A Thomistic refutationof Buddhism

In the following articles, fromthe Summa Theologica, St Thomas refutes various points, which apply perfectlyto the teaching of Buddhism. Can one attain perfection, that is observeall the commandments, avoid sin, reach Heaven, without the help of God? The Buddhists answer yes, since they do not recognize the necessity ofthe grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  St Thomas, the Common Doctorof the Church says, with all the Fathers, with all the Tradition and teachingof the Church, no, absolutely no.

Whether man without graceand by his own natural powers can fulfil the commandments of the Law?
(1a2ae, q.109, a4)


Augustine says that it is part ofthe Pelagian heresy that ?they believe that without grace man can fulfilall the Divine commandments.?

I answer that, There aretwo ways of fulfilling the commandments of the Law. The first regards thesubstance of the works, as when a man does works of justice, fortitude,and of other virtues. And in this way man in the state of perfect nature(i.e. before the fall - Ed.) could fulfil all the commandments of the Law;otherwise he would have been unable to sin in that state, since to sinis nothing else than to transgress the Divine commandments. But in thestate of corrupted nature man cannot fulfil all the Divine commandmentswithout healing grace. Secondly, the commandments of the law can be fulfilled,not merely as regards the substance of the act, but also as regards themode of acting, i.e. their being done out of charity. And in this way,neither in the state of perfect nature, nor in the state of corrupt naturecan man fulfil the commandments of the law without grace. Hence, Augustinehaving stated that ?without grace men can do no good whatever,? adds: ?Notonly do they know by its light what to do, but by its help they do lovinglywhat they know.? Beyond this, in both states they need the help of God'smotion in order to fulfil the commandments.


Whether man can meriteverlasting life without grace? 
(1a2ae, q.109, a5)

The Apostle says (Rm. 6:23): ?Thegrace of God is life everlasting.? And as a gloss says, this is said ?thatwe may understand that God, of His own mercy, leads us to everlasting life.?

I answer that, Acts conducingto an end must be proportioned to the end. But no act exceeds the proportionof its active principle; and hence we see in natural things, that nothingcan by its operation bring about an effect which exceeds its active force,but only such as is proportionate to its power. Now everlasting life imanend exceeding the proportion of human nature, as is clear from what wehave said above (1a2ae q5, a5, see next article below). Hence man, by hisnatural endowments, cannot produce meritorious works proportionate to everlastinglife; and for this a higher force is needed, viz. the force of grace. Andthus without grace man cannot merit everlasting life; yet he can performworks conducing to a good which is natural to man, as ?to toil in the fields,to drink, to eat, or to have friends,? and the like, as Augustine saysin his third Reply to the Pelagians 

Objection 3. Everlastinglife is the last end of human life. Now every natural thing by its naturalendowments can attain its end. Much more, therefore, may man attain tolife everlasting by his natural endowments, without grace.

Reply to Objection 3. Thisobjection has to do with the natural end of man. Now human nature, sinceit is nobler, can be raised by the help of grace to a higher end, whichlower natures can not reach; even as a man who can recover his health bythe help of medicines is better disposed to health than one who can notrecover it, as the philosopher observes.


Whether man can attainhappiness
by his natural powers?
(1a2ae, q.5. a5) 

Man is naturally the principle ofhis action, by his intellect and will. But final Happiness prepared forthe saints, surpasses the intellect and will of man; for the Apostle says(1 Cor. 2:9) "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it enteredinto the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that loveHim." Therefore man cannot attain Happiness by his natural powers.

I answer that, Imperfecthappiness that can be had in this life, can be acquired by man by his naturalpowers, in the same way as virtue, in whose operation it consists: on thispoint we shall speak further on (q63). But man's perfect Happiness, asstated above (q3, a8), consists in the vision of the Divine Essence. Nowthe vision of God's Essence surpasses the nature not only of man, but alsoof every creature, as was shown in the 1a, q12, a4. For the natural knowledgeof every creature is in keeping with the mode of his substance: thus itis said of the intelligence that "it knows things that are above it,and things that are below it, according to the mode of its substance."But every knowledge that is according to the mode of created substance,falls short of the vision of the Divine Essence, which infinitely surpassesall created substance. Consequently neither man, nor any creature, canattain final Happiness by his natural powers.

