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The Relationship between Faith and Reason

The operate of Thomas Aquinas, even though somewhat insignificant in his personal day, is arguably some of the most studied, discussed, and revered to emerge from the medieval period. As Plantinga, Thompson and Lundberg keep, ‘of all the theologians, it is undoubtedly the shadow of Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225-74) that looms biggest more than the Latin theology of the Middle Ages.'[1] Merely one particular capable theologian amongst numerous in the Middle ages, the Thomist works have since gathered copious esteem, valued as the perfect manifestation of purpose employed in defense of faith within a systematized theology. This dynamic among faith and explanation is what underpins the entirety of Aquinas’ theology absolute priority is afforded to faith, explanation merely acting as a tool to expound the truths of faith graciously bestowed upon us by means of revelation. Theology is faith looking for understanding, but the tool of reason utilized to attain such understanding ought to in no way be so arrogantly deployed so as to undermine the truths of faith. In this essay, I will aim to further examine Aquinas’ stance on the correct partnership amongst faith and reason and, subsequently, assess how this understanding is mapped onto the Thomist theology of the sacraments and, particularly, the Eucharist. Aquinas’ Eucharistic operate is possibly one particular of his most enduring contributions to theology certainly, as Davies writes, ‘he is usually thought of as the eucharistic theologian par excellence of the Catholic Church…'[2] I will seek to sustain the line of argument that Aquinas’ Eucharistic theology acts as a microcosmic manifestation of his theological method faith and tradition offer the theological truths which Aquinas subsequently expounds using reasoned argument- not to prove or give credence to his beliefs of faith- but merely to defend them and to understand them on a level beyond the mere acceptance and ascent to specific propositions.

All through his career, Aquinas, like most prominent academic theologians, was embroiled in the debate more than the correct utilization of philosophy, particularly Aristotle, in the universities. It is due to his want to reject the adoption of radical Aristotelianism that Aquinas gives a systematic account of the connection among faith and explanation, eventually granting the latter the position of handmaid to the former. The term ‘handmaid’ has connotations of subordination, however, which appears contrary to Aquinas’ understanding of the two disciplines as Sigmund writes, ‘for Aquinas…a belief that faith and purpose had been both valid and divinely legitimated sources of human information meant that neither must be considered as dominating the other.'[three] Each divinely inspired, it is not possible that the disciplines of reason and faith ought to contradict and, therefore, a single cannot exist as subordinate to the other, merely equal and complimentary. As Aquinas writes For that with which the human reason is naturally endowed is clearly most true so considerably so, that it is impossible for us to feel of such truths as false. Nor is it permissible to believe as false that which we hold by faith, because this is confirmed in a way that is so clearly divine. Considering that, therefore, only the false is opposed to the correct, as is clearly evident from an examination of their definitions, it is impossible that the truth of faith need to be opposed to those principles that the human purpose knows naturally.[4] This getting mentioned, even so, cause cannot, according to Aquinas, function alone in determining the highest theological truth. The highest truths about God can only ever be revealed by God himself and can not be discerned through purpose and deduction from nature as Plantinga, Thompson and Lundberg create, ‘truths such as the triune nature of God or creation ex nihilo could be identified only via faith’s dependence on grace…reason is capable of considerably, but it have to be complemented by faith.'[5] Niederbacher offers a neat formula for what Aquinas would take into account propositions of faith or ‘credible’ propositions, ones which ‘belong to the object of faith that are believed on God’s authority'[six] ‘A proposition p is a credible proposition if and only if i) p is true ii) p is revealed by God iii) p is assented to simply because p is revealed by God iv) p presents truths about God and developed factors insofar as they are essential and sufficient for orienting the life of human beings toward their final end. ‘[7] These propositions can, evidently, be assented to since they are revealed, and not simply because we purpose to them. Nonetheless, the highest principles of faith, although unable to be demonstrated by human beings, can be defended using reasoned argument, ‘ thus, Aquinas claims, that a single need to be able to show that these principles of faith are not not possible, that they do not contradict what is self-evident or demonstrable, that defeaters can be defeated, that a single can draw conclusions from the principles in a deductive way.'[eight] Some of the far more fundamental theological truths, such as that of God’s existence, Aquinas does believe to be rationally demonstrable when discussing our assent to the precepts of the Decalogue, for example, he does not make reference to divine revelation to clarify our information of the content material of the all-natural law but argues that It is for that reason evident that considering that the moral precepts are about matters which concern excellent morals and because good morals are these which are in accord with reason and given that also every judgment of human purpose need to needs be derived in some way from all-natural cause it follows, of necessity, that all the moral precepts belong to the law of nature[9] Purpose must not be fought against considering that, as Cross puts it, ‘God’s giving human beings explanation is a essential consequence of his making human beings: getting rational is portion of what it is to be human.'[ten] It is, nevertheless, limited.

