DIVINE POWER AND THE SPIRITUAL LIFE IN AQUINAS
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The role of divine power in Aquinas’s spiritual doctrine has often been neglected in favor of a focus on the primacy of charity, the controlling virtue of spiritual progress. The tendency among some thinkers (e.g. Polkinghorne) to juxtapose divine love and power stems from the stress on divine immanence at the cost of divine transcendence, and from an evolutionary (vs. classical) view of God with its ‘kenotic’ theodicy. A study of the ways in which divine power grounds and directs the spiritual life highlights the robust role that metaphysics plays in spiritual ascent for Aquinas, and offers a philosophical entry point to his doctrine. Themes in his doctrine of the spiritual life incorporate Platonic transcendent causal plenitude and Aristotelian causal axioms and motifs of growth and unity. From the side of theology, divine power is analyzed through several lenses, including power through weakness in Christ, the sin of Lucifer against the gift of being in contrast to the counsel of obedience, and the role of Christ’s human nature in the Church. Taken together, these themes combine to characterize divine power as redemptive medicine, as opposed to a distant, arbitrary force, and to reveal the ways in which Aquinas applies metaphysical insights to the supernatural order.
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