This is the fundamental discussion. Here the two types diverge, and they have been divergent ever since, in the Western world. This divergency is the great problem of all philosophy of religion, and, as I will show now, is the ultimate cause for the secularization of the Western world – :cause,” of course, in the cognitive realm; there are other causes, too. In the cognitive realm this is the cause, that here the Aristotelian method is put against the Augustinian, and slowly from Thomas Aquinas the method of starting with the external world prevailed.
Thomas knew that these conclusions, although they are logically correct, do not produce a real conviction. Therefore they must be completed by authority. In other words, the Church guarantees the truth which never can be fully reached in terms of an empirical. approach to God. So we now have the situation clear: In Bonaventura we have theonomous knowledge in all realms of life; we have no knowledge whatsoever without beginning with God. In Thomas we have autonomous knowledge, scientific method, as far as it goes; but Thomas himse1f knew that it doesn’t go very far and therefore it must be completed by authority.
Now this is the meaning of the heated struggle between the Augustinians and the Franciscans in the 13th century. It was a gap, but at that time the gap was not yet visible. Thomas’ genius, his power to take in almost everything, his power of ‘mediating – of which I have spoken – his personal and even mystical piety, was able to cover the gap, and is able to cover the gap even in present-day Catholicism, but the gap was there and had consequences reaching far beyond everything Thomas himself realized.
This came out in the 3rd man of the 13th century, Duns Scotus. He was not a mediating but a radical thinker. He was one of those who tear up what seems to be united. He fought against the mediations of Thomas Aquinas. On the other hand, he did not follow his own Franciscan predecessors. He followed Thomas in a complete acceptance of Aristotle, but he realized the consequences which Thomas Aquinas still was able to cover.
For Duns Scotus there is an infinite gap between the finite and the infinite.
Therefore the finite cannot reach cognitively at all, neither in terms of immediacy – as the older Franciscan wanted – nor in terms of demonstrations, as the Dominicans, with Thomas Aquinas, wanted.. He criticizes – and insofar as you are nominalists, you will like this criticism – even the transcendentalia, the ultimate principles. He says: Being itself (esse ipsum) is only a word; it points to an analogy between the infinite and the finite, but only an analogy. The word “being” does not cover God as well as the world. The gap is such that you cannot cover them in terms of one word, not even in terms of the verum,bonum,unum, the true, the good, and the one, and that means, being itself. Therefore :Only one way is open to receive God, namely the way of authority, the way of revelation received by the authority of the Church.
In this way we have two positivisms. The religious or ecclesiastical positivism: since we cannot reach God cognitively, we must accept what is given to us by the Church.