This book argues for substantial and pervasive convergence between Thomas Aquinas and Karl Barth with regards to God’s relation to history and to the Christocentric orientation of that history. In short, it contends that Thomas can affirm what Barth calls "the humanity of God." The argument has great ecumenical potential, finding fundamental agreement between two of the most important figures in the Reformed and Roman Catholic traditions. It also contributes to contemporary theology by demonstrating the fruitfulness of exchanging metaphysical vocabularies for normative. Specifically, it shows how an account of God’s mercy and justice can resolve theological debates most assume require metaphysical speculation.
Table of Contents
Texts and Abbreviations
Introduction: Changing the Conversation between Thomas and Barth
1 Justice and Mercy, Human and Divine
2 The Humanity of God and the God-World Relation
3 God’s Lordship over Creation
4 The Old Law’s Preparation for Christ
5 God’s Mercy and Justice in New Law and Salvation
Conclusion: A Continuing Conversation
Jeffrey Skaff has a PhD in Systematic Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary, USA.
"Immensely creative and constructive, this book charts an exciting new path for the Barth-Aquinas dialogue that has become so ecumenically significant. Skaff suggests that instead of beginning with metaphysical differences, we might look first at how Barth and Aquinas speak about the Triune God's actual exercise of his Lordship in justice and mercy. From this perspective, Skaff engages such topics as election, eternal law, natural law, divine concursus, nature and grace, creation and covenant, the Old and New Laws, atonement, and justification. The result brilliantly demonstrates what careful readers of Barth and Aquinas often surmise but have difficulty articulating: their guiding concerns are deeply similar, and their affinities can reawaken us to the power of the Gospel." -Matthew Levering
"According to Karl Barth, the trouble with Thomas Aquinas was that he didn’t recognize the human being as a liar. In this profound and elegant book, Jeffrey Skaff shows how Aquinas’s provision of mercy before justice recognizes and rectifies the human being’s lying ways. The central problem of mid-century Protestant-Catholic dialogue may now be regarded as settled." - Eugene F. Rogers, Jr.
"Skaff’s superb study brings together two difficult authors on a lofty matter. It is an unqualified success. It makes the views of both clearer, and it sheds considerable light on the matter itself. I am sure that Catholic readers, including Thomists, will better understand not only Barth but also Aquinas, and I do expect that the experience of Protestant readers, including Barthians, will be comparable. Happily, in the end, although of course differences remain, they turn out to be less than the standard profiles of the two theologians would project. And the book’s real payoff would certainly be gratifying to both men: a deeper appreciation of the humanity of their God." - Stephen L. Brock
"Among the recent attempts at a rapprochement between Thomas Aquinas and Karl Barth, this one stands out for its originality, its clarity, and its insight into both theologians. Rather than trying to explain away what divides Aquinas and Barth, it focuses on their surprising convergence on God's relations to the world and to history - relations in which Christ is at the center and mercy precedes justice. The result is not a mere comparison but a deep theological engagement that will richly reward not only those who are invested in Aquinas or Barth but anyone who is interested in the normative dimensions of God's relation to the world and to history." - Gerald McKenny
"Since von Balthasar's massive study on the theology of Karl Barth, the rapprochement between Thomas and Barth has occupied many volumes of comparative theology. This book by Jeffrey Skaff is not simply one more of these. Rather, it is a transformation of the entire field. Most treatments of Barth and Thomas, or more broadly, Roman Catholic theology, focus intently on the Prima Pars of the Summa, and the habit of thought Barth called 'natural theology.' This book sets this preoccupation aside with a firm hand. Instead, Thomas' magisterial treatment of Divine Law is given pride of place, and that treatise is placed aside Doctrines of Covenant and Justification in the Church Dogmatics. Skaff shows mastery of the contemporary scholarly debates in both Barth and Thomist studies, and does not shy away from making careful and bold judgements about them. Wonderfully, Skaff forges a new framework for this comparative work: the ethical attributes of Divine mercy and justice. With fresh eyes we see the well-worked fields of nature and grace, including the complex legacy of de Lubac in contemporary Catholic teaching, the Reformation controversies over merit and free pardon of the sinner, and the present-day forays into the proper reading of the Apostle Paul on Law, faith, and works. For both Barth and Thomas, Skaff shows, mercy precedes and governs justice, all the while upholding the justice God is and God does. This is a mature, insightful, and path-breaking work and will re-make how we read Barth alongside the medieval master, Thomas Aquinas." - Katherine Sonderegger
"The goal of this remarkable book is to show that Karl Barth’s revolutionary doctrine of election stands in close proximity to Thomas. In Thomas’ thinking, there is no nuda essentia, no state of indeterminacy standing in back of God’s act of willing fellowship with the human race in Christ. God’s will in relation to the human race is already contained in the eternal law that God is. If true - and I find Skaff’s exposition and overarching argument convincing - this is a significant achievement in both dogmatic and ecumenical theology. A book to be savored to the last page." - Bruce McCormack