Monday, January 28, 2013

Charity As A Political Virtue

Now one can love the good of a city in two ways: in one way to possess it, in another that it might be preserved. If someone loves the good of a city in order to have and own it, he is not a good political person, because in this way even a tyrant loves the good of a city, in order to dominate it, which is to love oneself more than the city. He wants this good for himself, not for the city. 

But to love the good of the city that it might be kept and defended, this is truly to love the city and this makes a person a good political person, so much so that some expose themselves to the danger of death and neglect their private good in order to preserve or increase the good of the city. In the same way, to love the good that is participated by the blessed, to love it so as to have or possess it, does not establish the right relation between a person and blessedness, because even evil people want this good. 

But to love that good according to itself, that it may remain and be shared out and that nothing be done against this good, this gives to a person the right relation to that society of the blessed. And this is love [caritas] which loves God for his sake and the neighbors, who are capable of blessedness, as oneself.

-St. Thomas Aquinas, De Virtutibus, 2.2 c.  

Monday, January 07, 2013

Thus Sounds The Death Knell For The Anglican Communion

In 2003, Vicky Gene Robinson was elected as the first openly homosexual bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America (ECUSA), a branch of the world-wide Anglican Communion, which has the Church of England as its primatial see. Orthodox Episcopalians who upheld the two thousand year old traditions of Christ were faced with a dilemma. How does one remain part of the Anglican Communion, while at the same time rejecting the heterodox downslide of ECUSA? A fascinating charade was worked out, whereby the Episcopalians who did not agree with the leadership of ECUSA would be under the jurisdiction of an Anglican Ordinary from Africa or South America, where traditional Christianity was upheld, allowing them to remain in America without being under the Presiding Bishop of ECUSA, and at the same time still in union with the Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion.

On paper, this is a nice little trick, but in reality ECUSA and the traditional Episcopalians who became the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) are still in the same communion because they both are in union with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and thus are, by default, in union with each other. So long as the Church of England was on the level, so the sentiment went, all is well. Well, with the most recent ruling by the House of Bishops in the Church of England allowing homosexual bishops, all is not well.

Now, the safeguard that allowed the ACNA to be able to split from ECUSA and yet remain Anglican has been eliminated. The Church of England has turned its back on the orthodox Anglicans in its communion and left them with the choice to violate their consciences or cease being Anglicans. There is no way around it this time. No amount of slight of hand or misdirection will hide the reality that the orthodox Anglican is no longer welcomed in the Anglican Communion. The House of Bishops wishes to assuage any fears by stating that only those homosexuals who are in a partnership and vow to be celibate will be admitted to the episcopacy. Yet, if they are to be celibate, why the partnership in the first place? Do they think that the people are so naïve as to think that they will truly remain celibate while at the same time living in a homosexual partnership? One priest of the Church of England has already stated that the celibacy requirement is a let down. Might we not reasonably expect this to be the sentiment of most, if not all, those lobbying for homosexual partnered bishops?

At the end of the day, the choice for ACNA members who wish not to violate their consciences is clear; either they move to a different Protestant denomination, where they will most likely encounter similar battles, or join the Roman Catholic Church through the Anglican Ordinariate and thereby retain their Anglican heritage while simultaneously being part of the one communion that has upheld, and will continue to uphold, traditional Christianity from the beginning.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Modernity: How Did We Get Here?

As a Catholic looking at Modernity, provided that one is aware of the goings-on around him, the world can seem like a pretty messed up place. And it is. Original Sin has radically effected the state of the world and there continues a constant battle against personal sin throughout the history of man. One of the effects of sin is the darkening of the intellect. That's right....sin makes you stupid! Throughout Christian history, however, there have been thinkers who, aided by the supernatural grace of God, have risen above this ignorance of the intellect to soar to great heights. The most famous of these was St. Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274) who, building off of the great pre-Christian thinker Aristotle, systematized the union of faith and reason unlike anyone before or after. Yet, shortly after the death of Aquinas, the Aristotelian-Thomistic approach to the world (i.e. the via antiqua) was subverted, leading us into the via moderna. One of the first casualties of modernity was the rejection of the philosophy of being found in Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics.

