Now the main points about the epistemology of the medieval philosophers and theologians were discussed yesterday. I gave you the great conf lict between the Augustinians and the Aristotelian, or the Franciscan and the Dominican, point of view and the consequences for our own situation today. Then I went into the doctrine of God in all medieval philosophers and theologians, the doctrine of God which always starts with the statement that God is being itself, and then that He is intelligence, and then that He is will, but that the term “personality” or “person” is not used for Him, and that persona, if used at all, is used for the three hypostases – Father, Son, and Spirit God, a trinitarian concept, but not a concept describing God.
Then I came to the difference between the Thomistic and the Scotistic concepts of God, and the great consequences of this – God is primarily intellect in Aquinas and primarily will in Scotus and, with will, the threat against everything which can be deduced, the impossibility of deducing anything because God’s will is nothing other than what He wills, but you cannot make Him dependent on anything else, even on principles described that as the “threat” against the safety of rationalism, and described it also as one of the roots of the good sides in positivism, namely the humble acceptance of reality as it is given, given by the irrational ground of being, given by the irrational will of God.
Now I go back to Thomas Aquinas and discuss a few of his doctrines which are so important that we all must know them. The first is his doctrine of nature and grace. His famous statement reads: “Grace does not remove nature but fulfills it.” Now this is a very important principle – grace is not the negation but the fulfillment of nature. I can now use my long excursus about Pelagianism in saying that the radical Augustinians – or more exactly the Manichaean distortions of Augustine – would not follow Thomas in this sentence. They would say that grace removes nature, just as I said that that the New Being is a negation of the old creation, and not only of the distortion of the old creation. For Thomas Aquinas, with whom I feel very much in unity in this point, nature and grace are not two contradictory concepts – only distorted or estranged nature and grace are contradictory concepts, but not nature as such. But now he says that nature is fulfilled in supra-nature; and supra-nature is grace. This is a structure of reality which was always, even by creation. God gave to Adam in Paradise not only his natural abilities but, beyond this, a donum superadditum, a gift which he added to his natural gifts, namely the gift of grace which made it possible for Adam to consist in his state of union with God.
Now this is a very interesting doctrine and one which we must discuss because it was a point in which Protestantism deviated completely from Thomas Aquinas. Protestantism said that the perfect nature doesn’t need any grace any more, but that if we are perfect in our created status, then the grace which comes from above is not necessary; and therefore Protestantism removed the idea of the donum superadditum. Now this is a mythological story; whether Adam got that or didn’t get it, that is not what is- interesting – but in these mythological stories a very profound vision of the structure of reality is expressed. In Thomism the structure of reality has two degrees. For Protestantism ,the situation is the following: creation is complete in itself, and therefore the created forms of reality are forms which are sufficient: God didn’t need to add something to it. This is the same basic feeling towards life which we find in the Renaissance, where we also have creation which in itself is good, where man is in the center, in his created potentialities, without a supernatural gift which is added to him.
Thomas Aquinas has the two degrees: nature and supra-natureo Protestantism says: only if nature is distorted by man’s fall, by man’s estrangement from God, is another power necessary: the power of grace, whose center is forgiveness. But what forgiveness does is the restitutio integrum, the restitution of nature to its full potentialities. This idea is ultimately monistic. The created world is perfect in itself: God doesn’t need to give additional graces to His fulfilled creation. But He must come down into existence in order to overcome the conf licts of existence – and that’s what grace is. So in Protestantism, grace is acceptance of that which is unacceptable. In Catholicism grace is a substance, which is in analogy to the non- grace, to the natural substances.