Pedagogy of the embodied

Mark Jordan shows us Aquinas—and God—in the flesh.

In some classics of Christian theology, sheer bulk comes to function as a pedagogical strategy. You set out on City of God or Church Dogmatics hoping to sack them like a city; you return from them a humble mendicant. Day after day, year after year, they frustrate your plans and mortify your pride—you thought you’d be done by now, and instead you’re still toiling your way through the prolegomena, of which you understood maybe a third.

Such books give rise to a parallel tradition: books that offer a traveler’s guide to these classic works alongside a theological vision or argument of their own. (Think of John Webster on Barth or Anne M. Carpenter on Balthasar.) Mark Jordan’s luminously readable and intelligent book belongs to this tradition. I will carry it with me the next time I try (and fail) to learn my way around that ancient city Summa Theologica.

Jordan believes, with Thomas Aquinas, that the human person is “an intellect that learns through the body” and that we “learn best how to live from enacted examples”: