Monday, December 2, 2013, 8:19 AM
R. R. Reno thinks that Francis is best described as a “populist.” In another in a series of carefully balanced essays on the Pope, Reno assesses the pluses and minuses of populist papalism.
Reno says that he finds Francis’s “generalizations” about capitalism and the free market “overheated,” but at the same time commends Francis’s “intuitions.” Reno writes,
Monday, December 2, 2013, 8:13 AM
George Weigel characterizes Pope Francis a “revolutionary,” but insists that he is not a revolutionary in the ways most observers have suggested.
Weigel writes, “The pope is passionately concerned about the poor, and he knows that poverty in the 21st century takes many forms. It can be found in the grinding material poverty of his native Buenos Aires, caused by decades of corruption, indifference, and the church’s failures to catechize Argentina’s economic and political leaders. But poverty can also be found in the soul-withering spiritual desert of those who measure their humanity by what they have rather than who they are, and who judge others by the same materialist yardstick. Then there is the ethical impoverishment of moral relativism, which dumbs down human aspiration, impedes common work for the common good in society, and inevitably leads to social fragmentation and personal unhappiness.”
Monday, December 2, 2013, 4:03 AM
Behind objections to Trinitarian “relational ontology” lie assumptions about creation and the way human language applies to God. The assumptions of theologians often differ from the assumptions of the biblical writers.
Saturday, November 30, 2013, 2:38 PM
Christians often deny that addictions are “diseases” and that they are “genetic.”
But this denial often assumes a materialist view of psychology, as if there are only material causes of disease and only “genetic” forms of inheritance.
If we say that even “purely physical” diseases have non-physical causes, and that there are other forms of inheritance of traits other than genetic, we may need to say that addictions are “diseases” and are inherited.
Saturday, November 30, 2013, 2:35 PM
Aidan Nichols gives a neat summary of the Triune unity of the church in his Figuring out the Church: Her Marks, and Her Masters. Following Heribert Muhlen, he particularly emphasizes the role of the Spirit, who is “one Person in many persons” (27).
More fully: “The Church’s members are not one through hypostatic union with Christ. Rather, the unity of the una quaedam persona comes about through the mediation of the Holy Spirit, who is himself one and the same in Christ and in ourselves. Thus the unity of the Church in Christ is not . . . simply the result of the Father’s predisposing plan. The Father’s predisposing plan is to render a world created and saved a unity in the human species precisely by sending the Holy Spirit to be one single Person in the Word incarnate and ourselves. We – Christ and each other in Church – form una mystica persona, ‘one mystical person’” (29).
Saturday, November 30, 2013, 11:06 AM
Ignacio Carbajosa’s Faith, the Fount of Exegesis: The Interpretation of Scripture in the Light of the History of Research on the Old Testament answers John Ratzinger’s twofold call for a “criticism of criticism” and for a renewal of faithful, faith-filled exegesis.
With regard to the first, Carbajosa carries out an internal critique of Old Testament criticism. Following Ratzinger’s observation that historical criticism, as a historical discipline, can only be true to itself if it examines its own philosophical assumptions and genealogy, he argues historical criticism of the Pentateuch is built on romantic and evolutionary assumptions that ill fit the data. He also offers a fine summary of recent work by Rendtorff and others that has abandoned the documentary hypothesis from within critical scholarship itself.
Saturday, November 30, 2013, 10:56 AM
In the foreword to Antonio Lopez’s Gift and the Unity of Being, Milbank says that by giving “gift” a transcendental status, Lopez offers “a rethinking of the Thomistic metaphysics of act and being that renders it a fully Trinitarian metaphysics” (xii).
He elaborates, “The divine actus is already, as in the case of the Paternal origin, in a certain sense receptive in order that it may act at all; equivalently we cannot see any finite reality as an act unless we also see it as a received gift.
