Archive for the ‘Blessed John Duns Scotus’ Tag

Feast of Blessed John Duns Scotus (November 8)   Leave a comment

Above:  Blessed John Duns Scotus

Image in the Public Domain



Scottish Roman Catholic Priest and Theologian 

Born John Duns

Also known as the Subtle Doctor


In paying homage to Christ I would rather go too far than not far enough to give him the praise that is due him.

–John Duns Scotus, quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (1997), 487


I am of the opinion that God wished to redeem us in the fashion [the Incarnation] primarily in order to draw us to his love.

–Blessed John Duns Scotus, quoted in Ellsberg, All Saints (1997), 487


Blessed John Duns Scotus was a Scholastic theologian whose influence remains evident in Roman Catholic theology.  John Duns, born in Duns, Berwick, Scotland, in 1206, was a son of a wealthy farmer.  Our saint received his early education from the Franciscans at Dumfries, where his uncle, Elias Duns, was the superior.  Our saint, a Franciscan from the age of 15 years, studied theology in Oxford and Paris.  He, ordained to the priesthood at the age of 25 years, on March 17, 1291, in Northampton, was a lecturer at Oxford and Cambridge (1297-1301).  Duns Scotus, called “Scotus” because he was Scottish, began doctoral work in Paris in 1301.  He had to leave Paris in 1303, for he sided with Pope Benedict VIII against King Philip the Fair in a dispute over taxation of ecclesiastical property.  Duns Scotus, back in Paris in 1305, completed his doctorate and taught.  He transferred to a teaching post in Cologne in 1307.  There he, aged 42 years, died on November 8, 1308.

Duns Scotus, an Aristotelean, founded Scotism, a somewhat mystical version of Scholasticism.  He argued for a distinction between rational knowledge of proof for the existence of God and saving faith in God.  Duns Scotus thought that one could prove the existence of God rationally–a dubious proposition, although a pious one.

Duns Scotus also argued against the Anselmian understanding of the atonement–Penal Substitutionary Atonement.  (I am glad Duns Scotus argued against it.)  Duns Scotus defined God as infinite Love.  The Incarnation, he insisted, was an expression of divine love, and therefore an act of union with creation, not as the necessary antecedent of Penal Substitutionary Atonement.  The proper human response to the Incarnation, Duns Scotus argued, is love for God.

Duns Scotus also made a convincing case for the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The case he made in 1307 won the day in the fourteenth century; the Sorbonne adopted his position.  Furthermore, Pope Pius IX quoted Duns Scotus in 1854, when the Holy Father defined the Immaculate Conception.

Pope John Paul II beatified Duns Scotus in 1991.





Almighty God, you gave to your servant Blessed John Duns Scotus

special gifts of grace to understand and teach the truth as it is in Christ Jesus:

Grant that by this teaching we may know you, the one true God,

and Jesus Christ whom you have sent;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Proverbs 3:1-7

Psalm 119:89-96

1 Corinthians 3:5-11

Matthew 13:47-52

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 721