Sunday, January 3, 2016

Canine theology


In Western culture, the dog is often described as “man’s best friend,” and in Western art, the dog is often used as a symbol for faithfulness.  Suppose, then, that we compare the Catholic faith to a healthy dog.  The analogy might be useful for understanding how other religions appear from the point of view of traditional Catholic theology.  Perhaps non-Catholics will not be amused by the comparisons to follow.  But dog lovers may appreciate them.

If Catholicism is like a healthy dog, then Eastern Orthodoxy -- which has valid priestly orders and thus the Eucharist, but which lacks the papacy and rejects the filioque -- might be compared to a dog whose tail has been lopped off.  Protestantism, which lacks not only the papacy, but any valid priestly orders and thus the Eucharist, and departs from Catholicism in many others ways too, is like a dog which has had both its tail and one leg lopped off.   Judaism, which lacks the New Testament, Trinitarianism, belief in the Incarnation, and the rest of distinctively Christian doctrine, but does have a genuinely revealed source of theological knowledge in the Old Testament, is like a dog missing yet another leg.  Religions which at least understand God to be the uncaused cause of the world but which lack any genuine special revelation -- Islam, purely philosophical brands of theism, and arguably the more theistic versions of Hinduism -- are like a dog missing its tail and having only one leg.  (Though insofar as Islam has derived some of its claims about God from Christianity and Judaism, perhaps we can speak in its case of one and a half legs.)

Pantheistic versions of Hinduism, other versions of pantheism, and perhaps Taoism and Confucianism, are on this analogy like a tailless, legless dog.  Agnosticism, perhaps, is like the same dog but with cancer.  Atheism is like the same dog but dead.  Eliminative materialism -- which not only denies any sort of theism or pantheism, but also that there is any such thing as mind, will, or moral value even in the case of human beings, and thus denies that even the image of God exists anywhere in reality -- is like the corpse of that dog after it has been shoved into a wood chipper, like Steve Buscemi in Fargo

Where does polytheism fit into this analogy?  That depends.  If it’s a brand of polytheism which affirms the existence of a divine uncaused cause of everything other than himself, but which also claims that there are various lower-case-“g” gods running around… that’s like a dog with fleas.  If it’s a brand of polytheism which denies that there is any such uncaused cause, or even any necessary being with which it identifies the world (as in pantheism)… that’s no dog at all, but just a bunch of fleas. 

Hmm, dogs with fleas, mutilated dogs, cancerous dogs, dead dogs, dogs in wood chippers -- I guess I’ve also offended the dog lovers after all.  Ah well…

Anyway, the point of the analogy, I should make clear, is to represent different levels of knowledge of the divine nature and other kinds of theological knowledge.  I don’t claim for it any relevance at all to the question of whether and how anyone attains salvation.  That’s another issue entirely.  (Perhaps I’d need to use a somewhat different analogy in order to address the question of salvation.  Make the dog a St. Bernard, complete with brandy barrel?)

One application of the analogy is this.  Some who commented on my recent post on the reference of the word “God” seem extremely reluctant to admit that non-Trinitarians can be said genuinely even to refer to the true God when they use that word.  They seem to think it’s an all-or-nothing affair -- either you are talking about the true God with complete knowledge of his nature and perfect accuracy, or you are not even talking about him at all.  That’s like saying that you’ve either got a perfectly healthy and complete dog, or you’ve got no dog at all. 

As I keep pointing out, the critics don’t take this view consistently.  (For example, for some reason, though they’ll allow that Jews and even some pagan philosophers successfully refer to the true God, they deny that Muslims do.)  And as I also keep pointing out, if they were consistent, then every single error that even a non-heretical Christian makes about the divine nature would undermine the possibility of successfully referring to God.  (Would they say that even the Eastern Orthodox fail to refer to the true God, on the grounds that they reject the filioque?)  As I also keep having to point out, the question has absolutely nothing to do with whether non-Christians can be saved, with whether other religions exhibit grave moral defects, and so on.  (Successfully referring to God does not entail getting oneself right with Him.)

A dog that is missing a leg or three is seriously defective, but it’s still a dog.  Similarly, a conception of God which is seriously defective does not, merely for that reason, fail even to be a conception of God at all.  Moreover, a dog which is missing all or almost all of its legs is in much worse shape than a dog which is only missing its tail or one leg.  Similarly, to say that an imperfect conception of God can still be a conception of God is by no means to say that every conception is as good as any other.  Some conceptions have, you might say, a leg up on the rest…

143 comments:

Mike said...

"If Catholicism is like a healthy dog, then Eastern Orthodoxy -- which has valid priestly orders and thus the Eucharist, but which lacks the papacy and rejects the filioque -- might be compared to a dog whose tail has been lopped off. "

A better comparison would be a dog whose sense of smell has greatly diminished or whose sense of direction has greatly diminished. Many dogs are even bred so that their tail is lopped off soon after birth.

DogLover said...

Great, and creative, analogy, Prof. Feser! It´s one of the reasons I have been following your blog for a long time now. Excellent points presented in a fun way.

Of course, as a Lutheran Prothestant, I might change the analogy somewhat:
If Lutheran Prothestantism is represented by a healthy, well functioning and wholly natural specimen of dog, then Catholicism is that same dog dressed up in one of those dog-suits and wearing bling-bling. Impressive, but somewhat unnecessary :-)

Edward Feser said...

A better comparison would be a dog whose sense of smell has greatly diminished or whose sense of direction has greatly diminished.

Good point, that would certainly better represent the lack of the papacy. But perhaps it's a less visually striking image!

Edward Feser said...

DogLover, thanks for being a good sport. And to show that I'm one too, I love your analogy!

John said...

"Eliminative materialism . . . is like the corpse of that dog after it has been shoved into a wood chipper, like Steve Buscemi in Fargo."
And I was just set to watch Fargo for the first time! Now it's ruined! (just kidding)

Andrew Preslar said...

There's got to be an application of this analogy in which the dog is being wagged by the tail ... sedevacantist Catholicism?

Tomislav Ostojich said...

Hi Dr. Feser,

How do you deal with Dennett's argument that when we're looking at, say, our visual cortex being activated when we see someone's face, we really are seeing the qualia of what it's like to look at someone's face, but because we weren't evolved to see our brains in action, our brains fool us into thinking that we're looking at a pile of pink stuff?

fr. Thomas said...

But the quotation from the Summa contra Gentiles that I posted in the comments of the previous post still seems relevant:

"Whoever is in error regarding something that is of the essence of a thing does not know that thing. Thus, if someone understood irrational animal with the notion that it is a man, he would not know man. Now, it would be a different matter if he erred concerning one of man’s accidents. However, in the case of composite beings, the person who is in error concerning one of their essential principles does know the thing, in a relative way, though he does not know it in an unqualified sense. For instance, he who thinks that man is an irrational animal knows him according to his genus. But this cannot happen in reference to simple beings; instead, any error at all completely excludes knowledge of the being. Now, God is most simple. So, whoever is in error concerning God does not know God, just as the man who thinks that God is a body does not know God at all, but grasps something else in place of God. However, the way in which
a thing is known determines the way in which it is loved and desired. Therefore, he who is in error about God can neither love God nor desire Him as an end" (Bk. III, 118)

In other words, the divine simplicity means that if someone is wrong about an attribute of God (e.g. being tri-personal), then, at least insofar as they are actually (and not just habitually) including that attribute in their notion of 'God' then they are not thinking about God. A key question appears to be whether the false attribute is constitutive or not in someone's notion of God. E.g. the Molinist would opine (falsely, as I should say), that middle knowledge is a divine attribute, but he would probably also be ready to say that it was conceivable that he was wrong, and that that attribute doesn't actually have any significance for him when he is praying. In this case, St Thomas would presumably say that the Molinist does know God in general, though strictly qua Molinist he is not thinking about God but about an imaginary being. But 'not having a Son' looks as if it is constitutive of the Muslim's idea of God: he would not be willing to admit that he might be wrong, and he invokes the Muslim conception of divine unicity every time he prays ('there is no God but God').

Brandon said...

the divine simplicity means that if someone is wrong about an attribute of God (e.g. being tri-personal), then, at least insofar as they are actually (and not just habitually) including that attribute in their notion of 'God' then they are not thinking about God.

Cognoscit has to mean something quite a bit stronger than 'thinking about' here, because otherwise the argument would be incoherent (since you cannot be in error about things about which you are not thinking). It also needs to be stronger than 'thinking about' in order to draw the conclusion about love, and this also fits with the fact that the chapter is about faith specifically, not thought about God in general. Thus we should take it here to mean 'know' in something like the sense of 'being familiar with'.

Tyrrell McAllister said...

I'm curious to see your response to commenter fr. Thomas's quote from Bk III, 118 of Summa contra Gentiles, which followed your last post.

Apparently, according to Aquinas, divine simplicity prevents your "knowing" God *at all* if you have *any* false beliefs about Him. This is in contrast to composite entities, which you can know to some extent if you have some false beliefs about them, provided that you have some true beliefs, too.

The "knowledge" that Aquinas is talking about there appears to be the humanly attainable kind of knowledge that we can have about God so long as our beliefs about God contain no errors. Aquinas doesn't seem to mean just that any erroneous belief about God is incompatible with having the direct acquaintance with God that is impossible in this life.

Tyrrell McAllister said...

Whoops. Fr. Thomas spoke for himself while I was composing my comment.

The Masked Chicken said...

So, worshiping is like petting the dog?

When you pet a cat, it thinks, "I am God."

When you pet a dog, it thinks, "You are God."

At least, according to one of my colleagues at work.

The Chicken

thefederalist said...

I would say that worshiping is like feeding the dog. And the previous post was about whether Muslims worship the same God as Christians and Jews.

If my friend had a pet dog that could do tricks and beg, but what he fed it was mostly walnuts and peanuts which it would gnaw open to get the meats inside, I would come to the conclusion that his pet dog is really a squirrel. Even though he could talk about his pet in terms that make it sound mostly like a dog (well, maybe it climbs trees better than my dog does, and it doesn't swim as well), how he fed it would be the marker for me.

The 'God' of Islam is pleased when his followers strap explosives onto their chests and blow themselves up in crowded markets. Even if I can find a lot of Muslims who will say that that isn't 'true Islam', that seems mostly to mean that it isn't the Islam they follow. Few of them can be gotten to say that the terrorist jihadist Muslims are not faithful Muslims.

And, as an aside, could we Catholics talk about 'adoring' God, rather than merely 'worshiping' Him? Unless I really am the only English-speaking Catholic who still understands 'worship' in its 19th-century meaning. I don't think we should cave in to redneck fundamentalists about worshiping Mary and the saints based on their defective public-school educations. And I do rather like the notion that my wife and I frequently worship each other with our bodies.

Edward Feser said...

Hello Fr. Thomas,

I second what Brandon said. Keep in mind that as I kept emphasizing in the comment thread under the previous post, I have been talking about reference, specifically. I was not talking about “knowledge” -- a word which can be used in different ways, and where Aquinas is not in the SCG passage using it in the way relevant to the question of reference. Consider the following dialogue between two people in a buffet line:

“See that stuff in that bowl over there?”

“The white stuff?”

“Yes. Do you know what it is?”

“I think it’s sour cream.”

“Hmm, I don’t think so. I think it’s whipped cream.”

“No, I think it’s sour cream.”

“Anyway, I want some of it. I’m going to put it on my pumpkin pie”

“I want some of it too. I’m going to put it on my baked potato.”

Now, at least one of these people is wrong about what the stuff is, and thus in that sense lacks knowledge of it. And one of them is in for a big surprise. But there is an obvious sense in which they are both referring to the same thing and an obvious sense in which they both want that one same thing to which they are referring. That’s all I’m talking about when I say that Christians and Muslims can be said to refer to the same God and to worship the same God. That’s consistent with one of them being in serious error, being in for a big surprise, etc.

Tyrrell McAllister said...

But it's also true that they both know something about the white stuff in the bowl — namely, that it's white stuff in that bowl. Because the stuff in the bowl is composite in various ways, it's possible to know some things about it while not knowing other things. Thus, it's easier to see how both people can refer to it even while at least one of them has erroneous beliefs about its essense.

Aquinas claims that, because of divine simplicity, it's not possible to know anything at all about God while having some wrong beliefs about God. It's harder to see how you can refer to Him at all if you know literally nothing about Him.

Brandon said...

Aquinas claims that, because of divine simplicity, it's not possible to know anything at all about God while having some wrong beliefs about God. It's harder to see how you can refer to Him at all if you know literally nothing about Him.

But as Ed notes, 'know' can be used in several different ways, and this seems to conflate them. Aquinas's word cognoscit would imply familiarity, acquaintance, or direct recognition, and thus denying that someone knows God in this sense leaves open all sorts of other ways we could say someone knows something. In addition, there are lots of weaker kinds of cognition, and it seems that some of these are still strong enough to support reference -- surely we can still refer to things about which we only have suspicion, for instance.

Scott said...

Less fundamentally and less importantly, it also seems that "having a Son" can be understood in more than one way, and it seems to me to be at least arguable that Christians (in general) are the only ones who use it in the sense required by the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation. It seems possible that when a Muslim asserts that God is One in a sense that precludes His "having a Son," he's really denying something that a Christian would also deny.

