Monthly Archives: April 2012

Short reflection on the Health and Wealth Gospel

“What grace is meant to do is to help good people, not to escape their sufferings, but to bear them with a stout heart, with a fortitude that finds its strength in faith.” St. Augustine, The City of God, Book XXII, Chapter 22

Often I wonder if Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyers, to name a couple of today,s popular “preachers” have even heard of, much less read, the likes of Augustine (and, honestly, the likes of the Bible). I would much rather call these and others like them “good motivational speakers” than preachers of the message of Christ. Yes, as Augustine had just said moments earlier, “It is true that, even in this life on earth, through the intercession of the saints we have many holy comforts and remedies.” But he continues “Nevertheless, such favors are not always given to those who ask – lest such favors be mistaken for the real purpose of religion.”

While we do not have to fill every sermon with fire and brimstone nor picket at every event that those who don’t believe exactly the way we do are “headed straight for hell” and go so far as to self-righteously claim “God hates you” as we see from other would be “preachers,” it would be good for us to remember the story of Job, for example, and not expect that God’s love means that “God wants us to prosper financially, to have plenty of money, to fulfill the destiny He has laid out for us.” (Osteen)

Certainly think He wants us to “fulfill the destiny He has laid out for us” but dare we presume it is earthly fulfillment? The health and wealth Gospel preaches the exact City that Augustine’s City of God is the contrary of. We don’t need to look merely at Job and other Old Testament figures. We need not even look at martyrs like Stephen, Peter, and Paul.

“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross!” (Phil 2:8)

The Divine Missions and the Indwelling of the Trinity

The Divine Missions and the Indwelling of the Trinity in the Souls of the Just

The divine missions of the Son and the Holy Spirit are temporal, but they are directly related to the procession of the Son from the Father and of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son.  The so called economic Trinity can never be separated from the immanent Trinity, and the way in which God acts, his gift of salvation through grace, are not merely external works of a transcendent God but an indwelling of this very God in the souls of the just.

“The notion of ‘mission’ of a divine person includes two elements: (1) the eternal procession of this person from another; (2) the gift of a created effect in time, namely sanctifying grace.”It is the two aspects towards which our reflection must turn, the second dependent upon the first.

The Father is the principle of the Son and the Spirit.  While not preceding them in time, as all are equally eternal and equally the one Being, God, the Father is prior as principle of the others. The Son, so to speak, comes from the Father, and likewise, the Son is one principle along with the Father of the procession of the Holy Spirit. The Father, however, has no such origin, but is rather the unbegotten principle of the other persons, and we call this innascibility. This understanding of the procession of the Son and of the Spirit, and likewise, lack of any procession of the Father, are necessary to understand the temporal missions of the Son and the Spirit in creation.

The Father is never sent, but the Son and the Spirit, each in their own way and in conformity with their manner of procession, are sent. All three Persons, however, dwell in the souls of the just.

All of creation is made in the image of God, and all creation shows forth something of God, his mind, and his love. Creation, St. Thomas tells us, is a reflection not merely of God as God, but as the Persons in their relation to one another. We get some idea of this when we contemplate the fact that God does not know things through discursive knowledge, but rather knows them all through His own understanding. He can be said, in a simple way, to know them through His Son, the Word. Likewise, He does not “come to know” these things and love the goodness in them, but rather, they are created and good because He loves them. “The heavens declare the glory of God” says Psalm 19.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness” (Gen 1:26). Man and the angels are created with free will and with intellects, and so can participate in the life of God in a way no other creature can, whether living or inanimate. While God is in all things as their cause, He can also be in intelligent beings in a unique way, since, like God, they can know and love. This is what man and the angels were made for, but because of the fall, both need a special gift of God to be what they were created to be.

This gift of the Creator is none other than the gift of Himself.  Sanctifying grace, that gift which saves fallen man, is the life of God truly given to man, so much so that we are told that we become “partakers of the divine nature” and that we will “be like God, for we shall see Him as He is.” So it is truly the Triune God that comes and makes His dwelling with us.  But we must examine the special way in which the Son and the Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Father and sent into the world for the salvation of man, come to live in us. We will look at their invisible missions, which can be seen even in the Old Testament, now that we have the fullness of Revelation in the New, and in the New Testament, where we have the Son Incarnate and visible manifestations of the Holy Spirit Himself.

“’Visible mission’ means the manifestation of the Son in the Incarnation and the manifestation of the Spirit in physical signs. ‘Invisible mission,’ conversely, means the sending of the Son and Holy Spirit into the hearts of the faithful.”We can see the visible missions exemplified especially in the Gospel According to John, where we are told that “In the Beginning was the Word…and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” and that ““I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him.”

These two visible signs of course are manifestly different in that the Son became man, and entered into creation in a unique way.  The Holy Spirit did not become a dove or fire, but manifested himself in this way for the sake of man. Still, we see that both Persons that proceed from the Father also were sent and seen by men in a way that the Father is not. What is more, the Word of God, as generated, becomes Incarnate, but not so the Holy Spirit.  The Person are all one God, but are truly unique both in the eternal immanent Trinity and in their temporal relation to man.

The invisible missions of these two Persons are likewise unique, yet they never are separate from one another. In fact, wherever the Father is, there is the Son, and likewise with the Spirit. The unity and Trinity of the Persons eternally is hardly less mysterious than their unified yet Trinitarian, if we may call it that, way of indwelling in the saints.

Jesus said that He must go to the Father and He would send another helper.  Yet we may take quite literally the words of the Apostle who says “it is no longer I that live but Christ that lives in me.”

The indwelling of God in the just is pure gift, and this gift of sanctifying grace can never be separated from the Persons themselves.  Certainly, actual grace can and does exist apart from the indwelling of the Persons, as this initial grace is required for man to even move toward repentance and faith in the first place.  But one is never sanctified without the very Triune God dwelling in him.

In fact, without sanctifying grace, God does not, dwell in us. So it is not only insufficient to know God philosophically, as in natural theology, or even to know Him with an imperfect faith, as He is known by one, for instance, in the state of mortal sin.  When God, through grace, lives within us, we have the infused virtues and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We then can truly say that it is no longer I but Christ that lives in me.  We can then say that it is the Spirit that groans within us, perfecting our prayers, crying Abba, Father.

The Doctrine of the Trinity, concluded in the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas in Question 43 with the Mission of the Divine Persons, is not merely a speculative doctrine for contemplation, but rather, reflection on the Trinity is central to the entire Christian faith, both as it is known and lived. We were created by God, in the image and likeness of God, and for the purpose of knowing and loving God.  The Trinity, God as He exists eternally in and of himself, is at the center of our faith, for it is the center of reality, of everything “that is.”




The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version. San Francisco, CA, Thomas Nelson Publishing,  2006

Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles 4, translated by Charles J. O’Neil, Notre Dame, IN, 1975

Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province, Ava Maria Press, 1948

Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica: A Concise Translation, edited by Timothy McDermott, Notre Dame, IN, Ave Maria Press, 1989

Giles Emery, O.P., Trinity in Aquinas, Ann Arbor, Michigan, Ave Maria Press, 2003

Giles Emery, O.P., The Trinitarian Theology of St. Thomas Aquinas, Oxford, 2007

Reginald Garrigou-LaGrange, O.P., Reality, originally published 1950, Ex Fontibus Co, 2007

Reginald Garrigou-LaGrange, O.P., The Three Ages of the Interior Life, Volume I, originally published 1947, Rockford, IL, TAN Books, 1989

Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Tan Books, 1960

An Outline for a Program of Philosophical Study

If I could recommend two books to study in the pursuit of becoming a clear thinker, I would start with Peter Kreeft’s Socratic Logic and Fr. William A Wallace, O.P.’s Elements of Philosophy. Socratic Logic is the clearest and far and away the best book on real, Aristotelian and useful logic in print.  It should be read, reread, and all the exercises in it completed by anyone who aspires to be a clear reasoning person. The Elements of Philosophy is a compendium, and is a tool for use in studying all of philosophy.  Almost everything one would wish to know  is presented, but in seminal form and very densely.  It is therefore a guide to studying all the topics of philosophy, whether systematically or historically.

