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The Gospel

Some time ago I stumbled upon an interesting definition of the Eucharist. The definition — that was given by a low church evangelical whom I have decided not to reveal — was that the Eucharist was “the Gospel to the body.” I’m pretty sure that me and the mentioned person would differ on what that would mean — or what the Eucharist is — but I want to adopt that definition as my own. But this definition begs a question: what is the Gospel? I will not give a definite — or pehaps even good — answer to that quesition here. I’ll just offer my 2 cents worth of thoughts on the subject.

The first verse in St. Paul’s first epistle (judging from the Canon) we read that the Blessed Apostle refers to himself as “the servant (gr. δοῦλος) of Jesus Christ, called as an apostle, set apart for the Gospel of God.”[1] For St. Paul the Gospel was the most important part of his ministry. But was was the Gospel? Oftentimes — and this might be because of the idea that ‘the medium is the message’ — it seems to me that people regard the Gospel as just the Scriptures or the message. But this seems wrong, too narrow. When I say to people: “I have good news; I won the lottery”[2] the goodness doesn’t refer to the fact that I have news. No it refers to the content of the news; the winning of the lottery. The same, I think, goes for the Gospel. Which, in its greek form (εὐαγγέλιον), literally means ‘good news.’

And what is the content of the Gospel? The core content is this: Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. Further on, the Gospel tells us that we must participate in Christ. This, above all, is the core message of St. Paul.[3] To me it seems then, given the definition of the Eucharist as “the Gospel to the body” and given that one holds to the real presence, that it follows that the Gospel is more then just the ‘story’ of Christ and of his deeds: it is the very reality. “The Gospel for the body” would then be: “The true content of the Gospel for the body.” And the Gospel tells us how we are saved: by the blood of Christ. And this, Christ tells us (Matt 26,28), is given to us in the Eucharist.

Could this be a fruitful way of putting it? With this in mind, read St. Paul’s words in Rom 15,15b-16 (in my translation):

[I’m given a grace by God] to be a liturgist[4] of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles and to be a sacrificial priest[5] with the Gospel so that the Gentiles may become an acceptable offereing, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.


[1] This is my own translation, built on the language structure of the RSV-CE. See here.

[2] Like that’s ever gonna happen…..

[3] To read more on this theme of participation I recommend Taylor Marshall’s blog on the Catholicity of St. Paul.

[4] λειτουργὸν (leiturgòn), ‘minister, liturgist.’

[5] ἱερουργοῦντα (hierurgunta), a verbal form of the noun ἱερεύς (hierevs), ‘sacrificial priest.’

Look to the Lord

The 6th sunday of the common year

The readings in today’s Sunday Mass (according to the NO in the Catholic Church) is Jer 17,5-8; 1Cor 15,12.16-20; and Luke 6,17.20-26. They all share a common thread; that we are to set our eyes at the Lord. The old testament text tells us, in the words of the RSV translation, that “cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his arm, whose heart turns away from the LORD.” (v. 5) And: “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD.” (v. 7) This reminds me of Psalm 1, here in my own (slightly loose) translation:

1 Blessed is the man that does not follow the advice of the wicked, nor walks the path of sinners, nor sits amongst the scornful; 2 but whose delight is the law of the LORD on which he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields fruit in its season, and whose leaves doesn’t wither. Everything he does shall prosper. 4 The wicked is not so: He is like chaff that the wind drives away. 5 Therefore the wicked shall not stand in the judgment, and no sinners in the congregation of the righteous. 6 For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked shall perish.[1]

The New Testament epistle tells us that if Christ hasn’t risen from the dead our hope is dead. Our faith is a joke. Empty. Meaningless. “But,” writes St. Paul, “in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1Cor 15,20) This message is the core of our Faith. Without it Christianity is either the dumbest or most evil religion ever. Because we aren’t dealing with some abstract ‘philosophy’ here; we are dealing with a man who claimed to be God. The Almighty Creator. Worthy of our worship. We aren’t dealing with a man claiming to be a fuzzy rabbit; we are dealing with a man claiming to be the Lion of Juda — and not merely a man.

Let’s take a look at today’s Gospel. I’ll quote it in full.

A reading from the Gospel according to St. Luke in the 6th chapter. Glory to you, Lord.

17 And he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. … 20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 Blessed are you that hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh. 22 Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. 24 But woe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation. 25 Woe to you that are full now, for you shall hunger. Woe to you that laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. 26 Woe to you, when all men speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.”

