Knowledge and Faith in Thomas Aquinas

This book offers a revisionary account of key epistemological concepts and doctrines of St Thomas Aquinas, particularly his concept of scientia (science), and.
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Knowledge and faith in Thomas Aquinas. Knowledge and Faith in Thomas Aquinas.

Knowledge and Faith in Thomas Aquinas

Berkeley ; Los Angeles: University of California Press, c Knowledge and Faith in Thomas Aquinas review. Jenkins, Knowledge and Faith in Thomas Aquinas.

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Knowledge and faith thomas aquinas | Medieval philosophy | Cambridge University Press

Similarly, the author mentions "growing social and ideological tensions within current Mormonism" p. Notwithstanding these weaknesses and conspicuous edito- rial carelessness , Bennion's study sheds new light on women's search for alterna- tive forms of marriage and family in unconventional religious movements. Knowledge and Faith in Thomas Aquinas. Cambridge University Press, In this impressive first book, John Jenkins who teaches philosophy at my home institution sheds considerable light on Aquinas's ambition and practice in the Summa theologiae through the close examination of certain epistemological terms most notably scientia, only imperfectly and roughly rendered by the English "knowledge".

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The analysis throughout is driven by close reading of specific texts. In the first chapter, Jenkins follows the teaching on scientia in Aquinas's commen- tary on the Posterior Analytics, portraying nicely what Thomas thought he could derive from Aristotle. In subsequent chapters, attention shifts to the Summa, first to its opening question on sacra doctrina, in which Thomas proclaims his debt to Aristotle on scientia in conceiving the theological enterprise, and then to the sam- pling of select topics the natural light of the intellect; grace and the theological virtues, especially faith, and the gifts of the Spirit elsewhere in the Summa, to illustrate in more detail what is involved in Thomas's characterization of theology in terms of Aristotelian scientia.

In the wake of Aristotle's reflections on scientia, for Thomas there are two stages in the acquisition of scientific knowledge, includ- ing that which pertains to theology. In the first, preliminary stage, one becomes familiar with the basic subject matter of a discipline, including its fundamental terms.

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In the second, one attains knowledge properly speaking. It is to this sec- ond, reflective stage, in which one's own understanding is restructured, that the Summa, applying the lessons of the Posterior Analytics, is devoted. Accordingly, the "beginners," to whom Thomas refers in the general prologue to the Summa and to whom the work is addressed, are not beginners in the Christian religion but rather students who have received a suitable prior formation and who now aspire, under Thomas's guidance, to a scientific grasp of the truths of the religion.

The writing throughout is crisp and pointed. Particularly impressive is Jen- kins's attentiveness to what I will call the "eschatological tension" in Thomas's thought.

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For Thomas, doing theology is important, but it cannot deliver in this life full knowledge of God and of things viewed in relation to God as to their beginning and their end. That must await the next life, when in the beatific vision the devout Christian comes face to face with God; at best, the theology that re- flects on the truths revealed by God only anticipates that vision.

Jenkins's atten- tiveness to the imperfect, anticipatory character of theology as oriented to the beatific vision has a twofold significance. It underscores that Thomas's introduc-. Jenkins's arguments about the'likely audience of the Summa and about the sci- entific cast of the work are largely persuasive and locate well Thomas's theologiz- ing.

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Perhaps Jenkins could have done more with the preliminary first stage in the acquisition of theological knowledge. But, Jenkins's larger point seems sound. The Summa is a work of second-level pedagogy, presupposing a thorough and informed assimilation of the Christian faith; its success as second-level pedagogy will be in direct propor- tion to the extent to which its readers are prepared, notionally and existentially, for it. The flaws of the book are relatively few and do not affect its central claims.

In discussing Summa I 1 on sacra doctrina, Jenkins simply bypasses the long-standing debate about the question's actual topic: Moreover, Thomas's teaching about theology as science was subjected to repeated criticism from later thirteenth-century theologians such as Godfrey of Fontaines precisely for a supposed imperfect adherence to Aristotle; it would have been helpful if Jenkins had taken account of the charge in the book. But, the virtues of the book far outweigh its deficiencies. Jenkins has directed the book to fellow philosophers, whose different understanding of central episte- mological terms has interfered with the adequate retrieval of Thomas's teaching;.

But, theologians too will benefit from Jen- kins's study. Puzzlement and concern about Thomas's intentions and organiza- tional decisions in the Summa are not restricted to medievalists and historians of theology.

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Some contemporary systematicians have concluded from some of Thomas's structural moves in the Summa-the separation of the discussion of the Trinity from that of Christ, and the distribution of questions on Trinity and on Christ into different Parts of the Summa; the deferral of treatment of Christ until the final Part-to the relative unimportance of Christ for Aquinas. Has not Thomas in fact said everything he thinks is of significance about God Prima Pars and about humans in the Prima-Secundae and Secunda-Secundae without seeing the need to bring Christ into account?

The Summa without question fails when judged according to the criteria of catechetical instruction. But, under Jen- kins's tutelage, this reading of the Summa can be revealed for what it is, a funda- mental misconstrual of the kind of activity in which Thomas was engaged in con- structing this work.