|INTERVIEW WITH DR.
MARK F. JOHNSON
|1. Can you introduce yourself to our readers?|
I am associate professor of Theology at
|2. What research are you doing at this moment and/or what courses are you teaching?|
I get to teach graduate seminars on various topics now and then; a few
years back I taught a seminar on the moral universe of
As regards my research I have been slowly working over the last ten years towards a book on the whole “big picture” of Thomas’s account of the moral life. I’d like in my monograph to present the moral universe as Thomas saw it to be, and that universe is not the filtered, philosophized universe that interests us today; it was rather the cluttered and messy universe ruled by the God and redeemed by the passion of his Son. For me the pastoral literature left behind by Thomas should be read and treated as of primary importance in interpreting him. This is why, when I do finish my book, I imagine that reviewers will accuse me of having made the Tertia pars of the Summa theologiae to be an extension of the Secunda pars. There are worse crimes.
is the most important thing you learned from Aquinas?
|4. In which way were you introduced to the thought of Thomas and whom do you consider to be your teacher in Aquinas?|
I got a hint of the existence
of Thomas during my college years at
I went to
|5. What is the importance of Aquinas for our times, especially in relationship to your field of research?|
the field of ethics, especially, these are good times for Thomas, because both
Catholic and Protestant authors are reading him, as are philosophers (especially
in the analytic world). The virtue-ethics craze continues to steer people
Thomas’s way. And of course, you can’t have a discussion about natural law
in a broadly Christian context without mentioning Thomas’s name. So there is,
and will remain, a wide audience for his writings. I just hope that people will
remember the Cross; Thomas did, twice a day.
|6. How would you describe the current status of Thomism in your country and/or in general?|
Here in the USA things are good, at least in the sense that many authors
are reading about Thomas and studying him; of course there is no uniform method
that allows all readers to have a clear sense of what Thomas actually meant on
this issue or that, or how we best employ his teaching on this or that issue. So
there is at times almost a Tower-of-Babel diversity amongst readers of his work.
There is a marked increase in theological study of Thomas these days, partly
under the influence of Fr. Torrell’s writings, and I’m naturally excited
about that (Fr. Principe in
If I have a worry it is that the new emphasis upon the “theological” Thomas may encourage students not to do the necessary philosophical study that Thomas himself did. Sure, work on the doctrine of the Trinity, but make sure that you’re reading and studying the De substantiis separatis, and other metaphysical writings. Everybody should be studying the Scriptum on Boethius’s De trinitate, especially questions 5 and 6. And no one should be allowed to read the Secunda pars until they’ve read the De anima, Thomas’s commentary on it, and the Disputed questions De anima.
|7. Which publications of yourself do you consider to be the most important for Aquinas’ researchers to read?|
written items of interest here and there. Perhaps some that will be useful to
“Another Look at
“God’s Knowledge in Our Frail Mind:
“An Accomplishment of the Moral Part of Aquinas's Summa theologiae,” in James R. Ginther and Carl N. Still eds., Essays
in Medieval Theology and Philosophy in Memory of Walter H. Principe: Fortresses
and Launching Pads (
Most of all I ask the readers for their prayers as I work away on my
monograph: Nature, Grace, Sin and Glory:
The Moral Universe of St. Thomas Aquinas.