The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said of Jesus, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “By the prince of demons he drives out demons.” Summoning them, he began to speak to them in parables, “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand…And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand; that is the end of him… Amen, I say to you…whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness…
St. Thomas Aquinas was a Dominican priest and immensely influential philosopher and theologian in the tradition of scholasticism (“rationalism”). Today, the Church honors his memory, for not only did he have a brilliant mind but also a radiant faith. St. Thomas knew how to think and how to pray, and he did much of both. Yes, thinking and praying are essential for good living. They are like two guard rails on either side of the road. They help us to stay on the road while avoiding cliffs to the left and boulders to the right. Otherwise living would be a dangerous thing, as we can well see from the results of our very modern yet decadent culture with a very scientific yet violent mentality.
St. Thomas was not a mathematician, but he brought a nearly mathematical precision to his philosophy. He did not write novels to explain his beliefs. He wrote arguments for and against them. He brought discipline and honesty to philosophy. His approach to explaining God and just about everything else was highly systematic, highly rational and highly organized. He built up his arguments with logic and revelation, one upon the other. This philosophical approach to understanding God, man and the Universe enabled Western scientists to search with hope for universal principles.
Although St. Thomas Aquinas lived and worked in the 13th century, his writings continue to be of great importance to those who seek God and Truth. He has his critics, who doesn’t? Bertrand Russell, an atheist philosopher and sex addict, wrote that Thomas Aquinas simply went about proving what he already believed in. “It is extraordinary”, writes Anthony Kenny (Aquinas on Mind) “that that accusation should be made by Russell, who in the book ‘Principia Mathematica’ takes hundreds of pages to prove that two plus two equals four, which is something he had believed all his life before he proved it.
Arnold Lunn (1888 – 1974) was a renowned English skier, mountaineer and writer. He was also a renowned agnostic. And he would have been happy staying that way all his life if it weren’t for his love of God and Truth.
Lunn’s journey began when he wrote a scathing attack on Ronald Knox’s A Spiritual Aeneid which described the latter’s conversion. But in his attack, he was honest enough to admit that he had discovered that most of the beliefs with which Catholics were credited were not, in fact, held by Catholics. So, what did Catholics believe in? Well, in order to find that out, he began his research starting with St. Thomas Aquinas.
Lunn was impressed by the fairness with which St. Thomas summarized the principal arguments against his theses. Lunn was craving for objectivity and found it with Aquinas. He then made an important observation: “There was a contract between the objectivity with which St. Thomas states and meets the arguments against the Faith and the evasive conspiracy of silence with which the arguments against evolution are ignored. The contract between the confident rationalism of St. Thomas and the timid emotionalism of our modern prophets was the theme of my book ‘The Flight From Reason’.”
“This book, published in 1930, represented the fruit of Lunn’s labors into the philosophy of St Thomas and the medieval scholastics. Its title referred to the modern mind’s ‘flight from reason’ but was also his own flight ‘to’ reason, his scrambling on to the rock of scholasticism as an escape from the quicksands of subjectivism” (Joseph Pearce, Literary Converts, pg. 177).
I personally find his critique of scientific materialism even more convincing: “If materialism be true, then our thoughts are the mere product of material processes uninfluenced by reason. They are, therefore, determined by irrational processes, and the thoughts which lead to the conclusion that materialism is true have no basis in reason.”
The Catholic Church today challenges all her faithful (and not-so-faithful) members to pray to God that “we may understand what St. Thomas taught and imitate what he accomplished” (Collect).
All I can say to that is: good Luck! Well…maybe I should say instead, “St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us!”
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