The root of the problem known as the via moderna goes back to John Duns Scotus (d. 1308) who was the founder of voluntarism and William of Ockham (d. 1347) who was the founder of nominalism. These two concepts (voluntarism and nominalism) replaced logos (contemplative reason) as the highest act of man and led to the idea of reason as will to power. Ockham and Scotus thereby influenced Luther, Bacon, Newton, Kant, etc., so that not only was the notion that there are greater realities above mankind done away with, being replaced by a mechanistic view of nature where man is the highest reality in existence, but also nature was seen as something to be controlled, manipulated, and conquered for purposes of humanity. Rene Descartes (d. 1650) started what is known as the "turn to the self", whereby the only certain things in existence are clear and distinct ideas (Cogito, ergo sum/I think, therefore I am). Everything else is to be approached with radical doubt.  After Descartes came Immanuel Kant (d. 1804), another key figure in this history. Due to him, modern man is egotistically centered on himself. Kant's categorical imperative is based on radical autonomy so that each man becomes the measure of the universe and the arbiter of law, rather than something objective outside of man, such as an infinite God. In Kant's world view there is no such thing as natural law, which Thomas Aquinas defined as the "rational creature's participation of the eternal law" (Summa Theologiae I-II, Q. 91  a. 2). Most of the modern world is Kantian without having read Kant. Thus, if you know how to answer Kant, you are on your way to steering people back in the right direction.

If you are interested in learning more about the via moderna, what it is, how we got here, and how to counter it, here are some books I would recommend:

Metaphysics -Aristotle
Nicomachean Ethics -Aristotle
Summa Theologiae -St. Thomas Aquinas
The Last Superstition -Edward Feser
Socrates Meets Hume -Peter Kreeft
Socrates Meets Kant -Peter Kreeft
Back to Virtue -Peter Kreeft
Faith and Certitude -Thomas Dubay
Answering the New Atheism -Scott Hahn and Benjamin Wiker
Reasons to Believe -Scott Hahn
Another Sort of Learning -James V. Shall

Bride Of Yahweh: An Exegesis of Isaiah 54

A. Outline and Structural Analysis
54:1-10—The Fecundity of the Barren Wife.
         1-3: Call for Jerusalem to rejoice and promise of renewed fertility.
         4-8: Reunion of Yahweh with His bride.
         9-10: Comparison to the covenant with Noah.
54: 11-17—The Security of the Afflicted City.
         11-14: The rebuilding of Jerusalem.
         15-17: Yahweh’s protection of the city.
            The structure of Isaiah 54 would seem to suggest two major sections, vv. 1-10 and vv.11-17. Blenkinsopp divides the chapter into three main sections: vv. 1-8, vv. 9-10, and vv. 11-17a, with v. 17b as a concluding statement summarizing the whole (360-361). His basis for doing so, is that “the only clear markers in the text itself…are the references to who is speaking” in verses 6, 8, 10, and 17. There are, however, a few problems with the ratio for this division. First, if the basis of the division is based on who is speaking, why not add another division after verse 6, which Blenkinsopp skips over? Second, in his translation, he skips over the יהוה אמר at the end of verse 1, which would further complicate his division based on references to the speaker. Finally, the references to the speaker do not seem to be the only basis for dividing the text. One could make a plausible argument for dividing the text based on the addressee marked out in verses 1 and 11. Blenkinsopp points out that BHS and 1QIsaa also divide the text in the way I have suggested and it seems to be the preferred one based on the context of the chapter (360). Whybray, Westermann, North, and Sawyer also make the same division (though not necessarily for the same reason as myself). Thus, the assessment of Watts that “form-critical analysis has agreed on dividing the chapter into four sections: vv 1-3, 4-6, 7-10, and 11-17” is a striking one (236).

Von Balthasar's Aesthetical Approach To Scripture

In the first book of the first part of Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Trilogy, The Glory of the Lord: Seeing the Form, von Balthasar lays out his plan for a theological aesthetics. He envisions his project as a reversal of the ordering of the transcendentals in the works of Immanuel Kant. Kant began with his critique of pure reason (truth), then moved to a critique of practical reason (good), and finally a critique of judgment (beauty). Thus, von Balthasar begins where Kant ends and affirms that without beauty as the starting point, the other transcendentals are lost. ...

Continue reading my most recent article, Obstacles to Reading Scripture in Modernity: Von Balthasar's Response, over at Homiletic & Pastoral Review.