January 26th, 2005


Theological Notebook--Clarification of Terminology

I just learned a distinction that I've been missing for years. I've been using the word "supernatural" incorrectly, along with most of the world. First articulated by Philip the Chancellor in the 13th century--although most credit goes to the fellow who "popularized" the concept, Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologiae--the word does denote what is beyond "nature" (now also delineated by Philip as a contrasting concept for the first time), but it actually is used only as a synonym for "God." That which is beyond the physical world and perception of humanity, like the angelic and demonic world so beloved of by our entertainment industry, but is still created and lesser than God, is not the "supernatural," but is technically termed the "preternatural," a word I've heard over the years, but never quite understood until Coffey clarified our terms today.

So whaddaya know?