Part 2 of II of Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theo

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Puritanboard Clerk
Scope: This is Thomas’s course on virtue ethics. Much is good, much bad.

Regulating Religion

Should we compel unbelievers? If an unbeliever has never received the faith, then we can’t compel him to the faith. We can negatively compel them, though. Aquinas writes: “They should be compelled by the faithful, if it be possible to do so, so that they do not hinder the faith by their blasphemies (II-II Q. 10, Art. 8).

Regarding pagan magistrates, Aquinas makes a careful two-fold distinction. In the early days, in a land where the faith has not yet been established, unbelievers may rule over believers. This can’t be helped. An example is the Roman Empire. Nevertheless, if a land has already received the faith, unbelievers may not rule over believers (Art. 10).

Aquinas allows for Jewish rites to be practiced in the commonwealth, but no other non-Christian rite may be practiced (art. 11).

The glory of the soul, which is the enjoyment of God, is the principle object, not the glory of the body (II.2.18.2). True to an extent, but it’s not clear why Thomas needs the resurrection for this.

On Charity

There is a kind of friendship based on the communication between God and man (II.2.23.1).

Human acts are good as they are regulated by their due rule and measure (23.4).

Charity is infused in us (24.2). Every act of charity merits everlasting life (II.2.24.6). Mortal sin destroys charity entirely (24.10, 12). The spiritual life is an effect of charity. Mortal sin destroys that.

Charity is capable of reflecting on itself. The intellect reflects on the universal good, and since to will is a good, man can will himself to will. Love, therefore, is a spontaneous movement of the lover to the thing loved (25.2).

While we are obligated to love our enemies, we are not obligated to show them all effects of love (25.9).

Key point: One’s obligation to love another is proportionate to the gravity of the sin one commits in acting against that love (2.26.6).

On Giving Alms

* Some are punished eternally for not giving alms (2.32.5). By contrast, “almsdeeds deserve to be rewarded eternally through the merit of the recipient, who prays for the giver” (2.32.9).

* God gives us ownership of temporal goods but the use of them is directed to helping our neighbor).

Just War

Standard Augustinian stuff. Thomas gives several conditions: a) authority of the sovereign or leader waging it; b) just cause; c) right intentions. Tyrannical governments are not just because they threaten the common weal (2.42.2).

The Glory of Monastic Life

It’s possible to go to heaven without being a monk, but it’s a lot harder. Thomas speaks of being perfect. He doesn’t mean sinless. A thing’s perfection, rather, relates to charity, the consequences from charity, etc (2.186.3).

Various Nota Bene

* The church can compel secular power with regard to heresy and schism (2.39.4).

* Married sex increases concupiscence and is the contrary of the passage “cleansing ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit” (2.186.4). He quotes Augustine to the effect that when married people caress one another they are “cast down from manly mind” (Solil. 1.10). Sorry, Reformed Thomists, but this is where the Reformation is a clear improvement. Indeed, Thomas goes on to say that “perpetual continence is required for religious perfection.”

* Contrary to claims by Dutch Calvinists, there is no cultural activity in heaven (2.181.4).

Thomas’s Linguistic Fallacies

This type of thinking was quite common until recently. It’s still painful to read, though. For example, wisdom (sapientia) connotes sweetness because it comes from the word “saporem” (2.45.2).

Further, Thomas commits the word = concept fallacy. For Thomas “religion” means “religious orders.” Therefore, when James talks about “religion pure and undefiled,” this gives the sanction for man entering into religious orders (2.188.2).
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