Saturday, May 25, 2019

An intellectual (and spiritual) apprenticeship

     "Much of the work of post-Cartesian, modern philosophers in epistemology was driven by worries about skeptical objections that we do not know much, or most, or even all of what we think we know. . . .  some of these philosophers formulated a foundationalist theory of justification which could, they hoped, overcome skeptical worries by admitting as foundational only beliefs which were indubitable, or at least sufficiently obvious and secure, so they could withstand skeptical objections, and other beliefs could be justified on the basis of these.  A characteristic of these sorts of views was the stipulation that the foundational beliefs be evident to the autonomous investigation of the rational subject, for any reliance on authority or other mediating presuppositions, they believed, would be open to skeptical challenge, and assent to them would not be fully rational.
". . . some have interpreted . . . Aquinas’s foundationalism along the lines of this modern tradition.  But although Aquinas recognizes that certain truths may be per se nota ('known of themselves,' i.e. self-evident) to us, the goal of inquiry is that we may come to grasp what is per se notum in itself, and reason to conclusions from these truths.  We can only do this, however, by undertaking a period of training and discipline under the guidance of those more accomplished with the field, so that we may acquire the intellectual habits to apprehend what is per se notum as such.  The concern here is not with skeptical worries and the focus is not on autonomous, individualistic investigation; it is rather with the sort of intellectual formation required so that what is most intelligible in itself becomes most intelligible to us.
     "Central to our interpretation of Aquinas is [therefore] the notion of apprenticeship. . . ."

     John I. Jenkins, Knowledge and faith in Thomas Aquinas (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 1997), 49.  I have not read this book, but rather stumbled on this passage while spot-checking the claim that "what is the most intelligible in itself is also what is the least [intelligible] for us" (Philippe-Marie Margelidon, "Questions de Christologie en théologie Thomiste au XXIe siècle," Bulletin de littérature ecclésiastique 119, no. 1 (Jan-Mar 2018), 103n30 (91-124)), which didn't seem quite right taken in isolation.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The logos asarkos is none other than the logos incarnandus

"But that then also means that there is no Logos as such, no Logos in and for himself.  An 'in and for himself' which lacks the determination for incarnation is simply a myth.  But here I must immediately add [that] to say this much is not to reject the concept of a logos asarkos.  The Logos is united to a human person in time, and in fact 'late in time', as Charles Wesley so nicely put it.  And he does not bring his humanity into this world, he does not bring his body down from heaven.  The man Jesus is conceived by the Holy Ghost in the womb of the Virgin precisely for the union.  Or, better, to borrow I. A. Dorner’s phrase, 'for this uniting'.  So, yes, the Logos is asarkos before he is made by the Holy Spirit to be ensarkos.  Moreover, one cannot erase the concept of a logos asarkos without completely collapsing God into the history of the man Jesus, without erasing the Creator-creature distinction, without surrendering the otherness of God from the world.  I mention all of this because I have, on a number of occasions, been accused of rejecting the concept of a logos asarkos. . . .  But that is a charge that is completely without foundation.  I have from the beginning of the debate . . . quite explicitly affirmed the existence of a logos asarkos.  But I have done so, please note, in the form of a logos incarnandus, by which I mean the Logos who is eternally determined for incarnation, but who has yet to be united to the man Jesus in the womb of the Virgin.  Thus, the issue for me has never been whether, prior to incarnation, there is such a thing as the logos asarkos.  The issue has always had to do with his identity. . . . his identity in eternity and his identity in time are the same:  Jesus Christ."

Monday, May 20, 2019

'You attacked reason. . . . It's bad theology.'

     'How in blazes do you know all these horrors?' cried Flambeau.
     The shadow of a smile crossed the round, simple face of his clerical opponent.
     'Oh, by being a celibate simpleton, I suppose,' he said.  'Has it never struck you that a man who does next to nothing but hear men's real sins is not likely to be wholly unaware of human evil?  But, as a matter of fact, another part of my trade, too, made me sure you weren't a priest.'
     'What?' asked the thief, almost gaping.
     'You attacked reason,' said Father Brown.  'It's bad theology.'

     G. K. Chesterton, "The blue cross," The innocence of Father Brown (1910), Penguin complete Father Brown (Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England:  Penguin Books Ltd, 1981), 23.