Monday, December 31, 2012

"Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account."

"On the whole I conclude as follows:—if there is a form of Christianity now in the world which is accused of gross superstition, of borrowing its rites and customs from the heathen, and of ascribing to forms and ceremonies an occult virtue;—a religion which is considered to burden and enslave the mind by its requisitions, to address itself to the weak-minded and ignorant, to be supported by sophistry and imposture, and to contradict reason and exalt mere irrational faith;—a religion which impresses on the serious mind very distressing views of the guilt and consequences of sin, sets upon the minute acts of the day, one by one, their definite value of praise or blame, and thus casts a grave shadow over the future;—a religion which holds up to admiration the surrender of wealth, and disables serious persons from enjoying it if they would;—a religion, the doctrines of which, be they good or bad, are to the generality of men unknown; which is considered to bear on its very surface signs of folly and falsehood so distinct that a glance suffices to judge of it, and careful examination is preposterous, which is felt to be so simply bad, that it may be calumniated at hazard and at pleasure, it being nothing but absurdity to stand upon the accurate distribution of its guilt among its particular acts, or painfully to determine how far this or that story is literally true, what has to be allowed in candour, or what is improbable, or what cuts two ways, or what is not proved, or what may be plausibly defended;—a religion such, that men look at a convert to it with a feeling which no other sect raises except Judaism, Socialism, or Mormonism, with curiosity, suspicion, fear, disgust, as the case may be, as if something strange had befallen him, as if he had had an initiation into a mystery, and had come into communion with dreadful influences, as if he were now one of a confederacy which claimed him, absorbed him, stripped him of his personality, reduced him to a mere organ or instrument of a whole;—a religion which men hate as proselytising, anti-social, revolutionary, as dividing families, separating chief friends, corrupting the maxims of government, making a mock at law, dissolving the empire, the enemy of human nature, and a 'conspirator against its rights and privileges;—a religion which they consider the champion and instrument of darkness, and a pollution calling down upon the land the anger of heaven;—a religion which they associate with intrigue and conspiracy, which they speak about in whispers, which they detect by anticipation in whatever goes wrong, and to which they impute whatever is unaccountable;—a religion, the very name of which they cast out as evil, and use simply as a bad epithet, and which from the impulse of self-preservation they would persecute if they could;—if there be such a religion now in the world, it is not unlike Christianity as that same world viewed it, when first it came forth from its Divine Author."

     John Henry Newman, An essay on the development of Christian doctrine (London:  James Toovey, 1845), 240-242 (IV.i).

"The human longing for God, however, persists from age to age."

"The distinctly modern metaphysical picture of reality is one that makes it possible to regard this world as a cave filled only with flickering shadows and yet also to cherish those shadows for their very insubstantiality, and even to be grateful for the shelter that the cave provides against the great emptiness outside, where no Sun of the Good ever shines. With enough therapy and sufficient material comforts, even gnostic despair can become a form of disenchantment without regret, sweetened by a new enchantment with the self in its particularity. Gnosticism reduced to bare narcissism—which, come to think of it, might be an apt definition of late modernity as a whole.
     ". . . This is no cause for despair, however. Every historical period has its own presiding powers and principalities on high. Ours, for what it is worth, seem to want to make us happy, even if only in an inert sort of way. Every age passes away in time, moreover, and late modernity is only an epoch. This being so, one should never doubt the uncanny force of what Freud called die Wiederkehr des Verdrängten—'the return of the repressed.'  Dominant ideologies wither away, metaphysical myths exhaust their power to hold sway over cultural imaginations, material and spiritual conditions change inexorably and irreversibly. The human longing for God, however, persists from age to age. A particular cultural dispensation may succeed for a time in lulling the soul into a forgetful sleep, but the soul will still continue to hear that timeless call that comes at once from within and from beyond all things, even if for now it seems like only a voice heard in a dream. And, sooner or later, the sleeper will awaken."

     David Bentley Hart, "Jung's therapeutic gnosticism," First things (January 2013).

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Not (here) the dangers of holding one another accountable, but the dangers of a disingenuous "repentance"

"The first and fatal charm of national repentance is, therefore, the encouragement it gives us to turn from the bitter task of repenting our own sins to the congenial one of bewailingbut, first, of denouncingthe conduct of others."

     C. S. Lewis, "Dangers of national repentance," in God in the dock:  essays on theology and ethics, ed. Walter Hooper (Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1970), 190 (189-192).

Friday, December 28, 2012

Newman on the dormition of St. Peter

"The regalia Petri might sleep, as the power of a chancellor has slept; not as an obsolete, for it never had been operative, but as a mysterious privilege, which was not understood; as an unfulfilled prophecy."

     John Henry Newman, An essay on the development of Christian doctrine: the edition of 1845, ed. J. M. Cameron (Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, 1974), 209 (III.iv.4).

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

"after all our diligence, to the end of our lives and to the end of the Church"

Scripture "cannot, as it were, be mapped, or its contents catalogued; but after all our diligence, to the end of our lives and to the end of the Church, it must be an unexplored and unsubdued land, with heights and valleys, forests and streams, on the right and left of our path and close about us, full of concealed wonders and choice treasures."

     John Henry Newman, An essay on the development of Christian doctrine:  the edition of 1845, ed. J. M. Cameron (Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England:  Penguin Books, 1974), 162 (II.ii.6).

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

"And then, in the fullness of time, God changed his hiding place."

     A lovely little "Christmas meditation" by Ronald A. Knox, in which the turning point is the Incarnation of course, but also the transition from the Wisdom of God in creation to "our Mother, come out to help in the search":  "Ostende," Pastoral and occasional sermons, ed. Evelyn Waugh (New York:  Sheed & Ward, 1960), pp. 359-361.

"We never doubted that the unorthodox opinions were honestly held: what we complain of is your continuing your ministry after you have come to hold them."

     C. S. Lewis, "Christian apologetics" (Easter 1945), God in the dock:  essays on theology and ethics (Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1970), 90.  Cf. Dietrich von Hildebrand.

"The real pacificus is he who promotes peace, not he who gasses about it."

