Happy New Year, pagans! May the new moon bring you wisdom beyond your years — which it most certainly will if you continue to enjoy The God Project Dot Net. But enough about our incredible humility. Where is Thomas Aquinas when we need him?
Being funny. His nickname was “The OX,” because, when he played tic-tac-toe with the theologians at Paris, “OX” was his favorite combination. Hah! Gotcha. It was because of his gi-normous height x width. We also get the impression he was tOXically stubborn, inflOXible and flummOXingly arrogant. Geniuses often are, we hear. Good for them; they deserve it. Mozart called his “Magic Flute” the “best opera ever written.” So there.
The great Geoff Dyer said in an interview that, at a certain point, his writing “got so angry it became funny.” Aquinas gets so immodestly serious at times that the laughter rolls down like rain and thunders like a mighty, mighty wind.
The “Summa” itself is the kind of monument people write when they want to be the final word. It’s super-structured in a Scholastic form called the “Quaestio” (Latin: “Question”), proceeding from, well, Question, to various Objections (with quotes from Scripture and Authorities like Augustine and Pseudo-Dionysius), to Answer and Replies to the original Objections (all with quotes). People stopped writing this way around 1400.
Back in the late 1990’s, when I was head writer for a show on VH1 called “Pop-Up Video,” the elfish producer would stomp into my cubi-kennel flourishing my latest script draft, flick the honey-brown curls out of his ferret-like eyes, and squeak, “Where’s the funny, Marty? Show me the funny!”
Here’s the funny:
In Q. 2 of Part II.2, Article 4, Thomas wonders aloud whether “it would be superfluous to receive by faith, things that can be known by natural reason.” It’s a big Quaestio, actually: Since we can learn a lot about God (as Thomas believed) just by looking at the world around us, why do we even need Scripture? Well, why?
One reason, says the Ox, is so we “may arrive more quickly” at the truth. Deep Thoughts require years of study, and “it would not be until late in life that man would arrive at the knowledge of God.” (Thomas was in his 40’s when he wrote this.) Revelation saves time.
Also, a lot of people “are unable to make progress” in their studies. Why? Well, he says, “through dullness of mind, or through having a number of occupations … or even through laziness.” Hah! You stupid, busy, lazy people! YOU need the Bible.