Of God and His Creatures: Summa Contra Gentiles of Saint Thomas Aquinas

Of God and His Creatures: Summa Contra Gentiles of Saint Thomas Aquinas

Of God and His Creatures: Summa Contra Gentiles of Saint Thomas Aquinas

Of God and His Creatures: Summa Contra Gentiles of Saint Thomas Aquinas

Excerpt

Some years ago, a priest of singularly long and varied experience urged me to write “a book about God.” He said that wrong and imperfect notions of God lay at the root of all our religious difficulties. Professor Lewis Campbell says the same thing in his own way in his work, Religion in Greek Literature, where he declares that the age needs “a new definition of God.” Thinking the need over, I turned to the Summa contra Gentiles. I was led to it by the Encyclical of Leo XIII, Æterni Patris, urging the study of St Thomas. A further motive, quite unexpected, was supplied by the University of Oxford in 1902 placing the Summa contra Gentiles on the list of subjects which a candidate may at his option offer in the Final Honour School of Literæ Humaniores,—a very unlikely book to be offered so long as it remains simply as St Thomas wrote it. Lastly I remembered that I had in 1892 published under the name of Aquinas Ethicus a translation of the principal portions of the second part of St Thomas’s Summa Tlieologica: thus I might be reckoned something of an expert in the difficult art of finding English equivalents for scholastic Latin. There are two ways of behaving towards St Thomas’s writings, analogous to two several treatments of a church still standing, in which the saint might have worshipped. One way is to hand the edifice over to some Society for the Preservation of Ancient Monuments: they will keep it locked to the vulgar, while admitting some occasional connoisseur: they will do their utmost to preserve every stone identically the same that the mediaeval builder laid. And the Opera Omnia of St Thomas, handsomely bound, may fill a library shelf, whence a volume is occasionally taken down for the sole purpose of knowing what St Thomas said and no more. Another thirteenth-century church may stand, a parish church still, in daily use; an ancient monument, and something besides; a present-day house of prayer, meeting the needs of a twentieth-century congregation; and for that purpose refitted, repainted, restored, repaired and modernised; having had that done to it which its mediæval architects would have done, had they lived in our time. Nothing is more remarkable in our old English churches than . . .

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