Stripped and wounded: The medieval background of Roman Catholic views on the effects of the fall in (post)-Tridentine theology

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterScientificpeer-review


    The Canons of the Synod of Dordt seem to offer a very pessimistic assessment of what human beings are morally capable of apart from divine grace. Often, this
    is identified with ‘total depravity’. In contrast, Roman Catholic theology has the
    tendency to downplay the effects of the fall. Original sin is said to constitute only the loss of the extra, supernatural gifts of original justice and a return to a purely natural state. In this paper, I argue that this view, which became dominant only during the Council of Trent and was attributed to Thomas Aquinas, has in fact its roots in the theology of Duns Scotus. I present a reading of Thomas Aquinas, which integrates the Aristotelian and the Augustinian views on the notion of ‘human nature’. For Augustine, ‘human nature’ is a historical-empirical term, describing human existence before the fall. Aristotle, on the other hand, uses ‘human nature’ as a metaphysical concept, which indicates what something should be in order to qualify as human. Aquinas combines both with the help of the notion of a ‘state of human nature’ (status humanae naturae), which differs before and after the fall. In his way, Aquinas can do justice to Augustine’s idea that human beings are intrinsically affected by original sin, while keeping their human nature as such. It seems that this Thomist view on original sin is not incompatible with the Canons of Dordt.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationA Landmark in Turbulent Times
    Subtitle of host publicationThe Meaning and Relevance of the Synod of Dordt (1618-1619)
    EditorsHenk van den Belt, Klaas-Willem de Jong, Willem van Vlastuin
    Place of PublicationGöttingen
    PublisherVandenhoeck & Ruprecht
    Number of pages16
    ISBN (Print)978-3-525-56056-3
    Publication statusPublished - 2022

    Publication series

    NameRefo500 Academic Studies
    PublisherVandenhoeck & Ruprecht
    ISSN (Print)2198-3089


    • Thomas Aquinas
    • original sin
    • reformation


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