Monday 4 April 2022

20 Answers St Thomas Aquinas - Dr. Kevin Vost - 20 Answers Series from Catholic Answers

20 Answers: St Thomas Aquinas
20 Answers Series from Catholic Answers
Dr. Kevin Vost
Catholic Answers Press
ISBN 9781683572701
eISBN 9781683572725
eISBN 9781683572718

This is the 33rd volume in the Catholic Answers 20 Answers series that I have read and it is the 13th from the masterful pen of Dr. Kevin Vost. At least three of Dr Vost’s earlier books that I have read are about Saint Thomas Aquinas, and to some extend all of his memorization books do as well. As soon as I saw this book I got a copy and got to reading it.

I love the books in the 20 Answers Series from Catholic Answers. I often recommended specific books or the whole series to many friends and family members. Both to those with questions, and for those looking to be able to answer the questions of others.  A few years ago I started with the 20 Answers Challenge when there were just 20 books in the series, at the time. I have benefited from each that I have read in the series. Each one has been educational, informative and has encouraged my faith. I have a Religious Studies Degree with a specialization in Roman Catholic Thought. I would have loved to have had these books as resources back then, or during my time working in Campus Ministry. They are great reads, and this is an excellent offering from Dr Kevin Vost. The description of the volume is:

“Who was Thomas Aquinas, and why is he such a big deal?

How does St. Thomas prove the existence of God by reason alone?

What is the Summa Theologica, and what are its major parts, topics, and arguments?

How can Thomistic teachings on theology, philosophy, morals, and prayer help us become better Christians?

The portly thirteenth-century Dominican friar Thomas Aquinas lived less than fifty years, but during that time he became one of the greatest theologians in the history of the Catholic Church—and one of the greatest minds in the history of the world. 20 Answers: St. Thomas Aquinas offers a handy and accessible introduction to the life and thought of this intellectual and spiritual giant, breaking down key themes of his writing and offering a ground-floor lesson on the faithful synthesis of Catholic teaching and classical philosophy that became known as “Thomism”.”

The description of the series is:

“The 20 Answers Series from Catholic Answers offers hard facts, powerful arguments, and clear explanations of the most important topics facing the Church and the world—all in a compact, easy-to-read package. Check out dozens of other topics in the 20 Answers Series of booklets published by Catholic Answers Press.”

The questions answered in this volume are:

1. Who is St. Thomas Aquinas?
2. What is the Summa Theologica (or is it Summa Theologiae)?
3. What is the role of Scripture in theology?
4. Is God’s existence self-evident?
5. Can God’s existence be proven through reason?
6. What are St. Thomas’s five ways to prove the existence of God?
7. What is God?
8. Who is God?
9. What is the relationship between faith and reason?
10. How are human beings made in God’s image and likeness?
11. What is the key to human happiness?
12. What are virtues, and how do we build them?
13. How did St. Thomas establish himself as a “medieval memory master”?
14. What does St. Thomas teach us about the gifts of the Holy Spirit?
15. How is Jesus Christ both the way and the destination?
16. Was St. Thomas ever wrong?
17. How can a Thomistic approach lead non-Catholics to the Church?
18. How can St. Thomas help us pray with greater devotion?
19. Why was St. Thomas called one of his century’s greatest poets?
20. Why does the world need St. Thomas now?

The beginning of the introduction to this volume states:

“Why a booklet of answers about St. Thomas Aquinas? Well, in his day Thomas answered all sorts of essential questions facing the Catholic Church and the world that remain relevant in our day. Indeed, in his greatest work, Thomas gave 2,669 answers about the Faith in more than 1.5 million words!”

And further on it states:

“Thomas would become perhaps the greatest human guide in all the Church’s history, blessed with a powerful intellect and an admirable openness to God’s grace. Further, he borrowed from, compiled, analyzed, synthesized, and made wonderful sense of the greatest insights of the philosophers, theologians, saints, and Church Fathers and Doctors who had come before him. To read Thomas is to read dozens of Eastern and Western theologians, each duly noted and directly quoted. Indeed, St. Cajetan would say Thomas so venerated the great thinkers who came before him that he “inherited the intellect of them all.”

There are many humorous stories of Thomas as the quintessential “absent-minded professor,” always absorbed in thought. One time, he had a deep insight, slammed his massive fist upon a table, and shouted, “That will settle the Manichees!”2 The problem was, he had forgotten that he was seated at a dinner hosted by Louis IX, the French king. Louis—also to become a saint—simply asked someone to bring some paper so Thomas’s insight would not be lost! 

