Archive for March, 2009


The “you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me” news story of the day:

Idaho Teacher Sells Advertising Space on Tests


Thomistic Distinctions

The medieval canon lawyers placed the natural law in divine revelation as testified to in the two Testaments of Scripture. Thomas Aquinas, while not denying the position of the canonists, placed the natural law in creation itself. Aquinas distinguishes between the divine law found in Holy Scripture, and the natural law found in creation. This distinction is an important one. By placing the natural law in Scripture, its reach is limited to a particular time and place. However, if the natural law is placed within creation itself, this particular imprint of God on the human person is and has been available to the whole human race in every age.

Note, then, that whereas for the canonists the Scriptures are the first location of the natural law, for Thomas, of course, without denying the ultimate origin of the ius naturale in God, the order of nature has been distinguished from revelation, and, so far as we are concerned, is the first locus of the natural law. We might say that the canonists’ conception was more dominantly theological or undifferentiated, and in this sense we can see that Thomas’s view allows for a universe in which a natural order has sufficient integrity to be read by man without immediate recourse to revelation.

Far from unlinking natural law from the God of revelation, however, Thomas’s distinction between divine law and the natural law brings to full articulation an idea that had long been developing, namely that the path to holiness revealed in Scripture is not a positivistic decree only fideists can accept, but has a purchase on the inner rational structure of human nature. Thomas’s account of the relation between natural and divine law, it seems to me, reveals its deepest meaning when read against the background of his doctrine, rediscovered in our day by Henri de Lubac, that nature, as such, desires a fullness that it can attain only within the context of gracious elevation to the visio beatifica.

— Glenn W. Olsen, “Natural Law: The First Grace,” Communio XXXV (Fall 2008)

Poetry for Vespers

To Heaven

Good and great God, can I not think of Thee
But it must straight my melancholy be?
Is it interpreted in me disease
That, laden with my sins, I seek for ease?
O, be Thou witness, that the reins dost know
And hearts of all, if I be sad for show,
And judge me after; if I dare pretend
To aught but grace or aim at other end.
As Thou art all, so be Thou all to me,
First, midst, and last, converted One, and Three!
My faith, my hope, my love; and in this state
My judge, my witness, and my advocate!
Where have I been this while exiled from Thee?
And whither rap’t, now Thou but stoop’st to me?
Dwell, dwell here still. O, being everywhere,
How can I doubt to find Thee ever here?
I know my state, both full of shame and scorn,
Conceived in sin, and unto labour borne,
Standing with fear, and must with horror fall,
And destined unto judgment, after all.
I feel my griefs too, and there scarce is ground
Upon my flesh t’ inflict another wound.
Yet dare I not complain, or wish for death
With holy Paul, lest it be thought the breath
Of discontent; or that these prayers be
For weariness of life, not love of Thee.

— Ben Jonson (1573-1637)

Participation in the Eternal Law

How is the natural law linked to the eternal law of God? The latter is the source of the former. Read the previous post for some context pertaining to what follows.

The eternal law is identical with God’s creative wisdom and providential governance of the world, which are as radically interior to the world and everything in it as they are transcendent of that world. In this sense, then, everything in the world is an expression of God’s eternal law – his creative wisdom – and finds its true or complete identity only in that law and wisdom…

As Ratzinger points out, the consequence is that the world – created being – is saturated with divine reason, indeed is constituted by divine reason. According to this view, the world can never be understood as simply pre-rational (as not yet participating in, and embodying, logos) because its internal order shares in divine reason. Indeed, it is in itself an expression of divine reason.

The result is that the world is not simply matter with certain physical properties that confronts human reason as object. Rather, the world in all of its physicality is itself saturated with meaning for its highest fulfillment in specifically human being. When the mind engages being, in other words, it is engaging what is primordially rational.

— David S. Crawford, “Natural Law and the Body,” Communio XXXV (Fall 2008). Emphasis original.

“The world… is in itself an expression of divine reason.” “[T]he world in all of its physicality is itself saturated with meaning…” “When the mind engages being… it is engaging what is primordially rational.” Chew on that for a while.

