ND   JMC : History of Medieval Philosophy / by Maurice De Wulf

278. Relations between Philosophy and Theology. -- Over and above the relations of origin and of teaching methods (113), there are doctrinal relations which we find CATALOGUED and VINDICATED in the introductions to the thirteenth-century Summae Theologicae (150).

(1) Distinction between the two sciences (106), and consequent complete independence and autonomy in their specifying elements. For the scholastics the criterion of distinction between sciences is not the identity or diversity of their subject-matter (material object of science), but the manner in which they deal with that subject-matter (formal object). Now, the FORMAL OBJECT of theology is not that of philosophy: the former studies the supernatural order as revealed in the word of God, the latter examines the natural order by the light of reason. Diversity in formal object involves diversity in PRINCIPLES and in CONSTRUCTIVE METHOD. The study of dogma rests on authority; the rational study of the universe, on scientific demonstration.

(2) Subordination -- material, not formal -- of philosophy to theology. That is to say, while each science preserves its formal independence, there are certain MATTERS in which philosophy cannot contradict theology, those, namely, which are common to both sciences. The scholastics justified this subordination because they were most profoundly convinced that in Catholic dogma they possessed the word of God, the infallible expression of the truth. The truth or falsity of this thesis -- the existence of a Divine Revelation -- does not fall within the competence of philosophy itself. But, the thesis once granted, the consequence is obvious: as truth cannot contradict truth, reason must avoid all OPPOSITION to dogma. The reasoning that enjoins this prohibition{1} is simply the application of a universal law of relationship between all sciences that deal with a common (material) object under different (formal) aspects proper to each.

(3) Co-ordination of the two sciences. Reason demonstrates the motives of credibility for the faith.

These views are expressed more comprehensively by St. Thomas than by Albertus Magnus or any other scholastic of his time. No one has ever blended together philosophy and theology more completely or harmoniously than St. Thomas has -- in the domain of their common material object, where alone such union is possible. On the one hand by an intense and sustained application of its own natural powers, human reason can demonstrate several of the truths which are contained in the deposit of Divine Revelation and belong on that account to theology (e.g., the existence and attributes of God); on the other hand, it bows indeed before mysteries, but so far from turning away -- either respectfully or disdainfully -- it shows that the supra-rational is not anti-rational. As regards the co-ordination of the two sciences, we know what a generous use the theologian may make of the dialectic method in showing the groundlessness of objections against revealed doctrine and in sustaming a positive defence of dogma (274). St. Thomas as philosopher did not consider himself in any way positively bound to demonstrate all the conclusions of the theologian. Of this we have a striking example in his attitude regarding the eternity of creation.

{1} A Statute of the Paris Faculty of Arts, in 1272, forbade philosophers to teach anything contra fidem (Chartul., i., p. 499). It did not order them to plead pro fide

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