Friday, January 28, 2011

Feast Day of St. Thomas Aquinas

Today we celebrate the birth and life of St. Thomas Aquinas. Many people would list him as amongst the greatest Christian theologians, if not the greatest Christian theologian.

For me, there are more modern theologians that are more important to me; Martin Luther comes to mind, as does Dietrich Bonhoeffer. You might say, "Well, you're a Lutheran after all, and Aquinas predates Lutherans." True. But if you go back to reread Aquinas, you'll be struck by how medieval he is, how not-timeless he is.

For example, he believed that life could come from non-living things, a form of spontaneous generation. He believed in eternal law and divine law. You can argue that many theologians still believe in divine law and laws that never change, but they often have to willfully ignore scientific developments and revelations from the social sciences. Aquinas believed that sex should only be used to procreate, an idea from a much earlier age, when we didn't have to worry about reaching the carrying capacity of the planet (and reaching it in the next 10 years, if not the next 10 months).

Still, we can celebrate all the theology and philosophy that comes after Aquinas, theology and philosophy that might never have happened, had Aquinas not lived. We can celebrate the life of a man who devoted himself to scholarly study. We can devote ourselves to the four cardinal virtues as prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude, as Aquinas defined them, and the three theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity.

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