Ed Feser concludes his book Aquinas with the following comment about the relation between the Angelic Doctor and modernity:
In both its metaphysical and theological commitments, Aquinas’s system of ethics is, like the rest of his philosophy, obviously radically at odds with the assumptions typically made by contemporary moral philosophers. But the main difference may lie in something other than a disagreement over this or that particular ontological thesis or argument for God’s existence, in basic ethos rather than intellectual orientation. The spirit of modern moral philosophy is perhaps summed up best in Kant’s famous characterization of human beings as “ends in themselves” and “self-legislators.” This sort of talk would sound blasphemous and even mad to Aquinas, for whom God alone, as the “first cause and last end of all things,” could possibly be said to be the source of moral law and an end in himself. (ST I-II.62.1, as translated by Pegis in Basic Writings of Saint Thomas Aquinas). For Aquinas, we are not here for ourselves, but for the glory of God, and precisely because this is the end set for us by nature, it is in him alone that we can find our true happiness. And it must be emphasized that, as with the other themes we’ve explored in this book, he takes this conclusion to be a matter, not of faith, but of reason itself.
Therein lies the sting of Aquinas’ challenge to modernity. 
The following is part of a meditation by apologist Greg Koukl that has been a companion of mine over the years. I always find myself coming back to it now and then, as a reminder that my experience of what he describes is not unusual. Perhaps others will feel the same.
I mentioned a little while ago that I was challenged by a thought made by a professor of mine, and the thought had to do with the notion of pockets of agnosticism in our lives. He simply made the observation that all Christians have pockets of agnosticism in their lives.
Now agnosticism simply is uncertainty, lack of knowledge. Technically speaking, an agnostic when expressing his world view says, “I don’t really know whether God exists or not. I don’t know what the structure of the world is. I am withholding judgment.” In a broader sense it is simply, in people’s lives, uncertainty about those things which are true. And the point that he was making is that all of us as Christians, and you can expand that to all of us as human beings, regardless of what it is that we happen to believe in, have pockets of agnosticism in our lives. We have times of uncertainty. We may have a conviction about a particular thing–about God’s existence or about His non-existence, for that matter, but we have times when we are pressed, and we get to reflecting, and we are just not quite sure.
First of all, I want to say I think if we are honest we would all acknowledge that that’s true. No matter what it is that we happen to believe in or disbelieve in, we’d all have to acknowledge that that’s true. That one has pockets of agnosticism is not necessarily a negative reflection on his belief, whatever it happens to be. This is not a reflection on any particular belief that there are problems with it, or uncertainties associated with it. This is a problem of knowledge in general. There is no system of belief that you will ever have that is going to answer all of the questions all of the time in a way that is coherent and satisfies all of your thinking. It seems that the nature of reality and the limitations of knowledge are such that there are going to be things that we’re just not certain about. And so in a sense, we have to place our bets with the best hand.
Read the rest.
Here’s a quote from a recent interview with Peter Rollins:
“Within the charismatic tradition there was a sense sometimes that God could speak through you in a way you couldn’t even understand – you know, speaking in tongues for example. So there were implicitly some ideas of mystery and uncertainty.
However that was often disguised in a form of: “We have the right answers. We’re complete, we’re happy” – when, of course, the truth was anything but. What I mean is, people were saying: ‘I’m satisfied, I’m whole and complete’, and yet, their unhappiness was there.
If we go quiet for two days, we realise that we are haunted houses – that we’re full of ghosts. We fill our days up with so much activity – but whenever I try to stand back, I realise that, no, I haven’t overcome my brokenness. I realise all the apologetic books I have read, they haven’t really made me feel certain – they were actually covering over my anxieties.”
I’d recommend the whole interview. It reminds me a bit of a post I wrote over a year ago that I titled “The Christian Life In Word And Song” about how we sabotage ourselves with our expectations. Elsewhere in the interview Rollins talks about there not being a space for doubt or a space for lament in our liturgies. That was another part of what I was driving at in my own way. What does the church do with doubt or with lament? Thoughts?
Newsweek ran a provocative article by Andrew Sullivan today, “Christianity in Crisis”. Because Sullivan addresses so many important issues in one place, it provides a helpful occasion to lay out what I see to be the problems with his overall vision of the Christian faith and its relation to politics, as well as my own preferred alternative.
