For those interested in a reformed perspective on some of the most significant voices of history, such as Thomas Aquinas, a new series from P&R Publishing may be of some interest. Each volume reexamines a single scholar from a distinct reformed theology. The volumes are narrow in focus, resulting in shorter treatments with particular focus on reformed themes.

P&R describes the series:

Great Thinkers: Critical Studies of Minds That Shape Us is an academically, biblically, and theologically informed series that explores the leading ideas of seminal thinkers who have shaped the modern world. Writing from a Reformed perspective, the series’ authors identify the most influential cultural features of each great thinker and the most apologetically effective ways to address them.

K. Scott Oliphint’s Thomas Aquinas is a prime example of the scope of the Great Thinkers series. Rather than a historical biography or a broad survey of Aquinas’ theology, Oliphint’s discussion is limited to two topics. The theological analysis addresses “the foundation of existence (principium essendi), which is God himself, and the foundation of knowledge (principium cognoscendi), which is God’s revelation.” (Thomas Aquinas, 2)

These two themes are addressed in a variety of ways. First, Oliphint is quick to show Aquinas’ indebtedness to the Church Fathers, such as Gregory the Great and John Chrysostom, but especially to Augustine.

Second, Oliphant unpacks how Aquinas’ epistemology and metaphysics were inseparably linked. Thus, he writes,

It recognizes that in order for there to be a justification of knowledge, a metaphysical structure must be assumed such that facts, natures and their constituents, and the relationships between them, exist and are known—and are known immediately. In other words, justification not only is epistemological, but also includes the metaphysical structure of the world. The things known are known by virtue of their mode of existence. Thomas Aquinas 24

Third, Oliphint addresses shifts within the historiography by discussing Ralph McInerny’s scholarship and his combatting of reinterpretations of Aquinas by Étienne Gilson, Henri de Lubac, and Marie-Dominique Chenu.

Finally, Oliphint dedicates considerable time to the concept of divine simplicity. In addressing the divine metaphysical accidents and transcendence, Oliphint leans on Alvin Plantinga’s previous studies.

Oliphint’s Thomas Aquinas is a worthwhile read, especially for those looking for a reformed theological analysis of Thomas Aquinas. Quite different than numerous other words on Aquinas, Oliphint’s study should be considered as an alternative approach. The Great Thinkers series looks to be an interesting collection of studies, of which volumes on Karl Marx and Jacques Derrida are currently available.

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