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The Nominalism of Gabriel Biel


The Nominalism of Gabriel Biel



Aquinas is a “realist”, preoccupied with being (being itself), following Aristotle.

God is understood chiefly in terms of being or existence: that which is (necessarily),

the one whose essence is his existence.



Occam is a “nominalist”, preoccupied with willing or power.  Less concerned than Aquinas

with metaphysics, he is less concerned with reasoning towards God.  Therefore faith isn’t

built on what reason “demonstrates” to be a metaphysical foundation, but rather on what

God has willed.

Result: the scholastic method of relating theology to philosophy (grace perfects nature), is
undercut.  Natural theology is devalued.


God’s will determines our faith, not God’s being or our reason.

The command of God is grounded only in the will of God, not in the nature of God





Luther will agree with nominalism’s

(i)               denial of natural theology

(ii)              denial of the scholastic method of theology

(iii)            affirmation of a God whom philosophy can’t control.


Luther will disagree with nominalism’s

(i)         insistence that God is to be understood chiefly in terms of power

(ii)        insistence that God’s command is rooted only in God’s will.

(The latter notion inevitably causes God(‘s will) to appear arbitrary.  Unless God’s will is God’s nature, God’s will has nothing to do with his being; God’s will is the capricious exertion of sheer power.)












Reverend V. Shepherd