Aquinas’ understanding of sacramental theology in common is not something he factors towards but some thing he inherits as a truth of faith from the Christian tradition. The sacraments are derived from Christ’s death on the cross considering that it is in the flesh that he gives, and humans get, grace. From the pierced side of Christ, the blood and water, the Eucharist and baptism, flow Aquinas writes that ‘on Romans 5:14: “After the similitude of the transgression of Adam,” and so on., the gloss says: “From the side of Christ asleep on the Cross flowed the sacraments which brought salvation to the Church.” Consequently, it seems that the sacraments derive their energy from Christ’s Passion.'[11] Faith, for Aquinas, should have implications for the way in which Christians behave it is by means of partaking in the sacraments that Christians live a life directed towards God and a life lived in Christ. They serve the dual function of offering sanctification and simultaneously acting as a kind of worship. It does look that Aquinas’ sacramental theology is expounded by way of the use of explanation, nonetheless. For instance, he emphasizes the dual nature of sacraments as both signs and causes of grace as Torrell and Guevin observe, ‘ Thomas’s definition of sacrament…brings with each other each meaning and efficacy in one particular formula: “the sign of a sacred reality that is acting to sanctify man.”‘[12] Sacraments are indicators which represent the sanctification which they bring about, ‘symbols which make real what they symbolize.'[13] Aquinas is also capable to assert that sacraments are causes of grace insofar as the materials utilized are these which God uses to give grace, they are ‘instrumental causes.'[14] Aquinas draws a distinction in between this sort of ‘instrumental cause’ and what he calls ‘principal causes’ of grace. He argues that the latter ‘produces its effect in virtue of its form’ God produces grace this way as its principal result in. Sacraments, nevertheless, serve as instrumental causes of grace in that they produce grace ‘solely in virtue of the impetus imparted to it by the principal agent…it is by divine institution that they are conferred upon us for the precise purpose of causing grace in and by means of them.'[15] The instrumental components of the sacraments are a lot of as Jordan notes, ‘the identical instrumental energy is identified in the really different components of a sacrament- in its verbal formulae, its prescribed actions, its material. Finally, the instrumental efficacy of the sacraments depends on the efficacy of the humanity of Christ, itself an instrument of His divinity.'[16]

Aquinas also motives that the sacraments are needed for human beings his causes are threefold. Firstly, he reasons from the idea that since ‘it is characteristic of divine providence that it supplies for each and every getting in a manner corresponding to its personal particular way of functioning'[17] to the idea that folks are aided by the sacraments in a way which is suitable to the human way of coming to expertise- through physical factors. His associated second reason argues that humans, ‘if they had been to be confronted with spiritual realities pure and unalloyed their minds, absorbed as they are in physical things, would be incapable of accepting them.'[18] Lastly, he argues that sacraments make worship less complicated for us because they involve the continuation of our partnership with the physical as Davies puts it, ‘in Aquinas’ view, sacraments are enjoyable.'[19]

Within his sacramental theology, as a complete, the dynamic between cause and faith which Aquinas has set up becomes manifest he accepts the necessity and value of sacraments in faith, and accepts the technique of administration of the sacraments from tradition he does, nevertheless, use explanation to explain the mechanism behind the sacraments and to examine the intricacies of sacramental theology. It is in his treatment of the Eucharist, nevertheless, that we can see most clearly the dialectic among purpose and faith play out.

