Saturday, January 26, 2013

Aquinas: There is no hope of justification, but only by faith...We conclude that a man is justified by faith without the works of the law

Here's an interesting Aquinas tidbit from an old discussion list:

Et sie exponit Glossa. Sed Apostolus videtur loqui de moralibus, quia subdit quod lex posita est propter peccata, et haec sunt praecepta moralia. Horum legitimus usus est ut homo non attribuat eis plus quam quod in eis continetur. Data est lex ut cognoscatur peccatum. Roman., vii, 7: Quia nisi lex diceret,non concupisces (quod dicitur in Decalogo) concupiscentiam nesciebam. Non est ergo in eis spec justificationis, sed insola fide. Roman., iii, 28: Arbitramur justificari hominem per fidem sine operibus legis.
"But the Apostle seems to be speaking about morals, because he adds that the law was set forth because of sin, and the law consists of moral precepts. The proper use of these precepts is that man not attribute to them more than what is contained in them. The law was given so that sin might be recognized. As Romans 7:7 says, "Unless the law were saying, 'Do not covet,' (which the Decalogue says), I would not have known about covetousness. In the precepts, therefore, there is no hope (spec=spes?) of justification, but only by faith. As Romans 3:28 says, "We conclude that a man is justified by faith without the works of the law."
Thomas Aquinas, "Epistola I Ad Timotheum", "Lectio III" in *Opera Omnia*, Volume 21: *Commentarii in Epistolam Ad Corinthios 1 In Caeteras Omnes Epistolas S. Pauli.* Paris: Apud Ludovicum Vives, Bibliopolam Editorem, 1876, page 456.


Martin Yee said...

Hi James,

This is indeed a significant find, even Thomas Aquinas spoke of justification by faith alone.


Rooney said...

What is the position of Aquinas in relation to the Infallible Magisterium of his day?

Was private interpretation [free from influence of Tradition] allowed back then?

Jeph said...

Nice quote you have there James, but just a careful reminder: Church fathers often have a different thing in mind when they talk about "justification by faith" than how Protestants do.

For most - if not all - of the Church fathers, Justification is exactly synonymous to Sanctification. It is a continuous process wherein a sinner is made actually holy, not just judicially just before God. Justification is like a machine that produces good works in the life of the believer (which in turn will finally merit eternal life), and the fuel that keeps this machine working is faith. Merits don't earn justification; it's the other way around: Justification produces merits.

So the process goes like:

1) Grace creates faith,
2) Faith activates Justification,
3) Justification produces goodworks,
4) Good works merit eternal life,

This was the same idea taught by St. Augustine (see On the Spirit and the Letter), and I believe the same was taught by Aquinas as well. Certainly, Aquinas also taught elsewhere that we ultimately "earn" eternal life by the merit of good works wrought in us by the Holy Spirirt through faith (Justification/Sanctification by faith alone).