Christian History Institute

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items tagged with thomas aquinas

In Context

  1. I can write no more. All that I have written seems like straw.
    Thomas Aquinas (ca. 1224–1274), in conversation with Brother Reginald.

Study Modules

Magazine Issues


14 Feb 2002

From Interfaith Dialogue to Apologetics

by Thomas Acquinas | Issue 73

WHEN THE CANTOR of Antioch wondered how to explain Christianity to local Muslims, he asked Thomas Aquinas. Thomas answered the cantor with Reasons for the Faith Against Muslim Objections , excerpted below. The translation was provided by Joseph Kenny, O.P., a professor of religious studies at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria.

T he following are the things you say the Muslims attack and ridicule: They ridicule the fact that we say Christ is the Son of God, when God has no wife (Qur'an 6:110; 72:3); and they think we are insane for professing...

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14 Feb 2002

Aquinas for President?

by David Lawrence and Elesha Coffman | Issue 73

LIKE ARISTOTLE, Thomas Aquinas considered all areas of thought his province. As a result, he became unquestionably the most systematic political philosopher of the Middle Ages, as well as an original legal theorist and an unconventional economist.

Government, Aquinas taught, is the result of sin and is necessary to mitigate its consequences. Political organization is natural to fallen man and necessary for his development. Even though the church is superior to the state, and the greater purpose of man is eternal life, the temporal world is...

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14 Feb 2002

How You Should Study

by Thomas Acquinas | Issue 73

S ince you asked me, my dearest in Christ Brother John, how you should study in order to acquire the treasure of knowledge, I offer you this advice on the matter: Do not wish to jump immediately from the streams to the sea, because one has to go through easier things to the more difficult. Therefore the following points are my warning and your instruction:

I command you to be slow to speak, and slow to go to the conversation room. 

Embrace purity of conscience. 

Do not give up spending time in prayer. 

Love spending much time in your cell, if...

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14 Feb 2002

Life on Campus

by Matt Donnelly | Issue 73

A MEDIEVAL STUDENT’S DAY usually began at 4 or 5 in the morning, when the watchman’s horn resounded throughout the city. After attending Mass from 5 to 6, the student attended classes until 10. Then came lunch, a paltry meal consisting of some beef and thick soup of beef gravy and oatmeal.

Classes continued after lunch until about 5, followed by an evening meal. Then students studied their notes by candlelight until they went to bed at 9 or 10.

This routine was broken by the observance of saints’ days and religious festivals, when the...

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14 Feb 2002

Thomas Aquinas: Recommended Resources

by the Editors | Issue 73

M ost material on Aquinas gets very philosophical very quickly. This is unfortunate, as the first sight of a passage like “every essence or quiddity can be understood without knowing anything about its existing (esse)” makes a typical non-philosopher put down the book and pick up the remote. Some authors have realized this, though, and have made noble attempts to put Thomas’s ideas on the low shelf. Below are several examples, followed by some weightier matter.

Aquinas 101: Crash courses

Thomas Aquinas in 90 Minutes , by Paul Strathern (Ivan...

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14 Feb 2002

Thomas Aquinas Timeline β€” Storms of the Thirteenth Century

by the Editors | Issue 73


1225  Thomas Aquinas born at Roccasecca

1230  Begins studies at Montecassino

1239  Continues studies at University of Naples

1244  Joins Dominicans; family protests decision by imprisoning him for a year

1245  Released by his family, Thomas goes to Paris to study with Albert the Great

1248  Accompanies Albert to newly founded Dominican school at Cologne

1250  Ordained a priest

1252  Returns to Paris; writes Contra impugnantes Dei cultum , a defense of mendicant orders

1256  Named master of theology at Paris

1259  Sent to Italy, where he would...

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14 Feb 2002

From the Editor: The Eminent Obscure

by Elesha Coffman | Issue 73

A bout a year and a half ago, we listed a number of potential issue topics on a survey and asked you, our readers, to choose your favorites. We figured that you would be most interested in American personalities, ministry pioneers, or maybe worship music—familiar, approachable topics that hit close to home.

You wanted Thomas Aquinas.

