Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Rusty Reno on public theology

"We should speak boldly in the prophetic mode, trenchantly in the critic mode, but tentatively in the political.  And we should speak with generosity to those who draw different conclusions about what course of action, here and now, in our always compromised circumstances, best serve God's purposes in public life."

     Rusty Reno, "Public theology," First things no. 268 (December 2016): 6 (4-6).

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

"If only we had one example in the Bible of God creating a faith out of nothing in this way!"

"Wenn wir nur in der biblischen Literatur irgend ein Beispiel eines solchen von Gott aus dem Nichts geschaffenen Glaubens hätten!"

     Karl Barth, CD IV/1, 340 =KD IV/1, 375, on the belief in a "parthenogenesis of faith without any external cause" (339) required of those who would deny that the subjective faith of the disciples was grounded in an objective Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Pity for "the blindness of those who advance authority alone as proof in physics instead of reason or experiment, and . . . horror at the wickedness of others who use reason alone in theology instead of the authority of Scripture and the Fathers."

"Authority alone can give us light on such matters.  But it is in theology that authority has its chief weight because there it is inseparable from truth, which we know only through it; so that to give absolute certainty to things which reason can least grasp, it is sufficient to point them out in Holy Scripture (as, to show the uncertainty of the most probable things, we need only point out that they are not included there); because the principles of theology are above nature and reason, and the mind of man, too feeble to reach them by its own efforts, can arrive at this highest knowledge only if carried there by an all-powerful and supernatural force.
     "It is quite otherwise with subjects accessible to sense or reasoning:  here authority is useless, only reason can know them.  Authority and reason have their separate rights:  a moment ago one had all the advantage; here the other is queen in her turn.  But since subjects of this kind are suited to the mind's reach, it has perfect freedom to concern itself with them; its inexhaustible fertility produces continually, and its discoveries can be at once without end and without interruption...

     "The clearing up of this difference should make us pity the blindness of those who advance authority alone as proof in physics instead of reason or experiment, and should fill us with horror at the wickedness of others who use reason alone in theology instead of the authority of Scripture and the Fathers.  We must strengthen the courage of those timid souls who dare to discover nothing in physics, and confound the insolence of that temerity which introduces novelty into theology.  Meanwhile the misfortune of the age is such that we see many new opinions in theology altogether unknown to antiquity maintained with obstinacy and received with applause; whereas those put forward in physics, though few in number, must be convicted of error, it seems, as soon as they shock, however little, received opinions. . . ."

     "C'est l'autorité seule qui nous en peut éclaircir. Mais où cette autorité a la principale force, c'est dans la théologie, parce qu'elle y est inséparable de la vérité, et que nous ne la connaissons que par elle : de sorte que pour donner la certitude entière des matières les plus incompréhensibles à la raison, il suffit de les faire voir dans les livres sacrés, comme pour montrer l'incertitude des choses les plus vraisemblables, il faut seulement faire voir qu'elles n'y sont pas comprises; parce que ses principes sont au-dessus de la nature et de la raison, et que, l'esprit de l'homme étant trop faible pour y arriver par ses propres efforts, il ne peut parvenir à ces hautes intelligences s'il n'y est porté par une force toute-puissante et surnaturelle.
     "Il n'en est pas de même des sujets qui tombent sous le sens ou sous le raisonnement: l'autorité y est inutile; la raison seule a lieu d'en connaître. Elles ont leurs droits séparés:  l'une avait tantôt tout l'avantage; ici l'autre règne à son tour. Mais comme les sujets de cette sorte sont proportionnés à la portée de l'esprit, il trouve une liberté tout entière de s'y étendre:  sa fécondité inépuisable produit continuellement, et ses inventions peuvent être tout ensemble sans fin et sans interruption...

     "L'éclaircissement de cette différence doit nous faire plaindre l'aveuglement de ceux qui apportent la seule autorité pour preuve dans les matières physiques, au lieu du raisonnement ou des expériences, et nous donner de l'horreur pour la malice des autres, qui emploient le raisonnement seul dans la théologie au lieu de l'autorité de l'Écriture et des Pères. Il faut relever le courage de ces timides qui n'osent rien inventer en physique, et confondre l'insolence de ces téméraires qui produisent des nouveautés en théologie. Cependant le malheur du siècle est tel, qu'on voit beaucoup d'opinions nouvelles en théologie, inconnues à toute l'Antiquité, soutenues avec obstination et reçues avec applaudissement; au lieu que celles qu'on produit dans la physique, quoique en petit nombre, semblent devoir être convaincues de fausseté dès qu'elles choquent tant soit peu les opinions reçues. . . ."

     Blaise Pascal, Preface to the treatise on the vacuum, trans. Richard Scofield.  GBWW, 2nd ed. (1990), vol. 30, p. 355-356.  French from here, as checked against pp. 453-454 (452-458) of the Pléiade edition of the complete works ed. Michel le Guern (Paris, Gallimard, 1998).

