How Aristotle's "Ethics" Helped to Cause the Reformation

Discussion in 'Church History' started by Haeralis, Feb 11, 2018.

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  1. Haeralis

    Haeralis Puritan Board Freshman

    This helpful academic journal article from Dr. Ronald N. Frost delineates the role played by Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics in fostering the medieval scholasticism that the Protestant Reformers sought to replace with a purer Augustinian theology.

    Crucial topics explored within Aristotle’s Ethics include the role of habituation in cultivating human virtue, the relationship between human freedom and morality, and the need for the well-ordered person to suppress his passions. Aristotle’s arguments on these topics were adapted by Thomas Aquinas and this, Dr. Frost shows, laid the stage for the theological atmosphere which the Protestant Reformers rebelled against.

    Aristotle argues that man "comes to be just from doing just actions," and this idea of habituating yourself towards virtue became manifest in the Thomistic/Romanist idea that we cooperate with grace in order to work towards our justification. Additionally, Aristotle and Aquinas both argued that the will is completely volitional and self-moved, in stark contrast to the biblical, Augustinian idea that we are in bondage to sin until God's grace saves us. Finally, Aristotle and Aquinas both held that the affections damage our ability to choose wisely, whereas Luther returned to Augustine's idea that the affection of love, specifically the love of God, is the necessary foundation for all righteous action.

    I'm re-reading Ethics right now, and I cannot say that I am surprised that Luther said these things of Aristotle:
    • “Should Aristotle not have been a man of flesh and blood, I would not hesitate to assert that he was the Devil himself.”
    • “Virtually the entire Ethics of Aristotle is the worst enemy of grace"
    • “Briefly, the whole of Aristotle is to theology as shadow is to light”
    • “Thomas [Aquinas] wrote a great deal of heresy, and is responsible for the reign of Aristotle, the destroyer of godly doctrine.”
     
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