Saturday, November 26, 2011

Doctor Subtilis

"It was all very well to look pale, sitting for the portrait of Aquinas, you know. . . . But Aquinas, now - he was a little too subtle, wasn't he?  Does anybody read Aquinas?"

     Mr. Brooke of Edward Casaubon, in George Eliot's Middlemarch, chap. 28.  The "subtle doctor" was, of course, Duns Scotus.

"Young Mr Ladislaw was not at all deep himself in German writers; but very little achievement is required in order to pity another man's shortcomings."

George Eliot, Middlemarch, chap. 21.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"the 'no God's land' of a human liberty improperly raised to the rank of a secondary divinity"

"The human being and God are not in competition, simply because the first and the second cause are not on the same plane.  Furthermore, it is God himself who gives the free choice of the creature all of its (determined) reality.  Confronted with the immense mystery of predestination and the unequal distribution of grace, one ought not to propose a 'solution,' but to situate the mystery in its proper place:  in the fathomless liberty, goodness, and wisdom of God, and not in the 'no God's land' of a human liberty improperly raised to the rank of a secondary divinity.  Henceforth, BaƱezianismand the thesis of physical premotionbecame the official doctrine of the Dominican Order."

     Serge-Thomas Bonino, O.P., "The Thomist tradition" (2003), trans. Bernhard Blankenhorn, O.P., Nova et vetera:  the English edition of the international theological journal 8, no. 4 (Fall 2010):  881 (869-881).

Monday, November 21, 2011

Kennan on the importance of "a resolute and courageous liquidation of unsound positions"

"There is more resepect to be won . . . by a resolute and courageous liquidation of unsound positions than by the most stubborn pursuit of extravagant or unpromising objectives."

George Kennan, as quoted by Frank Costigliola, in his "Is this George Kennan?," The New York review of books 58, no. 19 (December 8, 2011), 6 (4-8).

The happiness of me

"at the age of twenty, [Mill] suffered one of the most famous nervous breakdowns in history; having embraced utilitarianism with a religious passion, he asked himself a fatal question:  If all his plans for the happiness of others were realized, would he himself be happy?  'An irrepressible self-consciousness distinctly answered, "No!"'  Only after eighteen months of depression did he regain his poise."

     Alan Ryan on John Stuart Mill, in "The passionate hero, then and now," The New York review of books 58, no. 19 (December 8, 2011), 60 (59-63).  The quotation is from chap. 5 of the Autobiography.

"in the thick of foes"

     "It is not simply to be taken for granted that the Christian has the privilege of living among other Christians.  Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies.  At the end all his disciples deserted him.  On the Cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers.  For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God.  So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes [(mitten under die Feinde)].  There is his commission, his work.  'The Kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies.  And he also who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people.  O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ!  If Christ had done what you are doing who would ever have been spared?' (Luther).
     "'I will sow them among the people:  and they shall remember me in far countries' (Zech. 10:9).  According to God's will Christendom [(Christenheit)] is a scattered people, scattered like seed 'into all the kingdoms of the earth' (Deut. 28:25).  That is its curse and its promise.  God's people must dwell in far countries among the unbelievers, but it will be the seed of the Kingdom of God in all the world.'"

     Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life together, trans. John W. Doberstein (New York:  Harper One, HarperCollins Publishers, [1954]), 17-18.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Bonhoeffer on the unavoidability of reproof

     "Reproof is unavoidable.  God's Word demands it when a brother falls into open sin.  The practice of discipline in the congregation begins in the smallest circles.  Where defection from God's Word in doctrine or life imperils the family fellowship and with it the whole congregation, the word of admonition and rebuke must be ventured.  Nothing can be more cruel than the tenderness that consigns another to his sin.  Nothing can be more compassionate than the severe rebuke that calls a brother back from the path of sin.  It is a ministry of mercy, an ultimate offer of genuine fellowship, when we allow nothing but God's Word to stand between us, judging and succoring.  Then it is not we who are judging; God alone judges, and God's judgment is helpful and healing.  Ultimately, we have no charge but to serve our brother, never to set ourselves above him, and we serve him even when we must speak the judging and dividing Word of God to him, even when, in obedience to God, we must break off fellowship with him."

     Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life together, trans. John W. Doberstein (New York:  HarperOne, HarperCollins Publishers, [1954]), 107, a passage that should be read within the whole of chap. 4 (on Ministry), but goes nonetheless firmly against the present grain.  From pp. 105-106:

"And yet this correct judgment lies perilously near to the deadly dictum of Cain:  'Am I my brother's keeper?'  A seemingly sacred respect for another's freedom can be subject to the curse of God:  'His blood will I require at thine hand' (Ezek. 3:18).
     "Where Christian live together the time must inevitably come when in some crisis one person will have to declare God's Word and will to another.  It is inconceivable that the things that are of utmost importance to each individual should not be spoken by one to another.  It is unchristian consciously to deprive another of the one decisive service we can render to him. . . ."
     "The basis on which Christians can speak to one another is that each knows the other as a sinner, who, with all his human dignity, is lonely and lost if he is not given help.  This is not to make him contemptible nor to disparage him in any way.  On the contrary, it is to accord him the one real dignity that man has, namely, that, though he is a sinner, he can share in God's grace and glory and be God's child.  This recognition gives to our brotherly speech the freedom and candor that it needs.  We speak to one another on the basis of the help with both need.  We admonish one another to go the way that Christ bids us to go.  We warn one another against the disobedience that is our common destruction.  We are gentle and we are severe with one another, for we know both God's kindness and God's severity."