Today’s Aquinas: Natural Theology in a Nutshell

Today’s Aquinas: Natural Theology in a Nutshell May 18, 2015

ThomasAquinas We’re blogging through St. Thomas Aquinas’ Compendium Theologiae, sometimes called his Shorter Summa. Find the previous posts here.

Chapter 35 of Thomas’ Compendium Theologiae is a nutshell summary of everything that has gone before:

From all the details of doctrines thus far discussed, we can gather that God is one, simple, perfect, and infinite, and that He understands and wills. All these truths are assembled in a brief article of our Creed, wherein we profess to believe “in one God, almighty.” For, since this name “God” (Deus), is apparently derived from the Greek name Theos, which comes from theasthai, meaning to see or to consider, the very name of God makes it clear that He is intelligent and consequently that He wills. In proclaiming that He is one, we exclude a plurality of gods, and also all composition; for a thing is not simply one unless it is simple. The assertion that He is almighty is evidence of our belief that He possesses infinite power, from which nothing can be taken away. And this includes the further truth that He is infinite and perfect; for the power of a thing follows the perfection of its essence.

As the Apostle’s Creed says, “I believe in God the Father, Almighty.”  Note that Thomas has omitted the word “Father”—not because he rejects it, but because the previous 34 chapters do not support the use of that name.  We have now reached the limits of what is called “natural theology”: the limits of what we can prove using purely human resources.  To go any farther we need revelation: we need the God who Is to tells us about Himself, and reveals Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  We’ll begin looking at revelation in the next chapter.


photo credit: Public Domain; source Wikimedia Commons

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