Good Friday

What can it mean to say that God the Son of God died this afternoon?

Non-being is strictly incoherent. We can indicate it, but only as we might indicate a square triangle. When we refer to non-being, there’s nothing actually there to which we might be referring. There is nothing we can say about non-being, except that there is absolutely nothing we can say about it; for there is nothing to it, about which we could say anything. It’s not quite correct to say that it has no properties or characteristics, because it isn’t an item in the first place. It has no ontic hooks upon which properties or characteristics might be hung.

So it isn’t conceivable. It cannot be brought to mind. And this is not a limitation only of our finite creaturely intellects, but of logic: for there is nothing in non-being that any conceivable intellect could bring to mind. Not even God can imagine what non-being is like. Certainly, then, non-being is not possible.

Since non-being is impossible, it is necessary that something exist. Thus in the state of affairs prior to the existence of any and all contingent things, there necessarily exists a necessary being. [When I began to write this post, I didn’t set out intending to stumble upon an argument for the existence of God; but one thing I have learned about metaphysical reasoning is that it almost always ends up entailing the existence of God].

And once a being exists, it cannot somehow un-exist. It can stop becoming, stop recurring, so that it no longer perdures. But it cannot go on from being to achieve non-being. Facts are everlasting, and immutable. And God is a fact. As we have just seen, you can’t get a state of affairs in which there is no God.

So God can’t die, properly speaking. What, then, again, can it mean to say that God the Son of God died on Calvary?

Continue reading

Maundy Thursday

God could have eliminated the stain of Original Sin from our world altogether. He could speak a single Word of power and wipe it out. Why didn’t he? Why instead did he become a man and suffer death? Why did he then put us through the perils of this life?

It’s simple: the only way he could have wiped out sin is to unmake the world as we now find it.

Continue reading

Queen of Heaven: a Working Hypothesis

God willing, I shall be confirmed a Catholic at the Vigil of Easter. In preparation since September, I have (among other things) read and studied the Catechism. It’s been edifying to have the Faith completely spelled out, at least in outline. I’ve learned that as a traditional Anglican, the orthodox theology to which I have long adhered is thoroughly Catholic – at least with respect to those doctrines of the Faith that I had yet tried to understand.

One domain of doctrine I had not ever much thought about or understood concerns Mary. Anglicans venerate Mary, of course, but are not as fascinated with her as Catholics. So I’ve been studying up a bit on Mary. I’ve not been concerned so much with this or that controversial Marian dogma, as with far more general questions of how we ought to think about her – e.g., what is her function in the plan of salvation, what is her status in the economy of Heaven (including this little cosmos), and so forth. I figured that if I understood that, then the rest of Mariology would fall into place without too much fuss.

Continue reading

Chris Rosebrough’s Testimony: How the Biblical Gospel Set Him Free

(Original title: Grace vs. Law: How to Make Sense of the Contradiction)

 Introduction

Why do many people reject Christianity? I believe the root cause could be called “fear of the Law.” Everyone knows that God makes demands on us, for morality is “hardwired” into our souls. The sum total of the behavior that God requires of us, written in Scripture, is commonly called the law. But man also knows that he does not keep the law, and this knowledge haunts him.

Christians know that God has solved the problem by providing salvation for us through the work of Jesus Christ. And yet not all professing Christians are aware of this solution, for man does not naturally understand or accept the gospel, which is both the complement and the antithesis of law. While law is what God requires us to do, gospel is what God, in Christ, has done for us: atone for our sins through the death of Christ. Since the gospel, unlike the law, is not something that man naturally understands, all non-Christians—and many professing Christians—view the law as the essence of religion. Some therefore love religion, and some therefore hate it, but all such people misunderstand Christianity.

Continue reading

Immaterialist Reductionism

Materialist reductionism runs into all sorts of problems explaining such things as organisms on the basis of the properties of their constituent parts. This happens because materialism gets the direction of reduction wrong. A whole can account for the properties of its parts, but not vice versa. E.g.: a complete account of a salt molecule must include a full specification of the properties of its sodium atom; but a complete account of a solitary sodium atom cannot include a full specification of the properties of a salt molecule.

It’s not the tiniest conceivable parts that are basic, but the largest conceivable whole. The parts of reality supervene upon the whole of reality.

So reduction can work – if reality is causally coherent, it must – but only if, at least in principle, we reduce all things ultimately to God.

The Abomination of Desolation of the Marital Altar

The Eucharist is a participation in the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. But then likewise a true wedding is a participation in the Sacrifice at Golgotha.[1] The bed of marriage is properly an altar, where bride and groom offer their lives in a total sacrifice, joining and thereby engendering a new and larger organism.

When Paul says, “I beseech ye, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies, a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” [Romans 12:1], he refers to the whole and perfectly general motion of the Christian toward his Savior and Lord, howsoever expressed: whether in priesthood, or martyry, or marriage – or at Mass.

The rites of the altar – the bed, the table, the throne – are the basis of society: “Wherever an altar is found, there civilization exists.” And, vice versa: where there is no altar, there is no civilization; no cult, no culture; no culture, no polis.

Continue reading

Sacraments: A Simple Explanation for Children

Well, for young people, anyway. In what follows, I visualized my daughter at about age 16.

Daughter:       Daddy? Can I ask you a question?

Father:            Sure, sweetie pea. What is it?

Daughter:       Well, you know the Baptism at Church this morning?

