What is St. Thomas Aquinas's conception of divine law?

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St. Thomas Aquinas was a medieval theologian, and many scholars consider him to be an important philosophical thinker. He recognized four main areas of law as they relate to theology: eternal law, natural law, human law, and divine law.

Like natural law and human law, divine law relies on eternal...

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St. Thomas Aquinas was a medieval theologian, and many scholars consider him to be an important philosophical thinker. He recognized four main areas of law as they relate to theology: eternal law, natural law, human law, and divine law.

Like natural law and human law, divine law relies on eternal law, but divine law is vastly different from natural and human law. Divine law is accessible to human beings by way of revelations from God or divine commands.

Divine law is divided into two categories, Old and New, and they each correspond in a general way to the Old Testament and to the New Testament of the Bible. The Old Law, within the context of divine law, relates mainly to the fear-based teachings of the Ten Commandments, while the New Law relates mainly to the loving messages of Jesus that promise rewards in heaven.

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St. Thomas Aquinas championed the idea of divine law in his writings. He reasoned that there is a separate, unique type of law that comes only from God and is unrelated to natural or human law. To Aquinas, natural law was the physical concepts and laws that governed reality, such as things like gravity. These laws were immutable and steadfast, but they were not necessarily divine law.

Divine law was defined as Biblically revealed law from God. This law was directly from God, and was therefore perfect and greater than human or natural laws. The law that he speaks about is the laws of sin, death, redemption, and eternal life. Divine law only comes through revelation, and scripture is the canon of revealed knowledge about God and his law. In order to attain salvation, Man must follow and observe God’s law.

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Divine law, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, is revealed truth through the Bible about the nature of salvation and God’s being. It is a segment of what Aquinas calls “eternal law”, which is immutable truth that is revealed from God, regardless of subject. Divine law is specifically God’s eternal law and truth regarding relationships between man and God and how to attain salvation. This is in contrast to natural and human law, which relate to earthly affairs and matters of science. Divine law, according to Aquinas, is only revealed in scripture and is the root of all understanding of the nature of humans, Christ, and God. The Bible, he reasons, was God’s revelation of eternal truth for the express purpose of showing humans how to engage in a relationship with himself.

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For Aquinas, divine law is biblical law, what pertains to man's salvation. It is transmitted through Scripture, the Word of God, and forms the basis of the individual believer's life as a Christian. Of its very nature divine law cannot be changed; it is the will of God. Certain elements of divine law can indeed form the basis of positive law, which is the kind of law enacted in human society. But although it can be adapted to suit man's needs in specific social contexts, divine law in itself remains completely immutable. Not only that, but it remains beyond man's total understanding. Divine law conceals as much as it reveals, but what it does reveal through Scripture—and for Catholic Christians, through the teaching authority of the Church—should suffice to enable us to lead lives that are in accordance with what God demands.

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Thomas Aquinas states that there are four kinds of law in existence: eternal law, natural law, human law and divine law. According to him, divine law originates from eternal law (will of God) and it has historically been transmitted to human beings by way of revelation. It is then circulated to other people through writing or via word of mouth. This law is necessary in guiding man towards fulfilling his supernatural end. Aquinas also states that there are two types of divine law: Old Law that nearly corresponds to the Old Testament and the New Law which nearly corresponds to the New Testament. Therefore, Aquinas refers to the Ten Commandments when discussing the Old Law and focuses on Jesus’ teachings when referring to the New Law.

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