I can't really comment on Kreeft's abridgment, as I'm the intended audience to his work for beginners. My only experience with Thomas in the past was...moreI can't really comment on Kreeft's abridgment, as I'm the intended audience to his work for beginners. My only experience with Thomas in the past was hearing some stereotypical Protestant critiques, learning about the five ways in a medieval philosophy class, and reading Chesterton's biography of him.
But what can I say? If Thomas thought all that he had written was straw at the end of his life, what on earth have I been reading up till now? This is marvelous stuff. Thomas's method is both rational and charitable, mind and heart working together at maximum effort. Critiques of him making the faith Aristotelian or subordinating faith and scripture to reason and philosophy are just hogwash. On so many occasions a simple verse of scripture is enough for Thomas to debunk multiple proofs from Aristotle. And though Aristotle certainly looms large, so do Plato and Augustine. What this is is the greatest synthesis of philosophy to have ever existed - and it's so perfect because it doesn't just rely on philosophic speculation, but also uses revealed theology and simple experience to contribute to his discussion of seemingly everything. As it's been said a hundred times before by those that love Aquinas: this is simply the sanest piece of philosophy to have ever existed.
Kreeft's footnotes are very helpful as well. The times I felt lost, - they were fewer than I expected, it should be noted - Kreeft served an admirable guide. His views of the theology of the Reformers are generally a bit shallow and stereotypical, as I've seen in other reviews. But he's in good company on this: so were Chesterton's. Thankfully my seminary classes will next direct me to reading a bit of Calvin, which I look forward to for comparison's sake. But I will give Thomas (and Chesterton and Kreeft) this: if the choice is between this sage Italian and the brash German, I'll take St. Thomas over Luther any day.(less)
Really excellent. Well written, with a distinct point of view within the tradition, but at the same time not sectarian. If all Reformed Christians wer...moreReally excellent. Well written, with a distinct point of view within the tradition, but at the same time not sectarian. If all Reformed Christians were like this, they wouldn't have such a bad name. Gave me a great idea of where I fit within the tradition and where I differ from it -- something I'd been desiring for some time.(less)
To write a review of this book is a difficult job for me, for as much as I loved the first half, I couldn't really stand the second.
The first two sect...moreTo write a review of this book is a difficult job for me, for as much as I loved the first half, I couldn't really stand the second.
The first two sections were hands down incredible. Peterson's directives to read meditatively and full of adoration and wonder were amazing. What he says of the scriptures could be said of any piece of literature, of course, but the Bible demands it particularly because of its content and style. While Homer and Virgil will drag the wonder out of you, demanding it but readily suppling the tools to feel it, the scriptures are different. They demand it, but in the process they are demanding. His recurrence to Barth's idea that the Bible creates a world wholly its own is well done, as the scriptures demand you enter into their quotidian world, leaving yours at the door.
But where this falls flat is when he discusses translation and his "translation," the Message. I don't have any qualms with the Message itself; it's great for what it is. What seems silly though is when Peterson puts himself in the company of the Seventy-two, Luther, and Tyndale. Really? This isn't a claim he should make; this is a claim that the history books will have to make, and that I don't think will make.
Yet where he really loses me is in his condemnations of the KJV. My feeling is that he overstates the difference between Tyndale's version and the KJV, but even to let his point stand serves an interesting purpose. The effect the KJV had was to elevate the language of that plough boy to greater heights. The koine of the NT and LXX was written to a culture that was not Christian with a higher culture that would never dream of accepting Christianity en masse. The KJV was the pinnacle of the Elizabethan Renaissance, besides Shakespeare (or perhaps at times included in that category!) the greatest work of English literature in existence. This translation served the needs of most of English Christendom for some 350 years. That we've become culturally incapable of reading something that the plough boy of yesteryear would have had no trouble with is not an indictment on the work, it's an indictment on our culture.
These are items of cultural criticism, however. If Peterson wants to maintain that his work is the most faithful to the spirit of the koine original, so be it, and we should accept the fruits of his labors with grateful hearts. Personally, I'd rather read the scripture in a language that demands something from me, demands that I enter another world than the decayed Christendom that I inhabit. But to each his own. (less)
This is one of the best pieces of theology I've read. This is incarnational Christianity. My few scruples, and there were some, are petty in compariso...moreThis is one of the best pieces of theology I've read. This is incarnational Christianity. My few scruples, and there were some, are petty in comparison to how much I enjoyed this book. (less)
This book is absolutely majestic, yet I probably understood less than a third of it. I will read it again, and probably again, and most likely yet aga...moreThis book is absolutely majestic, yet I probably understood less than a third of it. I will read it again, and probably again, and most likely yet again. I get the impression that Charles Williams was probably one of the most unique and brilliant intellects of the twentieth century. And I get the impression from him that Dante is the most unique and brilliant poet of all time. (less)
This book is everything that philosophy should be. Rational and poetic, pious and questioning, faithful to God and reason amongst its doubts.
Boethius...moreThis book is everything that philosophy should be. Rational and poetic, pious and questioning, faithful to God and reason amongst its doubts.
Boethius gives an updated account of Job's conundrum and provides a graceful and articulate defense of the Romano-Christian philosophy and theology, along with the virtue ethics and politics of the sagest of ancients in the very days before Europe plunged into its years of barbarism, starting with the end of Boethius' life itself. It is philosophy in its truest sense: the love of Sophia herself, as she preaches to unjustly imprisoned Boethius. It closes with the best discussion of free will and determinism I've yet seen, something that should make modern day Calvinists and Arminians place their hands over their mouths and say with Job, "Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know." (less)
Wilson's biography of Dante and the world that surrounds him takes love as its central focus and works on your loves while you read it. It was strange...moreWilson's biography of Dante and the world that surrounds him takes love as its central focus and works on your loves while you read it. It was strange to read - rarely do I feel my affections so swayed by dry history. Though Wilson's history is rarely dry history.
This biography does a great job illuminating the Florence that Dante inhabited for much of his life and its political and religious turmoil that made it to spit one of its greatest citizens out into exile. This late-Medieval, early-Renaissance story swirls with Popes, French kings, German emperors, philosophers, theologians, Guelphs and Ghibellines such that following it closely becomes an impossibility. Wilson recognizes this, even at one point remarking on the strange number of Charleses within the French royal family, but does little to really alleviate it. Sometimes he makes it worse by launching into mini-biographies of individuals who may appear incidental to the story. But this is all necessary if one is to properly understand the context of the Comedy especially. If Wilson's cast becomes at times engorged it is because Dante's is, and after reading Wilson's biography I'll at least have a better idea of the reasons for his hatred of Boniface VIII, his relationship to the Black Guelphs, his maturing and sometimes extremist political views, and a hundred other things that are locked up within the recesses my memory.
But onto Dante himself. Wilson's portrait brings Dante to life, and one knows this by how he feels about Dante throughout the narrative. First I was enamored of him - in an admittedly conceited way - because I identified with him: egoistic, idealistic, and a bit rash. Yet as the narrative grew on I began to despise him. Wilson brought out his flaws, his lusts, his idiosyncrasies. This continued for some chapters, until the last few when I began to love him again - not with the youthful idealism that I first saw and that I share with him in my outer life but with a mature and deepened spiritual appreciation for him, flaws in all - namely as a person. And ultimately this is why Wilson's biography is successful: because it personalizes Dante, that great western poet, in a way that Homer, Virgil, or that enigma Shakespeare can never today experience. And this makes the Comedy all the more powerful, not written by a literary god of the age of gold but by a man in a fractured world like ours.(less)