Introduction to Thomas Aquinas | 20th Anniversary of Knowing the Love of Christ

Episode 11 December 06, 2022 00:51:55
Introduction to Thomas Aquinas | 20th Anniversary of Knowing the Love of Christ
Catholic Theology Show
Introduction to Thomas Aquinas | 20th Anniversary of Knowing the Love of Christ

Dec 06 2022 | 00:51:55


Show Notes

How does Aquinas help us understand the Faith? In this special episode, Dr. Roger Nutt, Provost and Professor of Theology at Ave Maria University, interviews our host Dr. Michael Dauphinais about the 20th Anniversary of his book, Knowing the Love of Christ: An Introduction to the Theology of St. Thomas Aquinas.


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Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:00 Learning the truth about who God is from Thomas Aquinas kind of helped me to learn to live and act and teach in a way that was, I don't know, sound and happy and wholesome. Welcome to the Catholic Theology Show presented by Ave Maria University. I'm your host, Dr. Michael Dnet. And today, uh, we're joined by a guest host, uh, Dr. Roger Nut, who's actually gonna be interviewing me about a special celebration of, uh, one of our books. Speaker 2 00:00:43 Thanks for having me. Uh, these are big shoes to fill, Michael <laugh>. I don't think I'm gonna claim the mantle of guest hosts, but I do wanna thank you for, uh, accepting my, uh, proposal to have an episode dedicated to one of your work, a book that you co-authored with Matthew Levering, called Knowing the Love of Christ, an Introduction to the Theology of St. Thomas Aquinas. The reason why I wanted to discuss this book with you is many of your listeners may not realize it, but 2022 is the 20th anniversary of the publication of Knowing the Love of Christ. Uh, I read the book in 2002 when it came out. I thought it was a significant accomplishment then it has remained in print, which is no small accomplishment for, uh, a book on Thomas Aquinas. Uh, it's even been translated at least into French, uh, that I, uh, that I know of. And so I wanted to spend some time celebrating the 20th anniversary of knowing the love of Christ, and maybe talking with you a little bit about the, uh, the broader movement that I think the book symbolizes and participates in, and some of the great insights about Thomas's theology in the book. So, first, congratulations, uh, not only on authoring the book with our dear friend, uh, Matthew Levering. Uh, but, uh, congratulations on a great 20 year run with a book that I think still has momentum. Speaker 0 00:02:15 Well, thank you very much, Roger. It's, uh, it's really a joy in just an, um, it's funny when you mentioned that I totally forgotten that it was the 20th year. I actually went back and I looked, um, at the publication information, and sure enough, it was January 1st, 2002. And it really, it, it's fascinating to think about, right? Two decades later in 2022 and, and how much has changed. Um, and yet, of course, right, this basic, I don't know, the, the basic need to somehow find, uh, intelligibility and meaning in the thought of Aquinas, uh, really remains kind of one of my great passions, Speaker 2 00:02:53 Right? So, let me ask you two, um, interrelated questions to start off with, with, and, um, you can go in, in whatever direction you want to go in. There are a lot of introductions to Aquinas. So one question could be why even 20 years ago, there were dozens of books about Aquinas, um, why, uh, write a book, introducing people to Aquinas. And then more particularly though, this is a, the subtitle is very telling an introduction to the Theology of St. Thomas Aquinas. So why write an introductory book on Aquinas? And then why focus on the Theology of Aquinas? Speaker 0 00:03:35 Well, the knowing the love of Christ, uh, the title, uh, that Matthew and I chose for the book is from Ephesians three 19. Uh, and it's in that section where he says that you may come to know the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge. Uh, and, and in there is, I think, the short kind of defense of theology, right? That we do ultimately what's most important Christ's love of us and our love of Christ. And yet we can't love what we don't know. And so we need to know the truth about who Jesus Christ is and who God is, and what is his plan for us in order to love ourselves and love our neighbor and love God properly. Uh, as I think CS Lewis, uh, said eloquently one time, right? If we don't have good ideas in our head about God, we will have bad ideas in our head about God. Speaker 0 00:04:27 And bad ideas about God will ultimately harm us and harm others, right? Because we will not be able to love ourselves or our neighbor or God properly. Uh, so that's, I think, is that first sentence that theology matters, right? It's worth trying to know the truth about God, even though, as Paul says in Ephesians, right, we know the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge. So we understand that obviously, you know, we'll never fully understand God, but I can still have better truer understandings of who God is or worse ones. And then I think when we look at who St. Thomas Aquinas is and how he became the common doctor of the church, which is really the shared doctor, the teacher of the whole church, right? The angelic doctor, cuz he saw things so clearly, um, and has been taken up by the church as kind of a sure and steady model. Speaker 0 00:05:24 Uh, John Paul II in Fetus Arao right, said that he, uh, St. Thomas Aquinas right, is a model for how to do theology. So if we wanna understand the truth about God, then going back to aquinas's work is so important. And I think it's something that really every generation has to do anew, right? The, you know, I don't know, you know, wisdom doesn't exist in books, right? Wisdom exists in people writing books and reading books. So therefore, um, we have to continue to do that. And I think that was one of the, of the things that Matthew Levering and I wanted to do was how could we as students of theology students, and it's not just as though we like the QAs because I don't, you know, we, we like the QAs cuz Aquinas saved our lives. I mean, I'm not putting, like