There are certainly other exceptional guides and introductions to philosophy, but none seem to be as complete as The Elements. To begin a study of the history of philosophical thought, no series comes more highly rated than that of Fr. Frederick Copleston. I suggest, of course, that one start at the beginning.


This is a slightly adapted outline for the study of Philosophy for Dominicans (and I would say any clear thinker) from Fr. Benedict Ashley, O.P.

Outline Guide to Studying Philosophy

Introduction to the Guide

I: Methodological Questions

II Natural Science Questions

III Ethical Questions

IV Metaphysical Questions

The full guide can be found HERE

A great book by Fr. Ashley is The Way Toward Wisdom. It is certainly a difficult book in many ways for those new to philosophy, but a very important and complete book which follows in some ways this outline and gives a big picture of reality, as well as constantly demonstrating how we have lost sight of this “big picture” in our very fragmented system of education, especially at the University level.



A Short Reflection on Augustine and Pelagius

Pelagius and Augustine on Grace

St. Augustine is commonly referred to as the Doctor of Grace, as his reflections on the necessity of grace in the life of man to do anything good at all permeate his writings.  His contemplation of grace as a free gift of God certainly appears in the pages of his great works such as the Confessions, The City of God, and the Trinity. However, a more systematic view can be gleaned from his encounter and dialogue with the doctrines of Pelagius, a monk and moralist who taught at Rome around the turn of the 5th century A.D. The contrary views on man, human nature, and the doctrine of grace is in many ways the greatest legacy of Augustine and his mark on the teaching of the Catholic Church to this day.

Pelagius seemed to be primarily concerned with right conduct, and the pessimistic views of man as a lump of sin could be demoralizing to those who would desire to live an upright life in service to God. He was distressed by Augustine’s prayer of “Give what thou command, and command what thou will,”1 for it seemed to make mere puppets of men in God’s hands. If we are wholly determined by divine grace, it might seem hardly necessary to give a real personal effort to do the Lord’s will. Pelagius, therefore, rejected such a view, as he understood it, so as to ensure the responsibility that men must take for their own action and their own failures.

Pelagius argued for three features of our action: power, will, and realization.  For him, the first came completely from God, but the latter are found in us.  God gave us our free will, and therefore we cooperate or reject to do that which God has given us the power to do.  This gives us both the merit or the blame for our actions, and it would seem difficult for us to be blamed for our failures if these were due completely to God not giving us the grace to will to do them. This, in essence, was the struggle for Pelagius in accepting the position of Augustine.

For man to have a truly free will that might receive real praise for what he does as well as real culpability, Pelagius’ understanding of the Fall and the nature of original sin had to differ as well from that of Augustine. To Pelagius’ understanding, the nature of original sin was more by way of bad example of each sinful parent, rather than a soiling of the soul handed down by the parents.  Man must be truly free to choose good or evil, and not unduly influenced by God in either direction to have true freedom and thus true responsibility for his actions. Grace was then limited to the external, be it good influence, preaching of the Gospel, etc.

In fact, because of his belief in the soul being created immediately by God, it seemed impossible for this stain of sin to be handed down.  Pelagius actually saw the belief in a handing down of the stain of sin as compatible only with a traducian theory of the soul’s origin, and could in some instances accuse Augustine of having an old residue of his Manichean past still about him.

Before moving on to Augustine’s position on grace, it is important to note that Augustine never seemed to work out his view on the origin of the soul, vacillating between a creationist and traducianist view.  He seemed to know that his doctrine of the handing on of original sin from the first man was favorable to the traducianist theory.2

Saint Augustine contrasts the initial state of man with his fallen condition after original sin, and his view of free will here is slightly different than that of Pelagius.  For Augustine, the distinction must be made that before the fall, Adam had the power not to sin, but sinned. After the fall, man cannot not sin, and his nature is wounded. “Man’s liberty is curtailed since he is drawn towards sin by concupiscence. Augustine sees the role of grace as breaking this slavery and thereby freeing man. On his own man would have eternally been held captive…Pelagius is held to have taught that man can begin his work of salvation, that he can merit God’s help and grace. Saint Augustine holds that grace is not subject to merit, rather it precedes man’s actions.”3

The fundamental mystery here is that of free will and grace.  Certainly, both men held that our power to do good comes from the good God alone.  In an effort to defend the free will of man, Pelagius would say that man must be able to somehow cooperate with God of man’s own volition. For Augustine, this cooperation is itself a good, and so must be preceded by some action of God. Otherwise, man takes his first steps back towards God on his own.  This makes man the “first mover” in this way, and this cannot be, not only by the doctrine of revealed truth, but even in a metaphysical sense.

The mystery of grace and free will remains with us today, and likely always will, this side of Heaven.  Man’s freedom and God’s absolute providence are difficult if not impossible for the human mind to reconcile.  Whether it is Augustine and Pelagius, the John Calvin and Jacob Arminius, or even, at times in the past, the Jesuits and the Dominicans, we will always in our mind have the tendency to, in attempted to uphold the truth of one or other of these truths (free will and Divine providence) find ourselves somehow emphasizing one to the detriment of the other.

Saint Augustine won the day with his defense of the absolute necessity of God’s grace being preceded by no action of ours and this initial grace merited in no way by man, and likewise the doctrine of original sin, as understood by the Church, is heavily influenced by the reflections of Augustine. For example, the Catechism explicitly states that “The Church’s teaching on the transmission of original sin was articulated more precisely in the fifth century, especially under the impulse of St. Augustine’s reflections against Pelagianism, and in the sixteenth century, in opposition to the Protestant Reformation. Pelagius held that man could, by the natural power of free will and without the necessary help of God’s grace, lead a morally good life; he thus reduced the influence of Adam’s fault to bad example.”4 Nevertheless, through the centuries, many great minds have prayerfully pondered these truths more and more deeply. Almost every great mind, however, that has spoken well on this most difficult of subjects, has certainly had to wrestle with the brilliant teachings of the Doctor of Grace.





  1. J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, pg. 357
  2. The Cambridge Companion to Augustine, pg. 122
  3. International Catholic University, Patristics, Lecture 5
  4. Catechism of the Catholic Church 406

Question 43. The Mission of the Divine Persons

We here discuss the final Question on the One and Triune God before Thomas Aquinas turns to the subject of Creation

Article 1. Whether a divine person can be properly sent?

“I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent Me.” (John 8:16)

“Anyone being sent implies a certain kind of procession of the one sent from the sender: either according to command… or according to counsel…or according to origin…the mission of a divine person is a fitting thing, as meaning in one way the procession of origin from the sender, and as meaning a new way of existing in another; thus the Son is said to be sent by the Father into the world, inasmuch as He began to exist visibly in the world by taking our nature; whereas ‘He was’ previously ‘in the world’ (John 1:1).”

