Ask me Anything (J. Budziszewski)

Budzizsewski, J. Ask Me Anything vol 1.

Instead of repeatedly spelling Budziszewski’s name, I am going to refer to him as Prof. Theo or Theo. That’s what he goes by in the book. The book is largely a fictional account of real-life conversations on stuff college kids go through. As with all of Theo’s writing, is pointed, clear, and, quite frankly, entertaining.

Girl and Guy Stuff

Courtship:

“Steady dating produces expectations.” This expectation can sometimes be marriage. Girls can’t wait forever, but does that girl know you aren’t pressuring them for sex? In the dialogue, the guy tells the professor, “But I am a Christian. I don’t pressures her for sex.” To which Theo responds, “That’s good, but does she know that?’

There is a logic in not calling a date a date. For some, it could be a fear of failure. If you’re just friends, and it’s not working out, then you didn’t fail at dating.

Do we call it “courtship,” “dating,” or does it really matter? Dating (or courting) generates expectations. Theo does give the standard line of not dating if you aren’t seeing marriage as a possibility. When his interlocutor says, “But that’s not in the Bible,” Theo responds, “Do you think that lets you off the hook?”

What is Sex For?

Even a perfect birth control (and in the context it is limited to outside of marriage for the sake of argument; remember, he’s talking with college kids) can only shield you from the physical consequences of sex. It does nothing to protect you from jealousy and mistrust.

Further, reducing sex to pleasure eventually deadens the pleasure. Neither can sex be reduced to feelings, since feelings are epiphenomenal. Love involves feelings, but it cannot be defined as a feeling.

Professor Theo discusses other issues such as living with unbelievers, failing to grow up in college, and just war (considering that many college students are in the military). His training in legal analysis is particularly helpful on the last one.

He also gives several conversations he’s had with gay students (embellished and adapted for fiction’s sake). He pursues different lines of questioning with them, and this is important (and important in all apologetics encounters)–don’t answer every question, especially if one isn’t important to the main question. For example, while diseases are decimating the gay community, don’t start off on that. Point out that sexual intimacy bonds with the other, and in this case you are only bonding with an image of yourself.

This is a quick, short, cheap read and is ideal for those who have just graduated high school. I do have one problem: he pursues the line of questioning on whether Protestants should date Catholics, and he is quite frank about the difficulties involved. He references the Joint Declaration between Lutherans and Catholics, but doesn’t mention that the anathemas of Trent are still in place, nor does the document address the instrumentality of justification.

Comus (John Milton)

Image result for comus milton

Girl and brothers get lost in the woods.  Comus, a debauched man, stumbles upon the girl and tries to seduce her.  She resists him by means of “right reason.”

Notable lines:

“Stoop thy pale visage through an amber cloud,
And disinherit chaos” (334).

A brother makes the suggestion that his sister’s virtue is not in danger while she maintains “the constant mood of her calm thoughts” (371).

Milton rejects the hermeneutics of suspicion:

“Yet where an equall poise of hope and fear
Does arbitrate th’event, my nature is
That I incline to hope, rather then fear,
And gladly banish squint suspicion” (410ff).

Conclusion: The original problem is quite interesting: can virtue and right reason withstand sexual temptation?  That’s not the solution, though.  The solution is appealing to a fairy spirit who can come up with some herb and free the Lady.  Milton’s conclusion doesn’t follow from his problem.

I think there is more to the poem than from what I’ve gleaned.  I probably need to reread the secondary literature.

Review: Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae

This is one of the great books of all time.  It is basically a Q&A on various masters’ theses.  It is relentless in its pursuit of logical questions (and of apparently inane tangents).  The great thing about Thomas is that you can’t take anything for granted.  The small proof 400 pages ago will be the key to a subtle argument.

Thomas was a victim of his own success.  Few read him beyond the 5 Proofs, and I suspect those proofs weren’t all that interesting for him and his audience.

On God

Thomas: each thing has its own act of being; real apart from the distinct acts of existence.

God: existence as necessary being; his act of existence needs no cause of existence.  Pure act of being.