Re-thinking Divine Reason

Here’s some food for thought, courtesy of the latest issue of Communio (XXXV, Fall 2008).

All that is exists because it was thought by God. Therefore all creation can be seen as ontologically bearing that mark of divine reason; all creation meaning what is material and what is immaterial (e.g. reason, intellect, nous, etc.). In the context of natural law and the phenomenon of conscience, man participates in the divine reason by way of the memory (anamnesis) implanted in him at his beginning. In this way when man thinks (as a created being), he re-thinks the divine reason of which he is a part.

It follows from this traditional view that that human thinking is the re-thinking of being itself. Man can re-think the logos, the meaning of being, because his own logos, his own reason, is logos in the one logos, thought of the original thought, of the creative spirit that permeates and governs his being.

— Joseph Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity, quoted in the Communio XXXV essay by David S. Crawford entitled “Natural Law and the Body.”

Guitar Hero

The obviously very creative David Crowder Band. The song is “…neverending…”

Gotta love that Mario button!

Never ending
You will never end
You’re always
Never ending

You were
There before
There was beginning
You were
You are never ending

Here you are now
With us here
We are found
In You

And this makes all the difference
This changes everything
Making our whole existence
Worth something so we sing

La, la, la …

And You make all the difference
Yeah, You change everything
You make our whole existence
Worth something so we sing

La, la, la …

The Uniqueness of Man

leonardo-study-of-manI have no problem with the theory of evolution. God could have created our bodies in an evolutionary way as well as any other way. The existence of the soul united to our bodies is a totally different matter. However, if we focus on the biological, we have much in common with our primate friends; but this is saying much more than is often supposed. It is quite the logical leap to say that because man’s body has evolved from the animals, that he is also one of the animals. Man also has the ability to reason, and this is what primarily separates him from the beasts. G. K. Chesterton also noted that what separates man from beast is man’s penchant for dogma – “Man can be defined as an animal that makes dogmas.” There is so much that separates man from animal: the propensity to worship, the desire to paint chapel ceilings, the romantic instinct to compose poetry, the soaring spirit that composes symphonies, and so on. There is indeed a missing link, but as Chesterton also noted, “If there were a missing link in a real chain, it would not be a chain at all.” As I said, I have no problem with the theory of evolution, but the conclusions sometimes drawn from this theory suffer from an astonishing amount of fuzzy thinking. To think that man is only a beast requires a myopic focus on the biological, but what else are we to expect from a culture that puts such a shallow focus on the body. Chesterton paints the picture far better than I could, so I will get out of the way and let him speak.

From the final chapter of Orthodoxy (GKC Collected Works, Vol. 1, Ignatius, 1986):

If you leave off looking at books about beasts and men, if you begin to look at beasts and men then (if you have any humour or imagination, any sense of the frantic or the farcical) you will observe the startling thing is not how like man is to the brutes, but how unlike he is. It is the monstrous scale of his divergence that requires an explanation. That man and brute are like is, in a sense, a truism; but that being so like they should then be so insanely unlike, that is the shock and the enigma. That an ape has hands is far less interesting to the philosopher than the fact that having hands he does next to nothing with them; does not play knuckle-bones or the violin; does not carve marble or carve mutton. People talk of barbaric architecture and debased art. But elephants do not build colossal temples of ivory even in rococo style; camels do not paint even bad pictures, though equipped with the material of many camel’s-hair brushes. Certain modern dreamers say that ants and bees have a society superior to ours. They have, indeed, a civilization; but that very truth only reminds us that it is an inferior civilization. Who ever found an ant-hill decorated with the statues of celebrated ants? Who has seen a bee-hive carved with the images of gorgeous queens of old? No; the chasm between man and other creatures may have a natural explanation, but it is a chasm. We talk of wild animals; but man is the only wild animal. It is man that has broken out. All other animals are tame animals; following the rugged respectability of the tribe or type. All other animals are domestic animals; man alone is ever undomestic, either as a profligate or a monk. So that this first superficial reason for materialism is, if anything, a reason for its opposite; it is exactly where biology leaves off that all religion begins.

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