Mission and being sent, it may be argued, implies inferiority in the one sent, but this is only true in the forms of command or of counsel. Yet it is in the way of origin or procession that the Son, for example, is sent, and as we have seen in the unity of the Persons and their origins and distinctions, this implies no inequality in the Persons. And just as in creation, there is no change in something from something else, but rather a creation from nothing at all, likewise there is not a change when one Person is sent, but rather, something began to exist where nothing existed, causing no change in the Person but only a change in the world; the Son, for example, began to exist there.

Article 2. Whether mission is eternal, or only temporal?

“When the fullness of the time was come, God sent His Son.” (Galatians 4:4)

We must be careful of our use of terminology here and know that to proceed eternally and to be proceed as being sent are not used univocally. While the one is eternal, as discussed before, “that a divine person be possessed by any creature, or exist in it in a new mode, is temporal…Hence ‘mission’ and ‘giving’ have only a temporal significance in God; but ‘generation’ and ‘spiration’ are exclusively eternal; whereas ‘procession’ and ‘giving,’ in God, have both an eternal and a temporal signification: for the Son may proceed eternally as God; but temporally, by becoming man, according to His visible mission, or likewise by dwelling in man according to His invisible mission.”

Mission signifies not only procession from the principle, but also determines the temporal term of the procession. Hence mission is only temporal. Or we may say that it includes the eternal procession, with the addition of a temporal effect.” Any “effects” of God within creation are obviously temporal as the creation itself is temporal.  The immanent life of the Triune God is always eternal, and the effects of the Triune God in the world are always temporal.

Article 3. Whether the invisible mission of the divine person is only according to the gift of sanctifying grace?

It is an error to say that the Holy Ghost is not given, but “His gifts are given…and the divine person is the cause why the gift of sanctifying grace is possessed, and not conversely. Therefore it may seem improper to say that the divine person is sent according to the gift of sanctifying grace…But since then the creature’s sanctification is by sanctifying grace, it follows that the mission of the divine person is only by sanctifying grace.”

The next two points made are the most central points in all of philosophy and theology; the most important points in all wisdom that a man can attain:

  1. “God is in all things by His essence, power and presence, according to His one common mode, as the cause existing in the effects which participate in His goodness.” God is not part of this world, not the best part, or biggest part.  He transcends it entirely.  All beings are only possible because of Being Himself. When God made the universe, there may have been more beings than before, but there was no more “being” than before, nor could there ever be.
  2. “Above and beyond this common mode, however, there is one special mode belonging to the rational nature wherein God is said to be present as the object known is in the knower, and the beloved in the lover. And since the rational creature by its operation of knowledge and love attains to God Himself, according to this special mode God is said not only to exist in the rational creature but also to dwell therein as in His own temple.” God is in the rational creature, be it angel or man, in an entirely special way as compared to all else in creation.  When we have therefore the gift of the Holy Spirit, it is not merely the movements of grace as gifts or the compelling of one as from a commander, but the real existence of God in us, not just as efficient cause and final cause extrinsic to us, but as truly constituting our life in an unfathomable way.

“Sanctifying grace disposes the soul to possess the divine person; and this is signified when it is said that the Holy Ghost is given according to the gift of grace. Nevertheless the gift itself of grace is from the Holy Ghost; which is meant by the words, “the charity of God is poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Ghost”…and “Although the Son can be known by us according to other effects, yet neither does He dwell in us, nor is He possessed by us according to those effects.”

Article 4. Whether the Father can be fittingly sent?

When we search the Scriptures it is clear that “The Father alone is never described as being sent.”

Because “the very idea of mission means procession from another, and in God it means procession according to origin…[and] the Father is not from another, [it is] in no way is it fitting for Him to be sent; but this can only belong to the Son and to the Holy Ghost, to Whom it belongs to be from another.”

Although the effect of grace is also from the Father, Who dwells in us by grace, just as the Son and the Holy Ghost, still He is not described as being sent, for He is not from another.” We must keep in mind here that the missions and being sent tell us something true about the immanent Trinity and not just the economic Trinity (as God works in the world), but yet the two are not unrelated.  How God is in Himself has a real relation as to how God acts in the world.

Article 5. Whether it is fitting for the Son to be sent invisibly?

Notably it is objected thatthe procession of the Son and of the Holy Ghost differ from each other. Therefore they are distinct missions if both are sent; and then one of them would be superfluous, since one would suffice for the creature’s sanctification.”

Thomas answers that “The whole Trinity dwells in the mind by sanctifying grace” and “that a divine person be sent to anyone by invisible grace signifies both that this person dwells in a new way within him and that He has His origin from another. Hence, since both to the Son and to the Holy Ghost it belongs to dwell in the soul by grace, and to be from another, it therefore belongs to both of them to be invisibly sent.” The Father, as said above, is not sent, yet He dwells also by grace in the believer.

Augustine says, in his de Trinitate, that “The Son is sent to anyone invisibly, whenever He is known and perceived by anyone.”and “The Word we speak of is knowledge with love.” Thus the Son is sent…according to the intellectual illumination, which breaks forth into the affection of love… “The Son is sent, whenever He is known and perceived by anyone.” Now perception implies a certain experimental knowledge; and this is properly called wisdom [sapientia].”

As per the superfluity of the two being sent invisibly,if we speak of mission according to origin, in this sense the Son’s mission is distinguished from the mission of the Holy Ghost, as generation is distinguished from procession. If we consider mission as regards the effect of grace, in this sense the two missions are united in the root which is grace, but are distinguished in the effects of grace, which consist in the illumination of the intellect and the kindling of the affection. Thus it is manifest that one mission cannot be without the other, because neither takes place without sanctifying grace, nor is one person separated from the other.”

Article 6. Whether the invisible mission is to all who participate grace?

According to Augustine (De Trin. iii, 4; xv, 27), the invisible mission is for the creature’s sanctification. Now every creature that has grace is sanctified. Therefore the invisible mission is to every such creature.

“Mission in its very meaning implies that he who is sent either begins to exist where he was not before, as occurs to creatures; or begins to exist where he was before, but in a new way, in which sense mission is ascribed to the divine persons. Thus, mission as regards the one to whom it is sent implies two things, the indwelling of grace, and a certain renewal by grace. Thus the invisible mission is sent to all in whom are to be found these two conditions.”

It may be objected that this mission was not for those before the New Covenant, but this comes from a misunderstanding of the way we exist in time and God transcends time. Of course, for the holy prophets and all who Christ redeemed through His passion, the effects take place in time for us, but the mission for those before the New Covenant is nonetheless real and always predestined to be what it was.”Thus the words, ‘the Spirit was not yet given,’ are to be applied to that giving accompanied with a visible sign which took place on the day of Pentecost.”

“Grace resides instrumentally in the sacraments of the New Law, as the form of a thing designed resides in the instruments of the art designing, according to a process flowing from the agent to the passive object. But mission is only spoken of as directed to its term. Hence the mission of the divine person is not sent to the sacraments, but to those who receive grace through the sacraments.” It would indeed be odd to say that the grace is sent to the Sacraments rather than to those that receive them through the Sacraments. God does not confuse means with ends, of course. A deeper discussion of the Sacraments and grace conferred by them, including the doctrine of Sacraments as signs that effect what they signify can be found in the Part III and the Supplement to Part III of the Summa.

Article 7. Whether it is fitting for the Holy Ghost to be sent visibly?

It is certainly of the faith that the Holy Spirit was never sent in the way that the Son was, that is, by an Incarnation, becoming truly a part of this world.  The Holy Spirit is never said to have “become flesh” or anything like this.  Yet it should not be said that the Holy Spirit cannot be sent in a visible way, as He obviously was in the shape of a dove or as fire, for example.

