Saint Thomas Aquinas

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Fourfold Sovereignty of God: Part I (The Intellect)




There is a wonderful work by the great Henry Edward Cardinal Manning that you can read free on Google Play called 'The Fourfold Sovereignty of God.' For those wanting to get a dose of good old fashioned undiluted Catholic theology, this work will be a joy to read. I dropped it on my iPad and also ran it through my audio program and made an audio recording of it to listen to. In the book the great Thomistic theologian describes the obligation of man to know God, and how God is to be sovereign over every man. Here are some brief excerpts from the beginning of first chapter explaining the first way God is sovereign over man. Notice how clearly he writes and how easy he is to follow. One of the core differences between a great theologian and a crippled one is wether or not they communicate the Catholic faith clearly. The first way God exercises this sovereignty is by the natural human intellect. This was defined by Vatican I, of which the Cardinal was a huge influence on. Being a great friend of Saint Pius IX, his theological expertise was sought when making the defining articles of that Ecumenical Council. So when read the Cardinal's words on this topic, we can be sure his thoughts on the matter were the thoughts of the Pope and the Council's. After reading through this, it should give us great cause to increase our efforts in bringing people into the Church. The publication date of the book is 1871.

Last year, the Council of the Vatican made a decree in these words: 'Forasmuch as God is the Creator, and the Lord of all things, therefore man altogether depends upon Him; and every created intellect is subject to the Uncreated Truth, and owes to it a perfect obedience both of reason and of will.' Attached to that Decree are these two canons: 'If any man shall say, that the reason of man is so independent of God that God cannot command faith, let him be anathema.' And again: ' If any man shall say, that the act of faith in man is not free, let him be anathema;' and this enunciates the subject of which I purpose to speak: The sovereignty of God over the intellect, that is, the rights of God over the rational creatures He has made. He requires of them a perfect obedience of their rational and moral nature; and holds them responsible to render that obedience... 
1. First, God exercises His sovereignty over the human intellect, even by the lights of nature. There is in the natural world a manifestation of God which lays all men under the obligation of knowing Him. They who, with the lights of nature before them, remain in ignorance of God, are not only intellectually in error, they are also morally in error, and they are responsible for that moral error. Not to know God is sin. The Apostle says to the Romans, 'The invisible things of Him' —that is, of God—'from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, His eternal power also and divinity; so that they are inexcusable. Because that, when they had known God, they have not glorified Him as God, nor gave thanks; but became vain in their thoughts, and their foolish heart was darkened. For, professing themselves to be wise, they became fools. And they changed the glory of the incorruptible -God into the likeness of the image of a corruptible anan.' Here, then, is an express declaration, that the lights of nature are sufficient to prove to us the existence of God, His power, His Divinity, and, therefore, His perfections; so that they are inexcusable who do not know God, and, therefore, -do not believe and make an act of faith in Him, and of submission to His sovereignty, as their Maker and Lord.  
Again, the Apostle says: 'When the Gentiles, who have not the law, do by nature those things that are of the law, these, having not the law, are a law to themselves: who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness to them, and their thoughts within themselves accusing them, or else defending them.' That is, there is in every man a moral sense, or instinct, or judgment, or testimony to 3 Rom. i. 20-23. « Ibid. ii. 14, 15. right and wrong, which rebukes him when he does wrong, which sustains him when he does right. There is therefore an inward light, whereby the human reason may perceive the moral law of God; and if so, then every man has within him a testimony to know that he has an intellectual and moral nature; and if he has an intellectual and moral nature, he has a soul—that is, the image of God—within him, and that image has an immortality. They, then, who, amidst the lights of nature, do not know God, or the distinctions of right and wrong, or that they have a soul which is immortal and responsible, are guilty for that ignorance. To be ignorant of these things is sin, because such ignorance is vincible. The lights of nature are sufficient to prove these things, and they who are ignorant of them are willingly ignorant of them; that is, ignorant through their own will, and therefore culpable before God; and for that culpable ignorance will have to give account at the last day.
2. But, secondly, there is another world by which God has revealed Himself. The lights of the natural creation on all sides testify to the truths of which I have already spoken; but there is a supernatural world at this moment round about us, against which the disputers of this world rail, as the philosophers at Athens. They who preach of this supernatural world are 'word-sowers,' babblers, 'publishers of new gods.' Nevertheless, there exists in the midst of mankind a kingdom, present, visible, and audible, manifesting itself with sufficient evidence, through which God demands the submission of faith, through which He manifests His sovereignty over the intellect of man. That kingdom has about it certain marks, properties, and prerogatives, which no human institution, kingdom, or empire ever possessed. For instance, its indefectible existence. The history of mankind is the history of successive dynasties. Like shadows they have come and passed away; they have each one contained the principle of its own dissolution. Not one of them was intrinsically changeless and incorruptible. The Church of Jesus Christ, from its foundation to this hour, continues incorruptible in itself.  
