S hould St. Thomas Aquinas have taken a religious name as particularly done in the Carmelite order, it would have been “Thomas of the Creator.” First articulated by G. K. Chesterton, and later echoed by Josef Pieper and Joseph Ratzinger, this claim affirms the principal foundation of Aquinas’ writings, namely, that God is the creator. All treatments of identity, morality and teleology of the human person given by Aquinas emerge out of his understanding that man’s primary relation to God is that of a creature. In contemporary thought, this worldview of the creator-creation relationship has been outmoded by scientism and self-creation. Through the discoveries of evolutionary biology, the stance that Darwinian theory provides the complete narrative of human origins displaced the classical treatments of the human person as made in the image of God. However, the loss of historical “Adam” entailed the loss of the Fall, and thereby omitted the need for the savior. There is no doctrine of salvation without the doctrine of original sin, thus, to fill the vacuum that opened through the loss of the creator, contemporary thought has looked to self- creation and societal order for redemption. Only when one returns to a disposition of receptivity in one’s primary identity as creature can the need for salvation in Christ be recognized. Thus, Aquinas serves as a spiritual teacher in our age, as he sets the gaze of the world back upon the creator that we may find the savior. This paper will trace the issues of human identity and the relationship between divine and human agency as treated within the contemporary age resultant from the abandonment of the creator, and subsequent to each, it will reveal how Aquinas answers these issues by guiding our gaze back to the creator. The first issue pertains to human identity. In his book Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry , Alasdair MacIntyre sets out the three dominant moral and intellectual traditions found within the Christian, modern and postmodern eras of Western culture.
The Christian narrative recognizes man’s creation, Fall and salvation, thereby placing man’s primary identity in being a creature made in the image of God. The modern narrative retains creation only to the extent that deism affords yet eschews the other two; man is born good yet is corrupted by social institutions, thus, redemption emerges when man, equipped with rational agency, regains his independence through innovation. Here, man’s fundamental identity lies in being a rational agent. The postmodern narrative goes further, casting off
Emma Miller ‘22
creation and viewing human interactions through the lens of power structures. Now, one’s identity is neither in the image of God nor rational agency, but as a part of a group identity inherently set against others. Since “who you are” is uniquely tied to “what you do,” the novel judgments of human identity led to the shifted perspective of morality. The conflicting moral ideologies of modernity gave rise to the postmodern claim that morality amounts to nothing more than a social construct. Aquinas speaks into this issue, resolving both the question of identity and morality in one coherent point – that because virtue is tied to who man ought to be, it is inseparably tied to human identity. Made in God’s image by reason of intellectual nature, our identity reaches fulfillment as we imitate God
St. Thomas Lumen Spring 2022 Page 17
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