Monday, May 23, 2011

Comments on comments

I was out of town for several days and not monitoring the comboxes.  Unfortunately, Blogger’s overzealous spam filter kept busy while I was away and it seems some readers had trouble posting their comments.  Sorry about that.

In general, if you post a comment and it does not appear, it has no doubt ended up either in the spam filter or the moderation box.  Rest assured that I will get to it, though on days that I teach it may take me as long as a few hours to do so.  I understand why some readers would try to repost their comments in these circumstances, but if this does not succeed after the first attempt there is no point in trying again (much less trying 30, 40, or 50 times)!  Please be patient – again, I will get to it.

While on the subject of comments: To state the obvious, I moderate with a very light hand.  Many uninformed and obnoxious remarks are allowed to stand, even when they are directed at me, as long as they are minimally substantive (and sometimes even when they aren’t).  My aim has been to allow freewheeling discussion, but I know that some readers think that I have been too tolerant, and over the last several weeks I have come to agree with them.  So, please keep your comments substantive.  I don’t care if things get heated between disagreeing commenters now and again, and I also don’t care if some commenters want to make it clear that they don’t like me.  Goody Two-Shoes I ain’t, and I don’t expect anyone else to be.  But exchanges between commenters that consist of nothing more than the trading of insults will be summarily deleted, as will any other remarks that are excessively or gratuitously nasty (toward me, but also – what seems to be more common – toward some other commenter).

Finally, as always I thank my readers for their comments, questions, and kind words, whether expressed here on the blog or via email.  I read and appreciate them all even when I can’t respond.  My remarks of a year ago still apply.

27 comments:

Crude said...

Sorry Ed, I'm sure I had my hand in that and then some while trying to figure out the spam filter. Didn't mean to cause any problems.

For what it's worth, I've figured out something about how the filter works and what makes it kick in at least.

Tim said...

Hi Ed,
Would you mind sometime doing a detailed post on the 4 causes.
As well as how Cause and effect relationships fit into the 4 causes of a particular thing?

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Hi all.

I'm a new Protestant-turned-Catholic (thanks in part to TLS and seeing the need for tradition), and seeing as there isn't really a topic to this thread and many extremely intelligent Catholics seem to frequent this blog, I wanted to take the opportunity to pose a scriptural/moral question that's been tormenting me for a little while now:


The Old Law enshrined in the OT is composed of prescriptions like this:

"If a man commits adultery with another man's wife, both the man and the woman must be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10 NLT)

All who curse their father or mother must be put to death. They are guilty of a capital offense. (Leviticus 20:9 NLT)

As for the male and female slaves whom you may have, it is from the nations around you that you may acquire male and female slaves. You may also acquire them from among the aliens residing with you, and from their families that are with you, who have been born in your land; and they may be your property. You may keep them as a possession for your children after you, for them to inherit as property. These you may treat as slaves, but as for your fellow Israelites, no one shall rule over the other with harshness. (Leviticus 25: 44-46)

Whoever strikes his father or mother shall be put to death. (Exodus 21:15 NAB)

Yes, keep the Sabbath day, for it is holy. Anyone who desecrates it must die; anyone who works on that day will be cut off from the community. Work six days only, but the seventh day must be a day of total rest. I repeat: Because the LORD considers it a holy day, anyone who works on the Sabbath must be put to death.' (Exodus 31:12-15 NLT)"
-----

Some Catholics have told me that Christ's New Covenant nullified the Old Covenant, and so we Christians aren't beholden to the brutalities of the Old Law, but CCC 121-123 directly contradicts this idea of nullification. (123: "...The Church has always vigorously opposed the idea of rejecting the Old Testament under the pretext that the New has rendered it void (Marcionism)")

Christ himself, although He "fulfilled the Law" (I'm still not sure exactly what that means), nevertheless always spoke of and cited the Old Law glowingly (e.g, Matthew 15:4 "Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death"). In fact I seem to remember Him somewhere in the Gospels vehemently affirming the Old Law in all of its aspects.


Now, if Christ, as a pious Jew, affirmed the Old Law in all of its aspects, does that mean we Christians should put people to death for adultery, disrespecting parents, failing to keep the Sabbath holy, etc.?

My gut reaction to this is, "Of course not." But then what are we to make of Christ's seemingly total affirmation of the Old Law?

Richard A said...

Dear anonymous,

Welcome home to Rome!

I would recommend taking your question over to any of several helpful Catholic discussion fora, like Catholic Answers - http://www.catholic.com/ - or others like it.

My quick thumbnail answer, from someone who is probably not the most expert in this area, is to look at the Council of Jerusalem as discusssed in Acts. If I may grossly oversimplify, the ritual and dietary laws are not binding under the New Covenant, having been superceded (yeah, I'm a supercessionist!) by the Gospel. The moral laws are still binding on all humanity, obviously, since Christ saves us from our sins and there would be no sin if the moral law were somehow abrogated. So you see the apostles determining that circumcision is no longer required, but abstaining from sexual immorality (and eating blood!) is still in place.

