Aquinas Disagreement

Aspiring Homesteader

Puritan Board Freshman
Can someone give me:

1) An overview of the current Aquinas disagreement going on in the Internet world.

2) An assessment of the best of the pro-Aquinas side. Davenant Institite, etc

I have no idea how to assess the situation.

Thank you.
 

J.L. Allen

Puritan Board Sophomore
The explanation I typically get is "Aquinas is bad, m'kay."

In other words, I haven't heard a good reason why not to read him yet.
 

Beoga

Puritan Board Freshman
The explanation I typically get is "Aquinas is bad, m'kay."

In other words, I haven't heard a good reason why not to read him yet.
The twofold understanding I have as a layman trying to understand both sides as there are men I respect and have learned a lot from:

1. Aquinas is bad because of how he is being used (or Plato?). That is, the “other side” sees fans of Aquinas as elevating him and/or the Great Tradition to an equal plane with Scripture and thus denying Sola Scriptura.

2. Aquinas gets salvation so wrong, and since doctrine of God is connected with doctrine of Scripture, that Aquinas is really of no benefit and should be discarded except to understand Rome (and not the Reformed Tradition). Anything that Aquinas gets right can be found stated by someone “safer.”
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
He was right on God. Mostly right on metaphysics. Not so much on salvation, but he isn’t wrong the way people think he is. Geisler book on him is good.

Free talks here
 

retroGRAD3

Puritan Board Junior
If you get salvation wrong isn't that the most important thing? If you think you are saved through works or working some system does this not mean someone is lost?
 

Beoga

Puritan Board Freshman
Yes. But I don't think the reformers got God wrong. They got salvation and God right.
That is fair. As I understand it though, one of the layers of this discussion is that the reformers got God right and salvation right, and had not problems using Aquinas as a resource and interacting with him favorably. One side says that like the reformers we should use Aquinas as a resource, and now that I think of it, I haven’t seen or listened to properly to a response to the reformers and those after them using Aquinas favorably.
 

J.L. Allen

Puritan Board Sophomore
Okay, but that’s not really helpful for someone with no knowledge of the situation.
Lol. Sorry, I was trying to make a funny.

Honestly, I don't know much on the issue myself. I also have a limited internet awareness (ignorance is bliss). What I've mostly come across are folks who are over zealous in an anti-Papist stance. They are ready to quickly throw any baby out with the Papist bathwater. They fail to recognize an entire church history prior to the Reformation, to put it plainly. With anyone, you should read them in a measured way. Be cautious about those who fall too far one way or the other.
 

ZackF

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
That is fair. As I understand it though, one of the layers of this discussion is that the reformers got God right and salvation right, and had not problems using Aquinas as a resource and interacting with him favorably. One side says that like the reformers we should use Aquinas as a resource, and now that I think of it, I haven’t seen or listened to properly to a response to the reformers and those after them using Aquinas favorably.
Luther was said to have called Aquinas a “blind cow.” The Reformers didn’t think highly of him. The later Reformed, I think, bounced back from the over correction.
 

retroGRAD3

Puritan Board Junior
Lol. Sorry, I was trying to make a funny.

Honestly, I don't know much on the issue myself. I also have a limited internet awareness (ignorance is bliss). What I've mostly come across are folks who are over zealous in an anti-Papist stance. They are ready to quickly throw any baby out with the Papist bathwater. They fail to recognize an entire church history prior to the Reformation, to put it plainly. With anyone, you should read them in a measured way. Be cautious about those who fall too far one way or the other.
I don't think this is the only other option. I can recognize people before and after Thomas that were good, while still recognizing Thomas specifically had dangerous views. To those that are really into philosophy he will be very tempting as well. Thomas is one of the main reasons we have the modern Roman Catholic Church with all their strange beliefs. Many of his beliefs and reasonings are the reason a reformation was needed. It doesn't mean it is his fault specifically, but recognizing he is likely the origin point for many errant beliefs. He may have been good at philosophy, but he often times was a bad exegete because of his reliance on tradition. Can we learn from Thomas, sure. But what other heretics in history do we hold in such high regard? And I can him a heretic in the sense that if you follow his way of salvation, you will likely end up in hell.
 

