I’m a student of the Russian language. A few days ago I was in a class and my teacher explained a concept. It was a tough concept and I wanted to understand it perfectly. I simply kept asking questions one after another. I wanted to make sure that I understood the semantic domain of the words when this rule is used and if there were any exceptions to this rule. After several minutes, looking flustered, she looked up at me and said: “Why are you asking so many questions?”Are questions a bad thing? At that point I realized that when I want to learn something, I engage in a very inquisitive manner. I wanted to find out why I was like this so I began to think. It only took me a few minutes to realize the answer. The answer is that I have a Scholastic mind. Scholasticism was the primary mode of education between 1000 and 1300 AD which is my favourite period of Church history to study.
The top theologian in the Scholastic movement was St. Thomas Aquinas who authored the famous Summa Theologica. One time after Church, my Priest explained to me how St. Thomas operated. He would state a proposition, his students would raise standard objections, St. Thomas would go into the Church, engage in deep thought and prayer, and then return with the answers which his students would record. He would use Scripture, writings of the Doctors and Fathers of the Church, decrees of Councils, and Aristotelian logic.
Recently, I was listening to the lectures of Catholic Church historian Thomas Madden. He pointed out that at the time of the “Reformation” there was a competing school of thought in the Church that was opposed to Scholasticism. This school was called Humanism and it called for a return to a simple faith of Scripture and early tradition. The Protestant movement emerged from this school of thought. Despite Protestantism emerging from this school of thought, it is still completely consistent with Catholicism. Several anti-Protestant writers in the Church were humanists such as Erasmus of Rotterdam and St. Thomas More. However, ultimately it was Scholasticism which won the day as the greatest achievement of the Counter-Reformation which was the Council of Trent, used very Scholastic language in it’s statements and decrees.
I certainly know which camp I fall into. I firmly believe this method to be superior to the Humanist school of thought. There were tiny snippets of Scholasticism in the first millennium. Primarily from the writings of St. John of Damascus. However, Scholasticism flourished during the early second millennium. No other religious group has even come close to the Catholic Church in the amount of Scholasticism used. Many non-Catholics criticize this method but when they’re asked specifically why, they usually don’t have an answer and almost always when they do have one, it isn’t well thought through.
The amount of answers yielded by Scholasticism is extremely impressive. Every Catholic should read as much of the great Scholastic theologians as possible. It’s the greatest Scholarship that Christianity has ever produced. It’s also the antidote to the modernist crisis in the Church.