Josef Pieper is a German Roman Catholic philosopher in the German romantic idealist tradition. His specialty is Thomas Aquinas. This book is a selectiJosef Pieper is a German Roman Catholic philosopher in the German romantic idealist tradition. His specialty is Thomas Aquinas. This book is a selection from his writings selected by Pieper himself. The collection is remarkably coherent, each small unit leading into the next. He engages with ancient through modern philosophy, all from the standpoint of the Christian in dialog with Reality and Truth. What is the nature of human existence? How does theology and philosophy (or, better, theologians and philosophers) relate to one another? What is hope, happiness? How does hope relate to the future and the past? He is a clear and direct thinker and writer, reminding me at times of C. S. Lewis in his style. My one criticism is that sometimes, especially in the section on human existence, he leaves me wondering if I'm to accept his propositions as self-evident, when they are not self-evident to me! He's more "mystical" than I am, and some of his rhetoric leaves me cold. Nevertheless, he is profoundly thought-provoking and his ideas demand engagement and response. I'm going to leave this book alone for a while, and then reread it. Highly recommended....more
I must admit that I had high expectations of this book. G. K. Chesterton has a huge reputation as a writer. Since he was a devout Catholic, I expectedI must admit that I had high expectations of this book. G. K. Chesterton has a huge reputation as a writer. Since he was a devout Catholic, I expected an excellent book on Thomas. I was disappointed.
First, the author does not give a coherent narrative of Thomas' life. He makes many references to events and people of the 13th century (a good thing), but he expects the reader to already know about them. You will get a great deal more out of this book if you have already read an encyclopedia article on both him and the 13th century.
The book is really a hagiography of Thomas, a series of meditations about the man, his life and his thought. It is uncritically complimentary of Thomas, and only filled with praise of him, even or especially when noting his flaws.
The writing style, while entertaining, chases rabbits everywhere. The self-deprecating authorial voice is very loud and annoying. For a journalist and popular writer, he is remarkably unwilling to get to the point.
However, the chapters "The Approach to Thomism" and "The Permanent Philosophy" are worth reading, and I thought them to be very helpful on understanding what Thomas the Philosopher is all about. In the last chapter, sadly, Chesterton descends into partisan propaganda, railing (very unfairly, in my view) against Martin Luther as the very opposite of Aquinas; he even calls Luther a barbarian, evidence of his rhetorical intent. Thomas himself would have chided Chesterton for his incivility and unfairness.
If you are looking (as I was) for an entry-level introduction to Aquinas, look elsewhere. Josef Pieper's "A Guide to Thomas Aquinas" would be a good place to start....more
It is important to know that this author's defining religious experience was in a charismatic context. His primary thesis is that the "foundationalismIt is important to know that this author's defining religious experience was in a charismatic context. His primary thesis is that the "foundationalism" of the Enlightenment and modernism has been embedded in evangelicalism (although they are antagonists) and that the epistemology, philosophy of language and metaphysics of modernism has been rejected and superseded by postmodernism. Of course, trying to define postmodernism is like trying to nail jello to the wall. For Raschke, postmodernism is bound up with Heiddiger, Derrida and others of that -- especially French -- ilk. His primary complaint against modernistic Christianity is against the "hellenistic" systematic theology. He also doesn't like the doctrine of inerrancy. He promotes "faith" which is "postpropositional."
It would take a major essay to critique this book adequately. Good things: the survey of Western intellectual history; the summary and discussion of major intellectual figures: Luther, Calvin, Kant, Kierkegaard, Heidigger and others; the emphasis that systematic theology is not the essence of Christian faith. Bad things: the elevation of Derrida's views of language (he was a snake-oil salesman, in my view); he demonizes what his disagrees with; he uses rhetoric to inform the reader what conclusions to have without a rationale for those conclusions; he elevates the neo-charismatic religious experience and spontaneity as normative for Christian experience without providing reasons for the "modernist, foundationalist" evangelical to change his views.
After reading this book, I have a much more articulate understanding of why I reject so much of postmodernist polemic....more
Letham, a Reformed theologian, reviews the history and theology of the Orthodox church, with the goal of clarifying the common ground and differencesLetham, a Reformed theologian, reviews the history and theology of the Orthodox church, with the goal of clarifying the common ground and differences between the Orthodox and Reformed theology as represented by the Westminster Confession. His is an irenic approach, but does not paper over what he perceives to be the real differences between the traditions. He surveys the church councils and gives a précis of the primary fathers and influential theologians of the Orthodox. For some readers the detailed tracking of changes and differences in theological formulations of the Trinity and Christology will be off putting. For those interested in church history and history of doctrine, this book is a great read....more