Now the nature of man requires that he be led to the invisible by visible things,…wherefore the invisible things of God must be made manifest to man by the things that are visible. As God, therefore, in a certain way has demonstrated Himself and His eternal processions to men by visible creatures, according to certain signs; so was it fitting that the invisible missions also of the divine persons should be made manifest by some visible creatures.” God “meets us where we are” and shows us through our senses either the things themselves or signs that point to the things themselves.

“…the Son has been sent visibly as the author of sanctification; the Holy Ghost as the sign of sanctification.”

One of the objections is that the Son, as Incarnate, was called “less than the Father,” as when Jesus says “the Father is greater than I.” Nothing similar is said of the Holy Spirit, and therefore, it would seem the Holy Spirit never appeared as visible.  But it is the fact of the Incarnation of the Son and the human nature thereby that allows a sense in which the Father is greater than Jesus.  As no such Incarnation, but only a visible manifestation of the Holy Spirit took place, there is no nature in the Spirit to call “less than the Father.”

“…the dove and the fire suddenly appeared to signify only what was happening…the Holy Ghost is said to be sent visibly, inasmuch as He showed Himself in certain creatures as in signs especially made for that purpose.”

It was necessary that the Son appear as that which He would save, that is, as man.  But it was not necessary for the Holy Spirit to appear as such, but only to be made known in some visible form, so as to know that this Person is doing that work which is His part, “since it was not assumed or used for the purpose of action, but only for the purpose of a sign; and so likewise it was not required to last beyond what its use required.”

The visible mission was directed to Christ at the time of His baptism by the figure of a dove, a fruitful animal, to show forth in Christ the authority of the giver of grace by spiritual regeneration; hence the Father’s voice spoke, “This is My beloved Son” (Matthew 3:17), that others might be regenerated to the likeness of the only Begotten. The Transfiguration showed it forth in the appearance of a bright cloud, to show the exuberance of doctrine; and hence it was said, “Hear ye Him” (Matthew 17:5).” Thomas goes on to give explanations of other examples in the New Testament where we see visible signs of the Spirit, and an explanation of the Spirit’s lack of a direct manifestation in the Old Testament.

Article 8. Whether a divine person is sent only by the person whence He proceeds eternally?

It would seem that, in line with what we have previously said about the missions and sending as related to the origins and processions of the Persons that the Son could not be sent by the Spirit because, in the immanent Trinity, the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son and not vice versa. However, the Scriptures tell us that “The Son is sent by the Holy Ghost, according to Isaiah 48:16, ‘Now the Lord God hath sent Me and His Spirit.’ But the Son is not from the Holy Ghost. Therefore a divine person is sent by one from Whom He does not proceed.”

Thomas says that there are different opinions on this point. “Some say that the divine person is sent only by the one whence He proceeds eternally;…Augustine says…that the Son is sent by Himself, and by the Holy Ghost; and the Holy Ghost is sent by Himself, and by the Son; so that to be sent in God does not apply to each person, but only to the person proceeding from another, whereas to send belongs to each person.” And he decides that “There is some truth in both of these opinions… if the sender be designated as the principle of the person sent, in this sense not each person sends, but that person only Who is the principle of that person who is sent; and thus the Son is sent only by the Father; and the Holy Ghost by the Father and the Son. If, however, the person sending is understood as the principle of the effect implied in the mission, in that sense the whole Trinity sends the person sent.”

We thus leave the section of the Summa teaching the doctrine of the Trinity in a fitting way; not only with answers, but with questions.  With mystery. If we ever think we have comprehended God, we have failed to be thinking still of God and are thinking of some created fiction of our own instead.


Question 39 + 42 on the Trinity

Question 39

Article 7. Whether the essential names should be appropriated to the persons?

Attributes like Wisdom and Power certainly apply to God as one, in His essence. Metaphysically, it would seem erroneous to say that one of the Persons of the Trinity is Wisdom and not the others. Yet the Scriptures seems to emphasis certain of these attributes as being important in the recognition of one or other Person of the Trinity.  This is a problem many prior to St. Thomas had discussed, very notably, St. Augustine in his de Trinitate, for example.

The Apostle says: “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24).

Thomas goes on to say that “For the manifestation of our faith it is fitting that the essential attributes should be appropriated to the persons. For although the trinity of persons cannot be proved by demonstration… it is fitting that it be declared by things which are more known to us. Now the essential attributes of God are more clear to us from the standpoint of reason than the personal properties; because we can derive certain knowledge of the essential attributes from creatures which are sources of knowledge to us, such as we cannot obtain regarding the personal properties…such a manifestation of the divine persons by the use of the essential attributes is called “appropriation.”

While we can know that the one God is Wisdom, Power, Truth, etc, we cannot know that the one God is Trinitarian apart from Revelation.  In understanding in some way the three Persons, it is helpful and quite appropriate that we see certain attributes of the essence of God as especially revealed through the specific Persons.

The essential attributes are not appropriated to the persons as if they exclusively belonged to them; but in order to make the persons manifest by way of similitude.” We are not, again, saying that Christ is the power and the wisdom of God in a way that excludes the other two persons of the Trinity from sharing these same attributes in their essential oneness, but we are expressing, for example, that since the Son is seen as the Word, the proceeding knowledge of God to Himself, it is appropriate to recognize Him (the Son) as the Wisdom of God.

Article 8. Whether the essential attributes are appropriated to the persons in a fitting manner by the holy doctors?

Essence and operation are not found to be appropriated to any one person. The essence is one and the operations of the one God in this world are as from one source, the one Being. It is difficult for some, then, to reconcile certain sayings of the Fathers of the Church that seem to divide the essence or operations of the one God, such as Augustine when he says that “Unity is in the Father, equality in the Son, and in the Holy Ghost is the concord of equality and unity” or when “Further, according to Augustine, to the Father is attributed ‘power,’ to the Son ‘wisdom,’ to the Holy Ghost ‘goodness.’…Likewise Augustine says …”‘from Him’ refers to the Father, ‘by Him’ to the Son, ‘in Him’ to the Holy Ghost.”

Thomas answers that, “Our intellect, which is led to the knowledge of God from creatures, must consider God according to the mode derived from creatures. In considering any creature four points present themselves to us in due order. Firstly, the thing itself taken absolutely is considered as a being. Secondly, it is considered as one. Thirdly, its intrinsic power of operation and causality is considered. The fourth point of consideration embraces its relation to its effects. Hence this fourfold consideration comes to our mind in reference to God.”

The rest of the article is dedicated to expounding on this, as well as particular defenses of statements made by the Fathers of the Church on this topic.  It should be read in its entirety and meditated upon closely, as it gives insight not only into God in His relationship within Himself and to us, but in the order of human knowing in general.


Question 42

Article 5. Whether the Son is in the Father, and conversely?

One of two opposites cannot be in the other. But the Son and the Father are relatively opposed. Therefore  how can one be in the other?

“I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me” (John 14:10)

Thomas answers that there “are three points of consideration as regards the Father and the Son; the essence, the relation, and the origin; and according to each the Son and the Father are in each other.”

“The Father is in the Son by His essence, forasmuch as the Father is His own essence, and communicates His essence to the Son not by any change on His part. Hence it follows that as the Father’s essence is in the Son, the Father Himself is in the Son; likewise, since the Son is His own essence, it follows that He Himself is in the Father in Whom is His essence.”

“As regards the relations, each of two relative opposites is in the concept of the other. Regarding origin…the procession of the intelligible word is not outside the intellect, inasmuch as it remains in the utterer of the word. What also is uttered by the word is therein contained. And the same applies to the Holy Ghost.”

