St. Thomas Aquinas
AP European History May 14, 2011 St. Thomas Aquinas: The Summa Theologica St. Thomas Aquinas’s “The Summa Theologica” is a document meant to summarize the difference between divine laws and human laws. This document explains whether these two types of laws are just or unjust. Aquinas demonstrates how laws are the reason for the common good which is made by those who care for their community, and how all the laws come from divine reasons which according to the document are understood by men.
The first part of this document analyzes how laws are just or unjust depending on the impact they have on our conscience. Aquinas seems to represent the idea that just laws are in our minds because they are the laws of God and they are just depending on three things; the purpose they have, the authority of the law maker, and their form (Aquinas 1). The author makes it clear that laws are also just when their main purpose is the common good, when the person that makes the law doesn’t surpass his rights when making that law, and when a person and everything they own belongs to the community.Finally, there are laws that burden one set of people and do not burden the others equally and these are the just and legal laws that stay in our minds. The second part of this document explains how laws are unjust because they go against the human good. A ruler can sometimes impose laws that are not good for the society but only good to himself, and also he might try to go beyond his own power in order to make those laws. Aquinas mentions, “Or, a law in its own form may look toward the common good, but not impose burdens which have a due proportion to the positions of the subjects within the community” (Aquinas 2).
St. Thomas Aquinas Essay Example
This quote means that a law might seem like it has a good purpose but it has no burden and this affects the people in the community. According to St. Augustine a law that is not just is no law at all. As a result of this, these laws do not stay in your conscience, except at times when you need to avoid conflict because is still the law and it needs to be followed. Matthew stated, “If a man…Take away your coat, give him your cloak also; and whoever forces you to go one mile, go the second within” (Matthew 2).This quote seems to explain that if someone takes something away from you, you should give him more than what he asks for and make it harder on yourself, and if they force you to do something go beyond what they forced you to do. Laws can be unjust and not good when they oppose god’s divine laws.
Such laws include the ones made by tyrants, the ones that make you love other things more than God and the ones that oppose the divine laws. These laws should never be followed because according to the Acts the Apostles said that we have to obey God instead of men.In this document Aquinas gives three objections concerning these laws. The first objection he makes is that that human law never stays in a man’s mind because a person with a weaker power can’t enforce power on a higher one and that also the highest power is still beneath God’s power. His objection is also saying that no matter what the human law is, it still can be buried inside a person’s conscience because it is influenced by the divine law (Aquinas 1).Aquinas replied to this by saying that the Apostle Paul once said that all human power derives from God, and that because of this any person who resist God’s laws and commands will gain a guilty conscience. The second objection the author made was that the decisions we make are based on the influence the commandments of God has upon us.
In some occasions God’s commandments are made useless by human laws. Some traditions have destroyed the main reason why God laws are there in the first place by making them infective, and as a result of this these laws do no stay in our conscience (Aquinas 1).Aquinas replied to this by saying that there are laws that oppose to God’s commandments and that these commandments are way beyond the extent of men’s power, hence we should not obey human because they oppose God’s. The last objection made by this author was that human laws make men lose his personality and brings him harm, and that they don’t stay in our minds because we know that is common sense not to do certain things in life that create oppression and violence.For example, we know that one of God’s commandments says that we should not kill and as soon as we gain conscience of life this stays in our minds. Aquinas replied to this objection by saying that is true and that if men disobey unjust laws he can avoid a greater consequence. According to Aquinas changing a law should only be done when the new one benefits towards the common good.
However, changing these laws will affect society and the common good because we are already accustomed to these laws whether they are good or bad.When a society sees that laws are being changed they are going to think that things can be easily changed from now and on and that’s not a good thing. When any law is changed the power of that law decreases as well as the custom. As result of this human laws shouldn’t be changed unless it benefits the common good and if it fixes what the last law was doing wrong. These laws are changed only when the common good is rewarded by the new law and the benefits are obvious, or because the last law is so unjust that it needs immediate change. (Aquinas 1). To conclude, “The Summa Theologica” by St.
Thomas Aquinas delineates the difference between secular laws and holy laws, and how they both affect the common good of the people. One point made by Aquinas that applies to a historical event is when a ruler imposes troublesome laws that are not for the common good but rather for the ruler’s own selfish needs, and this perfectly applies to King Henry VIII who was a tyrant and an absolute king. He separated the church of England from papal authority and declared himself as the supreme head of his nation’s church. Any who stood in his way suffered greatly sometimes often with their lives.