Gifts must be received to be given, and therefore, “if every being is a gift of itself to itself, then it can only exist as reflectively giving itself to itself. This means that consciously spiritual beings are the first and primordial created beings. There cannot be a cosmos without spirit, as indeed Aquinas like the Fathers taught, and equally every non-spiritual creature must exhibit this spirituality in some lesser, analogical degree.” Milbank sees in the metaphysics of gift a form of “vitalism” that begins not from immanence but from transcendence.
What follows is that “every being qua being is a gift and that God is eminent generosity,” but also “that every being is internally and externally involved in a gift-exchange of initiation, reception, and counter-giving that in God is Trinitarian relation” (xii-xiii).
Wednesday, November 27, 2013, 12:04 PM
“We need not fear that we have lost our world when we acknowledge the theory-impregnated nature of our understanding,” writes Mark Johnson (The Body in the Mind: The Bodily Basis of Meaning, Imagination, and Reason, 204). “‘Things’ outside us talk back to us, and proclaim their presence, with a very loud voice most of the time. And it is our being situated in relation to them, and interacting with them, that assures us that we are realists.” That is all the realism Johnson thinks we need.
What we don’t need is a theory, such as what Johnson calls “Objectivism.” Like idealism, Objectivism assumes that “the organism and its environment are two wholly separate things,” about which we can ask “how the two are related, and which one is responsible for the structure of the world” (207). The basic false assumption is that organisms are independent of environments. Once we dispense with that, we have all the realism we need in insisting that there is a world and that we have contact with it (which is a naive experience, without much need for theorization).
Wednesday, November 27, 2013, 8:26 AM
John W. Dixon makes an intriguing argument in a 1998 Anglican Theological Review essay on “Trinitarian anthropology.”
He offers a fundamental anthropology rooted in physics and evolutionary biology, and suggests “The human mind and its products are a part of the web of relations. The relational structures of human culture are added to the order of nature as a part of it as well as supplementary to it, not over against it as something wholly other.” In the human mind, “The rich and complex array of neuronal patterns and linkages in humans generates a depth of memory that is not only greater in extent but in productive power than anything available to animals. Such memory in conjunction with present situations requires a transformed sense of the future in which deliberate planning is necessary. With planning there comes purpose and with purpose, hope.” There are “emergent properties” constitute “the realm of the spirit.”
Drawing on Mark Johnson’s The Body in the Mind: The Bodily Basis of Meaning, Imagination, and Reason, he suggests that our bodily interaction with the world shapes imaginative meanings, such that “metaphor is at the center of these symbolic constructs that organize our neuronal processes.” Further,
Wednesday, November 27, 2013, 8:17 AM
Thomas H. McCall offers some helpful analysis of “Moltmann’s Perichoresis” in a chapter of his Which Trinity? Whose Monotheism? Philosophical and Systematic Theologians on the Metaphysics of Trinitarian Theology, especially in drawing a distinction between “trinitarian perichoresis” and a “creation/soteriological perichoresis” that is analogical to divine indwelling.
Along the way, though, he makes an odd sort of argument. He offers this definition of perichoresis from Oliver Crisp: “For any x and y . . . x and y are perichoretically related if and only if x and y share all their properties in a common essence apart from those properties that serve to individuate x and y, or that express a relation between only x and y” (165). Based on this definition, he charges that Moltmann’s panentheism cannot sidestep the dangers of pantheism.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013, 7:22 AM
What’s the appeal of first-person shooter games? I ask that question because I find no appeal in them. I’m a sitting duck, a target, canon fodder, the guy everyone sneaks up to get an easy kill.
Some apparently find it appealing, and Maria Konnikova has an explanation: flow.
Taking her cues from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s idea of Flow, the experience of losing yourself in an activity, she writes: “‘Video games are essentially about decision-making,’ Lennart Nacke, the director of the Games and Media Entertainment Research Laboratory at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, told me.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013, 6:27 AM
Maciej Zieba’s PAPAL ECONOMICS: The Catholic Church on Democratic Capitalism, from Rerum Novarum to Caritas in Veritate is a careful, informative study of Catholic social teaching as embodied in papal encyclicals. Though the book does briefly trace the history of Papal statements on democracy and capitalism, Zieba focuses on John Paul II< particularly Centesimus Annus (1991).
