Book Review

Aristotle in Aquinas's Theology

Edited by Gilles Emery, OP, and Matthew Levering
Oxford University Press (29 Oct 2015)
ISBN: 978-0198749639

Book CoverThis is a highly readable account of the role that Aristotle plays in the theology of Aquinas. Matthew Levering in his article on Aristotle and the Mosaic law shows us that Aquinas regarded all virtuous acts as belonging to the general virtue of justice. However, there is also a special virtue of justice, namely, to give what is due to another. Human law has to do with this special virtue and it does not require us to be interiorly virtuous. In contrast, divine law requires us to be virtuous. Aquinas's discussion about the Mosaic law is aided by Aristotle because Aristotle made the distinction between general and special justice. Aquinas also makes use of Aristotle when asking questions such as whether there are moral precepts that are unchangeable.

In his article on Aristotelian doctrine in Aquinas's treatment of justice, Christopher Franks notes that Aquinas makes significant use of Aristotle's moral perspectives on justice. It is further noted that Aquinas does not reduce the "natural" simply to what might arise within natural theology. Instead, he holds an Aristotelian view of the temporal character of human knowledge, with a conviction of the naturalness of God's providential action to assist human beings towards their true end. Humanity's divine destiny does not get rid of our "created concreteness". God's action fulfills human nature in a way that clarifies what the teleological orientation of human nature was aiming at from the beginning, in ways that Aristotle would never have dreamed of.

In his article on Aristotle and Aquinas's theology of charity, Guy Mansini writes that for Aquinas, it is entirely natural for man to love God above all things. So why do we need an infused virtue of charity? Happiness, for Aquinas, is twofold. There is a natural happiness proportioned to the principle of our nature. This happiness is imperfect compared to the happiness to which we are actually called by God , which is beatitude.  But since beatitude is God's own happiness, it must be that our real ordination to that happiness presupposes a share in the divine nature itself. The author also notes that Aquinas's identification of charity as friendship with God is his contribution to the understanding of graced life.

Over the years, Matthew Levering and Gilles Emery have helped this reviewer towards a better understanding of Aquinas. This excellent work is a further such contribution. 

Reviewed by Dr Pravin Thevathasan