Aquinas insisted that you cannot do theology without science. “A mistake in our thinking about nature results in a mistake in our thinking about God,” he declared. And again, “The opinion is false of those who assert that it makes no difference to the truth of the faith what anyone holds about creatures, so long as one thinks rightly about God. For error about creatures spills over into false opinion about God, and takes people’s minds away from God, to whom faith seeks to lead them.” For Aquinas meditation on creatures leads us to behold the wisdom of God.
Aristotle, to whose star Aquinas attached himself from his university days in Naples to his death, was both scientist and a “pagan.” Aquinas’s attitude towards pagans was far more ecumenical than that of many a Churchman today when he said, for example, “All truth—whoever utters it comes from the Holy Spirit” and “revelation has been given to many pagans” and “the old pagan virtues were from God.” Aquinas paid the price of a prophet for insisting on marrying faith and science–he was condemned by three bishops before being canonized a saint.
Why was Aquinas so at home with Aristotle and other pagans? One reason is that his sense of revelation was not anthropocentric—he didn’t see revelation as simply what is in the Bible. He wrote, “Revelation comes in two volumes: the Bible and nature.” He took nature seriously as a source of the experience of the divine and of divine truth. To take nature seriously is to study it, and to do this one turns to scientists whose task it is to uncover the truths of nature.
“All creatures confess that they are made by God”–we study them because they lead us to the divine wisdom. “All natural things were produced by the divine art, and so may be called ‘God’s works of art.’” Every single creature leads us to the “Source without a source” who is God and “leads to the knowledge of the first and highest One, which is infinite in every perfection.” Aquinas sees creatures as a “mirror” or image of God. “Every creature is for us like a certain mirror. Because from the order, goodness and magnitude which are caused by God in things, we come to a knowledge of the divine wisdom and goodness and eminence. And this knowledge we call a vision in a mirror.”
From: Matthew Fox, Wrestling With The Prophets: Essays on Creation Spirituality and Everyday Life, pp.106-108.
See also, Matthew Fox, Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality.
Banner image: The Angelic Doctor | Gentile da Fabriano, Valle Romita Polyptich (detail), ca. 1400 | Pinacoteca di Brera, Milano
Lectio Divina, or “Divine Reading,”is the ancient practice of meditatively and prayerfully reading the words of Scripture or other sacred texts, asking Spirit what your proper response might be to the truths they lay bare.
In this spirit, take a phrase or word from this meditation and be still with it, letting it wash over you and through and through you. Repeat it as a mantra. Be with the silence that follows. Be with, be with….
In one of his foundational works, Fox engages in substantive discussions with some of history’s greatest mystics, philosophers, and prophets on today’s social and spiritual issues on such challenging topics as Eco-Spirituality, AIDS, homosexuality, spiritual feminism, environmental revolution, Native American spirituality, Christian mysticism, Art and Spirituality, Art as Meditation, Interspirituality, and more.
Matthew Fox renders Thomas Aquinas accessible by interviewing him and thus descholasticizing him. He also translated many of his works such as Biblical commentaries never before in English (or Italian or German of French). He gives Aquinas a forum so that he can be heard in our own time. He presents Thomas Aquinas entirely in his own words, but in a form designed to allow late 20th-century minds and hearts to hear him in a fresh way. The result is exciting!