I want to clarify something I wrote in my last post, this:
The theology that most of the Reformed evangelical theologians of today are retrieving for Western Christians is rooted in Thomist realism. A realism that operates in and from natural law and the idea that there is a hierarchy of being that is absolutely and causally interconnected and thus collapses God’s being into the structures of the Church itself.
I received a response from a brother on Facebook with reference to the above content, he wrote:
I get disagreeing with Aquinas, and Thomistic thought, I just don’t see how Thomism ‘’…. collapses God’s being into the structures of the Church itself.’’ Or how that is even an option or even an unintended consequence of Thomism or natural law.
I struggle to see how this brother does not see how this is a consequence or unintended consequence of Thomism. Todd Billings (unfortunately I don’t have his book at hand) refers to the ecclesiology that funds Roman Catholicism as one that is grounded in an understanding that sees the (Roman) Church as the ‘prolongation of the incarnation.’ But where does such thinking come from? Seven Ozment notes this, in regard to the Thomist framework (the framework that largely funds all things Roman Catholic):
The assumption that real relations existed between God, man, and the world made possible Aquinas’s confidence in a posteriori proofs of God’s existence; finite effects led necessarily to their origin, because they were really connected with it. The same assumption underlay Aquinas’s distinctive views on the “analogical” character of human knowledge and discourse about God. According to Aquinas, one could speak meaningfully of one’s relationship to God by analogy with one’s relationship with one’s fellow man because a real relationship existed between the values of people shared and those God had prescribed.
Thomas Aquinas himself writes: “All things deriving from God are ordered to one another and to him. And that is what makes the unity of the world. Material plurality cannot be a goal, for it has no determinate limit and what is without end cannot be an end.”
We can see even from this cursory gloss and engagement that embedded within Thomas’s thought there is the idea that there is a ‘real’ and substantial connection between God as the causer of all reality and reality as the effect of that cause. True, Thomas clearly makes a distinction between Creator/creature, indeed his whole structure is premised on this distinction; but in my view, his view of the nature/grace combine leaves room for the sorts of distortions we see operative in something as demonic as the Nazi program and ‘church.’
David Congdon writes the following with reference to the sort of mechanical and substance metaphysics we get from someone like Aquinas. As you read this you will notice Congdon is noting how modernity problematized the sort of ‘chain-of-being’ thinking about God and the world that is inherent to Aquinas’s et als. theology[s].
Modernity is the age in which this metaphysical understanding of history was called radically and irrevocably into question, as indicated paradigmatically by the rise of the historical-critical method. “Only with the collapse of traditional western metaphysics, i.e., with the loss of its self-evident character, did the historicity of existence fully enter into consciousness,” out of which arose “the freedom, but also the absolute necessity, to regard the historical [Historische] in its pure historicalness [Historizität].” No longer was the hierarchical and essentialist “chain of being” taken for granted. No longer was the ecclesiastical tale of our given place in God’s order accepted on faith. It was no longer assumed that the old stories could narrate each person’s identity. For those institutions and ideologies that pend on this authority, new strategies were devised to shore up faith: most notably, Roman Catholics put forward the doctrine of papal infallibility in the early 1870s, while Reformed Protestants formulated the doctrine of biblical inerrancy in the early 1880s. Both sides were able to claim that such views were held long before they were codified in their modern form, and yet it is significant that these doctrines were codified when they were.
What is illuminating for our purposes, in Congdon’s quote, is the thinking he underscores in regard to a metaphysical understanding of history with its ‘chain of being’ notion in tow. It is this component, dominant not just in Thomas’s theology, but in many of the ‘pre-critical’ theologies of the period, that I think provides theological ‘precedent,’ or ideational ‘space’ for demonisms like we find in the Hiterlite protocol to take over the world. Wherever there is natural theology, as Karl Barth might say, there is the ‘anti-Christ.’ Whether it be in the Roman Catholic Church, in regard to its funding ecclesiology and theory of authority, or whether that be in the Nazi church and state that the Confessing church was protesting, therein is anti-Christ.
So, my original post operated off a generalization in regard to natural theology in the main. But I don’t think it is an ill-conceived generalization. There is cross-pollination, in principle, between all natural theologies. This is not to say that their relative applications all look the same, indeed they don’t! But just because they don’t all end up in the abyss of Third Reich theology, this doesn’t mean there is no correlation. In the case of Roman Catholicism, I do think that God’s being is collapsed into the structure of the Church itself; insofar as God’s being is present in the being-in-becoming in Jesus Christ. And I don’t think Catholicism gets this thinking from nowhere; indeed, it comes from Thomas’s chain-of-being understanding. Just because Roman Catholics aren’t Nazis doesn’t mean they don’t share in a similar appeal to a belief that God and all his effects are interconnected. It is a small step from that belief to what we end up getting in Nazi theology. That is, if I believe that an ecclesiological body is in fact the prolongation of God’s life in Christ for the world, whose to say that someone else cannot come along, like Hitler, and say the same thing about his Third Reich?
This is why I think there is a corollary between Thomist ecclesiology and Nazi theology; it is the shared commitment to natural theology. Now, I do not think Hitler was a Thomist, or that he had any genuine interest in ecclesiology. But that’s really not my point. I am only highlighting how pervasive natural theology is, to the point that even atheists, especially atheists make appeal to it every day. It is the modern project itself, ironically, to collapse God’s attributes into the human and discard God. But there is an ancient precedent to this, again, ironically, and I think someone like Aquinas with his natural theology helps set a trajectory for the world wherein Grace and Nature are too closely linked. When this linkage happens, when ‘grace is understood to perfect nature,’ the spirit of anti-Christ can sneak in and imbue nature with a pseudo-grace that presents itself as an Angel of Light when in fact it is the devil all along.
 Anonymous Facebook comment.
 Steven Ozment, The Age of Reform 1250-1550, 49.
 St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae A Concise Translation, ed. Timothy McDermott (Westminster: Christian Classics, 1989), 90.
 David W. Congdon, The Mission of Demythologizing: Rudolf Bultmann’s Dialectical Theology(Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2015), xvii-xxii.