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Celebrate the Genius of St. Thomas Aquinas During the Month of January

The Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas is January 28th, and Verbum is celebrating with sales on Aquinas texts and scholarship in the Verbum Monthly Sale.

Here’s an excerpt from British Dominican scholar Aidan Nichols’ Discovering Aquinas: An Introduction to His Life, Work, and Influence:

Aristotle had asked, fundamentally, two questions. What is reality like, and what are the rules of argument which get us from one conclusion about it to another? The first kind of question is answered in his Physics, Metaphysics and Ethics; the second in his logical writings, the Organon, a name we can paraphrase as ‘the philosopher’s tools of trade’. The latter had been percolating through, in dribs and drabs, for some time, but a logical rule is empty unless you have some content for it to deal with, and it was the philosophical and ethical writings that caused the stir. In them, the different kinds of things in the world around us, including man, are analysed in terms of general principles of being and action which all beings in different ways exemplify; happiness is said to be the goal of specifically human life; it is reached by the exercise of virtues which are ways of being at harmony with myself and my human environment. There is little in Aristotle about the divine, for the philosopher lacked the concepts both of creation and of the personal nature of God, even if he saw a place for an unmoved Mover to keep the whole cosmic process of coming-to-be and passing-out-of-being in operation.
Thomas’s achievement was to integrate such naturalism into the traditional Christian vision of life which the earlier monastic theologians entertained. In the early Middle Ages theology had been by and large the spiritual theology practised in the monasteries. While issues of logic were beginning to exercise monastic minds (one thinks of St Anselm), and such ruminations on the fundamental grammar of theological discourse were even more at home in cathedral schools, the aim was predominantly (not least in Anselm) the expression of the prayerful orientation of man to God. Preferred theological themes were closely relevant to spiritual living: religious self-knowledge, one’s status as creature and sinner; the grace of Christ and how it heals from sin and raises up to share the life of God; the goal of earthly pilgrimage in the beatific vision, sitting down with the Trinity at the banquet of heaven in the celestial city. Monastic theology, so well described in Dom Jean Leclerq’s The Love of Learning and the Desire for God, included, as that title tells us, ardour for erudition. The same monastic milieux transmitted, after all, much of the pagan classical inheritance as well as the Church Fathers. It was Thomas’s conviction, evidently, that this programme could be taken much further. The naturalism of the pagans at their best—the thinking, both theoretical and practical, of the ‘good pagans’—could be textured into the fabric of Christian theology, without losing—and here is the point that Thomas’s more rationalist disciples in later centuries were in danger of forgetting—the spiritual and eschatological (in a word, the heavenly) orientation of theology itself (14-15).

Apotheosis of St. Thomas Aquinas by Francis de Zurburan, 1631.

Apotheosis of St. Thomas Aquinas by Francis de Zurburan, 1631.

 

Interview with Dr. Peter Kreeft, Part 1

Verbum interviewed Dr. Peter Kreeft, Catholic convert, author, professor, and apologist. We are pleased to offer 27 volumes of Kreeft’s work,  the Peter Kreeft Bundle, including 3 separate collections, featured on Verbum’s Monthly Sale through the end of September.

Q. What role do you see philosophy playing in the work of the New Evangelization?

A. The role of professional philosophy has steadily decreased in Western culture for the last half a century at least. I think philosophy will have little or no role to play in “the New Evangelization” because professional philosophy has become a victim of its own technological sophistication and it has abandoned even the attempt to communicate to ordinary people as distinct from scholars. What we could call amateur philosophy, however, will have a crucial role, because it is universal and necessary and distinctively human. “Amateur” literally means “lover.” Real philosophy, then, is an “amateur” affair because that is what philosophy is and means, according to its inventors: “the love of wisdom”; not the cultivation of cleverness.

peter-kreeft-bundle

Philosophy asks fundamental questions like “Why?” and “What?” If we do not ask why we are doing evangelization, and why it must be new, and what the New Evangelization essentially is, we will be muddle-headed in our actions as well as our thought.

Q.  You have written extensively on the philosophy and theology of St Thomas Aquinas in A Shorter Summa and A Summa of the Summa. In your experience as a teacher, how would you suggest getting young people excited about the Angelic Doctor?

A. Getting anyone excited about Aquinas is mainly a matter of exposure. His clarity and commonsense and intelligence all sell themselves and don’t need salesmen. There is no need to package him for youth, or for moderns, or for any other subclass of human beings. You don’t even need to translate him into modern language. Once you understand the meanings of a few basic technical philosophical terms like “form” and “matter” and “efficient cause” and “final cause,” you see that Aquinas is very simple and clear.

Q. Among the works which are part of this Verbum collection, are there one or two that you really enjoyed writing? Was there one which was particularly difficult to write?

