*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***
It is the 25th of September 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I’m Dan van Voorhis.
Today, happily, affords me the opportunity to tell you about one of the most important figures in church history- especially early Modern Jesuit history- but the whole church deserves to know something about the man given the title Doctor Eximius et Pius, that is “the Exceptional and Pius Doctor”. And he was Francisco Suarez who died on this, the 25th of September in 1617.
Suarez was born in the Andalusian region of Spain in 1548 and would become, in his lifetime, the premier Early Modern Scholastic Jesuit Priest.
Let’s break that down:
Early Modern= think “Renaissance and Reformation” roughly 1450-1750.
Scholastic= philosopher and theologian steeped in the logic of Aristotle and the theology of the church fathers. Aquinas is, arguably, the biggest name in Scholasticism but Suarez is very close behind.
Jesuit= remember there was a time when being a Jesuit was like having a target on your back. But not in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Jesuits were a religious order often engaged in educational pursuits. It’s worth noting that Suarez was likely from a Jewish background and the Jesuits were likely the only order that would have received him.
And tell me if you’ve heard this before: his parents wanted him to go into the study of law, but he had a crisis of conscience and decided to become a priest instead. But apparently, he wasn’t much of a preacher. Hear this from one of his biographers, "his few attempts [at preaching] failed because of his tendency to digress into the abstruse points of doctrine”. And so he set his eyes on teaching, and this is what he would do for the rest of his life.
One scholar estimated that he wrote some 211 million words in his lifetime which puts him at nearly twice the output of Aquinas (which is INSANE, Aquinas’ literary output is often used as an example to dwarf other scholars).
I want you to know about what I would argue are his 2 most important books. The first was his Metaphysical Disputations. This work synthesized scholasticism while also taking into account the late Medieval scholarship that critiqued Aquinas. This upset many Thomists, but Suarez knew Aquinas as well as anyone and wanted to critique him when he felt necessary. For this reason, some refer to the “Suarista party” who are, like, outlaw Thomists (and if you’d like to use that as a band name, I give you permission). These outlaws made their starting point the question at hand, their own ideas, and then went back to the Fathers and Aristotle.
In the early 1600s King James I of England was making waves not only with his King James Bible (and being a Scotsman on the throne) but also with his somewhat tortured arguments for what we call the “Divine Right of Kings”. Among other ideas in his “Basilikon Doron” James argued that temporal and spiritual authority resides with the king. Pope Paul, who would have disagreed, asked Suarez to write against James. And he did, but his conclusions took him beyond what the Pope bargained for.
Suarez, in the early 1600s, is arguing that spiritual authority comes from Christ, through the Pope and church while political power comes from the people. And these people transfer their authority to the state in a social contract. Of course, this would become the dominant idea in Western politics. But it would also necessitate a move away from Aristotle on the nature of slavery and land. Suarez’s argument against the divine right of Kings ended up also being a condemnation of the slavery and mistreatment of the natives in the new Spanish colonies. Obviously, this did not help his popularity.
Francisco Suarez’s last name doesn’t start with an A. Maybe if he changes that he joins the august list of philosophers/theologians. Nevertheless, I am making him an honorary member of that club- someone with his breadth of writings, informed dissent and clarity deserves it. Francisco Suarez was born in 1548, he died on the 25th of September in 1617 at the age of 69.
The reading for today comes from 1 Peter:
Come to Jesus Christ. He is the living stone people have rejected, but which God has chosen and highly honored. And now you are living stones being used to build a spiritual house. You are also a group of holy priests, and with the help of Jesus Christ you will offer sacrifices that please God. It is just as God says in the Scriptures,
“Look! I am placing in Zion
a choice and precious
No one who has faith
in this one
will be disappointed.”
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 25th of September 2021 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by noted outlaw Thomist, among other things, he is Christoper Gillespie.
The show is written and read by a man who should have had a career coming up with band names and making mixtapes. I am Dan van Voorhis.
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.