Theological Context

The Christian theological framework within which we are free to act attentively for the world’s well-being is God himself, God-in-Trinity. One might say, following Mole, that God’s attentiveness to the world’s well-being is the agent of his creative activity. In his commitment of himself to the world’s well-being, God celebrates its beauty and delights in its freedom; in so doing, he shows himself to be uniquely capable of giving thanks for his creation, whatever the circumstances. To say of God that he is grateful is clearly anthropomorphic but is nevertheless, I believe, revealing of God’s nature. It is a quality of God’s attentiveness to be grateful for what he is attending to; he thoroughly enjoys it: “And God saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:10). His grateful attentiveness to the world’s well-being is incarnate in Christ, who expresses God’s freedom to focus on the world’s flourishing and to give his whole attention to the fulfillment of his purpose in creating. God creates attentively. At the heart of the Faith, there lies the life-giving belief that God desires the well-being of everything he is making and is wholly focused on its flourishing: he loves it with all that he is.

This is why Aquinas in the Summa Theologiae places God at the heart of the very structure of this most profound of theologies, as Denys Turner illuminatingly points out (Turner, 2013, p. 101). In so doing, Aquinas embodies in his exposition an exploration of the distinctive Christian themes of grace, redemption, incarnation, and Trinity, which together constitute the essential dimensions of Christian theological inquiry. By working out what they mean theologically, not only is Aquinas writing an academic theological treatise; he is concerned to bring his students and the readers of his work into conversation with the God that these themes reveal, the God who is their source. In Aquinas’s view, these themes are the living dimensions of God’s relationship with his world and with humankind. There is common knowledge and reflexivity provoked by this joint attention (Campbell, 2005, pp. 287-97; Peacocke, 2005, pp. 298-324). Provoked by the gracious lure of God to engage in conversation with him, we gratefully recognize ourselves as redeemed persons living in the society of the wholeness of God-in-Trinity. We are liberated, as Christ himself was liberated, to learn to give attention to the world’s needs and become open to the real possibility of sharing responsibility with God by giving ourselves wholeheartedly to its flourishing.

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