BenjaminL said...

Hello,
I am a Protestant (and not a theologian or philosopher) and have learned much from this blog. Thank you. I enjoyed this post; it is amusing.

As a Protestant, I have no understanding at all of this notion of "valid priestly orders." Can you or other readers recommend a source that would attempt to justify this notion in terms that might be persuasive or credible to a Protestant? Thank you in advance :)

Anonymous said...

Tomislav,

Unlike Dennett, we generally don't believe that the only alternative to neuro-philosophy is old-fashioned behaviorism. The brain-behaviorism of the extreme materialists does not impress us either. If one reads through the diverse arguments against the old behaviorism as well as the arguments against the recent neuro-philosophy, then one will clearly see why Dennett's pop-philosophy and rhetoric lacks force. Why must the same things be repeated over and over again?

Craig Payne said...

Dear Benjamini: In dealing with his first apostles, Christ commissioned and sent them forth, leaving Peter as their leader. They passed on that divine commission by the organizing of bishops over the priestly system. "Valid priestly orders" is the phrase used for a priest ordained and commissioned within that historical system established by Christ.

Craig Payne said...

"It seems possible that when a Muslim asserts that God is One in a sense that precludes His "having a Son," he's really denying something that a Christian would also deny."

Dear Scott: In general, I agree. However, by now it seems that any Muslim who desires to know what Christian theology really teaches could surely know?

Scott said...

Perhaps. Nevertheless, since the doctrines in question do after all express a mystery, I'm skeptical that just anyone and everyone who rejects it even after investigation has necessarily understood it well enough to know what's being rejected. (Somewhat analogously, I've certainly known, and indeed I still know, self-described atheists who disbelieve in supposed gods in which I also disbelieve.)

And why would we say that (automatically) about Muslims when we don't say it (automatically) about Jews, who also assert that God is One in a sense that precludes His "having a Son" according to what they take to be the Christian understanding of such Sonship?

Mike said...

"Of course, as a Lutheran Prothestant, I might change the analogy somewhat:
If Lutheran Prothestantism is represented by a healthy, well functioning and wholly natural specimen of dog,"

I was not aware that a three legged, tailless dog, that has a terrible memory, and answers to the name Korah could be considered healthy, wholly natural and well functioning. Such a dog thinks he is still part of the original pedigree, when he is actually a chimera.

And I say this as an evangelical protestant who can no longer take the fundamentals of Protestanism seriously, Lutheran or otherwise.

BenjaminL said...

Craig, I appreciate the response, but to be more precise, I guess I am curious about Catholic answers to the Calvinist and Reformed positions as described in the Wikipedia articles on "Universal priesthood" and "Apostolic succession." If the actions of Jesus and the apostles are the premise, and the Catholic notion of "valid priestly orders" is the conclusion, there are a lot of steps in between that need to be filled in...

Ignatius P. Garnet said...

It is a poor analogy. My dog is far more forgiving than the Catholic Church. He would never condemn my soul Hell for all eternity for one unconfessed act of masturbation. But such is the teaching of the Catholic Church, re-affirmed once more even in the post-Vatican II Catechism (with some minor caveats), that such an act is mortal sin.

Why do you never talk about mortal sin? That, surely, is what separates Catholics from all other denominations - not bits of canine anatomy.

monk68 said...

BenjaminL,

With respect to your question concerning priestly orders/apostolic succession, I recommend the following articles; both found at Calledtocommunion.com, a site dedicated to dialogue between Reformed and Catholic Christians:

http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/05/holy-orders-and-the-priesthood

http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2014/06/the-bishops-of-history-and-the-catholic-faith-a-reply-to-brandon-addison

monk68 said...

Ignatius,

What you refer to as "minor caveats" seem rather significant:

"To form an equitable judgment about the subjects' moral responsibility and to guide pastoral action, one must take into account the affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety or other psychological or social factors that lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability." [CCC 2352]

In fact, those "caveats" are simply a particular expression, in the context of masturbation, of the Church's more general teaching concerning the nature and conditions of "mortal" sin. For a sin to be "mortal" - even where the "matter" of the act is "grave" - the moral agent must act with both full knowledge and full consent. There are any number of factors which might nullify either full knowledge or full consent in any given moral act. Hence, there is a crucial distinction between the objective gravity of an act - as an act - and the agent's subjective culpability for the act. Therefore, whether the act is "mortal" in the sense of the agent's culpability being such as to bring about a breach of union between the moral agent and God is not something that can be determined by consideration of the act alone, in isolation from the knowledge and consent of the agent. I fear you have acquired a false, or at least inadequate, view of Catholic moral theology.

Edward Feser said...

My, my, the humorless cranks seem to be coming out of the woodwork of late. Including, now, one of my favorite brands of troll -- the "What's wrong with this blog, why does it never address my personal pet issue??" kind. Which, apparently, in this case is self-abuse, of all things.

Gimme strength.

Craig Payne said...

"Personal pet issue," in the context of this thread, is funny.

Gary Black said...

If we were to talk of the conception of God, then I don't think we could say that the Orthodox have any defects in this regard. Personally, I don't believe filioque is a substantive dispute and I think you'll find far more Orthodox arguing that it is substantive and far more Catholics arguing that it is a misunderstanding. If you changed the language a small amount and say, for instance, "The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son" both sides would agree that this is an orthodox statement. There are additional language issues and obviously it is more complicated than this simple synopsis but with respect to God their beliefs must be seen as a happy, healthy pup.

They definitely have some defects when it comes to the papacy but even there they do believe that the Pope is first among the patriarchs.. you know, if he wasn't a heretic (to them). Even then, even the most ambitious Catholic dogma like papal infallibility are not by faith rejected by the Orthodox. At least because they only accept seven ecumenical councils and the papal infallibility is not denounced in them. And so, it cannot be bound in a similar fashion as other things they may consider [personally] heretical.

Craig Payne said...

Dear Scott: Actually, I would also say it of the Jews. However, in both cases, Muslim and Jewish, there might be the exception of "invincible ignorance" in the theological sense--that is, if we were raised in an observant Jewish or Muslim home, it could be nearly impossible for us to understand God in the Christian trinitarian sense. And, as you say, it is a mystery of the faith, at any rate.

Scott said...

monk68 got here before I did, so I'll just add the following.

Ignatius, the other condition you included was "unconfessed," but of course it matters why the sin remains unconfessed. If the one who committed the mortal sin has repented but is run down by a bus on his way to confession, then he's credited accordingly. So I assume you mean that he isn't even seeking forgiveness.

Do you really find it hard to understand why someone who dies in a state of unrepentant disobedience to God on a serious matter might be treated as turning down the invitation to enter into God's presence? Is that harder to accept than the case of, say, someone in the military who commits treason and is tried and punished accordingly even though he's previously served faithfully for twenty years?

Do you think good behavior on Monday through Saturday is a license to sin on Sunday?

Scott said...

By the way, thinking your dog forgives you for masturbating is dyslexia, not Christianity.

Ignatius P. Garnet said...

Monk68,

I appreciate the effort but with respect, I think your defence fails. Who does not act with full knowledge or consent when they masturbate that they are committing a mortal sin? Hmm, that would have to be...Protestants; poorly catechised Catholics, and virtually every other person on the planet.

So...typical of post-Vatican II moral theology, with its commitment to Ecumenism, everyone is probably given a pass on masturbation, EXCEPT well catechised Catholics who are made fully aware that masturbation is a mortal sin! They are the only ones who cannot rely on good ol' ecumenical ignorance

What an ingenious way to do away with Church teaching. Keep us safe by keeping us in the dark; reserve Hell only for those who learn the Faith.

Moreover...if a sin is so bad as to be mortal, surely we would be attacked by serious pangs of conscience, sufficient to constitute knowledge, even without Church teaching? Are we really to believe that there are some sins that are grave enough to extinguish our grace, but so non-taxing on the conscience that we would not even be aware of their gravity unless the Church labeled them mortal? Is this what the Catechism's caveats are subtly getting at? Are they trying to say, without saying it (of course), that moral theology of the past is overly strict so if we don't teach it and therefore no one knows about it, then God won't hold us accountable for it anymore?

Ignorance is bliss, it seems. And Knowledge is Hell.

Ignatius P. Garnet said...

Scott...who says that you are 'credited accordingly' before receiving the sacrament of absolution? That smells like false teaching to me.

If you can be let off the hook by repenting prior to receiving the sacrament, at what point does that credit run out? Can I stop for gas on the way? What if I'm walking to confession, get hit by a truck and die...am I still repentant even though I could have gotten to Church safely had I been running?

Gary Black said...

Ignatius, perhaps billions of people will be sent to hell because of masturbation. It is simply not our competency to say. The text is there (at least partly) for your and spiritual discernment. However, I'd recommend talking to a spiritual adviser if you are struggling with your particular culpability as adding a third party can add some helpful objectivity. If you are imagining a capricious God sending good people to hell for trivial things, you simply have misunderstood God and His Church's teaching.

As for those seeking Confession but dying beforehand, it reminds me of a quote from A Man for All Seasons "He will not refuse one who is so blithe to go to him." Ultimately, God's judgement is based on how we actually exist and He is the one who placed the desire for reconciliation in the sinner's heart in the first place.

monk68 said...

Ignatius,

Given your calm, cool, collected approach to the subject at hand, I suspect what I have to say will be a poor use of my time, still . . .

"Who does not act with full knowledge or consent when they masturbate that they are committing a mortal sin? . . . EXCEPT well catechised Catholics who are made fully aware that masturbation is a mortal sin!"

And fully catechized Catholics who, while knowing full well that masturbation is a grave act because it militates against a proper use of human sexuality; nevertheless, through "affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety or other psychological or social factors" are encumbered with acquired habits or dispositions which impinge upon the will's ability to function with complete freedom. Look again, the "caveats" are given specifically as pastoral guides for pastors caring for CATHOLICS struggling with masturbation - not Protestants, etc.

"Moreover...if a sin is so bad as to be mortal, surely we would be attacked by serious pangs of conscience, sufficient to constitute knowledge, even without Church teaching?"

Perhaps in many or most cases, but not necessarily so. As you gave no argument for your interrogative assertion, I'll save time by providing none for mine.

"Are we really to believe that there are some sins that are grave enough to extinguish our grace, but so non-taxing on the conscience that we would not even be aware of their gravity unless the Church labeled them mortal?"

Yep. That's exactly right. To note just one such moral theater. There are countless persons in modern culture misusing human sexuality in the wake of the sexual revolution who commonly engage in acts which are objectively grave, without those persons fully comprehending the fact or grounds of that gravity. Consciences can be seared, and in no small measure by the prevailing zeitgeist.

Scott said...

Ignatius:

"Scott...who says that you are 'credited accordingly' before receiving the sacrament of absolution? That smells like false teaching to me."

See section 1452. If your complaint is that I used "repentance" as a loose synonym for "perfect contrition," I acknowledge the point. But somehow I'm suspecting that's not the problem.

Daniel D. D. said...

In my experience, Muhammad and his followers seem to think that saying God "has a Son," we mean that God has a physical body that can procreate in a mystical sense.

I think it more fruitful to refer to the Son by His Greek name, the Logos, eliminating such objection beforehand.

Edward Feser said...

The original post is a semi-humorous piece about Catholic and non-Catholic conceptions of the divine nature.

Then someone suddenly leaps in from stage right, in high dudgeon, wanting to know why we're not discussing how the post-Vatican II Church doesn't talk enough about masturbation and how many people will be going to Hell as a result.

I'd call this a threadjack, but I've already used up my bad pun allotment for the day.

Anyway, whatever the merits of the subject, it is massively off-topic and the person who has raised it seems to "have issues," as they say. No troll-feeding, please.

Gary Black said...

hehehe

Daniel D. D. said...

BenjaminL,

I have two insights that might be able to help you. I find that Catholic Apologetics sniff out the correct passages, but don't try to explain why they hint at or teach Apostolic Succession. I see my post as a supplement to what Monk offered.

The first insight regards the Apostolic Succession: all Christians believe that Jesus set up the Apostolic Office, and Catholics (and Orthodox, Orientals, etc.) believe that the Office of Apostles didn't disappear with the death of the Twelve, but rather that they passed on this Office to Successors, all the way to today (that we can trace such Succession back with relative certainty is remarkable in itself: the Pope's line is centuries longer than any monarch's in the whole world).

The first most common Objection would be that the Office is not successive, that is, it can't be passed down, and is lost after the death of the Twelve and St. Paul. We point out in response then that the Office was passed down in Acts when the Eleven elected Matthias to Apostleship, which means it can, at least, be passed down, and such authority doesn't have to be given directly by Jesus in the Flesh. Further evidence can be found later on in the Pastoral texts, where we find the sacred author telling Timothy to pass his bishopric down to multiple generations, and so on.

The second objection then would be that, although it could be passed down, it wasn't. We respond by appealing to the unanimous testimony of the Christians living at the end of the Apostles' lifetimes and beyond: the Church Fathers. The Church Fathers appealed quite often to Apostolic Succession in order to reject heretic denominations' teachings. The lines of many Bishoprics can be traced down, and defences to protect from errors in passing on Holy Orders have been put in place (for example, we need at least three Bishops to ordain a new one, making it statistically impossible for a mass number of false Bishops).

