Joel Watts, who was kind enough to pick up the video of the Levering lecture posted below, writes: "While it may be my perspective, I do think that Thomas Aquinas is making a rather significant come back in today’s theological discussions."
I'd definitely agree with Watts. Part of the reason Thomas' work has been neglected is, I think, the perception that somehow Scripture study and Systematic Theology are somehow in opposition or, at least, in competition.
Moreover, theologians--especially those advocating a "narrative" approach--often style themselves as doing worthy work because they are somehow correcting tendencies which have valued philosophical methods over biblical ones.
Indeed, it is true that classical approaches have at times neglected the role of exegesis in Theology. . . In fact, these tendencies are still with us! It is astonishing to me even now that one can get a Ph.D. in Theology and never have to take an upper division course in categories of biblical literature such as "Historical Books of the Old Testament!" Similarly, isn't it stunning that a person can earn a Ph.D. in theology and never have to study Greek or Hebrew!? Given that Vatican II has described the study of the sacred page as the "soul of theology" I think this is especially problematic in Catholic circles. . . but I digress.
Yet--despite Protestant prejudices to pre-Reformation Catholic works as well as straw man arguments and misrepresentations to the contrary--the lack of a Scriptural focus cannot be attributed to Aquinas! I think this is helping to fuel the Thomistic renewal. There is a great thirst for an approach that unites Biblical Studies with Theology. Thomas provides a pathway to this.
Aquinas, as I've previously explained, put incredibly important emphasis on the literal-historical sense of Scripture. Indeed, he wrote numerous commentaries on biblical books in addition to his more systematic theological works. In his commentaries his exegetical caution is remarkable.
Likewise, in his systematic works Scripture is given a normative role. This is evident, for example, in the programmatic first article in the Summa Theologica, where it is clear that for Aquinas sacra doctrina, i.e., theology, is synonymous with the study of the sacred page (sacra pagina).
In light of this, I am especially grateful for Matthew Levering's book, Scripture and Metaphysics: Aquinas and the Renewal of Trinitarian Theology (Blackwell, 2004). Levering brings contemporary scholars like Jon Levenson, N.T. Wright, Richard Bauckham, C. Kavin Rowe, Ben Witherington, Marianne Meye Thompson, and others into conversation with Aquinas.
I highly recommend the book to anyone interested in the relationship of Biblical Studies and Systematic Theology. Levering shows that a careful analysis of Thomas' body of works reveals that his metaphysical analysis of God emerges out of exegetical concerns. Aquinas' philosophical discussions of God thus principally flow from contemplation of the God revealed in Scripture.
Levering in fact goes on to show that the recourse to metaphysical reflection surprisingly better preserves the biblical witness than an approach that refuses to allow for such a perspective. Indeed, he often shows points of contact between Thomas' conclusions and those reached in Jewish sources--including both ancient thinkers, such as Philo and later Jewish commentators. It is really a rather provocative and I think persuasive book that deserves much greater attention.