Aquinas, Preaching, and the Christian Life

I will be posting next week a review of Nicholas Healy’s introduction to Thomas Aquinas’ theology, Thomas Aquinas: Theologian of the Christian life, but I wanted to whet your appetite with a quote before the end of the week.

One of the aims of Healy’s book is to recover a reading of Thomas in which his theological method, his hermeneutics and metaphysics, his conception of the Christian doctrine and practice and pedagogy, as well as the material claims of his theology, are seen to be guided by the principles and norms that ‘reflect the gospel accounts of Jesus Christ’ (p. 23). Healy contends throughout that Thomas’ theology should not be read as philosophical, aquinasapologetic or systematic work, but instead as a work of scriptural exegesis intended – above all – to serve the preaching of the Gospel. And toward these ends, Thomas must then be read as a theologian first and foremost of the Christian life:

Thomas’s is an anti-systematic system, so to speak, in that its principles systematically undermine any system that does not push the reader back to Scripture and to the concreteness of a life dedicated to following Christ. His theology is best approached from his concern with the Christian life. It is not an attempt to develop an apologetics or a system that confronts and conquers all other systems. It is not concerned with mapping out the complete set of doctrines, though its covers all the doctrines that Thomas thought is necessary to discuss. It is least of all concnered to construct a perennial metaphysics to counter all other worldviews. Theology, as Thomas understands and practices it, attempts to clarify what has been revealed to divine wisdom through the incarnate Word and the operation of the Holy Spirit. Theological inquiry’s main function is to serve the preaching of the Gospel. And the preaching of the Gospel serves the Christian life, which is distinct from other ways of life, since it is an attempt to follow Jesus Christ obediently (p. 21).


3 thoughts on “Aquinas, Preaching, and the Christian Life

  1. Pingback: links for 2008-11-21 | The 'K' is not silent

  2. it would be interesting to know how Healy would address the claims of Alasdair MacIntyre regarding Thomas’ ‘system,’ meaning the purpose of the disputation format of the ST. I think that MacIntyre would agree that the disputation format is inherently an ‘anti-system system,’ as progress is supposed to be built into the whole thing, but this format certainly works, at least for MacIntyre, at ‘conquering’ other systems through dialectical argumentation. I am not sure if MacIntyre is completely correct in his reading of Aquinas, but this position represents one that diverges (at points) from Healy’s account.

  3. Ken, I make no claims at being an adept reader of Aquinas and much less someone familiar with McIntyre’s Thomism. As I finish reading the book I will stay alert for interactions with McIntyre.

    Do you have any suggestions for reading on this topic – for me and others who may be interested in following up on this, particularly McIntyre’s Thomism? Until recently I had not known that McIntyre was a Thomist.

    Thanks Ken.

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