Richard A said...

By the way, the Catholic still appreciates even the Mosaic ritual and dietary laws for their typological value, and so we hold the Old Testament (of the Bible) as equally inspired as the New.

Anonymous said...

The people who most need to read this post will never see it.

FACT!

Anonymous said...

May 24, 2011 10:55 AM
Anonymous said...
"
Hi all.

I'm a new Protestant-turned-Catholic (thanks in part to TLS and seeing the need for tradition), and seeing as there isn't really a topic to this thread and many extremely intelligent Catholics seem to frequent this blog, I wanted to take the opportunity to pose a scriptural/moral question that's been tormenting me for a little while now ..."




Hi Anonymous 10:55.

I cannot claim to be a practicing or particularly well-informed Catholic, but the interesting question you pose, and which you imply as having partly arisen out of your conversion from Protestantism to Catholicism, poses an interesting question of its own:

How has this issue managed to remain unresolved with you, when a sincere Protestant believer would have had to consider and address the same matter?

Surely this line of questioning must have occurred to you before just a little while ago.

We've all seen it no doubt.

As a matter of fact, and as an aside, it is quite commonly seen posed many places on the Internet; usually couched in almost the same language; though sometimes also including ostensibly puzzled references to Old Testament injunctions against homosexuality, and the consumption of shellfish.


So: What was your answer to yourself when you were a believing Protestant Christian?

What was your Protestant pastor's answer?

Richard A said...

7:57 Anonymous:

11:23 Anonymous makes a valid observation, all of Christianity, not just Catholicism, would need to be able to answer this question. And the answer would be pretty much the same, regardless of ecclesial affiliation.

You're misreading the Catechism when you say:
'Some Catholics have told me that Christ's New Covenant nullified the Old Covenant, and so we Christians aren't beholden to the brutalities of the Old Law, but CCC 121-123 directly contradicts this idea of nullification. (123: "...The Church has always vigorously opposed the idea of rejecting the Old Testament under the pretext that the New has rendered it void (Marcionism)")'.

Marcionism rejected the divine inspiration of the Hebrew Scriptures, which we call the Old Testament. Testaments may also be called "covenants", but in this context, the old covenant would be referring to the Mosaic Law, which has been fulfilled in Christ and the ritual prescriptions of which are not binding on the saved. The "Old Testament" is still inspired and inerrant.

Anonymous said...

Richard A said...

" 7:57 Anonymous:

11:23 Anonymous makes a valid observation, all of Christianity, not just Catholicism, would need to be able to answer this question. And the answer would be pretty much the same, regardless of ecclesial affiliation."


And, Richard A, you have tactfully demonstrated that in responding to the new Protestant-turned-Catholic, I over-copied the previous window and mistook an earlier time stamp for the correct one.

I am less sure however that I misunderstood the actual import new Catholic's question.

Nonetheless, as I am neither a practicing nor a particularly well-informed Catholic, it is certain that I should not be judging the sincerity of ostensible proselytes just because their question substantially duplicates in both form and content a particular meme that has been circulating on the Internet for some time now.

I think I should probably leave addressing such matters and questioners to others.

BeingItself said...

comment on this:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/post.cfm?id=physics-and-the-immortality-of-the-2011-05-23

Daniel Smith said...

Anon: "I'm a new Protestant-turned-Catholic"

As someone who went the opposite way (I converted from Catholicism to Protestantism), perhaps I can offer some perspective...

Whether the old testament is still binding is simply a matter of law.

The word "testament" or "covenant" is synonymous with our modern word "contract".

The old contract between God and Man can be summed up as "obey all of the laws, to the letter, and offer sacrifices to temporarily satisfy the consequences of disobedience (sin)".

The new conract can be summed up as "accept the sacrifice of Jesus - which is sufficient to pay for all sins - and then serve God out of gratitude".

Now, you don't refinance your house and then continue to make payments to your old lender. In the same way you can't accept the sacrifice of Jesus and then continue to be obligated to keep the requirements of the law. They are two separate contracts.

That's how I've come to understand it anyway. Hope this helps someone.

Anonymous said...

Blogger BeingItself said...

comment on this"

and then linked to this:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/post.cfm?id=physics-and-the-immortality-of-the-2011-05-23

Which when read revealed this as the crux of the "argument":

"... when most people think about an immaterial soul that persists after death, they have in mind some sort of blob of spirit energy that takes up residence near our brain, and drives around our body like a soccer mom driving an SUV. The questions are these: what form does that spirit energy take, and how does it interact with our ordinary atoms? Not only is new physics required, but dramatically new physics. Within QFT, there can't be a new collection of "spirit particles" and "spirit forces" that interact with our regular atoms, because we would have detected them in existing experiments. "

Now, if you read what is being assumed there, no comment is really necessary is it?