alexanderjames

Puritan Board Freshman

alexandermsmith

Puritan Board Junior
That is fair. As I understand it though, one of the layers of this discussion is that the reformers got God right and salvation right, and had not problems using Aquinas as a resource and interacting with him favorably. One side says that like the reformers we should use Aquinas as a resource, and now that I think of it, I haven’t seen or listened to properly to a response to the reformers and those after them using Aquinas favorably.

Lol. Sorry, I was trying to make a funny.

Honestly, I don't know much on the issue myself. I also have a limited internet awareness (ignorance is bliss). What I've mostly come across are folks who are over zealous in an anti-Papist stance. They are ready to quickly throw any baby out with the Papist bathwater. They fail to recognize an entire church history prior to the Reformation, to put it plainly. With anyone, you should read them in a measured way. Be cautious about those who fall too far one way or the other.

The problem with these arguments- that the Reformers used them; that there is a long church history before the Reformation- is that the Reformers were the first Protestants. They were separating from the established church and they wanted to first of all explain why they were doing so and secondly to defend themselves from accusations of schism and novelty. And so they make great use of those who went before them to illustrate how they were not advocating new theology but were recovering Biblical theology, which could be seen in the best of the church through the ages. But obviously there was a lot wrong with the theology of the pre-Reformation church otherwise a Reformation wouldn't have been necessary.

The Reformed articulated a consistent Biblical and systematic theology, which drew on the best of what had gone before but cast aside all the error. That is the legacy we have today. The question which needs to be asked is: why Aquinas? As someone observed: what other heretic is so highly valued by Protestants today? Why the focus on Aquinas? We are told that this is because Protestant theology today is so shallow and ignorant. This is obviously true. So why not return to the Puritans? The Scottish divines? The American divines? Why Aquinas?

so is the agreed point is that we can learn from Thomas or no? I don’t think Reformed folks who are advocating Thomism would deny being careful e.g see https://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/significance-thomas-aquinas

The problem here is that those who are promoting him assume everyone is as discerning as they are (and that they are indeed discerning). I do not understand how pastors can so casually recommend to all and everyone that they study a heretic. Furthermore, Aquinas is not an easy read. Whereas with the Puritans you have writers who are easy to read, godly, discerning and orthodox.

We are not Thomists, we are not Patristics, we are not Eastern Orthodox or Roman Catholic. We are Protestant. We have a very rich heritage and library. Stick with that,
 
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danekristjan

Puritan Board Freshman
My two cents: I think we should learn from the Church Catholic throughout history. Thomas had many good things to say. Yet, there is nothing in Thomas that I can't find said better by the reformers and post reformation divines.
 

Phil D.

Puritan Board Junior
Early reformers like Zanchi modeled their work on Aquinas
Do you mean in terms of organization and presentation? If so, Aquinas' Summa was in turn somewhat modeled on Lombard's Sentences, which starting in about 1225 all students at the Sorbonne, like Aquinas, were required to create a commentary on, for what amounted to their doctoral thesis. To be sure, the slightly later Summa quickly became the most acclaimed, and thus the new standard among these types of systematic works within the RCC. But while many of the earliest continental reformers cited Lombard quite copiously (for whom they even used a particular moniker that escapes me presently - maybe "the master"?...), they seem to have directly cited Aquinas only relatively rarely.
 

alexanderjames

Puritan Board Freshman
The problem with these arguments- that the Reformers used them; that there is a long church history before the Reformation- is that the Reformers were the first Protestants. They were separating from the established church and they wanted to first of all explain why they were doing so and secondly to defend themselves from accusations of schism and novelty. And so they make great use of those who went before them to illustrate how they were not advocating new theology but were recovering Biblical theology, which could be seen in the best of the church through the ages. But obviously there was a lot wrong with the theology of the pre-Reformation church otherwise a Reformation wouldn't have been necessary.

