Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Schubert on St. Augustine's Teaching on the Eternal Law, Introduction

IN THE NEXT SERIES OF BLOG POSTINGS we will be translating P. Alois Schubert's Augustins Lex-Aeterna-Lehre (Munster: Verlag der Aschendorfschen 1924) from the German. Schubert's work is divided into two parts. Part I addresses the teaching of St. Augustine on the eternal law. Part II explores the sources of St. Augustine's teachings, paying particular attention to the direct Ciceronian and Plotinian influences, the scriptural Johannine contribution, and the indirect Stoic and Heraclitean contributions to St. Augustine's thought. It is significant to note the role that the eternal law has on both epistemology and moral philosophy, as it provides a sound basis for both theoretical and practical reason, for truth and good.

St. Augustine From the pulpit in the Oud-Katholieke Kerk
(Old Catholic Church) in The Hague
by Jan Baptist Xavéry

Augustine's Lex Aeterna Teaching
Its Content and its Source

by: P. Alois Schubert, S.V.D.

The philosophy of Kant and the philosophy of the Scholastics oppose each other abrubtly. The first teaches of the autonomy of human reason, the latter of the theonomy of the individual. Both trends seek to encompass the World in a philosophical way, and to guide back the multiplicity of things into their unity. The Scholastics see this unity in the eternal law, in the lex aeterna. The Kantian philosophy rejects a metaphysical principle of unity (Einheitsprinzip) and thereby removes the eternal law as a foundation of any theory of knowledge.(1) It limits itself from ascertaining and investigating critically the laws in the cosmos (Gesteze im Kosmos). As to the question from where the cosmic law (Weltgesteze) ultimately originates, it gives no answer. That is to say, it precinds from answering such a question because the answer would be beyond the boundaries of human reason.(2)

It is different for the Scholastics. The Scholastic philosophy holds in high esteem the critical work of human reason. It strives towards understanding not only the order of the world (Weltordnung) in its natural relation (Zusammenhang), but also in its ultimate metaphysical cause. It finds this relation (Zusammenhang) and this ultimate cause in the eternal law (ewigen Gesetz). Now, what does the Scholastic philosophy understand by the eternal law? Thomas Aquinas, the greatest Scholastic, says in regard to it: "Lex aeterna nihil aliud est quam ratio divinae sapientiae secundum quod est directiva omnium actionum et motuum."(3) The eternal law is the divine wisdom insofar as it governs all actions and motions. Thomas clarifies this definition by the following analogies:(4) Before expressed in the artistic work, there rests in the mind of the artist the same idea. In the same manner, in every ruler there rests a type of any norm of action (Handlungsnormen) which is directed at his subjects. As one can in the first case speak of the idea of the work of art, so can one in the second case call the type of the action law. With respect to the creation, God stands as an artist, and with respect to his creatures, he stands as a ruler. He may be referred to as an artist because he has thought and created the world in conformity with his creative ideas, and he may be referred to as a ruler because he rules his creatures in conformity with certain norms.

These creative ideas and these ruling norms of God form the divine world plan (Weltenplan). Now the reasoning will (Vernunftwille) of God, insofar as it has devised and formed all things and has ordered them toward their final end (Endziel), carries with it a law-like (gesetzhaften) character. That forms the eternal law. It is clear that this magnificent idea of the eternal law radiates great light upon the universe. God, the eternal Logos, had all things from eternity devised, and in time created, following eternal, unchanging norms. He guides all things in conformity with the highest purpose of his creation, powerfully continuing from one end to another, everything in a smooth ordering. Reason perceives this as the central sun (Zentralsonne), around which the entire creation gravitates.(5) The Scholastic philosophers uniformly accepted this conception of the lex aeterna.(6) It would be but a charming exercise to investigate the sources of the Scholastic teaching on the lex aeterna, and determine whether the character of this teaching is specifically Christian, or whether the source of it is in ancient philosophy. But it is firmly established that Thomas Aquinas in his teaching on the lex aeterna essentially based himself on Augustine. So only two things will be determined in the following investigation:

1. What is Augustine's teaching regarding the lex aeterna?
2. Upon what sources does the character of this teaching of Augustine rely?


(1) Vgl. Seydl, Ewiges Gestz, Wien, S. 75.
(2) Vgl. Kant, Im., Kritik der reinen Vernunft, ed. Renner, Berlin 1907, I Bd., S. 212
(3) Thomas v. Aquin, Summa theol., 1, 2, qu. 93, a. 1, ad 6.
(4) Ibidem.
(5) Vgl. Cathrein, Viktor, Moralphilosophie, Freiburg i. B. 1904. I. Bd., 4. Aufl., S. 343.
(6) Lehmen, A., Lehrbuch der Philosophie, Freiburg i. B. 1912, 3. Bd., 3 Aufl. S. 92.

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