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.

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GIVEAWAY!

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.

This Summer: Common Sense Ethics and Leadership Conference

Gentle Reader, I pass along the following from Professor Peter A. Redpath, Ph.D., of the Adler-Aquinas Institute.  The conference he is helping to organize this summer sounds as though it will appeal to those in leadership positions who want to think more deeply about the subject of ethics in their work, irrespective of their particular denomination.  The eagle-eyed among my readers may recall that I reviewed Dr. Redpath’s most recent book on Christian metaphysics exploding many of the theories of progressivism previously in these pages.

If you are interested in attending the conference, Dr. Redpath asks that you contact him directly at redpathp@gmail.com.  And please do feel free to share this post with anyone whom you think might like to participate.

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[S]ome colleagues of mine, including some from Holy Apostles College and Seminary (HACS), and I are planning to organize a July 17 to 20, 2014 conference at Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington, Long Island, The conference topic will be on “Common Sense Ethics and Leadership.” Arrival on the 16th is also OK.

Part of the plan is to center the conference around Mortimer J. Adler’s book, The Time of Our Lives, and to tape the sessions for a (HACS) MOOC course and a textbook on the conference theme.

While at the meeting on Common Sense Ethics and Leadership, we would like to start 2 informal consulting organizations, somewhat like Plato’s Academy and Aristotle’s Lyceum, one involving establishing an Aquinas Leadership Circle to help begin an Aquinas School of Leadership, Management, and Organizational Development. Both would start as consulting groups that would grow out of conferences, books, MOOCs. People interested only in joining the first group might eventually want to join the second.

We have 5 large initial markets: 1) corporate trainers who would like to get a better understanding of precisely why what they do is successful (that is, leaders engaged in successful leadership who do not fully comprehend why it is successful); 2) Catholic and Evangelical organizational leaders; 3) organizational leaders interested in understanding the nature of ethics and it relation to organizational leadership, management, and organizational development; 4) Catholic administrators whose bishops are interested in such training for them as administrators; 5) graduate students interested in Thomism and leadership.

I think evangelical leaders would be especially interested in the notion of a more personalistic, “Born-Again Thomism” (as our colleague Bill McVey calls it), rooted in St. Thomas’s faculty psychology (a philosophy of systems of sorts, not a systematic philosophy), and how it could be of help to them, including as an apologetics tool.

TOTAL cost for the conference room, 9 meals for a 3-night stay, and use of facilities will be around $300.00 per person.

I hope you can join us, and please pass this note along to anyone you think might find it of interest.

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Detail of "Plato and Aristotle" by Luca della Robbia (c. 1437-1439) Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Florence

Detail of “Plato and Aristotle” by Luca della Robbia (c. 1437-1439)
Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Florence