John Alan Turner

Speaker, Author, Mentor, Coach, Facilitator

Aquinas' Writings

I'll try to finish up talking about Thomas Aquinas this week. He really was important to the development of thought in the fields of philosophy and theology. His two main works are: Summa contra Gentiles or "Manual against the Heathen" -- written for those who were outside the Christian faith; and

Summa Theologica or "Manual of Theology" -- written for Christians, especially young monks studying theology.

Many will tell you that they've read Summa Theologica, but don't be too quick to believe them. It contains more than two million words! I've only managed to wade through a summary of it (Aquinas' Shorter Summa) -- and it was more than 400 pages long!

When approaching Aquinas, it's important to remember three things. First, he did not like Plato. Aquinas did not even like things that hinted at Platonic thought. For example, he rejected Anselm's ontological argument for the existence of God. Instead, he adapted Aristotle for the church's use. He provided a new system of thinking for a new generation. Aquinas' philosophy started with the real world -- not an "other" world of ideals that may or may not exist.

Second, Aquinas was a Christian. He believed that studying philosophy would lead you to a better understanding of Christianity. He separated reason from revelation, but he beleived that there was nothing in revelation that would contradict reason. He believed that the Christian faith confirmed sound philosophy and that philosophy confirmed sound Christianity.

Third, Aquinas was a medieval man. He believed -- along with just about everybody else -- that reason was subordinate to faith, that nature was subordinate to grace, that philosophy was subordinate to theology and that the state was subordinate to the church.

As tedious a writer as he was, he could be quite quotable at times. Below is a list of some of Aquinas' more memorable quotes. Let me know if any of these strike a chord:

Love takes up where knowledge leaves off.

Nothing but his goodness moves God to create things.

To hold creatures cheap is to slight divine power.

God does not seek glory for his own sake, but for ours.

Evil denotes the lack of good.

A thing is called evil for lacking a perfection it ought to have; to lack sight is evil in a man but not in a stone.

Pleasure lies in being, not becoming.

Morality depends on intention.

Peace is not a virtue, but the fruit of virtue.

The divine rights of grace do not abolish the human rights of natural reason.