One of the things which greatly helped my launch of Challenged to Grow were reviews from other authors and experts in the theological world. One particular author I found very intersting in Kevin Vost, an expert on Thomas Aquinas. I asked Kevin to help me better understand this titan of the middle ages before the Christian world divided during the Reformation.
Here is part three of our discussion:
3) Your book discussed Aquinas’ answer to ‘fundamental questions’. What are the most important question of two in your book, and how does Aquinas answer them?
KV: According to his biographers, the burning question on Thomas’s lips as a child was always, “What is God?” My book the One-Minute Aquinas summarizes in less than 300 pages the key themes and questions of St. Thomas’s over 3,000 page (in double column print) Summa Theologica, the masterwork of his mature years. The most important questions there focus on God too, questions such as whether he exists, whether or not his existence is self-evident or if it can be proven by reason, what He is not like, what are God’s attributes or characteristics, and so much more. Questions like these that Thomas answers through the means of human reason alone, starting with evidence available to anyone’s senses form a wonderful bridge with which to meet atheists or agnostics who do not recognize the authority of the Scriptures. (In fact, after 25 years of atheism, they were the bridge that led me back to Christ and His Church.) Thomas sure did believe in the truth of the Scriptures though and he answered many more questions about God by applying reason to the truths God has revealed to us.
Thomas’s Summa Theologica has three main parts (on God and Creation, on Man, and finally on Christ, His Church, and the Sacraments). They rather operate like a profound and wonderful circle – from God flows creation (Part I), including man, who seeks fulfillment through returning to God by perfecting his God-given virtues and gifts of the Holy Spirit (Part II), made possible through the fact that God became man in Christ, redeemed us, and blessed us with a Church and with the Sacraments (Part III).
At my editor’s wise suggestion, my book starts with the fundamental questions from Part II, namely, how can we attain happiness, both limited earthly happiness, and the full and eternal happiness that comes only with God in heaven. It is easier for those without advanced philosophical and theological training to focus first on humanity, that which we know best from the inside out, see how beautifully Thomas answers those questions, and then lift our hearts and minds toward God Himself with the Angelic Doctor as our guide.