St. Thomas Aquinas – The Knowledge of the Creatures is Useful to Avoid Errors Concerning God

  • Book excerpt
  • 1400 words
  • Level: university

In this Summa contra Gentiles discussion on created things (that is, on the creatures or the works of God), Thomas Aquinas comments on the value for Faith inherent in understanding these things. This excerpt has been selected by the Interdisciplinary Encyclopedia of Religion and Science (Inters.org), which is edited by the Advanced School for Interdisciplinary Research, operating at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome, and directed by Giuseppe Tanzella-Nitti. St. Thomas gives a number of reasons for studying the works of God:

First, because meditation on His works enables us in some measure to admire and reflect upon His wisdom…. Secondly, this consideration [of God’s works] leads to admiration of God’s sublime power, and consequently inspires in men’s hearts reverence for God…. Thirdly, this consideration incites the souls of men to the love of God’s goodness…. Fourthly, this consideration endows men with a certain likeness to God’s perfection…. It is therefore evident that the consideration of creatures has its part to play in building the Christian faith. And for this reason it is said: “I will remember the works of the Lord, and I will declare the things I have seen: by the words of the Lord are His works” (Ecc 42:15)

St. Thomas also argues that knowledge of the the works of God serves to destroy errors concerning God:

First, because through ignorance of the nature of creatures men are sometimes so far perverted as to set up as the first cause and as God that which can only receive its being from something else…. Secondly, because they attribute to certain creatures that which belongs only to God…. Thirdly, because through ignorance of the creature’s nature something is subtracted from God’s power in its working upon creatures…. Fourthly, through ignorance of the nature of things, and, consequently, of his own place in the order of the universe, this rational creature, man, who by faith is led to God as his last end, believes that he is subject to other creatures [such as the stars] to which he is in fact superior…. It is, therefore, evident that the opinion is false of those who asserted that it made no difference to the truth of the faith what anyone holds about creatures, so long as one thinks rightly about God, as Augustine tells us in his book On the Origin of the Soul [IV, 4]. For error concerning creatures, by subjecting them to causes other than God, spills over into false opinion about God, and takes men’s minds away from Him, to whom faith seeks to lead them.

Click here for Thomas’s discussion, from Inters.org.

Click here for Thomas’s discussion, from a preview from Google Books of a version of the Summa contra Gentiles from the University of Notre Dame Press.

 

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