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By Tim Newark, Angus McBride

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Man is seen less as a living thing embedded in a world, and more as a knower detached from the world that he tries to control. When we say therefore that Christianity is best appreciated, theologically, by being contrasted with paganism, and that such < previous page page_22 next page > < previous page page_23 next page > Page 23 a contrast helps to preserve the integrity of nature and reason, the modern overtones in words like "nature" and "reason" make it hard for us to bring out the theological and philosophical distinctions that we need.

See Summa theologiae I q. 13, art. 7, c; q. 28, art I, ad 3; De veritate q. 4, art. 5, c; q. 3, art. 3, c. < previous page page_40 next page > < previous page page_41 next page > Page 41 5 The Metaphysics of Christian Belief The Christian sense of God and the world was elaborated in the metaphysics of St. Thomas Aquinas. He speaks of God as ipsum esse subsistens and describes all other beings as existing through a participation in esse. Aquinas thinks of beings in a context very much different from the final context Aristotle and Plato and other pagan philosophers acknowledged; Aquinas thinks of beings over against their sheer nonexistence, over against the nonexistence of the world or the whole, whereas pagan thinkers thought of things as being or not being within the whole.

The dilemma arises because the world with its necessities is positioned within the context of creation, and it can be resolved only if we clarify how the new context is to be understood. Aquinas discusses this issue in terms of what he calls the "ideas" in God. Aquinas says that there are such ideas or forms in God and that they serve as the exemplars according to which things are created. He insists that the ideas do not split up the simplicity of the divine intellect because they are the divine esse as it can be imitated or participated in by other beings.

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