Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Aquinas on the will’s fixity after death

My essay “Aquinas on the Fixity of the Will After Death” appears in New Blackfriars.  (It’s behind a paywall, I’m afraid.)  Here’s the abstract:

Aquinas holds that after death, the human soul can no longer change its basic orientation either toward God or away from him.  He takes this to be knowable not only from divine revelation but by purely philosophical reasoning.  The heart of his position is that the basic orientation of an angelic will is fixed immediately after its creation, and that the human soul after death is relevantly like an angel.  This article expounds and defends Aquinas's position, paying special attention to the action theory underlying it.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Augustine on false community

In a new article at Postliberal Order, I discuss the perverse forms of human community identified and criticized by Augustine in the Confessions, and how what he has to say applies to our times.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

The Death Penalty and Genesis 9:6: A Reply to Mastnjak (Guest article by Timothy Finlay)

Genesis 9:6 famously states: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image” (RSV). This has traditionally been understood by Jews and Christians alike as sanctioning capital punishment. In a recent article at Church Life Journal, Nathan Mastnjak has argued on grammatical grounds for an alternative reading of the passage, on which it does not support the death penalty. What follows is a guest article replying to Mastnjak by Timothy Finlay, who is Professor of Biblical Studies at Azusa Pacific University and a member of the National Association of Professors of Hebrew.

In his article, Nathan Mastnjak writes, “The translation ‘by a human shall that person’s blood be shed’ is not strictly impossible, but given the norms of Classical Hebrew grammar, it should be viewed as prima facie unlikely especially since there is a much more plausible translation that is contextually appropriate and grammatically mundane.” This has it completely backward. It is Mastnjak’s claim that the ב in Genesis 9:6 be construed as expressing price or exchange that, while not strictly impossible, flies in the face of Hebrew lexicons and grammars – in contrast to the standard translations (both Jewish and Christian) which are contextually and canonically appropriate and grammatically mundane.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Hartshorne on the project of natural theology

Process theism denies some of the key attributes ascribed to God by classical theism, such as immutability and impassibility.  Charles Hartshorne (1897-2000) was among its chief representatives.  As a Thomist, I am the opposite of sympathetic to process theism.  However, I’ve always found Hartshorne an interesting thinker.  Many twentieth-century philosophers had a regrettable tendency toward overspecialization, and also often ignored all but a handful of thinkers of the past.  Hartshorne, by contrast, was a philosopher of the old-fashioned stripe.  He addressed a wide variety of philosophical problems, was deeply read in the history of philosophy, and that history informed his work on contemporary issues.  He was also old-fashioned insofar as his theism (flawed though it was from my point of view) was integral to his more general metaphysics and ethics.  Like the greatest thinkers of the past, Hartshorne knew that the question of God was at the very heart of philosophy, not something that could be ignored by any serious philosopher, or at best tacked on to an otherwise complete system.