This is the Gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

How can Christ say this? The poor, those who hunger, those that weep; those who are hated, excluded and reviled for Christ’s sake. Those, says Christ, are truly blessed. In fact: they are happy! To explain what this means we have to take into consideration what happiness was for the antique man.

One of the greek words for ‘happiness’ — which aren’t used in the text in Luke, but which is related to the term used there — is εὐδαιμονία (eudaimonía).[2] This shouldn’t be translated as ‘happiness,’ as the latter often has the connotation of desire rather than something spiritual; it seems to denote luck, chance and ‘instant gratification.’ (Etymologically speaking — and etymology is a dangerous and tricky game to play — happiness derives from hap, meaning ‘chance, fortune.’ But this is very different from the old greek notion of happiness; a notion I believe is also found in the Bible.

As I point out, the word — which is often translated ‘happiness’ (or sometimes ‘flourishing’) — is εὐδαιμονία. This word consists of three parts: (1) εὐ, ‘good, well being’; (2) δαιμον, ‘spirit, minor deity’; and (3) the suffix -ία which denotes an act or a state.[3] Thus εὐδαιμονία (which will henceforth be translated ‘joy’) denotes a (lasting) state — and thus in contrast to ‘happiness,’ which (it seems to me) denotes something more ‘floating’ or ‘weak.’ In other words; joy is to be united to Christ.

If we are united to Him we can rejoice when we are poor; when we hunger; when weep; and when we are hated, excluded and reviled for His sake. For we aren’t made to stay here; we are made to be in communion with Him. To live in His presence. And that can only be achieved by our death and resurrection — from ourselves and to Him. Then, my dear friends, we know that our hope is fully alive. And that our faith is full of meaning. But for the wicked, who cast Christ away, life will be something else entirely. It will be devoid of God. Hell is the life of the wicked, the foolish. Their life will be “a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.” (Macbeth, act 5, scene 5)

The tale of God, however is fully significant. We are to share the very life The life of God. And that is something to look forward too.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


[1] When I translate from Hebrew I use the standard text; Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia. (Edited by K. Elliger & W. Rudolph. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft 1997.) I also use The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. (Orig. 1906. Peabody, MA.: Hendrickson. 12th Reprint, 2008)

[2] The term used in Luke is Μακάριοι (Makárioi); an adjective (in the nominal case). This is connected to the adjective explored in the text. But it seems like Μακάριος is more ‘divine’ or ‘heavenly,’ while εὐδαιμονία is perhaps more connected to that which is distinctly human. (See here and here.) For the sake of my argument I assume that what I say about εὐδαιμονία can also be said of the more ‘divine’ μακάριος.

[3] See for example: Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature. Third edition. Revised and edited by Frederick William Danker. The University of Chicago Press 2000

I’m back

I have been away for a long time — almost two years. The reason is that I have been consentrating on my norwegian blog; Katolikken. But I’ll try to update this blog more often, perhaps by posting some of my norwegian content in english.

Truly God and truly man

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” — JOHN 1:1.14

Some people claim that Christ cannot be truly God and truly man at the same time. I disagree. And I will try to explain how this is possible, from a philosophical point of view.[1] My starting point will be the doctrinal statements of Chalcedon and of the Athanasian Creed. In Chalcedon we profess:

We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable [rational] soul and body; consubstantial [co-essential] with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ; as the prophets from the beginning [have declared] concerning Him, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.

And in the Athanasian Creed we say that Christ, truly God and truly man, is “with a rational soul and human flesh.” And further we profess that He is one “not by his divinity being turned into flesh, but by God’s taking humanity to himself. He is one, certainly not by the blending of his essence, but by the unity of his person.” But some people disagree with this. They claim that the person is the soul, or the union of body and soul, which would mean that Christ’s soul (or soul-body union) would constitute a person on its own. Thomas D. Senor writes that “this claim — that in addition to taking on a body, God the Son took on a human mind — brings with a rather serious philosophical difficulty. For in the standard case (and, as seen likely, in every other case), a human body and mind combination composes a human person.”[2]

J.P. Moreland and Scott B. Rae writes: “You are essentially your soul—same soul, same person; different soul, different person.”[3] I disagree. The person is of course closely connected to the soul, as it is connected to its nature. And the human soul, writes L.W. Geddes, “belongs to the nature as a part of it, and is therefore not a person, even when existing separately.”

