Turretin Clarifying Aquinas: Francis Turretin on Original Sin and the Loss of Original Justice

Thomas Aquinas is often critiqued by Protestant theologians in relation to his understanding of Original Sin, and, this, on many levels. In previously presented research, I provided an articulation and defense of Aquinas’s understanding of original sin, and the noetic effects of sin. In that presentation, I responded to one critique of Aquinas, by demonstrating, textually, that Aquinas holds to a clearly articulated, and fully orthodox, understanding of the noetic effects of original sin. There is, however, a further critique of Aquinas’s understanding of original sin (raised by Hodge, Bavinck and others), which has to do with the nature of original justice and the effect of original sin on “original justice”. Aquinas affirms that original justice was not “natural” to man, but, rather, a supernatural gift (a donum superadditum) given to man at his creation. The effects of this super-added gift were that (1) man’s reason was subject to God, (2) his lower powers were subject to his reason, and (3) his body was subject to his soul. According to the Aquinas, however, one of the effects of the fall was the loss of original justice. Aquinas clearly thinks that the removal of original justice entailed that man was no longer subject to God, that his faculties and powers were disordered, and that he turned from God to sin. The removal of original justice affected all of human nature, and all of those who are born in Adam. However, some have suggested that if original justice is a superadded gift, then it’s removal would not have any effect on human nature—thus, man could lose it without human nature being corrupted.
This argument, which might appear fatal, has been used by some Reformed theologians to reject the claim that original justice was a super-added gift, arguing, with Calvin, that for original sin to be taken seriously, original justice must be “natural” to man (cf. Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, John Calvin, Institutes). Francis Turretin’s work on original justice, however, may provide a way of “saving Aquinas”. This is seen in the way in which Turretin, in his Institutes of Elenctic Theology, though he clearly adheres to the Reformed perspective of a “natural” original justice, provides a nuanced understanding of what is meant by “natural”—distinguishing between 4 different meanings.
In this paper, I will begin by providing summary explanations of, (a) the reasons why Aquinas thinks that original justice must be a super-added gift, and (b) the reasons why Calvin thinks original justice must be natural. I will then explore the nuances and distinctions made by Turretin, in light of the arguments made by Aquinas and Calvin. I will argue, using Turretin’s distinctions, that Aquinas’s views are amenable to Reformed theology. There may, in fact, be more agreement between Aquinas and Protestant theology, in relation to original justice, than many either suspect or wish to admit.

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