Category: Theology


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.

The second death

Rev. 20:11-14: Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And he dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.

When discussing the doctrine of Hell, there are two misconceptions that often pops up. The first is that place is some “torture chamber” that God sends people away to, and the second, commopnly held by seventh day adventists, that the damned are utterly destroyed and annihilated.

I will take a look at each of these; (i) that God sends people to Hell, and (ii) that Hell is total annihilation.

1. God sends people away to hell.

The Bible uses a lot of different images to describe Hell. It’s interesting that it uses two images that in fact excludes one another: Jesus says that there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” But in Matt. 8:12 this happens in the “outher darkness,” while in Matt. 13:42 it happens in “the fiery furnace.”

Pope John Paul II described Heaven as the “Fullness of Communion with God.” And he said that “[r]ather than a place, hell indicates the state of those who freely and definitively separate themselves from God, the source of all life and joy.”[1]

We could also use an image from The Return of the King, the third volume of the The Lord of the Rings saga. Gandalf talks about what is likely to happen to Sauron if the One Ring is destroyed:

For he will lose the best part of the strength that was native to him in his beginning, and all that was made or begun with that power will crumble, and he will be maimed for ever, becoming a mere spirit of malice that gnaws itself in the shadows, but cannot again grow or take shape.[2]

But there is one thing that people draw from this that I believe is wrong; that two be outside the “Fullness of Communion with God” is not in the presence of God. People often quote 2. Thess. 1:9. In the NIV, which is one of the most used translations, the verse says that the damned “will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power.” Does the Greek text say anything about the damned being “shut out from the presence of the Lord”? No, a literal translation of this verse tells us that the damned will “be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (as it says in the NKJV, emphasis added.)

In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, Heaven and Hell is not different “places,” but the attitude we have towards God, Truth and Love, the state of one’s Heart. Christ in fact tells us that “the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21, NKJV) I believe the same thing to be true about Hell. In the afterlife, everyone will be in the presence of God, because God in omnipresent, and that this will be a torment to unrepented sinners, and bliss for those pure of heart. It’s not God who torments us, but our evil and sin who hates the presence of God and Truth. The text quoted in the beginning of this article, it says that both the damned and the saved are placed in the presence of the Throne when the books are opened. I believe that these books are images of our hearts. God opens our hearts, and what is revealed there — love or hatred of God — tells us how our afterlife will be.

When we will “see” God in Heaven (1. John 3:2), we will “see” Him with our “inner eye,” in the same way we “see” those we love. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matt. 5:8, ESV)

2. Hell is total annihilation.

No place in the Bible does it say this, but there are in fact a philosophical difficulty with this. If God grants us free will, he also grants us the possibility to reject him for ever (which is in fact the definition of hell.) But if Hell is the total annihilation of the person damned, then one cannot freely deny God for eternity, but only for the finite time one is alive on earth.

Notes & references:

1. Pope John Paul II, “Heaven, Hell and Purgatory” (Three Wednesday Audiences) (August 11th 2007)

2. Tolkien, J.R.R., The Return of the King (Unwin Paperbacks, 3rd ed., 1979), p. 185

Technology and the Fall

In C. S. Lewis for the Third Millenium, a six part analysis of C.S. Lewis’s remarkable book The Abolition of Man, Peter Kreeft points out two major problems in our new society; the downfall of moral knowledge and the increase of technical knowledge. The latter is not bad in and of itself, but its badness is connected to the first. Kreeft points out that the “most radically new feature of our civilization is not technology, its newly powerful means, but the lack of a summum bonum, an end.”[1] In ancient times, the summum bonum (lat., “good end,” or “the highest good”) was (and it still is [or should still be]) happiness; eudaimonia or makarios in Greek.

Aristotle in facts points out in the first lines of the Nicomachean Ethics, that

“[e]very art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and pursuit, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been decleared to be that at which all things aim.”[2]

We all aim at the good, and this Aristotle calls happiness. But for him — and for most ancients over all — happiness is not really about luck or chance, ecen though Aristotle admits that they play a minor role in a happy life.