Now, Thomas is not exactly familiar. His name is familiar, certainly, but many people know little about him beyond a dictionary definition: thirteenth-century Italian theologian and philosopher, wrote (but never...

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14 Feb 2002

Thomas Aquinas: Did You Know?

by the Editors | Issue 73


In a detail from Andrea di Bonaiuto’s fourteenth-century fresco The Triumph of Saint Thomas Aquinas, heretics Averroes and Arius crouch beneath the enthroned Aquinas. Averroes (also called Ibn Rushd; 1126–1198) was a Muslim philosopher who, according to Aquinas, made a hash of Aristotle and led many medieval Christians astray. Arius (c. 250–c. 336) denied Christ’s full divinity by positing that “there was [a time] when the son was not.”

Aquinas participated in no physical crusades against heresy, but he did believe that heretics...

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14 Feb 2002

Thomas Aquinas: Christian History Interview β€” He’s Our Man

by conversation with Norman Geisler | Issue 73

I n a 1974  Christianity Today article marking the 700th anniversary of Aquinas’s death, author Ronald Nash said some nice things about the deceased but ultimately judged his system of thought “unsuitable for a biblically centered Christian philosophy” and “beyond any hope of salvage.” Norman Geisler disagreed with that assessment then, and he disagrees with it now. We asked Dr. Geisler, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary and author of  Thomas Aquinas: An Evangelical Appraisal (Baker, 1991), for his evaluation of the Angelic Doctor.


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14 Feb 2002

Popes, Philosophers, and Peeping Thomists

by Thomas S. Hibbs | Issue 73

A SIGNIFICANT CATHOLIC MOMENT occurred in the middle of the twentieth century.

Consider these American success stories: Catholic Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s TV program Life Is Worth Living (1951–1957) reached 30 million viewers and earned an Emmy. The great French Catholic philosophers Jacques Maritain and Etienne Gilson taught in major, secular, American universities and developed a wide lay readership.

Trappist monk Thomas Merton’s autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain (1948), became an improbable best seller. Catholic fiction writer...

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14 Feb 2002

A Mingling of Minds

by David B. Burrell | Issue 73

THE WORK OF THOMAS Aquinas may be distinguished from that of any of his contemporaries by his attention to the writings of Moses Maimonides (1135–1204), a Jew, and Avicenna, (980–1037) a Muslim. His contemporaries, especially in Paris, were responsive to the work of another Muslim, Averroes (1126–1198), for his rendition of Aristotle, but Aquinas’s relation to Averroes and to those who took their lead from him was far more ambivalent.

Aquinas respected Rabbi Moses and Avicenna as fellow travelers in an arduous intellectual attempt to...

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14 Feb 2002

Devoutly I Adore Thee

by Thomas Aquinas | Issue 73

Devoutly I Adore Thee 
O Godhead hid, devoutly I adore Thee, 
Who truly art within the forms before me; 
To Thee my heart I bow with bended knee, 
As failing quite in contemplating Thee.
Sight, touch, and taste in Thee are each deceived; 
The ear alone most safely is believed: 
I believe all the Son of God has spoken, 
Than Truth’s own word there is no truer token.
God only on the Cross lay hid from view; 
But here lies hid at once the Manhood too; 
And I, in both professing my belief, 
Make the same prayer as the repentant thief.
O thou Memorial of our...

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14 Feb 2002

A Taste of Thomas

by Thomas Acquinas | Issue 73

Objection 1:  It seems that predestination cannot be furthered by the prayers of the saints. For nothing eternal can be preceded by anything temporal; and in consequence nothing temporal can help towards making something else eternal. But predestination is eternal . . .

Objection 2:  Further, as there is no need of advice except on account of defective knowledge, so there is no need of help except through defective power. But neither of these things can be said of God when He predestines. Whence it is said: “Who hath helped the Spirit of the...

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14 Feb 2002

The Summa and Its Parts

by Peter Kreeft | Issue 73

M any theologians and philosophers in St. Thomas’s time wrote Summas. A Summa is simply a summary. It is more like an encyclopedia than a textbook, and it is meant to be used more as a reference library than as a book. There is extreme economy in the use of words—no digressions and few illustrations. Everything is “bottom line.” Such a style should appeal to busy moderns.

