Scott Hahn’s “Angels and Saints”: Taking a Fresh Look at Aquinas

Detail of St. Thomas Aquinas from the St. Peter Martyr Altarpiece by Fra Angelico (1427-1428) San Marco, Florence

Detail of St. Thomas Aquinas from the St. Peter Martyr Altarpiece by Blessed Fra Angelico (1427-1428)
San Marco, Florence

In his new book Angels and Saints: A Biblical Guide to Friendship with God’s Holy Ones, well-known Catholic theologian Dr. Scott Hahn examines both the theology of the angels, the communion of saints, and the lives of a number of these figures.  He does so, appropriately enough, by looking to the Scriptures as a touchstone: Dr. Hahn, as you may know, is the founder and president of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. As the next stop on the blog tour celebrating the release of his latest book, it falls to me today to share some thoughts about Dr. Hahn’s chapter on St. Thomas Aquinas – and be sure to check out the previous and forthcoming stops on the blog tour as well.

It is hard to imagine how one could write a single chapter encompassing everything there is to know about St. Thomas Aquinas.  For starters, he is among the most prolific writers in Church history and, as Dr. Hahn notes, Aquinas kept several secretaries at a time writing to his dictation on a near-constant basis.  Fortunately for the reader, Dr. Hahn does not attempt to give us the equivalent of a ten-page summary of the Summa Theologica, in examining the life of this great Doctor of the Church.

Instead, Dr. Hahn takes and runs with the very interesting argument, so often overlooked by those who focus on Aquinas as a philosopher, that Aquinas would probably have considered himself to be a Biblical theologian.  As an example, Dr. Hahn points to Aquinas’ “Treatise on Law”, believed by many to be heavily dependent on Aristotelian thinking.  While it may seem that the Angelic Doctor, as Aquinas is affectionately known, frequently quotes Aristotle in this work, in fact Aquinas quotes from Scripture almost seven times more often in the text. Dr. Hahn then goes on to examine a shift in the law, as described by Aquinas, from the Old Testament law to that of the New Testament, as the fall of man through our first parents leads to prescription, followed by salvation, as God and man rebuild their relationship.

What particularly struck me, in reading Dr. Hahn’s reflections about St. Thomas Aquinas, was the succinct explanation of Aquinas’ understanding of how the created and material point to the infinite and spiritual, one that resonated with me a great deal as someone interested in the study and appreciation of Western culture.  “Thus, nature and history are more than just created things,” writes Hahn, “they have more than just a literal, historical meaning.  God fashions the things of the world and shapes the events of history as visible signs of other, uncreated realities, which are eternal and invisible.”  Dr. Hahn goes on to quote Aquinas himself, who wrote, “As words formed by man are signs of his intellectual knowledge, so are creatures formed by God signs of His wisdom.”

Throughout his latest work, Dr. Hahn points to the Biblical basis for the relationships which Christians enjoy with the angels and saints.  He goes beyond simply giving biographical summaries on these individuals, into providing examples of how each of them led lives closely tied to the Scriptures.  Whether you are learning about them for the first time, or they are old and dear friends, you will come away from this book better-informed about what Christians believe about the angels and saints, as well as having a deeper insight into their lives.



For a chance to win a free copy of Scott Hahn’s new book, Angels and Saints, register with your name and email address by following this link.  Only one entry per reader, please.  Entries must be submitted by 11:59 pm on Thursday, June 5th.  The winner will be announced on Friday, June 6th.

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