ST 1.1.3

Whether Sacred Doctrine is one science

Article 3 asks whether theology is one.  This is closely related to asking whether theology exists at all, because to the degree that a thing is, it is one.  In St. Thomas’s view, the key is to say that theology has just one formal object, namely “the divinely revealable.” If you put that into everyday […]

ST 1.1.2

Whether Sacred Doctrine is a science

In Article 2, When St. Thomas asks whether theology is a science, he does not mean to ask whether theology is an empirical discipline that proceeds by forming hypotheses.  Rather, he means to ask whether theology is a “science” in the Aristotelian sense of a way of knowing things through their root causes. The objections […]

ST 1.1.1

Is theology necessary?

The first Article of the first Question of the first Part of the Summa opens with a doubt.  Maybe the whole project of theology is arrogant; perhaps piety should keep our eyes cast down on earthly things.  We should not presume to scale the heights of heaven with our minds. The objection reminds one of […]

ST 1.1, Prologue

Is the Summa Theologiae necessary?

St. Thomas begins his prologue with what feels like a truism:  someone who teaches the Catholic faith should teach not just the advanced but also beginners.  Why would anyone think otherwise?  How do people become “advanced” after all except by being taught? But the medieval university system did in fact have St. Thomas in class […]

Theology and faith

The universal call to theology

Today a friend asked me about the distinction between philosophy and theology. In the course of responding, I said what I have said before, namely that theology is what happens when faith gets to follow its own impulses. He then asked me, reasonably enough, whether it is not important to distinguish between faith and theology. […]

How to read the Summa Theologiae

A 4-step method

The Summa Theologiae is Aquinas’s most complete, his most mature, and his clearest work. But newcomers to Aquinas and to the Summa often find themselves confused the moment they open the book, because of its unfamiliar format. It doesn’t contain chapters or essays or homilies or anything else books usually feature these days: it is […]