The medievals had a passion for order, because they believed that God had a passion for order when He designed the universe. So a Summa is ordered and outlined with loving...

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14 Feb 2002

I Can Write No More

by G.K. Chesterton | Issue 73

[THOMAS] had returned victorious from his last combat with [radical Aristotelian] Siger of Brabant; returned and retired. This particular quarrel was the one point, as we may say, in which his outer and his inner life had crossed and coincided; he realized how he had longed from childhood to call up all allies in the battle for Christ; how he had only long afterwards called up Aristotle as an ally; and now in that last nightmare of sophistry, he had for the first time truly realized that some might really wish Christ to go down before...

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14 Feb 2002

Theology on the Edge

by J. David Lawrence | Issue 73

THOMAS AQUINAS appeared at one of the most critical times in church history. Science, secularism, and human reason battered Christian theology. Thomas reconciled apparently contradictory forces, enabling the intellectual structure of the church to survive.

The great crisis

Augustine, bishop of Hippo from 395–430, taught that all people are corrupted by original sin and can be saved only by God’s grace according to his eternal, elective decree. Though scholars such as John Cassian and Gregory the Great modified his doctrines to make more...

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14 Feb 2002

Good Habits

by Steven Gertz | Issue 73

AUTHORITIES AT OXFORD University in the fourteenth century bore a grudge against Dominican friars. “We have learned from experience,” grumbled the Congregation of Masters at Oxford, “that noble persons of this kingdom, gentlemen, and even those of common birth, desist from sending their sons . . . to the university . . . because they are very fearful that the friars will entice them into joining the Mendicant orders.”

Thomas Aquinas’s family had reason to fear the friars’ influence. His wealthy parents sent their son off to school to begin...

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14 Feb 2002

Medieval U.

by Matt Donnelly | Issue 73

NOWADAYS the worst part of being the youngest child is the hand-me-down clothes. But in the early Middle Ages, the youngest child couldn’t inherit land and often faced a life of hard labor as a serf. As the population grew, these landless serfs began to look for a better life beyond crowded feudal estates. Many took to the road as merchants.

Beginning in the eleventh century, the burgeoning merchant class created a market for education that went beyond learning about Scripture. While theology remained the “queen of the sciences,” merchants...

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15 Nov 1990

1272 Thomas Aquinas Concludes His Word on Summa Theologiae.

Issue 28

“THE DUMB OX"—that was the name given by his college classmates to the heavy, quiet, and serious lad from the Count of Aquino’s family. They might never have guessed that the Ox would produce eighteen huge volumes of theology, nor that the theological system he constructed would become an official theology of Catholicism.

The greatest theologian of the Middle Ages was born about 1225 to a wealthy and noble family. At age 5, the pudgy boy was sent to the school at the nearby monastery of Monte Cassino (the community founded by Benedict seven...

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14 Feb 2002

Left Behind

by Robert Payne | Issue 73

IN NAPLES Thomas possessed his own residence, his own retinue, a host of servants. He took up riding on horseback, with plumes and flowing silks, around the bay.

He visited the blue grotto and Capri. He had a taste for beauty and liked to repeat Augustine’s saying: “If the work of His hands be so lovely, O how much more beautiful must be He who made them.” He learned lucidity as much from the clear outlines of the bay as from the venerable old Irishman who taught him.

And then quite suddenly, saying nothing to his parents, he embraced the...

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14 Feb 2002

The Dazzling ’dumb Ox’

by Ralph McInerny | Issue 73

SHORTLY AFTER THOMAS AQUINAS DIED, on March 7, 1274, miracles began to occur near his body. The monks of the Cistercian abbey at Fossanova, where Thomas was buried, feared that the remains might be stolen and taken off to a Dominican resting place.

Jealous of their treasure, the Cistercians took macabre precautions. They “exhumed the corpse of Brother Thomas from its resting place, cut off the head and placed it in a hiding place in a corner of the chapel.” That way, if the corpse were taken, the head would still be theirs. His sister was...

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  • History of Hell $2.50

    History of Hell

    • Other
    • 32 Pages
    • 2011
    • Christian History

    The History of Hell, a Brief Survey is a special resource from Christian History magazine presenting the history of Christian thought on hell in a non-biased way.