The Sola Scriptura of Thomas Aquinas

“The Glory of Thomas Aquinas,” by Benozzo GozzoliNevertheless, sacred doctrine makes use of these authorities [i.e., philosophers who are able to know the truth by natural reason] as extrinsic and probable arguments; but properly uses the authority of the canonical Scriptures as an incontrovertible proof, and the authority of the doctors of the Church as one that may properly be used, yet merely as probable. For our faith rests upon the revelation made to the apostles and prophets who wrote the canonical books, and not on the revelations (if any such there are) made to other doctors. Hence Augustine says (Epis. ad Hieron.)1: “Only those books of Scripture which are called canonical have I learned to hold in such honor as to believe their authors have not erred in any way in writing them. But other authors I so read as not to deem everything in their works to be true, merely on account of their having so thought and written, whatever may have been their holiness and learning.”

[Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225-1274), Summa Theologica, First Part, Treatise on God, Question 1, “The Nature and Extent of Sacred Doctrine,” Article 8, “Whether Sacred Doctrine is a Matter of Argument?”, Reply to Objection 2, in Robert Maynard Hutchins, ed., Great Books of the Western World, Volume 19, (Chicago, IL, USA: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 1988), 8.]

ˆ 1There is a discrepancy in my sources for the precise reference of Epis. ad Hieron. (abbreviated Latin for “Epistle to Jerome”). The texts provided by both the Encylopædia Britannica and the Christian Classics Ethereal Library (to which the above bibliographic reference is linked) are based on the translation of the Summa by the Fathers of the English Dominican Province. Britannica’s revision (by Daniel J. Sullivan), however, has properly corrected the reference from Augustine’s 19th (xix) letter (which was not written to Jerome but to Gaius) to his 82nd (lxxxii). Cf. “Letters of St. Augustin,” translated by J.G. Cunningham, in Philip Schaff, ed., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Volume 1, (Peabody, MA, USA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., reprinted 2004), 350. ˆ


Reading Romans with John Chrysostom

Title Page, Chrystostom’s Homlies on RomansThere is something about the printed page that computer text files have not been able to replace for me. Even though I can take my laptop most places, including to bed, so far I haven’t found anything like the convenience of being able to gently close a book and lay it on a nightstand just as I begin to sink into an unconscious stupor. There’s nothing to turn off, and if I accidentally drop it the consequences are usually slight. Continue reading

Re-controlling a processed tree carcass

pcdhsmall.jpgSo we’re coming up to the fifteenth anniversary of the publication of a Henry Beard’s and Christopher Cerf‘s The Official Politically Correct Dictionary and Handbook (New York, NY, USA: Villard Books, updated edition 1993), and I thought it would be a good idea to hunt down my copy of it and take a look at some of its knee-slapping and yet eerily sobering entries.

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You have to start somewhere.

Cover of Pure Drivel, by Steve MartinI started with the phone book. Looking up Mensa was not going to be easy, what with having to follow the strict alphabetizing rules that are so common nowadays. I prefer a softer, more fuzzy alphabetizing scheme, one that allows the mind to float free and “happen” upon the word. There is pride in that. The dictionary is a perfect example of overalphabetization, with its harsh rules and every little word neatly in place. It almost makes me want to go on a diet of grapes and waste away to nothing.

—Steve Martin, from “How I Joined Mensa,” in Pure Drivel, (New York, NY, USA: Hyperion, 1999), 62.