As Qui Est God has no genus, otherwise he would have an essence distinct from his act of being.  For God, to be is to be good.  His being and goodness are identical.

God knows himself perfectly and he knows himself immediately.

Does God know possibles?

  1. Concerning what might have been, he knows them by simple intelligence.

  2. God’s intelligence.  Will proceeds from intelligence.

The immediate object of divine intelligence is God.  He wills all other things by willing himself.  God’s willing of possibles doesn’t necessarily create them.

  1. a will is an action completely interior to the one willing.

  2. God doesn’t necessarily create existence by “willing,” but only through one of the divine actions whose terminus is an effect exterior to God

Treatise on Law

Thomas only devotes one question specifically about natural law in the middle of 19 questions.  More importantly, Thomas never abstracts natural law (which is usually exactly what his critics and defenders do).  Natural law is oriented back to the eternal law and the divine providence (ST 1-2. 90).

A short definition: “Law (lex) is something rational (aliquid rationes) directed to the common good by those who are responsible for that community” (Kerr 105).

  1. Eternal

  2. Natural

  3. Human

  4. Divine

(2)-(4) are how the eternal law is worked out in providence. You can’t separate natural law from discussions of God.

GRACE AND JUSTIFICATION

(1) For Thomas grace is two things: the work of God upon the soul and the effect of that action.

Two things are considered in the soul: the essence of the soul and the work of its powers.  The form of the soul is intellectual in orientation

The Subsistence of the Soul

Thomas: Nothing acts so far as it is in act, and nothing acts except that whereby it is in act. The soul is the form of the thing.  The soul’s powers are its mind and will.

(2) Form is the act in which a thing has its being and subsistence.

For Aquinas justification, in short, will consist of reorienting the intellect back to God’s proper order.  It is important to keep in mind that the soul is a spiritual substance that is intellectual in character (and this isn’t unique to Aquinas.  This is roughly the historic Christian position).

(3) Grace finds its seat in the essence of the soul, not in the powers.

What metaphor does Aquinas use to explain the nature of this grace infused into the soul?  Light.  Light, however, suggests an intellectual range.  This would place grace somewhere else than the essence of the soul–some place like the intellectual powers of mind and will.

In short, God moves all things (in justification) according to the proper mode of each.  It looks like this:

Infusion of justifying grace → a movement of free choice → forgiveness of sin

Part 2 of Second Part

Scope: This is Thomas’s course on virtue ethics.  Much is good, much bad.

The glory of the soul, which is the enjoyment of God, is the principle object, not the glory of the body (II.2.18.2).  True to an extent, but it’s not clear why Thomas needs the resurrection for this.

On Charity

There is a kind of friendship based on the communication between God and man (II.2.23.1).

Human acts are good as they are regulated by their due rule and measure (23.4).

Charity is infused in us (24.2). Every act of charity merits everlasting life (II.2.24.6). Mortal sin destroys charity entirely (24.10, 12). The spiritual life is an effect of charity.  Mortal sin destroys that.

Charity is capable of reflecting on itself.  The intellect reflects on the universal good, and since to will is a good, man can will himself to will.  Love, therefore, is a spontaneous movement of the lover to the thing loved (25.2).

While we are obligated to love our enemies, we are not obligated to show them all effects of love (25.9).

Key point: One’s obligation to love another is proportionate to the gravity of the sin one commits in acting against that love (2.26.6).

On Giving Alms

* Some are punished eternally for not giving alms (2.32.5).  By contrast, “almsdeeds deserve to be rewarded eternally through the merit of the recipient, who prays for the giver” (2.32.9).

* God gives us ownership of temporal goods but the use of them is directed to helping our neighbor).

Just War

Standard Augustinian stuff. Thomas gives several conditions: a) authority of the sovereign or leader waging it; b) just cause; c) right intentions.  Tyrannical governments are not just because they threaten the common weal (2.42.2).

The Glory of Monastic Life

It’s possible to go to heaven without being a monk, but it’s a lot harder.  Thomas speaks of being perfect.  He doesn’t mean sinless.  A thing’s perfection, rather, relates to charity, the consequences from charity, etc (2.186.3).