The general problem with the objections is likewise a problem in everything we ponder when reflecting on God.  His being, his essence, His attributes, etc, cannot be viewed in a univocal way with the beings and being of our experience.  The analogous character of being is here, as in all of Thomas’ reflections on God, of key importance.



Prayer: Meditation and Contemplation

What is the difference between meditation and contemplation as an approach to mental prayer?

There are many forms of prayer and levels of prayer, although prayer is always a lifting of the mind and heart to God.  Prayer requires both the intellect and the will, for we desire God and we desire to know Him.  Often one will use the terms meditation and contemplation synonymously, but though certainly related, these are not the same. One simple method to distinguishing the two is to divide them between the ascetical and mystical forms.

“Ascetical theology treats especially of the mortification of vices or defects and of the practice of the virtues. Mystical theology treats principally of docility to the Holy Ghost, of the infused contemplation of the mysteries of faith, of the union with God which proceeds from it, and also of extraordinary graces, such as visions and revelations, which sometimes accompany infused contemplation” (Three Ages of the Interior Life). Generally, meditation can be said to belong to the ascetical stage and contemplation to the mystical stage of one’s prayer life. However, such a strict distinction, although helpful in discerning the difference, can also be misleading, as can any theology which would separate ascetical and mystical stages too sharply.

“Discursive meditation can be defined as a reasoned application of the mind to some supernatural truth in order to penetrate its meaning, love it, and carry it into practice with the assistance of grace. The distinguishing note of meditation is that it is a discursive type of prayer, and therefore attention is absolutely indispensable” (Spiritual Theology).  The will is turned to God and some aspect of truth, rather revealed or naturally known, is meditated upon.  This truth is pondered so as to come to a greater understanding of it, a greater understanding of its relation to other truths, and an understanding of how to apply the truth in one’s daily life. “Meditation is not completed by arousing love for the supernatural truth on which one has speculated. Any meditation that is properly made should terminate in a practical resolution for the future” (Spiritual Theology).

The guiding principle for the subject matter to be reflected on is to select what is needed at a particular time and will be beneficial to the one praying. A married person may often meditate upon certain truths more often than others, while a religious or professed single person may reflect on others. An older person, or one who has lived many years in the faith may reflect on different truths than one new to the faith. With contemplative prayer, this is often not the case, but the subject of reflection is rather guided more directly by the action of the Holy Spirit than it is as chosen by the one contemplating.

Truth is certainly to be known for its own sake, as an end itself and not simply as a means.  However, it must be stressed again that that which is meditated upon should carry over into action, into the way the life of the believer is lived in the concrete circumstances of his or her life.

“The word contemplation signifies knowledge accompanied by delight, and the object of the knowledge is usually of such a type that it arouses admiration and captivates the soul…contemplation is an operation of the cognitive powers…” (Spiritual Theology) In true contemplation, the will and intellect are more passive.  They are both still involved, to be sure, but are noticeably more moved by the direct action of the Holy Spirit interiorly.  Meditation can certainly become contemplation, as the will is turned to God and His graces operate in the one who is praying.  But contemplation is distinct in the way the intellect and will are moved to knowledge of God not in a discursive manner but much more directly.

One may, for example, know that God exists through discursive knowledge.  One can meditate on the truth that all contingent things need a cause, and that there is therefore a cause that is not contingent but necessary. One may also meditate on the Trinity, which, as object of meditation, requires faith, since it cannot be known by reason, yet this knowledge may still be discursive in nature.  Beyond this, contemplation involves experiential rather than discursive knowledge, and this can only be brought about by a direct action of the Holy Spirit in a soul so disposed by grace.

“Supernatural or infused contemplation has been defined by various formulas, but the essential note that all definitions have in common is that supernatural contemplation is an experimental knowledge of God. Moreover, as a supernatural activity, infused contemplation requires the operation of faculties that are likewise supernatural, both in their substance and in their mode of operation” (Spiritual Theology).

Infused contemplation is a grade of prayer made possible by the operation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit and it necessarily requires sanctifying grace and the impulse of actual grace. (adapted from Spiritual Theology) One could, of course, even in the state of sin, meditate on the mysteries of the faith.  While charity has been lost due to sin, as long as faith and hope remain, the believer can reflect in a real way upon the truths of the faith.  But for contemplation, sanctifying grace must be present. As with all good things done by man, the impulse of actual grace is necessary as well. The believer must be in a state of grace and moved by grace interiorly, and this cannot come from the believer directly but from the Holy Spirit.  The person must be open and not resistant to grace, but contemplation can never be brought about through the effort of the believer.

The infused virtues of the affective order are not the immediate, formal, and eliciting principles of the act of contemplation, although they may serve as antecedent dispositions or consequent effects. The immediate eliciting principles of contemplation are the gifts of wisdom and understanding perfecting the act of faith informed by charity. (adapted from Spiritual Theology) In other words, it is not the infused virtues that bring about in a direct way the act of contemplation.  They are necessary, and are given already with sanctifying grace as gifts of the Holy Spirit.  They are, for all that, not the direct cause of contemplation, but rather it is the Holy Spirit moving one through the gifts of wisdom and understanding.

In summary, meditation can be closely linked with ascetical prayer in that, although it still requires grace, can be brought about by human effort.  Contemplation, however, although requiring certainly our cooperation, is passive in that the Spirit moves one directly to the object of contemplation. So while we must never divide ascetical and mystical theology into completely separated and unrelated categories, and likewise with meditation and contemplation, we can indeed make distinctions so that we may reflect more deeply upon the workings of grace and the Holy Spirit in our lives of prayer as we journey ever closer to God.


Trinitarian Persons as Relations (Summa Theologica)

Question 29 -The Divine Persons

As in all things of the Trinity, there is great difficulty in understanding the three persons in one God.  The three are truly subsistent persons, yet each is fully the one God, one Being, one essence.  It is not like man who is differentiated by his particular self from the human nature he shares with others. No man is human nature, but rather has a human nature.  God, you might say, is “God nature” and has “God nature.” There is no difference between the particular and the universal when it comes to this “God nature.” There is no difference between the abstract and the concrete.  There are no accidents adhering in the substance.  God is, although three persons, absolutely one.

Article 4. Whether this word “person” signifies relation?

After laying our several objections that would deny that this word “person” signifies relation, Thomas, of course, quotes and authority; Boethius says that “every word that refers to the persons signifies relation.” But no word belongs to person more strictly than the very word “person” itself. Therefore this word “person” signifies relation.

I answer that, A difficulty arises concerning the meaning of this word “person” in God, from the fact that it is predicated plurally of the Three in contrast to the nature of the names belonging to the essence; nor does it in itself refer to another, as do the words which express relation.

To determine the question, we must consider that something may be included in the meaning of a less common term, which is not included in the more common term; as “rational” is included in the meaning of “man,” and not in the meaning of “animal.” Also, it is one thing to ask the meaning of this word “person” in general; and another to ask the meaning of “person” as applied to God. Therefore “person” in any nature signifies what is distinct in that nature: thus in human nature it signifies this flesh, these bones, and this soul.

As stated above, however, there is no difference in the nature of God and of God Himself.  He is the being one.  God is the one God, the only nature of its kind.  The distinction of persons in God, therefore, will be in a way where no different particular instance of this nature is recognized, as it would be between Matt (an individual with a human nature) and John (an individual with a human nature).

