I love and collect quotations. I have more than 20,000 quotations from hundreds of books that I have read. So when I am asked what is my favorite quotation, I have never known what to say. All 20,000+ have been my favorite.
The past few weeks, however, one quotation has been affectionately going through my mind over and over. That quotation has risen above the rest and I am ready to say that it is my favorite — the best (non-biblical) quote in the world.
My favorite quotation is from Thomas Aquinas who lived in the 1200s. (I am writing this from memory.) Thomas was a brilliant intellectual, one of the great minds of his generation. He was also a Dominican monk and a writer. His goal was to explain everything. He, of course, wrote from a theological perspective. He called his main work (which consisted of many volumes) Summa Theologica, which means something like the sum (or total) of theology.
Thomas’ approach to life and to theology was intellectual analysis. He believed that everything could be explained logically. His approach came to be known as scholasticism and has strongly influenced Western thought ever since then.
Toward the end of his life, Thomas Aquinas, went into a room to pray alone. When he exited the room he made the statement that is my favorite quotation. He said: “All I have written seems so much like dung compared to what has been revealed to me.” He never wrote again after that experience. Thomas’ supernatural revelation was so powerful that it surpassed a lifetime of intellectual pursuit.
Jesus Christ, Himself, endorsed the need and power of supernatural revelation. When Peter identified Jesus as the Messiah, Jesus told him: “Flesh and blood hasn’t revealed this to you, but my Father in Heaven.” Then Jesus said: “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build My church . . .” Genuine Christianity is built on the rock of personal revelation from God.
Supernatural revelation occurred to Peter in the First Century, to Thomas Aquinas in the Thirteenth Century, and to millions of other people in the past 2,000 years. In the light of personal revelation, mere academic approaches to theology are like studying ice cream without tasting and enjoying it. When you enjoy your favorite ice cream, you don’t think about or analyze its molecular composition. You just savor the flavor.
Once Thomas Aquinas savored the flavor of his revelatory experience with Christ, all his intellectualism seemed inconsequential — “so much like dung” — in comparison. Revelation rocks!