This blog series on Reflections is intended to encourage Christians to read more vigorously by providing a beginner's guide to some of the Christian classics in such fields as theology, philosophy, and apologetics. Hopefully a very brief introduction to these important Christian texts will motivate today's believers, as St. Augustine was called to in his dramatic conversion to Christianity, to "take up and read" (Latin: <em>Tolle lege</em>) these classic books.
This week’s book, Summa Theologica by St. Thomas Aquinas, is considered a classic text both in the world of academic philosophy as well as in Western literature. Written almost 750 years ago, it is considered a masterpiece of historic Christian philosophy and theology.
Why Is This Author Notable?
St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274) may have had the brightest mind in the history of Christendom. A medieval scholastic philosopher and theologian, Aquinas’s system of thought (called “Thomism”) was declared the official philosophy of the Roman Catholic Church. In a life span of less than 50 years, he became a voluminous writer and a masterful defender of classical Christian theism. For more about him and his accomplishments, see my article “Christian Thinkers 101: A Crash Course on St. Thomas Aquinas.”
What Is This Book About?
Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologica is arguably his magnum opus even though he died before completing it. Written in the latter part of his life (ca. 1265–1274), the work reflects Thomas at the height of his intellectual prowess and is thus not for the faint of heart. More than 1,000 pages in length, it is an extremely rigorous philosophical work written for students of philosophy and theology. And those students need to be on the ball to track with Thomas’s razor-sharp logic.
The work is divided into three major parts. Part one addresses God’s existence, attributes, and Triune nature, along with topics such as angels, the creation of the world, and the nature of human beings. Part two focuses on Christian ethics and virtue. Part three explores the person of Christ, sacraments, and Christian eschatology (end times).
Thomas Aquinas writes in the Summa Theologica concerning the nature of God: