July 16, 2014
Here is another photo from my recent vacation to California:
Click to enlarge. We stumbled upon this incredible view of the bridge, away from the tourists.
July 15, 2014
Are Thomism and Personalism compatible?
Peter Kreeft (Boston College) delivers an engaging and winsome affirmative answer in his presentation at the Center for Thomistic Studies, University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas:
At one point in the lecture, Kreeft provides ten objections to the synthesis, among which I want to highlight is his response to the first objection (at the 50′ mark):
Objection 1: There is no need for a further synthesis. Thomism is complete.
The reply is that no philosophical system in this world is complete and that Thomism does not claim to be a complete system. It is a system, but it is an open system — not a closed one, like that of modern rationalists. It is essentially a dialogue with all philosophies. That is manifested in the very form of the summa article, which is a systematized dialog, and in the fact that Aquinas almost always answers objections — not by simple denials but by distinctions and tries to affirm and preserve the true aspect of every objection.
Second, Thomism is not incompatible with further synthesis, because Thomism is itself a synthesis: of Plato and Aristotle, of theology and philosophy. In fact, Thomas is history’s greatest synthesizer — rivaled only by Hegel….
There are many gems in this lecture, and I highly recommend it to one and all. By the way, Professor Kreeft’s annotated edition of Pascal’s Pensées — Christianity for Modern Pagans – was one of the most formative books I read as an undergraduate student.
July 11, 2014
With the vacation last week and several commitments over the next few weeks, the blogging here will continue to be slow — probably until August. In the meantime, I may pass along the occasional article of interest, like so:
“What Killed the Romantic Comedy?” by Rachel Lu (University of St. Thomas)
July 9, 2014
So, I have been away for the past week on a family vacation to Northern California — my brother, myself, and the parents. It was the first time I have ever been to the west coast. We started with Yosemite National Park, then the wine country (Sonoma Valley), and then San Francisco. The temperature change was ridiculous! The weather was in the 100’s in Yosemite, then the 80’s in Sonoma, and then 50’s/low-60’s in San Francisco! The wind chill was in the forties! It’s July! My brother quoted Mark Twain, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” As beautiful as San Francisco is, I am far too acclimated to weather in Dixie to ever live in SF, unless I could acquire one of the endless number of gorgeous houses that line every street. There is a reason why SF is the most expensive city in America.
In San Francisco, we went through Haight-Ashbury. I was a bit disappointed. I wore my General Lee t-shirt (Dukes of Hazzard), and I didn’t receive even a mild rebuke! Seriously, I expect more gusto from the liberals on Haight Street. Oh well. They did have a huge rainbow flag waving.
Here are some of my pictures (click to enlarge):
June 23, 2014
This past spring, I did a 12-week Sunday school series on modern and postmodern philosophy. Borrowing from Jacques Barzun, I entitled the class, “From Dawn to Decadence: An Introduction to Modernism and Postmodernism.” Clearly, we like to challenge our church members to new heights of astuteness. As Presbyterians, they accepted the challenge!
I presented the last 400 years of intellectual and cultural development as a continuous narrative. Beginning with early Deism, we looked at the chief works of figures like Locke, Descartes, Rousseau, et alia, and then the transition to the mature Enlightenment with Hume’s skepticism and Kant’s response. With Hegel, we have a significant new departure by way of a historicized metaphysics, which naturally led into the Left Hegelians and 19th century atheism. Subsequently, in week 9, we finally came to Feuerbach and Nietzsche. Here is the presentation for download:
In the final weeks of the class, we looked at existentialism (Sartre, Camus) and finally postmodernism (using Foucault primarily, but also Serene Jones as representative of feminist “gender constructivism”). Perhaps surprisingly, I received really good feedback from church members, in what ended-up being a fairly large Sunday school class.
Image: Ludwig Feuerbach (source)
June 19, 2014
Leave it to the Presbyterians to make matters confusing.
