As the most influential apologetic work of the Western Church, the Summa contra Gentiles has shaped and defined theological and philosophical enquiry for hundreds of years. This vast work aims to establish the truth of the Christian religion by laying out a defense of the Christian faith from the perspective of both faith and reason. In doing so, Thomas Aquinas helps establish the method, purpose, and grounding for both theology and philosophy.
The Summa contra Gentiles is divided into four books. In the first three books, Aquinas is concerned the lay out a defense of the Christian faith from the perspective of natural theology—the common ground between “Christians and infidels.” These books contain arguments for the existence of God, discussions of ethics and morality, and other statements about God and the world which can be derived from the faculties of reason. Each section describes and defends God’s knowledge, God’s actions in creation, and the purpose and fulfillment—the telos—of all things in God. The fourth and final book of Summa contra Gentiles delineates the knowledge received through divine revelation, such as the Incarnation, the Trinity, and the Resurrection.
Logos is pleased to offer the English translation of the Summa contra Gentiles by the Fathers of the English Dominican Province—the first unabridged English translation. This translation was first published during the 1920s by Burns Oates & Washbourne and has been reprinted numerous times throughout the twentieth century.
With the Logos edition of the Summa contra Gentiles, references to the Church Fathers and other early and medieval texts are linked, allowing you to click your way to primary and secondary literature instantly. All Scripture references are directly linked to the Bibles in your library, and your digital library also allows you to perform powerful searches by topic, subject, or passage. What’s more, with Logos, every word is essentially a link: double-clicking on any word automatically searches your lexicons for a match, which makes Greek and Latin terminology instantly accessible at the click of a button! That makes the Logos edition of the Summa contra Gentiles the preeminent academic standard for the study of Aquinas!
“Now the knowledge of naturally known principles is instilled into us by God, since God Himself is the author of our nature. Therefore the divine Wisdom also contains these principles. Consequently whatever is contrary to these principles, is contrary to the divine Wisdom; wherefore it cannot be from God. Therefore those things which are received by faith from divine revelation cannot be contrary to our natural knowledge.” (Volume 1, Page 14)
“In order to clear away this doubt, we must take note that, though a man is unable, by the movement of his free-will, to merit or acquire the divine grace, nevertheless he can hinder himself from receiving it.” (Volume 4, Page 212)
“Now though the aforesaid truth of the Christian faith surpasses the ability of human reason, nevertheless those things which are naturally instilled in human reason cannot be opposed to this truth. For it is clear that those things which are implanted in reason by nature, are most true, so much so that it is impossible to think them to be false Nor is it lawful to deem false that which is held by faith, since it is so evidently confirmed by God. Seeing then that the false alone is opposed to the true, as evidently appears if we examine their definitions, it is impossible for the aforesaid truth of faith to be contrary to those principles which reason knows naturally.” (Volume 1, Page 14)
“All this shows that however imperfect the knowledge of the highest things may be, it bestows very great perfection on the soul: and consequently, although human reason is unable to grasp fully things that are above reason, it nevertheless acquires much perfection, if at least it hold things, in any way whatever, by faith.” (Volume 1, Page 11)
Perhaps no other man ever came so near to calling the Creator by his own name . . .
—G. K. Chesterton
St. Thomas is important for us today precisely because of our lack. Timeless truth is always timely, of course, but some aspects of truth are especially needed at some times, and it seems that our times badly need seven Thomistic syntheses: (1) of faith and reason, (2) of the biblical and the classical, (3) of the ideals of clarity and profundity, (4) of common sense and technical sophistication, (5) of theory and practice, (6) of an understanding, intuitive vision and a demanding, accurate logic, and (7) of the one and the many, a cosmic unity or ‘big picture’ and carefully sorted out distinctions. I think it a safe judgment that no one in the entire history of human thought has ever succeeded better than St. Thomas in making not just one but all seven of these marriages which are essential to health and happiness.
Thomas Aquinas (1225–7 March 1274) was an Italian Dominican friar, philosopher, Catholic priest, and Doctor of the Church. An immensely influential philosopher, theologian, and jurist in the tradition of scholasticism, he is also known within the latter as the Doctor Angelicus and the Doctor Communis. He was the foremost classical proponent of natural theology and he argued that reason is found in God. His influence on Western thought is considerable, and much of modern philosophy developed or opposed his ideas, particularly in the areas of ethics, natural law, metaphysics, and political theory.
Unlike many currents in the Church of the time, Aquinas embraced the philosophy of Aristotle—whom he called “the Philosopher”—and attempted to synthesize Aristotelian philosophy with the principles of Christianity.
His best-known works are the Disputed Questions on Truth (1256–1259), the Summa contra Gentiles (1259–1265), and the unfinished but massively influential Summa Theologica (1265–1274). His commentaries on Scripture and on Aristotle also form an important part of his body of work. Furthermore, Thomas is distinguished for his eucharistic hymns, which form a part of the Church’s liturgy. The Catholic Church honors Thomas Aquinas as a saint and regards him as the model teacher for those studying for the priesthood, and indeed the highest expression of both natural reason and speculative theology. In modern times, under papal directives, the study of his works was long used as a core of the required program of study for those seeking ordination as priests or deacons, as well as for those in religious formation and for other students of the sacred disciplines (philosophy, Catholic theology, church history, liturgy, and canon law).
Thomas Aquinas is considered one of the Catholic Church’s greatest theologians and philosophers. Pope Benedict XV declared: “This (Dominican) Order . . . acquired new luster when the Church declared the teaching of Thomas to be her own and that Doctor, honored with the special praises of the Pontiffs, the master and patron of Catholic schools.”