"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Orthodox Readings of Aquinas

Recently I drew attention to a just-released book from Oxford University Press authored by Marcus Plested: Orthodox Readings of Aquinas (Changing Paradigms in Historical and Systematic Theology).

I had a chance to read it before sending it out to an expert Thomist for review. It is a splendid book, and I very warmly encourage all who are interested in these matters to get a copy and appreciate the many riches of this detailed, well researched, and very cogently written study which overturns so much rubbish about "Thomism" and "scholasticism" that ignorant apologists for the East have often proffered without bestirring themselves to inquire into such tiresome matters as actual texts or historical facts. Equally, though, it overturns a lot of other rubbish about the glories of Palamism, and how Palamas is the counterpoint to that very bad man Aquinas. Both perspectives, as Plested shows, are uniquely creations of late modernity and not at all reflective of either figure or their near-contemporaries. Thomas was far more gracious towards, far more open to, and far more deeply immersed in, Greek thought, than he is usually given credit for, and much the same could be said about Palamas's immersion in Latin theology.

This is, then, a wholly welcome book if for no other reason than it clears away a lot of the tiresome and tendentious detritus blocking the way towards a discussion of real and serious issues (e.g., the papacy) in the search for East-West rapprochement. We need to get past the bad, and often deliberate, historical distortions of each other in order to deal with reality. We are greatly indebted to Plested for helping us to do this with the one figure who (as I noted earlier), arguably more than any other (though Augustine and Anselm are close contenders), is often held up as being somehow the perfect exemplar of everything that is wrong with the West and everything that blocks unity with the East. What a weary roadshow that has become, and its complete demolition in Plested's hands is a greatly cheering development.

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