Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Gregory on the Christian distinction

Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study
"Every finding and every possible finding of natural science is compatible with a notion of God whose radical otherness is precisely the possibility condition of his presence throughout the physical world. If the biblical God of traditional Christianity is real, then the empirical findings of the natural sciences from astronomy and experimental physics to paleontology and evolutionary biology could not diminish God's presence in and through the world."

     Brad S. Gregory, "No room for God? History, science, metaphysics, and the study of religion," History and theory 47, no. 4 (December 2008): 509-510. But the key here is the notion. It must be the traditional notion of a God "who cannot in principle be conceived as part of, alongside, or in competition with the natural world"; who "is not a 'highest being' or a 'supernatural entity' that can in any sense be properly conceived within or as a component of a more comprehensive reality"; who is "radically distinct from the universe", i.e. "metaphysically transcendent" (502-503); and so forth. So away with the profoundly meta-scientific assumptions of modern scientism rooted ultimately in "late-medieval nominalism" (Duns Scotus on univocity). "A radically transcendent God would be neither outside nor inside his creation. . . . Rather, if real, such a God could be wholly present to everything in the natural world precisely and only because he would be altogether inconceivable in spatial categories. Divine transcendence would thus be not the opposite but the correlate of divine immanence. So, too, God in this sort of view would be neither temporally prior to nor a cosmic observer of sequential events as they unfold. . . . Rather, God could be fully present to all events and every moment precisely and only because he would be altogether inconceivable in temporal categories. Divine eternity would then be not the opposite but the correlate of divine providence" (503). "The intellectually unjustified misstep that provides the foundation for scientism and ideological secularism in the modern academy derives not from science, but from the transgression of science's own self-imposed limits" precisely (506). Nothing new here, but he sure brings his fellow historians up to speed. Outstanding! Great footnotes, too.

Monday, April 20, 2009

St. John of Damascus on matter

"I do not worship matter; I worship the Creator of matter who became matter for my sake, who willed to take His abode in matter; who worked out my salvation through matter.  Never will I cease honoring the matter which wrought my salvation! . . . God's body is God because it is joined to His person by a union which shall never pass away. . . . Because of this I salute all remaining matter with reverence, because God has filled it with His grace and power.  Through it my salvation has come to me."

St. John of Damascus, First apology of St. John of Damascus against those who attack the divine images 16, in St. John of Damascus on the divine images, trans. David Anderson (Crestwood, NY:  St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1980),  23.  Cf. Second apology 14, pp. 61-62.

Yannaras on the Eucharist

"all these, and a host of other nightmarish syndromes, form the world which today greets every infant who becomes a godchild of the Church through holy baptism. And in the face of this world, all we Christians seem like complete infants, feeble and powerless to exert the slightest influence over the course of human history and the fate of our planet. This is perhaps because, through the historical vicissitudes of heretical distortions of our truth--distortions which lie at the root of the present cultural impasse--we seem to have lost our understanding of the manner in which our weakness and powerlessness 'perfects' the transfiguring power of the Church. Our power is 'hidden' in the grain of wheat and the tiny mustard seed, in the mysterious dynamism of the leaven lost in the dead lump of the world--in the eucharistic hypostasis of our communal body.
"The eucharistic community, the resuscitation of our eucharistic self-awareness and identity, the nucleus of the parish and the diocese--these are our 'revolutionary' organization, our radical 'policy,' our ethic of 'overthrowing the establishment': these are our hope, the message of good tidings which we bring. And this hope will 'overcome the world'. . . ."

Christos Yannaras, "The ethos of liturgical art," chap. 12 of The freedom of morality, trans. Elizabeth Briere, Contemporary Greek theologians 3 (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1984): 262.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Buckley on Diderot

"[The Marquis de] Sade was made of much sterner stuff than Diderot. He was a man who knew a conclusion when he saw one."

     Michael J. Buckley, S.J., At the origins of modern atheism (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987), 248.

Brown on the Mediterranean as backwater

"In the eighth century the Mediterranean seaboard came to be ruled from Baghdad; the Mediterranean became a backwater to men who were used to sailing from the Persian Gulf; and the court of Harun al-Rashid (788-809), with its heavy trappings of 'sub-Persian' culture, was a reminder that the irreversible victory of the Near East over the Greeks began slowly but surely with the revolt of Fars in A D 224."

Peter Brown, The world of late antiquity, A D 150-750, History of European civilization library, ed. Geoffrey Barraclough (London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1971): 20-21.