Another thing to think about is that people who were taught by the Apostles themselves clearly taught Apostolic Succession, or at the very least the doctrine was clearly defined by St. Irenaeus' (AD 180). St. Ignatius (Ad 107, give or take), a follower of St. John, teaches that a Christian should follow his Bishop like Christ follows the Father. To reject the doctrine then would require a Protestant to believe that all the "true" believers disappeared without a trace after the death of St. John (a rough position considering that Revelation is God interacting with Man in history), in a time where Fathers would write long critiques of heresy. If the Apostles' would have rejected Apsotolic Succession, then why do the Fathers not mention what they would have believed to be heresy, despite the fact they mention (and reject) many others. I say they don't mention it because it didn't exist until long after their lifetime. This is also apparent in the fact that the Gnostics and Arians also preached and appealed to Apostolic Succession, and many were Bishops themselves!

Basically, given the Biblical hints and the historical paper trail afterwards, Apostolic Succession is quite reasonable, and seems to be rejectable only by appealing to conspiracy theories.

Daniel D. D. said...

Finally, there is an incoherency in the Calvinist position on Ecclesiastical Councils. The Fathers of first seven Councils clearly appeal to Apostolic Succession to justify their teachings (yes, they appeal to Scripture too). How is it that the Calvinist can accept the Nicean Creed, the Duel Nature of Christ, etc., yet reject other teachings of the councils, such has the tolerance of Icons and (as mentioned before) Apostolic Succession? How does the context of these Councils even make sense without appeal to Apsotolic Succession?

The second insight is that Catholics don't reject the "universal priesthood," but rather interpreted the doctrine in light of the doctrine of Apostolic Succession. Since the Church is the body of Christ, and Christ is the Priest of the New Covenant, there is a sense in which all the Baptised are priests. However, we cannot stop there with congressional Protestantism, because the Bible and the historical Church, as I have shown above, also teach Apostolic Succession. The best way to understand the Catholic position, I think, is to interpret both doctrines in light of St. Paul's teaching of the mystical body of Christ.

What I basically mean is that Sacred Priesthood is Christ's, and that it is excersied by Christ, through the Church, His Body. But, by initiating the Office of Apostle, He specialized a specific organ of His Body to carry out the Sacred Priesthood, just as a human body has different organs for different functions. St. Paul himself: "Christ Himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers." Everyone is not expected to participate practically in every dimension of the Church's life.

A final thought: I find that often in Catholic/Protestants debates on fundamental disagreements, that both sides read the same passage, but define key terms differently. For example, both side smuggle a different definition of "Church," which makes the opposite side seem unintelligible (Dr. Peter Kreeft think the same thing happens when Catholics and Protestants explore Biblical Passages about "Faith," leading to the "Faith alone" crisis). In a similar way, interpretations of these sort of texts need the contextual assumptions spelled out beforehand, or else each side will end up talking pass each other. What does "Church" mean in this passage? Do all the passage make sense under this definition of Church/faith/Grace/works?

I think that reading the Pastoral Letters and Gospels deeply, while taking into consideration contemporary historical accounts, will lead one to finding that these texts were written with the idea that Apostolic Succession was obvious (since these text were written when the Apostles could and were teaching the Gospel orally), and so they didn't have to sit down and straightforwardly define the teaching (they didn't think such a controversy would appear 1500 years after their time), but that the passages don't make sense without reference to the doctrine beforehand (I think a similar situation occurs with infant baptism: did the first century Christians really need to be told in writing that infant baptism is licit? They probably would just see the Apostles baptising babies, and assumed to do likewise: they weren't thinking that the people of the future would begin doubting their Traditions by a matter of principle ;-) ).

Christi pax.

Daniel D. D. said...

(Note: I put "Christi" first because many modern people today seem to think that peace is the primary goal, while Christ is the means to the goal. The Saints teach we must seek Christ as an end in Himself, and thus His peace will follow. "Seek first the Kingdom, and all else will be given to you," and all that. Therefore I put Christ before His peace :-) )

Ignatius P. Garnet said...

Gary Black admits but shrugs his shoulders at the possibility that God sends billions of people to Hell for masturbation, while Ed suggests I have issues for raising the issue . Anyone who could happily worship such a capricious deity has a much bigger 'issue' than a penchant for polishing the banana.

Which I don't have, despite your, er, ham-fisted suggestion. I use the example of masturbation deliberately because it amuses me to see responders a) twist/ignore Church teaching and attack me personally, in order to get the Catholic Church off the hook for what you know to be an absurd inphallusible teaching. Funny how Monk argued that the Church's pastoral 'caveats' exempt even well-catechised Catholics, adding meat to my main contention that the Church is stuck with saying masturbation is a mortal sin, but nowadays will make it as hard as they possibly can to hold anyone culpable.

Sorry boys, but that dog won't hunt.

Funny how non-Christians have no problem seeing my point, but I suppose they're just blinded by sin..

Daniel D. D. said...

I think modern people, including myself, have trouble understanding why sexual sins possess such gravity. I read about the stict Laws of the Jews: some Rabbis believed and believe that to cause yourself an erection calls for excommunication. The death penalty is cause for adultery (although it was rare). Why so strict, especially when resisting sexual temptation is sooo hard?

Many of us just have trouble seeing why St. Basil would call homosexual intercourse worse than murder. Or why masturbation is a sentence to Hell. It just seems so...overboard.

Maybe me and most others are so enslaved to Lust that we are too stupid to see why these acts are so serious?

I think the Natural law view of sexuality would be more convincing rhetorically (and I say this as someone who is on board with it) if someone could find a way over this.

Christi pax.

Qasim said...

As a Muslim, I am very offended that Dr. Feser has compared Islam to a dog with 1.5 legs. I find this very uncharitable. Please reconsider and give us the full second leg. That way the dog can at least crawl around the floor! On the other hand, I guess I should be happy you didn't make us into a 1.5-legged pig. :)

Dr. Feser, I have read "The Last Superstition" and consider it one of the best books I have ever read. I am sure this was not your intention, but it actually strengthened my faith in Islam, the parallels between the philosophical God and the Islamic God are uncanny; the part of the book where you explain the various divine attributes seemed to me to basically enumerating many of the 99 names of God in Islam.

Would you agree that the Islamic understanding of God is in much greater harmony with the God of philosophy than the trinitarian Catholic version of God? I would be interested in reading your opinion on this matter.

Thanks again Dr. Feser. I obviously don't share your low opinion of Islam, but I find your books and blog to be fascinating and insightful.



iwpoe said...

@Quasim
Judaism, Islam and Catholicism all were influenced in their theology by the ancient metaphysics of Aristotle and Plato. I myself, being a classically read Platonist fully understand Feser's purely philosophic arguments (though I only have 1 leg) and mostly accept them- as would Miamonades, Avecinna, and Aquinas. This theological background is where you're drawing the sense of commonality.

matthew murray said...

I think Ed's point was really just to stay on topic. what you are saying has nothing to do with what he posted.he has written several posts on sex though I'm not sure about masturbation specifically.

However, since you brought it up I too find the natural law position on masturbation and other sex acts where bodily fluids aren't deposited in the um, necessary area to be bizarre.I always think of the first wedding night for a devout Catholic man. He is highly aroused and as it is known, there is nothing wrong with him receiving oral sex from his new wife from the catholic pov, as long as all "ends" you know where.so if he accidentally orgasms while being given oral sex does that make the oral sex wrong in this case after the fact?

matthew murray said...

"For a sin to be "mortal" - even where the "matter" of the act is "grave" - the moral agent must act with both full knowledge and full consent. There are any number of factors which might nullify either full knowledge or full consent in any given moral act."

Defining "full knowledge" probably can't be done, neither can "full consent".And Now both full knowledge and consent combined are being asked for? Please define. Too sweeping.

Tomislav Ostojich said...

It looks like Dr. Feser got distracted by masturbation-obsessed detractors of the Roman Catholic Church and didn't answer my question.

First of all, for all you detractors, is masturbation really the hill that you want to die fighting on? Not the silence of the church during the Holocaust? Or the persecution of protestants for trying to translate the Bible? Or how the lead genocidal conquistadors were not excommunicated?

Back to my question to Dr. Feser.

How do you deal with Dennett's argument that when we're looking at, say, our visual cortex being activated when we see someone's face, we really are seeing the qualia of what it's like to look at someone's face, but because we weren't evolved to see our brains in action, our brains fool us into thinking that we're looking at a pile of pink stuff? I am genuinely curious, because it took me several tries to really understand the gist of Dennett's argument, but once I did, it seems difficult to point out what exactly is wrong about it. You, on the other hand, have a knack of analyzing tricky and subtle arguments in a thorough way that doesn't simplify it to the point of misrepresentation.

Daniel D. D. said...

Tomislav Ostojich,

"Without pretending to span within such limits the essential
Thomist idea, I may be allowed to throw out a sort of rough
version of the fundamental question, which I think I have
known myself, consciously or unconsciously since my childhood.
When a child looks out of the nursery window and sees anything,
say the green lawn of the garden, what does he actually know;
or does he know anything? There are all sorts of nursery
games of negative philosophy played round this question.
A brilliant Victorian scientist delighted in declaring that
the child does not see any grass at all; but only a sort of green
mist reflected in a tiny mirror of the human eye. This piece
of rationalism has always struck me as almost insanely irrational.
If he is not sure of the existence of the grass, which he sees through
the glass of a window, how on earth can he be sure of the existence
of the retina, which he sees through the glass of a microscope?
If sight deceives, why can it not go on deceiving?"

http://www.cse.dmu.ac.uk/~mward/gkc/books/aquinas.html

Christi pax.

Anonymous said...

@ Prof. Ed Feser

Thanks for the excellent blog and books!

I think the reason people are so hesitant about affirming that Muslims etc. al. "worship the same God" has more to do with the implicature: I'm referring to your post "nudge nudge, wink wink." I think the implicature here is related to the error of religious indifferentism, namely that because we are worshiping the same God, we're all ok. This is exactly how people would take it if I were to preach this from the pulpit on Sunday. I agree with your argument in the literal sense, but I think what we have here is an example of the "missing the point" fallacy.

Tapestry said...

Qasim, not sure if you're serious, I nearly died laughing at your first paragraph.

daurio said...

@ Ignatius P. Garnet
I know Dr. Feser said not to continue on this subject, but I feel it should be mentioned that in order for someone to be free of culpability, his or her ignorance must be "invincible."
Precisely what constitutes invincible ignorance is not agreed upon by all, but orthodox theologians would say that ignorance which is the result of willful negligence is not enough to excuse a person of sin. So we can see that ignorance is not necessarily bliss.
@ matthew murray
If your asking if he's guilty of sin I'm quite sure the answer is no. However, there have been Catholic moral theologians who would consider the act described in your scenario to be immoral even if it did culminate in the marital act (I think Saint Alphonsus de Liguori belongs to this group, but don't quote me.)
Any way, I have a feeling Dr. Feser is going to erase this since it has nothing to do with his post.

Anonymous said...

True religion is not a system of propositions or ultimate beliefs to be used to determine or limit human behaviors. True religion is the Realization of the Condition wherein the presumption of an utter, or negative and binding separation between the conscious self, its objects, and the Source of all selves and their objects is transcended.
The word religion means to bind again, or to rejoin what were apparently separated. Therefore, true religion is a PROCESS - a fundamental process that involves the total manifest being and all of Nature, or the Cosmic World. Therefore, true religion is not limited to or even by any particular scheme of propositions or thoughts that may justify or object its real process. True religion is the process transcending apparent separation, or the limiting power of any and all of subjective or objective categories, conditions or events.
Since true religion is this process of transcendence, it is not fully or even rightly defined as any kind of theism. True religion is the process of transcendence, and the only opposite or alternative to such religion is the failure of transcendence, or the confinement to the apparent and conventional modes, categories, or conceptions of separation and falsely presumed independence.

The principle of true religion is not any definition or attempted "proof" of God, or any analysis of self and Cosmic Nature. The principle of religion is what is commonly called salvation, liberation, realization, or enlightenment. All such terms refer to the Ultimate Event of religion, which is the literal or perfect transcendence of the binding effects of apparent separateness.

Religion is commonly presumed to be a subject of argument, denial, and affirmation, but arguments, denials, and affirmations, however seemingly profound, are not associated with the Process that is True Religion itself. They are always merely features of the mortal fear of the separated mind in its struggle with the conventional categories of a not yet religious experience. It is ONLY when arguments, denials, and affirmations are replaced or followed by the Process of actual transcendence that religion itself has become the subject of human existence.

If religion is thus understood to be the Process of the transcendence of separation (and not propositions, beliefs, affirmations, denials, or conventional behaviors), then religion is discovered to transcend the never-ending controversies of conventional mind and society.
Truly, there are not many religions, nor is only one religion true. There is only the Process that is True Religion itself, and there are many traditional and possible approaches to the Process that is True Religion.
True Religion is found and demonstrated only in the domain of present time actual practitioners of the Way of transcendence. It is very seldom, if ever, found among philosophers, scholars, priests, and common believers, but it is demonstrated by true devotees, saints, yogis, mystics and sages.
The "proof" of True Religion is ONLY in the actual Realization of the Condition that is Revealed as the Obvious in the case of such transcendence.
Therefore, let True Religion be understood, and let humankind be restored to the religious Way that is now everywhere obstructed by the separatist propagandas of both scientific and political materialism, and the proponents of back to the past religious provincialism and fundamentalism.

daurio said...

