Tuesday, June 29, 2010

First Century Christian Worship

I wrote a blog post and recorded a 27 minute lecture on the topic of Christian Worship in the First Century over at CTC.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Understanding the Angelic World

We (men) are animals, like the brutes, but we have a rational form, like the angels. Yet we are not angels trapped inside animal flesh, nor are we "spiritualized brutes."

We can understand the animal world, though not exhaustively. But how can we understand the angelic world? When most of us consider the angelic world, the resulting vision is a mish-mash of spiritualized non-sense. We have fond thoughts towards the angels, (they're cool right?) but we really don't have a grasp on what the angelic world is like.

Our attempt to understand the angelic world is something like a cow trying to understand the human world. A cow has frequent interactions with humans. The cow "sees" us... but not really. He sees an oddly shaped cow that makes strange noises I guess. He cannot comprehend our world. I think it must be something like that with the angels. We "see" them (that is, we see their effects) but we comprehend the angelic world about as well as a cow comprehends the human world.

A dog might live in New York City, surrounded by all the complexities of millions of rational beings doing things that are far too grand for the canine to grasp. But the height of his intellectual ambition is to find something to chew. Despite such proximity to the human world, he has no comprehension of what's happening all around him.

We are surrounded by an angelic world that is more complex that we can comprehend. And despite our proximity to such grandeur, the height of our intellectual ambition is to acquire the next thing that will bring us temporal pleasure.

Imagine if a dog was miraculously given the capacity to understand the human world. Imagine his reaction. I think if we were given the capacity to understand the angelic world - it would be something like that.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Short Video on Ecclesiology

This is a short video I made to demonstrate the inherent circularity of Protestant ecclesiology.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Two Reformed Announce Conversion on the Same Day

The Tiber is getting crowded: Christopher Lake announced his decision to revert to the Catholic Church after years as a Reformed Baptist here.

David Meyer wrote a letter to his PCA church explaining why he was converting to the Catholic Church here.

Special Bonus: Here's another convert's website that I stumbled upon from the comments on David's site. Visit Aquinas, etc.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Why are there Prohibitions Against Covetousness?

Catholics, following St. Augustine, differentiate between coveting a neighbor’s wife and between coveting a neighbor’s goods. Protestants follow Judaism and Origen in combining both types of covetousness into the tenth commandment, “Thou shalt not covet.” Now the species of a sin is defined by its object (Summa 2a.72.1) just as an action takes its species from its end (Summa 2a.72.3.r2). What does it mean for an action to “take its species from its end”? It means that one act differs specifically from another in respect to the end (goal) of the action. In the same way, one sin is specifically different from another if it has a different end. Consider this example. The species of an act whereby a doctor desires to heal a man in surgery and accidentally severs a vital artery is distinct from the species of an act whereby a man desires to kill a man and does so by severing a vital artery. These two acts differ specifically because they had different ends although the same thing happened in both acts.

Like all sins, the species of covetousness takes its act from its object, but not all objects are the same. Desiring a man’s material possessions is a distinct sin from desiring his wife because the object differsin kind. Consent to the former leads to theft, but consent to the latter leads to the greater, and specifically distinct, sin of adultery. Therefore, Sts. Augustine and Aquinas are correct in apprehending that there are two specifically distinct sins of covetousness forbidden in the Decalogue.

St. Thomas Aquinas raises an interesting objection as to whether there should be prohibitions against covetousness:

Further, murder is a more grievous sin than adultery or theft. But there is no precept forbidding the desire of murder. Therefore neither was it fitting to have precepts forbidding the desire of theft and of adultery. (Summa 2b.122.6.o4)

To which he replies:

Murder in itself is an object not of concupiscence but of horror, since it has not in itself the aspect of good. On the other hand, adultery has the aspect of a certain kind of good, i.e. of something pleasurable, and theft has an aspect of good, i.e. of something useful: and good of its very nature has the aspect of something concupiscible. Hence the concupiscence of theft and adultery had to be forbidden by special precepts, but not the concupiscence of murder. (Summa 2b.122.6.r4)

All men desire good, and every deliberate act is an act towards acquiring some good (real or perceived). Man’s pursuit of a particular good is moved by the concupiscible appetite. The object of concupiscence is a pleasurable good. Protestants generally believe that concupiscence is simply our proclivity to sin. But St. Thomas argues that there are different types of concupiscence. Some concupiscences are natural (called irrational) and some are unnatural (called rational). The natural concupiscences are called irrational because they are common to animals and men, but the unnatural concupiscences are called rational because they are proper only to rational beings. (Summa 2a.30)