we wanted, you know, both of us were converts or re reverts back to the faith. Speaker 0 00:06:15 Um, understanding the truth about who Jesus Christ is and who God was, um, gave us direction, and then discovering that there was a way of thinking about God that honored him and, uh, was truthful. Right? It had a metaphysical depth and honoring Jesus Christ in a way that showed the radical goodness and newness of his right love and sacrifice for us. Um, right. These, these are not just kind of play things. I guess this is not just kind of an intellectual curiosity. This was really saying, learning the truth about who God is from Thomas Aquinas kind of helped me to learn to live and act and teach in a way that was, I don't know, uh, sound and happy and wholesome and Right. You know, it's like that's, it helps me. I I can, I can function better in the world because Thomas is one of my teachers. So it would've been absurd for me not to try to share that with students and then all of a sudden to realize that what happened to us individually is actually what the church has been saying for the last, you know, 600 years. Right. Um, is that same thing is that we can find truth and meaning in our lives when we try to think more clearly with, as a, you know, a lot of the old books used to say Right. With the mind of St. Thomas. Speaker 2 00:07:43 Right. Well, I'm glad that you and Matthew, uh, work so hard to share those lessons with us through this book. And I know that, uh, your readers and, uh, innumerable students here at Ave Maria have benefited, uh, as well. Speaker 0 00:07:59 Yeah. Let me just, by the way, I also wanna answer your other question. So you meant, we did talk about the introduction of the theology of Thomas Aquinas. So I would say in the eighties and nineties, uh, in, in that period of, um, you know, kind of after the council, but really just after the chaos of the sixties and seventies, Speaker 2 00:08:13 Were you born then, by the way, in the eighties and nineties? Well, Speaker 0 00:08:16 Yeah. Yeah. So, okay. You know, back in the seventies Speaker 2 00:08:18 Wanted to, wanted, wanted your, uh, your, uh, audience to, uh, to know that, so Speaker 0 00:08:23 That's right. That's right. Yes. And, uh, so, but when we came back to study theology, uh, in, in the early nineties, there was a group of kind of philosophers who I think loved Thomas, knew Thomas and taught Thomas, you know, maybe Ralph McInerney as one of them, and, and others. Um, and they really defended the philosophy of Thomas, and were very faithful to Thomas and faithful to the church. Um, but among theologians, there was a tendency for those who dissented from church teaching, uh, who would emphasize aquinas's embrace of reason as kind of a means for separating reason from Christ, reason from Revelation. So they would use, uh, they would kind of present Thomas as a rationalist, w whose sphere of autonomous reason, uh, kind of borrowing a line from Kant and, and other kind of intermediary influence like Carl Ronner and others. So they would use Aquinas to say, well, because we're Catholic, we're gonna follow Aquinas. Speaker 0 00:09:26 And Aquinas says, we can use reason alone to figure out the moral life and to figure out God. And, and, and that convinced us as well, just not very, uh, saving. Right? I mean, if, if I'm stuck using my own reason, then, uh, and using other people's reason, you know, then right. We're not saved. We're, we're still stuck in the world of, of we've been shut off from Revelation. So what we wanted to do is emphasize that, uh, that Aquinas has this beautiful theology, uh, that is really rich. He says a lot about Jesus Christ. He says a lot about the sacraments. So we structured the eight chapters of the book around the whole Summa Theolog. And, uh, there were, which has kind of four or three main parts, or sometimes divided up into four parts, but really goes from the beginning of God, who is God, the triune God through creation, through the virtues, through human happiness, uh, but then also into Jesus Christ, uh, and his sacraments, right. And heaven. So the Aquinas is much more christological, much more biblical, and I would say truly philosophical than this caricature of him as the kind of rationalist Right. Uh, that was common in some ways. Speaker 2 00:10:45 Right. That's beautiful. I, um, wanna come back in a minute to the order and structure of the book, but I wanted to ask you at least one more preliminary question, a bit of a retrospective question. Uh, this book was first published in 2002, which was right at the beginning of a number of collaborative works that you and Matthew Levering did to, uh, support the renewal of Catholic Theology. It's actually the first of three books, I think that you guys have co-authored. The second was Holy Land, holy People, which is a fantastic introduction to sacred scripture, and then the wisdom of the word. More recently, um, I heard Father Ram Romans, Chao 10, maybe even 15 years ago, say that he thought that the initiatives that you guys, uh, had spearheaded, uh, changed the landscape of Catholic theology in America. And he was speaking specifically of the co-founding with Matthew of the Aquinas Center for Theological Renewal, uh, which you and I get to continue to work on. Yes. Uh, the, uh, founding right around that time of the English edition of the Journal, Nova Vera, and then down here at Ave Maria University, the Patrick F. Taylor Graduate Programs in theology, in particular, the doctoral program. Uh, and so I'm wondering, in the hindsight of 20 years, were you conscious then of trying to start, uh, uh, a broader movement or, uh, a community, um, of scholars, or was the book then, uh, just, uh, you know, an attempt to get something out that was near and dear to your heart? Speaker 0 00:12:37 Well, one thing I would say is that, you know, there was nothing in a way that was kind of innovative about our approach or our work. We were really trying to recover what we felt was the really what we judged was the proper reception of Aquinas. And there were people, uh, Survis Pink Cares, uh, the Dominican, uh, Romano, as you mentioned, another Dominican, uh, Charles JNet. Um, some