Two doctoral theses in May 2003
Last May two members of the Thomas Instituut te Utrecht defended their theses at the Catholic Theological University at Utrecht: Mark-Robin Hoogland c.p. and Eric Luijten.Eric's book bears the title Sacramental Foregiveness as a Gift of God. Thomas Aquinas on the Sacrament of Penance. Eric examines the role of the Spirit in the theology of sacramental foregiveness of Thomas Aquinas, who is often blamed for the 'Geistvergessenheit' of Western theology.
In the first part it is shown that in Thomas' theology notions like guilt and foregiveness function within the context of a relationship of friendship between God and human beings. Constitutive for this relationship is the indwelling of God, which is 'appropriated' to the Holy Spirit. It is explained that Thomas understands appropriation, i.e. the practice of ascribing to divine Persons individually what belongs to the divine essence in general, as a part of proper God-talk, which takes into account the limitations of our language vis-a-vis God.
In the second part of this study, it is argued that the notion of the causality of the sacrament of penance, i.e. that it effects the foregiveness of sins that it signifies, can only be evaluated properly if the sacrament of penance is not only seen as prolongation of the incarnation, i.e. the visible mission of the Son, but also as accompanied by the continuous invisible mission of the Holy Spirit.
Mark-Robin's book is entitled God, Passion and Power. Thomas Aquinas on Christ Crucified and the Almightiness of God.
In his book Mark-Robin takes a closer look at our faith regarding Christ's sufferings and how God almighty is related to these (nexus mysteriorum). For what is more obvious for a Christian thinking about suffering and God's relation to it, than to start with the consideration of the sufferings of Christ and how God is related to them? Questions like 'Did and/or does God suffer too?', 'How are we to understand God is love (1 Jn 4,8, 16) in view of this?' and 'What do Christians actually mean by the word 'almighty'?' are dealt with.
Thomas' questions and associations may often not be ours. And yet it turns out that this approach opens up new, or rather (almost) forgotten and therefore to us surprising, and hopeful perspectives.
Both theses are published as eighth resp. ninth volume of the series Publications of the Thomas Instituut te Utrecht and can be ordered from the publisher, Peeters at Louvain (email: firstname.lastname@example.org).