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The influence of St. Augustine's thought upon that of St. Thomas Aquinas is well known. With the exception of particular philosophical controversies, however, relatively little research has been done in this area. In summaries of medieval theology, Aquinas is often seen as a follower of Aristotle over the traditional "Augustinians" of his day. Against this emphasis on Aristotle, the influence upon Aquinas of such thinkers as Pseudo-Dionysius has been highlighted in recent research. While happily granting the influence of such figures as Aristotle and Pseudo-Dionysius, this book explores the impact of Augustine's thought on Aquinas's theology, philosophy, and biblical exegesis. The result is an enrichment of our understanding of Aquinas's contributions and a renewed awareness of his extraordinary indebtedness to his fifth-century teacher.

The book is composed of eleven essays by an international group of renowned scholars from the United States, England, Switzerland, Holland, and Italy. The contributors are Gilles Emery, O.P., Harm Goris, Wayne Hankey, Mark Johnson, Matthew Lamb, Matthew Levering, Guy Mansini, O.S.B., Bruce D. Marshall, John O'Callaghan, John Rist, and Michael Sherwin, O.P.


Michael Dauphinais and Matthew Levering are associate professors of theology at Ave Maria University. Barry David is associate professor of philosophy at Ave Maria. Dauphinais and Levering are coauthors of Knowing the Love of Christ: An Introduction to the Theology of St. Thomas Aquinas and Holy People, Holy Land: A Theological Introduction to the Bible; both are coeditors of Reading John with St. Thomas Aquinas. Levering is also author of Sacrifice and Community: Jewish Offering and Christian Eucharist, Scripture and Metaphysics, as well as Christ's Fulfillment of Torah and Temple.


"In this substantive collection, scholars—principally with theological leanings—provide a rich array of analyses of various aspects of the oft-muddled relationship between the bishop of Hippo and the friar from Roccasecca. What is significant is that it brings together the work of both established philosophers and theologians—including scholars from western Europe and the United States—and of younger scholars. It is a rich and rewarding mixture which begins with a substantive introduction providing the reader with a suitable roadmap indicating the direction taken by the contributors. . . . [T]his anthology is highly recommended." — Anthony J. Lisska, Journal of Ecclesiastical History

"The present volume . . . . Represents a refreshing and healthy exploration of various ways in which Aquinas was indebted to or stood in relation to Augustine. The level of the scholarly contributions is high, and they present some very enlightening perspectives on Augustine and Aquinas, while respecting their considerable differences. . . . All told, the volume makes a fine contribution to the appreciation of the two thinkers who were the most influential on the formation of Christian and Catholic philosophy and theology in the history of Western Christianity." — Roland J. Teske, S.J., American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly

"This collection of essays clarifies general divergences from and concurrences of St. Thomas with Augustine. The divergences do not follow a simple Aristotelian versus Augustinian divide. This volume dispels this idea, and provides guiding insights into Augustinian/Thomistic renewal of biblical exegesis, and the theologies and philosophies of the Trinity, imago dei, love, and other crucial topics."—Andrew Jaspers, S.J., Maritain Notebook

"[A] stimulating volume. . . . [T]his volume makes good on the editors' stated goal of deepening our knowledge of the nature of Aquinas's reception of Augustine. Indeed, these essays provide a fascinating window into the dynamics of theologic

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780813214924
Publisher: Catholic Univ.of America Press
Publication date: 09/01/2007
Pages: 318
Sales rank: 922,171
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)

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The Catholic University of America Press

Copyright © 2007 The Catholic University of America Press
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ISBN: 978-0-8132-1492-4

Chapter One

Trinitarian Theology as Spiritual Exercise in Augustine and Aquinas

Gilles Emery, O.P.

(English translation by John Baptist Ku, O.P.)

St. Thomas presents his speculative Trinitarian doctrine as an extension or personal development of the teaching of the Fathers and of St. Augustine in particular. Thus, for example, when he introduces his teaching on Trinitarian relations, St. Thomas explains that he is going to unfold it "by following the statements of the holy [Fathers]"; and when he shows the plurality of the persons, he announces that he is going to do it "especially in accordance with the way by which Augustine manifested it," in other words, by means of the analogy of the word and of love. In Thomas's Trinitarian theology, recourse to "similitudes" drawn from creatures (the use of the notion of substance and relation, the observation of Trinitarian vestiges, the exploitation of anthropological analogies) is presented expressly as a reflection extending the path traced out by Augustine in his De Trinitate.

