Happy birthday, Thomas Aquinas!

aquinasThis week’s focus at Gospel.com is church history—the often inspiring, sometimes discouraging chain of people and events that embodied the Christian church throughout the centuries. It seems fitting to kick off our church history week by commemorating the birthday of one of the church’s greatest and most influential minds, Thomas Aquinas!

Aquinas, who yesterday would have turned 783 years old if he were still alive, is considered one of the greatest theologians in the history of the Christian church. While the popular stereotype of medieval theologians imagines them sitting around debating minutia (“How many angels could dance on the head of a pin?”), Aquinas wrestled with many of the same fundamental questions about God and Christianity that skeptics and believers ask today: Can the existence of God be proven by logic? How can God be three persons in one—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? How can Jesus have been both fully God and fully human?

Here are a few links to explore if you want to get to know this great theologian/philosopher a bit better:

  • The Christian History Institute has an excellent overview of Aquinas’ life and ideas, and is a good place to start. Read all about Aquinas’ rather dysfunctional family (who really disapproved of his decision to join the church and take a vow of poverty) and the vision of God that finally prompted him to put down his pen and stop writing. And see the end of the biography for a list of Aquinas’ famous proofs for the existence of God.
  • For a short sample of Aquinas’ writing, see his answers to two difficult questions about prayer (“Why do we pray to a God who already knows everything, and is it OK to pray for material goods?”). Aquinas’ most famous work is the Summa Theologica, but its massive size makes it a daunting read.
  • Aquinas lived during turbulent times—several of the infamous Crusades took place during his lifetime. His ideas about “just war” were very influential on the development of Christian ideas about the ethics of war and violence. An article at the Officers’ Christian Fellowship gives an overview of “just war theory,” and includes a short mention of the role Aquinas played in developing the idea.
  • Our Daily Bread offers a short but inspirational anecdote from Aquinas’ life involving his rather unflattering nickname, “The Dumb Ox.”
  • Outside the Gospel.com community, you can find many more links about Aquinas if you want to learn more.

Happy birthday, Thomas Aquinas!

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