Saint Augustine believes that all humans are stained from the original sin of Adam and Eve, and therefore they deserve only punishment. However, there are still a few chosen ones whom God bestows salvation on as a free gift. There is no guidance as to how God selects His people for salvation. Therefore, neither faith nor good works can ensure salvation – each person is predestined by God either to either salvation or to damnation.
Another important theory of Saint Augustine is to love God is to love truth because God is the truth itself. People may come to know truth through inner experience and conviction; however, they must first believe in order to understand. Therefore, faith is the essential cornerstone for understanding God. “Faith, knowledge, and mystical vision may be conceived as progressive steps on the way to the transcendental understanding of God, who is the essence of all truth” (Great Traditions, 64).
While Saint Augustine fully expresses his love of God in his work, Saint Thomas Aquinas focuses on morality and natural law. Saint Thomas Aquinas is the most famous classical proponent of natural theology, and he is considered by the Catholic Church to be its greatest theologian. His moral theories resemble those of Aristotle; some people say they are the Christianized version of Aristotle’s principles.
Being another Christian philosopher, Saint Aquinas also has his own definition of humans’ relationship to God: “God is seen to be both the creator of all things and the determiner of their purposes” (Great Traditions, 81). Similar to Saint Augustine, Saint Aquinas believes that God is omnipotent and supreme. “Now there is but one supreme good, namely God….Therefore all things are directed to the highest good, namely God, as their end” (Great Traditions, 83).
Nevertheless, Saint Aquinas does not believe in divine predestination and thinks that people have free will that directs them to distinctive human ends. Moreover, Aquinas believes that all human ends can be attained. Moreover, while Saint Augustine thinks it is false pride for people to believe that they can know God by their own efforts, Saint Aquinas does not seem to reject the possibility that people can search for truth on their own. In fact, he encourages the search of truth: “The highest end for humanity is contemplation of the truth” (Great Traditions, 82).
In sum, Saint Aquinas provides people with moral guidance, which help people to reason, comprehend, and thus obey eternal law. Saint Augustine, on the other hand, emphasizes the importance of love for God, and that this love is the motive for obeying eternal law. Both Saint Aquinas and Saint Augustine respect God very much; however, they differ in the way they show as well as wanting people to show this respect.