Saturday, December 26, 2009

Defending Aquinas from the Heretics: Sola Scriptura

Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) is one the greatest Catholic dogmatic theologians the world has ever seen. His Summa Theologica, Summa Contra Gentiles and Catechism are among the finest works of Catholic theology ever produced. Although his writings were long despised by Protestants of the past, his writings are now being cradled in the arms of heretics, who seek to twist his writings into heresy in an effort to support their false doctrines, such as Sola Scriptura. Saint Thomas was a Catholic, he believed Catholic teaching, and his writings prove him as such. In rational times there would be no need for me to point this out, but since we have a severe depletion of rational thinking and understanding in our current culture, I think it is worth my time to write this so that people who are seeking God's Church won't be mislead by the malicious rants of the heretics.

There are some self proclaimed "Reformed" theologians who have tried their best to turn Saint Thomas into a proponent of Sola Scriptura. For instance, the anonymous Turretin Fan has tried on more than one occasion to do this, and has been refuted time and time again. Yet his efforts to hijack Saint Thomas' writings in his attempt to spread his false gospel have not ceased. He has once again irresponsibly misquoted and misinterpreted Saint Thomas' Summa Theologica.

Turretin Fan writes,
I've previously noted Aquinas' apparent [FN1] view of the primacy of Scripture (link) as well as other comments from Aquinas on themes generally related to Sola Scriptura (link). The following quotation, however, comes close to expressing not only the material sufficiency of Scripture, but also the formal sufficiency of Scripture.

Thus in Holy Writ no confusion results, for all the senses are founded on one — the literal — from which alone can any argument be drawn, and not from those intended in allegory, as Augustine says (Epis. 48). Nevertheless, nothing of Holy Scripture perishes on account of this, since nothing necessary to faith is contained under the spiritual sense which is not elsewhere put forward by the Scripture in its literal sense.
- Aquinas, Summa Theologica, First Part, Question 1, Article 10

Let's take a look at this quote, shall we? My first question is, where does Saint Thomas ever say that Scripture is formally sufficient in all Christian doctrine in this passage? You guessed it, he doesn't. If we go back and actually read his Summa from the beginning we can see that Saint Thomas uses a clear distinction between Divine Revelation, Sacred Scripture and Sacred Doctrine. Article 10 that Turretin Fan quotes from is dealing with Scripture, and the senses in which Scripture can be interpreted in regards to articles of the faith within Scripture. Thomas clarifies that in Scripture itself, there is nothing necessary to the faith which is not put forward in the literal sense. However, Saint Thomas never says that all necessary doctrine, or divine revelation is found in Sacred Scripture alone. This type of reading into a text is simply erroneous and irresponsible. This text refers to Scripture and how other senses of Scripture do not thwart the ability of Scripture to convey things necessary to the faith in the literal sense. It has nothing to do with the sufficiency of Scripture by itself in relation to the the rest of Divine Revelation, and we can see this from the text itself. If actually we read Saint Thomas' writings at length, rather than cutting and pasting like TF does, we can clearly see that he was not a proponent of Sola Scriptura.

We can prove that saint Thomas believed that Divine Revelation came not just through Scripture, but in the Church's decrees, united under the Chair of Peter, and in her Tradition of the Fathers, oral Kerygma, etc. Saint Thomas did not fall under the fallacious reasoning of the Protester, who seeks to separate Scripture from the Church, more specifically the Church built upon Saint Peter.

1. Saint Thomas believed in the papacy, and believed in the Church as being united in faith under the Chair of Peter. He believed the Church united to Peter was free from error.

"This is as if He said: "They shall make war against thee, but they shall not overcome thee." And thus it is that only the Church of Peter was always firm in faith. On the contrary, in other parts of the world there is either no faith at all or faith mixed with many errors. The Church of Peter flourishes in faith and is free from error. This, however, is not to be wondered at, for the Lord has said to Peter: "But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not; and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren."[34]
(Catechism of Thomas Aquinas, 9th article)

2. Saint Thomas believed in apostolic succession, and the Divine Revelation that is passed on from them in succession to those who would follow them.

"By these seven Sacraments we receive the remission of sins,[14] and so in the Creed there follows immediately: "the forgiveness of sins." The power was given to the Apostles to forgive sins. We must believe that the ministers of the Church receive this power from the Apostles; and the Apostles received it from Christ; and thus the priests have the power of binding and loosing. Moreover, we believe that there is the full power of forgiving sins in the Church, although it operates from the highest to the lowest, i.e., from the Pope down through the prelates.[15]"
(Catechism of Thomas Aquinas, 10th article) 

3.Saint Thomas beleived that not everything the Church teaches is given to us in Sacred Scripture, he explicitly speaks about this in his Summa Theologica,

But those things that are essential to the sacrament, are instituted by Christ Himself, Who is God and man. And though they are not all handed down by the Scriptures, yet the Church holds them from the intimate tradition of the apostles, according to the saying of the Apostle (1 Corinthians 11:34): "The rest I will set in order when I come."(Summa Theologica III, Question 64, article 2)