I don't know what the hell anonymous is talking about, but if he's implying that Catholicism is the one true religion I'm in total agreement!!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks daurio, I hope my slightly insightful musing doesn't get buried in this dog-pile before Dr. Feser can respond to it. I can't imagine the patience it must require to be a professional blogger. God bless and Mary keep you!

Fr. Anonymous

Anonymous said...

I just noticed that the process theology post was also written by anonymous, my post was the religious indifferentism one...

Fr. Anonymous

daurio said...

Hi Fr. Anonymous, I was referring to the later Anonymous. Your post made a great deal of sense to me.

Edward Feser said...

Hello Fr. Anonymous,

Yes, thank you, that is an excellent point. As you might expect, my own intentions had absolutely nothing to do with indifferentism. I was looking at it merely as a philosophical question. However, many people who say things like "We all worship the same God" do mean thereby to further an indifferentist agenda, or to be politically correct, or something along those lines. So, given those background circumstances, there is something like the context for an implicature of the sort you are describing, at least for certain readers. Hence the possibility of misunderstanding.

With one or two possible exceptions, I think none of the regular readers of this blog made the mistake of thinking there was any such implicature. However, some of the many people who came to my post via links from other sites (e.g. from National Review, which linked to it) and aren't familiar with this blog or my overall views, may well have gotten the wrong idea for exactly the reason you state.

As I mentioned in the other thread, I'm working on a (fairly long and detailed) post on liberalism and Islam. It is not polemical -- better to bring light than heat to bear on this subject -- but I can assure you that no one will come away from it thinking there is any indifferentist implicature.

Petronius Jablonski said...

Abraham and Moses knew a mighty wolf. Christians believe in Cerberus. The wolf revealed NOTHING about being on the lookout for wolf junior. To the contrary, it growled ferociously at any canines unknown by Abraham and Moses.


Edward Feser said...

Ah, but wait, now I see what is going on. Fr. Anonymous. Father Anonymous. A priest, and thus a Christian... who is anonymous. In other words, an "anonymous Christian." As in Karl Rahner's thesis! Which amounts to... indifferentism!

So, an indifferentist implicature of your own, which you've slyly snuck under the radar precisely by raising the issue of indifferentism!

Very subtle, Father! But I'm on to you! ;-)

Edward Feser said...

Ignatius,

I know it's off-topic, but I'm giving myself a special dispensation. 'Cause I gotta ask or I ain't ever gonna get to know: Are you a traditional Catholic who is worried that the post-Vatican II Church isn't talking enough about the evil of self-abuse? Or a skeptic who is annoyed that the post-Vatican II Church still hasn't repudiated traditional Catholic teaching about the evil of self-abuse? Or just some dude who's pranking us all?

I can't figure it out!

Edward Feser said...

Hello Tomislav,

First, I would bet a large sum of money that this sentence of yours:

is masturbation really the hill that you want to die fighting on?

is one that has probably never been uttered before in the history of the English language. Just an observation. Good sentence.

Second, gee, Dennett is really, really off-topic, which is why I didn't respond to your question. Plus I'd want to go pull the book off the shelf and take a look before giving a considered answer, and I don't have time to do that right now. But I'll just say a couple of things.

First, I used to take something like that view myself, way way back in my naturalist days. It wasn't Dennett's sort of materialism I believed in then, though, but rather a variation on Russell's neutral monism. And the view you describe is much more plausible given Russell's background metaphysics than it is given Dennett's background metaphysics. (See my old essays "Can phenomenal qualities exist unperceived?" and "Hayek the cognitive scientist and philosopher of mind" for more on that older view of mine.)

Second, the key to making that sort of view at all plausible is to defend an indirect realist conception of perception, which Russell did and I used to. (It even pops up in my book Philosophy of Mind, which I'd write a bit differently now if I had to do it over again.) Get rid of indirect realism, and the plausibility of the view collapses. And indirect realism is wrong for the sorts of reasons Aristotelians and Thomists usually give. E.g. it confuses that by which we perceive and that which we perceive.

I hope that's not too unhelpful!

Edward Feser said...

Hello matthew murray,

The standard (and I think correct) response to that question is that for it to be culpably sinful the husband and/or wife would either have to intend that result, or at least know that it was very likely and yet go ahead with the act anyway without caring about the risk. However, if a couple sincerely believed that it was not likely and had reason to think it wasn't, then there would be no culpability if it happened by surprise and without consent. Obviously for many people it would be easier to get a sense of how likely such a thing is after they'd been married for a while, the newness of sex had worn off a bit, and they weren't bundles of excitement prone to, er. immediately react in the strongest possible way to stimuli.

Edward Feser said...

But again, we're getting way off topic here!

Edward Feser said...

Hello Qasim,

Many thanks for your kind words and good humor. You ask whether I would agree that the Islamic conception of God is in greater harmony with the God of philosophy than the Trinitarian Catholic conception. That's a fair question, but as you might expect, I would not agree with that. The key word here is "harmony." What I would agree with is that the Trinitarian view goes farther beyond what philosophy would say than the Islamic view does. However, a lack of "harmony" implies that there is some kind of inconsistency or at least tension between the Trinitarian view and the God of philosophy that does not exist between the Islamic view and the God of philosophy. That is the part I would disagree with, since (as the Christian view holds) while the Trinity is a "mystery" in the sense that reason cannot discover it on its own nor fully comprehend it, there is nevertheless no inconsistency or incoherence either in the doctrine itself or between the doctrine and any other known truths.

Think of it this way. Suppose Fred, Bob, and Dave all accept proposition A. Dave also accepts proposition B as well, but Fred and Bob do not. Now, Bob would be more in harmony with Fred only if Dave's proposition B was inconsistent with A. But if B is not inconsistent with A, then Dave would not be in any less harmony with Fred than Bob is, whatever the content of B is. Now, the Trinitarian claims that this is the case with the doctrine of the Trinity. It goes beyond what philosophy alone would say about God, but without in any way conflicting with what philosophy says about God.

Edward Feser said...

Hello Daniel D.D.,

You ask: "Why so strict, especially when resisting sexual temptation is sooo hard?"

Well, I think the specific examples you give of strict penalties would have to be discussed on a case-by-case basis. But one general point to be made is that the rules have to be strict in part precisely because (a) the temptation can be so hard to resist, even though (b) the consequences of giving in can be so grave. To take just one example of (b), people have gotten used to giving in to the temptation so quickly and so readily now, that they're ready to kill the innocent, indeed their own flesh and blood -- i.e. via abortion -- in order more easily to keep giving in. Removing the shame associated with abortion and removing the shame associated with sexual vice are two parts of the same problem. Which is one reason conservatives and Catholics and other Christians will never make much headway on abortion until they start being willing once again to sound "mean" on the subject of sexual morality.

Not that I'm holding my breath. "Niceness" prevails, even among "conservatives." It will be interesting to hear the souls of aborted babies ask the "nice" Catholics and other Christians in the hereafter: "So how'd that 'niceness' approach work out for you guys? Didn't work out so well for us, alas..."

Anyway, much more could and should be said, as you rightly say.

seanrobsville said...

Trinity a "mystery"?

Though I'm a lapsed Anglican Buddhist agnostic, the concept of the Trinity makes more sense to me than a purely unitary God, since all functioning phenomena are composite.

If God is to function, he must be capable of undergoing a change of state, and a change of state involves either loss of components, accretion of components, or rearrangement of components.

fr. Thomas said...

{if I may venture to comment on the actual subject of the post again...}
Thank you, Dr Feser, for your response to my comment based on the contra Gentiles III, 118. I agree that Muslims refer to the same God as Christians, when they form the concept God, for otherwise the Muslim who says 'God has no Son' would not contradict the Christian who says 'God has a Son'. So as regards the 'first operation of the intellect', simple apprehension, both Christians and Muslims 'apprehend' the same object and so refer to the same object when they use the word God.

St Thomas seems however to be referring to the second operation of the intellect, judgement, when he writes: "Ergo quicumque errat circa Deum, non cognoscit Deum: sicut qui credit Deum esse corpus, nullo modo cognoscit Deum, sed apprehendit aliquid aliud loco Dei. Secundum autem quod aliquid cognoscitur, secundum hoc amatur et desideratur."

So someone who says, 'God is a body', even if he has previously correctly conceived of God as 'the ultimate first cause', is, when he makes this latter judgement, not apprehending God (this seems to involve the idea that Maritain and some other Thomists mention that the second operation of the intellect, as well as the first, produces its own 'verbum mentis' with an apprehensive power.) It would seem that for the same reason, the person who says, 'God has no Son' is not apprehending God, even though he has previously by simple apprehension conceived a correct concept of God.

In the former post, you raised the question not only of the reference of 'God', but of whether Muslims and Christians worship the same God. So the question arises of whether worship of God depends more on the first operation of the mind or on the second. The first operation bears on some intelligible nature, abstracted from existence, whereas the act of judgement signfies existence (the subject and the predicate are declared to exist, actually or possibly, as identical.) But worship is directed towards a being not just as abstractly conceived but as judged to be existing. So it would seem that insofar as someone worships in accordance with a false judgement about God, he is not worshipping God. And this corresponds to what St Thomas says, that the man who thinks that God is a body does not love or desire (or presumably, worship) God.


fr. Thomas said...

So to return to your analogy, I think that St Thomas would say that the man who judges 'the white stuff in the bowl is whipped cream' (when in fact it is sour cream) is apprehending the white stuff in the bowl in a certain sense, though not simpliciter, and therefore can desire it, though he will have an unpleasant surprise when he puts it on his pudding, whereas the man who judges 'God has no Son' is not apprehending God even in a certain sense, and therefore cannot desire Him.

Etzelnik said...

Help! I'm not sure if I've got 1 or 3 legs! I'm somewhere in between.

One thing I've never understood though, is how Moses, of whom the verse at the end of Deuteronomy testifies that no greater prophet emerged in Israel, can be considered as having '3 legs'. I'm not specifically addressing the humorous post by Dr. Feser as much as I am Christian theological tradition. Could such a great prophet have had such a defective conception of Divinity that his followers are precluded from communion with the Divine?

Etzelnik said...

Oh, my bad. I'm between 2 legs and 1, not 3 (I'm Jewish, but in reality I'm more broadly a philosophical theist) :-)

Petronius Jablonski said...

"Could such a great prophet have had such a defective conception of Divinity that his followers are precluded from communion with the Divine?"

God spoke to Moses face to face, as a friend. He told him that anyone who adds or subtracts from the Torah deserves death -- even if he can do miracles. There is no expiration date on the revelation at Sinai, nothing to indicate that it's incomplete or a curse that brings death. God calls it perfect, an everlasting covenant. The burden of proof is on subsequent traditions to defend their additions and subtractions. Christianity does so on the basis of ... miracles, and sticky webs of theology.

"Could such a great prophet have had such a defective conception of Divinity that his followers are precluded from communion with the Divine?"

God spoke to Moses face to face, as a friend. He told him that anyone who adds or subtracts from the Torah deserves death -- even if he can do miracles. There is no expiration date on the revelation at Sinai, nothing to indicate that it's incomplete or a curse that brings death. God calls it perfect, an everlasting covenant. The burden of proof is on subsequent traditions to defend their additions and subtractions. Christianity does so on the basis of ... miracles, and sticky webs of theology.

Moses, speaking on behalf of God, told Israel that He is one. God, speaking through the prophet Balaam, said that He is not a man. Case closed.

Petronius Jablonski said...

Curious version of a double post. For crying in the sink. It's 5:30 AM. It's amazing that I can post at all.

Etzelnik said...

@Petronius Jablonski

You're preaching to the choir here. Although I may be a heretic with regards to the nature of revelation, I in no way subscribe to any form of Christology.

My question is how Catholics understand the progression of Divine revelation.

Tony said...

As a Muslim, I am very offended that Dr. Feser has compared Islam to a dog with 1.5 legs. I find this very uncharitable. Please reconsider and give us the full second leg. That way the dog can at least crawl around the floor! On the other hand, I guess I should be happy you didn't make us into a 1.5-legged pig. :)

Qasim! A Muslim with a fine sense of humor, how nice!

I know this is off topic, but I have to ask a question that arose in another discussion altogether, about humor: Suppose Prof. Feser (or anyone) had made a similarly pointed joke, that did not merely implicate "Muslims" along with Protestants and atheists, but had poked fun at Muhammad along with, say, the Pope, and Mary. Would your religious sense of the sacred (a) necessarily make the so-called joke an outrage rather than humorous? Or (b) potentially funny (depending on the joke) but still necessarily a moral outrage as an offence against the sacred because making a joke at Muhammad's expense is automatically a violation of the sacred? Or (c) potentially funny, and potentially a moral outrage, if it violates moral norms of speech about things related to God, (though making a joke at Mohammad's expense is not - as such - a violation of norms of speech about things related to God)? Or some other alternative?

Marcus said...

