Me: “My name is Mark, and I am not a Thomist.”
Others at the meeting: “Hi, Mark.”
At moments I am sorely tempted to despair when I realize how much work one must do to master Saint Thomas’s teaching. Twice this past semester at Marquette University I was on a board of examiners for what we call our “doctoral qualifying exams”—usually called “comps” (for ‘comprehensive exams’)—when I realized I simply didn’t know some things that Thomas himself would have known cold, and would have assumed that most of his readers would have known, too. One of my fellow-examiners is an expert in the teaching of St. Augustine, while another is a cracker-jack reader of the Old Testament. In one instance we were talking about Augustine’s teaching on some point or other when I realized I didn’t know what book of Augustine I’d have to consult in order to track the teaching down (De doctrina christiana? De trinitate? I dunno!), and in the other I realized that I couldn’t rattle off the minor prophets if I had to.
After the exam we were sitting around just chatting, when I told my colleagues I had an announcement to make. “I am not a Thomist,” I said. “That’s too bad for us,” a colleague responded, “because that’s why we hired you!” An explanation was in order. I told them that I didn’t feel that I could really consider myself a full student of Thomas’s teaching until I had a reasonable mastery of some basic texts and skills. And so, until I acquire them, I can’t be a Thomist.
So here is a list of ten things I haven’t done yet, that I need to do. What do you think?
I am not a Thomist because:
- I have not yet read all of the writings of Augustine, cover-to-cover.
- I have not yet read all of the Bible (in the vulgata), cover-to-cover.
- I have not yet read the Metaphysics, cover-to-cover.
- I have not yet read Gratian’s Decretum, cover-to-cover (but I have read Raymond of Peñafort; does that count?).
- Yeesh! I haven’t read Lombard, cover-to-cover (big feelings of inadequacy!).
- I don’t know the medieval or Dominican liturgy very well at all.
- I don’t really know the doctrine of St. Albert.
- I haven’t memorized Isidore’s Etymologies.
- I remember reading through Damascene’s De fide orthodoxa, but I’ve forgotten what it says!
- I haven’t read through the whole Corpus Dionysiacum, or Maimonides’s Guide for the Perplexed, or…..ugh.
Are you a not-Thomist, too? If so, let me know why (by discussing it, or by leaving a comment).