Various Nota Bene

* The church can compel secular power with regard to heresy and schism (2.39.4).

* Married sex increases concupiscence and is the contrary of the passage “cleansing ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit” (2.186.4).  He quotes Augustine to the effect that when married people caress one another they are “cast down from manly mind” (Solil. 1.10).  Sorry, Reformed Thomists, but this is where the Reformation is a clear improvement.  Indeed, Thomas goes on to say that “perpetual continence is required for religious perfection.”

* Contrary to claims by Dutch Calvinists, there is no cultural activity in heaven (2.181.4).

Thomas’s Linguistic Fallacies

This type of thinking was quite common until recently.  It’s still painful to read, though.  For example, wisdom (sapientia) connotes sweetness because it comes from the word “saporem” (2.45.2).

Further, Thomas commits the word = concept fallacy.  For Thomas “religion” means “religious orders.”  Therefore, when James talks about “religion pure and undefiled,” this gives the sanction for man entering into religious orders (2.188.2).

A virtue is an operative habit (I-II, q.55, a2).

The Order of Love

Wherever there is a principle, there is an order.  Charity is of a “last end.”  Therefore, it has reference to a “First Principle” (26.1).

Christology: On Person and Nature

Nature designates the essence of the species. A suppositum is the whole which includes the nature as “its formal part” (III.2.2).

Something’s “assumption” includes the principle and term of the act (3.3.1). The principle of the assumption is the divine nature itself.  The term is the Person in whom it is considered to be. The act of the assumption proceeds from the divine power, which is common to the three persons.  The term of the assumption, being the second person, isn’t common to the three.

Thomas argues that Christ didn’t assume a generic human nature, since human nature cannot be apart from sensible matter (3.4.4).

Now to Christology proper.  The person of the Son of God is the suppositum of human nature.  For the most part, suppositum functions similar to hypostasis, so why doesn’t Thomas call it hypostasis?  I think his using “suppositum” allows him to affirm “one person” of the Son, pace Nestorius, yet acknowledge a human dimension to the Son’s person.  A suppositum is the existing hypostasis.

Why is this important?  If we take phrases like “Christ is God” or “this Man is God,” then strictly speaking it isn’t true.  By “Christ” do we mean the eternal Son, the human nature, both, neither?  Therefore, by understanding the hypostasis as a suppositum of the Second Person, we can say the above propositions.

A hypostasis is that which has being.   A nature is that by which it has being.

Treatise on the Sacraments

A sacrament is ordained to signify our sanctification (III.60.3). The cause of our sanctification is Christ’s passion.  The form is grace and the virtues.  The End is eternal life.

Do the sacraments cause grace?  Thomas says they do by distinguishing a principal cause and an instrumental cause (III.62.1). The principal cause works by the power of the form.  The instrumental is the cause by which it is moved.

The soul’s powers flow from its essence, “so from grace there flow certain perfections into the powers of the soul, which are called virtues and gifts” (III.62.2). Grace, accordingly, is in the sacrament as an instrumental power.

Sacramental grace: the principal efficient cause is God himself. This grace is to take away defects consequent on past sins, which hinder divine worship.

The sacraments, especially Orders, imprint a character on the soul.  (Thomas then has some horrendous exegesis of Hebrews 1, where he reads medieval Latin understandings of “character” into the koine Greeek.) The important part is that Thomas equates character and sealing of the Holy Spirit (cf. Schaff on this point; I think volume on Nicene Christianity).

The inward effect of all sacraments is justification (III.64.1).

Eschatology

The Empyrean heaven is a corporeal place (Supp. III.69.1).  It will have the souls of the righteous.  Venial sin is cleansed in purgatory.  Some souls can come and visit.

Thomas gives the standard medieval arguments for praying for the dead, and in reverse the saints can pray for us.  Here is where it gets tricky.  In response to the question, “Why can’t we just go to God?” Thomas answers, “There is a divine order where ‘the last should be led to God by those that are midway between’” (quoting Ps. Dionysius, Supp. III.72.2).  If pressed strictly, Thomas must admit there is no logical reason for us ever to pray to God.  He doesn’t forbid it, but given the above ontology we shouldn’t.  Indeed, he goes on to say that the “perfection of the universe demands” we go through saints.