Thomas answered thousands of questions for the Catholic faithful. For us, twenty will have to suffice—but remember that this brief booklet is intended only to scratch the surface of the life and work of one of the Church’s greatest theologians and an intellectual giant among our Catholic ancestors. St. Thomas, pray for us!”

When I was in university, I was involved with Campus Crusade for Christ, there was a series of booklets by the founder Bill Bright, called Transferable Concepts, and by reading them many times you could almost memorize them and the message so that you could share it. This book and this series are along those lines. For most books in this series you can easily work through this book in a few of sessions, this volume however would take a little more time and effort. But the results would be well worth the work. It will really solidify the teaching in your own mind and heart. And thus be able to answer questions from non-Christians, non-Catholics and even other Catholics. A sample chapter from this work is:

“8. Who is God? 

In the first twenty-six questions of the Summa, St. Thomas uses natural reasoning to determine what creation can tell us about its creator. Reason tells us there is only one God, who is being itself—simple, perfect, unchangeable, all-powerful, and all-knowing. But this God himself, through revelation, has told us also that in a marvelous way, he is three. Thomas believed that God’s triune nature cannot be proved by reason alone. Indeed, in the same article, he states, “Whoever, then, tries to prove the Trinity of the persons by natural reason, derogates from faith in two ways.” 

First off, to attempt to prove the Trinity by reason alone slights the dignity of faith, because faith pertains to “things that appear not” (Heb. 1:1)—that is, to invisible, spiritual things that surpass the powers of our reason. Second, such arguments are not useful in drawing non-believers to the Faith, since they are not conclusive in themselves and can lead non-believers to ridicule us if they come to think we believe in the Trinity because of such arguments. 

Our reasoning about the Trinity, then, is not to provide sufficient proof of the Trinity, but only to show that our belief in the Triune God is not self-contradictory, is not impossible, and is reasonable—although never completely understandable to us. Our knowledge of the Trinity also moves us from the realm of what God is into the even more fascinating realm of who he is. 

Although the word Trinity does not appear in Scripture, multiple passages make clear that God is triune and that from the Father proceed the Son and the Holy Spirit. As for the Son, “Our Lord says, ‘From God I proceeded’” (John 8:42). Thomas says that when we reason about the Trinity, we must consider three fundamental issues: first, the origin or procession of the persons; second, their relations; and third, the persons themselves. 

The Son and the Holy Spirit proceed from the Father not by means of an external, outward act like that of creation. Their procession is an inward act within God. Procession in God is akin in a way to procession in the human intellect. For example, when we understand a thing in our intellect, a concept comes forth from our intellectual power and proceeds from our knowledge of that object. A speaker can say a word and retain its meaning within himself. We know things imperfectly, and we can generate words about them. God’s divine intelligence, by contrast, is perfect, such that “the divine Word is of necessity perfectly one with the source whence he proceeds” (ST, I, Q. 27, a. 1). 

After all, as we read in John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This proceeding of the Word or Son of God from the Father, akin to our acts of knowing, is called generation. The Word proceeds from the Father’s perfect and total knowing, somewhat like the way our concepts and words proceed from our imperfect, partial manner of knowing. 
Our intellects are one way we were formed in the image and likeness of God, but they’re not the only way. The other way lies in our possession of will. 
“The operation of the will within ourselves,” Thomas writes, “involves also another procession, that of love, whereby the object loved is in the lover; as, by the conception of the word, the object spoken of or understood is in the intelligent agent. Hence, besides the procession of the Word in God, there exists in him another procession called the procession of love” (ST, I, Q. 27, a. 3). 

This procession of love flows from the procession of the Word, since nothing can be loved unless it is known by the intellect. We call this procession of love the Holy Spirit, and every time we recite the Nicene Creed at Mass, we declare that we believe in the Holy Spirit, “who proceeds from the Father and the Son.” 

As for the relations of the Holy Trinity, relationships exist when two or more distinct things can be referred to or contrasted in some way relative to each other. The Father generates the Son, and this relation is called paternity. The Son is begotten by the Father, and this relation is called filiation. 

The relation of the principle of procession of love is called spiration, which derives from our words for “breathing” and for “spirit.” The Father and Son spirate the Holy Spirit. The opposite relation, that of the spirated Holy Spirit to the Father and the Son, is called procession. These, then, are the four sublime relations between the persons of the threeness of the oneness that is the Holy Trinity: paternity, filiation, spiration, and procession. 

As for the persons of the Trinity, the early sixth-century philosopher Boethius defined a person as “an individual substance of a rational nature” (ST, I, Q. 29, a. 1). The only persons of all creatures on earth are human beings. So how is God a person—let alone three? 

