Thomas Aquinas and John Owen on the beatific vision: A Reply to Suzanne McDonald

New Blackfriars 97 (1070):432-446 (2016)

It has been shown that the thirteenth-century Dominican friar, St Thomas Aquinas, was an important theological influence on John Owen, the seventeenth-century English puritan theologian, chaplain to Oliver Cromwell, and Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University, especially in the areas of the divine being, grace and Chalcedonian Christology. Suzanne McDonald has argued that, while Aquinas is unmistakably a source for Owen's doctrine of the beatific vision, Owen surpassed Aquinas's doctrine in a manner she judges to be correct, theologically speaking, and which exposes the deficiency of Aquinas's account. Owen achieved this particular ‘Reforming’ or rather ‘re-forming’ of Aquinas's doctrine, she argues, by way of a ‘Christological re-orientation of the doctrine’ in terms of what is seen in the beatific vision and how it is seen, that is, its content and means. This article replies to McDonald from a Catholic and Thomist perspective, in response to her suggestion that Owen's account of the beatific vision opens up possibilities for ecumenical dialogue. The article attempts to achieve this first by reassessing the Christological contrasts McDonald draws between Owen and Aquinas in terms of content and means, and then by offering several suggestions as to why one might want to prefer Aquinas's account over Owen's.
Keywords beatific vision  John Owen  Thomas Aquinas  heaven  Christocentric
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DOI 10.1111/nbfr.12218
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