Here’s the next problem: by what standard do I know that a deceased is a saint and not in Purgatory?  Presumably he would say the Church has decreed it.  Okay, where did the church gain that access to knowledge?

In terms of the signs preceding the End Times, he follows Augustine.

Notes of Interest

When Mary gave birth, Jesus didn’t break through her birth canal and damage the virginal purity (Supp. III.83.3).

On Hell

The saints see perfectly the sufferings of the damned (Supp. III.94.3). Divine justice and their own deliverance will indeed by a direct cause of the saints Joy at seeing the sufferings of the damned.

Conclusion

This book will change you.  It won’t necessarily change your theology, but you will grow in intellectual virtue by reading through it.  Thomas forces you to always work with the implications and connections.

Methodius of Olymphus on sex

If post-evangelicals ever say that evangelicals are hung up on sex, introduce them to the church fathers.  That will shut them up.

Some years ago a a few guys on a reformed message board attacked me for criticizing Methodius’s gnostic views on sexuality and marriage.  So basically I got attacked on a Puritan forum for upholding the Puritan view of marriage.  Sounds about right.

All citations taken from Schaff’s Ante-Nicene Fathers volume 6

Pros of Methodius

His prose often exquisite and always lyrical. He occasionally approaches the talent of Gregory Nazianzus, the Christian Pindar. While he often gets off track of his topic, his “wanderings” are very interesting and usually more sound than his main point.

Cons
* I do not believe Methodius lost the gospel. I do think he came within a razor’s edge of losing it.
* His use of excessive allegory is subject to the critiques of that position. If allegory is true, it is impossible to falsify since there is no permanent standard to say “X is wrong.”

Banquet of the Ten Virgins

Like many ancient Christians, Methodius held perpetual virginity to be the summum bonum. Unlike other ancient Christians, his defense of it, while suffering in terms of exegesis and argument, is the best-written defense (Augustine’s is confused and he knows it; Tertullian’s ranks as the worst treatise in the history of written thought).

“Virginity mediates between heaven and earth” (312-313).

Methodius bases much of his argument on legal analogies from Old Testament shadows: 327-329; 344. Even though this is a form of the Galatian heresy, even here he is not consistent, for he knows that people can bring up another OT text: Genesis 1:27ff about procreating (and even worse, maybe enjoying it). Indeed, he calls such men “incontinent and uncontrolled in sensuality” (320).

“The likeness of God is the avoidance of corruption.” A problematic statement, but not too bad. It gets worse when he adds another premise: virgins have this likeness (313). This brings up a troubling conclusion: can married people have the likeness of God?

Indeed, if you are married you need to work towards the goal of never having sex again. Methodius writes, “Until it removed entirely the inclination for sexual intercourse engendered by habit” (312). It gets worse: if married people enjoy sex, “how shall they celebrate the feast” (347)? What does Methodius mean by feast? Probably not the liturgy in this section (though of course he would draw that same application; you cannot have sex the night before Eucharist, nor can you eat or drink anything that morning); it could be either “the kingdom of God” or the “proper Christian life.” The narrative isn’t clear.

He knows the prohibition against marriage is a demonic doctrine, so he hedges his bets: marriage is to produce martyrs (314).
He has a fascinating discussion on numerology (339) and his commentary on the Apocalypse, while wild and fanciful, is no less arbitrary than any other “spiritual” interpretation of it

 

How to Stay Christian in college

bud

This is one of those gift-book types you give to high school graduates. Instead of fluffy feel goods, it actually does something. JBudz utilizes all of his strengths in this little book. Some parts were underdone (the first section was a basic worldview primer) and others were rushed (the last section). Aside from those sections, it is outstanding.

College as Another World

J Bud tells his story of how he lost his faith and found it again. He used “radical politics” as a substitute religion while reading Nietzsche in grad school.

[​IMG]

Tips for identifying a school or its personality:

1) Research the school’s personality ahead of time.

2) Remember that homesick feelings are normal.

