Should you care how Protestant theologians and philosophers view a man generally regarded as of interest primarily to Catholics and as a pillar of Catholic thinking? Absolutely. Why? Because much of what has made our modern world in terms of law, philosophy and ethics comes from Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274).
How would we benefit from reading a book about Aquinas by a noted scholar who has been a Protestant but who is now a Catholic? That is what we are going to find out in this interview with Francis J. Beckwith about his 2019 book, Never Doubt Thomas: The Catholic Aquinas as Evangelical and Protestant
(Baylor University Press).
The book is not dry-as-dust theology. It is approachable and often quite funny, even as it tackles some quite arcane subject matter (e.g., faith, works and justification).
Beckwith engagingly critiques some of the arguments of recent years against natural law theory—which is more relevant than many of us have realized and which forms some of the background of the soul-searching and debate on the right over recent Supreme Court decisions by supposedly conservative justices.
Beckwith examines the contention of many Protestant thinkers that the whole idea of natural law that flowed from Aquinas is a distraction from the truly important goal of engagement with the scriptures and reliance on divine revelation.
The book is intended for educated general readers who want to understand why so many Protestant thinkers have been so eager to claim Aquinas as a Proto-Protestant (even though he lived centuries before Luther) and what, according to Beckwith, they get so wrong about him even as they admire him.
Among other topics Beckwith addresses in this little volume are the centuries-old debate over whether Christians, Jews and Muslims worship the same God and the evergreen topic of purgatory.
And for those who want to wade into the waters of the decades-long battle between Darwinists and atheists on the one side and those who adhere to the theory of Intelligent Design on the other, there is even a chapter on that.
Who would have thought that a medieval religious scholar would still be annoying some scholars and engendering devotion in others all these centuries later? Francis J. Beckwith tells us why.
Give a listen.
Francis J. Beckwith
is Professor of Philosophy and Church-State Studies and Associate Director of the Graduate Program in Philosophy at Baylor University.
Hope J. Leman is a grants researcher.