But is St. Thomas faithful to the spirit that motivated the inquiry of the bishop of Hippo? Does he grasp St. Augustine's objective, and does he respect it? Numerous studies call into question the authenticity of St. Thomas's Augustinian heritage. And it is not rare that the spiritual inquiry of St. Augustine is juxtaposed over against the speculative exposition of the Trinitarian faith of Aquinas. Thus, according to Basil Studer, St. Thomas was trying to explain the mystery of the divine processions by means of analogies drawn from the interior life of man, while St. Augustine was, instead, aiming at a spiritual exercise (exercitatio mentis). While St. Augustine was proposing a sapiential contemplation, St. Thomas "limited himself in his questions on the Trinity (I, qq. 27–32) to a purely intellectual dialectic." Certain authors, juxtaposing the spiritual objective of St. Augustine to the speculative thought of St. Thomas, reproach the latter for having weakened the Augustinian sense of Trinitarian paradox by seeking to represent the mystery with a conceptual objectification. Even the finest experts on St. Thomas sometimes allow themselves to be led to such juxtapositions: "living dialectic of union with God" in St. Augustine, doctrine "more purely intellectual" in St. Thomas. It is certain that writing eight and a half centuries after St. Augustine and in profoundly different circumstances, St. Thomas did not limit himself to repeating his master. But does his objective differ radically from Augustine's? This is the question that I propose to consider here in examining these two authors' explanations of the objective or intention of their Trinitarian theology.

A. St. Augustine: Exercitatio mentis

1. Scripture and Reason

The purpose of St. Augustine's De Trinitate is "to account for the Trinity being the one and only and true God." St. Augustine seeks in particular to show the unity, equality, and inseparability of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To give account of this (reddere rationem), his inquiry includes two sections: the first part shows the unity of the three persons "by the authority of the Holy Scriptures"; the second proposes to manifest the dogma of the Church (the teaching of Scripture) by speculation. St. Augustine submits his whole reflection to a double criterion: Holy Scripture and, at another level (under the guidance of Scripture), reason. This distinction, which is not a separation, is founded on the very action of God who is the source of Scripture, and who is also the source of the creatures that offer the similitudes from which human understanding can be lifted toward God. Thus, if one searches for the substance of God "either through his Scriptures [per Scripturam] or his creatures [per creaturam]," it is because "both are offered us for our observation and scrutiny in order that in them, He may be sought, He may be loved, who inspired the one and created the other." The explanations given at the beginning of book XV are very clear: "Whether [the nature of God] is Trinity, we ought to demonstrate, not merely to believers by the authority of divine Scripture but also to the ones who understand, if we can, by some reason." That is why, having spelled out the teaching of Scripture (which suffices for faith), Augustine responds to "those who demand the reason concerning such things," "by making use of the creatures which God has made ..., especially through that rational or intellectual creature which was made to the image of God."

The purpose of reason is formulated thus: to give account of that which one holds by faith, for the sake of understanding. The study of the Trinitarian mystery therefore entails two modes: having spelled out the Trinitarian faith according to Scripture and the Tradition of the Church (books I–VII), Augustine treats this same Trinitarian faith "in a more inward manner" (modo interiore) in order to grasp to some extent, by means of images, what the faith confesses (books VIII–XV). Augustine's main purpose is to show the conformity of Catholic faith with the teaching of Holy Scriptures.

This purpose implies a very clear priority of faith with respect to the inquiry of reason, formulated in numerous reprises: "we must believe before we can understand." The order of inquiry thus consists in a path which takes its direction from biblical faith: "Let us first adhere through faith, that there may be that which may be quickened by understanding." Understanding is the reward of faith. St. Augustine's objective therefore eschews all rationalism. The analysis of the image of God takes place precisely in order to aid the believer in grasping, to some extent, what he holds by faith. The question posed by Augustine in the study of the image of God is not "How are we going to believe?" but "If there is some way in which we can see by our understanding what we believe, what might this way be?" This purpose is strictly that of faith's understanding: "I desired to see with my understanding that which I believed." The inquiry of understanding flows from the act of faith. Faith unleashes intellectual inquiry, judges it, nourishes it, makes it fruitful, and completes it.

2. The Similitude of the Image of God

The Augustinian usage of similitudes in order to manifest the Trinitarian mystery has given rise to an immense philosophical and theological body of literature. I do not intend to take up this vast debate here but only to outline a few hints provided by Augustine himself. One must note first that the study of the image of God does not occupy first place in St. Augustine's thought. First place goes rather to the unity of action of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, that is, to their common operation. Augustine's understanding of the inseparability of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit implies a solid teaching on God's simplicity (the Triune God is non-composite), immutability (the divine Persons are not submitted to change), and incomprehensibility (the Triune God is beyond human understanding). The analysis of the image of God occurs in a second step in order to manifest to our understanding how we can conceive this common action of the three Persons, within the frame of God's simplicity, immutability, and incomprehensibility.