Thomas answers, “Person signifies what is most perfect in all nature—that is, a subsistent individual with a rational nature” (a. 3). Hence, “since everything that is perfect must be attributed to God, forasmuch as his essence contains every perfection, this name person is fittingly applied to God—not, however, as it is applied to creatures, but in a more excellent way.” Although the word person is not found applied to God in Scripture, what that word means is found many times, because God is regularly described, as Thomas puts it, as “the supreme, self-subsisting and the most perfectly intelligent being.” 

As for the three persons of the Trinity, Thomas agrees with St. Augustine that the Father is the “principle of the whole deity” (ST, I, Q. 33, a. 1), unbegotten and proceeding from no other principle. He notes as well that we sometimes use the name Father, not as the name of the person, but to refer to the whole Trinity.

As for the Son, the Word of God is his personal name, but we must never forget that he is of the same substance as the Father. He is also called the image of God. Man is made in the image of God, whereas the Son alone is the actual image of God. 
The Holy Spirit shares important things in common with the Father and Son—for example, that they are spirits and that they are holy. But Thomas also notes that the Holy Spirit can fittingly be named Love, because “the Holy Ghost is said to be the bond of the Father and the Son, inasmuch as he is Love” (ST, I, Q. 37, a. 1).”

That sample chapter will server to give you a feel for this work. This is one of the most academic of the volumes I have read. But that is to be expected based on the subject matter and the author. Yet It is a book anyone frim high school age or education and up could pick up, read, and benefit from. Vost however does not write a dry treatise or 20 questions and answers. The book is very engaging, at times humorous. And most importantly of all just solid teaching! 

This volume is a fantastic read. Even being familiar with the subject, and with Dr Vost’s works on the subject I greatly benefited from reading this work, and know I will return and read it again. I highly recommend this volume.

I have benefited from all the books in this series that I have read. Dr Vost has done an excellent job with this topic, and I am certain all who read this book will come away with a clearer understanding of the Ox. 

This is an excellent volume a great read in a wonderful series!

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan

For all reviews of 20 Answers books click here.
For All reviews of books by Dr. Vost click here.

Books by Dr. Kevin Vost:
Full Range of Motive (2001)
Memorize the Faith! (2006)
Fit For Eternal Life (2007)
From Atheism to Catholicism (2010)
Unearthing Your Ten Talents (2010)
St. Albert the Great (2011)
Tending the Temple (2011)
Three Irish Saints (2012)
Memorize the Reasons! (2013)
One-Minute Aquinas (2014)
Hounds of the Lord (2015)
Seven Deadly Sins (2015)
Memorize the Mass! (2016)
Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit (2016)
The Porch and the Cross (2016)
The Catholic Guide to Loneliness (2017)
The Four Friendships (2018)
How to Think Like Aquinas (2018)
Memorize the Latin Mass! (2018)
12 Life Lessons from St. Thomas Aquinas (2019)

Aquinas on the Four Last Things (2021)

Books Contributed to:
Man Up! (2014)

Author profile interview with Dr. Kevin Vost.

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20 Answers Divorce & Remarriage - Jim Blackburn
20 Answers End of Life - Jason Negri
20 Answers Faith & Science - Trent Horn
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20 Answers Jehovah's Witnesses - Trent Horn
20 Answers Mary - Tim Staples
20 Answers Miracles - Karlo Broussard
20 Answers Mormonism - Trent Horn
20 Answers Salvation - Jimmy Akin
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20 Answers The Eucharist - Trent Horn
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20 Answers The Real Jesus - Trent Horn

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20 Answers The Reformation - Steve Weidenkopf
20 Answers Bioethics - Stacy A. Trasancos
20 Answers Conversion - Shaun McAfee
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20 Answers The End Times - Jimmy Akin
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20 Answers Faith & Reason – Christopher Kaczor
20 Answers The New Testament – Jimmy Akin
20 Answers Protestantism – Jimmy Akin
20 Answers Marriage & Sex – Todd Aglialoro
20 Answers The Early Church – Jim Blackburn
20 Answers The Old Testament – Jimmy Akin
20 Answers Judaism – Michelle Arnold
20 Answers The Sacraments – Father Mike Driscoll

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Answering Atheism - How to Make the Case for God with Logic and Charity - Trent Horn
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Handed Down: The Catholic Faith of the Early Christians - James L. Papandrea
Demons, Deliverance, Discernment: Separating Fact from Fiction about the Spirit World - Fr. Mike Driscoll
Navigating the Tiber: How to Help Your Friends and Family Journey Toward the Catholic Faith - Devin Rose
100 Biblical Arguments Against Sola Scriptura - Dave Armstrong
The Drama of Salvation: How God Rescues You from Your Sins and Brings You to Eternal Life - Jimmy Akin
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