Before I go on, I will take a look at the teaching on the Incarnation given by J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig.[4] They try to give an heresy-free reinterpretation of the thoughts of Apollinarius (d. ca. 390), and writes that he “correctly discerned … that if we are to avoid a duality of persons in Christ, the man Jesus of Nazareth and the divine Logos must share some common constituent which unites their two individual natures.”[5] They also ask, “How does one have to complete natures without two persons?” And takes a look at the Church’s condemnation of Monotheletism, and wonders “how one can have two separate wills and operations without two persons.”[6] The fault of Moreland, Craig Senor and Apollinarius is two-sided.

Firstly, they use a confusing concept, namely the concept of ‘individual nature.’ A nature isn’t ‘individual,’ but ‘universal.’ I believe that the universals exists in the particular things, and not independent of these.

Secondly, they believe that the essential properties of human nature — including soul and body — are sufficient for personhood. I believe that these properties are necessary, but not sufficient, for personhood. In his tract, A Treatise Against Eutyches and Nestorius, Medieval philosopher Boethius defined Nature as “the specific property of any substance” and defined a person as “the individual substance of a rational nature.” (chapter 4) The person is a substance that carries, has and owns his properties. Human nature is a property with certain properties under itself, both essential — properties needed to exist (reason, mind, will, etc.) — and accidental — properties that can change (weight, height, shape, etc.) A substance owns its properties.

It seems to me that a person — the individual, rational substance — is ontologically prior to its properties, including its nature. These properties are universal and exist in — and not independent of — the substance that owns them. Boethius writes:

You must consider that all I have said so far has been for the purpose of marking the difference between Nature and Person… The exact terms, which should be applied in each case, must be left to the decision of ecclesiastical usage. For the time being let that distinction between Nature and Person hold which I have affirmed, viz. that Nature is the specific property of any substance, and Person the individual substance of a rational nature. Nestorius affirmed that in Christ Person was twofold, being led astray by the false notion that Person may be applied to every nature. For on this assumption, understanding that there were in Christ two natures, he declared that there were likewise two persons. (chapter 4)

Thus we say that Christ is one person whom possesses the essential (and accidental) properties of His natures, divine and human. Boethius, therefore, tells us that Christ “is God and man, being God by nature, man by assumption. And in Him nature becomes double and substance double because he is God-man, and One Person since the same is man and God. This is the middle way between two heresies, just as virtues also hold a middle place.” (chapter 7)

Thus Boethius shows us that both heresies really destroy salvation. Because neither one is the assumption of humanity. In one case (Monophysitism), the human nature isn’t present at all. In the other case (Nestorianism), nothing is really assumed, the Incarnation being reduced to a close personal relationship with God, and not the real assumption of humanity. It seems to me that the classical, orthodox teaching on the Incarnation isn’t just more dogmatically correct, but certainly more philosophical correct.

When the Word assumed humanity, He assumed all the essential properties of human nature, including their proper organs, body and soul. He did this to give us a part of what is His divine life. “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.” (Col. 2:9-10) “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” (2. Cor. 8:9)

God became man to recreate humanity in God’s Image, life humanity up from sin, and take the transformed humanity back to Heaven, to give us the possibility of becoming “partakers of the divine nature” (2. Pet. 1:4). Or, as Robert D. Crouse writes:

Perhaps the finest statement of the broadest implications of Chalcedon would be St. Thomas’ great pronouncement, that “grace does not destroy nature, but perfects it”.

Notes & references:

[1] This of course does not mean that it’s true, but that it is logically possible.

[2] Senor, Thomas D. (2007) “The Compositional Account of the Incarnation.” Faith and Philosophy 24:1, p. 53 (pp. 52-71)

[3] Moreland, J.P. & Rae, Scott B. (2000) Body & Soul: Human Nature & the Crisis in Ethics. InterVarsity Press, p. 180

[4] I have much respect for these two, but disagree with their views on the Incarnation.

[5] Moreland, J.P. & Craig, William Lane (2003) Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview. InterVarsity Press, p. 608

[6] Ibid, pp. 601.602

Original Sin

For norwegian readers, I will write (a bit more extensively) on this in norwegian.

