“Thomas Aquinas” by K. Scott Oliphint: A Review Article -- By: Paul Helm

Journal: Journal of the Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies
Volume: JIRBS 05:0 (NA 2018)
Article: “Thomas Aquinas” by K. Scott Oliphint: A Review Article
Author: Paul Helm


“Thomas Aquinas” by K. Scott Oliphint:
A Review Article

Paul Helm*

* Paul Helm is Emeritus Professor of the History and Philosophy of Religion, King’s College, London.

Here is an account of the thought of Thomas Aquinas (1225–74), one of a new series on Great Thinkers published by P&R Publishing.1 Aquinas wrote extensively on theology and philosophy, as well as being a biblical commentator. He was a major influence on the rise of scholasticism, which both affected Roman Catholic thought from the fourteenth century onward and which was in turn influential on Reformed Protestantism, particularly in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. So, it is appropriate in more ways than one that we should pay attention to him and his legacy.

Approaching the Summa Theologiae

K. Scott Oliphint, Professor of Apologetics and Systematic Theology, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, has a tall order, which he has approached rather idiosyncratically. Faced with the massive body of Aquinas’s writing, Oliphint has chosen to select material almost exclusively from Part I of the Summa Theologiae (ST), Question 1 on the nature of theology, proofs for the existence of God (Question 2), and on the nature of God, chiefly his simplicity (Question 3). He sees Thomas exclusively through the lens of foundational apologetics, that is, as someone who uses rational proofs of God’s existence as the foundation of Christian theology.

However, someone approaching this great work at the beginning (from Question 1), will note that Aquinas does not begin his theological discussion to follow on with apologetics. Rather, he prepares a Christian readership with a basic discussion of articles, or questions, about theology itself, such as: Is theology necessary besides

philosophy? Is theology a science? Is it a theoretical or practical endeavor? How does it compare with other sciences? Does it set out to prove anything? What is its attitude to the “sacred writings”? Is God the subject of this science? Is this teaching probative? Should holy teaching employ metaphorical or symbolical language? Can one passage of Holy Scripture bear several senses? Discussion of these questions ends the articles of Question 1. At least some of these questions, I dare say, are unfamiliar these days.

Question 2, entitled ‘The Existence of God,’ has several articles that arise from the discussion of Question 1. This leads to the following: ‘Whether the existence of God is self-evident?’, ‘Whether it can be demonstrated that God exists?’, and ‘Whet...

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