The Thought of Thomas Aquinas

By Brian Davies | Go to book overview
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17 Signs and Wonders

Those who have made a study of the twentieth-century theologian Rudolf Bultmann (1884 - 1976) will know that he is famous for attacking what he calls the tendency 'to objectify' (objektivieren). In Bultmann's view, it is wrong to think of Christian faith as a system of beliefs or theses, or as a world-view (Weltanschauung) which can be singled out and presented to the mind in a theoretical, academic, or detached manner. According to Bultmann, faith is a matter of personal engagement between the believer and the word of God. And theology is an expression of such engagement.

It would be wrong to say that on this matter Bultmann is merely echoing Aquinas. Their thinking is clearly very different, and there is little reason to believe that Bultmann was influenced by Aquinas. But Aquinas would certainly agree that articulating the content of faith, or expressing assent to it, is merely a first stage as far as Christians are concerned. In his view, to proclaim the Christian creeds is to tell what God has done in history. And, since he believes that God in history has united himself to humanity in order to raise it to a share in his life, he takes it for granted that Christian faith has implications for what we do or how we behave. As we noted in Chapter 14 , though he thinks of faith as propositional, he does not conceive of it as a merely propositional or cerebral affair. He thinks of it as a virtue by which our lives are improved or enhanced. In his view, receiving the word of God is not just a matter of getting to know something. It is a matter of coming to live a more intense life—the life of God himself. For Aquinas, therefore, we need to consider what it means to live our lives in faith. Christian doctrine is not, for him, nothing but a list of truths about God. It is a summons to respond to God. It is a summons to a way of life. We have already seen something of how he conceives of the Christian response to this summons. In essence, his view of the matter is contained in his teaching on faith, hope, and charity. But he has other things to say about the details of the Christian life, and, to round off this survey of his thinking, we


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