G.K. Chesterton, apologetic methodology and the epistemology of Thomas Aquinas

In his biography on St. Thomas Aquinas (ca 1200), Gilbert Keith Chesterton (ca1900) comments on an apologetic methodology that has much to say on how we approach truth discussions with others.  In sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, sometimes we do need to be used to speak the blunt truth of lostness and rescue from it through saving faith in Christ.  There are times when no rational argument is keen enough to cause an unbeliever to consider belief.      Ultimately a person’s own encounter with the Word of God, as unveiled by God Himself, brings one to faith.  However when Aquinas says, “[my argument for faith]  is not based on documents of faith, but on the reasons and statements of the philosophers themselves”, Chesterton comments (in agreement with this Thomistic approach to apologetics), “would that all Chrisitian apologists would remember that maxim; and write it up in large letters on the wall, before they nail any theses there.”  Chesterton continues, “…Thomas Aquinas understands, what so many defenders of orthodoxy will not understand.  It is no good to tell an athiest that he is an athiest; or to charge a denier of immortality with the infamy of denying it; or to imagine that one can force an opponent to admit he is wrong by proving that he is wrong on somebody else’s principles, but not on his own…we must either not argue with a man at all, or we must argue on his grounds and not ours…we may do other things instead of arguing.”

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