Several things happen when you begin to read. St. Thomas’ Summa Theologica. You’ll have many mixed emotions. You might not know what to do with them all. If you’ve never read or are just getting started on reading the Summa Theologica, here’s what to expect and a little bit of advice. Fear not! We all had to endure this.
1. Your head will explode
Or at least you’ll want to. There will suddenly be so much to learn and the only way to do it will be to jump in feet first.
2. You realize how much you don’t know
The massive amount of information presented in each question, and each article is difficult to process at first. The moment you do begin to process it though, you will start to ask yourself more questions that you originally set out to answer.
3. You’ll learn to appreciate sound logic
All those terrible arguments you heard in your life, all the fallacies you know but don’t know the proper name of, become very ingrained in your thinking as you see Thomas craft a very powerful argument for the Christian faith.
4. You tend to start thinking like a “Thomist”
Every argument you process and articulate for the rest of you life will be based on Thomas’ rigid style of logic, whereupon you will build your arguments from very simple ideas to very complex ideas to have the most thorough path of reasoning possible.
5. Time moves a lot slower
Yes, it takes a LOOOONG time to read and understand. I once studied for a course, reading the Summa Theologica for 3 hours. When I looked at the clock, it was only 30 minutes later.
6. You wonder how smart (or stupid) you really are
You’ll definitely begin to question your own intelligence. Don’t worry, it take all of us a while to adjust to Thomas’ style.
7. You truly believe Thomas was the smartest. Saint. EVER
Others will definitely come close, but you’ll be quite convinces he takes the cake for the smartest saint who ever lived.
8. You second guess your interest in Theology
Because it’s a big challenge, you’ll wonder, “how often will I have to use this gargantuan collection in my work?” Luckily, there are many fields of Theology. Unfortunately, Thomas discusses almost every one of these issues in one way or another, and you’ll be a terrible theologian if you don’t buckle down and do you best to understand his process on each.
9. You second guess your interest in Philosophy
Thomas wrote this collection as a summary of theology (“summa theologica”), yes, but he wrote it for those who had already received a healthy education in Philosophy. Anyone reading the Summa realizes instantly that an education in philosophy would be a great advantage to understanding Thomas’ complex language, especially when he doesn’t always explain terms and ideas he’s using.
10. You second guess your humanity
Seriously. Thomas uses more and more uncommon words to describe people and things than anyone else. Ever. Genus, being, act, will, species, nature, essence, core, heart, body, idea, thing, etc. At some point, you’ll realize you’re bigger and more theologically complex than you knew.
11. You reply to disagreements with, “On the contrary” more
It’s just true. Embrace it.
12. You re-read more than you ever have
That goes without saying.
13. You generate more questions than you originally had
Like #2, you’ll realize how much more you need to know to fully grasp the arguments made by Thomas.
14. You understand even less because you asked these questions
Yup. You might have answered your question, or, and I’m terribly sorry for this, but you might have more questions to your more questions.
15. You’ll grow more confident in your reasoning skills
In most conversations for the rest of your life, you’ll be better prepared to handle tough questions and critical thinking.
16. You’ll also grow less confident in your reasoning
On the contrary, you might just have an increased sense of humility, and remember you don’t know everything you’d like to.
16. You’ll wonder how St. Thomas did all of this without Google
For reals. All of this accomplished in the 13th Century? … Wait. What? HE WROTE MORE THAN THIS?
17. You’ll want all of your friends to start reading it, too
Naturally, you’ll want other people to hate their life, too. Just kidding. It really does become enjoyable, and for those friends of yours who also love theology and philosophical thought, you’ll pressure them to pick it up as well.
18. You’ll wonder how Thomas had time for anything else
On top of all of this, he had the daily duties of a priest.
19. You’ll wonder if you will ever have time for anything else
After all, how you’re stuck trying to understand the Summa Theologica for the rest of your life.
Best piece of advice: