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Thomas meets Thomas

August 4, 2011

Yesterday at First Things, Archbishop J. Augustine Di Noia presented an interesting essay Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Aquinas: An Imagined Encounter:

Imagine if the great Dominican theologian and philosopher Thomas Aquinas were to come here to Charlottesville to meet another great thinker whose given name he shared. What if these two Thomases, Aquinas and Jefferson, were, through some suspension of time, to dine together?

 The potential difficulties of this imagined encounter spring immediately to mind, especially if the conversation were to turn to the subject of religion. Mr. Jefferson famously re-wrote the New Testament, expunging all the miracles and doctrinal claims. For Aquinas, seeking the intelligibility of doctrine was his life’s calling and, as to miracles, he might well have considered Jefferson’s genius at least something of a miracle.

 But for all their differences of time and belief, Jefferson and Aquinas had similar minds. Sir Isaiah Berlin begins his justly famous essay on Tolstoy by recalling a fragment of Greek poetry which read: “The fox knows many things. The hedgehog knows one big thing.” While admitting the danger of oversimplification, Berlin suggests that we can recognize two distinct ways of knowing in the great minds of history: those who, like the fox, focus on the many and the varied, and those who, like the hedgehog, concern themselves with one great thought or insight.

Read the rest here. It is worth reading to the very end simply because it features two great men of history, connected and rooted by faith and reason. In addition, one cannot ignore the writing of a Dominican writing about freakin’ Thomas Aquinas. Will it help you to finish and understand Summa Theologica in its entirety? I leave that to guidance of the Holy Spirit; I am tackling [at the pace of a three toed sloth] that epic work until the evening of life.

What would Saint Thomas Aquinas say to our modern age as self-declared materialists in the field of science, with the soulless sterile blade of scientism surgically cuts its hedges, bleeding into the field of theology, proclaim reality is but matter? Stephen Hawking, in a recent  interview said, “I think Science can explain the Universe without the need for God.”

Hawkings’ answer is quite depressing and chilling. Because when I place a stethoscope on a patient’s chest, I can hear her heartbeat humming its way to salvation. If I place my stethoscope facing upward to the night sky, I can hear the cosmos praising the Trinity.

To Hawkings and the materialists, Saint Thomas Aquinas replies, “every being in any way existing is from God. For whatever is found in anything by participation, must be caused in it by that to which it belongs essentially, as iron becomes ignited by fire.”

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