Now distinction in God is only by relation of origin, while relation in God is not as an accident in a subject, but is the divine essence itself; and so it is subsistent, for the divine essence subsists. Therefore, as the Godhead is God so the divine paternity is God the Father, Who is a divine person. Therefore a divine person signifies a relation as subsisting. And and such a relation is a hypostasis subsisting in the divine nature, although in truth that which subsists in the divine nature is the divine nature itself. Thus it is true to say that the name “person” signifies relation directly, and the essence indirectly; this word “person” was used just as any other absolute term. But afterwards it was applied to express relation, as it lent itself to that signification, so that this word “person” means relation not only by use and custom, according to the first opinion, but also by force of its own proper signification.

Even without stating the specific objections to which these replies are given, the following help to clarify what has been said above.

Reply to Objection 2. The term “what” refers sometimes to the nature expressed by the definition, as when we ask; What is man? and we answer: A mortal rational animal. Sometimes it refers to the “suppositum,” as when we ask, What swims in the sea? and answer, A fish. So to those who ask, Three what? we answer, Three persons.

Reply to Objection 3. In God the individual–i.e. distinct and incommunicable substance–includes the idea of relation, as above explained.

Question 40

Article 2. Whether the persons are distinguished by the relations?

“Relation alone multiplies the Trinity of the divine persons.”

I answer that, In whatever multitude of things is to be found something common to all, it is necessary to seek out the principle of distinction. So, as the three persons agree in the unity of essence, we must seek to know the principle of distinction whereby they are several. Now, there are two principles of difference between the divine persons, and these are “origin” and “relation.” Although these do not really differ, yet they differ in the mode of signification; for “origin” is signified by way of act, as “generation”; and “relation” by way of the form, as “paternity.”

There is really no actual difference between them in the simplicity of God, but the origin and relation differ in that it is the relation itself, not the origin (which is the “cause” of the relation) that is the Person.

Origin of a thing does not designate anything intrinsic, but means the way from something, or to something; as generation signifies the way to a thing generated, and as proceeding from the generator. Hence it is not possible that what is generated and the generator should be distinguished by generation alone; but in the generator and in the thing generated we must presuppose whatever makes them to be distinguished from each other. In a divine person there is nothing to presuppose but essence, and relation or property. Whence, since the persons agree in essence, it only remains to be said that the persons are distinguished from each other by the relations.

Again, the relations and not the origin of the relations (which is the essence) is what distinguishes the Persons.

The distinguishing principles themselves must constitute the things which are distinct. Now the relations or the properties distinguish or constitute the hypostases or persons, inasmuch as they are themselves the subsisting persons; as paternity is the Father, and filiation is the Son, because in God the abstract and the concrete do not differ. But it is against the nature of origin that it should constitute hypostasis or person. For origin taken in an active sense signifies proceeding from a subsisting person, so that it presupposes the latter; while in a passive sense origin, as “nativity,” signifies the way to a subsisting person, and as not yet constituting the person.

The origin presupposes the person rather than constituting him.  The origin of a son, even an earthly one, presupposes the person of the father, but it is the relation of the father to the son, again, even in earthly terms, that makes the father to be the father.

It is therefore better to say that the persons or hypostases are distinguished rather by relations than by origin.

Augustine and Original Sin


Original sin is the privation of sanctifying grace in consequence of the sin of Adam. Augustine recognized this, but can be interpreted to have implied some sort of direct physical existence of this sin in much of his writing, a point that would tie some positive aspect of sin as inherited rather than a pure negation of the gifts of grace. In much of his writing, and tied with his theories of the origin of the human soul, which he never seemed to work out to his own satisfaction, original sin can be seen as a positively inherited disease as much as it is a negation of an inheritance of grace. Augustine certainly came to recognize that evil is not a substance but a privation of existence, yet his writings have been interpreted by some as implying a sort of actually existing thing, “original sin,” in his doctrine of the fall, as the way to understand the handing on of what we call original sin.

Misunderstandings and misuses of Augustine have lead to many modern errors regarding the doctrines of sin, man, grace, and salvation. While these errors should be seen for what they are in light of the rest of the Bishop of Hippo’s writing, many problematic passages, when read away from the context of his voluminous work, can certainly be wrongly interpreted. This can be seen, for example, when he speaks of the Incarnation, in which Christ, to avoid being conceived in sin, had to be born of a virgin, avoiding the seed of man, where each man inherited Adam’s sin.

While Augustine cannot be said to be a systematic writer in the way we see such later thinkers as Aquinas and Duns Scotus, we can build a doctrine from his works on many topics. We must read difficult and troublesome passages in light of this doctrine of Augustine, and so we shall set forth his principle understanding of evil, the human soul, and sin here before doing so.  Only in this context can we approach the more difficult passages of Augustine with facility.

Augustine’s Doctrine of Evil

No doctrine of sin can be understood apart from the doctrine of evil. We will first, therefore, briefly examine Augustine’s teachings on evil. One of the most basic problems for all theologians and philosophers is the reconciling of the existence of a good God with the reality of evil.

The young Augustine, as a Manichean, understood a world with two principle causes.  The good world, or rather the good within the world, was caused by a good being. Likewise, the evil world was caused by an evil being.  This evil world is what we know as the world of matter.  For Augustine at this stage of his life, good is quite real ontologically, and evil has a real ontological status as well.  This is the dualist approach of the early Augustine. “But what did this further me, imagining that Thou, O Lord God, the Truth, wert a vast and bright body, and I a fragment of that body? Perverseness too great! But such was I.”(Confessions, pg 111 – bk iv, 16)

As his understanding grew and his faith changed, Augustine was able to begin to comprehend a purely spiritual world. He also came to realize that being, as being, is good, for it participates in existence, and all true existence is good.  Evil is a privation of being where it should be.  It is a lack of goodness.

It is Augustine’s understanding of creation ex nihilo that establishes this point for him.  A God who creates from nothing is a God who is completely sovereign, and there can only be one sovereign God. Eliminating the efficient cause of evil leads to eliminating evil itself as an ontological reality.

“All things which He has made are good because made by Him, but they are subject to change because they were made, not out of Him, but out of nothing.” (City of God, pg. 245)

It is now the mutability as the possibility of a defect in the way a thing should be that is evil.  Moral evils, because they are done by one who should choose God and yet rejects Him for some lesser good, are the responsibility of the one committing them.  One cannot simply blame the body and the matter for evil. Moral evil is directly linked to the will of the one doing the evil.

Augustine’s Doctrine of the Soul

It was generally an uncontested doctrine, at least among Christians, that man was a composite being made up of body and soul.  But there were several theories about the time of the soul’s creation and when it “entered” the body.

One view was that of Origen, who maintained a view similar to that of Plato, where the soul was created beforehand and then placed, in time, in a body.  This view was rejected, by Augustine’s day, by most of the Christian fathers. The most common view was that of creationism, by which God created the soul at the moment He placed it in the body.

J.N.D. Kelly tells us that “The explanation to which Augustine on the whole leaned, although with many hesitations, was the traducianist one associated with Tertullian.” (ECW, pg. 345) Traducianism is that view whereby each soul is somehow generated from the parent’s soul. “Augustine himself was critical of the materialist strain in Tertullian’s brand of traducianism, but observed that a spiritual version of the same theory fitted in best with his teaching about original sin.” (Early Christians Doctrines, pg.345)

Augustine’s changed understanding from his earlier materialist days would lead him to a long struggle with understanding the origin of the soul.  It certainly was of the spiritual realm, but Augustine nevertheless seems to have held to a trudacianist view of the soul’s origin. If the soul was created immediately by God and in no way linked to the parents of the new child, then it seemed to make little sense how original sin might be passed on.  Could it be purely through the matter? This would not make sense if the sin was committed by the complete person, most especially because the powers of the intellect and will are in the soul, and this is where the decision to sin or not to sin resides. The body is the instrument, and although the passions have their place in the complete person, it is in the will that the fall occurred, and it must be here that it is passed on to each generation.

