Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sterne on Aquinas and "the gulf of school-divinity"

"This at once started a new dispute, which they [(the two theological faculties of Strasburg, the Lutheran and the Popish)] pursued a great way, upon the extent and limitation of the moral and natural attributes of GodThat controversy led them naturally into Thomas Aquinas, and Thomas Aquinas to the devil.

"The stranger's nose was no more heard of in the disputeit just served them as a frigate to launch them into the gulf of school-divinityand then they all sailed before the wind.

"Heat is in proportion to the want of true knowledge.

"The controversy about the attributes, etc., instead of cooling, on the contrary had inflamed the Strasburger's imaginations to a most inordinate degreeThe less they understood of the matter, the greater was their wonder about itthey were left in all the distresses of desire unsatisfiedsaw their doctors, the Parchmentarians, the Brassarians, the Turpentarians, on one sidethe Popish doctors on the other, like Pantagruel and his companions in quest of the oracle of the bottle, all embarked out of sight.

"The poor Strasburgers left upon the beach!"

     Laurence Sterne, The life and opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gent., IV.Tale (GBWW, 1st ed., 1952, vol. 36, p. 334). How funny is that? Sterne can get away with just about anything in my book, even a dig at Thomas Aquinas as ridiculous as this one. (I wonder, though, if he doesn't have the positions of the two theological faculties reversed.)

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