The Reformed articulated a consistent Biblical and systematic theology, which drew on the best of what had gone before but cast aside all the error That is the legacy we have today. The question which needs to be asked is: why Aquinas? As someone observed: what other heretic is so highly valued by Protestants today? Why the focus on Aquinas? We are told that this is because Protestant theology today is so shallow and ignorant. This is obviously true. So why not return to the Puritans? The Scottish divines? The American divines? Why Aquinas?



The problem here is that those who are promoting him assume everyone is as discerning as they are (and that they are indeed discerning). I do not understand how pastors can so casually recommend to all and everyone that they study a heretic. Furthermore, Aquinas is not an easy read. Whereas with the Puritans you have writers who are easy to read, godly, discerning and orthodox.

We are not Thomists, we are not Patristics, we are not Eastern Orthodox or Roman Catholic. We are Protestant. We have a very rich heritage and library. Stick with that,
Ok I absolutely get your point. But (to be difficult,) why should I take your word for it? I want to see what Thomas and others have said so that I’m not blindly accepting what others say about them.
 

alexandermsmith

Puritan Board Junior
Ok I absolutely get your point. But (to be difficult,) why should I take your word for it? I want to see what Thomas and others have said so that I’m not blindly accepting what others say about them.

But why? What is your motivation in reading Aquinas? Is it to get a better grasp of Biblical teaching; a well-articulated doctrine of God? Read the Puritans: you'll get those and you'll avoid the dangers. If you just want to know what Aquinas said, then fine read Aquinas. But we should be reading theologians to better understand Scripture, not a particular theologian's interpretation of Scripture. I can't help but think the advocacy of Aquinas is because those advocating reading him just like to read philosophy. If their motivation was solely to gain a deeper knowledge of the truth, they wouldn't be reading Aquinas. There's too much soul-destroying error there. What he gets right is found elsewhere. Therefore there is something else motivating these people.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
To those saying we should only read the Puritans, it is the Ressourcement guys like myself who are doing the serious reading of Perkins and Zanchi and Vermigli. The thebros aren’t. Check the book review section of Puritanboard and tell me what’s happening
 

alexanderjames

Puritan Board Freshman
But why? What is your motivation in reading Aquinas? Is it to get a better grasp of Biblical teaching; a well-articulated doctrine of God? Read the Puritans: you'll get those and you'll avoid the dangers. If you just want to know what Aquinas said, then fine read Aquinas. But we should be reading theologians to better understand Scripture, not a particular theologian's interpretation of Scripture. I can't help but think the advocacy of Aquinas is because those advocating reading him just like to read philosophy. If their motivation was solely to gain a deeper knowledge of the truth, they wouldn't be reading Aquinas. There's too much soul-destroying error there. What he gets right is found elsewhere. Therefore there is something else motivating these people.
What I mean is simply that you are making assertions such as Puritan writings have a doctrine of God at least as good as Aquinas, without errors. I don’t doubt that is probably the case (having read several Puritans). But why should I take your word for it?

If I had just listened to the teachings of people from the start of my Christian journey, I would be a shallow dispensationalist who thought the rapture was next week.

I want to read from the breadth and depth of church history so I can understand how doctrine has been formed and formulated over time. I want to read Aquinas given his vast influence so that I can understand his arguments and see how he has influenced later thinkers.

I don’t think this is a fruitless endeavour. Perhaps I will see truths about God from a different perspective. Perhaps I will see the errors to beware of. Perhaps I will learn how to defend the faith better, or lead Romanists out of Rome. Perhaps I will understand how to reason better and approach things with a more informed and logical mind. Ultimately I am wanting to read Aquinas so that I might become a more fruitful servant of Christ.
 
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