Augustine himself, however, “claimed in his Retractationes (I.I.3) that he did not know…whether souls come to be in the body from the one soul of Adam or are individually created.” (Cambridge Companion to Augustine pg 121)

Certainly, then, this doctrine of the complete person being the composite of the soul and the body is difficult to reconcile with the passing on of original sin from one generation to the next.

“While traducianism seems most easily to explain the common inherited guilt of original sin and the need for infant baptism, it seems to endanger the incorporeality of the soul…While creationism is thoroughly compatible with the incorporeality of the soul made in the image of God, it makes it more difficult to understand how a soul could be created by God with the guilt of Adam’s sin.” (Cam Comp p121-122)

We cannot know for certain what final conclusion, if any, Augustine was to come to on the origin of the soul.  We do know, however, that it presented a great difficulty for him, and his view of original sin cannot be separated from his search for an understanding of the way in which it might be passed on from Adam to the rest of man.

Augustine’s Doctrine of Original Sin

Augustine’s masterpiece on the fall of the angels and man and the two cities that are lived out side by side by those who are members of this world and members of the Kingdom of Heaven is called the City of God.  While there are certainly many sources to contemplate while discerning Augustine’s understanding of original sin, it will suffice for now to take a few passages from his opus magnum and see just what it is that Augustine understood by the belief in the Fall.

“Wherefore we must say that the first men were indeed so created, that if they had not sinned, they would not have experienced any kind of death; but that, having become sinners, they were so punished with death, that whatsoever sprang from their stock should also be punished with the same death. For nothing else could be born of them than that which they themselves had been. Their nature was deteriorated in proportion to the greatness of the condemnation of their sin, so that what existed as punishment in those who first sinned, became a natural consequence in their children.” (City of God, pg.271)

Augustine argues, against the Pelagians, that sin is innate and not acquired. It is not something that is merely learned by example, but is transmitted by propagation, not imitation. His voluminous writings against the Pelagians provide a wealth of information on the intricacies of mans freedom and its relation to man’s condition both before and after the fall, and cannot be ignored by one who seriously ponders the Fall.  However, here we will stay within the framework of the City of God.

“We all existed in that one man, since, taken together, we were the one man who fell into sin through the woman who was made out of him before sin existed. Although the specific form by which each of us was to live was not yet created and assigned, our nature was already present in the seed from which we were to spring.” (City of God, pg. 279)

The sin of our parents is passed on to all of humanity.  It is a privation of the graces and gifts we had when we were first created by God, and this original sin, although often called a stain, can just as accurately be described as the loss of an inheritance. A stain would seem to be a positively existing thing handed on from one generation from the next, while the loss of an inheritance is more likely to be viewed as a negative form of the same consequence.  Which direction Augustine actually leaned in his understanding and preaching of original sin must be extracted through much reading and contemplation, and is a task that cannot be settled in just a few short passages.

Questions on Augustine’s Doctrine and Difficulties Related to Sin as a Deprivation

Almost all Christians recognize some authority in Augustine as a Christian writer and theologian. Among them, the reformers, especially of the Calvinist or Reformed camp, emphasis Augustine’s emphasis on grace.  He is, indeed in the Catholic tradition, called the Doctor of Grace.  One of what is known as the five points of reformed theology is that man is totally depraved.  The five points are primarily an emphasis of God’s grace and its necessity for any good in the world, including that of man’s free choices. This first point, that of total depravity, is directly related to man’s nature after original sin.

Our purpose here will not be a broad look at this doctrine, but of examples of Augustine’s writings that could be misinterpreted to say that the good in man’s nature that was created by God (God said that it was very good) was itself changed. Certain passages of Augustine could be seen to lean in the direction of an actual change in man’s nature. One such passage is from his City of God:

“And what was born was not human nature as it was originally created but as it becomes after the first parents’ sin and punishment – as far, at least, as concerns the origin of sin and death.” (City of God, pg. 272)

Augustine, however, had earlier argued that man had supernatural and preternatural gifts in his original state before the fall.  Some of these gifts had the effect of allowing man’s rational soul complete power over his appetitive desires.  This meant that his passions would be controlled by his reason.  One result of the fall is that this is no longer the case.  The passions sometimes dominate the reason in the man.  This has an effect on the nature in man in that the man was created to have these gifts from God and be “whole” thereby. The nature itself, however, was not changed, and the rest of the context of Augustine’s writings verify that this was his thought.

“One can argue that an alteration of the soul’s native abilities would be tantamount to the creation of a new species. It is awful enough to be told we are at present disadvantaged because of the misdeeds of our ancestors. It would be monstrous to be told that our kind was created as a punishment for misdeeds perpetrated by superior beings of a different species.” (Cambridge Companion, pg.47)

We see that in fact we must retain the same nature if we are to inherit original sin.  Original sin includes within it the guilt of what a man did, and if Adam before the fall was not the same as Adam after the fall, then we would be using Adam the man that lost the grace of God and Adam after he lost the grace of God in an equivocal way.

“As soon as our first parents had disobeyed God’s commandments, they were immediately deprived of divine grace…The fact is that the soul…was now deprived of its original mastery over the body…being unable to hold the flesh completely in subjection as would always have been the case, if only the soul had remained subject to God.” (City of God, pg. 278)

So man’s nature itself is not altered. The intellect is still aimed at truth; the will to love, and the passions to obey reason. They just cannot do it well. The body now suffers and dies because God withdraws his protection. Had Adam not sinned he would have passed on his nature intact with all the gifts and if each man were now created from the dust of the earth he would not inherit original sin.

Man, however, is co-creator with God in the generation of new human beings. The generation of new life is linked, of course, with the sexual act and the seed of man.  Augustine has often been portrayed as linking the sexual act itself, or rather the lust involved in it after the fall, with the passing on of original sin.

We see an interesting case in the Enchiridion, in which Augustine states the following regarding the Incarnation of Christ: “…no part was wanting in that human nature He put on, save that it was a nature wholly free from that taint of sin – not such a nature as is conceived between the two sexes through carnal lust, which is born in sin…but such as it behooved a virgin to bring forth, when a mother’s faith, not her lust, was the condition of conception.” (Ench p43) J.N.D. Kelly takes this passage and others as speaking of the necessity that Christ be born without the seed of man and the sexual act itself in order that He not attain the stain of original sin. “Marriage as mankind knows it (after the fall) seems inseparable from sexual pleasures of which man in his innocence was ignorant. It was in view of this, to avoid the taint of concupiscence, that the Saviour chose to be born of a pure virgin.” (ECD, pg 365)

Concluding Remarks

Although Augustine cannot be said to have been a systematic writer like some of his contemporaries and many of the later scholastic authors, a clear and consistent doctrine of his beliefs can be drawn from his writings.  The topic of original sin is certainly one of the more difficult of Christian theology, and Augustine certainly labored both to understand and to explain this central tenant of the faith.  What can be known for sure is that Augustine, true to the Catholic faith both before and after him, understood man to be created good in the image and likeness of God, to have fallen of his own free will, and to have therefore affected all of humanity which would come from him as father of the human race. It is also clear that Augustine described evil as a privation of existence, and that, although there are certainly difficult passages in his works, whatever the method of the passing on of original sin, it must be in conformity with this general principle that evil is no being but a lack thereof. Augustine must always be read in the context of the particular works and their purpose, as well as the totality of the writings which he has left us.  Only then may we reflect properly on Augustine himself and on the all important doctrine of original sin.