people associated with the University of Freeberg and Switzerland, and I would also say John Paul II's own work, which was richly istic richly christological. Right? He began the Veritas splendor in 1993 on moral theology, um, with the story of, uh, the rich young man's encounter with Jesus Christ. Right? What good must I do to inherit eternal life? And so this kind of biblical christological renewal of Tomism that would also at the same time be deeply metaphysical and rooted in the truth. Speaker 0 00:13:43 Uh, so I think that was something that we saw was a, like a living tradition that we wanted to connect to. So when, uh, you know, so that, that I think was really kind of a powerful theme. Uh, and no, I think, you know, when you do something, you just do something. There's, you know, and I think the anythings, like any fruits that have happened, I think are totally beyond any agency that we had. Um, yeah, I think we wrote a book, uh, and thankfully, uh, we've been able, you know, it's been assigned in some classes, and that's great, and we're very grateful for it. And we were able to do something like start the Aquinas Center and start conferences in 2001. We had our first conference on reading John, reading the Gospel of John with St. Thomas Aquinas. And again, trying to recover that right Aquinas's Day job, right. Speaker 0 00:14:29 As the, you know, master of Sacred page was to comment on scripture. Right? Um, but in some ways, again, that had been somewhat forgotten. So partly I think, you know, we were kind of a conduit of, um, revivifying and renewing, uh, theology of by trying to recover and retrieve, uh, so much of the beauty of the faith, uh, and, and being able to start certain initiatives. It is wonderful today to be able to look around in 2022 and see so many more initiatives or institutes, uh, for, to renewal. And for, I think it's just kind of, you know, like we face so many problems today in modernity, we face kind of this overwhelming kind of, I don't know, like this heavy weight of empiricism. Everything is just scientific and technological, or on the other hand, almost kind of agnostic humanism, which is what must we do to somehow liberate humanity from society? Speaker 0 00:15:29 Uh, and, and, and when we go back to Aquinas, we see a kind of richer order, right? Uh, and, and I think trying to help people do that, help people recover that richer order where there's an order of reasoning that goes up to God, uh, I think has really borne fruit. And I think, uh, it's wonderful that today there's so many more places that teach, or, and so many more students, uh, am interested in aquinas's biblical commentaries, interested in Thomas's Christology, his Trinitarian theology right alongside of his philosophy of God and all of these different elements. Speaker 2 00:16:06 Right? And I, I think it certainly has borne fruit. And one of the things that I would say, when I first saw the book, I, uh, was working on my own dissertation, and I think I'm speaking for many others, it gave me confidence mm-hmm. <affirmative> in the fruitfulness of this theological, um, re-engagement with Aquinas. So I know I speak on behalf of many others, that we have a deep sense of gratitude to you and Matthew for, uh, giving us a nudge and showing us, uh, you know, reading John with St. Thomas was a, a book that you were able to publish out of that first conference mm-hmm. <affirmative> that, uh, showed, uh, Thomas's deep reading, uh, of, of the Gospel of John. And I think you've helped now a whole generation of scholars and students of Aquinas approached this with more confidence than, um, um, we otherwise would've been able to. So thank you for Speaker 0 00:17:01 That. Well, and you're welcome. Speaker 2 00:17:03 Yeah. So, uh, I wanna turn to, uh, a page in the introduction and go back to kind of the general description, uh, that you were given giving of the movement of the work, because I think this is a really insightful, uh, passage. You're talking about the role of wisdom mm-hmm. <affirmative> in the theology of St. Thomas Aquinas, and in particular the wisdom of divine revelation of the knowledge that God has about himself that he shares with us. And then you write a theology, therefore is about God and all things in relation to God as their beginning and end. It's a partial quote from the first question of the summa. This insight shapes the structure of the sumo, the oga, which begins with the trinity and ends with eternal life in the Trinity. So that's a very profound and sweeping statement that theology from beginning to end is about God, and to the degree that it reveals anything about us, it's about our journey to God. So can you talk a little bit more about what you learned from St. Thomas on that, uh, point that there's not to, to put it in, in modern terms, what we find in St. Thomas's theology in your introduction is not a theology of this or that, but literally a theology of everything. Speaker 0 00:18:31 Well, that's, I think definitely partly, uh, why I fell in love with Aquinas. Um, it's, it's interesting, just anecdotally, I was a engineering undergraduate major, and so I always wanted to see everything in the hole, right? And to try to understand how all the parts are connected. And, uh, so I love kind of seeing Aquinas where he recognizes we have to make sense of the whole, uh, that, that the whole is good, uh, and the sense of wisdom instead of looking at modernity where we see, all we see are parts and the parts are broken, and how do we get them back together? But the problem is we can never get them back together if we're all only dealing with parts. So that sense of wisdom as a view of the whole, there is a whole universe, there is a whole creator, there is a whole plan, right? Speaker 0 00:19:18 Uh, I think, I mean, you know, that I think in some ways everybody I think has this existential question, right? Uh, and Aqua will even say one time when, um, you know, when when we, uh, he's a, you know, when the young person, uh, achieves the age of reason, they either have to make a decision about what's the last end? Is it God or kind of is it themselves? And I think sometimes we can think about