Father:            Yeah. That was a cute baby. Too bad about his mother’s dress. Good thing that baby spit up is such good clean stuff; it almost always comes out pretty well.

Daughter:       Yeah. I thought she handled it fairly well. I like Baptisms. Something always goes wrong, but they always turn out well in the end. They make everyone in the congregation so happy. And it’s not just because people like babies, although that’s part of it. I mean, it’s that plus the fact that they are always a bit spooky, even when the baby cries or the godparents don’t get the words right. Especially the bit about the baby joining in Christ’s eternal priesthood.

Father:            I love that part! It’s always so amazing to me; as if I can see a whole everlasting adventure, a mighty kingship in Heaven, exploding out into the future from such a tiny little body, with no end or limit. And it always reminds me of my own eternal priesthood, too.

Daughter:       Well, that’s what I wanted to ask you about.

Father:            What do you mean?

Daughter:       Well, how does the Baptism work? I mean, how do the water and the words make me a priestess? How do they change me, or make me immortal? I mean, I don’t even remember my Baptism.

Continue reading

The Scandal of Theism

Compared to the proposition that God exists, all other propositions pale to insignificance. If God does not exist, then contingent things have no ultimate cause, and cannot therefore be either ultimately rational, or thus amenable to reason; so that no questions whatever can really be finally answered. If atheism is true, there is no truth (so that nothing truly matters, and we may do as we like).

Which means that, as self-refuting, atheism is necessarily false.

Continue reading

Things you can’t ask about symbols: False resolutions

Please excuse me while I argue with myself.

1. The Bible was written for the simple people of that time and used images and metaphors because that’s what people could understand.  We’re smarter, so we can discard that now.

You’re no smarter than the people who first listened to Moses.  If they needed images and metaphors, you need them too.

2. It’s all lies!  Silly fables!  Let’s just have done with it.

Even if this weren’t the word of God we’re talking about, that would be a silly thing to say.  Sure, it seems next to impossible that all the world’s animals really descend from those on the Ark.  Still, a story like the Flood, shared by peoples all over the world, has got to be more than just the product of some random storyteller’s imagination.  Perhaps there was some event that all peoples vaguely remember.  My suspicion is that every legend has some basis in fact.  But even if you don’t believe this, it’s pretty remarkable that this story is so widely shared.  If we assume nothing like what it describes ever happened, then it means either that lots of peoples independently keep recreating this story, or else this story has some sort of special appeal that it transmits quickly from people to people, even when they’re not much interested in other aspects of each others’ culture.  Either way, we have the sense that this story is some kind of given, an archetype not manufactured but discovered, a truth of the human imagination if not of natural history.  It is certainly worth getting to the bottom of.

3. It’s all well and good to say that Genesis is really giving us symbols of spiritual truths, but to be credible as anything but face-saving in the face of scientific disproof, you’d better be able to say exactly what the symbolism is, and why it had to be related in this way rather than plainly and literally.

If I could tell you exactly what the symbols say, then there wouldn’t have been any need for them, and they would ipso facto not have been necessary.  Symbols are not code for literal propositions; they exist to express truths and connections that can’t be expressed with literal propositions.

4. But the only reason you’re looking to chuck the literal–in the modern sense of that word–meaning is that you’re embarrassed by it.  The authority of the Bible doesn’t lead you to these weird interpretations, just the fact that you don’t believe what the Bible is telling you.  That means that, whatever you may tell yourself, there actually are authorities that trump the Bible for you.  Why not be honest with yourself?  If you can’t salvage your faith, at least preserve your honesty.

That’s mean.  Especially since I’ve already expressed my hunch that there is some historical kernel to all of this.  I don’t pretend to have any general principles to offer, but a guideline is to notice when scripture is expressing the inexpressible.  For example, Genesis begins with God about to impose form on the Earth, and the chaos of formlessness is represented (as it is for pretty much all peoples) by the primordial waters.  Now, in reality, formlessness is one thing that the human mind can’t truly conceive, because the way to think about anything is precisely to extract the form.  All our ideas about space, time, mass, and energy are formal aspects of material being.  And even after God forms the world, the primordial waters remain as a sign of whatever lies beyond the realm of intelligibility, a beyond about which, by its very “nature”, we can say nothing direct.  I suspect that all peoples retain this intuition that beyond the realm of order is a vast chaos, not a mere absence of being, but something active, always ready to crash in on the ordered realm, dissolving form and identity, destroying and renewing.  Thus the resonance of the story of the Ark, since indeed the ordered realm is conceived as itself a sort of Ark surrounded by the primordial waters.

Could it be true, that some physical, psychological, or social force of chaos once overwhelmed humanity?  If so, it could only properly be remembered by myth.

Repost: No Evidence for God?

To piggyback on Bonald’s post below:

At his blog, our Proph recently reposted an item that linked to an essay of mine at the old Intellectual Conservative. Since the old IC was taken down by evil leftist (but I’m redundant) hackers, Proph’s link to my essay is dead. So here is my old IC essay.  Its basic thrust: When atheists claim there is no evidence for God, they are assuming atheism at the beginning, looking at life through atheist-colored glasses, and then seeing nothing but atheism. They are being supremely illogical.

 No Evidence for God?

Atheism now has a confession of faith. Christians say “Jesus is Lord.” Moslems say “There is no God but Allah.” And English-speaking atheists now say “There is no evidence for God.” But are they correct? Continue reading