To really get the full beauty of
Aquinas, you have to let him unfold all the parts one by
one and let him draw the connections between them. But going
through it sequentially can be just a tad overwhelming.
So here's a brief overview, sort of an outline of the
Summa Theologica, which also functions as a summary of the thought
free to read through it and jump around a bit as well and get
a feel for what he says
a look at what's coming, answering
the question is religion even
logical, a look at the whole
God thing, and a description of the
parts of the Summa.
Part One - of God
God - how to begin - When you
start with Aquinas, the only thing he asks you to believe is
the evidence of your own senses ... why there is not nothing ...
Thomists vs. agnostics.
the great unknown -
Non only logically, but theologically, we have no idea what God
what we are - Life in the
universe happens by way of unique and individual blobs of
matter that keep popping up in space-time in various evolving
what God is not - Space,
time, matter, the stuff of life: God isn't like, doesn't have,
and isn't dependent upon any of it.
what God is - God is not an
individual or an instance in a category, but possibly the thing
gives categories their essence, the form itself.
perfection - God is not in
the process of becoming; God is already fully actualized,
complete, realized and unfolded. There is no potential to become
because God already fully is.
goodness and evil - Goodness
is a measure of self-actualization; it is the degree to which
we have become what we are drawn to become. Evil is a kind of non-being,
a disfiguring of form, a failure
presence - Whatever mystery creates
and sustains things in being exists intimately in everything
and is wholly and entirely in every place.
knowledge - By God's thinking
about form, the universe exists and some out of all possible
forms exist within it. In other words, God thinks, therefore
providence - God thinks the
universe into existence in a particular way and for a particular
logic and scripture -
Spiritual truths conveyed in Scripture describe the highest
context by which we can understand reality and won't be inconsistent
with what we find out on our own using reason, since truth cannot
trinity - The Father, the Son
and the Holy Spirit are less like persons (in the sense of individuals)
and more like relationships within God representing God's self-knowledge
and love: the
the Son is God as known to God or God's self-knowledge or awareness,
and the Holy Spirit is the loving relationship between God and
trinity and us - That loving
relationship between God's self-awareness and God that we call
the Trinity is what we are supposed to model; the whole purpose
of Christ, the Incarnation, and the Eucharist is to get us into
this graced state.
Part Two - of the journey to God of reasoning creatures
happiness - Happiness resides
in an act of perception: the feeling of limitless horizons opening
up to vision, of ecstasy and wonder and awe.
key insights of Part One of
the Summa - Existence is a mystery, we can use our minds
to get to God, the desire to flourish is woven into the fabric
of existence, the Trinity represents states that describe
the nature of God's delighted self-awareness, the purpose
of religion is to show us how to be happy.
off we go - We must act to become
happy, so morals describe the acts that will ultimately make
actions - Actions are considered
well-formed when the object of the action is good (e.g., furthers
the flourishing of a life form) and the action itself is well-intentioned
and appropriate to the circumstances.
passions - Passions are built
to fuel the will to seek what we think is good; to be happy, we
have to be willing to love: to know, to recognize and to be fully
drawn in by the good.
virtues - Virtues are those patterns
of choice that serve to open us up to our own potential.
theological virtues - Faith
is the yearning for answers to the ultimate
questions of life and the wilingness to be drawn to the words,
ideas, and rituals of the religious traditions that
answer them. Hope is the habit of embracing a higher standard
of behavior because we believe that if we do, we will in fact
turn into better, happier versions of ourselves. Charity is the
habit of choosing to be vulnerable enough to be drawn to the
good, to love it, and to act accordingly.
moral virtues - Prudence
is the habit of thinking well about what is to be done. Justice
is the stable and lasting willingness to do the right thing for
everyone. Courage helps us be bold in the attainment of good.
Moderation helps keep our passions from ruling over reason.
sin - Those acts that interfere with
our path to authentic happiness, blunt our common sense, and
our growth towards what we are supposed to become.
natural law - It's natural
for existing, living things to flourish and grow and the measure
of this flourishing is what we call goodness.
So the primary law, upon which all other laws must be based,
is that good be done (i.e., fourishing occur) and evil avoided.
human law and god's law -
In order to aid in the flourishing of the race, human law should
be based on natural law. God's Law (i.e., Christianity) is more
of a gift than a set of external commands and changes
the context of religion from one of external commands to one
grace - Grace is the mysterious
means by which our souls are healed, recharged, and aimed
back on the right path to our own flourishing.
key insights of Part Two of
the Summa - The point of morals is to make us happy. Charity,
the act of letting our hearts be drawn by love to goodness,
is essential to happiness. The primary law, upon which all
other laws must be based, is that good be done (i.e., fourishing
occur) and evil avoided. Grace is a healing of the soul and
recommitment to seek our higher good.
Part Three - of Christ, our road to God
part three - In Part Three,
the big mysteries all come together: the essential mystery of
God, the self-awareness of God as described
by the Trinity, the joining of this to a human being in the Incarnation,
and the ongoing presence of this historical joining through
and time in the sacraments, particularly the sacrament of the
the incarnation - At a specific
place and a specific point in historical time, the self-awareness
of the mysterious cause of existence popped up in a human being.
grace and the garden - Original
sin or flawed human consciousness? Either way, our first crack
at self-awareness got us part of the way, but not
all the way, to where we should be, and the remedy and path forward
for us is modeled in the life of Christ.
the grace of Christ -
Christ is our source for the grace that helps us heal, live and
grow into the self-aware, divinely happy beings that we are meant
to become. This is what is meant by Christ being the head of the
church; if you are human and have existed or will exist at any
point in time, you have a shot at healing and growing towards
the divine by sharing in the grace of Christ.
the humanity of Christ -
Christ is the living proof of concept that it's possible for
humans to grow into the happy self-awareness
of the divine; Christ makes the self-aware love and joy of the
Trinity the new model for consciousness.
the life of Christ - Christ
structured his life with a balance of contemplation and teaching
and allowed his death to happen as the ultimate lesson on
what it means to be human. Since charity is the habit of
choosing to be vulnerable enough to be drawn to the good, to
love it, and to act accordingly, and without it we have no shot
at true happiness, vulnerability is crucial. By his death, Christ
elevates it to an act of divinity: Agnus Dei, the Lamb of God.
The sins of the ego are
redeemed by nothing less than the conscious tearing down of the
very structures of ego itself, the ultimate act of which is sacrificial
death: Christ as both priest and offering. And after such death?
Resurrection. Aquinas believes that Christ rising from the dead
shows us that such sacrifice will be justly followed by new life.
sacraments - Sacraments are the means by which, day in
and day out, we can heal and grow into what we should be, to
approach that act of perception by which we become happily and
adopted children of God that we are.
eucharist - This is
where everything comes together: the essential mystery of
the happy self-awareness of God as described
by the Trinity, the joining of this to a human being in the Incarnation,
and the chance for reasoning creatures to enjoy this happiness,
with the healing and recommitment of the grace of the sacrament
as the means.