that in a willful way, but ultimately the question is, what's the ultimate meaning? Is the ultimate meaning the universe somehow God odd and everything coming from God and somehow going back to God in a way that I cannot understand in this life fully? Um, or is it just, you know, the world as I encounter it? And so ultimately I'm gonna say that the world is, you know, meaningless. Speaker 0 00:20:06 And, and so I think that that sense of just that recovery, that there is a hole, there is a truth. I may never understand all of it, but I know it all orders together. And I think that's really the gift of the summa, the gift of the Summa is Aquinas structures it around the order of reality. And then just real quickly, I want to kind of say, like, you could highlight three different ways that he could have set this up, right? One, you might write a theology, an introduction to theology around the history of theology, right? Yeah. How has the theology, um, kind of been received in each age and changed over time and maybe stayed the same over time, right? Or you could set it up like a, I don't know, like a dictionary or an an encyclopedia. You have a topic on grace. Speaker 0 00:20:49 You have a topic on Christ, a topic on, um, you know, the Bible, and you set 'em up in alpha. You just set 'em up in alphabetical order cuz they don't have any intrinsic connection. But what Aquinas does is he says, all the world is God is the creator, Trinitarian communicating himself to creatures, communicating to those creatures in grace, having those creatures receive his grace through the operation of natural and supernatural virtues, uh, then going through the mediation of Jesus Christ back to God. And so I think the beautiful thing about Aquinas is just when you've, when you look at the order that he presents, you already get in a way, the best of his teaching, which is that there's a fundamental order, Speaker 2 00:21:37 Right? Speaker 0 00:21:37 And I don't need to know everything, but I know somehow, and I think you'll get this idea that I think if you study Aquinas, you may not know everything by any means. Obviously you don't. No, of course not. But, but you can know a little bit about everything. So you have some sense if there's a moral issue, you have some sense. Well, okay. These are certain basic principles of the body, soul, unity. These are certain basic principles of the virtues. There's certain laws, there's certain things that ought never be done. Um, you get these kind of understandings if you have a christological question, well, Kelly, you know, okay, well, Aquinas teaches this about that, you know, the two natures of Christ, that Jesus is, um, the eternal divine son and also, um Right. Has assumed to himself a human nature. Uh, right. So this idea in a way that Thomas kind of, I think gives this, we not only affirm that there is an order of the whole, but then we know kind of that Aquinas begins to kind of set it up. And so that's what we did with our book, is just, we just imitated the same order of, we imitated the order that Aquinas put forward, which is the order of reality. Speaker 2 00:22:42 Sure. And one more, I don't wanna take, um, your show, uh, too far a field, but when hearing you speak about this, I'm reminded of our friend and mentor, the late father, Matthew Lamb, who used to say that the fundamental difference between modernity, say post decar and the first millennium of the church, uh, certainly through I think the life of Thomas and Bonaventure and Albert the great, so through the 13th century Yeah. Was that that first movement was a search for wisdom, particularly the unity of all things under the luminosity of God and understanding ourselves. Yeah. And what we get in modernity is power. And so, without going too far afield, just to help your audience appreciate the importance of, you know, aquinas's, um, commitment to the pursuit of wisdom, could you talk a little bit about the difference between say, modernity and power and what we call the sap or wisdom based approach that we find in Aquinas? Yeah. Speaker 3 00:23:52 You're listening to the Catholic Theology Show presented by Ave Maria University. If you'd like to support our mission, we invite you to prayerfully consider joining our enunciation circle, a monthly giving program aimed at supporting our staff, faculty, and Catholic faith formation. You can visit [email protected] to learn more. Thank you for your continued support. And now let's get back to the show. Speaker 2 00:24:19 So, Michael, right before the break, I had asked you, uh, without going too far field, just to contrast the beautiful wisdom based approach of St. Thomas with the more power based approach of maternity to help your listeners understand how important this part of St. Thomas's approach to theology is for us today. Speaker 0 00:24:38 Yeah. So I think what happens in some ways with somebody like Decar, as you mentioned, um, you know, Dick heart says that if we can set aside the traditional way of thinking about thinking, right? The traditional way of thinking about science or medicine, he believes that we could become masters and possessors of nature, right? And end up with an infinity of inventions. This is what he describes. So for him, knowledge and reason is about having power over nature. Whereas for Aquinas, a reason is about learning to come to see the whole of nature. And so, and I think you can kind of see that with some of the excesses of the modern world. We are very good at having power over things. So if I have a broken arm, we're very good at setting it. We can even put titanium rods in it. We can do all these different things, you know, so that's very good. Speaker 0 00:25:36 Um, but what about the human person? The human person becomes another thing that we try to over which we exercise power, right? Right. How do I, how exercise power over own my own life when to die, that should be my choice, according to this modern notion of power over nature. And I think even God and the universe, it just, like everything is set against me in a relationship of power. And so, uh, I think that really limits us. And what Decart did in part was to get rid of a sense of the