Truth demands our adherence, our conformity. There is no just, no correct argument against Truth, or therefore any just or correct way to act in contravention to Truth – indeed, no possible way, for there can be no way to enact a false or incoherent proposition. It might seem prima facie that it is possible to enact a falsehood. But not so. The only way we can possibly act is in a way that is in agreement with reality, and thus with Truth. We can certainly believe that we are enacting a proposition that is in fact false, and so shape our acts wrongly, as appropriate to circumstances that do not in fact obtain. Acts may err in their aims. But they must conform to reality, or they could not happen.
Theology encompasses metaphysics the way that the necessary concrete actuality of God encompasses and outpasses the mere abstract intellectual conception of God as that than which nothing greater may be conceived. Anselm’s Argument is where abstract metaphysical ratiocination entails the Act of a Being whose actuality makes metaphysics possible, ergo necessary.
Only if God exists actually can metaphysics be possible conceptually. Or, ergo, mathematics, or its application in physics.
The Moderns who insist that metaphysics is dead or impossible or obsolescent all argue from the basis of a metaphysical presupposition – a prejudice, and no more – that there is no God. If there is no God, then they are right. But if there is no God, nor therefore any metaphysics, then neither is there anything else, either; including materialist metaphysics, that boasts to abjure metaphysics altogether.
You can’t get any of the beings that are less than the most real being if you don’t first have the most real being. Take a set of beings; one of them is most real, the others all relatively less real. If the most real being is not real at all, then all the less real beings are even less real than “not real at all.” And the only way to be less real than what is not real at all, is to be in the first place inconceivable.
Theology, then, is the science of all science, the science in virtue of which any other science can know anything. If God is not actual, nothing else can be; if God is not intelligible, and knowable (at least in part, and in principle), then nor can anything else be either knowable or intelligible.
Wonder suffuses the practice of all science – drudgery, too, of course, but the drudgery is motivated by the wonder, which is the engine at the base of the whole project. Appropriately, it is at the far sublime edge of theology that science reaches the limit and culmination of wonder: worship.
What is necessary is necessarily eternal, but the eternal is not necessarily necessary.
Time – which is to say, congeries of contingent events, that are causally related and that therefore, together, constitute worlds, extensive continua along time, space, and myriad other dimensions – occurs in eternity. It occurs eternally (and only then, and only in virtue of its eternal occurrence, temporally), but not necessarily. It occurs freely. So likewise also for God’s Act.
Eternal acts can be free. They are not necessarily necessary. Some may also be temporal, such as this moment in your life, or the Incarnation.
Necessities comprise what Whitehead called the Primordial Nature of God, and Plato the Realm of the Forms: the Nature in virtue of which there is such a thing as order in the first place, the order of all order. The free eternal Act of God, and all its derivates in his knowledge, comprise what Whitehead called the Consequent Nature of God. Both these Natures are eternal, and indeed coterminous, in that together they characterize a single Act; so that they are sections of a single Nature. But of the two, only the Primordial Nature is necessary.
NB: God’s omniscient knowledge does not continge upon creaturely acts, but vice versa. It is only in virtue of his logically prior knowledge of creaturely acts that creatures may act in the first place.
Since we have a duty to teach our children the important truths, I’m rewriting some of my Orthosphere essays to make them more accessible to young readers. The rewrites will fill in more details, details that the typical Orthosphere reader already understands but which a young person might not know. The latest rewrite is of my essay on Pentecostalism, Strange Fire, and What’s Wrong—and What’s Right—With Pentecostalism.
In the rewrite, I add basic information about Pentecostalism’s beginnings, the distinction (increasingly irrelevant) between Pentecostalism and the newer Charismatic movement, on the basic claims of Pentecostalism, and the heterodoxy and heresy to which Pentecostalism is so susceptible.
To summarize my main point: Pentecostalism’s unique emphasis is on the alleged gifts of the Holy Spirit, especially speaking in tongues, miraculous power, and receiving new revelations from God. But although opponents of Pentecostalism generally focus on cessationism—the doctrine that the miraculous sign gifts ceased with the passing of the Apostles—the real error of Pentecostalism is something much more basic: taking its eyes off the Savior in a mad rush to partake of the thrill of alleged Holy Ghost power.
Commenting on a recent post about Beauty, Shenpen suggested that I had got terribly mixed up about the difference between the map – our feelings of beauty – and what’s really out there, which we feel is more or less beautiful. He said two quite disparate things, at and to make quite different points in his argument:
… what can [it even] possibly mean that beauty is objectively real? That a pretty flower objectively has the same physical properties we think it has?
… “beauty” is not even a property of things, but a property of sensations in our minds.
These two statements resonated together in my mind, after I had read and responded to his comment. Their conjunction got me started.
The only way that our apprehensions of beauty might not be illusory is if they are possibly true – if, that is to say, the beauty we apprehend in things is objectively real, regardless of our apprehensions, so that our apprehensions of it can then be either accurate, or not. But as only finitely scient, creatures cannot establish what is objectively real. They can establish, rather, only what is real to them in their partiality and incomprehension. They can establish, to put it plainly, only what is subjectively real. So it is beyond our powers to establish objective truths of any sort, such as mathematical truths. At most, we can discover them (this incapacity of ours to establish objective truths is but a department of our incapacity to create objects of any sort – to bring things into actual existence from nothingness). So then likewise also with beauty. We don’t establish it, but only apprehend it – or, fail thereat.
