So much straw

It is said that on 6 December 1273, while he was celebrating mass, a great change came over Thomas Aquinas. At the age of 49, his Summa Theologica ("Summary of Theology" – nearly 1300 pages) unfinished, he stopped writing. To his faithful secretary and companion Reginald of Pipersno, he said, ‘Reginald, I can do no more; such things have been revealed to me that all that I have written seems to me as so much straw. Now, I await the end of my life of my works.’ Aquinas died three months later.

All our talk about God is halting, partial, hopelessly inadequate. This does not mean we should not hold firm beliefs about God or do the best job we can as philosophers and theologians. It simply means that no matter how much skill or effort we bring to the job, God always remains in part a mystery. The gap between God and our ideas about God was, we believe, salvifically narrowed by God’s revelatory initiative, but not closed.

Like Aquinas, all Christians can see that human talk about God ultimately comes to an end. It’s best efforts are like straw.

Stephen T. Davis, Logic and the Nature of God