Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Ebbs and floes of the TTLB Macrocosm

Doh! Looks like I've been demoted. I've gone from being a flappy bird to a miniscule microorganism in the space of a day or two. I understand some work is being done on the ranking algorithmns. Done in by math once again.

Of course, I haven't been blogging as much since I submitted my last paper. I could be writing about "The Document,"™ but frankly it's being hashed over by far better writers than I.

I'm sort of resting before the last push of the semester—hoping to give birth to a bouncing baby A on my final exam. However, I do have a few thoughts about which I'll be blogging shortly.

- New music project: recruited a drummer and guitar player for a new Christian rock project.

- Adults today and yesterday: saw something in the store today that incensed me and realized why I don't understand boomer adults. Or those of us who follow for that matter.

More later!

Monday, November 21, 2005

A Tom Lehrer Classic

HT to the Irish Elk
for this link to the Vatican Rag.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

An Impromptu Performance

As I was taking a break from essay writing today and preparing some beans for chili this afteroon, my daughter treated me to a spontaneous dramatic recitation of "Beans, Beans, the Magical Fruit."

I don't know where she gets this drama thing. No, really.

Newly discovered article from Summa Theologica

Albertus Minimus
has the latest, a newly discovered article from Summa Theologica.

What excellent timing for this satire. I'm writing a paper on the Christology of St. Thomas, so all things Aquinas are the order of the day.

**UPDATED with backlinks.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Flippery Fish!

Just you wait. I'll be flopping up onto the beach of the TTLB ecosystem any day now!

Neo, the "One"

It came down to William Wallace or Neo. Zorro and Batman naturally scored toward the top. Lara Croft? Uh... I don't think so.

The tie-breakers:

- I like wearing a kilt.

- I have kung-fu skills.

While I wouldn't mind wearing a kilt, I do, in fact, have kung-fu skills. I don't think kilt wearing and kung fu are all that compatible—at least not in mixed company.

You scored as Neo, the "One". Neo is the computer hacker-turned-Messiah of the Matrix. He leads a small group of human rebels against the technology that controls them. Neo doubts his ability to lead but doesn't want to disappoint his friends. His goal is for a world where all men know the Truth and are free from the bonds of the Matrix.

William Wallace


Neo, the "One"


Lara Croft


Batman, the Dark Knight


El Zorro


The Terminator




Indiana Jones


James Bond, Agent 007


Captain Jack Sparrow


The Amazing Spider-Man


Which Action Hero Would You Be? v. 2.0
created with

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Baaaaa! Baaaaa!

I'm baaaaaad. Baaaaad!

Just can't help but follow in everyone else's blogsteps.

You could be the FIRST (aside from yours truly) to pin himself/herself on my Frappr map.

Incarnation and Eucharist

Okay, I really should be writing my paper right now, but I came upon something as I was reading Aquainas's Shorter Summa (originally The Compendium of Theology) that helped me to grasp something I'd heard and accepted for a while: that to doubt the Real Presence in the Eucharist is to doubt the Incarnation Himself.

I always accepted this doubt to be by analogy. Doubiting that Chirst and be truly present in the Eucharist denies that all things are possible in Christ, which would result in doubt that he could truly come to be fully human. However, that's only part of the mystery. The other point has to do with the response of accident to substance. (Yeah, I know, anyone who knows Aquinas is going to say, "Well, Duh!") It was actually St. Thomas's analogy of this attraction in creatures:

Some sort of example can be found in creatures. Thus subject and accident are not united in such a way that some third thing is formed from them. In a union of this kind, the subject does not have the function of a part, but is an integral whole, which is a person, hypostatis, and suppositum. But the accident is drawn to the personality of the subject, so that the person of the man and of the color of whiteness is one and the same, and the hypostasis or suppositum is likewise the same.

Earlier he says, "Yet the soul and body are drawn to the personality of the divine person, so that He is the person of the Son of God and is also the person, hypostasis, and suppositum of the Son of man."

Amazing how such a simple analogy can make a mystery seem so clear without reducing its mystery.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A question of will

I orginally posted this question for my virtual classmates, but no one has responded. Perhaps some of you could share your thoughts.

I'm in the process of responding to the questions from Lesson 11, and I started thinking about the issue of sin and will. The question is "Is Jesus Christ a human person? If not how is he 'like us in all things but sin' as the New Testament teaches?"

