We have seen in recent DM’s how keen Aquinas was (and most pre-modern thinkers both indigenous and medieval) on cosmology and creation.  In the twentieth century biblical scholar Krister Stendahl criticized theologian Rudolf Bultman and the entire theological enterprise of his time for his anthropocentrism when he observed:

Front and Back covers of Matthew Fox’s new book on Thomas Aquinas. Click on the image to see endorsements.

We [Christians] happen to be more interested in ourselves than in God or in the fate of his creation….Bultmann’s whole theological enterprise has one great mistake from which all others emanate: he takes for granted that basically the center of gravity—the center form which all interpretations springs—is anthropology, the doctrine of man.

This narcissism in religion helps explain the climate emergency we are currently facing as well as much of the exodus from organized religion today.

In contrast, Aquinas’s view of the world is cosmological and therefore prophetic for our times for it interferes with the anthropocentrism of the modern era that is so manifest in religion as well as in politics, education, economics and the rest of culture. 

Pro-Immigrant Woman sign during protest on Market Street in San Francisco, CA. Photo by lucia on Unsplash.

Not only is Aquinas prophetic, he also is a teacher of how we become prophetic.  He shares a very deeply developed understanding of our work as prophets as when he teaches: “The vision of God is arrived at through justice.” (109-112) 

Our work to bring about justice—be it eco justice or social justice, racial justice or economic justice, gender justice or gender preference justice—is itself a path to God, a revelation of the Divine, who, Aquinas says “is justice.”  The Via Transformativa is as mystical therefore as the Via Positiva (awe and wonder) or the Via Negativa (meditation).

Daniel Berrigan SJ, reciting his poem “Some” dedicated to all who work for justice, followed by protest montage w/Dar Williams singing “I Had No Right”.

He reminds us that Justice is the primary focus of the prophet and that, like truth, it lies in our hearts—not just in our heads or even our hands when he says: “The proper objects of the heart are truth and justice.”  (101-108) 

He instructs us that “the prophet’s mind is moved not only to apprehend something, but also to speak out about it and to do something” about it.  (121-130)

He warns us of the need to get in touch with our moral outrage and anger but to use it in an effective, non-violent way, when he says:

People walking near huge bonfire. Photo by Issy Bailey on Unsplash

A trustworthy person is angry at the right people, for the right reasons, expresses it in the appropriate manner and for an appropriate length of time.  (131-136) 

He also reminds us that “nothing great happens without anger”– it is the power of outrage and anger that can keep us going in hard and difficult struggles. 

Indeed, since “compassion is the fire that Jesus came to set on the earth,” (113-116) that element of fire or anger is part of the move toward compassion.  And so too is conscience which “is more to be obeyed than authority imposed from the outside.”  (117-120)

Citations are from Matthew Fox, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times.  Page numbers are in parentheses.

Stendahl citation is found in Matthew Fox, The Coming of the Cosmic Christ, p. 78.

Banner Image: Speaking truth at protest for black lives. Photo by Vlad Tchompalov on Unsplash.

Queries for Contemplation

Be with one or more of Aquinas’s teachings here and let them wash over you and through you.  How is that supporting you? Challenging you?

Recommended Reading

The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times

A stunning spiritual handbook drawn from the substantive teachings of Aquinas’ mystical/prophetic genius, offering a sublime roadmap for spirituality and action.
Foreword by Ilia Delio.
“What a wonderful book!  Only Matt Fox could bring to life the wisdom and brilliance of Aquinas with so much creativity. The Tao of Thomas Aquinas is a masterpiece.”
–Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit

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