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Obedience as a Religious Virtue

An Essay on the Binding of Isaac from the Perspective of Thomas Aquinas

Rudi te Velde

Summary

This essay explores Thomas’ thoughts about the virtue of obedience (based on STh II-II, q.104), which is particularly valued as a link between the moral virtues and the theological virtue of charity (love of God). Obedience generates in the human person the moral disposition required for all the other virtues, a disposition which consists in the readiness of the will to submit itself to the rule of God’s will. Reflecting on the question whether one should be obedient to God in every respect, Thomas is confronted with an objection pointing to the story of how God commands Abraham to kill his innocent son, which is prohibited by natural law. I use the scarce but intriguing remarks Thomas made in response to this objection to propose a meaningful interpretation of obedience as a religious virtue, essentially different from its distorted imitation which consists in an immediate identification of one’s own will with the presumed divine will.