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  Thomism is the Christian theological tradition based on the thinking of Thomas Aquinas. The substance of Aquinas\'s teaching was accepted as the official doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church and his influence can be seen in all branches of theology.

In April 1244, Aquinas defied his aristocratic family (the name Aquinas comes from his father, Count Landulf of Aquina) and entered the new Dominican order of friars. His theology provided the underpinning for the key Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation. After considerable controversy in his lifetime, especially with the Franciscans, his teachings were widely adopted by individuals and groups, and he was canonized in 1323.

Aquinas followed Augustine by grounding faith on God\'s revelation in the Scriptures. Faith, he said, is never founded on reason, but believers should use reason to elaborate and defend doctrine. Faith is so sharply distinguished from reason because, whereas all knowledge begins with experience, there are fundamental Christian concepts—such as the nature of the Trinity, heaven and hell—of which we can have no direct experience. Further fundamental ideas are: there is nothing in our mind which has not been sensed before (except the mind itself) because we are born with an a priori, the inner capacity to know. God alone is pure existence, ‘Being’. Everything else ‘has’ being whilst God\'s essence is to exist. Because the limited can not express the unlimited, all our language is ‘pure act’, in whom every possible perfection is realized. He created the world out of nothing. The human being consists of body and soul; the soul survives death and awaits reunion with the body at the resurrection of the dead.

Following Aristotle, Aquinas takes as the basis of his metaphysics a distinction between matter and form. His teaching on the incarnation was significant, and he denied the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.

By the 16th century Thomism had become normative in the theology and ethics of the Catholic Church; it was adopted by the Jesuits and permeated the language of the decrees of the Council of Trent (1545-63). However, Thomism declined in the 18th century and gradually fell into disuse. It was revived in the 19th century when its value became evident in confronting the dehumanization of the Industrial Revolution in Europe. In 1879 Pope Leo XIII commended Thomism, so giving rise to the 20th-century movement of Neo-Thomism, with the maxim that ‘existence precedes essence’: the human being knows by intuition that something exists before it knows what it is. EMJ

Further reading E. Gilson, The Christian Philosophy of St Thomas Aquinas; , Mary Grey, Redeeming the Dream; , A. Walz, Saint Thomas Aquinas: a Biographical Study.



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