Dr. Feser, many thanks for your excellent post. How would Panentheism, in the form I think is found in Zen Buddhism (that is, not in the same sense of Eastern Orthodoxy, where it is more akin to Omnipresence), fit into the amusing dog-scheme you proposed?

As an example of Zen understanding of the concept, Reverend Zen Master Soyen Shaku (1860-1919) writes: "At the outset, let me state that Buddhism is not atheistic as the term is ordinarily understood. It has certainly a God, the highest reality and truth, through which and in which this universe exists. However, the followers of Buddhism usually avoid the term God, for it savors so much of Christianity, whose spirit is not always exactly in accord with the Buddhist interpretation of religious experience. Again, Buddhism is not pantheistic in the sense that it identifies the universe with God. On the other hand, the Buddhist God is absolute and transcendent; this world, being merely its manifestation, is necessarily fragmental and imperfect. To define more exactly the Buddhist notion of the highest being, it may be convenient to borrow the term very happily coined by a modern German scholar, "panentheism," according to which God is πᾶν καὶ ἕν (all and one) and more than the totality of existence."

Tony said...

God spoke to Moses face to face, as a friend. He told him that anyone who adds or subtracts from the Torah deserves death -- even if he can do miracles. There is no expiration date on the revelation at Sinai, nothing to indicate that it's incomplete or a curse that brings death. God calls it perfect, an everlasting covenant. The burden of proof is on subsequent traditions to defend their additions and subtractions.

Yeah. Except...not. Here's what Deuteronomy (13:1-4) actually says:

Prophet or dreamer may arise, of thy own race, and foretell some signal event which afterwards comes about; even so he must not persuade thee to follow the worship of alien gods, untried till now. Do not listen to such words from prophet or dreamer; it means that the Lord thy God is putting thee to the proof, to see whether he has the love of thy whole heart and thy whole soul or not. Follow and fear the Lord your God, obey no commands, listen to no voice but his; serve him and be true to him.

God spent the next 1000 years adding to what He said on Sinai, with the prophets Samuel, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Daniel, etc. With the Wisdom books from the words of David, Solomon, etc. Not contradicting the Commandments of the Torah, but rather explaining them more fully. The burden of proof applicable to Isaiah is met, for Isaiah as for others, including the Christ: miracles as well as a holy life in accordance with the Commandments, with teaching that remains in perfect accord with all the prior revelation. The hermenuetic of continuity for Jews adding later books to the Scriptures, remained in force for Christians.

The Masked Chicken said...

I know this is slightly off-topic, but only slightly.

For Catholics, that Islam worships the one true God was a Magisterial pronouncement of Vatican II, in the document Nostra Aetate. The passage is:

"3. The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth,(5) who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.

Since in the course of centuries not a few quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Moslems, this sacred synod urges all to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom."

I contend, however, that this is one of the ambiguous passages of Vatican II written about by Michael Davies, among others, because the passage reads equally fine if we substitute the following:

"3. The Church regards with esteem also the Arians. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth,(5) who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.

Since in the course of centuries not a few quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Moslems, this sacred synod urges all to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom."

Thus, if one identifier can be substituted for another then the passage may be marked as being excessively vague. So, Islam worships the One True God. So what? They don't worship Him with a religion that flows properly from that truth. One can stipulate all one wants that they refer to the correct God. So what? It is what they derive from that truth that is important.

Yes, some people confuse the more subtle points of the discussion, but their hearts are in the right place, if not their heads. By this passage in, Nostra Aetate, taken to its ultimate conclusion, the Council Fathers have, unintentionally, given cover to the dismissal of any contention with any heresy that correctly references God. Surely, that was not there intention, since the anathemas of the past cannot be abrogated.

The Chicken

The Masked Chicken said...

Sorry for the spelling errors. IPads are a wee bit twitchy and can erase comments, so I was concentrating on not losing the text.

The second part of my fictitious Nostra Aetate quote should, obviously, read:

"Since in the course of centuries not a few quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Arians, this sacred synod urges all to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom."

Last paragraph: there should be their.

As for Tony's humor question: these are not mutually exclusive possibilities if a hierarchy if taboos exist.

The Chicken

Etzelnik said...

Eh. Surely the incarnation falls under 'Gods you have not known'? If so, even miracles are insufficient to establish it's legitimacy, and indeed, the prophet who teaches it would be liable for death under Mosaic Law.

fr. Thomas said...

Since there is no definite article in the original Latin, the passage from Nostra Aetate could equally be translated: "They adore one God, living and subsisting in Himself etc." That need be no more than a summary of what Muslims would say about the object of their worship, not an affirmation that the object of it is the true God.

Petronius Jablonski said...

Tony,

This is Deuteronomy 13: http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/9977

Jesus falls under "other gods, which neither you, nor your forefathers have known." Abraham and Moses didn't worship a divine man. Deuteronomy establishes what philosophers call a paradigm. It denies that there will be any paradigm shifts based on signs and wonders.

"God spent the next 1000 years adding to what He said on Sinai, with the prophets Samuel, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Daniel, etc."

Does the "etc" include the First Council of Nicaea, where the trinity is voted into being? Note the elaborate details in Leviticus. Clearly it was very important to God that He be worshiped in exactly the right way. (What became of Aaron's sons when they didn't?) Yet not once, anywhere, does He mention to Moses (or any subsequent prophet) "I'm 3 distinct units of consciousness that share a common essence, one of whom is my son, the Messiah." This is a radical break, a paradigm shift, a discontinuity, something "which neither you, nor your forefathers have known."

This is a great link: https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/the-elephant-and-the-suit/

Tomislav Ostojich said...

"Abraham and Moses didn't worship a divine man."

Daniel did. He's even called the son of man and approaches God as an equal.

Etzelnik said...

@Tomislav Ostojich

What? [citation needed]

Tomislav Ostojich said...

@Etzelnik

I saw in the night visions,

and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.
And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.

(Daniel 7:13-14)

Either way, you have someone different from "the Ancient of Days" (aka God the Father) who is "like the son of man" who is both pre-existent and who has a kingdom that is everlasting.

Brandon said...

Since there is no definite article in the original Latin, the passage from Nostra Aetate could equally be translated: "They adore one God, living and subsisting in Himself etc." That need be no more than a summary of what Muslims would say about the object of their worship, not an affirmation that the object of it is the true God.

This seems a very weakly supported reading; the Latin for 'one' here is unicus [unicum Deum adorant], which is most naturally translated not as indefinite 'one God' but as "the one God" or "the unique God" or "the only God". Moreover, why would the Church esteem Muslims for saying the things it lists about something that is not the true God? That's the whole reason given for listing these points, that the Church values Muslims for them.

Brandon said...

Thus, if one identifier can be substituted for another then the passage may be marked as being excessively vague.

Except that the entire document is specifically about non-Christian religions, so the clean substitution is illusory -- it actually requires suppression of explicit context. Nor is this a trivial difference; violation of baptismal faith is a different spiritual state from not having the baptismal faith at all.

Mike said...

"What's wrong with this blog, why does it never address my personal pet issue??"

I have never seen a double entendre and a pun so brilliantly combined.

The Masked Chicken said...

Brandon wrote:

"Except that the entire document is specifically about non-Christian religions, so the clean substitution is illusory -- it actually requires suppression of explicit context. Nor is this a trivial difference; violation of baptismal faith is a different spiritual state from not having the baptismal faith at all."

a) The existence of the One True God can be known by reason, without baptismal faith. The existence of God is a preamble of faith, not a part of Faith, itself, so nothing supposes baptism in the substitution.

b) Arianism, while a Christian heresy, because of its difference in understanding of Christ's nature may or may not have had a valid baptism. St. Augustine held that it was valid, but the Church has never definitively pronounced on how much of a deviation from a correct understanding of the nature of one of the persons of the Trinity can be withstood and still have the Baptismal formula be valid, so this is an open question.

c) The statement in Nostra Aetate is not context-sensitive, because removed from context, it makes exactly the same sense as when placed within the context. The only reason given for the appreciation of the Moslems is that they worship The One True God. No mention or requirement is made of anything connected with baptism by the statement that would deny the application of it to any religion that worships The One True God. That the document is about non-Christian Faiths does not mean that what it says cannot apply with equal force to Christian Faiths. Indeed, Moslems do not, suddenly, become more appreciated worshiping The One true God simply because they are not baptized. While baptism does infuse Faith, it does not infuse the knowledge of existence of The One True God, since that can be known by reason, prior to baptism.

d) If you don't like the substitution of Christian heretical groups in the statement, then there are many other historical religions that are non-Christian, but worship The One True God, such as Jehovah's Witnesses, Oneness Pentecostals, etc., that could be substituted even within the context of the document. This, still, renders the expression, vague.

The Chicken

Daniel D. D. said...

Petronius,

Your position sounds a lot like the Sadducee position. If Moses's Revelation is complete, then how do the Prophets after make sense? The Sadducees rejected these Prophets' teaching because they believed Moses was sufficient.

Furthermore, if you are a successor of the Pharasee school, it seems strange that you believe in Messiah (something Sadducees rejected based on Torah as well), but somehow argue that Messiah's coming would not be Revelation. It certainly exist (and was common) in the Jewish tradition to believe that the coming of Messiah would cause a paradigm shift, so I don't see how the Christian paradigm shift would be false on the basis that it is a shift.

Also, I thought Moses didn't see God face to face, but rather only saw His Back?

Also, the orthodox Christian position doesn't confuse the nature of God with the nature of Man: Christ has a dual nature.

Finally, Torah doesn't clearly and obviously set out that Messiah even existed either. Yet the Pharasees believe that Messiah is hinted at. In the same way, Christians believe that the Trinity is hinted at thought out the Torah, especially in Genesis.

Christi pax.

P.S. The sentence "where the Trinity is voted into being" is Theologically and historically misleading at best :-)

Petronius Jablonski said...

Then the Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man would speak to his companion, and he would return to the camp, but his attendant, Joshua, the son of Nun, a lad, would not depart from the tent. Exodus 33:11

And there was no other prophet who arose in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, as manifested by all the signs and wonders, which the Lord had sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and all his servants, and to all his land, And in all that mighty hand, and in all the great terror which Moses shewed in the sight of all Israel. Deuteronomy 34:10-12

- The Messiah won't undo the Torah (or establish a new paradigm). He will lead all Jews back to it during a time of world peace. Deuteronomy 30:1-10 is a clear statement of the Messianic era:

"We learn from this passage that the return of Israel to her land will be precipitated by her repentance. We learn from this passage that repentance means turning back to obedience of God’s law as Moses taught it. We learn from this passage that repentance is effective even when we are in exile and we do not have the ability to bring a blood offering. We learn from this passage that God will accept exiled Israel’s repentance even before He circumcises their heart. Finally, we learn from this passage that the commandments that Moses taught us will be fully observed in the Messianic era." Yisroel Chaim Blumenthal

- Which of the prophets add to the original 613 commandments!?

- Jesus didn't fulfill the requisite prophecies: http://www.aish.com/jw/s/48892792.html

- The trinity in Genesis? http://whatjewsbelieve.org/prooftext.html

I'm sorry for all the pasting & linking, but these sources state the position far better than I can. I'm a lowly conduit. (And heck, you guys quote Aquinas.)

(Regarding the Big Issue addressed earlier: Onan's sin was coitus interruptus. I don't know what the "official" Judaic teaching on self-abuse is. I avoid it because it causes madness.) ;0)

Daniel D. D. said...

Petronius,

Observations:

It seems like you object to the Christians subtracting to the Torah. However, Christians do not believe that Messiah or any other prophet added or subtracted to Torah. Jesus Himself said "For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished." How is it that Christians reject Torah?

It also seems that you think that if there is another reasonable interpretation of prophecies, that this proves the Christian interpretation of such prophecies false. This is a fallacy. Us Christians are simply arguing that our interpretations of Scripture are reasonable.* I will be the first to tell you I think the traditional interpretations of Orthodox Judaism are (mostly) reasonable.** We just have different assumptions that are based on faith.

Does this make sense? We are not trying to prove Judaism wrong per se, but rather prove that our interpretations are also plausible.

Christi pax.

* In my experience, some Protestants tend to follow the "proof texting" approach that the article you provided critizes. Traditionally, the Catholic and Orthodox approaches tend to follow the style I presented above.

** Certain arguements, such as Jesus not being present after the hypothetical third Temple, simply beg the question.

Daniel D. D. said...

Also, one of the Talmud Fathers writes something along the lines that a young man "who drops his hands below the wraist" should have them cut off...

Luckily Jewish culture is know for hyperbole ;-)

Anonymous said...

Let's put this in terms of Quine's web of belief. Some attributes of God are held more central and less subject to revision than others. Most central are things like Impassibility, Immateriality, being uncauased and Eternity followed by the three 'Great Making Properties' I.e. Omnipotence, Omniscience and Omnibenevolence (even some of these aren't set it stone as there have been who've theists denied one or more of them). After this comes Divine Simplicity - for the sake of Classical Theism one would like to give this higher priority, however if we do we get the distinctly odd conclusion that, for instance, Ed and Alvin Plantinga do not worship the same God.

Finally when all that's out of the way comes doctrinal properties e.g. being Triune.

Anonymous said...

So, then, what are cats?

Step2 said...

