Reason and revelation meet—even in Aquinas

Denys Turner’s essays bridge the gaps that often frustrate us when we read medieval theology.

One spring afternoon a decade ago, while struggling to write about Thomas Aquinas’s trinitarian theology, I got frustrated and took a break. I could not see through the thicket of individual existences of a rational nature, who proceeds from whom, and the basic meanings of paternity and filiation. I went for a walk, and as I walked a tune came unbidden to my mind. I found myself singing the Latin words of the beloved 13th-century Eucharistic hymn “Adoro te devote.”

Re­calling the words almost brought me to tears, and I sighed and wondered why Aquinas couldn’t be more like . . . himself. Thomas, the author of the Summa Theologiae, is also the poet of “Adoro te devote.” And so the two must hang to­gether somehow.

If you suspect you may have missed something important in your previous encounters with medieval theology, Denys Turner’s God, Mystery, and Mysti­fication is a very good book for reconsidering it. The book consists of talks that Turner gave over the course of his career to a variety of audiences, and they address a range of themes, always making recourse to medieval theology. Having been written separately, each of the chapters stands on its own, with some of them more integrated into an overall arc than others.