Many people claim that what we Christians (or most of us) teach about Original Sin (hereafter; OS) is a heresy, because we teach that Man inherit the guilt of Adam’s sin. But this is wrong. The problem lies in the fact that most Christian churches — at least Catholic, Orthodox and Lutheran — hold that sin is more than a merely moral category, but also an ontological category. Sin is not just about wht we do, but who we are. The Cathecism of the Catholic Church (CCC) states this in §404:

How did the sin of Adam become the sin of all his descendants? The whole human race is in Adam “as one body of one man”. By this “unity of the human race” all men are implicated in Adam’s sin, as all are implicated in Christ’s justice. Still, the transmission of original sin is a mystery that we cannot fully understand. But we do know by Revelation that Adam had received original holiness and justice not for himself alone, but for all human nature. By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state. It is a sin which will be transmitted by propagation to all mankind, that is, by the transmission of a human nature deprived of original holiness and justice. And that is why original sin is called “sin” only in an analogical sense: it is a sin “contracted” and not “committed” — a state and not an act.

Peter Kreeft says the same: “Sin doesn’t just mean “no-no’s,” it’s an ontological term. It’s like divorce from God, the source of all good.”[1] Sin is a relational category. “Sin” tells us primarily what conditions we build our relations within. Are our relations characterized by trust or not. According to the The Augsburg Confession (Confessio Augustana, CA), § 2, the Lutheran Churches “teach that since the fall of Adam all men begotten in the natural way are born with sin, that is, without the fear of God, without trust in God, and with concupiscence; and that this disease, or vice of origin, is truly sin.”

Before I go on, I recommend you to read § 374-379 of the CCC, which concern the state of Man in Paradise. I will write a paragraph further down, § 384: “Revelation makes known to us the state of original holiness and justice of man and woman before sin: from their friendship with God flowed the happiness of their existence in paradise.”

What you might have read from the CCC, is tightly connected with the four gifts Man had in Paradise; three preternatural gifts and one supernatural. The supernatural gift is original righteousness, connected to sanctifying grace; the “preternatural gifts” are (1) Infused Knowledge, (2) Immortality, and (3) Integrity (human appetites being completely submitted to the human intellect). Taylor Marshall writes:

Preter refers to something prior, as in the Latin sense of the adverb praeter, meaning “prior” or “beyond”.

The three “preternatural gifts” (the three I’s: infused knowledge, immortality, and integrity) are preternatural in the sense they do not belong to bare human nature, while at the same time they are not supernatural. In other words, the preternatural gifts strengthen human nature, but are not habits of grace. They bring out the best of what human nature could be.

With this in mind, I will post a few points about what OS (and salvaion) is:

  1. Man is not divine by nature, and cannot become like God naturally. We need God’s sanctifying grace, a supernatural gift, to help us achieve our true goal of eternal life together with, or in, God.
  2. God gave Man this sanctifying grace (and therefore the original righteousness), and the preternatural gifts, so that he could achieve this goal.
  3. God intended this package of super -and preternatural gifts to be passed on as heirloom in the generation of offspring.
  4. Adam failed this both passively and actively; (1) he didn’t defend Eden and Eve against the serpent, as steward and husband, and (2) he ate the fruit).
  5. Man loosed the four gifts, and also lost the friendship (and trust) to God. It doesn’t mean tha God stopped loving us, it’s the other way around, Man only started to care about himself, about “the Flesh.”

OS isn’t about inheriting the guilt of Adam, but that we possess the same nature as he does. And without God, we are sinners because sin is ultimately about our state or, as Peter Kreeft, pointed out, “divorce from God.” Paul writes about this in his letters, and distinguishes between “the Spirit” and “the Flesh.” I will quote two Bible passages.

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” (Romans 8:5-6)

“For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice” (Romans 7:19)

For Paul, and for us, sin is an existential reality. It’s something that characterizes our lifes. “If we say that we have no sin,” John writes, “we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1. Joh 1:8) This reality is something that we can either cling to — and thus “live according to the flesh” — or distance us from — and thus “live according to the Spirit.” A short clarification: The distinction between “the Spirit” and “the Flesh” is not about spirit/soul vs. body. No, it’s a distinction between God and Man. If Man doesn’t want to have anything to do with God, he lives according to the Flesh. If Man has a communion with God, he lives according to the Spirit, which recreates us in the image of God. As it says in 2. Cor. 3:18:

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

A short summary: OS isn’t about us inheriting the guilt of Adam, but that we have the same nature as Adam, and that this nature isn’t enough in and of itself. We know deep down inside that without help, we can never really become ourselves, as God intended. We need help from outside of ourselves. And Christ helps us, by taking up into himself our Human Nature so we, by His grace, can become “partakers of the divine nature.” (2. Pet. 1:4) Taylor Marshall writes more:

[The teaching about the four gifts in Paradise] is an important feature of Catholic anthropology. A) It resists the Calvinist doctrine of “total depravity” because Original Sin causes man to fall to bare human nature. The Fall is the removal of a set of gifts, strictly speaking. B) It also allows us to understand how redemption is accomplished through Christ — that we are reconstituted in sanctifying grace through Christ. C) It may be helpful with understanding an evolutionary origin of mankind, in that human beings were not created as “naturally” immortal, but that this immortality was something “preternatural”. Immortality was a gift that was forfeited.

Notes and references:

[1] Kreeft, Peter, “The Dark Side.” Lecture held at Socrates in the City, May 4th 2005. (December 21st 2007)

Grace, Faith and Works

Many people discuss how we are to regard the relationship between Grace, Faith and Works. Some protestants claim that the Catholic Church teaches that people are saved by their own works, that the Catholic Church Teaches that you can “save yourself.” This discussion is becoming a bit old, but I’ll post some thoughts anyway.

As with every other discussions, we need to understand the underpinning realities about what we discuss, and how we define the key words. Therefore I will do that in this post.

God. The first thing we need to understand, is the role of God in our salvation. When we say that God alone saves, mean protestants use this term to say that God is “alone-working,” while most Catholics — Roman Catholics, Eastern Catholics and Orthodox — see God as “all-working.” I believe that the latter understanding is the Biblical one, which is used by both Paul and James. In James 2:22.24, we see that “faith [is] active along with [our] works, and faith [is] completed by [our] works” and that “a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” This understanding — God as “all-working” — is also evident in Phil. 2:12-13 where you are urged to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” not because this is something you do of yourself, but because “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

Therefore, the traditional protestant stance, that faith “produces” works — that we somehow do works because the salvation makes us happy — is wrong. I believe that works is a crucial part of salvation, but then again I do not believe that you “produce” the works yourself, but that it is “God who works in you.” This view of God also clears up any “problem” between Paul and James. And Christ, who pointed out the need of repentance and works (see for example Matt. 3:2.8, 4:17, 25:31-46; Luke 13:3.)

Faith. The word faith is very important to understand. I have already written about it, so I’ll just write a few thoughts. The important thing here is to regard the twofold character of faith; that it is both the assent to doctrine and trust in God. As J.P. Moreland puts it; “Faith is trusting what we have reason to believe is true.” This should also be connected to the Hebrew word for “truth,” emeth. C.S. Lewis writes about it in “Men Without Chests,” the first essay/talk of The Abolition of Man:

The word is emeth, ‘truth’. Where the Satya of the Indian sources emphasizes truth as ‘correspondence’, emeth (connected with a verb that means ‘to be firm’) emphasizes rather the reliability or trustworthiness of truth. Faithfulness and permanence are suggested by Hebraists as alternative renderings. Emeth is that which does not deceive, does not ‘give’, does not change, that which holds water. (See T. K. Cheyne in Encyclopedia Biblica, 1914, s.v. ‘Truth’.)[1]

And it is also important to note that faith many protestants have a rather dualistic view of man. But that is [at least a bit] unbiblical. Faith, which — amongst other things — is an act of the soul, should therefore be acted out in out body, since the soul is the form of the body.

Grace. This word is very important to understand. Many protestants, but far from all, regard this in a purely forensic way, seeing it as just “mercy.” Catholics, however, regard grace not only as “mercy,” but also as a power that lead you to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” As St. Paul puts it: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Eph. 2:8-10

Notes & references:

[1] Lewis, C.S., The Abolition of Man (Lewis, 1944,1947; HarperSanFrancisco, 2001), pp. 104-105

Faith and Reason

In a lecture on the “Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul,” Christian philosopher J.P. Moreland recounted a lecture he had in a Christian gymnasium. In the lecture he presented a couple of arguments for the existence of God. After the lecture, he had a Q&A section, and a woman (a believer) said, “Dr. Moreland, your talk has troubled me this evening.” And Moreland said, “Well, I’m sorry, mam, what’s the problem?” Then she said, “The more you prove God exists, the less room you leave for faith.” This is a very weird definition of faith, one that completely misses the point about faith.

The lady mentioned by Moreland believes, in Moreland’s words, that “as Reason increases, Faith decreases, because Faith is believing something in the absence of Reason.” Moreland, on the other hand, said that Faith “is trusting what we have reason to believe is true.” And this is very interesting. Faith is not something one arbitrarily chooses without evidence.