Sullivan believes, like many do, that we have entered a time of religious crisis in our society. Roman Catholicism has (he says) discredited itself in its many child abuse scandals, and evangelicals have turned into a fearful bunch, trying to hide from the real world in ghettoes of imaginary construction and behind real threats of violence to the other. Further, both have become concerned with things that Jesus either did not mention (homosexuality and abortion), and have ignored things he was concerned with (the problem of divorce, celibacy in light of what he believed to be the immediate end of the world). Sullivan believes there is a rise in atheism and “spirituality”, and that this expresses an awareness in our society that our current situation characterized by emptiness, distraction, and warring is not good enough, and that we want some kind of fundamental spiritual change. (more…)
A while back I wrote a personal attempt at tackling the issue of how to determine “the essentials” in doctrine, and concluded that there is no one answer to the question. I was encouraged to see similar comments in Bavinck’s prolegomena:
In studying the relation between faith and theology, we need to frame the question properly. It should not be: what is the minimum of truths a person must know and hold as true to be saved? Leave that question to Rome, and let Catholic theology decide whether to that end two or four articles are needed. Admittedly, Protestant theology, in the theory of “fundamental articles,” has given the impression of wanting to take that road. But it ended with the acknowledgement that it did not know the magnitude of God’s mercy and therefore could not measure the amount of knowledge that is necessarily inherent in a sincere faith. In addition, between the theory of “implicit faith” and that of the “fundamental articles” there is, for all their seeming similarity, an important difference… . [I]n the theology of the Reformation, it sprang from the fact that a number of different churches emerged side by side with confessions that diverged form each other on many points. For that theology, therefore, the focus was on the question concerning the essence of Christianity. Faith, on the part of Rome, is assent to an assortment of revealed truths, which can be counted, article by article, and which in the course of time increased in number. Faith on the side of the Reformation, however, is special (fides specialis) with a particular central object: the grace of God in Christ. Here an arithmetic addition of articles, the knowledge of which and the assent to which is necessary for salvation, was no longer an option. Faith is a personal relation to Christ; it is organic and has put aside quantitative addition. Rome, therefore, had to determine a minimum without which there could not be salvation. On the side of the Reformation, faith is trust in the grace of God and hence no longer calculable. (Reformed Dogmatics, 1:614)
Feser on works of natural theology done over the centuries:
As I have mentioned above, Aquinas devotes a great deal of attention, and hundreds of pages, to this question, as did the other great classical philosophical theologians. Hence we have the section Questions on God from Summa Theologiae, which in the new edition edited by Davies and Leftow runs to 287 pages; the 300 or so pages of Book One of the Summa contra Gentiles, about two-thirds of which is devoted to deriving the divine attributes; the gigantic treatise De Potentia Dei (On the Power of God); and so on. Countless other thinkers have addressed the question at length and with philosophical rigor over the centuries; to take just two random examples from a glance over at the bookshelf, there is (from the 18th century) Samuel Clarke’s famous Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God, and (from the 20th century) Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange’s God: His Existence and His Nature, Book Two of which devotes over 500 pages to the matter. And yet, Dawkins, as I have said, tells us that there is “absolutely no reason” to think that the Unmoved Mover, First Cause, etc. is omnipotent, omniscient, good, and so forth. Perhaps what he meant to say was “absolutely no reason, apart from the many thousands of pages of detailed philosophical argumentation for this conclusion that have been produced over the centuries by thinkers of genius, and which I am not going to bother trying to answer.” So, a slip of the pen, perhaps. Or, maybe Dawkins simply doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about. 
I never thought that’d I’d be quoting Jesus Seminar scholar, John Dominic Crossan favourably in a blog post but here we go. Here’s Crossan on a biblical (!) view of faith:
Faith does not mean intellectual consent to a proposition, but vital commitment to a program. Obviously, one could summarize a program in a proposition, but faith can never be reduced to factual assent rather than total dedication. Faith (pistis) is not just a partial mind-set, but a total lifestyle commitment. The crucial aspect of faith as commitment is that it is always an interactive process, a bilateral contract, a two-way street. Faith is covenantal and presumes faithfulness from both parties with, of course, all appropriate differences and distinctions.
In his Systematic Theology, Robert Jenson quips: “Recent clamor for ‘contextual’ theology is of course empty, there never having been any other kind.” (ST 1.ix) As exhibit “A” for this point, consider Bavinck’s explanation for the current structure of systematic theologies:
In earlier centuries faith was more robust, and the question Why do I believe? Rarely came up. The foundations seemed so secure that to examine them was totally unnecessary; all available energy was devoted to the erection of the edifice itself. But today it is, above all, the philosophical underpinnings of dogmatics that are under fire; not some isolated doctrine but the very possibility of dogmatics is being questioned. The human ability to know is restricted to the visible world, and revelation is considered impossible. In addition, Holy Scripture is being robbed of its divine authority by historical criticism and even the warrant for and value of religion is being seriously disputed. Consequently, and partly caused by all this, religious life today is dramatically less vigorous than before. It must be granted that there is much movement in the domain of religion, but there is little genuinely religious life. Faith is no longer sure of itself; even among believers there is much doubt and uncertainty. The childlike and simultaneously heroic statement “I believe” is seldom heard and has given way to the doubts of criticism… . When religious life is vital, people speak “as those having authority,” not “as the scribes,” and the words “I know whom I believe” trip from the lips of believers. In a critical time like our own, however, there is uncertainty, above all, about the foundations, about the source of knowledge, method, and evidence of faith. For that reason the formal part is still regarded as the most important division of dogmatics. An entire apologetics tends to precede the dogmatics proper. [Reformed Dogmatics, vol 1., 106]
In other words, systematic theology is intrinsically missional: it has taken as its starting point dialogue with the world. Whether dogmaticians ought to have done this is certainly disputable, but one can hardly fault them for not speaking to “felt needs”.