     C. S. Lewis, "Delinquents in the snow," Time and tide 38 (7 December 1957):  1522 (1521-5122), as quoted in God in the dock:  essays on theology and ethics, ed. Walter Hooper (Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1970), 309-310.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Forever is not, after all, a "fluid span in the face of God's sensitive response to every human tremor"

     "We could say that they have nothing to do with each other, this Jerusalem of rejecters and the other, the 'Jerusalem' that comes from far away (Gal 4:26), that descends from on high (Rev 21:2), unblemished, pure, glittering with a perfect light.  We could say that they have nothing to do with each other, except perhaps that each has known the Lord's love, one once but no longer, the other more recently and who knows for how long, since 'forever' seems to be a fluid span in the face of God's sensitive response to every human tremor.  But, having said this, we will have already given another answer, since the one love of God for Jerusalem is not a thing to be reset over and over, nor is it so easily foiled as to demand its own constant redirection.  If Jesus loved Jerusalem, this one, with its broken walls and rubbled towers, it is not so much other than the city that is built around the Twelve Apostles (Rev 21:14) as it is just these Twelve tribes (Rev 21:13), fallen and routed but now redeemed.
     "The disjunction between the Jerusalem over which Jesus weeps and the city of the Lamb is the same as the disjunction between Peter denying and Peter shepherding, between a thief on the cross and one in paradise, between sin and forgiveness.  Between the body dead and the body resurrected.  We shall say that the chasm between the two is real; we shall say, as well, that it is spanned somehow and overcome.
     "If this is so, then when Jesus weeps over Jerusalem, he weeps also over his apostles:  'They will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered' (Matt 26:31; Zech 13:7).  You will, each of you, leave me abandoned (John 16:32).  Yet it is on these apostles that the Church is founded (Eph 2:20), on those who fail, who are scattered, who abandon and denyand just for these does Jesus pray (Luke 22:3), and to them is new life given.  This is the Church because it is Jerusalem, the same Jerusalem of Zechariah 14, which is the same as Revelation 2 and 3, sifted, yes, tested and purified, yet the Church to whom a promise was given in the struggling entry of David and Joab into the stronghold of Zion.  See what love Jesus has for Jerusalem!  'I would have taken you under my wings, but you would not!'  Yet for all that, I have died for you, who 'did not know what you did' in this rejection (Luke 23:34); and I have turned shame into joy, rejection into a new calling, abandonment into redemption, a sinner consoled, loved, and given new fruit for the world's sake (Isa 54).  But who is this who is redeemed?  The one over whom Jesus wept.
     "And should we not weep over Jerusalem the Church?  And for just these same reasons?  And with just this end in view?  An ecclesiology of tears is at the heart of an ecclesiology of joy; without this order of truth and life, there is no Church at all (Ps 126). . . ."

     Ephraim Radner, A brutal unity:  the spiritual politics of the Christian Church (Waco, TX:  Baylor University Press, 2012), 167-168 ("Postscript:  Loving Jerusalem").

     As much as I love a densely packed footnote, the best parts of this wonderful (and wonderfully learned) book are the Postscripts.  Blessed indeed must be those who have had Radner for a preacher.  (But then, blessed indeed must be those who have had—but then rejected!Jesus, Moses, and the prophets, too!)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

"The whole world awaits Mary's reply"

". . . The angel awaits an answer; it is time for him to return to God who sent him.  We too are waiting, O Lady, for your word of compassion; the sentence of condemnation weights heavily upon us. . . ."
     "Answer quickly, O Virgin.  Reply in haste to the angel. . . . Answer with a word, receive the Word of God. . . .
". . . Behold, the handmaid of the Lord, she says, be it done to me according to your word."

     St. Bernard, Hom. 4, 8-9, as reproduced in the Office of readings for 20 December, Liturgy of the hours.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A mind at home in the feelings

According to Aquinas, the passions "'are not virtuous by a simple obediential subordination [(subordination obédientielle)] or by a simple habit [(accoutumance)], as Bonaventure would if pressed [(à la rigueur)] concede, but by an intimate penetration, thanks to which the mind is at home in the feelings [(l'esprit est chez lui dans les sensibilités)].'"

     M. D. Chenu, "Les passions vertueuses:  l'anthropologie de saint Thomas," Revue philosophique de Louvain 72 (1974):  16 (11-18), as quoted by Thomas Prügl, in "TRISTITIA:  zur Theologie der passiones animae bei Thomas von Aquin," in Die Einheit der Person:  Beiträge zur Anthropologie des Mittelalters, ed. Martin Thurner (Stuttgart:  Verlag W. Kohlhammer, 1998), 152n43 (141-156).

Saturday, December 15, 2012

"By and large, that 'what' was never the treatment of Jews"

"especially in an area with strong leadership, substantive resistance by clergy (and some laity) could be widespread; but still the issue remains over what was being resisted.  By and large, that 'what' was never the treatment of Jews but the church's own integrity to govern her life without state interference and immune from non-Christian or even anti-Christian state influences."

     Ephraim Radner, citing Kevin Spicer, Resisting the Third Reich:  the Catholic clergy in Hitler's Berlin (DeKalb:  Northern Illinois University Press, 2004).  A brutal unity: the spiritual politics of the Christian church (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2012), 97n69.

"the willingness in numerous cases of clergy to oppose encroachments upon, for example, churches' right to independent teaching and decision making provoked a number of martyrdoms and what has traditionally been understood as the suffering of true 'confessors.'  Yet such risks were hardly ever borne by church leaders on behalf of the Jews.  It is not enough to attribute the churches' acquiescence before Jewish persecution to simply incompetent or desultory ecclesial leadership because examples of energy and clarity of vision were not lacking.  What was lacking was a particular focuswhat focus there was generally aimed at the chuches' survival rather than at the Jews as human beingsand the theological and moral imperatives derivative of this focus.  The Christian leadership, that is, paid attention to some things and not to others, a matter that is crucial to all moral and truthful decision making.  Leaders were given formal opportunities to decide on responses to key events and largely chose the path of nonresistance" (97-98).

Nazism was not anti-Christian

"as the researches of someone like Richard Steigmann-Gall seem to have demonstrated (although with not a little push back from some), the notion of Nazism as intrinsically anti-Christian is a gross exaggeration:  the self-consciously 'Christian' apologists within the Nazi Party were consistently strong, until near the end of the war, and were eager and often successful in integrating their Christian commitments, as they saw them, with Nazi policies."

     Ephraim Radner, citing Richard Steigmann-Gall, The holy reich:  Nazi conceptions of Christianity, 1919-1945 (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 2003).  A brutal unity:  the spiritual politics of the Christian church (Waco, TX:  Baylor University Press, 2012), 93.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Prayer before Mass / Collect for Purity

Deus, cui omne cor patet et omnis voluntas loquitur et nullum latet secretum, purifica per infusionem sancti spiritus cogitationes cordis nostri, ut perfecte te diligere et digne laudare mereamur.

