinas believes in the God of the Bible. But does he hold that there are extra-biblical reasons for ascribing justice and mercy to God?

The short answer is 'Yes', and in this chapter we shall see why. The thoroughly systematic nature of Aquinas's thinking should by now be apparent to the reader. But we have further evidence of it as we turn now to his philosophical treatment of God's will, love, justice, and mercy, for what he has to say presupposes and connects with much that he teaches concerning God's changelessness, power, and knowledge. His philosophical case for ascribing will to God rests, for example, on his view of God's knowledge or understanding. And he develops it by drawing on the conclusion that God is wholly immutable.

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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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