I wanted to start reading the Summa Theologiae by Thomas Aquinas – until I realized it was a multi-volume set. So, I despaired and looked for another option. And, I ran across A Shorter Summa, Peter Kreeft’s work that helps introduce people to Aquinas.
Who Was St. Thomas Aquinas?
Thomas Aquinas is a Dominican friar, Catholic Saint, and a Doctor of the Church. He was philosopher who helped the Medieval Church incorporate Aristotle and the Greek philosophers into the Catholic tradition. He was a spectacular thinker and writer whose impact on the Church is still tremendous. While he’s best known for the Summa Theologiae, he also wrote numerous commentaries, the Summa Contra Gentiles, and much more.
What is the Summa Theologiae?
Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologiae is his largest work. Aquinas wrote the Summa to be a beginner's guide to the faith. Today, we would think it is rather comprehensive and hard to grapple with. It argues in favor of belief in God and the teachings of the Catholic Church as well as speculate on moral and theological questions.
How Peter Kreeft helps read the Summa Theologiae
What I found helpful about Kreeft's summary of the Summa Theologiae is how he broke down the questions. Kreeft's offered insight and background to questions, but didn't talk down to the reader. I found his notes helpful in understanding the context as well as the methods and jargon used in philosophy. His glossary of terms helped me grasp the concepts because Thomas didn't write in a way we'd be familiar with. Unless you've read and studied Aristotle (which I barely had at the time), much of what Aquinas wants to say is muddled. By leveraging Aristotle's system, he took on his terms and methods. Kreeft translates that in the notes, helping the layman like myself make better sense of it.