See, what we are talking about here is an immaterial soul that is a kind of material soul.

So to exhaust the possibilities you 1, got yer basic special Spirit Blob atoms on the one hand, and 2, yer ordinary, that is to say real, atoms on the other.

And the math that proves we know all that we need to know, just doesn't allow for yer spirit blob atoms to piggyback on yer normal atoms. No room for them you see.

Therefore yer spirit bob atoms don't exist; and thus neither does, as some of you would wish to dignify it terminologically, your "soul".

Q.E.D.

Astounding logic. Kind of reminds me of this. http://www.snopes.com/religion/soulweight.asp





Well, disregarding for a moment the logical stupidity of a circular materialism argument, I recall that I used to subscribe to Scientific American. And it may have been in one of those issues that a retrospective piece highlighting a prior announcement of a similar kind was republished; basically as a kind of amusement for the current generation of readers.

It had claimed that classical physics had explained the universe quite completely thank you, and that henceforth, only a little mopping up remained to be done.

That reprinted pronouncement was originally made, if I recall, just a few years before 1905.

Richard A said...

Scientific American used to be a respectable science journal. Until Martin Gardner left and it started going PC. He must have been the one that kept them grounded.

Richard A said...

Too many anonymouses (anonymice?)!

I didn't misunderstand the still-Protestant anonymous. I was attempting to correct the new-Catholic anonymous's misunderstanding of the particular section of the Cathechism. In attempting to understand whether the old covenant is nullified (not sure I'd use that word, but let that pass) in Christ, he suggests the Catechism teaches that it is not nullified, citing CCC 123. But CCC 123 is not speaking of whether the "Old Covenant" (read: Mosaic Law) is nullified, but whether the "Old Testament" (read: Hebrew Scriptures, not the same thing as the Old Covenant mentioned above) is to be rejected, which was the Marcionite heresy, based on the same confusion.

Taken in themselves, "Old Covenant" and "Old Testament" would mean the same things. And that similarity can lead to the confusion instanced here.

I would agree with Daniel Smith about the difference between the old covenant and the new, except that we probably differ significantly on what "accept" means.

Richard A said...

Apologies to still-Protestant anonymous; as I re-read the posts I see that he's not still-Protestant but a non-practicing Catholic.

BeingItself said...

Anon:

Your precious response exactly mirrors Harold Camping's. When the facts of reality contradicted his belief, he just did a bit of special pleading. You see the rapture really did occur on May 21, but it was a "spiritual" rapture.

Likewise, when the facts of reality contradict your belief that you are immortal, you just do a bit of special pleading. You see the "soul" is this very special thing that is not subject to the laws of physics, so life after death is True.

Adorable! Thanks so much.

Anonymous said...

BeingItself said...
"Anon:

Your precious response exactly mirrors Harold Camping's. When the facts of reality contradicted his belief, he just did a bit of special pleading. You see the rapture really did occur on May 21, but it was a "spiritual" rapture.

Likewise, when the facts of reality contradict your belief that you are immortal, you just do a bit of special pleading. You see the "soul" is this very special thing that is not subject to the laws of physics, so life after death is True.

Adorable! Thanks so much."

BeingItself,

Your arch misrepresentions indicate that you are allowing your emotions to interfere with your judgment.


You had presented a link to a blog article in Scientific American; and you requested, probably of Edward Feser, a comment.

I responded to your request for a comment, by quoting the logical crux of the article, and noting its question begging and logically naive nature.

I did not argue for the immateriality of, nor even the existence of, a "soul" or any other ghostly or materially vaporous inhabitant of a human machine.

In my comment I just noted through implication, the inadequacy of the author's assumption regarding what most people thought of when they though of a soul, and how that mysterious knowledge he somehow came by then formed a pecularily naive and even comically uncritical conception which he then flourishingly refuted with a ex cathedra and question begging argument.


For the record, I have no direct knowledge concerning the existence of what your author conceives of as the the common conception of a human soul.

I am not sure that primitive Christianity even conceives of such a thing in the terms your author defines.

The term and the notion of a "soul" unless carefully defined, seems to me to be one of sloppy or even nearly contentless concepts which are susceptible of being mis-deployed as a kind of moral argument shorthand, much in the way "progressive" people lazily brandish the word "society", as if it were some kind of self-subsistent entity with its own independent life, right to existence, and claims on individuals; and not just a way of referring to certain classes or styles of relations.

My own interest, although I am not a philosopher, is in the logic of universals.

And if I may be said to have a specific philosophically oriented political interest and an axe to grind, it concerns the stupidly predicated arguments which progressives use in their social solidarity pimping exercises.

Hope this helps.