Beginning with book VIII, having shown according to Scripture and the Tradition of the Church that the Trinity is the only one God, Augustine sets out to give a rational account of it (this reflection has already been prepared in the preceding books), in particular "through charity": "Here at last our minds began to perceive in some fashion the Trinity, like lover and what is loved and love." Having reached this point, Augustine pursues his reflection (disputatio) in book IX, by turning to the image of God (ad imaginem Dei quod est homo secundum mentem) in considering the triad of mens, notitia (by which mens knows itself), and amor (by which it loves itself and its knowledge), in order to manifest their essential unity and equality. Aware of the difficulty of his explanation, Augustine pursues his exposition in book X with the examination of a "clearer" (evidentius) trinity of mens: memory, understanding, and will (memoria, intelligentia, voluntas). At this point, still aware of the difficulty of his plan, Augustine digresses from his discussion of the mind as an image of the Trinity in order to find a trinity in the perception of corporeal things, in which the distinction will appear more clearly to readers (albeit the expression of unity is weaker here). Thus book XI considers the "trinity of the exterior man." From there, Augustine takes up again the inquiry into the interior man, in a movement of development that goes from the exterior to the interior (introrsus tendere). Distinguishing "science" (which concerns temporal realities) and wisdom (the contemplation of eternal realities), book XII offers a sort of transition which shows that not every Trinitarian similitude is an "image of God." Following this movement of interior ascension (introrsum ascendere), book XIII presents an exercise of the purification of the heart through faith that leads to wisdom. On this basis, book XIV returns to the image of God in the soul (that of book X), by showing that the image is in the soul when this soul is turned toward God, by virtue of the reformatio which procures true wisdom for the soul. Finally, book XV offers a paradoxical crowning of the whole of this inquiry. On one hand, Augustine rises from the trinity of man to that of God, by showing the unity and distinction of the divine Persons (the Son as Word and the Holy Spirit as Charity). On the other hand, he ends his work with a confession of ignorance; it is impossible to grasp the Trinitarian mystery, the Trinity cannot be explained: "We say many things and do not attain (Sir 43:27)." The inquiry of understanding (disputatio) therefore gives way to prayer (precatio).

Readers of Augustine will notice without effort that his approach is complex—carried away by detours, repetitions, and digressions. Each solution only seems to make the problem bounce back. It must be added that the analysis of mens, in a Trinitarian context, does not constitute an inquiry of a purely philosophical order. It is guided, nourished, and completed by faith. It is in reflecting the light that comes to it from God that the mens becomes somehow enlightening, that is, by reflection. Augustine's inquiry shows that the soul discovers its Trinitarian structure by analyzing the conditions of its faith in God (that is the sense of book VIII). If the mystery of God the Trinity can somehow be enlightened by the image of God, it is because it throws its own light upon this image. The mystery of God the Trinity is not enlightened from outside; rather, it is the source of the light. That is why the analysis of the relationship of the soul to itself does not suffice: "The trinity of the mind is not really the image of God because the mind remembers and understands and loves itself, but because it is also able to remember and understand and love Him by whom it was made." The soul is the image of God because it is called to see God. This intellectual inquiry is not separated from an affective approach; rather, it is enlivened by a love which leads the mind toward an effort to understand ("We are carried away by love to track down the truth"), and it is accomplished in love ("Let me love you"). Augustine thus requires of his readers or listeners not only attention but also devotion. He recalls constantly that the Trinitarian image must be grasped according to a contemplative wisdom, with love. The more one loves God, the more one sees him. Let us yet add that the analysis of mens is not first of all "psychological" in the modern sense of the term but rather ontological: in turning toward God, whose image it is, the soul attains what it is, its proper nature.