4. Continuing on in the Summa we can also see Saint Thomas never viewed the Church and Sacred Scripture as being separate entities. In fact, we can see that he viewed the Church's apostolic teaching, along with the Scriptures, as being one and unified. We can also see, based on Saint Thomas' explanation of the papacy above, that he does not view the Church as being only an invisible spiritual communion, but those united to the Chair of Peter. The below passage taken in context with the above  proves that Saint Thomas viewed the Church, her Oral Kerygma, and Sacred Scripture as being inseparable. He never viewed the Church as being an invisible communion, united by believers of Sacred Scripture alone.

"The reason of this is that the species of every habit depends on the formal aspect of the object, without which the species of the habit cannot remain. Now the formal object of faith is the First Truth, as manifested in Holy Writ and the teaching of the Church, which proceeds from the First Truth. Consequently whoever does not adhere, as to an infallible and Divine rule, to the teaching of the Church, which proceeds from the First Truth manifested in Holy Writ, has not the habit of faith, but holds that which is of faith otherwise than by faith. Even so, it is evident that a man whose mind holds a conclusion without knowing how it is proved, has not scientific knowledge, but merely an opinion about it. Now it is manifest that he who adheres to the teaching of the Church, as to an infallible rule, assents to whatever the Church teaches; otherwise, if, of the things taught by the Church, he holds what he chooses to hold, and rejects what he chooses to reject, he no longer adheres to the teaching of the Church as to an infallible rule, but to his own will. Hence it is evident that a hereticarticle of faith, is not prepared to follow the teaching of the Church in all things who obstinately disbelieves one ; but if he is not obstinate, he is no longer in heresy but only in error. Therefore it is clear that such a heretic with regard to one article has no faith in the other articles, but only a kind of opinion in accordance with his own will." (Summa Theologica II, Question 5, Article 2)

5. Saint Thomas believed that in order to understand the Scriptures, one had to be united to that same Church, which is united under Peter. Clearly above we see that Saint Thomas held to the unity of the Chair of Peter, and his definition of the Church most certainly includes the papacy. Below he explicitly tells us that one cannot be outside of this Church and understand the Scriptures correctly. This is a great testimony to oral Tradition. 

"On the other hand faith adheres to all the articles of faith by reason of one mean, viz. on account of the First Truth proposed to us in Scriptures, according to the teaching of the Church who has the right understanding of them. Hence whoever abandons this mean is altogether lacking in faith."
 (Summa Theologica II, Question 5, Article 2)

6. Saint Thomas believed that the veneration of images, relics and the Saints was in accordance with Christian teaching based on Oral Kerygma, not Sacred Scripture. In fact, he teaches that there are different levels of worship, and he expounds upon the much rejected teaching of the "reformed" Protesters, concerning latria. The fact that Saint Thomas writes that this oral unwritten tradition is led by the Holy Ghost, proves that Saint Thomas was certainly not a proponent of Sola Scriptura. It proves that he believed the the Holy Spirit handed down teachings not found in Sacred Scripture.

"The Apostles, led by the inward instinct of the Holy Ghost, handed down to the churches certain instructions which they did not put in writing, but which have been ordained, in accordance with the observance of the Church as practiced by the faithful as time went on. Wherefore the Apostle says (2 Thessalonians 2:14): "Stand fast; and hold the traditions which you have learned, whether by word"--that is by word of mouth--"or by our epistle"--that is by word put into writing. Among these traditions is the worship of Christ's image. Wherefore it is said that Blessed Luke painted the image of Christ, which is in Rome." (Summa Theologica III, Question 25, Article3 )

7. Saint Thomas believed in the authority of the Church to implement fasts, as well as give dispensations on fasting according to her authority.
"The justice of man does not destroy the order of the Church, but rather completes it. But as long as the order remains, obedience of an inferior to a superior precept remains. Therefore, through justice, a man is not absolved who does not keep the fast, and who ought to preserve the other precepts of God's Church." (IV Sententiae d. 15, q. 3)

My argument is, that anyone who writes extensively on the theology of the Catholic Church long enough, can eventually be misquoted and misinterpreted by the heretic. The fact is, Saint Thomas was no more a proponent of Sola Scriptura than Pope Benedict XVI. (See my earlier article to understand how the Protester operates in this fashion.) To promote such a lie is irresponsible scholarship, and is also intellectually dishonest. The simple fact is, Sola Scriptura is not an authentic Christian doctrine, it is not upheld in Sacred Scripture or Sacred Tradition, and it is not upheld by the Saints of the Church, including Saint Thomas. Saint Thomas correctly saw Christ as being the ultimate authority, who gave us a Church united under the Chair of Peter to serve His Divine Revelation, which is promulgated in the two forms of Scripture and Oral Kerygma.

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