The idolatry of “Thomism” among some evangelical intellectuals

I like to tell people I’m a Theology 101 kind of guy. Praise the Lord that His Good News! is so simple even a child can understand it. But I appreciate the work that godly theologians have done over the years and I have picked up a few things here and there.

One thing that bothers me, though, is how some evangelical theologians are enamored with Roman Catholic medieval theologian, Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274). Those who specialize in studying Aquinas proudly dub themselves as “Thomists.” Three very influential evangelical theologians who embraced Thomism are Norman Geisler, and the late John Gerstner and R.C. Sproul.

R.C. Sproul passed into Heaven only a couple of months. I really appreciated R.C.’s ministry and his fidelity to the Gospel of grace. Every once in a while, I’ll listen to the daily broadcast from R.C.’s Ligonier Ministry, “Renewing Your Mind,” and this morning the topic was “Why Didn’t Jesus Know?” (see link below) in which R.C. explained why Jesus didn’t know the time of the Second Coming as it’s written in Matthew 24:36. R.C. explained that Thomas Aquinas had a wrong understanding of the verse, but emphatically qualified that statement with the following:

“I respect Saint Thomas Aquinas as much or more than any other theologian that’s ever lived. I think Saint Thomas was astonishing in his brilliance and in his consistent understanding of the things of God.”

[Pausing wearily]

As I said, I’m certainly not a theologian, but I do know several things about Thomas Aquinas. The Catholic church considers him their preeminent theologian. He promoted and defended the teachings of baptismal regeneration and sacramental grace, auricular confession of sins to a priest, purgatory and indulgences, the invocation and intercession of the saints in Heaven, and papal primacy. Borrowing heavily from Aristotelian philosophy, Aquinas defined, among other things, the spiritually deadly false dogma of eucharistic transubstantiation.

Thomas Aquinas was certainly no friend of the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace though faith in Jesus Christ alone. Many of the other doctrines he promoted, defended, and defined were un-Biblical and even anti-Biblical. What is it exactly that attracts these evangelical theologians to Aquinas?

I love R.C. Sproul and I’m grateful for his ministry in my life. I am not trying to besmirch the reputation of a departed brother who was faithful to the Gospel in many other ways, but I am very disappointed by R.C.’s unqualified great praise of Thomas Aquinas in today’s taped radio message and elsewhere. R.C. wasn’t perfect. This infatuation with Thomas Aquinas and Thomism among some evangelicals is a spiritual blind spot that I believe is rooted in intellectual pride.

In all things, we must always follow the Lord, Jesus Christ and His Word, rather than men. If Christian teachers, even otherwise solid Christian teachers, depart from the truth, we must follow the Lord.

“It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man.” – Psalm 118:8

“Why Didn’t Jesus Know?”

17 thoughts on “The idolatry of “Thomism” among some evangelical intellectuals

  1. Very important post. In this day of rampant compromise we must be more discerning. Thank you for diligently standing on the truth of God’s word, no matter how appealing or even lovable an erroneous teacher may be.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks, Lisa Beth! It’s beyond my comprehension how someone like Sproul could completely embrace Aquinas when Aquinas was the great champion of so many of Rome’s anti-Biblical doctrines. It’s as if Sproul and other evangelical Thomists are spiritual schizophrenics. I would have greatly desired to sit down with R.C. and asked him how he could justify upholding the Gospel and Thomism at the same time.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. “In all things, we must always follow the Lord, Jesus Christ, rather than men. If Christian teachers, even otherwise solid Christian teachers, depart from the truth, we must follow the Lord.”
    .AMEN! Sharing!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I listen to Sproul every morning on Family Radio (surprisingly a Harold Camping media production). I loved this teaching this morning and am glad you posted the link to it. I must have been letting my dog out at the time because I missed that part where he was giving regard to Aquinas. Wow! Maybe we are kept from idolizing well known teachers and preachers because of these errors. R.C. is criticized for his friendships with ecumenists and Christian psychologists so maybe this affinity to Aquinas is no surprise.

    Have a blessed evening, Tom!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. R.C. was rock solid re: Roman Catholicism in so many other instances, this infatuation with Thomism is inexplicable. Believers have to cut each other slack on the secondaries, but Sproul’s hero, Aquinas, was so wrong on the primaries. You make a good point about the foibles and errors of pastors and teachers preventing leadership idolatry. I used to listen to Alistair Begg all the time but he quoted C.S. Lewis once too often. 🙂 Thanks and have a blessed evening too, Sherry!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Good post; a bit tangent from your post RC Sproul is actually quite opposed to Presuppositional apologetics. I have written about that in the past on my blog. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that Aquinas’ theology, theological method and philosophy has shaped him more than Scripture…though I think Sproul is solid in many areas I think he’s wrong with Aquinas.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks! Sproul wrote three excellent books in reaction to ECT and the growing ecumenism with Rome so how he was able to square his great love of Aquinas with all of that is unfathomable to me. I borrowed your term, spiritual schizophrenia, in a comment to someone else. What other way to describe such radical dissonance?

      Liked by 3 people

  5. Perhaps Sproul is just eating the meat and spitting out the bones. Thing is, with Sproul’s endorsement new believers might check out Aquinas’ teachings and swallow the bones with the meat!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Sherry. I can certainly understand how a believer could embrace the good things taught by another believer while rejecting their teachings on secondaries that they don’t agree with – we do that all the time – but Aquinas was so fundamentally wrong on the Gospel and other first principles. Sproul’s statement that he respected “Saint Thomas Aquinas as much or more than any other theologian that’s ever lived” and that he thought “Saint Thomas was astonishing in his brilliance and in his consistent understanding of the things of God” is startling beyond my comprehension.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Philip, I recently approved several of your comments although I am not under any obligation to do so. There are many discussion forums on the internet, but this blog is not one of them. After almost three years of doing this, I know what’s up. I have only so much time in a day and I need to be a good steward rather than allowing myself to be drawn into endless debates with hard-hearted Catholic apologists. I praise the Lord for salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone!


  6. “What is it exactly that attracts these evangelical theologians to Aquinas?”

    What attracts many people to Aquinas is his natural theology (aka arguments for God’s existence). I don’t see what’s wrong with looking at what Aquinas had to say about the existence of God.

    Edward Feser is a good source if you want to understand Aquinas (and see what Aquinas is relevant).


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