This zinger by Thomas is a good one, because it shows the insufficiency of a sola scriptura approach, and the necessity of an integrated vertical-horizontal metaphysic:
It is quite clearly a false opinion to say that, with regard to the truth of faith, [that] it is completely indifferent what one thinks about created things, provided one has the right opinion about God; [for] an error about creatures reacts in a false knowledge of God.
We know that a false belief about God results in false knowledge about the world -- which amounts to saying that an inaccurate conception of the Absolute redounds to a skewed perspective on the relative.
Indeed, I don't even think we can speak of the One without giving the Many its due. This is my own personal belief, and therefore not an ex cathedra teaching from the Seat of Toots -- but I don't believe there can be a One without a Many, which simply means that God cannot help himself from creating. It's what he does; or rather, is: man can be creative because God is creativity.
A God without creation would be like the Father without the Son, i.e., unthinkable. God is omnipotent, but within the constraints, so to speak, of his own nature -- a nature that is being, love, truth, beauty, freedom, unity, and creativity. IMO.
Now, when we say "give the Many its due," it is obviously possible to go too far in this direction, which amounts to divinizing the world, AKA pantheism. Materialism is just covert pantheism, again, because it gives totally unwarranted godlike powers to matter. A little sense of proportion, please.
But also, a belief in God without reference to the world ironically results in an over-materialized view of God. Think, for example, of Islam, which is all-God and no-world: everything is a direct result of God, with no mediation or secondary causes at all. Ironically, this redounds even to a materialistic conception of the afterlife.
It is interesting that Churchill noticed this way back in 1898 or so, but only based upon his direct experiences with Islam and its faithful, before political correctness came along to block and deny what is present before our eyes: "A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity" (emphasis mine).
Among the "dreadful curses" which "Mohammedanism lays on its votaries" is a "fearful fatalistic apathy" that is only the logical corollary of predestination. "Insecurity of property exist[s] wherever the followers of the prophet rule or live," no doubt because everything belongs to God, nothing to man.
Except when it does: "every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property," and "the final extinction of slavery" must await the day that "the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men."
Why the slavery and misogyny? Because once you have determined that God is everything and man nothing, then it scarcely matters how you treat a person. Perhaps this will one day change, but not until such a time as they develop a correct conception of the limits of God (in the sense that he is constrained by his nature, as above) and the rights of man, i.e., the proper place of the Many in the overall scheme of things. (Note also that prior to man's rights are his duties, including especially those toward his Creator!)
The world is not nothing. It is not just maya (illusion), nor is it just God's footstool. To treat it that way is actually to mistreat God.
By the way, must Islam be the way it is understood and practiced in the Muslim world? No! Lest anyone accuse me of Muslim bashing, first of all, I'm only trying to help. Second, the mere existence of Schuon proves the point. Everything I have said above (before the Churchill material) is straight out of his playbook. Let me see if I can quickly back that up...
This is from the first book I grabbed, Logic and Transcendence. On the one hand, "Relativism reduces every element of absoluteness to relativity while making a completely illogical exception in favor of this reduction itself." As with any form of existentialism it "postulates a definition of the world that is impossible if existentialism itself is possible."
Thus, a sole focus on the Many without reference to the One is a total non-starter. Tweaking what Schuon says above, it is literally the case that if atheism is possible, then it is impossible. QED.
What about the opposite error, of denigrating the legitimate rights, so to speak, of the creation?
"Man is what he is, or else he is nothing." And if God is what certain people believe he is, then Man is nothing on stilts. In reality our "capacity for objectivity and absoluteness of thought" prove that we have one foot in the divine reality; or that we are "in" freedom while being oriented toward the truth that surpasses us.
You might say that we have the right to freedom, but only on account of our obligation to truth. This is the very structure of the zigzag -- for all lines are straight in a deterministic cosmos -- journey we call Life. Freedom is nothing without truth, just as truth is unattainable without freedom. And God would not -- could not? -- give one without the other.