From a Reformational perspective this article provides a critical appraisal of the view of reality (ontology) of the Summa Contra Gentiles, the main philosophical work of the famous medieval thinker, Thomas Aquinas (1224/5-1274). For centuries afterwards his ideas had a decisive influence, not only on Catholic philosophy and theology, but also on that of Reformed Orthodoxy or Scholasticism.
Due to the complex nature of his philosophy (it assimilated various ideas of previous centuries up to the classic Greek philosophy of Plato and Aristotle) the different parts of the puzzle are separated and the following cluster of ideas in his ontology are described and evaluated.
Aquinas accepts a hierarchy of being from (1) pure matter (an abstraction) below to (2) all created things consisting of matter and form up to (3) God as pure form/essence/law.
In this one chain of being, consisting of interlocking form and matter, a dualistic distinction is made between a highest, transcendent part (God) and a non-transcendent (creation). In his philosophy Thomas confines himself to the existing creation (and not its origin or genesis) which is predetermined by the exemplars in God (see previous article).
In the Contra Gentiles Thomas neither accepts individualism nor universalism, but thinks partially universalistic. He, however, does not propose a horizontal type of partial universalism (the theory of macro-microcosmos), but a vertical type (the form-matter theory), according to which the universal has a place above the individual. God, therefore, is also the most universal being for Aquinas.
Aquinas' dualistic distinction between God and creation (in one ontic chain of being) is further relativised by two doctrines in his Summa: analogy and participation. According to the first, God and the world are simultaneously different and similar. According to the second, created beings do not only exit from and therefore resemble God, but also aspire to return to and participate in Him. The higher in the chain of being a creature is, the clearer its likeness to God and its participation in the divine nature