     Corpus orationum no. 1135 (vol. 2, pp. 131-132), where the variants appear in an apparatus.

     c. 780:  "Previously known to Anglicans as the Collect for Purity, this prayer has been re-named to avoid any possible confusion with the collect of the service.  Its composition is attributed to St Gregory, Abbot of Canterbury c. 780. . . . It appears in the eleventh-century Leofric Missal, and in the Sarum rite it is part of the priest's private devotions before the start of the service" (Paul Bradshaw, Gordon Giles, and Simon Kershaw, "Holy Communion," chap. 6 in Companion to Common worship, ed. Paul Bradshaw, vol. 1, Alcuin Club Collections 78 (London:  SPCK, 2001), 110).  Attributed by whom?  An ancient source or the most recent scholarship?  By Lodovico Antonio Muratori (1672-1750), apparently.  Yet his Liturgia Romana vetus (1748), ii.383, though it contains this prayer, makes (on p. 383) no attribution to St. Gregory.  Cf. "This [Votive] Mass ['For Invoking the Grace of the Holy Spirit'] can be traced back to a little Sacramentary of Votive Masses put together by the Englishman Alcuin (d. 804), the great prime minister of Charlemagne and reviser of the Latin rite of the West.  Whether Alcuin composed th[is] Collect himself or took it from an older service book no longer extant is not known" (Massey Hamilton Shepherd, Jr., The Oxford American Prayer book commentary (New York:  Oxford University Press, 1950), 67).  Something similar is claimed by a note in The Leofric missal (below).  I have not followed up on this in the more recent scholarship to see why (say) Hatchett (in 1980) does not follow Shepherd here in locating this collect in the late 8th or very early 9th century at the latest, but speaks only of the 11th-century Leofric missal.  But Corpus orationum (below) should settle that question in favor of the early 9th in any case:

     9th century, first quarter (?):  No. 2325 in the texts complementary to the Gregorian sacramentary as edited by Deschusses (Le sacramentaire grégorien:  ses principales formes d'après les plus anciens manuscrits, vol. 2 (1979) or 3 (1982)), according to Corpus orationum no. 1135 (vol. 2, p. 131).

     9th-century, first half:  No. 1379 in the Tridentine sacramentary (Trent, Museo Provinciale d'Arte del Castello del Buonconsiglio 1590), as edited by Dell'Oro ("Sacramentarium Tridentium," in Monumenta liturgica Ecclesiae Tridentinae saeculo XIII antiquiora, Fontes liturgici, Libri sacramentorum II A (1985), pp. 73-416), according to Corpus orationum no. 1135 (vol. 2, p. 131).

     9th-century, last quarter:  No. 48 in the sacramentary of St. Martin of Tours (Tours, Bibl. mun. 184, and Paris, B.N. lat. 9430), as edited by Deschusses ("Les messes d'Alcuin," in Archiv für Liturgiewissenschaft 14 (1972):  7-41), according to Corpus orationum no. 1135 (vol. 2, p. 131).

     c. 975:  No. 1790 in the Fulda sacramentary (Göttingen, Königl. Universitätsbibliothek, Cod. theol. 231), as edited by Richter & Schönfelder (Sacramentarium Fuldense sæculi X (), p. 203), according to Corpus orationum no. 1135 (vol. 2, p. 131), and Bruylants n. 206 (Les oraisons du Missel Romain, vol. 1, p. 64).

     . . .

     1050/1072:  No. 177 in the Leofric missal (Oxford, Bodleiana 579 (2675)), as edited by Warren (The Leofric missal, as used in the Cathedral of Exeter during the episcopate of its first bishop, A.D. 1050-1072; together with some account of the Red book of Derby, the Missal of Robert of Jumièges, and a few other early ms. service books of the English church, ed. F. E. Warren (Oxford:  The Clarendon Press, 1883), 177):  "Deus, cui omne cor patet, et omnis uoluntas loquitur, et nullum latet secretum, purifica per infusionem sancti spiritus cogitationes cordis nostri, ut perfecte te diligere, et digne laudare mereamur.  Per.  In unitate eiusdem spiritus sancti."

     . . .

     14th centuryThe clowde of unknowyng, Prologe:  God, unto Whom alle hertes ben open, and unto Whom alle wille spekith, and unto Whom no privé thing is hid: I beseche Thee so for to clense the entent of myn hert with the unspekable gift of Thi grace that I may parfiteliche love Thee, and worthilich preise Thee. Amen.

     _____:  Nos. 579 & 787 in the Sarum missal (first [printed] edition:  London, 1554), as edited by Dickinson (Missale ad usum insignis et praeclarae ecclesiae Sarum (1861-1863), and The Sarum missal, tr. [A. Harford Pearson] (1868; 2nd edn., 1884), 216401.

     1549:  Booke of the common prayer, as reproduced in The first and second prayer books of Edward VI, Everyman's Library 448 (London:  J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd.; New York:  E. P. Dutton & Co. Inc., 1910), 212:  "Almightie God, unto whom all hartes bee open, and all desyres knowen, and from whom no secretes are hid:  clense the thoughtes of our hartes, by the inspiracion of thy holy spirite:  that we may perfectly loue thee, and worthely magnifie thy holy name:  through Christ our Lorde.  Amen."

     1577:  Missale Romanum, p. 41.

     1559:  Book of common prayer (Cummings):  "Almighty God, unto whom al hartes be open, al desires knowen, and from whom no secretes are hyd:  clense the thoughtes of our hartes by the inspiracion of thy holy spirite, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy name, through Christe our Lorde.  Amen."

     1662:  Book of common prayer (Cummings):  "Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnifie thy holy Name, through Christ our Lord.  Amen."

     1928:  Book of common prayer:  "Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name; through Christ our Lord.  Amen."

     1959:  The Missal in Latin and English, being the text of the Missale Romanum with English rubrics and a new translation (New York:  Sheed & Ward, 1959), 663:  "Deus, cui omne cor patet et omnis volúntas lóquitur, et quem nullum latet secrétum:  purífica per infusiónem Sancti Spíritus cogitatiónes cordis nostri; ut te perfécte dilígere, et digne laudáre mereámur."  "O God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid, cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inpouring of thy Holy Spirit, giving us grace to love thee perfectly and praise thee worthily."

