Category Archives: Suggested Reading

Summa Contra Gentiles

I have spoken already of the Summa Theologica, and in fact, it is the primary source and purpose of this blog.  St. Thomas, of course, wrote prolifically, and all of his works are worth study and contemplation (a task I am far from completing).  At this point, I am of the opinion that, although the Summa Theologica is “written for the instruction of beginners,” that in all actuality, the Summa Contra Gentiles, written earlier and actually complete (the Summa Theologica was never completed, as St. Thomas, in deep contemplation of God, realized “all he had written was as straw” compared to the beatific vision and thus refused to take up the pen again), is easier to read, for it is written in a straight forward style (without the objections and replies of the scholastic format) and thus for many would make a better introduction to the systematic thought of St. Thomas.

Written as four books, it is divided into two parts:

  1. That knowledge of God which can be reached by human reason alone
  2. That which can only be known by God’s revelation of Himself

The first of these is divided into three books, treating of God, Creation, and Providence. The fourth book, then, is titled Salvation.

Notes:

If one wishes to purchase these books, Providence is divided into Part I and Part II.

It is available online for free here.

Ten Books you can’t “not read”

There are some books you read.  These books, you read, and read again, and read again, and probably never stop repeating this process:

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At some point I will try to discuss each of these, their value, and suggestions on “how to use” them.  They are not simply books; they are resources for a life of growth.

The first two are simply a primer on thinking straight.  The next three get you focused on the Word of God, Jesus Christ, who is Truth Himself.  To know the Truth is to know Christ, and vice versa.  After that, three books go deeper into some specific truths of reality, informed by faith, but not entirely derived from it. The second to last book, Reality, is just that:  a synthesis of reality, informed by both faith and reason (in this it derives much from Thomas’ five volume Summa  above, but with a much different presentation). The last selection needs no explanation to those who are drawn by grace to the highest in truth.

For now, regarding the Summa Theologica in Five Volumes as listed above, see my earlier post on the Concise Translation of the Summa.

Summa Theologiae: A Concise Translation

Of course, my first suggestion would be the Summa Theologica itself, but for some odd reason, I think that the $250 price tag and the 3000+ pages might scare a few off.

So I recommend Summa Theologiae: A Concise Translation by Timothy McDermott. I believe this was my introduction to the Summa Theologica as well, although at this point I can’t remember for sure if it was the Summa of the Summa, or Shorter Summa, or A Tour of the Summa, or what I first looked at.

Among these, however, I have to recommend the Concise Translation the most.  The others are, no doubt, good introduction, and shorter than the Concise Translation, but if you want to get the most for the least, fully fledged Thomas yet readable (although it isn’t a “breeze through the Summa,” for nothing could be) then I would go with the 650 page Timothy McDermott book.

As one reviewer accurately stated:

For those of us who do not have the time to physically sit down and read all five books of the Summa, this is most certainly the closest you will come to consuming the real thing! I found this after I had began to read the first few chapters and nothing comes so close to capturing the essence of Aquinas’s writings so thoroughly (and in only a sixth of the size of the original)! This book is a must for the true Thomistic scholar!

Two quick notes:

1. I will try to offer book suggestions from time to time, mostly toward learning the truth that is Thomism.  However, it should go without saying that anyone following this site (Is there anyone?) should be reading the Holy Bible and praying above all else.

2. I don’t necessarily endorse Amazon.com, but they are convenient for showing books, and I can’t imagine their being upset since it’s a constant advertisement for them.