The Hebrew word for truth, emeth, in fact means something firm, something we can trust. This does not mean that faith decreases by reason, but that it increases.

You find Aquinas’s Five Ways in Summa Theologiæ 1a 2,3. I will here concentrate on the first three.

In the First Way, Aquinas goes from the fact that there is motion in the world to the existence of a “First Mover.” His argument is as follows:

It is certain, and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion. Now whatever is in motion is put in motion by another, for nothing can be in motion except it is in potentiality to that towards which it is in motion; whereas a thing moves inasmuch as it is in act. For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality. But nothing can be reduced from potentiality to actuality, except by something in a state of actuality. Thus that which is actually hot, as fire, makes wood, which is potentially hot, to be actually hot, and thereby moves and changes it. Now it is not possible that the same thing should be at once in actuality and potentiality in the same respect, but only in different respects. For what is actually hot cannot simultaneously be potentially hot; but it is simultaneously potentially cold. It is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and moved, i.e. that it should move itself. Therefore, whatever is in motion must be put in motion by another. If that by which it is put in motion be itself put in motion, then this also must needs be put in motion by another, and that by another again. But this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and, consequently, no other mover; seeing that subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are put in motion by the first mover; as the staff moves only because it is put in motion by the hand. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.

Here we need to clarify a few things. The latin word motus isn’t easy to translate, and “motion” often leads to misunderstandings. Because motus doesn’t necessarily mean local (physical) motion, but any transaction from potency to act, including the act of coming into existence. Therefore, if we say that God is the “first mover,” we do not mean that the world existed as some sort of clockwork, and that God “pushed” it into movement, but that God created it. We also need to explain what Aquinas meant by potentiality and actuality. Here I base myself upon Knut Erik Tranøy’s account of this teaching, as he explains it in his book Thomas av Aquino som moralfilosof (Thomas of Aquino as a moral philosopher.)

Potency and act is two prime forms or manners of existence. Tranøy explains that Aquinas says that a thing that is, is either in potentia or in actu. He explains further that to say that a thing is in potentia is to say that it has existence in a possible form; and to say that it is in actu is to say that it has existence in actuality/reality. And that it says that the possibilities (or rather potentialities) that a thing had when it was in potentia, is now — when it is in actu — actualized, realized, fulfilled.[1]

The First Way is also backed up by the Second and Third Way in which he argues for the existence of “a first efficient cause” and “some being having of itself its own necessity.”

In the Second Way Aquinas claims that “[i]n the world of sense we find there is an order of efficient causes.” But most of these causes hinge upon other causes. Aquinas says that

in efficient causes it is not possible to go on to infinity, because in all efficient causes following in order, the first is the cause of the intermediate cause, and the intermediate is the cause of the ultimate cause, whether the intermediate cause be several, or only one. Now to take away the cause is to take away the effect. Therefore, if there be no first cause among efficient causes, there will be no ultimate, nor any intermediate cause. But if in efficient causes it is possible to go on to infinity, there will be no first efficient cause, neither will there be an ultimate effect, nor any intermediate efficient causes; all of which is plainly false. Therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God.

In the Third Way, which I find most interesting, and which is the argument most philosophically trained people regard as the best one, we find the argument from contingency. This argument, in my own words, basically says that every thing in existence have some sort of explanation for its existence, either in the necessity of its own being or in some external cause. But do we find anything in this universe that can explain its existence by “the necessity of its own being?” No, we don’t. And then the argument goes on, here in the words of Aquinas:

We find in nature things that are possible to be and not to be, since they are found to be generated, and to corrupt, and consequently, they are possible to be and not to be. But it is impossible for these always to exist, for that which is possible not to be at some time is not. Therefore, if everything is possible not to be, then at one time there could have been nothing in existence. Now if this were true, even now there would be nothing in existence, because that which does not exist only begins to exist by something already existing. Therefore, if at one time nothing was in existence, it would have been impossible for anything to have begun to exist; and thus even now nothing would be in existence — which is absurd. Therefore, not all beings are merely possible, but there must exist something the existence of which is necessary. But every necessary thing either has its necessity caused by another, or not. Now it is impossible to go on to infinity in necessary things which have their necessity caused by another, as has been already proved in regard to efficient causes. Therefore we cannot but postulate the existence of some being having of itself its own necessity, and not receiving it from another, but rather causing in others their necessity. This all men speak of as God.