Signed,
Anonymous 11:23, 2:10, 7:57, and 6:19

Daniel Smith said...

Richard A: "I would agree with Daniel Smith about the difference between the old covenant and the new, except that we probably differ significantly on what "accept" means."

What I mean by "accept" is to "put ultimate faith in".

In context then it would be: "put ultimate faith in the sacrifice of Jesus - which is sufficient to pay for all sins - and then serve God out of gratitude".

BeingItself said...

"I did not argue for the immateriality of, nor even the existence of, a "soul" or any other ghostly or materially vaporous inhabitant of a human machine."

OK. Good for you. You do not hold this idiotic belief that most Christians do. And it is that idiotic belief that Sean Carroll is arguing against.

Richard A said...

Daniel Smith,

And I would say that "accept the sacrifice of Jesus" means to submit to baptism, receive the body of Christ, and live the life of good works that the Father has prepared for us in advance. Which is also what it means to "have faith in Jesus."

Daniel Smith said...

Me: "put ultimate faith in the sacrifice of Jesus - which is sufficient to pay for all sins - and then serve God out of gratitude".

Richard A: "And I would say that "accept the sacrifice of Jesus" means to submit to baptism, receive the body of Christ, and live the life of good works that the Father has prepared for us in advance. Which is also what it means to "have faith in Jesus.""

Which part of that saves you from sin? Are we saved by the works we do, by Jesus' sacrifice, or by some combination of the two?

I would say that all of the things you describe would be done out of gratitude to God for the fact that he forgave our insurmountable debt.

You seem to be saying that the blood of Christ is not sufficient to pay all of our debt and consequently we must still "work some of it off".

Help me see how I'm wrong.

Richard A said...

@Daniel Smith,

"Which part of that saves you from sin? Are we saved by the works we do, by Jesus' sacrifice, or by some combination of the two?"

Unfortunately, having been raised Catholic, you should know the answer to that.

The short answer is, baptism. Which is not a "work", or at least not of the kind you are talking about. As you know, having read Scripture, we who are baptized are baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ. It is baptism that initially unites us to Christ's death and rising which saves us, and communion with His flesh and blood that continues to unite us to His saving work. Baptism and the Eucharist, along with all the sacraments, are how we are united to Christ's sacrifice.

We should receive these works, which are Christ's works, with gratitude, of course, but we do them out of obedience to Christ Who commmanded them.

Anonymous said...

"You do not hold this idiotic belief that most Christians do."


You and Carrol both seem to enjoy autistically battling against straw men of your own fabrication.


"And it is that idiotic belief that Sean Carroll is arguing against."

Idiotically.

Daniel Smith said...

Richard A: "The short answer is, baptism."

You see, this is why I left the Catholic Church.

Baptism occurs (for a Catholic anyway) when we are babies.

How can one who doesn't understand anything yet, believe? This is why I chose to be baptized as an adult after choosing Christ.

Baptism, communion, confirmation, etc. are all symbolic representations of belief, but none, by themselves, = true belief.

For protestants it is the cross of Christ, the blood spilled on that day, the sacrifice of Jesus, that sanctifies us, and THAT ONLY. Our sole responsibility is to accept that sacrifice. "This is the work of God - to believe the one he has sent". When we do that, Jesus himself comes and resides in our physical bodies through the Holy Spirit and opens our eyes and hearts to the truth.

I've been a good Catholic, but it wasn't until I believed in Jesus fully that I became a good Christian (and that only through his grace.)

Richard A said...

Daniel Smith,

"Our sole responsibility is to accept that sacrifice."

Exactly. Baptism is how you accept that sacrifice. We are BAPTIZED into Christ's death and resurrection. We don't pray the Jesus prayer into it, we don't really really believe ourselves into it - except inasmuch as baptism IS an act of faith in Christ. That's why we "must be born again of water and the spirit", as someone said who knew something on the topic.

The baby's intentions are not that significant. It's Christ's sacrifice that saves us and His promise that is sure, not our intentions or our volitions. It is Christ's sacrifice that we partake of in the Eucharist - for Catholics and Orthodox, anyway. You seem to think it's only a symbol, and I guess for you in your 'church' I'm inclined to agree with you. For us, it's real.

So, it's Chris's sacrifice that saves us, given us through Baptism, the Eucharist and the other sacraments. That's why I said we would differ on what we mean by "accept".

Richard A said...

Sorry, "Christ's" sacrifice, not "Chris's", whoever he is.

Really, this discussion should be taken over to one of the Catholic discussion boards. I don't expect Dr. Feser really intends his blog to turn into a Catholic topics forum. Not that he seems to object to a Christian discussion.

Daniel Smith said...

Richard A: "The baby's intentions are not that significant"

I'm thinking (based on that comment) that we have a fundamental disagreement over what it means to "believe".

You're probably right though that we shouldn't pursue this too much in this forum.