3) They can even be good for you, since as Christians we are strangers in this world.

4) Keep up your spiritual disciplines (or disciplines is a scary Catholicky word, so we will call them Bible study and prayers).

False Gods on Today’s Mars Hill

Naturalism. Whenever a professor says, “As we now know,” counter with “What do you mean by ‘we’” and what do you mean by ‘know?”

Postmodernism. He doesn’t say there isn’t any truth, only that it is fragmented. That’s why they emphasize stories. In fact, everything is fragmented. Personality is fragmented, which means there is no enduring self or soul.

Jbud gives some good advice on asking the right questions. We will often see people who just keep popping questions, and when you start to answer a question, they will ask another one. It’s important to stop the line of questioning at that point and have the objector ask why he is asking so many questions, some that have nothing to do with each other. The real reason is that he probably doesn’t like the answers, and it is a smokescreen for something else.

That covers the intellectual angle. When you are faced with moral demands you can’t meet (sex, money, etc), remember: “Don’t argue, Don’t apologize, Don’t back down, don’t get trapped.

Campus Myths

When someone says that “searching for the truth is more important than finding it,” he can only say that from a position of having already arrived, otherwise he wouldn’t know.

If someone advocates “communitarianism” or “the social construct of reality,” respond with “Some communities don’t accept your view of truth, so wouldn’t we have to say that your view of truth admits it is false?

If someone says “if it works for you, fine” ask them how exactly could faith in Jesus “work?” Does it give me contentment, find a job, etc.? What’s it supposed to do, exactly? Astrology is false, but if I know how to “game the system” and make it work, I can get a job at the newspaper.

Myths about Love and Sex

True definition: Love is not a feeling. It is a commitment to will the good for the other person.

Myth: you can’t know about sex until you experience. Nonsense. I can know drug addiction is wrong without experiencing it.

Myth: without trying out sex, you will never know if you are compatible. Jbud responds: if this were really true, then the divorce rate among cohabiting couples would be much lower. The essence of marriage is a binding commitment. The essence of living together is not having that binding commitment. And “compatibility” is just silly. Nobody is born with a particular sexual style. And you really can’t learn sexually outside of marriage, since there is no security and “the mistakes are humiliating because you are always on audition.”

And if we want to talk about romance: how romantic is it to stand buck naked in front of somebody who doesn’t love you? Guys, how romantic is it to give someone a disease or get them pregnant? That’s coming close to treating the girl like a prostitute.

Myth: doesn’t sex outside marriage hold the relationship together? Other things being equal, it makes it worse. You don’t do the romantic stuff (movies, dinner) as much anymore. True, you might be having sex more and more but you are enjoying it less and less. Why? Because sex is being forced to do all the work in a relationship. It can no longer enrich a relationship as it would in marriage. There is nothing left to enrich.

Myth: sex is pleasure and pleasure can’t be wrong? Why do people think this? I can do all sorts of pleasurable things that are wrong–trolling NPR, overeating, eavesdropping, drugs, etc.

[​IMG]

Some knock-down comebacks:

If a teacher says, “Science has shown there isn’t any meaning in life,” ask them how science could possibly show that?

When you challenge a professor in a line of questioning, only stick to one point. Never play 100 questions in debate. That’s the sign of a weak debater. In a cross-examination, focus on one point. The other issues can come later.

Faerie Queene, Book III (Chastity)

Isaac_oliver_allegory

Continuing his allegory of the moral virtues, Spenser tells of the she-knight Britomart, who embodies Chastity.

Theme: Chastity

Main Characters.  

Britomart: Chastity

Florimell: Her story arc just shot out there.  It never returned home.

Acrasia: the seductress.

Ollyphant: a giant.  Brother of Argante.

The point of allegory isn’t to make a list of equations where “x = y.” Britomart isn’t simply Chastity.  Rather, her pursuit of chastity should invoke in you a feeling of what chaste love is like. 

The narrative: Britomart finds herself in Malacastia’s Castle.  While she avoids seduction, she is wounded (for she let her armour down).  As she leaves Merlin tells her the Arthurian story.