The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) has been meeting this week in Detroit. This afternoon was the fated series of votes on amending the Book of Order to allow for the “marriage” of homosexual couples. I watched the whole thing, and this is what happened.
The first proposal was for a two-year study committee, which was voted down. Everyone wanted to move on with the the two significant proposals:
(1) Issue an Authoritative Interpretation (AI) for the Book of Order, which would retain the current definition of marriage in the BOO while allowing for the discretion of individual ministers to decide whether or not to perform same-sex marriages. It passed. This, of course, results in an AI that is in contradiction to the BOO, as some delegates rightly complained. Nonetheless, it passed. An AI does not require the approval of the presbyteries.
(2) Amend the BOO to redefine marriage as between “two persons.” This also passed, which would make the aforementioned AI meaningless. The difference is that an amendment to the BOO requires the approval of the presbyteries. This will happen over the course of the next several months. I assume that the presbyteries will approve the amendment. Interestingly, there was a motion to amend the amendment by adding that marriage is “traditionally defined as man and woman,” which was approved. But this was just a gesture to the conservatives, so that the BOO will effectively have two definitions of marriage: (1) two persons, or (2) specifically man and woman.
The AI was smart politicking by the liberals. If the amendment does not pass by the presbyteries, they will still have the AI. And in the meantime — until all the presbyteries have voted — the AI is in force. So, gay marriage passed at this year’s GA.
As was to be expected, the evangelical voice at this year’s GA was noticeably weak — very weak. Since the last GA in 2012, the PCUSA has seen 300 or so churches leave for evangelical denominations. My church, Westminster in Charlotte, is among those who joined ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians. The evangelicals who have remained (for now) are exhausted. They gave up before this GA even started, and I cannot blame them. The course is fixed for the PCUSA. They will join the UCC, mainline Lutherans, and Episcopalians. Good luck with that.
Oh, and at the “ecumenical worship service” yesterday morning, Katharine Jefferts Schori (the presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church and super-liberal radical feminist, with a penchant for suing departing congregations) was presiding at the service. The decision to have Schori preside was effectively a middle finger to the evangelicals.
At this service, they also prayed the “world religions” prayer, celebrating the “diverse faith” around the world — Muslims, Buddhists, and spiritual seekers of all sorts.
June 14, 2014
This is what “tolerance” looks like:
“Colleges and Evangelicals Collide on Bias Policy” (Michael Paulson, New York Times, June 9, 2014)
Well, when truth claims are reduced to culturally-conditioned “norms,” which are then reduced to power plays and “rituals of truth” (Foucault) — then we really shouldn’t be surprised when postmodern liberalism is consistent. It is not about reason, much less tolerance in any meaningful sense. It’s about reconstituting, as they would say, the cultural conditions from which “truth” arrives in human consciousness and receives its legitimacy. Power is all that really matters.
With the massive 23-campus Cal State pursuing the same course of action, in addition to half a dozen other colleges where evangelical associations have lost their official status, it looks like an “evangelical underground” is emerging in our secular academies. On the upside, a little discomfort and loss of privilege will probably do us some good.
Image: Bowdoin College, Hubbard Hall, Spring 2012
June 7, 2014
Rousseau told us that we are “born free,” arguing that we have only to remove the chains imposed by the social order in order to enjoy our full natural potential. Although American conservatives have been skeptical of that idea, and indeed stood against its destructive influence during the time of the ’60s radicals, they nevertheless also have a sneaking tendency to adhere to it. They are heirs to the pioneer culture. They idolize the solitary entrepreneur, who takes the burden of his projects on his own shoulders and makes space for the rest of us as we timidly advance in his wake. This figure, blown up to mythic proportions in the novels of Ayn Rand, has, in less fraught varieties, a rightful place in the American story. But the story misleads people into imagining that the free individual exists in the state of nature, and that we become free by removing the shackles of government. That is the opposite of the truth.
Roger Scruton, “The Good of Government” (First Things, June 2014)