Hope this helps!

Notes & references:

[1] Tranøy, Knut Erik, Thomas av Aquino som moralfilosof (Oslo: Universitetsforlaget/University Press, 1957), pp. 54-55. Here is the quote in its original norwegian:

Potens og akt er to grunnleggende værens-former eller værens-måter. Thomas sier om en ting som er, at den er in potentia eller in actu. Å si at en ting er in potentia er å si at den har væren i mulighets form; å si at en ting er in actu er å si at den har væren i virkelighet; og det vil igjen si at de muligheter tingen hadde da den var in potentia, nå — da den er in actu — er aktualisert, virkeliggjort, oppfylt.

The Eucharist

This one exist also in norwegian. I wrote this in norwegian, and translated it. So it might not be very good.

I stumbled across a discussion about the core of the Reformation in av Catholic discussion board, and read an interesting comment (I’m not sure if you can read it withou being a mamber.) The person starting the thread, a Catholic, mentioned a letter by Tolkien where he claimed that it wasn’t “faith or works” which was the real core of the Reformation, but the Mass and the Eucharist. Tolkien in fact claimed that the discussion about “faith or works” was a red herrin, and not the real reason behind the Reformation.

Zwingli, who was a Catholic priest, started his “reformation” one year before Luther, by slowly but surely “eliminated all the references to the Mass as a sacrifice, and then eradicated all references to Transubstantiation, and so on and so forth.” (from the above mentioned discussion)

It is in fact interesting to see that in one of the few places where Christ’s followers abandon Him — except before his Passion — is in John 6, where he talks about the Eucharist (see the end of this article.) And the big controversial issue between the reformators was indeed the Eucharist. Luther and Zwingli became almost enemies because of it.

But why is people, who claim to hold to “the clear teachings of the Bible,” som against the Eucharist as it is understood by Catholics? Let me take a look at Luke 22:19. It contains three interesting words:

And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” (NKJV)

Let me take a look at the emphasized words:

  1. “[Gave] thanks…” The greek word is eucharisteo.
  2. “Do…” The greek word is poieo
  3. “Remembrance…” The greek word is anamnesis

1/2. “Do this…”

The greek word is also uses in the greek OT (Septuaginta), in Exodus 29:38. As it si translated in the NKJV: “Now this is what you shall offer on the altar: two lambs of the first year, day by day continually.” (emphasis added)

What Christ says, is; “Offer this in remembrance of Me.” But what is an offer, a sacrifice? When you sacrifice something, you set it aside for God, makes it holy. We see this in the actual word sacrifice, which is derived from sacred, holy. The problem is that people seem to think that sacrifice means blood.

Some people might also point to Matt. 9:13: “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” But this is a paraphrase of Hosea 6:6, a text from the OT: “For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.”

And if you use Matt. 9:13 as a “proof” that offerings and sacrifices are ruled out for Christians, than why not for the Old Testament Jews, since the quote is from the OT? Why didn’t God remove the sacrifices right there and then?

The point is that sacrifices is not bad in and of themselves, but that one should always meet it with the right attitude. We see this quite literally in the NT:

“Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matt. 5:23-24)

“Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.” (1. Cor. 11:27-29)

This sacrificial aspect can also be tied to the first word in Luke 22:19. We see therefor that the Eucharist is a offer of thanks, we we remember the death and ressurection of Christ by re-presenting His sacrifice on Calvary. Vi thank God, and we do this by actually invoking christ to be strengthened by Him. To the next word.

3. “Remembrance…”

The greek word anamnesis is found amongst others in Plato (and we cannot totally rip a word from its historical context.) Let me quote from an article on St. Paul and Real Presence:

You’ll notice that in the passage quoted the word for begins [1 Corinthians 11:26] just after the phrase containing the term anamnesis. Verse 26 explains the meaning of doing this in memory. It says that anamnesis involves a proclamation of the Lord’s death in this act of consecration. But how does eating and drinking proclaim the Lord’s death as verse 26 says? Proclaiming a message usually involves preaching, teaching or speaking in some form. But recall the old saying that “actions speak louder than words.” I suggest that it is through anamnesis that the Lord’s death is proclaimed. The eucharistic actions of the Church proclaim the Lord’s death by making the Lord present to the worshiping community of faith. (…)