     _____:  Roman missal:

     1979:  Book of common prayer, Rite I:  "Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid:  Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name; through Christ our Lord.  Amen."

     1979:  Book of common prayer, Rite II:  "Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify thy holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen."

     _____:  Common worship:  

     2010:  Roman missal, revised (The CTS new daily missal: people's edition, with the new translation of the Mass (Catholic Truth Society, 2012), 929):  "O God, to whom every heart is open, every desire known and from whom no secrets are hidden; purify the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily praise your holy name. Amen."

Monday, December 3, 2012

"A rocke: how call'd? The Rocke of Scandale, Peter!"

     Robert Southwell, "Saint Peter's Complaint," stanza 118, as quoted by Ephraim Radner.  A brutal unity:  the spiritual politics of the Christian church (Waco, TX:  Baylor University Press, 2012), 60.

Radner takes, as usual, the narrow way, the hard road

     "What [William] Cavanaugh and contemporary antiliberal revisionists do not address, then, is the fact that the [profoundly Christian] notion of religious tolerance over and against religious violence was later overthrown by the ongoing and spectacular failures of Christians especially in the midst of and in the face of violence in which they participated:  it is this that has inflated a narrative into a 'myth,' but one for which the greatest blamea term I use deliberatelylies with the churches themselves.  Although he studiously avoids addressing the constructive question of preventing or resisting violence, even if he had, he would not be able to offer the right answer:  that is, that churches must reorient their practice more fully, not less so, to the needs of a stable and accountable liberal democracy.  Christians in the West are realizing how difficult this is, at least if they wish to keep the integrity of their gospel intact.  Cavanaugh's worries are proving well founded, as the liberal state itself betrays its founding principles for the sake of a self-consciously 'godless' ideology that increasingly itself engages the rhetoric of violence.  In some sense, the churches are now in a place where they are responsible for maintaining the integrity of civil society that must include religion.  But before this challenge, they must prove themselves a better witness than their past (and present) has too often demonstrated.  Maintaining the integrity of the gospel in a pluralistic democracy is hard.  But it is a difficulty whose overcoming is nonetheless the necessary means by which, as it were, churches will save their souls in the face of their own violent complicities.  And any call away from the facing of this task is dangerous distraction."

     Ephraim Radner, A brutal unity:  the spiritual politics of the Christian church (Waco, TX:  Baylor University Press, 2012), 55-56.

Herbert Butterfield, Whig historian

"If this sounds like the Whig theory revived, it is in a sense.  Even Herbert Butterfield, who first articulated in 1931 the existence of such a theory itself, for the sake of criticizing it, came to admit its inescapability, at least from a moral perspective and in part through reflection on his own place as a 'dissenting' Christian in England."

     Ephraim Radner, A brutal unity:  the spiritual politics of the Christian church (Waco, TX:  Baylor University Press, 2012), 51-52, citing C. T. McIntire, Herbert Butterfield:  historian as dissenter (New Haven, CT:  Yale University Press, 2004).

"Decade after decade the historians of cartography (and the historians of astronomy too) have, with barely an exception, gone on, paying no attention, assuming that because there were no medieval flat-earthers (or hardly any), medieval Aristotelians shared the Ptolemaic concept of the terraqueous globe (something of an achievement, since they had never read Ptolemy), when in fact that concept was a bold and novel hypothesis in 1492. . . ."

"Brotton, like Woodward before him, assumes that ever since the ancient Greeks there has been a concept corresponding to our concept of Earth ('the image of the Earth') or the world ('a history of the world').  This is to miss perhaps the most remarkable development in the whole history of cartography.  In classical Latin it is hard to find terra used to mean land-and-sea, let alone the whole sphere of the Earth.  Mundus or 'world' also meant universe  we would say cosmos.  In medieval Europe there was no object corresponding to the terms 'Earth' or 'world' as we use them.  Terra meant the element earth (one of the four Aristotelian elements), or land as used to denote a country (the Holy Land is the terra sancta).  Where we (and Ptolemy) see the whole Earth, . . . medieval philosophers and astronomers saw two objects:  the sphere of the element earth, which ought to be at the centre of the universe, and the sphere of the element water, which was believed to be ten times larger  this was the result of trying to combine Greek philosophy with Genesis.  Since the sphere of water was so much larger than that of earth, there ought to be no dry land at all, had God not ensured that the sphere of earth was displaced from its central position (although it was held that it still overlapped with the centre of the universe, a claim which, Copernicus later pointed out, flouted the elementary principles of geometry).  Dry land was thus a sort of floating island in an ocean of ocean.
     "According to this two-sphere theory, the centre of gravity of the combined spheres (the point around which they would hang in equilibrium) differed from their geometrical centre, earth being heavier than water, and from the centre or centres towards which heavy objects would fall (it being moot whether earth and water fell towards the same point).  Because the earth was a sphere floating in a larger sphere, dry land   the inhabited world   was necessarily circular in shape, which is, consequently, the shape adopted by most medieval mappaemundi, or maps of the known land masses.  The known world (essentially the world known to Alexander the Great) occupied less than a quarter of the surface of the globe (or rather, of the sphere of water), which was why there was no point in making terrestrial globes, as they would have represented either a sphere of earth that was largely underwater, or a sphere of water that was largely devoid of land.  Crates of Mallos (150 BC) had hypothesized that there might be three unknown worlds spread across the surface of the globe, in addition to the known world, so that the globe itself had a generally symmetrical shape, . . . but Christian philosophers rejected the very idea of 'antipodes' as they held these implied human beings that were not descended from Adam.  The Christian medieval two-sphere system was thus asymmetrical, the circular known land mass centring on Jerusalem, while the sphere of waters had, like the universe as a whole, a North-South axis.
     "The first Christian globes were constructed after the rediscovery of Ptolemy's geography (published in 1475) to explore the heterodox theory that the known world covered a much wider extent than previously imagined, so that it might be possible to sail West in order to reach the spice islands  Ptolemy's account of earth and water making one globe was debated when the feasibility of Columbus's expedition was rejected by a commission appointed by the King of Spain.  The discovery of America showed that this hunch was basically right  the globe might be much larger, and India might be much further away when travelling West (and nearer when travelling East) than Columbus had thought, but wherever one went there was land to be found, and the antipodes turned out to be a geographical reality.  The first map to show this clearly was Waldseemüller's world map of 1507. . . .
     "Soon after Waldseemüller's map was printed, perhaps in 1511, Copernicus saw it and grasped that it showed a symmetrical world where earth and water were interlocked.  The two spheres had become one globe.  This was a world which could rotate on a North-South axis without wobbling.  It was perhaps this realization which emboldened him to abandon a geo-heliocentric model (of the sort later advocated by Tycho Brahe) in favour of full heliocentrism.  De Revolutionibus (1543) opens with a defense of this new understanding of the Earth which did not yet have a name  later it would be called 'the terraqueous globe'.  Copernicus seems to have been one of the very first to make use of this new idea. . . .
". . . the two spheres theory was described by Lynn Thorndike in 1929 and discussed at great length in a posthumous text by Pierre Duhem (1861-1916), who, unlike Thorndike, continues to be widely admired. . . . Copernicus's debt to Waldseemüller was identified by Edward Rosen in 1943, but it is so rarely mentioned that it is hardly surprising that Brotton has no knowledge of it.  Decade after decade the historians of cartography (and the historians of astronomy too) have, with barely an exception, gone on, paying no attention, assuming that because there were no medieval flat-earthers (or hardly any), medieval Aristotelians shared the Ptolemaic concept of the terraqueous globe (something of an achievement, since they had never read Ptolemy), when in fact that concept was a bold and novel hypothesis in 1492. . . ."