whole. So all you have are parts, uh, and again, as I mentioned that before. So you have power over parts, and I try to know more and more about less and less so that I can unlock the power of nature. Uh, and you know, I think, uh, Pope Benedict describes this in as encyclical on hope, uh, when he says, um, somewhat provocatively quoting Adorno, right? Speaker 0 00:26:36 That progress, right? Is the movement from the slingshot to the atom bomb. Hmm. So we now have power over nature, but that really gives us the power to unlock powers within nature to destroy ourselves. So power is, is understandable in a world where we are beset by dangers and illnesses and threats. It's understandable to want to have power, but we can never live by power alone. Right? We cannot live by power alone. We need to have a certain sense of why are we here, where are we going? What are the proper means by which we can exercise power? Right? Right. What's the meaning of life? And in some ways, the modern world, it can't answer that question. And so what Aquinas does is situate a larger notion of reason, where reason is first open to the whole of all reality God and everything coming from God. Second, all of the natural world, which includes the human person. So yes, we need to understand what's, what are the natures of things? What's the nature of the human person? Is the person, body and soul is the person more than matter, does the matter of the person matter? These are real questions. And then what's the natural world that the natural world is ultimately a good thing from God? It's intelligible. So then we can have scientific progress, Speaker 2 00:28:01 Right? Speaker 0 00:28:02 But scientific progress that's understood within a larger whole. Sure. And so I think that's really what Aquinas offers, um, uh, which is, um, you know, in, in my mind, it's the only thing that's really satisfying, right? Uh, you know, as I said, I mean, I actually was, I started college as an atheistic engineer, and right, the dream of scientific progress was one I kind of held dear, but it's, I said it ultimately it asks too much. You have to believe in a way too much, because if it's all just parts and it's all just power, then how do I explain the human experience of love? I either have to explain it away. So I think what Aquinas does is situate this idea that ultimately, you know what? It's not just the human experience of love, right? It's the divine experience of love. Right? The most fundamental thing, the most fundamental truth about our universe, right? Uh, in some ways is right. John three 16, for God so loved the world that he sent his only son that all should believe in him shall not perish. But I have eternal life, right? God so loves the world. Ultimately, the world is not merely an arena of power and violence, but an arena of love. Right? God loves us. We have the power to love one another, to love ourselves, and to love God. Speaker 2 00:29:22 That's beautiful. So I wanna ask a bit of a, um, I wanna be a bit of a contrarian, and you mentioned, um, the Speaker 0 00:29:32 Please Speaker 2 00:29:32 Impact that Aquinas had, his wisdom had on your own reversion to the faith. Yeah. And you've now explained very beautifully the importance of his wisdom based approach to theology. But I think a lot of people in the Catholic church today, and, and perhaps even some Protestants, when they hear the name Aquinas, they think more rational and less spiritual, or they think that, um, you know, there's something, um, kind of de deflating about what they find in St. Thomas that's different than the experience that you have described. So, um, how would you present this to people, not as a Catholic form of nationalism, but, um, the inspiring and, and, and animating force that you've described that it's had in your own life? Speaker 0 00:30:30 So some people have compared Aquinas as Summa, uh, and the Summa, by the way, it was his large book. It was kind of a summary of theology or the height of theology that he wrote. Um, mainly for the training of Dominicans who would go out and preach in the 13th century, uh, did eventually become taught in the universities and in, uh, seminaries, uh, famously was put, uh, next to the Bible and the Council of Trent. Right? Uh, so the way you can think about the QAs Summa is it's like a medieval cathedral. It's kind of huge in cavernous, and there's all sorts of nooks and crannies, and they're little side alters, and there's stain glass, and there's, uh, statues, and there's the eucharistic altar, and it's all a hole, but the parts are all splendid. And you only kind of recognize how all the parts of the cathedral fit when you look at the whole cathedral. Speaker 0 00:31:37 And they're always designed, usually along a huge cross. Everything is somehow both true in its own part, but also ordered to the whole. And so I think what happens for a lot of people when they read Aquinas, they just read a part and they get stuck in a basic side altar, right? And what he says about the nature of God or the nature of existence, uh, or write the idea that good and the good and the true and being are all interchangeable, right? That they're all, you can't be good without being true, and you can't be true without being, and all these different dimensions and people can get lost in these kind of side parts. They're absolutely necessary to the cathedral, but they're not the cathedral. You gotta remember what's the fundamental cathedral for, well, the, the cathedral's for when the high mass is celebrated on the main altar, right? Speaker 0 00:32:31 So I would say the same thing for reading Aquinas. We gotta remember what's the overall architecture of the work. And I think, think what happened, and there was even a tendency to have Aquinas sum separated into little treaties. So you would just read the treaties on grace. So if you read the Treaties on Grace, for example, right at the end of the Ummi Acu day, uh, you have a section really just questions nine through one 14, right? So, uh, what six questions on grace, well, if you just read that, you're gonna miss some really key things, most obviously questions. The three questions right before are about