Aquinas Day By Day


Aquinas’s Topic: Theology includes Revealed Wisdom and Philosophical Wisdom

Scripture: Ps. 111: 4: “The Lord is a light in darkness to the upright; he is gracious, merciful, and just.”

Aquinas’s Text: Summa theologiae 1.1.6

The last sentence is easy to understand but over the centuries has proven hard for many of St. Thomas’s followers to accept. Here he levels the wall separating philosophy and theology. As the highest of Aall human wisdoms,” theology clearly includes both truths demonstrated by reason and truths based upon revelation. In his Summa theologiae Aquinas moves freely back and forth between these two kinds of truths.

Art. 6 asks: “Is this doctrine [theology] a kind of wisdom?”

Br. Thomas’s “response”:

This doctrine [sacred doctrine or theology] is most of all wisdom, among all human wisdoms, not just in one area but absolutely. For it is the office of the wise sage to order and to judge. But since judgment about lesser matters is made with reference to a higher cause, one is called wise in some area who considers the highest cause in that area. For example, in the area of building the builder who determines the form of the house is called wise and architect, in comparison with the lesser builders, who cut the wood and chisel the stones. Consequently, it is said [1 Cor 3: 10] ‘As a wise architect I have laid the foundation stone.’ Likewise, in the area of the whole of human life, the prudent person is called wise, as ordering human acts to their proper end. Consequently, it is said [Prov. 10: 23] ‘Wisdom is prudence in a man.’

Therefore, whoever considers absolutely the highest cause of the whole universe, which is God, is most of all said to be wise. And wisdom is consequently defined as knowledge of divinity, as Augustine makes clear. Now speaking most precisely, it is sacred doctrine that makes determinations about God as the highest cause. For it treats God not just in relation to what can be known through creatures, which the philosophers knew, according to the text [Rom 1: 19] ‘what is known of God is manifest in them,’ but also in relation to what is known about God by God himself and is communicated to others by revelation. Therefore, sacred doctrine is most of all called wisdom.

Respondeo dicendum quod haec doctrina maxime sapientia est inter omnes sapientias humanas, non quidem in aliquo genere tantum, sed simpliciter. Cum enim sapientis sit ordinare et iudicare, iudicium autem per altiorem causam de inferioribus habeatur; ille sapiens dicitur in unoquoque genere, qui considerat causam altissimam illius generis. Ut in genere aedificii, artifex qui disponit formam domus, dicitur sapiens et architector, respectu inferiorum artificum, qui dolant ligna vel parant lapides, unde dicitur I Cor. III, ut sapiens architector fundamentum posui. Et rursus, in genere totius humanae vitae, prudens sapiens dicitur, inquantum ordinat humanos actus ad debitum finem, unde dicitur Prov. X, sapientia est viro prudentia. Ille igitur qui considerat simpliciter altissimam causam totius universi, quae Deus est, maxime sapiens dicitur, unde et sapientia dicitur esse divinorum cognitio, ut patet per Augustinum, XII de Trinitate. Sacra autem doctrina propriissime determinat de Deo secundum quod est altissima causa, quia non solum quantum ad illud quod est per creaturas cognoscibile (quod philosophi cognoverunt, ut dicitur Rom. I, quod notum est Dei, manifestum est illis); sed etiam quantum ad id quod notum est sibi soli de seipso, et aliis per revelationem communicatum. Unde sacra doctrina maxime dicitur sapientia.

[Introductions and translations © R.E. Houser]