     David Wootton, "No words for world:  common misunderstandings in the use of maps," Times literary supplement no. 5715 (October 12, 2012):  9 (8-9), reviewing Jerry Brotton's A history of the world in twelve maps (London:  Allen Lane, 2012).
     Alfred Hiatt, of the Department of English, Queen Mary, University of London, objects in no. 5716 (October 19, 2012):  "not only was this Aristotelian theory [of "the 'Christian medieval two-sphere system'"] in vogue only from the thirteenth century, it was more flexible than Wootton allows, and coexisted with Neoplatonic theories that did not posit separate spheres for earth and water.  Nor did Christian philosophers simply 'reject' the idea of antipodal places and peoples.  They variously doubted, debated and continued to transmit classical theories of the Antipodes throughout the course of the Middle Ages.  Scholars such as Albertus Magnus and Roger Bacon (both well versed in Aristotle) affirmed the existence of land beyond the known world, and even argued that it could be reached by Europeans.  Such land was represented from the eighth to the fifteenth centuries on zonal maps of the world.  Those images, which depict southern and northern hemispheres, alone show the falsity of Wootton's assertion that 'in medieval Europe there was no object corresponding to the terms "Earth" or "world" as we use them'.  In short, medieval European understanding of the world and its image was far more subtle and various than Wootton thinks.  That does not in itself lessen the significance of Copernicus, but it does mean that the familiar chiaroscuro narrative of medieval darkness and Renaissance light that Wootton tries to resurrect is essentially inaccurate" (6).  Wootton had not replied to this criticism by the end of November, though his 2015 The invention of science seems to take it into account (and includes Hiatt's 2008 Terra incognita:  mapping the Antipodes before 1600 in its bibliography).

Calvin on the "deitatis sensus"

"I do not say with Cicero, that errors wear out by age, and that religion increases and grows better day by day.  For the world . . . labours as much as it can to shake off all knowledge of God, and corrupts his worship in innumerable ways.  I only say, that, when the stupid hardness of heart, which the wicked eagerly court as a means of despising God, becomes enfeebled, the sense of Deity, which of all things they wished most to be extinguished, is still in vigour, and now and then breaks forth."

"quum stupida quam impii ad Deum spernendum cupide accersunt, durities in eorum animis tabescat, vigere tamen, ac subinde emergere quem maxime extinctum cuperent, deitatis sensum."

     John Calvin, Institutes III.3, trans. Henry Beveridge.  This I would translate somewhat as follows:  "when the stupid hardness in their minds, which the impious, in order to spurn God, eagerly cultivate, subsides, there then flourishes, and immediately [re-]emerges, what they were especially hoping [they had] extinguished, [namely,] the sense of deity."

Thursday, November 29, 2012

God is not a "communion" of persons, but "one"

"As with all human language applied to God, the use of the term communion [(κοινονία)] theologically has carried with it the dangers of shaping our conceptions of God in a way that comes to mirror our social assumptions and hopes:  God ends up looking like a multiethnic society, a congress, a church council, a congregation, and on and on.  What we require for our understanding of 'communion,' which is a human and social construct, is that its meaning be informed by God's reality, not the other way around.  If God is never called a 'communion' in Scripture, God is clearly called 'one.'  And hence, God's 'oneness' is what needs to inform the Church's 'communion':  'that they may be one even as we are one' (John 17:22 RSV; cf. vv. 21, 13).  The 'oneness' that is God's, however, is, in this prayer, identified as something peculiar:  'as we are one,' in Jesus' words.  How is God one?  Do we know what this means?  Here some eristological nuance will be helpful. . . ."

     Ephraim Radner, A brutal unity:  the spiritual politics of the Christian church (Waco, TX:  Baylor University Press, 2012), 8.  "Eristology . . . is the study of hostility in its disordering forms and forces" (4-5).  This critique of social trinitarianism begins on p. 7, with an appreciative reference to Paul Fletcher, Disciplining the divine:  toward an (im)political theology (Farnham, UK:  Ashgate, 2009).

Sunday, November 25, 2012

"Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery"

"O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquillity the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were being cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen" (1976 Book of common prayer, pp. 280 (Good Friday), 291 (Easter Vigil), 515 (Ordination of a Bishop), 528 (Ordination of a Priest), 540 (Ordination of a Deacon)).

     This, according to Hatchett (Commentary on the American prayer book (The Seabury Press, 1980), p. 248), is no. 432 in the 8th-century Gelasian sacramentary.  Cf. p. 82 in the 1894 Clarendon Press edition of that by H. A. Wilson.  In the current Roman missal, it occurs after the seventh reading in the Easter Vigil at least:

"O God of unchanging power and eternal light, look with favour on the wondrous mystery of the whole Church and serenely accomplish the work of human salvation, which you planned from all eternity; may the whole world know and see that what was cast down is raised up, what had become old is made new, and all things are restored to integrity through Christ, just as by him they came into being. Who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen."

Thursday, November 22, 2012

"one hour of purgation here is more profitable than are many there."

     St. John of the Cross, The dark night of the soul II.6, ed. & trans. E. Allison Peers.

"which are they that, when they were awake and alive, consented not to this."