the new law of grace that Christ initiated, which fulfilled the old law of grace from the Old Testament. So the treatment of grace is primarily then biblical and Christological and Aquinas will say that the new law is the gift itself of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. Speaker 0 00:33:29 So if you just read the six Questions on grace, you kind of get an maybe an abstract consideration of grace, but you're skipping the fact that he just went through, um, a very detailed account of biblical theology, dealing with the Old Testament, God's gift to Israel of the law, and then God's gift to the church of the new law in Jesus Christ. So when you begin to see it more in the whole, I see it, you go back to the, uh, earlier part of the, when he treats the Trinity, he has a question, right? Um, on sanctifying grace, where he connects sanctifying grace to the missions of the Son and the spirit, right? So all of the grace that we have is not merely just our nature is elevated to participate in the divine nature. At the same time, it's actually the mission of the sun to becoming incarnate for my salvation and the mission of the spirit to be sent for my salvation and sanctification. Speaker 0 00:34:28 So just, that's a little example, but you could take a question then of grace, where you put it in the whole context. You begin to see, wow, this is a deeply Trinitarian biblical christological context, but that's necessary when you step back and you learn the whole. And I think we live in an age where, you know, people, uh, and, and not just in our age, but just say over the last 50 years where there was, um, a lot of the wisdom of Aquinas, this sense of the whole of his own teaching had been lost. And so people began to just study parts, right? And I think that really did a disservice. So that's partly again, what our work was doing. And I think there's some other great works. Um, I think Chesterton's book kind of does it in his own way, where he talks about Aquinas, the Doctor of Creation. Uh, Joseph Peeper has a beautiful book on, uh, on Aquinas and, and, and there are many other wonderful books. But I think that certainly what our book was trying to do was to connect all those dots. So you never forget that this side alters in the middle of the cathedral. You never forget that this little discussion here about law, um, and natural law, which might seem, uh, overly rationalistic, is in the service of a greater understanding of who are we as beings that ultimately can come to know and love God. Speaker 2 00:35:42 Sure. So because of the expanse of the summa, like you said, the medieval cathedral, Speaker 0 00:35:49 Yeah. Speaker 2 00:35:50 Um, you've explained beautifully how God, the incarnation, grace the life of the church are all connected by St. Thomas Aquinas. Uh, but you also know that I think in part because for a long time, um, his philosopher, uh, students were his greatest expository. And so they talked about things like the five ways and, uh, a robust doctrine of natural law, which are, uh, important parts of his thought on the one hand. Uh, and then also because of the complexity of the structure of the Suma, where it starts with God, and then you have the moral life, and then he introduces Christ in the third part. There was a criticism of Aquinas vis-a-vis that structure that Christ in fact wasn't very important for his theology. And you've written a lot about this. Uh, people may not know that your dissertation was titled Christ the Teacher, uh, according to St. Thomas Aquinas. Yes. Yes. So I'm wondering, you've already, you've already hinted at it, but when people look at that tripartite structure of the Summa and they see God morality, and then Christ in the sacraments in the third part, and think like, well, Christ seems to come up as a footnote at the end. Um, how in, in, in the book and in your own wrestling with this question, how can you help us to see the place that Christ has in, uh, Thomas's theology? Speaker 0 00:37:19 Well, I think one of the things you mentioned at the beginning is the idea that we're considering God as the creator of all things, the redeemer of all things. So everything coming from God and creation, and therefore, what is creation for, while it's for the glory of God, and we have beings in the created world who can come to know and love God, and not only can no one love God with their own knowledge and strength, rational creatures, right? And intellectual creatures like angels, but we can actually come to know and love God with God's own knowledge and love right. As he dwells in us. Right? So if you simply think about anything, I don't know, but you build a car, what's the most exciting thing when the car runs, right? If you build a house, what's the most exciting thing? When people live in the house and the house is filled, and you know, you have Thanksgiving dinner, right? Anything you create or build, it's when it's fully actualized, is that's when you're pleased and happy. So Speaker 0 00:38:24 When Aquinas says that, like, Christ as man is our way of returning to God, that's the most exciting point. So even though it's after treating God and all creation, and man and his virtues, and the law that he was given, and the particular virtues and all that different stuff in his ordering to happiness, the, the, the like, the climax, the exciting part of the whole story is when God becomes man, so that man might become God, right? So that now in Jesus Christ with the spirit of Christ dwelling in our hearts, having our sins forgiven, receiving God's transformative mercy so that now I can know and love God as the son knows and loves God because Right. I, the Son and the Spirit dwell in my heart so that even the father dwells in my hearts, right? Like that's in a way when creation comes most fully alive, right? Speaker 0 00:39:24 And so that's the whole point of it, right? It's like, so, um, and it's just, you know, it's like not understanding, um, that, you know, I don't know that in a novel right? It's often the end that's the most important, right? Um, and I think it's just, you know, I, I think it's just really a false criticism of Aquinas. And one again, that comes