(Image from here)
Thomas Aquinas is easily one of the most important and influential figures in Western Catholic thought. He had many characteristic roles--writer, friar, philosopher, priest--and each facet of his life contributed greatly to the formation of Western Christianity.
Aquinas did much of his study at the University of Naples, where he became entrenched in studying the philosophy of Aristotle with the guidance of Albert the Great, who is said to be the first scholar in the Middle Ages to shine a light on Aristotle and apply his thought to the Church. In my opinion, a lot of the more problematic and destructive ideas in current (and historical) Christian thought and practice--like patriarchy, soul/body dualism, "proofs" for God--can be traced back to Aristotle through Thomas Aquinas... so I'm not a big fan. He also subscribed to double predestination via Augustine.
Aquinas also became part of the burgeoning Dominican order of friars while at Naples. This order was devoted especially to active study and teaching, in contrast to other orders, which were focused on a contemplative life.
Because he was a philosopher, and believed the existence of God could be proved through reason, he studied natural theology--which is based on reason and experience--as a means by which to prove God's existence. His natural theology influenced his cosmological and teleological arguments for God (which were also influenced by Aristotle, of course) as well as his other "Five Ways".
There's really no way to outline Aquinas's insanely extensive work. But I encourage you to check out his article in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy if you're interested to know more. I also recommend the book The Thought of Thomas Aquinas by Brian Davies. I've used it in pretty much everything I've ever written about Aquinas (including this blog post).
Oh! And one more fun fact! When he was in school, his fellow students called him "Dumb Ox" because he was big and quiet. Ha! (Sidenote: this is why last summer Curtis and I named our tomato plant Thomas... we were hoping that it would produce big fat tomatoes!)
What You Should Read:
- The Compendium of Theology (AKA Light of Faith)
- I especially like this excerpt.
- Exposition of the Creed
- I would include the Summa Theologiae, but let's be real. It's crazier than Barth's Dogmatics. Though, of course, there are many important parts of it.
(To read more about my rating system, click HERE.)
He loved Aristotle; Aristotle hated women. There you have it.
Although he had issues with the ontological argument for God ("God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived"), Aquinas still had a sense of God's greatness as the "unmoved mover" and causation of Creation, and so, since creation emanates from the First Principle, and is good, we can learn things about God from it.
I feel guilty even giving him one star. Aquinas actually advocated and approved of persecution and execution of heretics. So he definitely was not one. And his work is still the basis for pretty much all orthodox thought.
He's just so smart. And he wrote so stinkin much. ALSO, he's one of the "flying saints," which means he could levitate. Supposedly. Hahaha.
"Love takes up where knowledge leaves off."