3. The Function of the Similitude of Image

The analysis of the image of God in man emerges as the fulfillment of the program that St. Augustine had traced out at Cassiciacum, shortly after his conversion: "God and the soul, that is what I desire to know.—Nothing more?—Nothing whatever." In the De Trinitate, an aspect of this vast program that reunites the study of God and the study of man in a continual back-and-forth appears in the foreground. The analysis of this image intends to reveal to the mind "something" of the mystery of God the Trinity. This "something" is, before all else, the substantial unity and equality of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in their distinction. The similitudes and traditional comparisons borrowed from the material world (the sun, a ray, the root, the branch, the fruit, etc.) that one finds among numerous Fathers before St. Augustine (Hippolytus, Tertullian, etc.) occur infrequently in St. Augustine. Clearly, he wanted better than that! The created similitudes that he retains, in particular that of the image of God, are adduced in order to aid in grasping the unity of action of the divine Trinity, the inseparability of the Three, their mutual immanence and equality, their unity of essence or substance, in a distinction which excludes confusion. The similitudes aim in particular at giving some idea of the relations of origin. Through these, St. Augustine wants to manifest to the mind what constitutes the object itself of his treatise: the Trinity is only one God, God is Trinity.

The distinction between the generation of the Son and the procession of the Holy Spirit, which the image of God (in particular the similitude of the word and charity) attempts to manifest, also occupies a central place in St. Augustine's inquiry. Far from being marginal, this question (the Holy Spirit is not generated) appears from the very beginning of the De Trinitate. Augustine judges it to be "extremely difficult" (difficillimum). This question is born of the Pneumatomachi controversy and aims to manifest the full divinity of the Holy Spirit by giving account of his distinction with respect to the Son. The similitude of love or the will makes it possible to show, in some way, how we can grasp that the Holy Spirit is not generated (he is not the Son): love is not generated. It is proper to the will not to be produced as an "offspring" (proles) from a "parent" (parens) but rather to unite (copulare) the one generating and the one generated.

Thus the study of this image is designed to suggest the unity and distinction in God the Trinity, to give believers some grasp of understanding, to glimpse by reason what they hold by faith. Such an objective is addressed to believers. However, in one passage of the De Trinitate, St. Augustine seems to suggest that he is addressing an audience broader than just believing Catholics. In book XV, when he tries to show that the procession of the Holy Spirit is distinguished from the generation of the Son, having observed that this concerns an extremely difficult question, he writes out an excerpt of a sermon for the benefit of the less sophisticated minds, stating, "I have transcribed these words from that sermon into the present book, but there I was speaking to the faithful, not to unbelievers." This observation seems to indicate that St. Augustine had the ambition of being read by unbelievers or by heretical Christians in order to show that the mystery of the Trinity is not unreasonable since the human mind offers an image of it. One can discern that he has not ruled out leading them to the faith at the same time that he advances the faithful already cultivated in understanding this faith. Besides, this is the way Augustine conceives "knowledge of the faith."

This function of the image is well expressed in the Contra sermonem Arianorum. There St. Augustine explains first that the Trinity is not three gods but only one God: the Father acts inseparably with the Son and the Holy Spirit in one single operation. Then he adds that there is in man "something similar" (simile quiddam), even though in no way comparable to God the Trinity, something where one can, in a certain way, grasp the unity of action that the Catholic faith recognizes in God the Trinity: it is the image of God which consists of memory, understanding, and will. Recalling once more the dissimilarity between the created image and God the Trinity, St. Augustine concludes by explaining that he wanted to employ the image of the creature: "so that they [the Arian heretics], if they can do it, might understand that what we say about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is not absurd, namely that they accomplish their works inseparably."


Excerpted from AQUINAS the AUGUSTINIAN Copyright © 2007 by The Catholic University of America Press. Excerpted by permission of The Catholic University of America Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents


1. Trinitarian Theology as Spiritual Exercise in Augustine and Aquinas Gilles Emery, O.P....................1
2. Aquinas the Augustinian? On the Uses of Augustine in Aquinas's Trinitarian Theology Bruce D. Marshall....................41
3. Theology and Theory of the Word in Aquinas: Understanding Augustine by Innovating Aristotle Harm Goris....................62
4. Augustine, Aristotelianism, and Aquinas: Three Varieties of Philosophical Adaptation John M. Rist....................79
5. Imago Dei: A Test Case for St. Thomas's Augustinianism John P. O'Callaghan....................100
6. Augustine and Aquinas on Original Sin: Doctrine, Authority, and Pedagogy Mark Johnson....................145
7. "Without Me You Can Do Nothing": St. Thomas with and without St. Augustine on John 15:5 Guy Mansini, O.S.B....................159
8. Aquinas, Augustine, and the Medieval Scholastic Crisis concerning Charity Michael S. Sherwin, O.P....................181
9. Augustine and Aquinas on the Good Shepherd: The Value of an Exegetical Tradition Matthew Levering....................205
10. Reading Augustine through Dionysius: Aquinas's Correction of One Platonism by Another Wayne J. Hankey....................243
11. Wisdom Eschatology in Augustine and Aquinas Matthew L. Lamb....................258

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