"it is not to be supposed that, because in this night and darkness [the soul] has passed through so many tempests of afflictions, doubts, fears and horrors, as has been said, it has for that reason run any risk of being lost. On the contrary, it says, in the darkness of this night it has gained itself. For in the night it has freed itself and escaped subtly from its enemies, who were continually hindering its progress. For in the darkness of the night it changed its garments and disguised itself with three liveries and colours which we shall describe hereafter; and went forth by a very secret ladder, which none in the house knew, the which ladder, as we shall observe likewise in the proper place, is living faith. By this ladder the soul went forth in such complete hiding and concealment, in order the better to execute its purpose, that it could not fail to be in great security; above all since in this purgative night the desires, affections and passions of the soul are put to sleep, mortified and quenched, which are they that, when they were awake and alive, consented not to this."

     St. John of the Cross, The dark night of the soul II.15, ed. & trans. E. Allison Peters.  "the spiritual and the sensual desires are put to sleep and mortified, so that they can experience nothing, either Divine or human; the affections of the soul are oppressed and constrained, so that they can neither move nor find support in anything; the imagination is bound and can make no useful reflection; the memory is gone; the understanding is in darkness, unable to understand anything; and hence the will likewise is arid and constrained and all the faculties are void and useless; and in addition to all this a thick and heavy cloud is upon the soul, keeping it in affliction, and, as it were, far away from God.  It is in this kind of ‘darkness’ that the soul says here it travelled 'securely'" (II.16).

Monday, November 12, 2012

St. John of the Cross on the reception of the Eucharist

"the sensory benefits are the least among those that this Most Blessed Sacrament bestows, for the invisible grace it gives is a greater blessing.  God often withdraws sensory delight and pleasure so that souls might set the eyes of faith upon this invisible grace.  Not only in receiving communion, but in other spiritual exercises as well, beginners desire to feel God and taste of Him as if He were comprehensible and accessible.  This desire is a serious imperfection and, because it involves impurity of faith, opposed to God's way."

     St. John of the Cross, The dark night I.6 ("The imperfections of spiritual gluttony").5, trans. Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D. and Otilio Rodriguez, O.C.D.; The collected works of St. John of the Cross (Washington, D.C.:  ICS Publications, Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1973), 308.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Personal knowledge

     "inference simply cannot substitute for experience [as I have defined it].  One will not long believe in a personal God with whom there is no personal communication, and the most compelling evidence of a personal God must itself be personal.  To attempt something else as foundation or substitute, as has been done so often in an effort to shore up the assertion of God, is to move into a process of internal contradictions of which the ultimate resolution must be atheism."

     Michael J. Buckley, S.J., Denying and disclosing God:  the ambiguous progress of modern atheism (New Haven, CT:  Yale University Press, 2004), 138 (the conclusion).
     Experience is "'an affair primarily of doing.  The organism does not stand about, Micawberlike, waiting for something to turn up.  It does not wait passive and inert for something to impress itself upon it from without.  The organism acts in accordance with its own structure, simple or complex, upon its surroundings.  As a consequence the changes produced in the environment react upon the organism and its activities. . . . This close connection between doing and suffering or undergoing forms what we call experience'" (quoting John Dewey, Reconstruction in philosophy, enlarged edition with a new introduction by the author (Boston:  Beacon Press, 1966), p. 86, italics mine, at Denying and disclosing God, p. 128).
     All of which reminds me so much of Austin Farrer and his emphasis on the activity system (as in Finite and infinite), as well as the sterility of any "thought about any reality about which we can do nothing but think":  "Nothing can give substance to our thought of God but an experience which employs our activity in relation to God, where that activity is something other than thought itself" (Faith and speculation, pp. 22 and 28 (in chap. 2 on "The empirical demand"), italics mine).  Or, more to the point, "to know real beings we must exercise our actual relation with them.  No physical science without physical interference, no personal knowledge without personal intercourse; no thought about any reality about which we can do nothing but think. . . . We can know nothing of God, unless we can do something about him.  So what, we must ask, can we do?" (22)  "God would not be recognized as worshipful, save in relation to our worshipping.  If he is so recognized, there is something we can do about God:  we can worship him" (26).
     Thus, "the interaction that constitutes experience . . . in the actual history of religious commitments and faith" has two dimensions:  1) the categorical or concrete (but most effectively of all an encounter with the saints), and 2) the transcendental, as encountered by those who love the truth (or any of the other transcendentals) above everything else, even God himself" (or, more accurately, God as wish-fulfillment).  For "'Christ likes us to prefer truth to him'", since "'If one turns aside from him to go toward the truth, one will not go far before falling into his arms'" (Simone Weil, Waiting for God, trans. Emma Cranfurd (New York:  Harper and Row, 1951), 69, at Denying and disclosing God, p. 132).
     All of thisexcept, of course, the Farrerfrom chap. 6 of Denying and disclosing God, which is Buckley's own antidote to the misguided apologetics of modernity, an apologetics with a distressingly persistent tendency to treat the question of the existence of God in abstraction from the concrete practices of personal interaction so essential to the Christian faith ("those very events that in the actual history of religious commitments and faith have proved most cogent", it being only "in such an interaction that the manifestation of the holiness of God [in fact] occurs" (p. 128, italics mine)).

Saturday, October 20, 2012

"What appears at first sight as a rare or highly specialized experience of mystical development 'writes large' the outline by which the surrender that is faith evolves into its own fullness in many lives."

     "It is in this deeply mysterious assimilation to Christ, this gradual movement from the initial stages of purification from expectations and conceptual clarity until the final moments of union, that John [of the Cross] throws into bold relief what is the experience, in various degrees and infinite varities, of many deeply good people.  What appears at first sight as a rare or highly specialized experience of mystical development 'writes large' the outline by which the surrender that is faith evolves into its own fullness in many lives.  Any serious following of Christ leads by way of the reversals of concepts or the disappointments of expectations, the sacrifice or the sufferingby way of the deconstruction of an initial understanding of Godinto the loving awareness that God is beyond concept, beyond management, and beyond form.  There is in Christian living an abiding purification from expectations and projections that social workers or mothers of families or dedicated teachers undergomust undergo if they are to continue faithful to the God who dwells in light inaccessible, whose incalculable reality is embodied in Jesus, and whose draw they feel within their own spirits. . . .
     "René Voillaume makes a similar point as he introduces the Journal of one of the major disciples of John of the Cross in the twentieth century, Raïssa Maritain:
The contemplative prayer of Raïssa, whose life was above all dedicated to intellectual work, and who was called on to testify mainly in the world of thought and of art, is but one with the experience of a factory girl or a woman wholly occupied in domestic tasks in a poor neighborhood.  I have known some such, who by these paths in appearance very different have found the same simplicity of gaze on God and endured the same acute ordeals of purification, to achieve a more complete union with the supreme object of their love.
This contemplative purification, which in one way or another catches up the lives of those who move within this grace, is delineated in its progressive moments and in its fullest completion by the mystical theology of John of the Cross.
     "Not all atheism comes out of Feuerbach and Freud; not all contemplatives are influenced by John of the Cross.  But there is an intersection here of religious criticism that seems to me highly significant.  If it is correct, then the concern of a theology that sees development somewhat dialectically should be less to refute Feuerbachian and Freudian analysis than to learn from them what they have to teach about the relentless remolding of the image of God by religious consciousness and to suggest alternative stages to the processes they elaborate of anthropological recognition and reduction."

