Justification in Aquinas: Pauline foundations, Aristotelian anthropology and ecumenical promise

Date of Award


Degree Name

M.A. in Theology


Department of Religious Studies


Advisor: Matthew Levering


My thesis will examine Aquinas' doctrine of justification in three chapters corresponding to three lines of inquiry. First, I examine Aquinas' biblical interpretation of the Pauline language of justification in the epistle of Romans where the most extended and important biblical text of the doctrine is found. Second, I survey his overall anthropological understanding as illuminated by his doctrine of charity. This affords the interpreter of Aquinas with an understanding of how he conceives the core of human nature in the interdependent dynamic found between the will/appetite on the one hand and the intellect/reason on the other. Given the comprehensive scope and role of love in human nature, understanding charity in Aquinas, which is natural love transformed by grace, will also help clarify in what sense Aquinas understands grace to perfect and fulfill human nature.Third, I provide a summary and interpretive expansion on his doctrine of justification as found in the Summa, starting with Aquinas' explicit treatment of the doctrine but drawing from other articles to clarify terms and set the doctrine in a larger context with respect to his understanding of human and divine causality. This helps establish the systemic difference between Aquinas' doctrine of justification and the variety of forensic definitions found in post-Reformation theologies, as well as a more ecumenically promising commonality in how the dynamic between grace and free will is understood in justification. The three chapters relate to each other as progressive waves of interpretive insight. The close examination of his Pauline interpretation sets the basic contours and boundaries within which he works out his theology of justification. Aristotelian foundations in the second chapter enable a more penetrating analysis of Aquinas' teaching on the doctrine of justification found in the Summa. The third chapter takes all that we understand about Aquinas' biblical interpretation and anthropology and brings it to bear in the interpretation of his most systematic teaching on justification. My conclusion reflects on the significance of Aquinas' thought for ecumenical theology and dialogue between Protestants and Catholics.


Thomas, Aquinas, Saint, 1225?-1274, Bible. Romans Criticism, interpretation, etc, Justification (Christian theology), Grace (Theology), Love Religious aspects Christianity, Theology, Doctrinal History Middle Ages, 600-1500, Theological anthropology Christianity History of doctrines, Theology, Religion, Philosophy, Religious History, History, Thomas Aquinas, justification, grace, Summa Theologica, predestination, Aquinas on Justification, Justification in Aquinas, reformation theology, Aquinas and reformed theology, Bradley R Cochran Justification in Aquinas, Charity in Aquinas

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