Another analogy might be types of dogs. If it is a chihuahua not many people will be impressed by it* even when it is healthy and doing all the typical dog functions. Of course some people will prefer various breeds for various qualities they seek in a pet and some intrinsically disordered people may even choose cats over dogs.

*classic joke: You know, those little ankle-biters can be very dangerous, they've been known to kill pit bulls. It's true, sometimes they'll get stuck in their throats.

Step2 said...

So, then, what are cats?

I was going to make a joke about Schrödinger's cat and agnostics but the analogy works in a different direction.

Brandon said...

(a) The existence of the One True God can be known by reason, without baptismal faith. The existence of God is a preamble of faith, not a part of Faith, itself, so nothing supposes baptism in the substitution.

As is quite obvious, the list of statements in the document does not confine itself to the existence of God. (Nor does your parody version with Arians, so this is a baffling rejoinder.) Moreover, this is simply wrong: while the existence of the one God is knowable by reason, it is an error to assume that baptismal faith sheds no light special to itself on the truth, and it is an error to assume that the moral and spiritual states of someone who has only reason to work with and of someone who has the benefit of both reason and baptismal grace (and thus could be said to have even less excuse for error) are necessarily to be evaluated the same.

(b) Arianism, while a Christian heresy, because of its difference in understanding of Christ's nature may or may not have had a valid baptism. St. Augustine held that it was valid, but the Church has never definitively pronounced on how much of a deviation from a correct understanding of the nature of one of the persons of the Trinity can be withstood and still have the Baptismal formula be valid, so this is an open question.

It's simply incorrect to assume that all Arians were baptized by Arians. But let's pretend with you for a moment that it were so. If we assume it's an open question, it directly follows that your Arian version fails -- you have no grounds for treating the difference as irrelevant.

(c) The statement in Nostra Aetate is not context-sensitive, because removed from context, it makes exactly the same sense as when placed within the context.

No reasonable person reads a text this way. Since Arianism is a Christian heresy, placing it in a context that is specifically and explicitly talking about non-Christian religions is itself a solecism. Moreover, this statement is completely backwards: you cannot determine whether "it makes exactly the same sense" until you have determined how the context would have to factor into the sense.

That the document is about non-Christian Faiths does not mean that what it says cannot apply with equal force to Christian Faiths.

If by that you mean that someone else might try to apply it using an argument from parity for the latter, sure, that's technically true. But parity must be established; that requires showing that the shift in context is not relevant to the claims being made, that there are no relevant differences between the cases.

(d) If you don't like the substitution of Christian heretical groups in the statement, then there are many other historical religions that are non-Christian, but worship The One True God, such as Jehovah's Witnesses, Oneness Pentecostals, etc., that could be substituted even within the context of the document.

Liking is neither here nor there; you were claiming ambiguity based on substitutions that ignored context and claiming that it gives "given cover to the dismissal of any contention with any heresy that correctly references God". The switch from non-Christian religion to Christian heresy was the explicit movement of your argument.

Nostra Aetate is in fact not ambiguous at all about other non-Christian religions: it explicitly is structured so that it discusses non-Christian religions in general first (2), saying that it rejects nothing true in them and reveres everything that reflects the truth in them, and then talks at slightly greater length about two special instances from this class, Islam (3) and Judaism (4). Substituting other non-Christian religions for Islam in section (3) is otiose and tells us nothing about any ambiguities in the text.

Anonymous said...

So, then, what are cats?

Cats are the Wiccans and other Satan worshipers.

Daniel D. D. said...

Dr. Feser,

Thank you for your response! It never occurred to me that there is a connection between to strength of the temptation and the seriousness of the act.

I still have trouble understanding the consequences of pleasure seeking in general. Most people don't seem to respond to rational argument as much as empirical data. So what if a person lives a hedonistic lifestyle, yet luckily avoids all the dire consequences (like he never becomes unhealthy duebto overeating and never gets an STD). He might say that his lifestyle "works." The only response I can think of is that he is missing out on something far more fulfilling than his narcissism. What to you think? (If you have discusses this in another post I'll look for it).

Happy New Year!

Christi pax.

Daniel D. D. said...

So, then, what are cats?

Cats are Hindus, since they both have multiple lives.

Christi pax.

Tony said...

Abraham and Moses didn't worship a divine man.

Well, Christians only adore God. But accusations back and forth of "do not" and "do too" are pretty silly, don't you think, Petronius?

God's revelation of himself in the Jewish Scripture has several intimations that while God is one, there is also multiplicity in some other sense. "Let us make man in our own image."

1 Now the Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day. 2 When he lifted up his eyes and looked, behold, three men were standing opposite him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth, 3 and said, “My Lord, if now I have found favor in Your sight, please do not pass Your servant by.

Somehow, Abraham knew "the Lord" in the guise of "three men". Not "the Lords". Abraham was a monotheist, and Moses records it that way. But Abraham speaks to the THREE as "My Lord", and Moses records that too. That allows us to grasp that Abraham's understanding of God's unity was not opposed to understanding the Godhead also in another way as having distinction of persons. While remaining a monotheist, he could speak to 3 persons as "My Lord".

The depiction of Wisdom, in Proverbs 8, is easily seen to constitute a continuity with the beginning of John's Gospel with the Logos. Even while God's wisdom is eternal with God, so also Wisdom is "brought forth". God eternally bringing forth wisdom, rather than merely eternally HAVING wisdom as an attribute, evokes an apprehension of God eternally active in his own being, apart from (before) creation. And this divine act is fruitful, not empty or sterile. The language of "brought forth", at least as a metaphor, is evocative of child-birth, or (more generally) the generation of offspring - but NOT as creation.

David said of his descendant "the Lord said to my lord". But how is David's descendant his "lord" except by being one greater than David? And how can this be if his kingship DERIVES from David's kingship? One way is if his kingship originates in the Godhead itself, (like Wisdom's origin is before creation of any created being and therefore within the Godhead itself).

The point is not that these passages can ONLY be understood in the Christian sense and no other. It is, as Daniel D D suggests, that there are passages in the Hebrew Scriptures that are reasonably understood to support a belief in the Christian Trinity, and that the faith of Abraham, Moses, and David was _consistent_ with this, not in the least upsetting their monotheism. It is impossible to prove that Abraham rejected a trinity of persons in the one God, by the fact that he speaks of only one God.

Anonymous said...

http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2016/01/edward-feser-on-christians-muslims-and-the-reference-of-god.html

Georgy Mancz said...

@ Daniel D.D.

Concerning different reasons behind punishments Prof. Feser named, something I discovered today: St. Thomas brings this up in his treatment of the reasons for the judicial precepts of the Law (ST Ia-IIae, q. 105, ad. 9).

Isn't it indicative that the notion of prevention (hardly a novelty in jurisprudence), urm, does not immediately recommend itself (to a modern mind?) when it comes to sexual transgressions?

daurio said...

Apparently I wrote "your" instead of "you're" in my comment above. Mea culpa. I think that's the first time I've ever done that. I'm ashamed. If you feel you cannot forgive me, I understand.

Anonymous said...

Taking the opportunity of the current party spirit, can I ask: into which canine sub-genus within Ed's overall taxonomy should we place this guy (who I've only just discovered): http://www.churchmilitant.com/video/archive/the-vortex

I can't decide if he's a John The Baptist-like gadfly, or like any of a number of pompous fellow-junior-seminarians tossers I knew as a priesthood-considering teenager.

Petronius Jablonski said...

Jesus Himself said "For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished." How is it that Christians reject Torah?

“No one comes to the father but through me,” for starters. Where is this in the OT?

Well, Christians only adore God. But accusations back and forth of "do not" and "do too" are pretty silly, don't you think, Petronius?

Compared to the somber theme of this blog post, saying Judaism’s conception of God is like a tailless two-legged dog?

David said of his descendant "the Lord said to my lord". But how is David's descendant his ‘lord’ except by being one greater than David?

Matthew 22:44, quoting Jesus, uses the same word for both: kurios.
http://truthaboutmessianicprophecy.com/false_prophecy_jesus_fulfillment_psm110.htm

In Hebrew, the 'Lord’ and ‘lord’ from Psalm 110 are two different words. The first is the Tetragrammaton. The second refers to people (Genesis 32:4 says “… speak unto my lord Esau”). David made preparations for the temple, including the services. The Psalms were songs intended for the Levites. “The Lord (God) said to my master (King David) ‘Sit thou at my right hand…’" makes sense when someone else is singing it.

Regarding Matthew's mistranlation: Why should I trust anyone who tampered with the Hebrew Bible? Here are more: http://jesusandjewishchristianity.com/have_ever_noticed_quotes_nt_not_in_ot.htm How does the Holy Spirit get this stuff wrong?

Somehow, Abraham knew "the Lord" in the guise of "three men". Not "the Lords".

In verse 3, a distinction is drawn: http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/8213 And in chapter 19, following your logic, am I to understand 2/3 of the triune godhead take off to rescue Lot from Sodom while the other 1/3 stays with Abraham, then returns to Heaven, then pours brimstone? How is this one God instead of three?

It is impossible to prove that Abraham rejected a trinity of persons in the one God, by the fact that he speaks of only one God.

The old absence-of-evidence-isn’t-evidence-of-absence koan. In the same manner, I can’t be deductively certain he didn’t worship the heads on Easter Island. Why are you grasping at straws instead of standing on “Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God; the Lord is one.”

W.LindsayWheeler said...

Dr. Feser, you seem to speak FOR Muslims. Do Muslims think they pray to the same God as we do? I don't think they do. You are assuming too much, Like a Muslim is going to use Catholic philosophy?!

scbrownlhrm said...

Part 1 of 3:

A brief copy/paste of a comment from the other thread (“Christians, Muslims, and the reference of “God”) for context on just why it is possible, and even common in a world such as ours, to *referent* the One True God and yet fail to *know/worship* the One True God:

Christ's affirmation to the Jew that he does not *know* YHWH and in fact is at odds with YHWH establishes a clear and unmistakable reality of the Jew's obvious and coherent *referent* in the midst of critical and even caustic error, perhaps even landing as an enemy to YHWH -- and all while cogently, justifiably, and undeniably finding YHWH as one's (true) referent. The Christian loses nothing amid such (Biblical) vectors.

The detractors here employ unfortunate lines of logic which force them to make the absurd statement that (because) the Jewish God has no Son -- therefore the Jew does not referent the Christian God -- Because their God has no Son. Because the Christian God has a Son – and His Name is Jesus – and the Jewish man referents a different God. Because Trinity. Allah and the Jewish God lean on some large portion of Works/Obedience. The Christian God, not so much. YHWH cannot be (therefore) the referent of the Jew nor of the Muslim.

Please.

With logic and philosophizing like that no wonder the detractors want to claim that the Bible must be pitted against Philosophy and Logic.

It was asked, “If God is evil – and is the uncaused cause……doesn’t that satisfy your requirement?” Tedious, but, on such evil-god business -- there is no evil but for Goodness Itself. Because the word "mailbox" does not mean the same thing as the word "automobile". Because Philosophy. Because logic. Because linguistics. Thus welcome to the Philosopher's God -- which must be false according to this thread’s detractors -- because philosophy -- so an evil-god must be logically possible (it isn't) even as this evil-god must violate or contradict..... someone's.... standard or nature or final ontic-stopping-point... but *who* is he contradicting? Or is Man the measure of all things -- the metric of all semantic definition? Oh dear. More philosophy. More linguistics.

Please.

Referring to Christianity and Islam "as if" there is no theological, ontological, and intellectual overlap amid the two is to evade the real world as it actually is -- and it also makes one guilty of employing a referent to a non-real something because in fact there *is* overlap just as there *is* divergence. To deny such overlap is to deny the real world as we actually find it. And so too should we deny similarities (which are not sameness) and/or differences (of which there are many).

[1] No-God (Buddhism, Atheism, Spinoza's Pantheism, any flavor of any kind of “contingent any-thing” as the end of the line or as the end of the metaphysical regress, Feser’s descriptive of Polytheisms which break down here, and so on…..)

[2] All-God (Hinduism)

[3] One God (Judaism, Islam, Christianity)

That is the real world in which we actually live. Those are the real things we are (really) talking about.

Not self-negating and incongruent evil-god noise. Not dishonest equivocations and conflations about overlap which force one to declare that the Jew does not referent the Christian God if the same criteria is faithfully applied to said Jew. Not a world where God and Logic contradict one another. In short: Not a make-believe world.


Continued…….

scbrownlhrm said...

Part 2 of 3:

A brief excerpt from Dr. Craig on one slice of Islamic theology:

"My interest in Islam was quickened by my study of the history of the cosmological argument for a personal creator of the universe. Early Christian commentators on Aristotle living in Alexandria, Egypt, developed this argument in response to Aristotle’s doctrine of the eternity of the world. They sought to show that the universe had a beginning and was brought into being by a transcendent creator. When Islam swept across North Africa in the eighth century, this argument was taken up into Islamic theology and developed during the Middle Ages to a high degree of sophistication. Because of the contribution of Islamic thinkers to this argument, I dubbed it the kalam cosmological argument, the word “kalam” being the Arabic word for Islamic theology. I believe that this is a sound argument for God’s existence, and it has served me well in reaching out to Muslims with the gospel." (William Lane Craig)

Feser, in another essay, (in the upcoming link to “Geach on worshipping the right God”) asks about worshiping the real God vs. a mistake and in doing so affirms Christ’s Own Words to the Jew that, although the Jew clearly *referents* YHWH, they did not know (vs. worship?) the Father for had they known (vs. worshipped?) the Father they would have known (vs. worshipped?) Jesus. In fact, we can even break apart “know” from “worship” there and those two then can make a threesome when added to “referent”. In the OT, to “worship” does not entail “all” that “know” entails, though there is……. w-a-i-t for it……. **overlap**.

