The Qualities of the Glorified Body

Since the blessed soul, owing to its union with the first principle of all things, will be raised to the pinnacle of nobility and power, it will communicate substantial existence in the most perfect degree to the body that has been joined to it by divine action. And thus, holding the body completely under its sway, the soul will render the body subtle and spiritual. The soul will also bestow on the body a most, noble quality, namely, the radiant beauty of clarity. Further, because of the influence emanating from the soul, the body’s stability will not be subject to alteration by any cause; which means that the body will be impassible. Lastly, since the body will be wholly submissive to the soul, as a tool is to him who plies it, it will be endowed with agility. Hence the properties of the bodies belonging to the blessed will be these four: subtlety, clarity, impassibility, and agility.

This is the sense of the Apostle’s words in 1 Corinthians 15:42 ff.: In death the body “is sown in corruption, it shall rise in incorruption;” this refers to impassibility. “It is sown in dishonor, it shall rise in glory;” this refers to clarity. “It is sown in weakness, it shall rise in power,” and hence will have agility. “It is sown a natural body, it shall rise a spiritual body;” in other words, it will be endowed with subtlety.

Aquinas, Compendium Theologiae, 168.

What Ails Them

“At this point we are reminded by how far today we are afflicted by a certain kind of provinciality of mind, a reductivist mentality that can conceive of a question’s being worth asking only if we know in advance some routine procedure guaranteed to provide intelligible answers to it. It is indeed an exceedingly curious reversal of commonsense intellectual priorities that a pre-formed procedure for answering questions should be allowed to dictate the legitimacy of the questions that may be asked.”

Turner, Thomas Aquinas, 135

The Kind of Paragraph that Makes Brian Davies on Aquinas Valuable

“By ‘speculative intellect’ he means the mind as understanding at a purely theoretical level, and, under this heading, he distinguishes between ‘understanding’ (intellectus), ‘science’ (scientia), and ‘wisdom’ (sapientia). By ‘practical intellect’ he means the mind as understanding with a view to action. Under this heading he distinguishes between ‘art’ (ars) and ‘prudence’ (prudentia). ‘Understanding’ is a matter of grasping basic principles of reasoning. ‘Science’ is a matter of good reasoning using these principles to arrive at truth regarding different kinds of things in the world. ‘Wisdom’ is a matter of good reasoning concerning God. ‘Art’ is correct reason about things to be made. ‘Prudence’ is correct reason about things to be done and aims at the good of the agent.”

p 241

Classical Theism Stemming from . . .

He was the most acute of Christian Platonists and did much to lay the foundations for the synthesis between Christianity and classical theism stemming from Plato and Aristotle. Plotinus in the third century AD deeply influenced him by his systematization of the Platonic tradition, but Augustine also became one of the most penetrating of all critics of this philosophical tradition to which he himself owed so much.

-Henry Chadwick, Augustine: A Very Short Introduction, 4

On Lent

2nd London Baptist Confession,

CHAPTER 16

OF GOOD WORKS

Paragraph 1. Good works are only such as God has commanded in his Holy Word, and not such as without the warrant thereof are devised by men out of blind zeal, or upon any pretense of good intentions.

Aquinas on Arguments

As other sciences do not argue in proof of their principles, but argue from their principles to demonstrate other truths in these sciences: so this doctrine does not argue in proof of its principles, which are the articles of faith, but from them it goes on to prove something else; as the Apostle from the resurrection of Christ argues in proof of the general resurrection (1 Cor. 15). However, it is to be borne in mind, in regard to the philosophical sciences, that the inferior sciences neither prove their principles nor dispute with those who deny them, but leave this to a higher science; whereas the highest of them, viz. metaphysics, can dispute with one who denies its principles, if only the opponent will make some concession; but if he concede nothing, it can have no dispute with him, though it can answer his objections. Hence Sacred Scripture, since it has no science above itself, can dispute with one who denies its principles only if the opponent admits some at least of the truths obtained through divine revelation; thus we can argue with heretics from texts in Holy Writ, and against those who deny one article of faith, we can argue from another. If our opponent believes nothing of divine revelation, there is no longer any means of proving the articles of faith by reasoning, but only of answering his objections—if he has any—against faith. Since faith rests upon infallible truth, and since the contrary of a truth can never be demonstrated, it is clear that the arguments brought against faith cannot be demonstrations, but are difficulties that can be answered.

ST 1.1.9

Intelligible Reality

How did Athanasius describe the fall of man? He did it in terms anybody who has read Origen would recognize.

“For when men’s mind has no intercourse with the body, and has nothing of the latter’s desires mingled with it from outside but is entirely superior to them, being self-sufficient as it was created in the beginning, then it transcends the senses and all human things and it rises high above the world, and beholding the Word sees in him also the Father of the Word. It rejoices in contemplating him and is renewed by its desire for him, just as the holy scriptures say that the first man to be created, who was called Adam in Hebrew, had his mind fixed on God in unembarrassed frankness, and lived with the saints in contemplation of intelligible reality, which he enjoyed in that place which the holy Moses figuratively called Paradise. . . .

“3. In this way then, as has been said, did the Creator fashion the human race, and such did he with it to remain. But men, contemptuous of the better things and shrinking from their apprehension, sought rather what was closer to themselves—and what was closer to them was the body and its sensations. So they turned their minds away from intelligible reality and began to consider themselves. And by considering themselves and cleaving to the body and the other senses, deceived as it were in their own interests, they fell into selfish desires and preferred their own good to the contemplation of the divine. Wasting their time thus and being unwilling to turn away from things close at hand, they imprisoned in the pleasures of the body their souls which had become disordered and defiled by all kinds of desires, and in the end they forgot the power they had received from God in the beginning.”

Contra Gentes 2-3. Translated by R. W. Thomson.

Contra Gentes is first of a two volume work in which De Incarnatione, today the most recognizable of Athanasius’ works, is the second.

A relevant portion in Origen would be Contra Celsus 4.40, for example, and Peri Archon book 2 would also illuminate what I’m saying. I’m saying that the sort of thinking about things a world devoid of Plato finds weird and that Origen routinely did is found also in Athanasius.

What is also intriguing to anybody who does know something about Plato or Plotinus is the term ‘intelligible reality’ which is the Greek word nous, its association with the divine, the physical as a source of confusion, and the idea of the body as a prison. There is an obvious similarity. There is an advance in thought (and a need for more, obviously): the way Athanasius puts things is not how Plotinus would exactly have put things and not what Plato would have said. But the difference, however great to Origen and Athanasius, is from our perspective minor, and the relationship I think is evident.

My point is not that Athanasius was not a Christian. My point is that committed and robust 4th century Christianity found the categories of Platonism extremely congenial, greatly so. It was how they made sense of things. I don’t think we can understand these Christians without appreciating Platonism better than (in my opinion) many do (e.g. Thomas Weinandy). I certainly think the only crowd that stands to gain form the outdated notion that Greek philosophy corrupted Christian simplicity is that served by a more ambiguous and doctrinally impoverished religion.

And I think Athanasius inherited two things from Origen. With these he approached his lifelong task of figuring how to rid the church of subordinationism. Proof of that is what I’m on the trail of.