Life: The Purpose of Scripture

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.’ (John 20:31)

The first step to making a division of a text – that is, an account of all the parts and their purpose in relation to the whole piece of writings purpose – is to know what the purpose of the writing is. This is no less true of the collection of books that together compose the Bible, as it is of a sonnet or trade paperback. In his Inaugural Lectures at the University of Paris St Thomas, quoting the prophet Baruch, says the purpose of Scripture is that, “All who keep it shall come to life.”

What is life and how does Scripture dispose its readers to it?

Living things are those which take in nutrients, grow, and reproduce. Among living beings their is a wide variation in the way in which living creatures go about taking in nutrients, growing, and reproducing.  After all an oaks roots are radically different from a birds beak, and a the love between husband and wife from the mating of beasts. One way to understand this difference is an increasing degree of autonomy among living creatures. The oak must, for the most part, wait for its food to come to it. Whereas a a hawk circles for hours before swooping to the ground to catch its prey. Not only does man have the power to seek after its own food, but unlike most beasts he can choose from a wide variety of foods. Mans power to choose is so powerful he can choose not to eat or, more commonly, choose to eat more than is good for him.

The life of man differs from the life of plants and animals in two ways: the wider number of objects his will can choose and the power of reason to discriminate among objects and inform the will as to the usefulness of its various objects in achieving mans goals. If man is to come to life through Scripture it must improve these faculties: the reason and the will.

St Thomas explains three kinds of life which Scripture leads men to: the life of grace, the life of justice, and the life of glory.

The life of grace is the gift of Gods life to men. God’s life differs from the life of man in that he does not need to seek goods outside Himself in order to be perfected. What is more God’s act of reason and will are greater then mans too. Man must discover the order of things by his reason and choose already existent things by his will. God however chooses the very essences of things that are to be, and he creates the order among them. Needing no object aside from Himself for perfection He is perfectly happy. By giving man a share in His life, God is offering a greater happiness than man can naturally achieve. A happiness which does not require anything apart from God for its perfection.

By giving man the gift of His life God makes it possible for man to experience the eternal and perfect life of God. Justice

Scripture leads to the life of grace, the actions of that life, the life of Justice, and the finally the life of glory which man shall enjoy for eternity in two ways: by telling us what it is we need to do and then by helping us to do it. The first of these improves our intellect, helping us to value things as God does, and the second strengthens our will so that we may act according to this supernatural knowledge. We are told what to do through the mandates of the Old Testament, and we are added in the execution of these mandates by the gift of grace found in the New Testament.