from not understanding how he's not dealing with parts. It's just one order of creation. And you could begin with Jesus Christ, you could begin at the end. But, uh, but in this story, you also have to remember, we really have to be careful. A lot of misunderstandings about Jesus Christ happen because we don't really understand the nature of God. Right? Right. Right. And a lot of misunderstandings happen because we really don't understand the nature of humanity. And so then by the time we get to that part in the story, right, you know, we should almost be kind of jumping up and down. We should be getting out of our seats. We should be really excited and ecstatic and I mean, literally ecstatic. We are coming out of ourselves when we see what happens in Jesus Christ and what he does for us and communicates to us through faith in the sacraments, right? We in, in Aquinas, right. We are like, you know, the image of God is being perfected in us so that we begin to reflect God, right. With his own knowledge and love. Speaker 2 00:40:39 Right. Thank you. Was there anything in composing the book that you learned, uh, that really, um, surprised or moved you? And I know it was 20 years ago, so in case you're, uh, no, nothing's coming to mind. I can ask a flip side. Is there a particular part of the book that you, um, continue to love or maybe in teaching or discussing the book over, over the years that you've really, uh, um, loved going back to because it's reminded you of something in Aquinas that is especially dear to you? Well, Speaker 0 00:41:12 I think, I think there's a key insight, and this kind of gets actually a little bit of what we were just talking about, uh, that is so important, which is that God in the universe are not in competition with one another, right? God and man are not in competition with one another. I learned this, I didn't know it at the time I read the book, but, uh, Jean Paul Sart said something like, right, if there is God, there is no room for me, me, right? That we often see God and the world in competition, God and us in competition. And Aquinas, both meta physically and biblically reminds us, right, that the creators never competition with this creature. Right? The being I have is the very being that God has given me, which is just a sharing in his own being. Any love I have is love that comes from the Creator, right? Speaker 0 00:42:04 That he is sharing with me. So my own being, my own truth, my own love are not original with me, but they're my sharing in God's now being knowledge and love. So now, because of sin, I often of course don't really love, and I don't really know the truth. And I don't really, I, I kind of, um, I'm bent over. I'm stooped over by burdens, right? And so it can often feel like I'm God's and I are not kind of in sync, but that's because I'm stepping out of the goodness of the created order. And so I think that fundamental insight, I mean, I think whether or not it's the nature of free will and grace, grace doesn't violate my free will because God as the creator is simply restoring me back to proper relationship with them, the two natures of Jesus Christ, right? They're not in competition the divine, it seems like. How could God, how could Jesus be both God and man? Well, because one's the creator and one's the creature. There's no competition between them. Uh, even on issues like evolution or scientific work or creation. Again, no competition because the order of the create, the, the ordering principles and activities of the created Order are dependent upon and participating in the real primary ordering and activity and principles of the creator. Speaker 2 00:43:31 What an important lesson, uh, especially for our times today. So I have a concluding remark that I would like to make as the guest host, but you have a tradition of asking your guests uhoh three questions on the show. And, um, can you remind me what the questions are? So yeah, so that I can, I can ask Speaker 0 00:43:55 You. So the first one is, what's a book? Uh, what's a book you've been? What's a book I've been reading? Okay, Speaker 2 00:44:00 <laugh>. Michael, what's a book you've Speaker 0 00:44:01 Been reading? Um, so, you know, it's been fun. Uh, anyway, my, uh, my son actually had a couple, uh, audible books where he got all of the, um, uh, the Hobbit and the Three Lord of the Rings from Tolkien. And so I've been listening to them and it was funny at first I was driving and I was listening to them at like one and a half speed. Um, and now I've slowed it down to one and it's like, I almost wanna slow it down to 0.75 cuz I never want it to end cuz I love the story. Uh, but two things I will share cuz I've, you know, read the story. I've read the story to my children, I've listened to it for, you know, many, many, um, many years. But it really dawned on me how many times Tolkien has the key characters unsure of what to do. Speaker 0 00:44:44 Hmm. They just don't know what to do next. And they have to just do the best they can with the limited resources they have knowing that they may be making a mistake. And I, I feel like for me personally, that has been a real gift to recognize, yes, we may know certain things are true, but when we're, I mean, it's really hard to live in the world and we know the truth about God and that God will bring good out of what we do. Um, but I think we have to give up the illusion that we can always get things like we can solve every puzzle, right? Uh, and I think there's a kind of humility in that that's really good. And the other thing I, uh, really have enjoyed from it is, uh, you know, a couple of those famous quotes from, uh, Sam Gaji. But it's that idea that the characters and the great stories, uh, it's not, it's what, what did they do? They just kept going. Like, it's, that's what we can do is if we keep going and we refuse to give up, right? That's the joy of our life. Not getting everything right, but never, always turning back to God. Speaker 2 00:45:43 Yeah. And the second question, Speaker 0 00:45:46 So what's a, a practice? Uh, what's a daily practice? Um, you know, that I do to find meaning and purpose? And, you know, the one that really comes to mind physically