Thursday, 30 April 2009

Writer's block, and Aquinas

Maybe I'm being punished by St George, but I just haven't thought of anything to write for the last week! So I'll bore you with some philosophy:

We're back at seminary for the third term now, and deadlines are getting underway... I'm doing a social and political ethics essay for next friday, involving St Thomas Aquinas's teaching on natural law. Some people use natural law to justify anything which they say is 'natural' to us as animals (often regarding sexuality), but this is not what Thomas means by the term; rather, he means our sharing in the eternal and unchangeable truth of God, through our God-given reason, by which we can know a set of self-evident and undemonstrable principles (do good, avoid evil basically), and the principles which follow from these. These principles help us form the laws of our society, which may differ due to circumstance, but nevertheless the foundational principles cannot change - eg things like murder, theft, adultery are wrong. What is quite interesting is that this can be applied to the Church as well, so some ecclessial laws are capable of being changed, eg. holydays of obligation, the nature of fasting and abstinence on fridays - while ecclessial laws which have the force of natural law cannot change because they are part of the unchangeable truth which we can ascertain with our reason, eg. abortion is always wrong, marriage is always praiseworthy as an institution. Then there is divine law, by which God authorises certain aspects of the Church that we cannot change, eg. we use bread and wine for the celebration of the Eucharist because that's what Christ used. The different levels of law are quite interesting, and one feels that if they were more widely known, there would be less confusion as to what can or cannot change in the Church's tradition.

Anyway, I hope I haven't misrepresented Aquinas (I'm sure I'll soon find out if I have)!

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