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Aquinas on Civic and Infused Virtue

October 15, 2008

A human being is not only a citizen of the earthly city, but is also a member of the heavenly city of Jerusalem, which is governed by the Lord and has as its citizens the angels and all the saints, whether they are already reigning in glory and at rest in their homeland, or still pilgrims on earth, as St. Paul says in Ephesians 2:10, “You are fellow-citizens of the saints and members of the household of God”, and so on. But for us to become members of this heavenly city, our own nature is not enough; we need to be lifted up to this by the grace of God.  For it is clear that the virtues of a human being qua member of this city cannot be acquired just through what is natural to him. These virtues, therefore, are not caused through our actions, but infused in us by God’s gift.  (Thomas Aquinas, Disputed Questions on the Virtues, pp. 54, 55)

Aquinas is here making a distinction that he obviously gets from Augustine’s distinction between the earthly city and the heavenly city in his City of God.  As I’ve shown in previous posts this notion was picked up by Peter Martyr and Martin Luther.  This distinction between the good coram humano and the good coram Deo was also used by John Calvin and many others within the Reformed world. This should help demonstrate Frederick Copleston’s thesis that a stark dichotomy should not be seen between Augustine and Aquinas. Aquinas used Aristotle to systematize what he considered to be a thoroughly Augustinian Theology.

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