The Eucharist is, as Davies notes, ‘the crowning sacrament'[20] for Aquinas (therefore his recommendation of every day communion) it is the sacrament towards which all of the other folks are directed, the culmination of the Christian life, the believer brought into unity with Christ, ‘all the positive aspects involved in the Incarnation…carry over into the Eucharist.'[21] Through its receivers sharing in the passion, the Eucharist is also a mechanism by means of which sins are forgiven. In order for these things to be the case, Christ need to be actually present in the sacramental bread Aquinas is emphatic on this point- ‘Christ is sacramentally contained in the Eucharist'[22] , ‘the actual physique of Christ and his blood are in this sacrament'[23], ‘the reality of this sacrament demands that the very body of Christ exist in it.'[24] The presence of Christ is present in the most direct and imminent sense, therefore the import of the Eucharist as Walsh writes, ‘from the point of view of the one particular who receives it, the Eucharist provides a bonding with Christ himself, in the complete reality of his becoming, whereas the other sacraments give a transient, functional speak to with Christ. The Christ received in the Eucharist is Christ in the fullness of his priesthood and the fullness of his glory.'[25] Aquinas’ assertion of the actual presence of Christ, however, is not anything which we can argue is derived from cause or philosophical argument, but only through faith. As Davies notes, ‘belief in the literal or non-symbolic eucharistic presence of Christ is not, for him, some thing grounded on what we may possibly recognize as proof or demonstration. As he sees it, it is one thing implied by Christian faith.'[26] Certainly, Aquinas asserts that ‘the presence of Christ’s true physique and blood in this sacrament can not be detected by sense, nor understanding, but by faith alone, which rests upon Divine authority.'[27] The genuine presence of Christ is implicit in scripture through the right (i.e. literal, non-symbolic) interpretation of the statement ‘this is my body’. For Aquinas, we must take these words as they are written since they are the words of Christ and need to, consequently, be true.

Even though Christ’s presence in the bread is a belief fostered through faith, Aquinas’ renowned doctrine of transubstantiation represents his belief in the ability of cause to expound principles of faith. He affirms transubstantiation as the absolute mechanism by way of which Christ comes to be present in the sacramental bread and wine ‘take away the transubstantiation’, writes Kenny, ‘…and you take away the presence.'[28] Aquinas explains transubstantiation as follows: the whole substance of the bread is changed into the whole substance of Christ’s physique, and the complete substance of the wine into the entire substance of Christ’s blood. Hence this is not a formal, but a substantial conversion nor is it a sort of organic movement: but, with a name of its personal, it can be named “transubstantiation.”[29] Aquinas adopts the Aristotelian language of substance and accidents in order to clarify how the body of Christ is consumed at the Eucharist however the taste, smell and feel of the bread remain. Even though in conventional philosophy, accidents are generally spoken of in terms of getting bound to a topic, Aquinas argues that accidents have natures suited to current in a substance'[30] but, in the Eucharist, the accidents of bread and wine are somehow maintained independent of their respective substances. Cross maintains that Aquinas makes use of two somewhat inconsistent techniques to defend this view, firstly arguing that the separated accidents ‘acquired person esse in the substance of the bread and wine'[31] but when separated from this substance, are maintained by God. Kenny delivers the useful analogy of the smell of onion lingering right after the onion has gone or the imprint of a boot in snow remaining as soon as an individual has walked on. In a comparable way, the accidents of the bread are genuine and linger on but, substantially, Christ is present and not bread. The second method which Cross identifies is that ‘while the substance of the bread and wine remained, accidents of this kind did not have esse…rather their substance had esse via them…after the consecration, the accidents that remain have esse.'[32]