In Canto Three there is yet another genealogical telling of the Arthurian story.  This is more for Britomart to understand Artegall’s lineage. There is a similar retelling in Book Two.

Cantos 6-8 tell of various dealings with Satyrane, Florimell, the Giantess, etc.  This is probably the hardest part of the book, since I think Spenser momentarily lost control of his narrative.  It does come back, though.

Some scenes are written with pure imagic power.  The story arc concerning Malbecco, especially his sad end, is near perfect.

The book ends on a similar note as Book II.

2007BN3319_jpg_l

  In Book II the knights destroy the sensual Bower of Bliss.  Bower of Bliss represented raw lust. The enemy in this castle is a bit more refined (and harder to destroy).  The sorcerer performs a Masque and the players come out in twos.  Each pair represents–for lack of a better phrase–the emotions that come with unchastity.  By unchastity I don’t simply mean sexual immorality, but that “lack of wholeness” and confusion that comes when you blur the boundaries in proper behavior.  It’s psychology at its finest.

The Inklings (Humphrey Carpenter)

Humphrey Carpenter tells the story of the group of Christian literati who worked in the university setting in pre-World War II England.  It isn’t simply a snapshot of different inklings (e.g., Lewis, Tolkien, Williams, Barfield). The chapters form a relatively continuous narrative with Lewis at the center.

Carpenter isn’t afraid to explore some ambiguous and sometimes troubling aspects of their personal lives.  Unfortunately, as I will show below, he either ignores some evidence and overcooks other lines of evidence.  Nonetheless, the book is a real “page-turner.”

Charles Williams

Williams is the most bizarre of the Inklings.  He was probably the closest thing to a true genius or savant.  He had a photographic memory of pretty much every key quote in English literature–and he chanted them during lectures. Williams considered himself a Christian–of a sorts.  That points to the problem. I think Williams was more interested in the “initiatory” aspects of Christianity than the faith itself. That could explain why Williams was drawn towards cults like the Golden Dawn.  

How do you explain away Williams’ involvement in Crowley’s cult?  I don’t think you really can. To be fair, Williams left Crowley and disavowed the sex magick in Crowley’s religion.  Still, anyone who was involved with Crowleyism needs several good exorcisms, just for safe measure.

Carpenter fails to mention one thing, though.  In his book Witchcraft Williams called it a “perversion of the soul,” which suggests a stronger stand against it than Carpenter allows. 

“We are the Companions of the Co-inherence.” Williams took a key aspect of Trinitarianism and Christology and applied it to anthropology.  To risk oversimplification, the two natures of Christ coinhere (perichoresis, circumcessio) with each other while retaining their properties.  Can humans do something similar? Obviously, they cannot on the DNA level, and the marital act is probably the only thing similar on the physical level.  Can they do so on the “soul” or “spirit” level? Maybe. It might work something like this:


1) We must first reject all horrors of nominalism (that vomit of hell) and atomistic ontologies.
2) The human “self” is a series of concentric circles, with the “will” or the “heart” at the center and the “soul” as encompassing all within (though never reduced to any single aspect, pace the false teaching of Christian physicalism).
3) Ergo, the Soul has a social dimension.  It is porous. This porousness allows an interpenetration on the spiritual level.

I think Williams took it much farther and in a more dangerous way.  Williams took St Paul’s admonition to “bear one another’s burdens” as taking someone else’s pain and physically bearing it.  Besides the obvious, I don’t know what else to say. I don’t think it works that way. And it’s just weird.

The Women of the Inklings

CS Lewis (pre-conversion) made some uncomfortable by his boarding with “Ms Moore” when he was a young student. I don’t think there was anything sexual about it, though. Moore had her own young children and she needed help around the house.  In any case, the servants never gossipped, which they would have had there been anything going on. Ms Moore, by all accounts, had the intellect and personality of a stump. The pictures of her present her (at best) of being quite matronly.  

