Protestants and Dominican Friars

The Church Grammar podcast’s interviews of Thomas Joseph White, a Dominican friar and an eminent Roman Catholic theologian, are worth listening to if you are interested in advanced theology. So, for that matter, is The Reformed Forum’s interview of Dominic Legge (who can be described exactly as White is). These Dominicans are impressive theologians. They take difficult questions, use very precise language, and provide answers that satisfy not just in terms of the information provided, but also terms of the skill and wisdom with which they handle them. And I marvel that the vision of Domingo de Guzman from way back in 1216 for coherent, clear teaching is still flourishing 900 years later. No doubt a whole lot of it is owing to the gifts that the Spirit of God bestowed on Thomas Aquinas. But what a remarkable institution-building power emerged from the roots of that tumultuous 12th century of Europe!

I wonder if our age could learn from it. We do have the internet, where you can get tweets that lead you to podcasts in which you hear what you otherwise never would. It has to be one of the greatest gifts of the internet that a schmuck such as myself gets to listen in on these kinds of conversations—that they can be instantly broadcast to hundreds and over time to thousands and in some cases millions. That is probably one factor that makes it seem as if new possibilities are opening up, where in fact these conversations may only be something that has been going on all along.

This engagement may also be owing to a healthy development from the Trinitarian controversies of 2016. Some people really are looking for more precise language, and it is no wonder that Dominicans can provide it; they are, after all, the right heirs of Thomas Aquinas, king of scholasticism! They are Thomists: defenders, explainers, proclaimers, and above all else, his most devoted students. They translate and publish his works as Cistercians proudly publish Bernard of Clairvaux and as Franciscans so diligently publish heresy. And no wonder, Aquinas was one of the greatest theologians Christianity has ever had! It is silly to pretend otherwise, though people, it must be said, feel that they have to try. It is very silly or something worse to try to debate the king of the disputatio. It is an error that could be fixed by teaching church history less casually than protestants sometimes do. You need a remedial course: Aquinas in Context. Or just a good course on the Medieval Church that did some justice to 1000 years of the building power of Jesus Christ.

Whenever there is controversy in the doctrine of God, or of Christ, or the Holy Spirit, Thomas Aquinas is going to be a source of clarity. It is due to his mastery of the necessary philosophical tools as well as his mastery of preceding Christian theology, and of course his mastery of the pages of Scripture. He had some sharp distinguishers with which to draw crucial distinctions. He had Aristotle, that whetstone of taxonomic variety and precision. And Aquinas learned, in the formation of scholastic disputation, to make necessary distinctions, to reason carefully, to classify accurately, and in short, to shine a light into difficult matters.

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