Aquinas Augustine Aquinas vs Term Paper

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Aquinas Augustine

Aquinas vs. Augustine on the Responsibilities of the State and the Responsibilities of the Ruler

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The Hebrew Scriptures were produced from the traditions of the ancient Israeli people. These scriptures fused moral, along with political injunctions as to how the state should create a just as well as a holy society, and defined the responsibilities of the leaders in relation to the people, as well as defined the citizen's relationship to the state. Christianity, which derived from Judaism, was spawned during a different political and historical point in Israeli history. The relationship of the state to the citizens proved more evasive to the authors of these scriptures. The Christian scriptures focus on the duties of the individual, and less upon the relationship of the rulers to the ruled. Later, both the theologians St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, when examining the responsibilities of the state, the ruler and the ruled in the Christian world, would also offer two different portraits of this judicial relationship, in attempting to reconcile scriptural prescriptions about correct behavior. Aquinas saw the state as a moral, teaching instrument that was necessary to control the urges of humanity. Augustine saw the laws of the state regarding worldly matters such as property rights as separate from the laws revolving around divine practice, and offered a more optimistic assessment of humanity's ability to adopt Christ into their behavior of their own free will, as he had done during his own lifetime. Augustine rejected all aspects of the human-created worldly law and rule as base and inferior, and the God-created soul of humanity, although fallen, as good.

TOPIC: Term Paper on Aquinas Augustine Aquinas vs. Augustine on the Assignment

Although the emerging Christian faith fused both the ancient Hebrew scriptures and the words of the gospels and epistles into one, inclusive text, numerous contradictions are immediately manifest within this textual structure regarding state leadership, which both Aquinas and Augustine felt a need to explain. For example, the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy of the Hebrew Bible seem to contain detailed instructions as to how a state should be governed by a leader. The ruler has a responsibility to govern wisely, but according to the principles of God, and not subsume the worship owed to God, and compel the populace to practice idolatry. Leaders who have an inflated, divine sense of their own importance go mad, like King Saul, or are afflicted like the Egyptian Pharaoh. The heroes of the Bible like Daniel and David, who refuse to indulge in mindless obedience under the direction of a godless leader who demands his or her will violate the divine commandments, are rewarded. Prophets like Ezekiel condemn overly zealous and self-important leaders. Thus, within the legal framework of the state, the laws of the Hebraic religion and the laws of the state are essentially intertwined, and prescriptions as to the severity of punishment leaders can inflict are paired along with dietary laws for all persons. The law of God controls all. God's law infiltrates the power of all the laws of the state and the actions of the state's rulers.

However, in the Gospel According to St. Matthew, Jesus says: "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's" (Matthew 22:21) In other words, the purpose of religion is not to concern itself with the worldly affairs of the here and now, but the world to come. Jesus frequently implies that there is a dichotomy between the morals and values of the ruling state and the true values of a very different world above. The second beatitude of the "Sermon on the Mount" is one of Jesus' most famous: "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." (Matthew 5:4) The meek that do not rule on earth will rule later on, and the rules that govern the world will be forever altered after the Day of Judgment. St. Paul reinforces this flesh and spirit divide in his Epistle to the Galatians: "For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." (Galatians 5:14) In other words, the true law of the land is spiritual, not the formally codified laws pertaining to ruling a state found in the Hebrew Bible. This is why Paul preaches against Christians observing the rules that Jews were bound by, such as circumcision. Christ had supplanted such old, physical laws. The laws of the world were of less concern than the inner laws of one's spiritual life.

However, both the theologians St. Aquinas and St. Augustine were forced to grapple with the needs of a world, even after the advent of the Crucifixion, that required Christians to function in a human state of relations under a government and body of laws. Paul was mainly concerned about preaching and teaching a Christian, gentile community, rather than to the leaders of the state, as Christianity was still a marginal rather than a state religion when Paul was alive. In response to the need for moral governance within a nation, St. Aquinas validated the need for the existence of laws that governed human behavior beyond those defined in the Christian scriptures in his work "Of the Judicial Precepts." Aquinas stated: "we must take note that, since the relations of man to his neighbor are more subject to reason than the relations of man to God, there are more precepts whereby man is directed in his relations to his neighbor, than whereby he is directed to God." (Aquinas, Article 1, Objection 1, p.86)

True, in one of Aquinas' objections to his initial propositions, Aquinas echoes the Pauline sentiment that, rather than feel bound to the prophetic commandments, the history and laws of the Jewish people were meant to be metaphorical, rather than literal for Christians: "The Jewish people were chosen by God that Christ might be born of them. Consequently the entire state of that people had to be prophetic and figurative, as Augustine states (Contra Faust. xxii, 24). For this reason even the judicial precepts that were given to this people were more figurative that those which were given to other nations. Thus, too, the wars and deeds of this people are expounded in the mystical sense: but not the wars and deeds of the Assyrians or Romans, although the latter are more famous in the eyes of men." (Article 2, Objection 3) However, Aquinas adds a very important caveat: "In this people the direction of man in regard to his neighbor, considered in itself, was subject to reason."(Article 2, Objection 3) The state and government of human beings, because human beings are fallible, must promote reason.

Interestingly, regarding the will of the sovereign, Aquinas even entertains the proposition that circumcision or obeying the old Mosaic law would not be bad, if it were done by human commandment, by a good leader: "On the other hand, the judicial precepts are dead indeed, because they have no binding force: but they are not deadly. For if a sovereign were to order these judicial precepts to be observed in his kingdom, he would not sin: unless perchance they were observed, or ordered to be observed, as though they derived their binding force through being institutions of the Old Law: for it would be a deadly sin to intend to observe them thus." (Article 3, Objection 3) Aquinas sees the old laws as more benign, perhaps even more benign than St. Paul, by calling their rules dead but not deadly and offering the old Hebrew government as a positive institution of moral as well as social control. For example, Aquinas points out the positive injunctions about equitable distribution of property, which results in a more stable and moral society without strife. (Article 3, Reply to Objection 2) Although the Old Law is not equivalent to obeying the will of Christ, because much of the Old Law is reasonable, and obeying these reasonable aspects are good, thus some aspects of all Biblical injunctions should be used to govern the choice of monarchs.

Ultimately, Aquinas objects to the idea that the Old Law should continue as spiritually sanctioned law because he says Christ wiped away the distinction between Jew and gentile that had existed beforehand, and thus it is required and moral. Governments may change and different forms of government require different laws, but Christ's law and the divine laws are eternal. (Article 3, reply to Objection 2) Still, governments have a moral responsibility to reinforce moral behavior by prohibiting and limiting sin, in Aquinas' view. Government should create a moral structure that promotes obedience to Christ, even if these moral governing structures are not eternal, like the law of God. Aquinas states that formal laws are necessary to govern fallible humanity, although not every single formal law is invested with eternal, scriptural significance simply because it is a law. Furthermore, because obedience to the monarch is also required, or to whatever prevailing political system that may exist, the laws that bind individuals to behave decently towards their neighbors… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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