The greek word makarios, for instance, really means “blessedness” or “blessed.” It is used in Matt. 5:3-11. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (v. 3)[3] “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

The greek word eudaimonia is also interesting, but it needs more study. The word is a combination of three different words, eu, meaning “good,” daimon, meaning “spirit,” and ia, meaning a lasting state. Thus, in oder to be happy, you must be good, morally good and you have to be spiritually good, good within, not just “on the outside.” And the last word indicates that this should be lasting. Thus, you are not a happy man if you just happens to be feel good a day, but miserable the next.

And this happiness is what is our goal, our purpose, our telos.[4] Alasdair MacIntyre points out the importance of this telos, end or summum bonum in ethics:

Within [the] teleological scheme there is a fundamental contrast between man-as-he-happens-to-be and man-as-he-could-be-if-he-realized-his-essential-nature. Ethics is the science which is to enable men to understand how they make the transition from the former state to the latter. Ethics therefore in this view presupposes some account of potentiality and act, some account of the essence of man as a rational animal and above all some account of the human telos.[5]

But how thos this relate to the Fall (in Genesis)? To explain futher, I must point to a major part of Aristotle’s theory of knowledge. According to him, there are fundamentally three reasons to pursue knowledge (but many things come under these three); (i) to know truth for truth’s own sake (what we could call “wisdom”), (ii) to know how to be as a human being, how to act morally, and (iii) technical knowledge, know-how, craft. The problem we are facing today lies in the turning upside down of this hierarchy, where technique rules truth. And we can show this through the story in Genesis 3. It starts out by describing the serpent: “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.” (Gen. 3:1, emphasis added) In the KJV it says that he “was more subtil,” while others use “cunning.” I believe that “crafty” is the best translation, because it shows exactly what the Fall was all about: it was about turning things, upside down, distorting what God had made and deemed “very good.” (Gen. 1:30)

Many have pointed out that God is evil, because he doesn’t want us to gain ethical or practical knowledge. But that is not true. The point is that our practical knowledge, just like our will, conforms to what is above it. Thus, if a man is right side up, his will conforms to his reason.[6] But if we turn things upside down, if we let technical knowledge be on top, than our moral knowledge will not conform to truth, or to our knowledge of it, but to our technical knowledge, and thus good morality becomes pragmatism and utilitarianism.

C.S. Lewis points out this problem, by comparing the ancient and modern (baconian) view on the relationship between truth and technique:

There is something which unites magic and applied science while separating both from the wisdom of earlier ages. For the wise men of old the cardinal problem had been how to conform the soul to reality, and the solution had been knowledge, self-discipline, and virtue. For magic and applied science alike the problem is how to subdue reality to the wishes of men: the solution is a technique.[8]

The point of the Fall story in Genesis is to show us that we should conform to what God has made and deemed good, and not distort it. We should of course seek excellence in technical progress, but that progress should conform to morality (we shouldn’t use our technical immorally), and our morality should conform to truth, to God.

Solomon said that “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” (Proverbs 9.10) This is further explored in the Book of Wisdom (written, according to tradition, by Solomon[9]):

“For Wisdom begins with the sincere desire for instruction, care for instruction means loving her [Wisdom], loving her means keeping her laws, attention to her laws guarantees incorruptibility, and incorruptibility brings us near to God; the desire for Wisdom thus leads to sovereignty. If then thrones and sceptres delight you, monarchs of the nation, honour Wisdom, so that you may reign for ever.” (Wisd. 6:17-21, NJB)[10]

This is written to kings, as indicatec by vv. 19-21, but it can easily be “internalized.” If we have wisdom, our reason will be the King, reigning for ever, through the will, its “executive officer.”