*Original sin may be taken to mean: (1) the sin that Adam committed; (2) a consequence of this first sin, the hereditary stain with which we are born on account of our origin or descent from Adam. From the earliest times the latter sense of the word was more common, as may be seen by St. Augustine’s statement: “the deliberate sin of the first man is the cause of original sin” (De nupt. et concup., II, xxvi, 43). It is the hereditary stain that is dealt with here. (, Original Sin)

Does Truth Matter?

Below are excerpts from a discussion I had with an atheist who seems to believe that truth does not matter.  These are merely excerpts, and more of the excerpts are mine than the “doubter’s.” Of course, this is for several reasons.  First, its my blog, and I get to decide what goes here.  Second, sadly, not a lot of my questions were answered, although a lot of my responses are answers to the doubters points as they came up.  A fair conversation by two seekers of truth would have included my objections to the doubters points being answered with a somewhat similar effort to the answers I put forth.  But then again, isn’t this blog titled “Does Truth Matter?” for a reason? Yes.  And the avoiding of difficulties and red herring responses that made up the majority of responses I got simply aids in proving that at the least the doubter is consistent; they do not believe truth is important:

Matthew Menking  –  Truth is the conformity of what is in the mind with what exists in reality.

That that is, is. That that is not, is not.

I agree that truth is not always something people conform to. All that means is they do not have/live/know the truth. Not everyone “conforms” to 4+4 being 8. It’s still 8, whether they “conform” or not. This is what is called objective truth. 4+4 is either 8 or it is not. It can’t be 8 for you but 7 for someone else. If it is 7 for someone else, they are WRONG. Its not a matter of that being “their truth.” There is no such things. We do not create truth, we recognize it. We do not make 4+4 equal 8. We simply come to recognize that that is the case.

It is no different from whether there is a god or not. There either is or is not. It will never be the case that, as long as we are using a univocal definition of god, that there is a god for you and not for me. It may be that you are right and I am wrong and there is no god, or I am right and you are wrong and there is a god, but it will never be that there is a god for one person and not for another.

Its the law of non-contradiction. And you cannot show that the law of non-contradiction is false, for any statement you make to show that it is false thereby proves it is true. Human thought and human communication (one must precede the other) are not even possible without the law of non-contradiction. And the law of non-contradiction proves from its premises the law of objective truth.

Even the great “subjectivist” thinker Descartes knew this, and in fact, based his whole system, the one modern philosophy (which includes the category of “free thinkers”) is based on, on the objective certainty of mathematical proofs. And his premise was mathematical certainty. He also used this premise toward proving the existence of God. So please don’t try to pretend that mathematical objective truth cannot be equated with other ontological objective truth.

Whether we can know for certain [and how we can know and with what degrees of certainty] the particulars of objective truth is debatable, and falls to the field of epistemology, but THAT there is objective truth is certain.

We could, besides your link here on “two-truths” in Indian, look at the two truth theories of the Latin Averroists, based on their readings of the great medieval Arab philosopher Averroes. The two truths theories fall by their own admissions once logically taken to their own conclusions. Even the attempted defenses of these types of theories by “divine miracles” cannot stand. For example, some use to say that philosophically it is true that all human souls are one, but theologically all human souls are individual, by a “miracle” of God. The FACT that God cannot make a square circle or a “rock so big he can’t lift it” prove the absurdity of even miraculous two truth theories. The statements are simply absurdities, and not limits of power, even of divine power. They return to the basic law of non-contradiction, which “even God” cannot supercede.

That that is, is. That that is not, is not.

Doubter –  Why does there even have to be a right and wrong? It isn’t about who wins when it is the truth it is about what is and is not. To many times people try to win that power of knowledge that is not really something to win but to change and grow from. If I say you win does that really make it true? Why do you have to try to win so badly when beliefs are what they are…beliefs? Who do you really try to convince in life things…yourself or others?

Matthew Menking  –  Who says its about winning. Perhaps the statement “there is a truck coming” actually matters so that someone will “get out of the way.” Its not about winning an argument, its about having someone “not crushed by a truck.” I am not sure where the discussion of “winning” came into this (it certainly was not me). You are simply throwing in a red herring.

We were discussing truth, not winning. Why does there have to be a right and wrong? Free will and intellect. If every intellect automatically recognized that 4+4 is 8, there would be no right and wrong, only right. There is only right and wrong because we are capable of error. Clear thinking helps lessen the occurrence of this error. If you are really asking “why there has to be a right and wrong,” this is my answer.

Who should we really be trying to convince? It should be ourselves first, then others. We should want to know the truth. We should seek the truth. We have an intellect for the very purpose of knowing “what is.” We should be aiding one another in seeking the truth. This is the first and primary point of community at any level. This is why we have tradition (our parents can help us know the truth), specialists (because we can’t learn everything ourselves), and revelation (because some things we simply cannot know by our own powers).

Yes, truth matters, not to win, not to have someone else lose, but because of TRUTH.

Doubter  –  Then you should be able to let the truth be found by others what ever truth it is and not worry.
What ever truth there is, and if you really believe with all your faith by the book on Abrahamic gods then you should be able to look at that and follow it with out worrying if this god can’t keep it all under control all by himself.
Don’t have to keep pressing the same information over and over if it is really the other person who is to believe in any truth. The truth is what it is and searching for it is not evil.

Matthew Menking  –  You think that each should be able to live according to their “own truth” it seems. But in practice, I doubt you do. What if “my truth” includes that I must tell others about the truth. Who are you, then, to tell me that I should not? What if my truth is that I think adult men should go around punching little babies for the “fun of it?” Who are you to impose “your truth” on me.

What most people really, in practice, mean when they say that people should be allowed to live according to what they believe is “I should be able to live how I want without interference, and others, as long as they don’t specifically bother me, can do what they want.”

I, rather, believe that there is truth, and that the more we live in conformity with truth, the better off EVERYONE will be. Less people will get hit by trucks, less babies will get punched by grown men, etc, etc. Because there is not only truth, but truth matters.

Searching for the truth is not only not evil (we agree) but I believe it is a responsibility of all. This is what discussions like this are about. Seeking truth. Its a dialogue seeking truth. As the proverb says “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Or one human another, if you prefer).

The truth should be taught with love, of course. In fact, the Bible (which I have rarely mentioned in our “debate” by the way) says explicitly:

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15)

This is what, through preaching the truth but in love, I hope to do. And if you truly think that each should be able to live according to “their truth,” then you will never question me for doing just that. “My truth” includes sharing this truth with others.

Its Good Friday, I wish you well.
Doubter  –  “3.3 Do We Have Free Will? ”

“A belief in free will touches nearly everything that human beings value. It is difficult to think about law, politics, religion, public policy, intimate relationships, morality—as well as feelings of remorse or personal achievement—without first imagining that every person is the true source of his or her thoughts and actions. And yet the facts tell us that free will is an illusion.” –Sam Harris

Matthew Menking  –  Well, I think Sam Harris is wrong about the facts. One of the facts is that of experience. The scientific method, which Sam Harris highly values, is one based on empirical evidence. Personal experience is itself empirical evidence. So he has to discount it to “prove” his theory.”

But let us suppose that Sam (and the ancient materialist philosophers from ancient Greece 2500 years ago; Sam Harris has said nothing new) are correct. That being the case, then I have not freely come to believe in God, and you have not freely come to not believe in God. I, in fact, being nothing more than the movement of material particles in my brain, am in no way responsible for my actions. and you are bound and determined to think as you do, no matter what the truth is. How then do you call yourself a “free thinker” when free thinking doesnt even exist?