The referent that is [worhip] is a different referent than the referent that lands on [Will it be Christianity or will it be Judaism as The-True?] which are then different referents than [Will it be Christianity or will it be Islam as The-True?] all of which are then different referents than the referent that is the [infinite wellspring of being, consciousness, and bliss that is the source, order, and end of reality].

Based on the linked essay here by Feser (“Geach on worshipping the right God”) it is (according to our detractor’s dis-logic) clearly the case that given the two theologically radical issues of [1] obedience/grace and of [2] Unitarian/Trinitarian – the Jew cannot truly appeal (in his own theology) to a *referent* of the One True God. A man tell us, “I serve a works orientated God and Jesus ought to have been crucified.” Can said Jew in said theology *referent* the One True God? Well of course he can! -Tis YHWH and no other! Jesus tells them they do not know ( vs. worship?) God for to know (vs. worship?) God is to know (vs. worship?) Christ. Yet, clearly, the Jew *referents* YHWH. He’s got a lot of his theology right – just as he’s got a lot of it wrong. But that is the point about facing the real world as it actually is, about talking about real things as they really are and not as we wish they were. That is why we embrace the trio of overlap, similarity, and difference. That is the point about dealing with the real world and not some make-believe world where evil-gods who can’t logically exist still exist and where the One True God and Logic contradict one another because the Bible and Logic contradict one another……..

A threesome: Overlap, Similarity, and Difference. Another threesome: Know, Worship, Referent.

Christ's affirmation to the Jew that he does not *know* YHWH and in fact is at odds with YHWH establishes a clear and unmistakable reality of the Jew's obvious and coherent *referent* in the midst of critical and even caustic error, perhaps even landing as an enemy to YHWH -- and all while cogently, justifiably, and undeniably finding YHWH as one's (true) referent. The Christian loses nothing amid such (Biblical) vectors.


Continued…….

scbrownlhrm said...

Part 3 of 3:


E. Feser concludes (rightly) that the Muslim *referents* the One True God, and, also, William Lane Craig concludes (rightly) that the Muslim does not *know/worship* the One True God. As it turns out, both are correct, for obvious reasons. William Lane Craig discusses points of radical divergence between Christianity and Islam and he also discusses the topic of why our decision sums to Christianity rather than Judaism or Islam. Regarding those conceptual constructs in Dr. Craig’s linked essays (on the one hand) and this entire project (or essay, etc.) here by Feser dealing with reference (on the other hand), all three essays (the two by Craig and this one by Feser) are all, at the end of the line, fully compatible.

Scripture – the Bible – Christ Himself – all affirm the cognitive, linguistic, and theological topography in which both Feser (coherently *referents* YHWH) and William Lane Craig (do not *worship* / *know* YHWH) are fully compatible. The question emerges:

[1] Such a cognitive, linguistic, and theological topography is possible, or,

[2] Such a cognitive, linguistic, and theological topography is impossible.

Clearly – unmistakably in Christ’s (real) treatment of it among (real) human beings – the answer is [1]. Not only is it possible – it in fact happens in the real world. None were more equipped to properly referent the One True God (YHWH) and in fact cogently succeeded in his referent landing (truly) on the One True God than the Israelites to whom Christ applied His treatment. Any other human being (the Gentile) thereby lives in a world in which such a cognitive, linguistic, and theological topography stands fully rational and coherent (in the sense that said topography is verifiably possible and verifiably happens).

And it’s not just Men in said (verifiable) topography, after all who did Lucifer (successfully, truly) referent? We must allow Scripture to be our guide as we define reality.

The fears of the Christian detractors in this thread that “true referent is the One True God” is going to somehow cancel out “do not know/worship the One True God” – or that the reverse *must* be true – that “do not know/worship the One True God” must, must, yes must somehow cancel out “true referent is the One True God” is unbiblical – and even contrary to Christ’s elucidation of such contours within Man’s painful privation. Lucifer/Satan too (successfully) referents YHWH. But so what? Who cares? All sorts of people in all sorts of settings cogently, coherently, and truly (successfully) referent the One True God and yet fail to embrace the express instantiation of the Triune God by which and in which reason herself is, as truth-finder, obligated to chase after love's categorical elements rather than after contours of some other, lesser, smaller reality (lest reason herself as truth-finder be factually and ontologically *un*-reasonable).

Islam successfully *referents* the One True God and yet regarding the Muslim’s theological treatment of the One True God……

The Muslim succeeds as does the Jew in his (true) *referent* of the One True God – and while they both fail in summing to *Know* (the Christian will say) they do so for different reasons. Moving our focus specifically to the Muslim………….


End copy/paste.


Where the Muslim goes astray (or one particular area at least) is touched on in the other comment etc…….

Tony said...

And in chapter 19, following your logic, am I to understand 2/3 of the triune godhead take off to rescue Lot from Sodom while the other 1/3 stays with Abraham, then returns to Heaven, then pours brimstone? How is this one God instead of three?

Hey, good caricature there, Petronius. And as long as we are caricaturing, why don't we characterize Gabriel as really being TWO angels rather than one: I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. For obviously one half of Gabriel has to keep standing in God's presence (does he ever get to sit if he gets tired? Or kneel, or grovel?), and the other half goes to "bring the news". And if an angel cannot act in two places at once, then how much more certain it is that God cannot do so either.

Daniel D. D. said...

“No one comes to the father but through me,” for starters. Where is this in the OT?

Only a kohen gadol can enter the Holy of Holies. Christ is the High Priest par excellence. The goal of the High Priest was to intercede for Israel, because sin seperate Israel from the Father.

This interpretation was not understood until the coming of Messiah. That is, Messiah clarified its meaning. He didn't reveal it materially, but formally, in Scholastic terms.

Matthew 22:44, quoting Jesus, uses the same word for both: kurios.
http://truthaboutmessianicprophecy.com/false_prophecy_jesus_fulfillment_psm110.htm


I don't see how the different words actually contradicts the Christian interpretation of the prophecy. We interpret the Psalm as proving that Messiah would be greater than David, as David refers to him as "lord."

It's actually obvious, in my opinion, that Jesus intended this, as he somewhat explains this afterward.

Thus, Matthew didn't do anything dishonest, including tampering with the Psalms, unless translation is "tampering."

It makes sense that a Jew of Jesus's time would just translate the Lord's Name as a translation of Adonai, since they were used to pronouncing it as such anyway.

Christi pax.

Daniel D. D. said...

The old absence-of-evidence-isn’t-evidence-of-absence koan. In the same manner, I can’t be deductively certain he didn’t worship the heads on Easter Island. Why are you grasping at straws instead of standing on “Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God; the Lord is one.”

As far as I'm aware, as I tried to stay out of this debate, because both sides --Christians and Jews-- agree that Abraham did not believe in the concept of the Trinity. One of Dr. Feser's constant points is that Christians don't believe the Trinity can be derived by reason. Since Messiah revealed formally the Trinitarian Nature, Abraham couldn't have known it.

The question then is "does he deny it?", which he doesn't, because no Christian denies that God is One: that is, monotheism.

Christi pax.

Daniel D. D. said...

Dear Tony:

And in chapter 19, following your logic, am I to understand 2/3 of the triune godhead take off to rescue Lot from Sodom while the other 1/3 stays with Abraham, then returns to Heaven, then pours brimstone? How is this one God instead of three?

We could say that it is symbolic. But the deeper point of this passage, for a Christian, is that Abraham himself takes on the functions of the second Person: he intercedes for God's mercy. Abraham's Intercession is taken to the next step in Moses, who intercedes not for a city, like Abraham, but for an entire nation. This goes on until Messiah Himself fulfils this pattern perfectly (it also reveals that we are to be like Abraham; that is, we are to become like the Son, which is called by the New Testemant writers as Divine Adoption).

Christi pax.

Daniel D. D. said...

Abraham:city; Moses:nation; Jesus:world

Craig Payne said...

"Why are you grasping at straws instead of standing on 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God; the Lord is one.'"

One might also point out that in the Hebrew, the word for Lord is singular, while the word used here for God is plural: "Hear, O Israel: Our singular Lord is somehow also plural in reference; the singular Lord is one."

This, of course, is exactly what Christians believe as well: A singular God Who is plural in Persons, but Who remains one God.


Daniel D. D. said...

Dear Craig Payne:

Roy Schoeman also writes that the word translated as "one," can also be translated as "alone," as in "Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God; the Lord alone."

Christi pax.

The Masked Chicken said...

This seems to be a timely post because in the news, today, was mentioned that a Wheaton College political science professor is being (possibly) fired for stating:

"I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book,” she posted on Facebook. “And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God."

Wheaton replied:

"While Islam and Christianity are both monotheistic, we believe there are fundamental differences between the two faiths, including what they teach about God's revelation to humanity, the nature of God, the path to salvation and the life of prayer."

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-wheaton-college-professor-fired-20160105-story.html

I think this is old news, however, if I remember correctly reading about it, before, but it was featured on Google News, today.

The Chicken





Scott said...

The Masked Chicken:

Yes, that story was the one that kicked off the flurry of opinion pieces that got Ed to write his previous blog post (to which this one is a follow-up). Follow the links in that post if you want to see the chronology.

Tony said...

because both sides --Christians and Jews-- agree that Abraham did not believe in the concept of the Trinity.

Abraham is credited - by Christians - with saving faith, i.e. faith united to hope and love that exists only with the indwelling presence of God, faith that is accounted with salvation.

Saving faith is always faith in God. It is also faith in all those things necessary for salvation. It is also a movement of belief caused by God himself, with God as the object of that belief. It is also inherently supernatural (i.e. of its very essence beyond human mind's capacity unaided). God does not move a person to embrace ERROR in the act of saving faith, he moves a person to embrace truth. Hence, when we credit Abraham with saving faith, and acknowledge his explicit attestation of the one God, we credit him with explicit belief in the one God and implicit belief in other truths, such as in the Messiah, and in the one-divine-nature shared by God who sends the Messiah and the Messiah thus sent. While Abraham in this life might never have explicitly and clearly recognized the truth of the Trinity, we should never say "he did not believe" in the Trinity".

Daniel D. D. said...

Dear Tony:

I haven't thought much about your post yet, but I get the feeling we don't really disagree.

For example, I would not, and explicitly defended, that Abraham didn't embrace any sort of error.

Christi pax.

scbrownlhrm said...


Feser’s other (initial) blog post on this topic is Christians, Muslims, and the Reference of God and in the comment section (comment #’s 447, 448, 449, 450) four comments which will not be copied here (to avoid repetition of content etc.) were placed.

They are titled:

God directly reveals Himself to the Muslim, referents successfully go through, Bill Vallicella’s case fails:

[Part 1 of 4] ………………….

…………………… God directly reveals Himself to the Muslim, referents successfully go through, Bill Vallicella’s case fails:

[Part 4 of 4]

Etc.

Just FYI.

scbrownlhrm said...


For the Muslim:

On the metaphysical corridors of the immutable love of the Necessary Being, it is important to reiterate, first, that God directly reveals Himself to the Jew and to the Muslim (by Scripture’s standards) and they each respond properly with, “Thou are the One True God!”, as discussed in the previous comment dealing with “God directly reveals Himself to the Muslim, referents successfully go through, Bill Vallicella’s case fails”. Just as the Jew’s worship and content enters into error as it diverges from the contours of immutable love and yet successfully referents the One True God, so too does the Muslim diverge. Though each succeeds in referencing the One True God, each is still found not knowing (in the full sense of that word) the One True God for in and by Christ love’s eternal sacrifice of the Self obtains and such sums to the full instantiation of the Imago Dei. Those other vectors are, while undeniably referring to the One True God, simply a less complete pouring of His instantiation into time and physicality, into The Adamic, a less complete revelation of His Face and (therefore) wherever those less complete sightlines diverge from the many contours of immutable love, from Christ and the New Testament’s unique paradigmatic claims upon reality, said divergence sums to error. As for the paradigmatic explanatory terminus of the immutable love of the Necessary Being, the other thread on this topic, Christians, Muslims, and the Reference of God, has two comments time-stamped “January 6, 2016 at 3:09 AM” and “January 6, 2016 at 3:57 AM” which (very, very) briefly touch on (simply to introduce the conceptual necessities of Being and of love) the unavoidably triune topography of Being’s there vertices as such sums to love’s metaphysical landscape. Also, Stand To Reason has a blog post with similar content on the triune nature of God and therefore of love should one be inclined to look further.

Anonymous said...

