Summa Theologiae: A Concise Translation - Thomas Aquinas, Timothy McDermott The complete Summa Theologica can be found for about $250 in five volumes consisting of some two million words. This 600+ page summary seems like a good substitute for those just wanting to gain some familiarity with St. Thomas.

Aristotle’s influence is obvious and unsurprising. Many of Aristotle’s works were being rediscovered around Thomas’ time. The five proofs for God unabashedly draws from Aristotle’s prime mover hypothesis as well as the notion that there must be a perfection of any trait we find in the world. However, this perfection seems to fold more into a Platonic idea in which God is the maximum good that can be perceived and therefore exists in an other worldly sense.

Thomas is clearly a brilliant man and one not prone to obfuscate his position. Despite his five proofs, he acknowledges that “our natural knowledge starts from sense-perception and reaches only as far as things so perceived can lead us, which is not far enough to see God in himself.” pg.29. Revelation is still the core avenue to faith, not reason. Man’s limited reason only permits discernment of what truth has been revealed. He understands the limits of his persuasiveness when he states that the most that can done with those who don’t accept biblical authority is to be “content to show that what the faith teaches is not impossible.” pg.71

The first and second sections of the Summa Theologica deal with abstract notions such as God, faith and grace. Even a heathen like myself can appreciate the purpose and explanations Thomas gives to the mysteries of Christian belief. The true divide between religion and philosophy can be seen in Thomas’ description of faith: “Faith’s assent is an act of mind not determined by reason, but by will.” pg. 331.

Overall, the book is much to dense to summary justly. Christianity, and Catholicism especially, benefits from this Dominican friar who seeks to break down and understand what his faith requires. Intricate analyses of transubstantiation, grace and biblical authority will most likely never convince the unbelieving such as myself, but such rigorous self-evaluation of faith’s tenets still earn respect. Especially in today’s world of increasingly anti-scientific, extremist, religious banter that questions those who question.