that I feel is, um, you know, I have a spiritual mentor or a saint, uh, that's really been influential in my life, San Jose Maria. And he would encourage people to live the heroic minute. And the heroic minute means like, you, you know, it's a friend of mine used to say it's either the heroic minute when you get right up out of bed in the morning or the cowardly hour, right? Um, but anyway, so the heroic minute, the idea, but is getting outta bed when you're, you know, when the alarm goes off or when you're ready to get up. But the first thing you do is you get on the, you get on the, um, ground, get on the floor, and, um, at that moment you put your knees on the ground and, uh, you know, kind of kiss the floor and just say kind of like, you know, today is totally yours. I got nothing I can't handle today. I can't handle the world, but God, you can. And I entrust this day to you. Um, no matter what burdens I wake up with in the morning, and, um, right. You know, whatever, whatever's going on, uh, just that action, it's like one of those things that just kind of plants my whole day. Um, you know, and I, I put it all in God's hands and, and, and I find that very meaningful. Speaker 2 00:47:02 Yeah. Thanks for sharing that. And the third Speaker 0 00:47:04 Question, uh, what's, what's a falsehood, uh, that I believed about God and, um, and, and what was the truth eventually that I discovered? You know, I think for me the falsehood I believed about God was a falsehood about Christianity growing up. Somehow I had intuited the idea that Christianity meant that everything was good in the world and everything would go well for you. Uh, so I don't know where I got this. It's not really what Christianity teaches, but it's, it's something like a popular version of Christianity. And so I thought I was very wise at the age of like eight, nine, and 10 for being an atheist because I was aware that the world in my mind sucked. People died. I had a niece who died when I was 10. I had a sister who died when I was 13. Um, and also just, I don't know when I was like eight or nine or 10, I just looked around the world and it just seemed things were dying all over the place. Speaker 0 00:47:51 You know, every time we'd watch it, national Geographic show, it was like animals were killing one another. And then the worst thing was, is human beings would come on the scene and kill more animals. It was just, I always was aware of just the, the, the burden of, of life and just the difficulties of it. And, and so I just thought this guy, Christianity must be false. Cuz Christianity says everything is good and everything is easy and everything is, you know, I don't know, everybody gets like, you know, um, I don't know, everybody gets everybody. If, if you pray you should get a nice 401k or so. I don't know. I just had this silly idea of Christianity. And so really to be liberated from that idea and to realize that no, God didn't it, it's, it's actually that insight I had was a very Christian idea. Speaker 0 00:48:32 So much so, you know, God, God in a certain sense hates death and evil so much that he entered into the world to die for my sense, and to take that suffering and death, right? Every tier, right, every drop of blood that has been shed, he took on himself. So he entered in. So the beauty is not that of course we're we suffer and die, but that now we don't suffer and die alone. Our suffering and dying is no longer in vain. Right? Ultimately, the creator of the universe has entered the creation to bring that suffering and death onto himself, right? To put it on his shoulders, to put it in his sacred heart, right? His sacred heart that was pierced by the lance for us, right? So that the loving living waters and blood of the sacraments would come forth so that we would always have visible and tangible reminders of God's love for us. So that I still can, I don't know, I can still be aware of all the suffering and dying and hurts of this world, and yet those are now the things that actually draw me closer, uh, to the God who is so loving and mysterious, uh, right. That he shows up for us on the cross and in the resurrection. Speaker 2 00:49:52 Okay, thank you. I think the people who watch the show are gonna love learning, uh, learning these things about you and learning a little bit more about you. Let's turn back to the book just to close. Um, the first book review that I ever published was of knowing the love of Christ. I wrote it in 2002, it came out in 2003. And then I wrote this book as the subtitle suggests truly is an introduction to the theology of Thomas Aquinas. Also more than just an introduction to the theological thought of St. Thomas, the ample biblical citations and coherent ordering Make this work a nice general introduction to the whole discipline of theology in a work that is both accessible to the beginner and beneficial for those more advanced doe and levering have injected the English Lang injected English language tomism with a refreshing shot in the arm. Speaker 2 00:50:50 It's still refreshing. Oh, and it's still helping, uh, many, uh, students of theology come to appreciate St. Thomas's, uh, thought. I recommend the book, knowing the Love of Christ to anyone who watches this show or listens to this show. You will find, um, in this book, uh, I think the best English language introduction to Thomas's thought. So thank you for allowing me to co-host and talk about your work, uh, a little bit. And on the 20th anniversary of Knowing the Love of Christ, congratulations to you and your co-author, uh, Matthew Levering for a job, uh, that was so well done and still bearing fruit Speaker 0 00:51:32 Today. Well, thank you very much, Roger. Welcome and thank you for a lovely show. Thank Speaker 1 00:51:37 You. Speaker 3 00:51:38 Thank you so much for joining us for this podcast. If you like this episode, please write and review it on your favorite podcast app to help others find the show. And if you want to take the next step, please consider joining our enunciation circle so we can continue to bring you more free content. We'll see you next time on the Catholic Theology Show.

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