When scholars of religion are feeling provocative, they like to point out that there is no such thing as “religion”—only “religions.”Like language, religion cannot be merely an abstraction; it must always be expressed in a particular way.
The many biographies of Thomas Aquinas range from the popular and hagiographic to the scholarly. But all writers on the saint agree that Thomas was notoriously reticent about his own life. Almost never in his voluminous writings did he reveal a personal voice. It was thus brave of Denys Turner to subtitle his wonderful book “A Portrait.”
When Justin Welby, archbishop of Canterbury, was asked what he would write to his 14-year-old self, he said: “Dear Justin, You are rarely good at anything, a fact you know well and worry about. But don’t worry—it does not measure who you are. Keep on dreaming of great things, but learn to live in the present so that you take steps to accomplish them. Above all, more important than anything, don’t wait until you are older to find out about Jesus Christ and his love for you. He is not just a name at chapel, but a person you can know. Christmas is not a fairy story, but the compelling opening of the greatest drama in history, with you as one of millions of players. Life will often be tough, but you will find more love than you can imagine now. With my love to you, Justin” (The Spectator, December 14).