CT 36: Philosophical Character of this Doctrine

Chapter 36 marks a turning point.

The truths about God thus far proposed have been subtly discussed by a number of pagan philosophers, although some of them erred concerning these matters. And those who propounded true doctrine in this respect were scarcely able to arrive at such truths even after long and painstaking investigation. But there are other truths about God revealed to us in the teaching of the Christian religion, which were beyond the reach of the philosopher. These are truths about which we are instructed, in accord with the norm of Christian faith, in a way that transcends human perception. The teaching is this: although God is one and simple, as has been explained, God is Father, God is Son, and God is Holy Spirit. And these three are not three gods, but are one God. We now turn to a consideration of this truth, so far as is possible to us.

As Thomas discusses at length in the Summa Contra Gentiles, which I’ve also been dipping into, there are three kinds of truth about God:

  • Those truths about God that we can arrive at by the natural light of reason, given our understanding of the world God created.
  • Those truths that we could never arrive at by the natural light of reason, that were revealed to us by God’s grace–insofar as we are capable of understanding them.
  • Those truths that we can in principle arrive at by the natural light of reason, but that God also revealed, because they are important and because doing so is arduous and fraught with error.

Here, Thomas is ending his discussion of those things of the first kind and moving on to those things of the second.

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