Notes & references:

1. Kreeft, Peter, C. S. Lewis for the Third Millenium (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1993), p. 46

2. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics. Translated by W.D. Ross (Kitchener: Batoche Books, 1999) http://socserv.mcmaster.ca/econ/ugcm/3ll3/aristotle/Ethics.pdf (24.07.2007), p. 3

3. If not otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version, ESV. The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (Crossway Bibles, 2001.) I got this through The SWORD Project (http://www.crosswire.org/sword/), and use it in my MacSword computer bible (http://www.macsword.com)

4. Telos is greek for “end” or “goal.”

5. Macintyre, Alasdair, After Virtue: a study in moral theory. Second Edition (London: Duckworth, 1985; 1st ed., 1981), p. 52

6. According to Thomas Aquinas, the humans soul have five faculties; (i) reason, (ii) will, (iii) the ability to sense and perceive (sense-perception), (iv) instincts, and (v) urges. He calles the will appetitus rationalis, the “rational appetite.” It conforms to reason.

7. Lewis, C.S., The Abolition of Man (Lewis, 1944, 1947, HaperSanFrancisco, 2001), pp. 77

8. In The New Jerusalem Bible it says:

The author is supposed to be Solomon who, though not named, is clearly indicated in 9:7.8,12, and the book is called Wisdom of Solomon in Greek. The author writes as though he were king, 7:5; 8:9-15, addressing his fellow kings, 1:1, 6:1-11,12. It is evident, however, that this is a literary device; as with Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs, this Wisdom book is published under the nominal patronage of Israel’s greatest sage. And indeed the entire book was written in Greek (including the first section, ch. 1.5, wrongly supposed by some scholars to have been originally written in Hebrew). The unity of authorship is apparent in the closely knit composition of the book and also in the consistency of a literary style which is supple and expressive and, when need arises, rhetorical.

[The New Jerusalem Bible (Study ed., paperback (Darton, Longman & Todd, ltd., 1985, 1994), p. 1042]

9. The NJB is the The New Jerusalem Bible. See note 8.

“If the end of the world appeared in all the literal trappings of the Apocalypse, if the modern materialist saw with his own eyes the heavens rolled up and the great white throne appearing, if he had the sensation of being himself hurled into the Lake of Fire, he would continue forever, in that lake itself, to regard his experience as an illusion and to find the explanation of it in psycho-analysis, or cerebral pathology. Experience by itself proves nothing. If a man doubts whether he is dreaming or waking, no experiment can solve this doubt, since every experiment may itself be part of the dream. Experience proves this, or that, or nothing, according to the preconceptions we bring to it.”

— C.S. Lewis, “Miracles” (1942)[1]

Although Lewis’s point is clearly hyperbolic, he has a very good point. When we experience things, we always interpret it through our preconceptions. Let me give an example. When discussing with a friend some time ago, the discussion went into materialism and theism. My friend, an agnostic, pointed to a certain experiment (I have not found out anything more than what he said) where a number of people where asked to rest their hand on a table and randomly — within one minute — lift one of their fingers (I can’t remember which). The interesting thing, was that a split second before the people lifted their fingers, the brain told the nerves and muscles to get ready. My friend said that this was proof that we have no free will, and that everything is predetermined. But how can this “prove” this? Let’s see how we can interpret this with either precondition a (naturalism) or precondition b (theism).[2]

A: This shows us that the brain is predetermined, and when we think that we rule ourselves, we really don’t.
B: This shows us that the soul, which is incorporeal, but which is connected to the body — and of course, the brain — as its form. In other words, when we think that we rule ourself, we really do.

The question then, is not what experience tells us — even though all reasoning starts with the senses — but which precondition is true, or the most probable. I will not write about that just now, but I would want people to ponder that noone is absolutely objective when it comes to experience.

Notes & references:

1. Lewis, C.S., “Miracles” in God in The Dock: Essays on Theology. Edited by Walter Hooper (London: G.Bles, 1971/Fount Paperbacks, 1979), pp. 11-12

2. By “theism” I mean a religious approach, allowing for man to have some sort of soul.