Discovering Aquinas: An Introduction to His Life, Work, and Influence

Discovering Aquinas: An Introduction to His Life, Work, and Influence

Discovering Aquinas: An Introduction to His Life, Work, and Influence

Discovering Aquinas: An Introduction to His Life, Work, and Influence

Synopsis

Thomas Aquinas is one of the great figures of church history, and his ideas continue to have a powerful effect on theologians and contemporary writers from very different backgrounds and traditions. In Discovering Aquinas Aidan Nichols offers a lively and authoritative introduction to the life, thought, and ongoing influence of this singular churchman.

This book could not have come at a better time. After a lengthy period of declining interest in Aquinas, we are starting to see a Thomistic renaissance, including a renewed appreciation for the way Aquinas's work so brilliantly weaves together philosophy, theology, spirituality, revelation, and ethics. As Nichols writes, "It is because of the wonderfully integrated character of the wisdom of Thomas Aquinas -- integrated not only as supernatural with natural but also as thinking with love -- that the church in our day should not leave him as a fresco on a wall but find inspiration from his teaching and example."

By means of writing as felicitous as it is insightful, Nichols chronicles the compelling facts of Aquinas's life, explores the major facets of his thought, establishes Aquinas's historical importance, and shows why many today are regarding him as a vital partner in current debates about the future of Christianity.

Excerpt

In John Gray’s novel Park, set centuries hence, Dlar shows his visitors an item of furniture of outstanding beauty:

See the best of all, as to the embellishments; and with that he
displayed the painted inside of the boards, in glowing opus
Iense
, golden without the use of gold. Scenes from the Summa,
said the giver, in reverent and delicate banter. Such indeed were
the subjects; for there may be lovely and exquisite emblems of
what is abstract.

‘Natural forms’, writes Thomas in the De veritate (the ‘disputed questions about truth’), ‘are as it were images of immaterial realities’. Brought into play re-wrought as symbols, they can stand for deep or complex concepts.

A theological thinker for whom that is a congenial reflection is useful to those of us who need the help of the poet’s sensibility if we are to be awoken from the prose of our metaphysical slumbers. Certainly, there is a difference of intellectual temper between those who approach the topic of theology with a robust assurance of the power of philosophical argument and those others, more affected by images than by ideas, who look to history and experience for the presentation of religious theory. (Immanuel Kant would call the contrast one of Verstand with Vernunft, but centuries earlier Thomas had spoken of intellectus and ratio.) It is easy for the supporters of either to make a caricature of the other. And yet they are, or can be, complementary. It is in the spirit of Thomas – who approved of distinctions but disliked the ‘either/or’ – to follow up both approaches. Though at one point criticising Plato for ‘proposing everything in figures and by the art of symbols’, a selection of . . .

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