Ok,I know this would be completely off-topic,but the topics devoided to prooving Aquinas are very old and...I'll put my question here:Why do you assert that a thing that is a mixture of potency and act must be held in existence at every instant moment?What if it exists by necessity?I understand why God must be Pure Act...well because an eternally unactualisable potency is not an actual potency after all...and so if God is unactualisable it cannot have real potencies.This is not the problem.But what if that at the fundamental level of physical reality there is something that is a mixture of potency and act and that still exists by necessity?What if this reality exists alongside God?I was given the response that well...a thing cannot create potencies in itself and by itself and so whatever is a mixture of potency and act is somehow contingent...but what if the potencies are already there,existing alongside its actuality by necessity,"waiting"(metaphorically speaking) to be actualised by God?Can it be proven that they must be held in existence at every instant moment by God?If so,can you give me an analogy and a proper answer?Thanks in advance and sorry for my English:)

Brandon said...

Why do you assert that a thing that is a mixture of potency and act must be held in existence at every instant moment?What if it exists by necessity?

We would need to be more precise about what is meant by necessity; for some things we call necessity, necessary things can have their necessity caused (made actual) by other necessary things, so its being necessary would not change anything at all.

On the other hand, something with composition of potency and act is by definition capable of not being actual; if it weren't able not to be actual, it would not have potency. So if by 'necessary' you mean 'can only be actual', this is inconsistent with saying that it has composition of potency and act.

Anonymous said...

@Brandon-thanks for your reply,man.I think I made up my mind now.So eveything that has potency is contingent because we can talk about potency only if we talk about something that actualises that potency,because there's no such thing as eternaly unactualisable potency.That's not a real potency.Only Actus Purus is not contingent because it has no potency.And another question:do absolute accidental causal series exist in our Universe?The analogy with a father and a son is not proper I think.I mean...if there's no great-great-great-great-.....grandpa,there's no father and there's no son and so on...So this seems not to be a proper analogy.Remove the first and nothing happens.How can it be said that every member of the serie has independent causal power since they would not exist if there wouldn't have been a previous member?This also cannot go to infinity.What must happen for the son to be born?Well,there must be a father.Well,but the father must also be born.So there must be a father of that father..ETC ad infinitum.Will the son ever be born?I think no.It seems to me that every causal chain in our Universe is a per se causal chain.Am I missing something?And I hope you are not bothered by my questions.I'm illiterate in this field of philosophy and I just want to make up my mind:)).Thanks in advance.

Scott said...

"It seems to me that every causal chain in our Universe is a per se causal chain.Am I missing something?"

Yes. What makes a causal series a per se series is that the relevant causal power is transmitted from each member to the next, whereas in the father-son series the son has his own causal power to procreate and doesn't merely transmit the father's.

In fact that's exactly why a per se series has to have a first member: because without one, there's no source for the causal power that each member is passing along. The case is different with the father-son series; since each member is exercising its own causal power and not merely passing along something it's receiving from the previous member, it's at least not just obvious (and Aquinas thought it wasn't demonstrable at all) that the series can't just extend infinitely backward.

Scott said...

Also worth noting:

The order of the argument is not that a per se series can't be infinite and therefore must have a first member. It's that a per se series must have a first member and therefore can't be infinite (at least if the first member is a member of the series in the strict sense; if the "first member" stands outside the series altogether, as God does, then the series itself can be infinite, do loop-the-loops, or whatever).

Brandon said...

The analogy with a father and a son is not proper I think.I mean...if there's no great-great-great-great-.....grandpa,there's no father and there's no son and so on...So this seems not to be a proper analogy.

I think this is right, as far as it goes; generation, considered entirely on its own, is an essential series, not an accidental one. When people use the father & son analogy, however, I think they are generally talking about the way in which other causal factors enter into the mix -- the father's generation of the son does not, on its own and of itself, cause the son's generation of the grandson. That requires more than a bit of independent input from the son! The son's generation of the grandson is not in any sense a part of the same action as the father's generation of the son. Rather, we have one essential series, the father generating the son, in an accidental series with the essential series of the grandfather generating the father, the son generating the grandson, etc.

In general, I think this pattern will be common: accidental series can be seen as series of distinct essential series, i.e., where the essential series cannot be reduced to a single essential series.

Brandon said...

I should say, since Scott beat me to the answer, that I think his response is entirely right; my point was that the reason why generation can seem like a bad analogy is that generation itself involves an essential series; it's just that in the grandfather-father-son-grandson cases we have different essential series at each generation.

Scott said...

"[T]he reason why generation can seem like a bad analogy is that generation itself involves an essential series; it's just that in the grandfather-father-son-grandson cases we have different essential series at each generation."

Aha, yes. That's an excellent point; what we actually have is an accidental series of essential series…es.

Along those lines, Anon, it's therefore not safe to assume or infer that the father just couldn't exist at all without the grandfather; we'd be begging the question if we assumed that God couldn't just bring the father into being at any given moment. In fact one of the key points of the argument in question is precisely that the grandfather doesn't account for the ongoing existence of the father in this way; he's a cause in fieri ("in becoming") but not a cause in esse ("in being"). The previous existence of the grandfather (at the time of the father's conception) doesn't account for the father's present causal powers, and that's why the "essentialness" of the overall series snaps apart at that point.

That's also another part of the answer to your question about why "a thing that is a mixture of potency and act must be held in existence at every instant moment." In particular, for Aquinas (following Avicenna), existence is itself an act, of which essence or nature is a potency, and anything whose existence is different from its essence is therefore a mixture of act and potency. And the reason that sort of mixture can't account for its own moment-by-moment existence is precisely that existence isn't part of its essence.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your responses!

Anonymous said...

Perhaps what part we perceive of the elephant and its function would be a closer analogy...some conceptions of God being more complete than others, lesser ones not being wrong, as such, but not the fullness.

scbrownlhrm said...


Christ certainly sums to far more revelation than Moses. And far more than Romans 1. There is such a thing as *error* of course, but, merely the presence of gradations is not sufficient (by itself) to substantiate it (error).

Anonymous said...

Well,again,thank you very much for your responses.I have just 2 more questions(they are completely unrelated):1.For me it's obvious that metaphysical naturalism (not the methodological one) has completely absurd implications.It's self-evident that there must be a first cause.But there are many people who are not naturalists,but still atheists.They adhere to some very strange ideas like panpsychysm or whatever...there are even people who think that matter can change by itself.For example let's say that a quark(or a super-string) has the potential to move and it actualises its own potential,like human beings do.Well,of course this is completely unscientific and it conflicts with absolutely everything that we exprience,but...my question is:Can thomism resist these kind of objections?2.Do Eastern Orthodox theologians embrace thomism?

Daniel D. D. said...

Dear Anon (1/7 at 22:52):

Historically, some Eastern Orthodox theologians had a soft spot for STA, and even venerated him privately.

One of the main reasons many liked him is that he arguably referenced Eastern Church Fathers even more than Western ones when writing theology. I argue that, when it comes to Theology, St. Thomas is a great synthesizer of Eastern and Western thought, which he expresses in Aristotlean Language. The definition of Transubstantiation, for example, is simply one of the most basic Traditions of Christ expressed in Aristotlean Language.

But the professional Thomists might disagree with me :-)

Anyway, I think St. Thomas might be a key in improving the relationship between the East and West.

scbrownlhrm said...


Part 1 of 2:

A few random thoughts......


Trinity and Non-Stasis.... or Trinity and Motion:


A clipped assembling of related and nascent contemplations blended with selective paraphrases and manipulations of Garrigou-Lagrange’s “The Trinity and God the Creator” – a book which is neither recommend here nor the reverse here – mingled with embryonic ruminations, random pontifications, and underdeveloped reflections on the silhouettes of metaphysics, necessity, and the Triune God:


That which sums to the Necessary realizes satisfaction in Trinity – that is to say – the means and ends of Act void of Cause and of the Perfect Good’s diffusiveness void of Contingency surface as the fundamental shape of reality. The Necessary carries us to the Triune in all that we spy, whether such be the contours of being or of life or of act or of intention or of some other contour of being. That which causes the universe from without rather than from within appears before us void of contingency’s potentiality in need of this or that actualization and begins to come into focus. Trinity reveals to us the very contours of, not causation, but of transposition within and by all that sums to Mind’s lucidity even as we encounter that which sums to the essence of relational collocation in all that sums to the very delineation of Person as love’s filiation void of causation establishes its incantation of ceaseless reciprocity.


Perfect Goodness is essentially diffusive of itself and in the Necessary Being we find the means and ends of Perfect Goodness such that God is essentially and to the greatest degree diffusive of Himself. Indeed, Thomas notes, "….the goodness of God is perfect and is able to be without other beings since nothing of perfection accrues to it from other beings." Here Leibnitz erred by saying that creation is not physically but morally necessary, and that God would not be perfectly wise and good if He had not created and moreover if He had not created the best of all possible worlds and indeed Malebranche erred in this seam toward Occasionalism. This obscurity is clarified by the revelation of the mystery of the Trinity, for, even if God had created nothing, there is still in Him the infinite prolificacy of Logos amid the ceaseless filiation of that which sums to Spirit eternally in transposition’s procession.


Thomas notes, "The knowledge of the divine persons was necessary for right thinking about the creation of things. For when we say that God made all things by His Word we avoid the error of those who say that God made all things necessarily because of His nature. But when we discover in God the procession of love we see that God produced creatures not because of any need, nor because of any extrinsic cause, but because of the love of His goodness….. “ Indeed as Scheeben points out the revelation of the Trinity perfects and confirms our natural knowledge of God the Creator and of creation as an entirely free act of God.


The principle that good is diffusive of itself is perfectly verified in Trinity and in fact the highest Good is necessarily diffusive of itself within itself and this not by causality but by communication – such sums not only to a participation in its entire nature but a also to a communication of His entire nature, of His entire intimate life in the generation of that which sums uncaused to the begotten. From such a higher plane comes confirmation that creation is an entirely free act by which God communicates – transposes – Himself a participation of His being, His life, and His knowledge. Thus also it is more evident that God is not the intrinsic cause but the extrinsic cause of the universe, the end for which it was created, the being that created, conserves, and keeps it in motion. If, therefore, God created actually, it was through love, to show in an entirely free act His goodness, and not in any way by a necessity of His nature.


Continued......

scbrownlhrm said...


Part 2 of 2:

In the Triune God we find all such processions not by local motion nor by transitive action but by the intellectual emanation of all that sums to the intelligible word from Him who enunciates His continuous Speech. Procession in Trinity finds the Spirit of – the actuality of – Truth which proceeds – the begotten logos – by which all things were made – which proceeds from all eternity – ever with God – ever in God – ever God – ever the communique of transposition. Trinity reveals the very wellspring of reality itself wherein that which does not produce its own being instead by continuous incantation communicates all that is Himself as the very identity of communicate transcends efficient and final causality. Such ushers us to the realization that the begotten logos is not more perfect than the begetter as begetting is not causing. That which is caused does not exist before in Act, whereas that which is communicated exists before in Act. Analogous to C.S. Lewis’ Cube abstraction so too the first angle of the triangle communicates its surface, already existing in act, to the other two angles…….. Thus there cannot be two Fathers or two Sons in the Trinity just as in an equilateral triangle the first angle constructed renders the area of the triangle incommunicable inasmuch as it belongs to that first angle; nevertheless this same area remains communicable and is communicated to the other two angles. Reality’s shape here reveals that in the Divine Procession there is no diversity of nature (the nature remains numerically the same) but only a diversity of persons according to the collocation of relation as transposition there in all that sums to Logos carries all that is God Himself as begetting in God casually transcends contingency’s change from non-being to being.


Person here renders a finite nature such as Man incommunicable of itself which, since it is finite, is filled by the one personality. On the other hand the relative (relational) personality according to the collocation of relation finds, for example, that the person of the Father does not render an infinite nature incommunicable to other persons. The divine nature being infinite and infinitely prolific is not adequately filled by one relative, relational, personality – or let the critic here prove the contrary. Personality in God differs from human personality inasmuch as it is not something absolute but something relative – relational – and it is of the nature of relative things that they have a correlative. The Father cannot be without Logos in whom He communicates His Nature – which is Himself – which cannot be otherwise – as we find in the immutable love of the Necessary Being the milieu of Trinity wherein love’s ceaseless reciprocity comes into focus and carries us onward, inward, into the depths of reality’s Eternally Sacrificing Self Who in relative – relational – love ever embraces reality’s Eternally Filling Other. We here resist the urge to pull back for all which sums to “Self” and all which sums to “Other” and all that sums to Genesis’ peculiar yet fateful and Singular “Us” just is the revelation of the infinite God Who is Himself that which defines, circumscribes, demarcates all that sums to love. That Person is to us that which cannot transpose all that is the Self short of contingency need not bother us. As a Line is to a Cube so too are we to Him Who in Logos begets all that is Himself in His continuous Speech there in Trinity’s unavoidable topography of Self-Other-Us. Here we expect precisely that and no less both of ourselves and of Necessity Himself even as the enigmatic contours of all moral vectors emerge within the Necessary. The fundamental shape of reality unalterably reveals the inimitable contours of the Triune God – from A to Z – in the express meta-narrative of an uncanny sonnet borne within the ceaseless reciprocity of the immutable love of the Necessary Being.

Mark Citadel said...

This brought a smile to my face, as an Eastern Orthodox, though I will say tails are generally and most often used to show excitement and joy, and we're a rather austere sort, so find no need of them.