Saturday, May 18, 2013

Aquinas and Justification: The Dumb Ox Plays Theologian

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The Dumb Ox Plays Theologian

We now make an eight hundred year leap to the genius of the “dumb ox,” Thomas Aquinas, the scholastic Aristotelian who lived from 1225-1274. Aquinas became known as the Angelic Doctor of the Church because of his immense influence and the massive amount of work he accomplished. The leaders of the Council of Trent held Aquinas in such high regard that they actually put his Summa on the altar along with the Scripture and the decrees of the earlier Popes![1] Obviously, his opinion was held to be important to the Church of his day.

Today, my aim will be to describe Thomas Aquinas’ views on justification – especially how it relates with sanctification. So far, I have found that the sharp distinction between justification and sanctification that we as Protestants champion is utterly absent in the Shepherd of Hermas, Origen, Jerome, and Augustine. From my little bit of secondary reading, I also haven’t seen this sharp distinction mentioned in any of these fathers’ contemporaries either. Instead, what I have found is that these fathers declare with one voice that justification is a process, and actually involves in the sinner being made righteous, instead of simply being declared righteous. Will our brothers who lived in the Middle Ages continue this view of justification, or will they proclaim something different?