Most of Charles Williams’ problems with women were entirely of his own making.  He waited nine years to marry his fiancee. Sometimes there are good reasons for so long a wait.  I can’t think of any that would apply here. Williams also had an intellectual infatuation with one of his students.  There is no evidence it went beyond the mental, and the sexual aspect doesn’t seem to be foremost in Williams’ mind. It was still unhealthy and sinful and created more problems for him.  Williams also had this unhealthy tendency to collect female followers. That couldn’t have helped his his family life, though.

Tasting the Allegory

Lewis’s savage rejection of T.S. Eliot’s poetry struck a chord with me.  I always wanted to like Eliot because he seemed to stand for Tradition and Culture.  His poetry was just….grating. All Modernist poetry is bad. Lewis goes so far to say, “What I am attacking in ‘Neo-Angular’ is a set of people who seem to me to be trying to make of Christianity itself one more high-brow….bourgeois-bating fad.  T. S. Eliot is the single man who sums up the thing I am fighting against” (quoted in Carpenter 49).

What does a text of literature mean? Lewis counters by noting that might not always be the best question. Take one of Lewis’s own works, That Hideous Strength. It is a perfect novel. It is perfect in every respect. While there are deep truths in it, the key issue is not “what does it mean,” but can you taste the truth and beauty in it?

Summa Theologica: Part 2 of II

This is something like Thomas’s account of virtue ethics.  Much is good.  Much is quite, quite bad.

Part 2 of Second Part

The glory of the soul, which is the enjoyment of God, is the principle object, not the glory of the body (II.2.18.2).  True to an extent, but it’s not clear why Thomas needs the resurrection for this.

On Charity

There is a kind of friendship based on the communication between God and man (II.2.23.1).

Human acts are good as they are regulated by their due rule and measure (23.4).

Charity is infused in us (24.2). Every act of charity merits everlasting life (II.2.24.6). Mortal sin destroys charity entirely (24.10, 12). The spiritual life is an effect of charity.  Mortal sin destroys that.

Charity is capable of reflecting on itself.  The intellect reflects on the universal good, and since to will is a good, man can will himself to will.  Love, therefore, is a spontaneous movement of the lover to the thing loved (25.2).

While we are obligated to love our enemies, we are not obligated to show them all effects of love (25.9).

Key point: One’s obligation to love another is proportionate to the gravity of the sin one commits in acting against that love (2.26.6).

On Giving Alms

* Some are punished eternally for not giving alms (2.32.5).  By contrast, “almsdeeds deserve to be rewarded eternally through the merit of the recipient, who prays for the giver” (2.32.9).

* God gives us ownership of temporal goods but the use of them is directed to helping our neighbor).

Just War

Standard Augustinian stuff. Thomas gives several conditions: a) authority of the sovereign or leader waging it; b) just cause; c) right intentions.  Tyrannical governments are not just because they threaten the common weal (2.42.2).

The Glory of Monastic Life

For Thomas, It’s possible to go to heaven without being a monk, but it’s a lot harder.  Thomas speaks of being perfect. He doesn’t mean sinless. A thing’s perfection, rather, relates to charity, the consequences from charity, etc (2.186.3). 

Various Nota Bene

* The church can compel secular power with regard to heresy and schism (2.39.4).

* Married sex increases concupiscence and is the contrary of the passage “cleansing ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit” (2.186.4).  He quotes Augustine to the effect that when married people caress one another they are “cast down from manly mind” (Solil. 1.10). Sorry, Reformed Thomists, but this is where the Reformation is a clear improvement.  Indeed, Thomas goes on to say that “perpetual continence is required for religious perfection.”

* Contrary to claims by Dutch Calvinists, there is no cultural activity in heaven (2.181.4). Or so Thomas says.  I still lean towards Schilder.

Thomas’s Linguistic Fallacies

This type of thinking was quite common until recently.  It’s still painful to read, though. For example, wisdom (sapientia) connotes sweetness because it comes from the word “saporem” (2.45.2).

Further, Thomas commits the word = concept fallacy.  For Thomas “religion” means “religious orders.” Therefore, when James talks about “religion pure and undefiled,” this gives the sanction for man entering into religious orders (2.188.2).

