This is a follow up to Part 1 and Part 2 in this blog series where I will go through the works of John Owen detailing where he has mentioned Thomas Aquinas. I hope that this series is helpful.

In this third part, I would like to look at two different types of usage. First will be a couple of disagreements in which Thomas is mentioned alone, not in a list of others. Second, there are what appear to be a few points of agreement, one where Thomas is mentioned alone and another among a few others. Also note that these first three posts do not deal with Owen’s usage of Aquinas in the Hebrews volumes. I believe I will begin working through those in part 5.

As I mentioned previously, there are 20 of the 36 works that do not have any mention of Thomas Aquinas (not even in editorial footnotes). And from the other 16 books there are only 36 mentions of Thomas Aquinas. The first two parts covered 11 of those 36 mentions and this post will cover an additional 4. At this point, the 15 mentions of Aquinas only span 8 books. Counting the 20 without mentions, this is 28 of the 36 books which we will have covered by the end of this post.

Mentions of Thomas Aquinas where Owen disagreed with him

In “Owen’s Works, Volume 03, Part 1 – Pneumatologia”, Owen offers a disagreement with Thomas regarding the means of revelation.

1. Prophecy: The distinct outward manners and ways of revelation mentioned in the Scriptures may be reduced to three heads: 1. Voices; 2. Dreams; and 3. Visions.

And there are two incidental adjuncts of it: 1. Symbolic actions; and 2. Local movements.

The schoolmen, following Aquinas, 22. q. 174, a. 1, commonly reduce the means of revelation to three heads, for there are three ways by which we come to know anything — 1. By our external senses; 2. By impressions on the fantasy or imagination; and 3. By pure acts of the understanding.

So God revealed his will to the prophets in three ways —

1. By objects of their senses, such as audible voices;

2. By impressions on the imagination in dreams and visions;

3. By illustration or enlightening of their minds.

But because this last way expresses divine inspiration, I cannot acknowledge it as a distinct way of revelation by itself — for it was absolutely necessary to give an infallible assurance of mind in the other ways also.

In “Owen’s Works, Volume 12 – The Mystery of the Gospel Vindicated”, he relates a discussion between Franken and Socinus regarding “a twofold religious worship”. Owen, of course, disagreed with the assertion by Thomas Aquinas that the same worship is due to an image of Christ or a crucifix that is due to Christ.

XIX: The next argument of Franken, whereby he brought his adversary to another absurdity, had its rise from a distinction given by Socinus about a twofold religious worship;—one kind whereof, without any medium, was directed to God; the other is yielded him by Christ as a means. The first he says is proper to God, the other belongs to Christ only. Now, he is blind that doth not see that, for what he doth here to save himself, he doth but beg the thing in question. Who granted him that there was a twofold religious worship,—one of this sort, and another of that? Is it a sufficient answer, for a man to repeat his own hypothesis to answer an argument lying directly against it? He grants, indeed, upon the matter all that Franken desired,—namely, that Christ was not to be worshipped with that worship wherewith God is worshipped, and consequently not with divine. But Franken asks him whether this twofold worship was of the same kind or no? to which he answered, that it was because it abode not in Christ, but through him passed to God. Upon which, after the interposition of another entangling question, the man thus replies unto him: “This, then, will follow, that even the image of Christ is to be worshipped, because one and the same worship respects the image as the means, Christ as the end, as Thomas Aquinas tells us, from whom you borrowed your figment.” Yet this very fancy Socinus seems afterward to illustrate, by taking a book in his hand, sliding it along upon a table, showing how it passed by some hands where truly it was, but stayed not till it came to the end: for which gross allusion he was sufficiently derided by his adversary. I shall not insist on the other arguments wherewith on his own hypothesis he was miserably gravelled by this Franken, and after all his pretence of reason forced to cry out, “These are philosophical arguments, and contrary to the gospel.” The disputation is extant, with the notes of Socinus upon it, for his own vindication; which do not indeed one whit mend the matter. And of this matter thus far.

Mentions of Thomas Aquinas where Owen agreed with him

In “Owen’s Works, Volume 10, Part 2 – The Death of Death in the Death of Christ”, Owen brings up an objection to free Grace that is made by Arminians in his day. Looking back over this one, Owen actually does mention Thomas here as being in line with Augustine and Calvin’s objections to the matter.

Chapter 21: First, That which is now by some made to be a new doctrine of free Grace is indeed an old objection against it. That a non-necessity of satisfaction by Christ, as a consequent of eternal election, was more than once, for the substance of it, objected to Austin by the old Pelagian heretics, upon his clearing and vindicating, that doctrine, is most apparent. The same objection, renewed by others, is also answered by Calvin, Institut. lib. 2, cap. 16; as also divers schoolmen had before, in their way, proposed it to themselves, as Thom. 3. g. 49, a. 4. Yet, notwithstanding the apparent senselessness of the thing itself, together with the many solid answers whereby it was long before removed, the Arminians, at the Synod of Dort, greedily snatched it up again, and placed it in the very front of their arguments against the effectual redemption of the elect by Jesus Christ. Now, that which was in them only an objection is taken up by some amongst us as a truth, the absurd inconsequent consequence of it owned as just and good, and the conclusion deemed necessary, from the granting of election to the denial of satisfaction.