Objection 1. It would seemthat man can attain happiness by his natural powers. For nature does notfail in necessary things. But nothing is so necessary to man as that bywhich he attains the last end. Therefore this is not lacking to human nature.Therefore man can attain Happiness by his natural powers.

Reply to Objection 1. Just as nature doesnot fail man in necessaries, although it has not provided him with weaponsand clothing, as it provided other animals, because it gave him reasonand hands, with which he is able to get these things for himself; so neitherdid it fail man in things necessary, although it gave him not the wherewithalto attain Happiness: since this it could not do. But it did give him free-will,with which he can turn to God, that He may make him happy. "For whatwe do by means of our friends, is done, in a sense, by ourselves"(Ethic. III, 3).

Whether man without gracecan avoid sin?
(1a2ae, q.109, a8)  

Augustine says: "Whoever deniesthat we ought to say the prayer 'Lead us not into temptation' (and theydeny it who maintain that the help of God's grace is not necessary to manfor salvation, but that the gift of the law is enough for the human will)ought without doubt to be removed beyond all hearing, and to be anathematizedby the tongues of all."

I answer that, We may speakof man in two ways: first, in the state of perfect nature; secondly, inthe state of corrupted nature. Now in the state of perfect nature, man,without habitual grace, could avoid sinning either mortally or venially;since to sin is nothing else than to stray from what is according to ournature?and in the state of perfect nature man could avoid this. Neverthelesshe could not have done it without God's help to uphold him in good, sinceif this had been withdrawn, even his nature would have fallen back intonothingness.

But in the state of corrupt natureman needs grace to heal his nature in order that he may entirely abstainfrom sin. And in the present life this healing is wrought in the mind--thecarnal appetite being not yet restored. Hence the Apostle (Rm. 7:25) saysin the person of one who is restored: "I myself, with the mind, servethe law of God, but with the flesh, the law of sin." And in this stateman can abstain from all mortal sin, which takes its stand in his reason,as stated above (q74, a5); but man cannot abstain from all venial sin onaccount of the corruption of his lower appetite of sensuality. For mancan, indeed, repress each of its movements (and hence they are sinful andvoluntary), but not all, because whilst he is resisting one, another mayarise, and also because the reason is always alert to avoid these movements,as was said above (q74, a3, ad 2).

So, too, before man's reason, whereinis mortal sin, is restored by justifying grace, he can avoid each mortalsin, and for a time, since it is not necessary that he should be alwaysactually sinning. But it cannot be that he remains for a long time withoutmortal sin. Hence Gregory says that "a sin not at once taken awayby repentance, by its weight drags us down to other sins": and thisbecause, as the lower appetite ought to be subject to the reason, so shouldthe reason be subject to God, and should place in Him the end of its will.Now it is by the end that all human acts ought to be regulated, even asit is by the judgment of the reason that the movements of rodu the lowerappetite should be regulated. And thus, even as inordinate movements ofthe sensitive appetite cannot help occurring since the lower appetite isnot subject to reason, so likewise, since man's reason is not entirelysubject to God, the consequence is that many disorders occur in the reason.For when man's heart is not so fixed on God as to be unwilling to be partedfrom Him for the sake of finding any good or avoiding any evil, many thingshappen for the achieving or avoiding of which a man strays from God andbreaks His commandments, and thus sins mortally: especially since, whensurprised, a man acts according to his preconceived end and his pre-existinghabits, as the Philosopher says; although with premeditation of his reasona man may do something outside the order of his preconceived end and theinclination of his habit. But because a man cannot always have this premeditation,it cannot help occurring that he acts in accordance with his will turnedaside from God, unless, by grace, he is quickly brought back to the dueorder.

Objection 1. It would seemthat without grace man can avoid sin. Because "no one sins in whathe cannot avoid," as Augustine says. Hence if a man in mortal sincannot avoid sin, it would seem that in sinning he does not sin, whichis impossible.

Reply to Objection 1. Mancan avoid each but not every act of sin, except by grace, as stated above.Nevertheless, since it is by his own shortcoming that he does not preparehimself to have grn en the fact that he cannot avoid sin without gracedoes not excuse him from sin.