The worldly accidents around it are human, and cleave to it like the dust to our feet. As the light of heaven is changeless, incorruptible, unsoiled in its purity, though it looks upon all the corruptions of the earth, so is the Church of God in the world; and as the Presence of our Divine Lord in the Blessed Sacrament abides in its immutable sanctity in the midst of the sins of men, so the Church of Jesus Christ abides incorruptibly the same, the sins and corruptions of those who visibly belong to it notwithstanding. It also has an indissoluble unity, and an immutability in the law of morals and in the doctrines of the faith, which it has taught from the beginning, and now at this time teaches in every place. If I affirm that the faith has never changed, men may say: 'If you speak of past time, how can you prove it?' I affirm therefore that the faith is the same now in all the world. This is a fact of the present, and may be easily tested. Now this changeless identity of one truth in all places at this time is the countersign of the immutable perpetuity of the same truth in all times. Things which spring from one law have one type. Corruption is change, and breeds diversity. Identity points to a changeless principle which is above the order of nature. Now these are phenomena manifesting a supernatural kingdom in this natural world. The reason of man, if it be consistent, can ascribe the existence of that fact to none but the Divine Creator.  
If man had made it, man might rid himself of it. If man had founded it, he might destroy it. If man had set it up, he might sweep it off the face of the earth; but man has striven to sweep it away, and cannot, any more than he can sweep away the mountains which God has rooted in the earth. God perpetually defies man by the existence of His Church. He manifests His sovereignty over the reason of man by this witness, which man can neither deny nor explain away. He can in no way account for its existence and changeless identity: if he will not account for it by the only solution which is true. God shows His sovereignty by baffling the reason and will of men, which cannot rid the world of the presence of God, manifested in the supernatural order of His power. The mere lights of nature, then — for I am thus far treating the question as a matter of human reason, of human history—these testify, both in the natural and in what I will call the Christian world, to the existence of God's sovereignty. But this is not all. The Christian world which testifies to the sovereignty of God, testifies to the coming of the Son of God in the flesh—that is, to the Incarnation. It testifies to the perpetual presence of God the Holy Ghost. As a fact of history, it is certain that it has spoken and still speaks to mankind with a voice which never ceases, and the world tells us that its pretensions never change; that is to say, it teaches always the same things, and claims for that which it teaches a Divine authority.  
It calls on men to submit their intellect to its Divine voice. It claims, in virtue of God's authority over His creatures, that we should render to Him that worship of the reason, that 'reasonable service,' which the Apostle declares to be the true sacrifice of man to God. When St. Paul preached to the Athenians, so long as they believed him only to be a disputer like themselves, and that his teaching was based only on human philosophy, they called him a 'word-sower;' but in the day when they knew that he was a teacher sent from God, that he had Divine assistance in what he taught, that the message he uttered was a Divine message, that the authority by which he spoke was the authority of God, from that moment they received all he said as coming from a fountain of Divine certainty. They believed; that is, they offered the obedience of faith to what he said. They knew that, in hearing him, they heard the word of God; that what he delivered, he delivered not from himself, but from the Master that sent him. So is it now with the Church in the world.  
The sovereignty which God claims over our intellect is the obedience of faith rendered to the Divine voice of His Church. We can stand in relation to God and His truth only in one of two ways. We are either the critics who examine, test, and choose, who accept or reject for ourselves by our own lights and our own judgment; or we are the disciples who sit at the feet of a Divine teacher, receiving by faith, with the simple adhesion of our whole nature, intellectual and moral, that which He teaches. We owe Him the submission of our intellect, because we know that all revealed truth comes from the uncreated intelligence of God. The highest act of the reason of man is to submit itself and to be conformed to the intelligence of God. We owe to Him the submission of our reason, because the Uncreated Truth is the original of our intelligence, and will be the law of our judgment hereafter. We owe Him also the love of our hearts, because that manifestation of the truth of God is the manifestation also of His grace and His love. What has been said may, I think, suffice to show that the obedience of faith is not servile, nor degrading, nor irrational, nor unworthy of an intellectual being. Nay, I shall show hereafter that the argument turns the other way; as may readily be seen by a moment's consideration of the effects of this submission of faith to a Divine teacher.
To be continued...


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