Panentheism is the notion that everything is in God. It defines itself in contradiction to pantheism. Nevertheless it is a controversial idea, not least because to some it rather smells of pantheism. But in fact it isn’t anything like pantheism. Furthermore, the idea that we live and move and have being in God (Acts 17:28) is perfectly orthodox:
God is in all things; not, indeed, as part of their essence, nor as an accident; but as an agent is present to that upon which it works. For an agent must be joined to that wherein it acts immediately, and touch it by its virtue … therefore as long as a thing has being,, God must be present to it according to its mode of being. But being is innermost in each thing and most fundamentally inherent in all things since it is formal in respect of everything found in a thing … Hence it must be that God is in all things, and innermostly.
… Although corporeal things are said to be in another as in that which contains them, nevertheless, spiritual things contain those things in which they are; as the soul contains the body. Hence also God is in things containing them; nevertheless, by a certain similitude to corporeal things, it is said that all things are in God; inasmuch as they are contained by Him.
– Summa Theologica 1.8.1
Why does God forgive our sins? Why doesn’t he hold them against us? Why, indeed, has he paid for them himself?
Well, he’s omniscient. So he knows why we sin. Furthermore, he knows full well that we don’t know why we sin, or even (often) that we do sin. He said so from the very cross where he hung in the agony of his forgiving.* Having shared in it, he knows our weakness.
The real question, then, is not why God in his infinite goodness and mercy, his boundless compassion and sympathy, his perfect comprehension of our predicaments, forgives us who are so confused even about the springs of our own acts (let alone his). How could it be otherwise, with such a being? No, the question is why we sin. Continue reading
This essay follows a previous one on the relation of education to faith; it is the second of three essays intended to critique the prevailing modern worldview of the West’s ubiquitous liberal regime by demonstrating the narrowness and insipidity of liberal views. I argued in “The Structure of Education is the Structure of Faith” in favor of several pre-modern ways of viewing education. I rehearse that gesture again, this time in respect of the prevailing modern sense of the encompassing reality in the context of which people must live their lives. A third essay, following this one, will deal with memory considered as an institution.
From Juan Donoso Cortes’ Essay on Catholicism, Liberalism, and Socialism:
Reason, which revolts against the transmission of sin or of penalty, yet receives what is transmitted to us without repugnance, notwithstanding the sorrow which accompanies it, if in place of being designated as sin and penalty it is called inevitable misfortune. It is not, however, difficult clearly to prove that this misfortune could not be changed into happiness, except with the condition of its being a penalty, from which we necessarily conclude that the rationalistic solution in its definitive results is less acceptable than the Catholic solution.
If our actual depravity is only a physical and necessary effect of the primitive corruption, and the effect must last so long as the cause remains, it is evident that since there is no means whatever of removing the cause, neither can there be any by which the effect may be prevented.
…For it is worthy of remark, and in opposition to what at first sight would appear, that it is not justice but mercy which is especially conspicuous in that solemn condemnation which immediately followed the commission of sin. If God had refrained from intervening with this condemnation when this tremendous catastrophe occurred, if when He saw man separated from Him He had withdrawn Himself from man, and entering into the tranquility of His repose had no longer vouchsafed to think of man, or, to express all in one word, if God in place of condemning man had abandoned him to the inevitable consequences of his voluntary disunion and separation, then the fall of man would have been hopeless, and his perdition certain. But in order that this disaster might be repaired, it became necessary for God to draw near to man in another way, uniting Himself to him anew, though imperfectly, by the ties of mercy. Punishment was the new bond of union between the Creator and the creature, and in it mercy and justice were mysteriously joined, mercy being the connecting link, and justice vindicated in the penalty assigned.
If we cease to view suffering and sorrow in the light of a penalty, we not only deprive them of their power to reunite the Creator and the creature, but we also destroy their expiatory and purifying effect on man. If grief is not a penalty, it is an unmitigated evil; if it is a penalty, it still remains an evil through its origin, sin; but it is also a great good, on account of its freeing from the defilement of sin. The universality of sin renders necessary the universality of purification, in order that all mankind may be cleansed in its mysterious waters.
…Regard the Earth throughout its length and breadth, consider all that surrounds you, annihilate space and time, and you will find among the abodes of men only what you here behold–a grief without intermission, and a lamentation which never ceases. But this grief freely accepted is the measure of all greatness; for there can be no greatness without sacrifice, and sacrifice is only grief voluntarily accepted. The world calls those persons heroic who, transpierced with a sword of grief, freely accept their suffering. The Church calls holy those who accept every grief, both the the spirit and of the flesh…
Mankind has unanimously recognized a sanctifying virtue in grief. This is why, though the ages, in every zone, man has rendered homage and worship to great misfortune. Oedipus is greater in the day of his calamity than in the days of his glory…