     Michael J. Buckley, S.J., Denying and disclosing God:  the ambiguous progress of modern atheism (New Haven, CT:  Yale University Press, 2004), 118-119.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

"Apart from a rather dense and elaborate nexus of liturgical and congregational gestures, words, practices, and so on, how do Christian people show that they believe in [something like the] real presence?"

     "The observable differences in Catholic and Lutheran practice raise the question whether the Lutheran lex orandi, their liturgical instantiation of the presumed reality of the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in his body and blood, adequately reflects what Lutherans say they believe about 'real presence.'  Apart from a rather dense and elaborate nexus of liturgical and congregational gestures, words, practices, and so on, how do Christian people show that they believe in real presence?  As Martin Luther himself once remarked, 'it is good that the Sacrament of the Altar is honored with bended knees; for the true body and blood of the Lord are there, likewise the presence of the Holy Spirit and the promise of the Word of God, which should be heard reverently.  For God works there, and the Lord shows Himself.'  It has become increasingly rare today to find Lutherans whose practices vigorously enact real presence, which suggests at a minimum a disconnect between 'official theology' and church practice, and, at worse, a de facto eucharistic memorialismcreeping Zwinglianism, if you willthat contradicts official theological statements to the contrary.  Granted that Lutherans reject, as do Orthodox, tabernacling or processing the consecrated host.  Still, one wonders, where is the piety that reflects the Lutheran teaching?  And granted even further that that all our churches struggle with aspects of ecclesial practice that seem to betray the faith we confess, still one must ask:  Why does the Lutheran liturgical lex orandi so often seem to contradict their lex credendi?  At the risk of being accused of uncharitably airing out the Lutheran family's dirty laundry, which I do not at all intend to do, I would note that in my own experience as a representative of the Lutheran churches I once looked on in horror as our Orthodox ecumenical partners observed a Lutheran pastor throwing out the 'leftovers' (i.e. consecrated wine) after a Lutheran Eucharist.  Again, all of us have experiences within our churches that seem to contradict our churches' most deeply held, and ecumenically trumpeted, convictions.  But this one, which is in my experience common, is a particularly egregious example. . . . [I]t stands as a warning to all of us, reminding us that we must be ever vigilant to guard the integrity of our traditions, lex orandi et lex credendi."

     Mickey L. Mattox, "Catholic 'Church,' Lutheran 'Community'?," in Mickey L. Mattox, A. G. Roeber, and Paul R. Hinlicky, Changing churches:  an Orthodox, Catholic, and Lutheran theological conversation (Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2012), 146-146 (112-153).  The words of Luther occur at Lectures on Genesis 47:31 (LW 8, 145; WA 44, 685).
     I am ignorant of the niceties of the Lutheran doctrine of persistence.  Presumably "The usus or actio (that is, the practice or administration)" (Formula of concord, Solid declaration VII, 86) is not already over by this point of "disposal"?
     For Luther's own convictions, see Lyndal Roper's startling account of how he handled a case of spillage here.
     Cf. Taft:  "In the far more modern and sophisticated twentieth-century United States I have heard tales (but not myself witnessed) abuses in Roman Catholic parishes that would turn one's hair gray:  poorly trained communion ministers and even priests who dump what is left of the consecrated hosts not used for Holy Communion at Mass back into the container of unconsecrated hosts in the sacristy, or worse, fill up the ciborium from that container of unconsecrated hosts if they run out of consecrated hosts for Holy Communion at Mass!" (Robert F. Taft, SJ, FBA, "'Communion' from the Tabernaclea liturgico-theological oxymoron," Worship 88, no. 1 (January 2014):  19n63 (2-22)).
     Sitting right up front during an extremely crowded and busy Midnight Mass at St. Mary Catholic Church in Eugene one Christmas Eve a few years ago, my wife was startled to hear the celebrant stop a man who had started to walk away with the host in his hand, and demand in no uncertain terms that it be consumed right then and there, on the spot.
     Cf. the successful lawsuit filed by Archbishop Coakley of Oklahoma City.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The 17th-century Jesuit Leonard "Lessius argued as if Christianity had not significantly affected the grammar of 'God.'"

     Michael J. Buckley, S.J., Denying and disclosing God: the ambiguous progress of modern atheism (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004), 30.

Cambridge historian Eamon Duffy on the enduring value of his pre-Conciliar Irish-Catholic upbringing

Faculty of History, Cambridge University
"But if we believe in the reality of revelation, and if we believe that the Church is entrusted with it, then we have to give a concrete meaning and form to that confidence. We cannot infinitely postpone our obedience and response to the truth, as it seems to me many forms of liberal Protestantism tend to do. If the Church has the gospel of truth, someone, somewhere, has to be trusted to say what it is, and to call on us to receive it. That process seems to me now more complex and less simplistically hierarchical than we imagined in 1950, but the essence of what we believed in 1950 seems to me both true, and precious. A Church without real authority is not the Church at all. We receive and proclaim the Catholic faith which come to us from the apostles, we do not invent it: the Brothers, and my grandmother, knew that too."

     Eamon Duffy, "Confessions of a cradle Catholic," The pastoral review (January 2000).

