Monday, January 28, 2008

Theology of St. Thomas - Necessity of Grace

Our last end, St. Thomas says, is the beatific vision.
For as the ultimate beatitude of man consists in the use of his highest function, which is the operation of his intellect; if we suppose that the created intellect could never see God, it would either never attain to beatitude, or its beatitude would consist in something else beside God; which is opposed to faith. For the ultimate perfection of the rational creature is to be found in that which is the principle of its being; since a thing is perfect so far as it attains to its principle. Further the same opinion is also against reason. For there resides in every man a natural desire to know the cause of any effect which he sees; and thence arises wonder in men. But if the intellect of the rational creature could not reach so far as to the first cause of things, the natural desire would remain void.

Hence it must be absolutely granted that the blessed see the essence of God (ST I Q12 A1).
But this is not something that we are able to accomplish on our own strength. I'll spare you the lengthy quotation from ST I Q12 A4, but the point there is that we are unable to do so because we are mere creatures, and God is infinitely above us. Consequently if we are going to see God, as he has already argued, we are only going to be able to do so by the grace of God. But if this is true even of the holy angels, as St. Thomas insists (ST I Q62 A2), then obviously it is especially true for us fallen men.

Aside from recognizing that we are completely dependent upon God for our salvation, and ought to live our lives in ways that reflect this dependency, it's worth pointing out that St. Thomas is affirming that our salvation comes to us sola gratia - by grace alone. Of course, as we have already seen, this is exactly what Trent affirmed (Protestant denials notwithstanding).

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Blast From the Past

Okay, the subject of this post isn't exactly hot off the presses in the blogosphere. But since it came up again in conversation recently, I think it's worth revisiting.

Back in October, Dave Armstrong challenged several folks to a debate. Dave's challenge was rejected by them all, but Turretinfan wasn't content to simply reject the challenge. Instead, he issued a mocking response concluding with this:

My conclusion is that Dave is not now prepared to do a debate, and consequently I will await information suggesting that Dave has either stopped calling himself a Roman Catholic (in which case I will decline the debate, because I have no desire to debate whether Roman Catholicism is Christian with someone who is not fully Roman Catholic), or until Dave has accepted that:

  • Trent denied Sola Gratia by Denying Sola Fide;
  • Trent, Vatican I, and/or Vatican II exalted the authority of the church to at least the level of Scripture; and
  • Vatican II asserted that Roman Catholicism worships the same god as Islam,

and until Dave has provided

  • some counter-definition for what is Christianity proper, that includes (apparently) those who are under Rome's Anathema and the wrath of "God," "Peter," and "Paul."
When it was pointed out to him that to say he will only debate if absurd conditions are met is the same as to refuse to debate at all, his response was ... non-responsive. I referred him to his blog (where his conditions were published) for the details, but perhaps it's worth pointing out a few things here.

First off, it would be worth looking at Dave's actual challenge, which can be found here. There's a lot of preliminaries, but the actual suggested terms can be found in the paragraph that starts with "My suggested terms and parameters and format for the debate are as follows..." One very interesting thing to note is that - if Dave supposedly was challenging them to a "formal" debate and then changing his mind about it, as Turretinfan claims - there is no suggested resolution to be argued. We may conclude either of two things from this: either Dave wasn't particularly worried about a "formal" debate, or that he was open to suggestions as to what that resolution ought to be. In either case, the fact that Dave's terms were declared to be suggestions unquestionably show that he wasn't trying to box anyone into a corner. And in my opinion, the fact that Dave said "There will be no rules, no moderation, no format other than previously agreed-to time limits, and absolute inadmissibility of personal attack" (emphasis added) shows that he wasn't trying to arrange a "formal" debate - since he was calling for "no format". So if Turretinfan didn't understand things, he could have read Dave's actual terms more closely, or he could have asked for clarification. Alternatively he might have simply asked that things be made more specific, if that's what he wanted. Either way, his mocking response was uncalled for.

But let's now go back to TF's comments above, and we shall see that his conditions are absurd, just as I said. First, he wants Dave either to claim that he (Dave) is not Catholic, or else admit to TF's ideas about Catholic doctrine.

Well, the first of these is plainly ludicrous: we may as well say that up is down and down is up as to say that Dave's not Catholic. I'm not aware of any orthodox Catholic who questions Dave's Catholic bona fides, and TF is hardly qualified or competent (in the sense of "possessing standing to pass judgment") to decide for us all whether Dave is Catholic. Since we accept Dave as our Catholic brother, I submit that it would make a lot more sense for TF to accept the fact that Dave is Catholic than to fantasize otherwise.

The other option TF offers here is that Dave has to accept TF's opinions about Catholic doctrine. But once again, this is absurd. Why on earth should a Catholic consent to have his orthodoxy measured by a hostile non-Catholic witness - and one who, it ought to be said, thinks that the Church has broken continuity with the past Magisterium?

Does anything more need to be said? Are these reasonable conditions? Not even close, in my opinion. Or would TF consent to having his standing as a Reformed Protestant measured by a Catholic? Heh!

Personally I didn't and don't see the point in the debate (or any debate, for that matter) anyway. I think they're pointless, and I for one don't consider TF or anyone else to be a "coward" nor his views to be false simply because of a refusal to debate. But I think that a better way that TF might have handled Dave's challenge would have been to offer an actual resolution (if he wanted a formal debate) - since Dave didn't offer one - and/or to make suggestions for how Dave's suggested parameters might be modified to suit himself. These actions would have suggested to me that TF was willing to debate. But to say that Dave must either agree with TF's views of Catholic doctrine or deny that he is Catholic before TF will debate him is ridiculous, and in my opinion these are such obviously outrageous conditions that it seems clear that TF did not actually want to debate Dave. He would have been better off saying so.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Dry Spell at The Supplement

I must apologize for the recent spell of dryness here at The Supplement. A number of factors have conspired against me, but the most significant was a period of prolonged illness beginning in the middle of last month and only really clearing up entirely in the last week or 10 days. I was literally flat on my back in bed for two weeks, and not much use for anything for another week or more after that. Not nice.

The sequel to that has been a fair degree of busyness at the office, along with attempting to catch up on various things around the house that went to seed during my convalescence.

Along about the same time, I'm entering into something of a transition from the sort of reading I've been doing almost exclusively for over three years. I've been reading philosophy and theology during that time, but this year I'm intent upon doing something to learn Latin (one of the many gaps in my pitiful government school education). So far Latin has not inspired new blog posts for me - maybe when I get to start reading useful things in Latin, that will change, but grammar is not a treasure chest of subject matter to me. :-) I still intend to read theology and philosophy of course, but at a more leisurely pace.

Lastly, I've been a bit put off by a perceived pointlessness in quarreling with Protestants for some time now, and that interaction with them has inspired quite a few posts here. Between the change of focus in my reading, and having dropped off the radar on other blogs, things have gone rather quiet here. I apologize for this to you, my readers. I hope to resume regular blogging here without delay.