And, finally, in “Owen’s Works, Volume 10, Part 1 – Display of Arminianism”, Owen is discussing God’s secret and revealed wills and how there must be some distinctions. This section starts with a quotation that can be found in Thomas and Owen also agrees with how Thomas says that the revealed will can only metaphorically be called God’s will as it is a sign of His will.

Chapter 5: “Divinum velle est ejus esse,” 130 say the schoolmen: “The will of God is nothing but God willing;” it does not differ from his essence “secundem rem,” in the thing itself, but only “secundem rationem,” in a relation to the thing that is willed. The essence of God being a most absolute, pure, and simple act or substance, his will can only and simply be one; we ought to make neither division nor distinction in it. If what signifies God’s will was always taken properly and strictly for the eternal will of God, then the distinctions that are usually made about it, are distinctions about the signification of the word, rather than the thing itself.

In this regard, these distinctions are not only tolerable, but necessary, because without them it is utterly impossible to reconcile some places of Scripture that are seemingly repugnant to one another. In the 22nd chapter of Gen, verse 2, God commands Abraham to take his only son Isaac, and offer him for a burnt-offering in the land of Moriah. Here the words of God declare some will of God to Abraham, who knew it ought to be performed, and thought little but that it should be. Yet, when he actually addressed himself to his duty, in obedience to the will of God, he received a countermand in verse 12, that he should not lay his hand upon the child to sacrifice him. The event plainly manifests that it was the will of God that Isaac should not be sacrificed; and yet notwithstanding, by reason of his command, Abraham beforehand seemed bound to believe that it was well-pleasing to God that he should accomplish what he was enjoined to do. If the will of God in the Scripture is conceived of in only one way, then here is a plain contradiction. Thus God commands Pharaoh to let his people go. Could Pharaoh think otherwise? No. Was he not bound to believe that it was the will of God that he should dismiss the Israelites at the first hearing of the message? Yet God affirms that he would harden Pharaoh’s heart, so that he would not allow them to depart until God had showed his signs and wonders in the land of Egypt. To reconcile these and similar places in Scripture, the ancient fathers and schoolmen, along with modern divines, affirm that the one will of God may be said to be diverse or manifold with regard to the various ways by which he wills things to be done, and in other respects. Yet, taken in its proper signification, God’s will is simply one and the same. The common distinction between God’s secret will, and his revealed will, is such that all the other distinctions may be reduced to these two; and therefore I have chosen to insist upon it.

The Secret Will of God is his eternal, unchangeable purpose concerning all things which he has made, to be brought to their appointed ends by certain means. He himself affirms that “his counsel shall stand, and he will do all his pleasure,” Isaiah 46:10. Some call this the absolute, efficacious will of God, the will of his good pleasure, which is always fulfilled. Indeed this is the only proper, eternal, constant, immutable will of God, whose order can neither be broken nor its law transgressed, so long as there is neither change nor shadow of turning with him. Jas 1.17

The Revealed Will of God does not contain his purpose and decree, but our duty – not what he will do according to his good pleasure, but what we should do if we would please him; and this will, consisting of his word, his precepts and promises, belongs to us and our children, so that we may do the will of God. Now this, indeed, is to< qelhto>n rather than to< qe>lhma – that which God wills, rather than his will – but what we call the will of a man is what he has determined shall be done: “This is the will of him that sent me, that every one which sees the Son, and believes on him, may have everlasting life,” says our Savior, John 6:40; that is, this is what his will has appointed. Hence it is called “voluntas signi,” or the sign of his will. It is only metaphorically called his will, says Aquinas; 131 for inasmuch as our commands are the signs of our wills, the same is said of the precepts of God. This is the rule of our obedience, the transgression of which makes an action sinful; for hJ aJmarti>a ejsti<n hJ ajnomi>a, “sin is the transgression of a law;” such a law is given to the transgressor to be observed. Now, God has not imposed on us the observation of his eternal decree and intention (his secret will); and as it is utterly impossible for us to transgress or frustrate it, we would be unblamable if we should. A master requires of his servant to do what he commands, not to accomplish what he intends, which perhaps he never revealed to him. No, the commands of superiors are not always signs that the commander would have the things commanded actually performed, but only that those who are subject to his command are obliged to obedience, as far as the sense of that extends. “Et hoc clarum est in praeceptis divinis,” says Durand,132 etc. – “And this is clear in the commands of God,” by which we are obliged to do what he commands. Yet it is not always his pleasure that the thing itself, in regard to the event, should be accomplished, as we saw before in the examples of Pharaoh and Abraham.

Footnote 130: Aquinas, p. q. 19, ar. ad. 1.
Footnote 131: Aquin., q. g. 19, a. 11, c.

©2024 Alpha and Omega Ministries. All Rights Reserved.

Log in with your credentials

Forgot your details?