A. I enjoyed writing all my books; none were just duties. But I especially enjoy writing dialogues. An article in Aquinas’ Summa is really a dialogue, though in condensed form, a dramatic conflict between two ideas, Yes or No, with one winning and refuting the other. Of all the dialogues I’ve written, I suppose A Refutation of Moral Relativism is the most important culturally now and for the New Evangelization. As recent popes have told us, Western culture is dying because of this cancer (moral relativism) above all others. That’s the abstract and general way of putting it; the more concrete and personal way of putting the same point is Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s point in his great 1978 Harvard commencement address, “We have forgotten God.”

3 important topics discussed by St. Thomas

the-triumph-of-st-thomas-aquinas-1484Today we celebrate the feast day of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the brilliant Doctor of the Church who gave us such great works as the Summa TheologicaSumma Contra Gentiles, and over 60 other texts that have deeply impacted the course of theology throughout history. Here are three topics that St. Thomas Aquinas talked about that are especially relevant today:

1) Atheism

In his Summa Theologica, Aquinas begins by providing his famous Quinque viæ—or five ways—a set of five arguments to prove from reason that God indeed exists. Aquinas first admits “that God exists is not self-evident,” but goes on to list ways in which God’s existence can be logically demonstrated:

1)   The argument from motion

2)   The argument from causation

3)   The argument from contingency

4)   The argument from excellence

5)   The argument from harmony

Aquinas teaches us how to better engage in the most important questions through implementing reason

2) Theology

St. Thomas understood theology as a science. In his Summa Theologica, on the question of Sacred Doctrine, Thomas sets out to prove that though reason provides us with knowledge, Revelation is primarily necessary for salvation. After revelation is received, man can proceed to explain them it and draw conclusions—this is the science of theology. St. Thomas understood it as a science because the conclusions that flow forth from theology begin with certain revealed principlesAquinas reminds us of the importance of not just listening to revelation, but understanding it, which is precisely what he his works help us with.

3) Scripture 

Aquinas understood the Scripture as having several senses: it is not just historical (excluding the allegorical) or literal (excluding the tropological, moral, and anagogical), it takes on different meaning depending on context. Aquinas says, “The author of Holy Writ is God, in whose power it is to signify his meaning, not by words only . . . but also by things themselves . . . [therefore] it is not unfitting, as Augustine says (Confess. xii) if, even according to the literal sense, one word in Holy Write should have several senses.” Aquinas’ exposition of the Scriptures in all his works maintains not just a high regard for the authority of Scripture, but also a deep understanding of the Scriptures, one that helps us read and study today.

In Verbum, you can study the great writings of Thomas Aquinas like never before. With an integrated library of texts that reference both the Angelic doctor’s citations and other texts that reference Aquinas, you can read St. Thomas in very same context he was thinking in.

Verbum is also working on translating never-before-translated Aquinian works that you can help put into production.

Take some time in honor St. Thomas’s feast day to read and study this great theologian and Doctor of the Church.

Pascal And Passion: Using Verbum’s Search Tool

Today I was reading through Pascal’s Pensées and came across this point in his argument:

280: The knowledge of God is very far from the love of Him.

Leading up to this thought, Pascal had quoted one M. de Roannez saying, “Reasons come to me afterwards, but at first a thing pleases or shocks me without my knowing the reason…” And also: “It is the heart which experiences God, and not the reason. This, then, is faith: God felt by the heart, not by reason.”

Besides this all seeming a little ironic coming from one of history’s greatest mathematicians and philosophers, I wonder whether or not the tradition of the Church would agree with Pascal’s assertion here. Is it true that reason plays so little a role in our love of God? And what exactly does Pascal mean when he says, “the knowledge of God is very far from the love of Him”? Does he mean to say that one can love God without knowing Him, or simply that knowledge and love are two distinct things (which seems too obvious.)

Let’s take a look in our Verbum library and see what we can find.

The first thing I want to do is pull up a search. Now, to begin I’d like to find instances of when the words “love of God” and “knowledge of God” are used anywhere in our library. I might start by opening two instances of the search panel and typing in “love of God” in one and “knowledge of God” in the other, but when I do this I find that I get thousands of results in each window:

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There’s way too much info here to sift through (although I do see a few interesting hits in the Summa I might want to check back on later.) Let’s narrow this down by opening up a new search window and searching for “love of God” and “knowledge of God” on the same line:

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OK —782 results is a lot better than the 7000+ we were looking at before. But we can do better. If I type in “NEAR” between these two phrases, we’ll find every time in our library that the phrase “love of God” is close to “knowledge of God”:

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30 results? Much better. If we sort our results by “Ranked” we can see the most relevant results first and simply move down the list. This first result here is from A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture (you can click on this link to open it up in your Verbum desktop). It reads: “True and solid knowledge of God is not just theoretical but practical. True knowledge of God leads to love of God, which manifests itself in a constant effort to carry out the divine will expressed in the commandments. Christ must serve him as Model in this respect.”

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I think this is a good response to Pascal’s quote earlier, but let’s see if we can find any more primary sources in the Tradition.

In The Complete Works of Saint John of the Cross, we read St. John’s 94th Maxim:

“The perfect love of God cannot subsist without the knowledge of God and of self.”