Proverbs 8 as Test-Case (and other chapters)

Boersma suggests that a sacramental reading of the text (Proverbs 8) allows us to overcome the impasse between Nicene and Arian readings of the text.  When Wisdom said “God created me at the beginning of all his works,” does this mean that Christ was created?  That seems to be what the text says, but that can’t be right.

A huge portion of the problem is the lack of Hebrew knowledge, since qana doesn’t mean creation ex nihilo.  Gregory of Nyssa was aware of this but he really didn’t utilize it (not that anyone would have cared). Of course I side with the Nicenes, but neither side did a great job in this debate.  More to the point, however, are the moves that Boersma makes that allows us to participate in a sacramental reading.

Athanasius in reading a text seeks three elements: time, person, and purpose.  This allows him to make distinctions between economy and Trinity.  Therefore, Christ’s creation is linked in the economy of salvation (172).

Song of Songs

Of course the Fathers read it in a non-literal sense, but not for the reasons you think. The material sexuality in the Song is very real.  If it weren’t, it could function as a participatory link to the spiritual realities.  You have to have both. And unlike some “spiritualizing” or “allegorizing” tendencies, the Fathers took their starting point in the nuptial passages from God’s dealing with Israel (190).

That’s a really good approach to the book.  Granted, some of the details are a bit fancy (but no less arbitrary than how we explain away the literal in biblical prophecy).

Paradise Lost (John Milton)

Image result for paradise lost

I understand why most consider Milton to be difficult reading.  To paraphrase Samuel Johnson, “You have to drink all of the epic simultaneously.”  Milton rarely lets you up for air. It occasionally pays off, though, for Milton can ascend to the highest literary planes. You can’t stay at that pace the whole time, though.  Our mortal coil cannot take large amounts of pure beams of light.

Meaning no disrespect to Milton, this work is fan fiction.  It just is. It’s marvelous fan fiction, but still. Milton apparently went beyond even the Apocrypha and drew upon hermetic sources. While interesting, this gets him in trouble as many of his claims are simply wrong.  More on that later.

Wonderful Literary Passages

Goal of the book: assert eternal providence and justify the ways of God to men (I:25).

* The description of Pandaemonium is one of those top ten moments of the English language (“Stygian council,” “hollow abyss,” .

*  “the reign of Chaos and old Night” (1:543; III:18).

*  “Of waters issued from a cave and spread/Into a liquid plain, then stood unmoved/Pure as th’ expanse of heav’n” (IV: 454).

* Like the other great English poet Alexander Pope, Milton affirmed the chain of being, noting that “scale of nature set” (V:508) to which animals aspire to the angelic heights.

* “Thrones, Dominations, Princedoms, Virtues, Powers/Hear my decree, which unrevoked shall stand” (V:601).

The Nature of God

Eternal: “wherein past, present, future he beholds” (III:78).  God’s foreknowledge does not cause man’s actions (III:118). From God “all things proceed, and up to him return” (V:469).

If you hold to the Boethian/Platonic view of time, you will enjoy Milton’s take: “For time, though in eternity, applied/To motion, measures all things durable/By past, present, and future” (V:580).

Man’s Free Will

Unfallen Adam was “sufficient to have stood, though free to fall” (III:99).

Marriage: Pure and Conjugal

Milton represented the Puritan view of marriage and sex, which was infinitely superior than the Gnosticism that had crept into the church. He writes of Eve, “Yielded with coy submission, modest pride/And sweet reluctant amorous delay” (IV: 310). It was said by someone that the devil will try to get you into bed before your married and keep you out of it afterwards.  Milton would agree. He writes, “With kisses pure: aside the Devil turned/For envy, yet with jealous leer malign/Eyed them askance” (IV: 503; also see line 750).

Indeed, our conjugal love is that by “which perhaps no bliss enjoyed by us excites his [Satan’s] envy more” (IX: 263).  Nonetheless, Milton is aware of the dark path sexuality, even married sexuality, can take. Even in marriage it is possible, so argues Milton, to use the spouse as an object of lust.  Milton starkly notes this between Adam and Eve after the Fall: “Carnal desire inflaming; he on Eve/Began to cast lascivious eyes, she him/As wantonly repaid; in lust they burn” (IX: 1013)