Thursday Theology

Time for a double dose of the good stuff. Firstly, with great thanks to Matt Briggs, Aquinas argues from first principles that faith has to come from God.

5 Moreover, at the beginning of this work we indicated the advantages which made it necessary for divine truth to be offered to men by way of belief. It is also possible to conclude from these reasons that it was necessary for faith to be a product in us of divine grace.

6 Hence, the Apostle says to the Ephesians (2:8): “by grace you are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, for it is the gift of God.”

7 By this conclusion we set aside the error of the Pelagians, who said that the beginning of faith in us was not from God but from ourselves.

Calvin would agree. He’d also say that Aquinas is over enamoured with philosophy and speculation. He turns to angels, and here you see Calvin at his French Best. Precise, meticulous, and critical.

You would not want to have John Calvin examine you in an oral test.

8. Those who presume to dogmatize on the ranks and numbers of angels, would do well to consider on what foundation they rest. As
to their rank, I admit that Michael is described by David as a
mighty Prince, and by Jude as an Archangel. Paul also tells us, that
an archangel will blow the trumpet which is to summon the world to
judgement. But how is it possible from such passages to ascertain
the gradations of honour among the angels to determine the insignia,
and assign the place and station of each? Even the two names,
Michael and Gabriel, mentioned in Scripture, or a third, if you
choose to add it from the history of Tobit, seem to intimate by
their meaning that they are given to angels in accommodation to the
weakness of our capacity, though I rather choose not to speak
positively on the point. As to the number of angels, we learn from
the mouth of our Saviour that there are many legions, and from
Daniel that there are many myriads. Elisha’s servant saw a multitude
of chariots, and their vast number is declared by the fact, that
they encamp round about those that fear the Lord. It is certain that
spirits have no bodily shape, and yet Scripture, in accommodation to
us, describes them under the form of winged Cherubim and Seraphim;
not without cause, to assure us that when occasion requires, they
will hasten to our aid with incredible swiftness, winging their way
to us with the speed of lightning. Farther than this, in regard both
to the ranks and numbers of angels, let us class them among those
mysterious subjects, the full revelation of which is deferred to the
last day, and accordingly refrain from inquiring too curiously, or
talking presumptuously.

9. There is one point, however, which though called into doubt
by certain restless individuals, we ought to hold for certain viz.,
that angels are ministering spirits (Heb. 1: 14;) whose service God
employs for the protection of his people, and by whose means he
distributes his favours among men, and also executes other works.
The Sadducees of old maintained, that by angels nothing more was
meant than the movements which God impresses on men, or
manifestations which he gives of his own power, (Acts 23: 8.) But
this dream is contradicted by so many passages of Scriptures that it
seems strange how such gross ignorance could have had any
countenance among the Jews. To say nothing of the passages I have
already quoted, passages which refer to thousands and legions of
angels, speak of them as rejoicing, as bearing up the faithful in
their hands, carrying their souls to rest, beholding the face of
their Father, and so forth: there are other passages which most
clearly prove that they are real beings possessed of spiritual
essence. Stephen and Paul say that the Law was enacted in the hands
of angels. Our Saviour, moreover says that at the resurrection the
elect will be like angels; that the day of judgement is known not
even to the angels; that at that time he himself will come with the
holy angels. However much such passages may be twisted, their
meaning is plain. In like manner, when Paul beseeches Timothy to
keep his precepts as before Christ and his elect angels, it is not
qualities or inspirations without substance that he speaks of, but
true spirits. And when it is said, in the Epistle to the Hebrews,
that Christ was made more excellent than the angels, that the world
was not made subject to them, that Christ assumed not their nature,
but that of man, it is impossible to give a meaning to the passages
without understanding that angels are blessed spirits, as to whom
such comparisons may competently be made. The author of that Epistle
declares the same thing when he places the souls of believers and
the holy angels together in the kingdom of heaven. Moreover, in the
passages we have already quoted, the angels of children are said to
behold the face of God, to defend us by their protection, to rejoice
in our salvation, to admire the manifold grace of God in the Church,
to be under Christ their head. To the same effect is their frequent
appearance to the holy patriarchs in human form, their speaking, and
consenting to be hospitably entertained. Christ, too, in consequence
of the supremacy which he obtains as Mediator, is called the Angel,
(Mal. 3: 1.) It was thought proper to touch on this subject in
passing, with the view of putting the simple upon their guard
against the foolish and absurd imaginations which, suggested by
Satan many centuries ago, are ever and anon starting up anew

10. It remains to give warning against the superstition which
usually begins to creep in, when it is said that all blessings are
ministered and dispensed to us by angels. For the human mind is apt
immediately to think that there is no honour which they ought not to
receive, and hence the peculiar offices of Christ and God are
bestowed upon them. In this ways the glory of Christ was for several
former ages greatly obscured, extravagant eulogiums being pronounced
on angels without any authority from Scripture. Among the
corruptions which we now oppose, there is scarcely any one of
greater antiquity. Even Paul appears to have had a severe contest
with some who so exalted angels as to make them almost the superiors
of Christ. Hence he so anxiously urges in his Epistle to the
Colossians, (Col. 1: 16, 20,) that Christ is not only superior to
all angels, but that all the endowments which they possess are
derived from him; thus warning us against forsaking him, by turning
to those who are not sufficient for themselves, but must draw with
us at a common fountain. As the refulgence of the Divine glory is
manifested in them, there is nothing to which we are more prone than
to prostrate ourselves before them in stupid adoration, and then
ascribe to them the blessings which we owe to God alone. Even John
confesses in the Apocalypse, (Rev. 19: 10; 22: 8, 9,) that this was
his own case, but he immediately adds the answer which was given to
him, “See thou do it not; I am thy fellow servant: worship God.”

John Calvin Institutes of the Christian Religion Book One Chapter 12

Thinking about it, you probably would not want Aquinas to examine you either. He, also, was French.