Zieba doesn’t read back later statements into the tradition. Since the late nineteenth century, Popes have condemned socialism, but it took time for Popes to reconcile themselves to democratic forms of government and market systems. He also recognizes that even the Popes most favorable to democratic capitalism are not uncritical advocates. Following a Novakian scheme, he focuses on three themes in John Paul’s work: political community, economic life, and the “primacy of culture.”
One of the most important themes to emerge from the book is that the encyclical tradition isn’t an effort to articulate a model of political economy or to sketch a “third way” between socialism and capitalism. John Paul expressed a “pluralistic” view in his statement that “the Church has no models to present” because models of social reform have to emerge “through the efforts of all those who responsibly confront concrete problems in all their social, economic, political, and cultural aspects” (63). The Church’s aim, he insisted, is not to add another ideology to the public square; the task is one of “imbuing human realities with the Gospel” (63).
Tuesday, November 26, 2013, 6:15 AM
I can agree with much of Jerome Creach (Violence in Scripture: Interpretation: Resources for the Use of Scripture in the Church) says about the Bible and violence. Violence is an intrusion into a peaceable world, “a disease that breaks out and spoils everything” (38-39). God intends to bring an end to violence, and shows that intention by making war against “anticreators” like Pharaoh (79). Richard Hays to the contrary, there is no tension between Old and New Testaments on this point (226-231) because the Old Testament itself is a call to non-violence.
I can agree with much of what Creach says because he never defines what he, or the Bible, mean by violence. On the last two pages, he makes it clear that violence is (equated with? associated with?) “human coercion” (238), but throughout the book he writes as if “violence” has a perfectly transparent, universal definition, as if everyone knows violence when one sees it. Arendt, Sorel, Zizek – not to mention Yoder and Hauerwas – would be more than mildly surprised.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013, 5:39 AM
Rosemann (Omne ens est aliquid. Introduction a la lecture du ‘systeme’ philosophique de saint Thomas d’Aquin, 200-1) argues that the presence of God to Himself is a presence “sans ombre et sans absence,” that is, total presence without shadow or a dialectical relation to absence.
That does not mean, however, that God’s presence to Himself is un-mediated. On the contrary, Rosemann argues, the ontological lesson of Trinitarian theology is that “all presence is representation” (“toute presence est representation”). He quotes Thomas to the effect that God Himself knows Himself fully through the Wisdom of God, which is the Word of God, and glosses: “Dieu Lui-meme doit s’exterioriser pour se connaitre, voire pour etre Lui-meme, pour etre Dieu,” but this exteriorization is not exterior to God. The Wisdom or Word by which God knows Himself is Himself God: “Dieu . . . s’est toujours deja trouve dans sa Parole, parce que l’autre qui Le represent a Lui-meme ne saurait etre different de Lui” (202).
God knows Himself in this “autodifferenciation” that overcomes the difference between “exterior” and “interior,” in which “le et moi coincident; l’exteriorisation es interiorisation; dan l’acte meme de devenir ‘autre’ que soi, Dieu a toujours deja fait retour sur soi” (204).
Tuesday, November 26, 2013, 5:28 AM
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Philipp Rosemann examines what he describes as the “fundamental principle of Thomist ontology” in Omne ens est aliquid. Introduction a la lecture du ‘systeme’ philosophique de saint Thomas d’Aquin. The principle is stated in the title, and stated baldly it is an utter truism. When elaborated, though, it points to the “dialectical” character of Thomist metaphysics.
To be something, a thing needs to be in a context. Rosemann quotes Alphonse de Waelhens: “quelque chose qui serait donne seul ne serait pas quelque chose” (49): Nothing that stands alone is some thing. A window is a window in the context of wall, air, light, outside, inside. If you remove this context, there is no window, yet at the same time these other things do not constitute the substance of the window. Hence, “Tout etant n’est quelque chose que par rapport a d’autres etants dont il se distingue” (49): A being is not some thing other than by relation with other beings form which it distinguishes itself.
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