Monday, September 3, 2012

Flowers for Algernon

"[von Neumann] spent the last year of his life in Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., where he surprised and dismayed friends and family by seeking out a priest for counsel.  His brother explains this away as merely an effort to find intellectual companionship; his daughter Marina affirms, to the contrary, that von Neumann was taking up Pascal's Wagerbetting on the existence of God, since he couldn't lose by being wrong:  'My father told me, in so many words, once, that Catholicism was a very tough religion to live in but it was the only one to die in.'
     "Whatever his spiritual state may have been, we know that he was distressed by the disease's effect on his mind.  An old joke among mathematicians says, 'Other mathematicians prove what they can; von Neumann proves what he wants,' but in the last weeks of his life he felt his mind rapidly deteriorating.  What had always come so easily to himalmost supernaturally easybecame difficult and then impossible.  Marina von Neumann told George Dyson that near the end her father asked her 'to test him on really simple arithmetic problems, like seven plus four, and I did this for a few minutes, and then I couldn't take it anymore.'  Even as von Neumann stumbled over the most elementary sums, he never lost his awareness that mathematics was important and that he had been marked from childhood by the astonishing fluency with which he could do it.  Marina von Neumann fled the hospital room:  in George Dyson's words, she could not bear to watch her father, one of the greatest minds of the 20th or any other century, 'recognizing that that by which he defined himself had slipped away.'"

     Alan Jacobs, "The man who delivered the computer," Books and culture (September/October 2012):  38.

Van Leeuwen's "Brief Sermon on Method"

"All this to say that when studying human gender traits, gender identity, or sexual orientation, essential conditions for inferring cause and effectthe manipulation of one factor (sex) and the control of others (social as well as biological)cannot be met.  It means that 'all data on sex differences, no matter what research method is used, are correlational data,' and as every introductory social science student learns, you cannot draw firm conclusions about causality from merely correlational data."

     Mary Stewart van Leeuwen, "Neurohormonal wars:  old questions and dubious debates in the psychology of gender," Books and culture (September/October 2012):  12, small caps mine.  This cuts, of course, both ways.  But still. . . .

Monday, August 27, 2012

Buckley on the indispensability of "a specifically religious intellectuality"

"It was not the opposition of science to religion; it was much more the endorsement of [religion by] science that generated modern atheism.  It was not because science was indifferent or antagonistic; it was because it was too enthusiastically affirmative and comprehensively supportive that atheism emerged.  Science smothered religion by adopting it."

     Michael J. Buckley, S.J., Denying and disclosing God:  the ambiguous progress of modern atheism (New Haven:  Yale University Press, 2004), 2.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

"the unjust steward with his impious economy making up for his own private thefts by grudging honour to his Master."

"'To what purpose is this waste?'the unjust steward with his impious economy making up for his own private thefts by grudging honour to his Master."

     John Henry Newman, Meditations on Christian doctrine II ("Hope in GodRedeemer").i.2 (August 18, 1855) (Prayers, verses, and devotions (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000), 342).

"I see now the meaning of that else inexplicable humiliation: He preferred to regain me rather than to create new worlds."

     John Henry Newman, Meditations on Christian doctrine I ("Hope in GodCreator").iii.2 (Prayers, verses, and devotions (San Francisco:  Ignatius Press, 2000), 340).

Sunday, August 19, 2012

"the loss of a geocentric cosmology of nested crystalline spheres was not in any intrinsic way a fundamental break in human self-understanding"

     "The interesting and complex story that runs through the lives of Bruno, Galileo, and their learned contemporaries is not, as Rowland commendably knows, some science-versus-religion showdown still asserted today among historically ignorant scientistic ideologues.  But neither is it her repression-versus-liberation dichotomy.  It is rather the widespread inability of deeply Aristotelianized contemporaries, simultaneously aghast at the doctrinal, social, and political divisions within Christendom, to grasp the independence of traditional Christian theology from cosmology as such, and thus the compatibility of that theology with different cosmological models.  This is evident from the ways in which later Christians have grasped this distinction:  the universe's infinite spaces may have terrified Pascal in the mid-17th century, but they did not inhibit his ardent faith and devotion.  Nor do they prevent anyone today from accepting all of the Catholic Church's teachings, along with all scientific findings, provided one holds a traditional theology of creation.  God is love whether the universe is Ptolemaic or infinite.  It turns out that Bruno's moral and theological assertions are entirely independent of the vast universe he posited.  And that means that the loss of a geocentric cosmology of nested crystalline spheres was not in any intrinsic way a fundamental break in human self-understanding, whatever its continuing convenience for Western Civ lecturers."

     Brad S. Gregory, reviewing Giordano Bruno:  philosopher/heretic, by Ingrid D. Rowland, in "Giordano Bruno Superstar," Books and culture:  a Christian review 18, no. 2 (March/April 2012):   21 (19-21).  The reference to God's being love is a second slap at Rowland's comment that "[i]t would take another four hundred years for a pope to issue an encyclical that began with the words 'Deus caritas est'".

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

"although they had borrowed the letter of the law, they could not carry over the spirit that gives it life."

     "The Constitution of the United States resembles those fine creations of human industry which ensure wealth and renown to their inventors, but which are profitless in other hands.  This truth is exemplified by the condition of Mexico at the present time.  The Mexicans were desirous of establishing a federal system, and they took the Federal Constitution of their neighbors, the Anglo-Americans, as their model and copied it almost entirely.  But although they had borrowed the letter of the law, they could not carry over the spirit that gives it life.  They were involved in ceaseless embarrassments by the mechanism of their dual government; the sovereignty of the states and that of the Union perpetually exceeded their respective privileges and came into collision; and to the present day Mexico is alternately the victim of anarchy and the slave of military despotism."

     Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America I (1835).I.VIII.22 ("Why the federal system is not practicable for all nations, and how the Anglo-Americans were enabled to adopt it"), trans. Henry Reeve, with revisions by Francis Bowen and Phillips Bradley ((New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997), vol. 1, p. 167; Œuvres, ed. André Jardin (Bibliothèque de la Pléiade), II (De la démocratie en Amérique), ed. Jean-Claude Lamberti and James T. Schleifer (Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 1992), 186-187.  This, however, would not be true today, or at least certainly not of me:

"I have never been more struck by the good sense and the practical judgment of the Americans than in the manner in which they elude the numberless difficulties resulting from their Federal Constitution.  I scarcely ever met with a plain American citizen who could not distinguish with surprising facility the obligations created by the laws of Congress from those created by the laws of his own state, and who, after having discriminated between the matters that come under the cognizance of the Union and those which the local legislature is competent to regulate, could not point out the exact limit of the separate jurisdictions of the Federal courts and the tribunals of the state" (167).