Here John lays out the idea that in order to have a perfect love of God, we must have knowledge so that our love can persist and flourish. St. John also ads that we need a knowledge of our selves—but that may be beside the point right now. Let’s look further.

The last two results are from Saint Thomas’ Summa. Let’s take a look at the first result from P1, q.82, article 3:

“…Wherefore the love of God is better than the knowledge of God; but, on the contrary, the knowledge of corporeal things is better than the love thereof.”

The second result comes from Part II-II, q.27, article 4:

“Since to love God is something greater than to know Him, especially in this state of life, it follows that love of God presupposes knowledge of God. And because this knowledge does not rest in creatures, but, through them, tends to something else, love begins there, and thence goes on to other things by a circular movement so to speak; for knowledge begins from creatures, tends to God, and love begins with God as the last end, and passes on to creatures.”

And just above, Aquinas states:

“Knowledge of God, through being mediate, is said to be enigmatic, and falls away in heaven, as sated in 1 Cor. 13:12. But charity does not fall away as stated in the same passage…”

So it appears here that Aquinas ranks the love of God above the knowledge of God, both in terms of greatness and priority. Notice that Aquinas’s statement does not contradict St. John’s: St. John states that the love of God cannot subsist without the knowledge of God, but not that the love of God cannot begin without knowledge.

Finally, let’s go back to the search results pulled up with the phrase “love of God” only. If we scroll down a little in results listed in the Summa, there’s one heading that stuck out to me. It’s Pt I-II, q.27, article 2: “Whether Knowledge is a Cause of Love?”

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Aquinas states clearly that, “Augustine proves (De Trin, x. 1,2) that none can love what he does not know. Clicking on the link to De Trin we see Augustine writes:

“No studious person, then… loves things he does not know, even while he is urgent with the most vehement desire to know what he does not know.”

Does this contradict what Aquinas has previously said about the primacy of love over knowledge? No. In fact, Augustine here is just stating the obvious: You can’t be disposed towards something—one way or the other—if you don’t know of its existence (or any of its attributes.) Augustine (and subsequently Aquinas) isn’t claiming that reason is what allows us to experience God, only that in order to love Him we must know Him at some level.

In the final analysis, what we find is that Pascal’s thoughts aren’t incompatible with Tradition. Though Pascal’s words seem, at first blush, to encourage a kind of sensory or emotionalist approach to God, we see that his carefully worded argument is making a much more nuanced claim: That the desire for the knowledge of God is just that: a passion. God has revealed Himself to us, but we must have ears to listen and hearts to believe if we are to know and love Him.

Never-Before-Translated Aquinas Titles Coming To Verbum!

Thomas Aquinas stands as the preeminent scholastic doctor and teacher in the Catholic Church. His writings have been revered by Christians for centuries to contain profound wisdom and insight, leading Church leaders like Pope Leo XIII to state that Aquinas’s theology was a definitive exposition of Catholic doctrine.

thomas-aquinas-in-translationThose who are familiar with Aquinas are most likely familiar with his Summa Theologicaan exhaustive theological masterpiece outlining the tenets of the Christian faith. But the Summa is not Aquinas’ only literary contribution to the theological annals of the Church.

Though St. Thomas lived just under 50 years, he composed more than 60 works. And while he is widely recognized for his scholarship, some of his works have never been translated into English. 

Here’s the exciting part:

We are on track to complete the first-ever translations of some of Aquinas’ most crucial works and make them available on Verbum. This means that you can be among the very first to read, study, and glean wisdom from these fully-translated works in the English language.

First, we have Aquinas’ commentaries on the Old Testament books of Jeremiah and Isaiah in addition to his commentary on the book of Matthew:

Aquinas’ Commentary on the Prophet Jeremiah: English and Latin (2 vols.)
Aquinas’ Commentary on the Prophet Isaiah: English and Latin (2 vols.)
Commentary on the Gospel of St Matthew

All of these works offer Aquinas’ critical exegesis on the Old and New Testament text, focusing on the multifaceted meaning of scripture.

Next, a collection of some of Aquinas’ most significant works, the 8 vol. Thomas Aquinas in Translation collection. Herein lies St. Thomas’ commentary on the Gospel of John and some of his commentaries on influential philosophers and theologians ranging from Aristotle to Boethius.

Finally, the most ambitious project of all, a full translation of Aquinas’ commentary on Peter Lombard’s Sentences:

Aquinas’ Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard: English and Latin (8 vols.) 

Pre-order these works today and help these translations get done even faster.

As with any large and important translation project, our translators will need time and funding for this project. That means that the more interest that is shown in these translations, the faster we can get them shipped. If you’re as excited as we are about any of these projects, pre-order them today and help get the ball rolling.

This is truly a novel and exciting opportunity, both for Verbum users and for top scholars around the world. Getting more of Aquinas’ thought into the English language helps the Church at large, and you have the opportunity to be a part of this historically significant project. 

Pre-order these important translations today and be among the very first to start reading St. Thomas Aquinas’ never-before-translated works in English.

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