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BOOK REVIEWS 529 Thomas Aquinas: An Evangelical Appraisal. By NORMAN L. GEISLER. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1991. Pp. 195. $12.95. The avowed aim of this hook is to win for Aquinas a more sympathetic hearing in evangelical circles. An evangelical who has himself been an admirer of Thomas for many years and has made extensive use of thomisitc writings, Geisler is keenly aware of the immensity of his task. Prominent evangelicals have manifested a pronounced hostility towards Aquinas, accusing him of a variety of sins, from being a proto-humanist to reducing Christian faith to a faulty Aristotelianism. Geisler nevertheless believes the rehabilitation of Thomas worth the effort and offers in this hook ample testimony to the ways in which Aquinas is in accord with the best of evangelical thought. Geisler appears to have adopted a threefold strategy. He begins hy rehearsing the odd ideas about Aquinas that evangelicals such as Francis Schaeffer have advanced; Geisler successfully demonstrates that the most serious charges made by evangelicals against Thomas are groundless. Geisler also devotes considerable effort to establishing Thomas's own credentials as an ' evangelical '; here, he argues in particular for Thomas's fidelity to scripture, and his concern for some epistemological and metaphysical issues of significance for evangelicals. Finally, Geisler occasionally highlights the contribution that Thomas can make to contemporary evangelical work. Not only would Thomas aid in the encounter with process theology (pp. 114ff.) ; hy his teaching on the difference between the preambles and the articles of faith, as well as by his nuanced ways of figuring the relations of faith and reason, Thomas can help to overcome the present impasse between presuppositionalists and evidentialists (pp. 20-1; p. 69) (for a more complete list of the possible contributions of Aquinas to evangelical thought, see pp. 21-2). While few would doubt the nobility of Geisler's ambition, the hook is flawed in several respects. Most notably, the presentation of Thomas's thought falls short of Geisler's purpose. Geisler is basically content to summarize Thomas's positions on certain issues, often merely stringing together quotes from Thomas or offering paraphrases of Thomas's ideas. Evaluated as a simple summary of these issues, the hook is for the most part satisfactory, although hy bringing together discrete claims from remote and disparate parts of (especially) the Summa theologiae, Geisler may be guilty of imposing an order foreign to the thomistic original. Only occasionally does Geisler slip, changing or distorting Thomas's thought in the reporting. For example, in pro- 530 BOOK REVIEWS viding an overview in the third chapter of Thomas on revelation, he writes (pp. 37-8) : "The Bible is inspired and inerrant, even in matters that are not essential to our redemption. No other Christian writing, neither the fathers nor the creeds, are inspired or revelatory. They are only human interpretations of God's revelation in Scripture." Even apart from the anachronistic introduction of the language of evangelical orthodoxy to frame Thomas's position ("The Bible is ... inerrant, even in ..."), the rendering can be questioned on two counts. For one thing, in support of his first claim, Geisler refers in a note to ST I l, 10 ad 3. As another use of that reply discloses (on p. 47, when he returns to the closer examination of the inerrancy of scripture) , what has caught Geisler's eye is the declaration there that 'nothing false underlies the literal sense of scripture'. Yet, Geisler ignores the context of this declaration. Thomas's concern is with the character of the parabolic sense of scripture: does parable convey literal or spiritual meaning? There is, in fact, a rich tradition of speculation on the matter , beginning with Origen, that informs Thomas's own analysis. Geisler leaves Thomas's main point unconsidered and thus misses the real novelty of the reply, that Thomas sees parable as functioning at the literal, not the spiritual, level. In fact, in the light of what he says elsewhere (p. 50), it is quite possible that Geisler has misunderstood Thomas's teaching about the parabolic sense (the choppiness of that rendering, however, makes it difficult to be certain of Geisler's point). Geisler's slip in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2473-3725
Print ISSN
0040-6325
Pages
pp. 529-532
Launched on MUSE
2017-04-05
Open Access
No
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