We are pleased to announce available for pre-order Aquinas’s Disputed Question, De Potentia: On the Power of God. On the Power of God tends to be a work of St. Thomas that is unknown by any but the most hard-core Aquinas fans in academia. For this reason we take a special pleasure in making it available “to the masses” today, on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
“Disputed Questions” are considerably edited reports of school debates or disputationes, in which opposing arguments on a given topic were discussed before being resolved by the presiding master. Composed in Rome just before he began writing the Prima Pars of the Summa Theologiae, De Potentia deals with the power of God in questions 1-6 before focusing on Trinitarian theology in questions 7-10.
De Potentia raises all the juiciest questions about God’s power that students love to ask: can God make a rock so big that he can’t pick it up? And, especially relevant to today’s feast, Aquinas also investigates miracles in this text: how is God’s power at work when he suspends the laws of nature that he wrote himself?
One of the intriguing concepts that St. Thomas uses to explain God’s power in miracles is “obediential potency,” the concept that every natural thing is listening eagerly for the master’s call. As St. Paul tells us, “creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19). Concretely, this means that water is ready to be walked on, fish are eager to be caught, and rose bushes are delighted to bloom in December if the Creator bids them.
And cactus fibers have an obediential potency to bear color if by doing so they can celebrate the Mother of God.
A friend recently sent me a passage from Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop, in which the title character (modeled on the first bishop of New Mexico) comments about the image of Guadalupe:
"Where there is great love there are always miracles,' he said at length. 'One might almost say that an apparition is human vision corrected by divine love. I do not see you as you really are, Joseph; I see you through my affection for you. The Miracles of the Church seem to me to rest not so much upon faces or voices or healing power coming suddenly near to us from afar off, but upon our perceptions being made finer, so that for a moment our eyes can see and our ears can hear what is there about us always."
Juan Diego’s humble tilma (like Juan Diego himself) did indeed make something visible that was there for all the native peoples of the New World, and is still there for all of us: “the power of God for salvation to all who have faith” (Romans 1:16).
In addition to the printed text available for pre-order, the full text of De Potentia can also be found online here with the rest of the works of St. Thomas. And this month, you can receive 25% off every book from the Aquinas Institute using the code AQUINAS25 at checkout.