Seminary/School of Divinity


Winter 2015

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Theology (M.A.)

Type of Paper/Work



Stephen A. Hipp

Second Advisor

John Froula

Third Advisor

Philip A. Rolnick


The term “participation” as I am are concerned with it in this thesis signifies the package of relations forming a structure of dependence between the manifold of inferior subjects and the higher source of their similitude or nature. Thomistic participation is most properly understood as the expression of the dependence relation of creatures to God, a relation exemplified by a metaphysical structure open to analysis by the thinker sufficiently trained in the general science of created being (metaphysics). Participation is the way in which created beings are related to God and receptive of divine causality—the most superior and most transcendental type of cause.

This study, in examining key sources and some principle texts of the Angelic Doctor, will bring to light his mature doctrine of participation as a synthesis operating on two mutually interpreting planes of thought: the philosophical, where he synthesizes the principle metaphysical concerns of Plato and Platonism (pagan Greek, Islamic, Jewish, and Christian sources) with the critical revision of Plato that is the achievement of Aristotle; the theological, where the Angelic Doctor grants a metaphysical certification to fundamental Christian commitments about God: his essential goodness, radical simplicity, and his ultimate and total causal power with respect to creatures.

For Aquinas, creation means that all but God is creature, and that the creaturely nature of the world definitively saturates the world and everything in it. By means of an analysis of the metaphysical structure of being and beings in terms of participation Aquinas arrives at a conception of a God who, as the first and supreme cause of the world, is both transcendent of it and immanent in it, such that the world is a manifold of created natures at once utterly under divine governance and free in their own order.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.