The Plan Of The Trinitarian Treatise In The Summa Theologiae

St Thomas assembles the whole of Christian reflection around the mystery of God considered as he is in himself, and considered as the source and goal of creatures: this is what theology is about, its 'subject'.12 Evidently, the concern is to bring out the theocentricity of Christian doctrine, while maintaining the transcendence of God. The treatise on God in the Summa Theologiae is a well-organized unity. The structure appears in the Prologues, enabling one to grasp the purpose of the treatise. Contrary to one widespread opinion (division of the treatise on God into a 'De Deo Uno' and a 'De Deo Trino'), this comprises not two but three parts:

The treatment of God will fall into three parts: first we will consider that which pertains to the divine essence, secondly, that pertaining to the distinction of the persons; and thirdly that concerning the procession of creatures from God.13

This structure is not out of the ordinary, for Thomas. As we recall, we found it in the Compendium of Theology! and Thomas also uses it in some of the Catechetical works where he explains the Creed.15 It is not alien to the Summa Contra Gentiles, even though Thomas connects the tripartite scheme to the general bipartite structure (that which reason can attain, and that which only faith can make known to us).ifi The first thing we must observe is that Thomas does not announce a treatise De Deo Uno followed by a treatise

11 Cf. J. A. Weisheipl OP, 'In fact, De potentia is chronologically and speculatively the immediate predecessor of the first part of the theological Summa.' Friar Thomas D'Aquino: His Life, Thought and Work, New York, 1974, p. 200.

13 ST I, q. 2, prologue; cf. q. 27, prologue; q. 44, prologue.

15 De Articulis Fidei, prologue: 'On the subject of the Trinity, it is necessary to consider three things: the unity of the divine essence, the Trinity of persons and the effects of divine power.'

16 See n. 3 above, in this chapter. The consequence of this complex plan is that the Summa Contra Gentiles deals with the works of God in two sections: St Thomas discusses 'the procession of creatures' [which come] 'from God' in Book II, whilst he considers 'that which is made by God beyond reason' in Book IV ( SCG I, ch. 9; SCGIV, ch. 1). Thus, the Trinitarian dimension of creation does not appear in the treatise on creation in Book II, but in the Trinitarian treatise (bk. IV, chs. 11-13, 20 and 26). The same is true of the investigation of the goal of human beings (bk. III and bk. IV).

De Deo Trino, but a single consideratio de Deo which begins by examining 'that which concerns the divine essence', followed by 'that which concerns the distinction of persons'. The way he formulates it clearly suggests that this is a matter of two aspects of one and the same reality.

Further, the economy is not separated from the investigation of God but is made part of it, as a chapter of this treatise on God is dedicated to it. St Thomas describes God's works here as 'the procession of creatures from God'. This 'procession of creatures' is not limited to creation in the restricted sense (the original institution of creatures in their natural being), but is rather a general matter of the divine action in the world; it extends to divine 'government' (the realization of providence),17 which also involves some aspects of the return of creatures to God. In addition, the language of 'procession' enables one to attach the economy, that is, the 'procession of creatures', to its origin in the inner-Trinitarian-ness of the divine persons.18 God's works are not exclusively attached to the divine essence, but to the mystery of the triune God, considered under all of its aspects (the essence and the distinction of persons). Within one single investigation De Deo, the structure of the treatise thus rests on a double distinction: (1) between God in his immanent life and in his creative and salvific action; (2) between that which relates to the divine essence and that which relates to the distinction of persons. This double distinction, which produces a three-part structure, requires some explanation.

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