St. Edmund Campion Catechism Group - Series 4 Lesson 8

Theology for Beginners: Chp 8. The Nature of Man
Theology for Beginners: All chapters
Penny Catechism: Q1-8
Catechism of the Council of Trent (The Roman Catechism): The Creed Art.1
Schema: Freedom
Catholic Encyclopedia: The Nature of Man
Aquinas 101: Various
Summa Theologica: Prima Pars Q75-102
Companion to the Summa: Chp 12 The Kingdom of Man

The Nature of Man


  1. Recap:

    Chapter 1: Why study theology?

    - Theology is wisdom which is the knowledge of all things in relation to their highest cause.

    - Theology is the greatest of all sciences by the sublimity of its object: God; and by the certitude of its conclusions: the certitude of faith.

    - Theology teaches us our finality: the finality of man is the supernatural perfection of all his faculties - the greatest among these are his intellect and will.

    - Theology helps us attain our finality in respect of ourselves by the perfect love of God.

    - Theology helps us attain our finality in respect of our neighbour: if we love God, then we love everything He loves.

    Chapter 2: Spirit

    - A spirit is an immaterial intelligent living being (types: God, the angels and the souls of men)

    - A soul is defined as the first principle of life of those material things which live (plants, animals and men). Plants, animals and men have souls, but only the souls of men are spirits.

    - Properties: a spirit does not change in its being, does not corrupt, does not die (and is therefore eternal), has no mass, no shape, and no place e say that spirits are subsistent, which means that they have all they need to exist - they do not need a body to exist (like a plant or animal soul).

    Acts: to know and love. No material organ is required for these activities.

    Chapter 3: The Infinite Spirit

    God is the Infinite Spirit. 

    - God is all knowing, all loving, all powerful

    - God is His own existence

    - God was not created, He does not change, He has no past and future, God perpeturally in the present.

    - God is naturally everywhere: by His essence (per essentiam), by His power (per potentiam), by His knowing (per scientiam)

    God is Actus Purus, He cannot ever be in potency to doing anything; He is His action.  St. Thomas says that He is Actus Purus – one , simple, infinite and perfect action which is always in the present.

    Chapter 4: The Blessed Trinity

    The Blessed Trinity is the term used to express the central doctrine on the Christian religion: the truth that in the unity of the Godhead there are Three Persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, these Three Persons being truly distinct from one another. There is one being, with one nature and there are Three Persons. The Blessed Trinity is known only by revelation, but can subsequently be explored by reason.

    Chapter 5: The Three Persons

    In an attempt to understand as much as possible about the Blessed Trinity using revelation and our knowledge of the intellect and being (by the science of metaphysics), St. Thomas, building on theologians before him, makes a best attempt to reconcile the unity of God and the distinction of the Three Persons in God. God has one nature by which the Three Persons operate. The distinction of the Three Persons is discerned in the mutually opposed relations resulting from the act of God knowing Himself and loving Himself. The Persons, are distinguished as the subsistant relations or Paternity, Filiation and Passive Spiration.

    Most of us, however, do not have a sufficient grasp of metaphysics to understand this complex theory and so a simpler one is proposed: In the act of knowing Himself, God generates a mental Word which is identical to the Generator. In the generator we discern the Father, in the generated, we discern the Son. These are Persons Who will naturally love each other, this love being personified in the Holy Ghost

    Chapter 6: Making the doctrine of the Trinity a living and loved reality

    For most people something like that happens when they embrace a mystery of the faith revealed to them by the Church:

     - first there is an intellectual response as they grasp the theological exposition of the mystery

     - then a vital response as the wonder and beauty of the mystery draws the observer in

     - then a loving response as the mystery becomes a light and a power in our lives.

    Chapter 7: Creation

    God created all things from nothing and sustains all things in existence from moment to moment - all for His glory. 

  2. The need to understand man

    Just as we have a strange fascination with car crashes, we have a strange fascination with the Fall of man. To fully understand the Fall, however, we have know (a) something about the man that fell, and (b) where he fell to.

  3. Man is made in the image and likeness of God

    There are two ways of understanding man as being in the image and likeness of God:

    1. Man is in the image and likeness of God because his soul is a spirit. (Penny Catechsim).

    2. Man is in the image of God by the fact that his soul is endowed with an intellect and will. He is in the likeness (similitude) of God, when he is in a state of sanctifying grace. (St. Augustine).

    Usually, we take the first of the two senses.

  4. Man is the bridge between matter and spirit

    The soul of man animates the body of man. The soul of man is different from the souls of other material beings because it is a spirit which means that it is immortal on account of its intellect and will (two purely spiritual activities).

  5. Man can know

    Unlike the animals, when man sees an object, he more than just sees it. His intellect abstracts the essence of the object, he judges it, puts it in order to other beings and draws conclusions about it. In this way he masters the material universe.

  6. Man can love

    Animals are attracted to things by nature. Man is attracted to things both by nature and by knowledge. Man can decide what to love. Animals can't.

  7. Man is a social being

    Man needs to live in society to be nurtured, to be educated, to preserve himself, to give himself.

  8. Freedom and law

    In order that man reaches his perfection, he has to live according to his Creator's will, that is according to the way the Creator made him and for the purpose that He made him. If he lives according to the Creator's will, then he has freedom of operation. If he goes against the Creator's will (ie. commits a sin) then he will suffer in his being.

    The Creator's will is either written in his nature (the natural law) or is taught to man by the Church (the revealed law).

    The ultimate purpose of man is to know and love God. This we can deduce from nature. The way in which man is to know and love God, this is revealed through the Church.