So I have now given you a positive and then a negative valuation of Thomas’ doctrine. The positive valuation is that nature and grace are not contradictions, but that grace fulfills what in nature is disrupted, fulfills the possibilities of the natural, and in this I agree with the Thomistic tendency to bring creation and salvation together, to bring nature and grace into the one Divine act of creativity.
Secondly, I deviate from Thomas – or Protestantism does – in that we do not consider a supra-nature as a substance which is “added to” nature in order to fulfill it, but it is the Divine act in which He reunites us with Himself.
This of course is also valid for the relationship of revelation and reason. Revelation does not destroy reason but fulfills reason. And here again I agree with Thomas Aquinas. I believe that revelation is reason in ecstasy, that in revelation the depth of reason breaks into the form of reason, driving it beyond itself without destroying it.
But I would not accept the Thomistic form in which reason is one realm, and revelation is another realm in which reason is completed. So we have two forms here, and I think this is so central that it is an inroad also to the understanding of Protestantism – namely, the central fact that the Catholic world view is essentially dualistic, between nature and supra-nature. Catholicism defends supernaturalism with all its power. Protestantism is united with the Renaissance in the monistic tendency – monistic in the sense of having one Divine world – and having salvation and regeneration (which are one and the same thing) as the answer of God to the disruption of this world. But this answer is not the negation of the created structure of this world.
So in some way the Protestant dualism is deeper, but it is not the dualism of substances, it is dualism of the Kingdom of God and the demonic powers which stand against it. It is not an identification of the created with the fallen world. The fallen world is the distortion of the created world, and therefore the New Being is not another creation but is the re-establishment of the original unity.
Now one of the consequences of this is that in Protestantism the secular world is immediate to God. In Catholicism the secular world needs the mediation through the supernatural substance, which is present in the hierarchy and their sacramental activities. Here again you have a fundamental difference. Therefore Protestantism is emphatic for secularity. And Luther’s words about the value of the work of a housemaid in contrast to the value of the work of a monk, are very clear speaking about – namely, that the value of the housemaid’s work, if it is done in the fear of God – or however you express it – is more valuable than the asceticism of the monks, even if is done in the fear of God. Now here is the emphasis on the secular act as such, which if done in the right way is the revelation of God. And you don’t need to become a monk. On the contrary, if you try it, then you claim to be in a supernatural realm and to make this. claim is to contradict the paradox of justification, namely, that as a sinner you are justified.
Now I come to a few other doctrines connected with the name of Thomas Aquinas, and which we must know. You all have heard about his (so-called) “arguments” for the so-:-called “existence” of God. Now the first thing which follows out of my epistemological description yesterday is that Thomas rejects the ontological argument. This was implicit in everything I said yesterday, but I will repeat it in connection with the ontological argument, namely that in the center of the human mind there is an immediate awareness of something unconditional. That is what the whole ontological argument is about. There is an a priori presence of the Divine in the human mind expressed in the immediate awareness of the unconditional character of the true and the good and of being itself. This precedes every other knowledge, so that the knowledge of God is the first knowledge and is the only absolute, sure and certain knowledge, namely the knowledge not of a being, somewhere, but the knowledge of the unconditional element in the depths of the soul. Now this is the nerve of the ontological argument. But as I said in connection with Anselm, the ontological argument was also elaborated in terms of a reasoning argument, of an argument which concluded from this basis to the existence of a highest being. And insofar as this was done, the argument is not valid, and all the critics of this argument – Thomas, Scotus, Kant – have shown very clearly that as an argument it is not valid. As an analysis of man in his tension between the finite and the infinite, it is valid; it is a matter of immediate certainty.