Our Scholars Have Forgotten Themselves

There is a twofold error in commending Aquinas: the immediate one being that he is an idolater, and the secondary one being it involves an implicit following of Rome’s lead, commending works by her members, and keeping a measure of company with her. Dominicans have been employed by Credo as teachers, and scarcely an issue passes without that magazine including articles or interviews with members of that communion, or commending works by them. Such following Rome’s lead is wrong because Rome has not repented those errors of doctrine and practice that sparked the Reformation, and has in some cases stiffened her neck and made herself yet worse.

What if I told you, dear reader, that prominent members of the Protestant theological academy are enamored by someone whose writings commend the practice of idolatry? Scripture is clear that someone who promotes idolatry is a false teacher (Rev. 2:14, 20; comp. Num. 25:1-2; 31:16), and that such false teachers are wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt. 7:15), who come disguised as angels of light (2 Cor. 11:14-15), and whose company ruins the good doctrine of those who associate with them (1 Cor. 15:33; comp. Prov. 13:20). It is clear as well that such people are known by their deeds (Matt. 7:16-20) and that their words betray the state of their hearts (12:33-37); that they have no inheritance in the Kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9; Eph. 5:5); and that they are not to be entertained for even a moment when their false teaching becomes known (Deut. 13:6-8). As such you would, I hope, recognize that such a teacher’s admirers were wrong to approve him, and in so doing had lost their sense and spoken unworthily of their positions and of their task of guarding and propagating sound doctrine (Acts 20:28; 1 Tim. 4:16; Tit. 1:9; 2 Jn. 8-9).

Alas, my hypothetical situation is actually the case at present. Here are two quotes from a currently-popular teacher promoting the worship of images of Christ:

The same reverence should be shown to Christ’s image as to Christ Himself.

The Apostles, led by the inward instinct of the Holy Ghost, handed down to the churches certain instructions which they did not put in writing . . . among these traditions is the worship of Christ’s image.

And two promoting the worship of the cross:

In each way it is worshiped with the same adoration as Christ, viz. the adoration of “latria.” And for this reason also we speak to the cross and pray to it, as to the Crucified Himself.

By reason of the contact of Christ’s limbs we worship not only the cross, but all that belongs to Christ. Wherefore Damascene says (De Fide Orth. iv, 11): “The precious wood, as having been sanctified by the contact of His holy body and blood, should be meetly worshiped; as also His nails, His lance, and His sacred dwelling-places, such as the manger, the cave and so forth.

That is idolatry, the giving of the worship due only to God to a material object (Ex. 20:3-5; Lev. 26:1). God says to “flee from idolatry” (1 Cor. 10:14), and “not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater” (5:11). So evil is idolatry that he commanded the ancient Israelites to execute anyone who so much as suggested it (Deut. 13:1-11). (The application of that principle for us in the present is avoidance, as shown in the verses quoted above: violence is not part of the new covenant in Christ [Jn. 18:36], and our warfare is spiritual, not carnal [2 Cor. 10:3-4].) Viewed from another angle, the proper role of God’s shepherds includes warning his sheep to avoid such people (Acts 20:28-31; Col. 1:28), as the Apostles did in their epistles cited above.

Yet that is not what some of our professors – many of whom are ordained as pastors as well – have been doing. They have forgotten the very concept of false teachers, and the commands that they are to be avoided (2 Jn. 10) and warned against, as well as that the sheep are easily led astray by such false teachers, whose cunning and ability to deceive are terrible (Matt. 24:11, 25). They have gone along with an intellectual fad and commended others do likewise, and have held forth a certain ancient false teacher as someone who should be ‘retrieved’ for today and read gladly.

The name of that teacher is Thomas Aquinas, and well might we ask such men what Paul asked the Galatians (3:1): “who has bewitched you?” An idolater is ipso facto not a representative of God, but has come forth to deceive. We may ask further: why have you allowed yourselves to be led astray, and for what cause do your ears itch (2 Tim. 4:3) so? Have you forgotten God’s pronouncement that “blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers” (Ps. 1:1)? Are idolaters no longer in the foremost ranks of the wicked, that you take one so eagerly as your master and guide, and even name a system of thought (“Thomism”) after him?

Ah, but someone will say that in many matters he adhered to the truth and explained it well. Even if this were so – and it is a point which is not here conceded – have you forgotten that sound doctrine that is abetted by falsehood or that issues as errant practice is useless? For “even the demons believe” (Jas.2:19), and yet they have no qualms using their sound knowledge to deceive the unwary all that much better. I hope, however, that you have not so much forgotten yourself, dear reader, and that you have kept discernment and good sense about you in these matters (Prov. 14:8; Matt. 24:4; 1 Thess. 5:21; 1 Jn. 4:1).

And to answer that question with which I began my rhetorical digression above, the present fascination with Aquinas is largely driven by a certain faction in the Roman communion. To be sure, such figures as R.C. Sproul, Norman Geisler, and John Gerstner – whose Protestant bona fides and general helpfulness speak for themselves – were quite approving of the study of Aquinas, but they have either passed, or else their works were of a previous generation. Gerstner’s article trying to claim Aquinas as a proto-Protestant came out in 1994, part of a larger issue about him, while Geisler’s Thomas Aquinas: An Evangelical Appraisal appeared in 1991.

Today’s movement to popularize Aquinas is largely a creature of Romanists, such men as Matthew Levering, Thomas Joseph White, and Reinhard Hütter.

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