St. Thomas Aquinas on alchemy approximately four centuries before Boyle and Newton were still actively (if somewhat surreptitiously) pursuing it

     The following represents my halting preliminary attempt to follow up on the unfootnoted claim that "The other side [Boyle collaborator George Starkey] refused to hear were those who dismissed alchemy as a deception, a delusion, a fantasy.  Yet among scholastic philosophers these were the majority, from Aquinas and Albertus Magnus on" (David Wootton, The invention of science:  a new history of the scientific revolution (New York:  HarperCollins Publishers, 2015), 354-355).  Below are three of the several hits on lemmas #04023, #04023e, and #04023j in Corpus Thomisticum (which is not to say that passages without these terms are irrelevant).  The passage from the later Summa seems to my inexpert eye more tentative than the one from the much earlier Commentary on the Sentences.  I have not read any of the scholarship on the treatise on alchemy mistakenly (?) attributed to Aquinas, or any of the scholarship on medieval alchemy.

"Demons do not operate except by the mode of art.  But art cannot confer substantial form.  Hence it is said in the chap[ter] on numbers, ‘proponents [(auctores)] of alchemy cannot change the substantial form.’  Therefore neither can demons produce substantial forms."

"Art cannot by its [own] power confer substantial form.  This can [only] be done by the power of a natural agent, as is clear in this, that by art the [substantial] form of fire [(a natural agent)] is introduced into firewood.  But there are certain substantial forms which art can in no way introduce, because it cannot devise active and passive propria, though it can produce something similar in these [substantial forms? active and passive propria?], as [when] alchemists produce something similar to gold with respect to exterior accidents, but yet do not make true gold.  For the substantial form of gold is [induced] not by the heat of the fire which alchemists use, but by the heat of the sun [(a natural agent)] in [that] determinate place in which the mineral power [(a natural agent)] is vigorous.  And therefore such gold lacks the operation consequent upon the species; and similarly in other things which are produced by the operation of [alchemists]."

     Thomas Aquinas, Super Sent. lib. 2, d. 7, q. 3, a. 1, arg and ad 5, trans. Perisho.  (I have not examined Super Sent. lib. 4, d. 11, q. 3, a. 4, qc 3, expos.)  Latin from Corpus Thomisticum:

"Daemones non operantur nisi per modum artis. Sed ars non potest dare formam substantialem; unde dicitur in cap. de numeris: sciant auctores alchimiae, species transformari non posse. Ergo nec Daemones formas substantiales inducere possunt."

"ars virtute sua non potest formam substantialem conferre, quod tamen potest virtute naturalis agentis; sicut patet in hoc quod per artem inducitur forma ignis in lignis. Sed quaedam formae substantiales sunt quas nullo modo ars inducere potest, quia propria activa et passiva invenire non potest, sed in his potest aliquid simile facere; sicut alchimistae faciunt aliquid simile auro quantum ad accidentia exteriora; sed tamen non faciunt verum aurum: quia forma substantialis auri non est per calorem ignis quo utuntur alchimistae, sed per calorem solis in loco determinato, ubi viget virtus mineralis: et ideo tale aurum non habet operationem consequentem speciem; et similiter in aliis quae eorum operatione fiunt."

"Gold and silver are costly not only on account of the usefulness of the vessels and other like things made from them, but also on account of the excellence and purity of their substance. Hence if the gold or silver produced by alchemists has not the true specific nature of gold and silver, the sale thereof is fraudulent and unjust, especially as real gold and silver can produce certain results by their natural action, which the counterfeit gold and silver of alchemists cannot produce. Thus the true metal has the property of making people joyful, and is helpful medicinally against certain maladies. Moreover real gold can be employed more frequently, and lasts longer in its condition of purity than counterfeit gold. If however real gold were to be produced by alchemy, it would not be unlawful to sell it for the genuine article, for nothing prevents art from employing certain natural causes for the production of natural and true effects [(effectus)], as Augustine says (De Trin. iii, 8) of things produced by the art of the demons."

     Thomas Aquinas, ST 1, trans. FEDP.  Latin from Corpus Thomisticum:

"aurum et argentum non solum cara sunt propter utilitatem vasorum quae ex eis fabricantur, aut aliorum huiusmodi, sed etiam propter dignitatem et puritatem substantiae ipsorum. Et ideo si aurum vel argentum ab alchimicis factum veram speciem non habeat auri et argenti, est fraudulenta et iniusta venditio. Praesertim cum sint aliquae utilitates auri et argenti veri, secundum naturalem operationem ipsorum, quae non conveniunt auro per alchimiam sophisticato, sicut quod habet proprietatem laetificandi, et contra quasdam infirmitates medicinaliter iuvat. Frequentius etiam potest poni in operatione, et diutius in sua puritate permanet aurum verum quam aurum sophisticatum. Si autem per alchimiam fieret aurum verum, non esset illicitum ipsum pro vero vendere, quia nihil prohibet artem uti aliquibus naturalibus causis ad producendum naturales et veros effectus; sicut Augustinus dicit, in III de Trin., de his quae arte Daemonum fiunt."