Aquinas’ doctrine of Transubstantiation is reasoned towards via a series of arguments the doctrine emerges out of his reasoning from propositions he holds to be correct and generating deductions from these truths. For instance, if it is Christ’s physique that is present in the Eucharist (a correct statement by faith), then it should be the case that the bread and wine changed into Christ’s body one thing can only grow to be anything else by getting created there (which Christ is not), moving there from one more place (an not possible idea, since this would involve Christ moving from his spot at the right side of God), or by changing into that point. He also motives towards the rejection of the symbolic understanding of the Eucharist by arguing that it would render Christ a liar when stating that ‘this is my body.’ It would be not possible for Christ to be untruthful. In addition, Aquinas notes that if the bread and wine remained throughout the sacrament, Christian believers would be guilty of idolatry when taking the sacrament, given that they would be revering as divine anything which is not. In all of these arguments we can see the dialogue in between faith and purpose true statements of faith give rise to reasoned arguments which defend them. These reasoned arguments, in turn, lead to theological deductions. In conclusion, Aquinas’ Eucharistic theology acts as the perfect microcosm of his technique his attitude to the connection amongst faith and explanation is mapped onto his Eucharistic theology and, by means of understanding the measures he takes to arrive at his conclusions, we are capable to see the dynamic between faith and purpose at play faith provides the theological truths upon which Aquinas builds, through explanation, his sacramental theology. Through defending these undeniable truths of faith, other probable truths turn out to be clear, such as the doctrine of Transubstantiation. Aquinas expounds the truths of faith- not to prove or validate his beliefs- but merely to defend them, and to comprehend them on a level beyond mere acceptance and assent.

Performs Cited

[1] Plantinga, R. J., Thompson, T. R. and Lundberg, M. D., An Introduction to Christian Theology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), p468

[two] Davies, B., The Thought of Thomas Aquinas (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992), Ch. 17, p.17

[3] Kretzmann, N. and Stump, E., The Cambridge Companion to Aquinas (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993)

[4] Aquinas, T., Summa Contra Gentiles I, by A. C. Pegis (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1975) 7.1.

[5] Plantinga, R. J., Thompson, T. R. and Lundberg, M. D., An Introduction to Christian Theology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), p470

[six] Bruno Niederbacher, The Relation of Explanation to Faith. Davies, B. and Stump, E., eds, Oxford Handbook on Aquinas (New York Oxford: Oxford University Press 2012), p.2.

[7] ibid.

[eight] ibid, p. 5

[9] Summa theologiae I-II, q. 100, a. 1 c

[10] *Cross, R., The Medieval Christian Philosophers: An Introduction (London: I. B. Tauris, 2014), p.122

[11] Summa theologiae three.62.five

[12] Torrell, J.-P., Aquinas’s Summa: Background, Structure and Reception (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2005), p. 58

[13] Davies, B., The Thought of Thomas Aquinas (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992), Ch. 17, p.8

[14] ibid.

[15] Summa theologiae three. 62. 1

[16] Kretzmann, N. and Stump, E., The Cambridge Companion to Aquinas (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), p219

[17] Summa Theologiae, three. 61.1

[18] ibid.

[19] Davies, B., The Thought of Thomas Aquinas (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992), Ch. 17, p.15

[20] ibid, p.17.

[21] ibid, p.19.

[22] Summa Theologiae, three.73. 5.

[23] ibid. 3. 75. 1

[24] ibid, 3.75.two

[25] Van Nieuwenhove, R. and Wawrykow, J., eds, The Theology of Thomas Aquinas (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2005), p.360

[26] Davies, B., The Believed of Thomas Aquinas (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992), Ch. 17, p.22

[27] Summa Theologiae, 3. 75.1

[28] Kenny, A., Explanation and Religion: Essays in Philosophical Theology (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1987), p.18

[29] Summa Theologiae, 3.75.four

[30] Davies, B., The Thought of Thomas Aquinas (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992), Ch. 17, p.31

[31] Summa Theologiae III, 77.1.3. Cited in Cross, R., The Medieval Christian Philosophers: An Introduction (London: I. B. Tauris, 2014), 114

[32] Summa Theologiae III, 77.1.4. Cited in Cross, R., The Medieval Christian Philosophers: An Introduction (London: I. B. Tauris, 2014), 114
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