Alexander Alesius, or De Hales
Alexander Alesius, Or De Hales (so called because he was born at Hailes, in Gloucestershire, or was a monk in the monastery there), one of the most eminent of the scholastic divines. After studying in England he proceeded to Paris, and studied theology and the canon law, and gained such a high reputation that he was styled "the Irrefragable Doctor." He became a Franciscan in 1222, and died at Paris, Aug. 27, 1245. His works are:
1. A Commentary on the Psalms [erroneously attributed to Bonaventura, and by others, with greater probability, to Hugo de Sancto-Carol (Venice, 1496, fol.): —
2. Commentaries on the Apocalypse (Paris, 1647. fol.): —
3. A Summary of all Theology Summa Theologica (Norimb. 1482; Basle, 1502; Venice, 1576, 4 vols.; Cologne, 1622, and many other places): —
4. Comment. on the Four Books of the Sentences (Lyons, 1581); there are doubts whether he was the author of this last work.
The Summa was written at the command of Pope Innocent IV, and enjoined by his successor, Alexander IV, to be used by all professors and students of theology in Christendom. Alexander gave the doctrines of the Church a more rigorously syllogistic form than they had previously had, and may thus be considered as the author of the scholastic theology. He answered the question whether theology is a science in the following manner: he made a distinction in the application of the idea of science; science relates either to the completion of the knowledge of truth (in which case it has to do with knowledge as such — that is, theoretical); or the knowledge relates to religious experience, and of the latter kind is theological knowledge. This knowledge can only proceed from the disposition. Theology demands the human soul, since it rouses the affections, the tendencies of the disposition, by the principles of goodness, the fear of God, and love. The relation of knowledge to faith is therefore the reverse of what it is in the other sciences, since theology first of all produces faith, and, after the soul has been purified through faith working by love, the result is the understanding of theology. In logical science, on the contrary, rational knowledge produces faith. If the former have produced faith, then the internal grounds for such conviction will appear. Faith is then the light of the soul; and the more any one is enlightened by this light, so much more will he apprehend the reasons by which his faith is proved. There is, indeed, a faith which does not rise so high as knowledge, — which satisfies itself with probabilities; but Christian faith is different. It proceeds from experience, appeals to the revelation of the highest truths, and hence stands above all knowledge (Neander, History of Dogmas, 2, 550). As to our knowledge of God, Alexander taught that "the idea of God is a habitus naturaliter impressus primoe veritatis, and is founded on the connection subsisting between eternal truth and the moral nature of man. But we must distinguish between a cognitio in habitu and in actu. The habitual lies at the basis of human consciousness; the actual is the developed idea. In reference to the former, the idea of God is undeniable; in reference to the second, a twofold tendency of the soul is possible — in proportion as it either turns to the revelation of the highest truth, or allows worldliness and the lower powers of the soul to govern it. In the latter case, the consciousness of God may be wanting, and the fool will say, There is no God." He distinguishes also between the idea of God in general (ratio communis) and the particular application of it (ratio propria). "The former is true even in idolatry, for that testifies of an idea of God as its foundation, though the application of it is erroneous." As to grace, he "defines the gratia gratis data as the gift which is communicated to rational creatures, in order to make them capable, as far as depends on this gift, to labor for the eternal salvation and improvement of others. It is the more remote preparation for salvation, mere dead faith, knowledge without life. Through the gratia gratum faciens salvation itself is added." He "supposed man to be created first in his puris naturalibus, and then the higher development of nature follows by the informatio per gratiam. According to this view man needed grace from the beginning, but it was to be attained by the determination of his will. The original relation of the latter to nature is distinguished from the present in this respect, that it required grace only for its higher culture, not for .its transformation. Man, in relation to grace, was informis negative, without the higher form of life, but not informs privative, as he was after the Fall. Hence gratia is informans, not reformans" (Neander, Hist. of Dogmas, 2, 574, 587). In ecclesiastical matters he advocates the strongest papal doctrines, being especially in favor of the prerogatives of the papacy. He refuses any toleration to heretics, and would have them deprived of all property; he absolves subjects from all obligations to obey a prince that is not obedient to the Church. The spiritual power, which blesses and consecrates kings is, by that very fact, above all temporal powers, to say nothing of the essential dignity of its nature. It has the right to appoint and to judge these powers, while the pope has no judge but God. In ecclesiastical affairs also he maintains the pope's authority to be full, absolute, and superior to all laws and customs. The points on which Alexander exercises his dialectics are sometimes simply ludicrous; as when he discusses the question whether a mouse that should nibble a consecrated wafer would thereby eat the body of Christ. He arrives at the conclusion that it would. He thinks Adam died at three o'clock, because that was the hour of Christ's death. — Neander, Ch. Hist. vol. 4, 420 et al.; Gieseler, Ch. Hist. vol. 3, 324, 358; Cave, Hist. Lit. ann. 1230; Haureau, Philosophie Scholastique, ch. 15.