In Greek culture, anamnesis was a term used to denote the movement of an abstract idea into this material world. Plato, for example, used it as one of his key ideas. For him, knowledge was an act of anamnesis, or “remembering,” whereby the realities of the world of forms (ideas) came to people in this world. So, anamnesis meant more of a process in which something in another world came to be embodied in this physical world. (…)

The Corinthians lived in a Greek culture and it would have been natural for them to understand anamnesis as describing this transfer from the heavenly world to the material world. Even more importantly, if Jesus used Hebrew or Aramaic at the Last Supper, Paul (or whoever first translated the words of consecration into Greek) chose the term anamnesis. By doing so, he was allowing that anamnesis could have the meaning that Greek-speaking people associated with that term, namely, a transfer from the heavenly world to this earthly, material world. (…)

Remember that Paul was a Jewish Pharisee (cf. Phil. 3:5), and very possibly a rabbi (cf. Acts 22:2) before his conversion. All this means that when he used anamnesis, he may have used it with a Hebrew meaning as well as a Greek one. The Hebrew word for “memorial” is zikaron and it has a similar connotation to anamnesis in Greek culture. It is more than mental recollection. The celebration of the Passover was believed to involve a participation in the original exodus from Egypt. The purpose of this being an annual and perpetual event for the children of Israel was that every generation could experience the liberation from slavery that the first generation in Egypt had experienced. Thus, zikaron connotes a participation in an event of the past rather than simply a mental recollection of that event.[1]

Plato’s idea was that we remember, and in fact really invoke, the Forms, and this was taken a bit further by Aristotle. Aristotle thought that Plato was too dualistic. Aristotle stand right between (i) Plato’s hard realism, were material things doesn’t really exist, and (ii) a hard materialism, which denies the existence of anything immaterial. This aristotelian teaching, which distinguishes between form/essence and matter, is one of the back drops of Transubstantiation, which tells us that even though the matter or species is the same (bread and wine), the form or essence is changed (body and blood.) This is not just philosophical speculation, but a way of explaining how Christ could pick up a piece of bread and say; “This is My body.”

So, we can cay that in the Eucharist we invoke Christ in a concrete way, and we can therefor say that; “This is the body of Christ” and “This is the blood of Christ,” just like He said “This is My body.” He did not say; “This is an image of My body.”

I believe that the Reformation churches should double back on this, especially since they (claim to) follow Sola Scriptura, “Scripture alone.”

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”(Jesus, John 6:53-58)

Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?” When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you?” (…)

From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (John 6:60-61.66-69)

Notes & references:

1. Howell, Kenneth J., “Does Paul Teach the Real Presence of Christ?” (This Rock, Vol. 15, no. 2, 2004) (August 8th 2007)

God: beyond Logic?

I recommend this blog article from Tu Quoque; “Is God beyond Logic?”

I would also like to add a few thoughts.

The question which is answered in the post, is this:

My question involves an argument (debate) I’m having with a skeptical friend. He presented an argument I haven’t heard before, and I would like to hear your thoughts (even a hint would be nice). His argument is as follows:

“God is suprarational…that is, he exists above man’s logic. It is thus impossible to prove God exists with a weaker (or even if you want to give it equivalent) form of logic.”

First, I don’t think the conclusion follows. I’ve tried to find the hidden premise of the enthymeme, but I can’t seem to do it without using four terms. So from a logic standpoint, I’m having a hard time checking for validity. Assuming it is valid, what do you think of his first premise? I may be way off, but doesn’t his argument assume God exists in the first premise? Is that something I could use? Is there some material fallacy I’m missing here?

The first question one must ask; what does he mean by “God”? Does he mean the First Mover or any of the other characteristics in Thomas Aquinas’s Five Ways? Or does he mean the God of the Bible?

If he means the latter, than one could perhaps say that God is “beyone logic.” But the expression is misleading. Because every person is in some way or another “beyond logic.” I cannot find out who or what a person is simply by logic. As it says in the answer provided in the Tu Quoque blog;

Validity (based on argument forms), which logic can prove, is not equivalent to soundness (truth based on correspondence to reality), which logic cannot prove. An argument’s soundness comes from having valid form and true premises. But truth is dependant on a statement’s correspondence to reality – not its placement in an argument. So, in this sense, logic cannot prove ANYTHING – much less God.

So, God is “beyond logic,” but so am I, so am you, so is everybody. The question we must ask is not if God is logical, but if the premises leading to “the God conclusion” is true. I believe they are — or at least most of them. But it’s not logic’s job to determine that.