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Friday, January 28, 2011

An Ultracompact Abridgement of "Summa Theologiae: A Concise Translation"

Below is an extreme abridgement of Timothy McDermott's 600-page Summa Theologiae: A Concise Translation, itself an abridgement of Thomas Aquinas' 3000-page Summa Theologiae. The intent of this extreme abridgement is to give a bird's eye view of the whole. Interested readers are referred to McDermott's excellent work.

My aim in this book is to introduce beginners to what God taught us [in the scriptures] as concisely and clearly as the subject-matter allows, and in scientific order. Our words for God do not express him as he is in himself; they express him in ways more appropriate to the material creatures we naturally know. God is happiness itself; whatever we desire in any happiness whatsoever, true or imagined, exists in a transcendent way in God's happiness. We had to know about the Trinity, primarily so that we might be clear about the salvation of mankind, which was accomplished by the Son made flesh in the giving of the Spirit. God planned to create many distinct things, in order to share with them and reproduce in them his goodness. That man is made in the image of God's nature implies that all three persons of God are represented in him. God gives form to things, maintains them in existence, applies them to their actions, and is the goal of all activity.

Happiness is above all the activity of contemplating the things of God; virtue is a disposition befitting one's nature, a goodness directed towards good deeds. Three things oppose virtue: sins (or misdeeds), evil (the opposite of goodness), and vice (disposition unbefitting to one's nature). The New Law fills up what the Old Law lacked; it primarily consists of the grace of the Holy Spirit showing itself in faith working through love. In charity God is loved and we do the loving. The function of prudence is not to set the goals of moral virtue, but simply to determine means to those goals. Moral virtues do not pursue contemplation of truth; but moral virtues are dispositions to the contemplative life.

We needed God to become flesh if we were to be saved; Christ came into the world to wipe out not only the sin of Adam that we all inherit, but also all subsequent sins. Because Christ's soul did not repel from his body the hurt inflicted on it, but was willing for his bodily nature to suffer, we say he laid down his life, or died willingly. The whole power of the sacraments derives from the sufferings of Christ. The sacraments dispose and strengthen men to worship God according to the religion of Christian life, and to remedy the effects of sin.


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