Natural concupiscence leads a man (or an animal) to seek things because they are suitable to one’s nature (like food and drink). These things, because they are suitable to nature, are pleasurable. Thus, natural concupiscence does not lead to sin. The unnatural concupiscence is what leads a man to seek a thing because he apprehends it “as good and suitable, and consequently takes pleasure in it.” (Ibid., article 3)

It is an unnatural concupiscence which leads a man to covet either another man’s material objects or another man’s wife. He perceives (by coveting) that he will have pleasure in theft or in adultery. But neither of these are suitable to his nature (as are food or drink for example). So they are not driven by natural concupiscence. Therefore the sins of theft and adultery arise from unnatural concupiscence. In the case of covetousness, a man seeks the pleasure of a good rather than a good suitable to nature which is pleasurable for that reason.

St. Thomas explains that, while murder is a greater evil than adultery or theft, murder itself is not an object of concupiscence. No one can desire the “pleasurable good” of murder because murder is not a pleasurable good. Now adultery is not a good and neither is theft. But in both cases, there is “an aspect of a certain kind of good.” The aspects he refers to are sex and acquisition of material goods respectively. Both of these are aspects of a certain kind of good but killing a man does not have such an aspect of good.

The significance of the prohibitions against covetousness is the condemnation of unnatural concupiscence. This principle is foundational for many other precepts and doctrines; some of which have been abandoned by most non-Catholic traditions. It is a divine precept that underlies the prohibition of covetousness: you shall not seek mutable goods merely for the sake of pleasure. Rather, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind;” (Lk 10:27) and “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Mt 6:33)

This post originally appeared at Called to Communion.

Friday, June 04, 2010

St. Augustine on Discovering Truth

We make judgments about corporeal objects because they are below us, and we say not only that they are or are not this way, but also that they ought to be this way or ought not to be… We make these judgments according to the inner rules of truth which we perceive in common. But no one makes judgments about the rules themselves. When a man says that the eternal is more powerful than the temporal, and that seven plus three are ten, he does not say that it ought to be so; he knows it is this way, and does not correct it as an examiner would, but he rejoices as if he has made a discovery. (St. Augustine On Free Choice of the Will, 2.12)
This is something similar to the discovery of the Catholic Church as opposed to the judgments one makes, as a Protestant, of any given Protestant community. A Catholic cannot judge even a local Church as if it were something below him in nature. The local Church is the particular as the Catholic Church is the universal in the same way that a man is particular and mankind is universal. The local Church is catholic (‘of the whole’) and is therefore above the Catholic man.

Now I’ve never met a Protestant who would say “First Presbyterian Church is below me,” but then we don’t usually go around saying “this block of wood is below me.” It is our actions and our judgments that show that we believe the block to be below us. We judge that the block is square…fair enough. But then we judge that it ought to be shaped like a car, and we carve it until it conforms to our judgment. Likewise, by judging what the “Church” ought to be [in conformity with one's personal interpretation of the Scriptures] the Protestant shows that he places the Church below him as if it were a natural thing.

In contrast, the Catholic apprehends the Church as supernatural and therefore above him. We do not only say that we believe the Church is above us, we demonstrate this by rejoicing in the discovery of the Church just as one rejoices in discovering any truth. The mathematician rejoices at discovering mathematical rules, not at conforming them to his own judgment. He knows he can’t do such a thing because the rules of math are above him. Likewise, the theologian knows that God’s truth is above him, and he rejoices when he discovers the Church which is “the pillar and foundation of truth.” (1 Tim 3:15)

Later in the same work St. Augustine says, “In accordance with the truth, we make judgments about our minds, yet we cannot make judgments about the truth.” Likewise, the Catholic judges his mind according to the Church. He does not seek to find a Church that conforms with his judgment, neither does he try to conform the Church to his judgment. He seeks to conform his judgment to the Church just as he seeks to conform his mind to the truth.

This was originally posted at Called to Communion.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Studies in Reformation History Led Dr. Anders to the Catholic Church

Dr. Anders, who earned a doctorate in Reformation history, shares how John Calvin made him a Catholic over at Called to Communion. Interesting story! Dr. Anders has appeared on the Journey Home show with Marcus Grodi and is scheduled to appear on EWTN live June 23rd, 7:00 pm Central.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Podcast on Holy Orders

If my article on Holy Orders and the Sacrificial Priesthood was too long to read, here's the Reader's Digest version via podcast. Tom Riello interviewed me on the topic of Holy Orders for Called to Communion's latest podcast.