I started with the idea that sin is, by definition, an act of the will. I intended to show that Jesus's will could not by contrary to the Father's will, but that has obvious problems scripturally (Matthew 26:39). So clearly Jesus had a will and it differed from the will of God the Father. If this is the case, will would have to be tied to something that Jesus does not have in common with God. He does have personhood, but His personhood would arise from His essence and existence, which are by necessity the same as God's. So His will, which would be a necessary prerequisite to commit sin, must not arise from His personhood.

At this point, we have two options. Jesus's will arises solely from His human nature, or Jesus has two wills, one arising from each nature.

Any thoughts?

Monday, November 14, 2005

My middle-earth race

I would've preferred the Rohirrim only because I would've loved to ride with Éowyn. But, then, who wouldn't?


To which race of Middle Earth do you belong?
brought to you by Quizilla

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Christian Community and Organized Religion

These are the questions for the last lecture. I spent a bit more time than I expected on the last bunch of questions. I'm still a bit sketchy on the definition of person.

Why do so many people today reject "organized religion?"

This isn't an easy question to answer because there are numerous factors. However, here are some motivations:

- The current worldview is subjective and individualistic, so it naturally rebels against the idea that a person should conform his or her will to an institution.

- The current worldview is relativistic, so the idea that one religion possesses Absolute Truth is, to some people, extremely arrogant.

- Organized religions tend to have histories that frequently include unsavory elements. Some followers (and I have to include myself here) often play down or ignore these unsavory elements.

- People tend to want a spirituality that mirrors their preferences rather than one that requires discipline or restraint.

Did Jesus just initiate a "movement" or did he found an organized Church?

Christ clearly established a basic organization with a clearly defined goal. He selected 12 men and gave them the power to bind or loose. He established Simon Peter as the leader, and clearly the Gospels and Acts exemplify his leadership, albeit with a clear sense of Peter's human frailties. Christ also established a guiding principal, the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

To deny that Christ did anyone of these things is to undermine His Word. If we say that Peter is just a small stone and not the Rock upon which Christ built His Church, then we have to acknowledge that no one holds the keys that Christ handed on. If we claim that Christ did handover the keys to Peter but that Peter could not pass that authority down, then we have to accept that the gates of Hell prevailed over the Church. If we deny that Christ's words to Peter to strengthen the other bretheren and to feed His sheep were not an indication of Peter's role as the leader of the apostles, then we have to find His other words to be equally as unclear, and that isn't indicative of a Good Shepherd.

This is not to say that Christ needed to dictate every other detail about the Church's organization.

What principles of human political order must be respected in the life of the Church itself?

There are two principals of human political order that we must respect in the life of the Church: solidarity and subsidiarity.

- The principal of solidarity stresses that material and spiritual goods be distributed in such a way that allows each person to have his or her due. It strives to reduce or eliminate excessive inequalities.

- The principal of subsidiarity is that decisions should be made by the level of government that is closest to those who will be affected. Higher levels of givernment should not interfere or prohibit the functioning of lower levels but should support it and work to coordinate the decisions of lower-level governments for the common good.

The Church repudiates both extremes of collectivism and anarchism as governing principals.

What is the relation of the ministry of the Sacraments and the ministry of the Word and how do human sciences assist in each?

Frankly, I'm not sure what this question means.

The sacraments are most frequently the physical manifestation of Christ's and the Church's work on earth. They involve transference of grace through material means: by water, for baptism; by bread and wine, for communion; by touch for confirmation, annointing of the sick, marriage, and holy orders. Only one sacrament, reconciliation, does not require some material means. The sacraments appeal to that side of us that requires symbolism and ritual. They are the order of grace as it works through the physical world. They appeal to our imaginations and senses.

The ministry of the word is the abstract working of grace through intellectual and emotional means. The Word is a great impetus for us and provides us with the conceptual means for accepting God's grace. Sacraments, on the other hand, provide us with an experiential (that is, material) means for accepting God's grace.

Human sciences can help us to distinguish those means of grace that are material from those that are not. They can point to the existence a higher reality but cannot point directly to that higher reality.

What is the relation of secular history and Biblical eschatology?

Secular history is simply a sequence of events viewed outside of the framework of some governing purpose or end. We do have a myth of progress ins secular history, but its mythic nature is revealed once we determine that history has no true goal or end, without which the concept of progress is meaningless. Also, if we accept the "random" nature of biological and cosmological evolution, the notion of progress is absurd. Only when secular history is viewed in light of a defining purpose such as that revealed in scripture can the notion of progress be admitted. So secular history is simply the reporting of a series of events. Biblical eschatology provides meaning to history and ultimately meaning to human existence.

Yay! I had to moderate my first comment!

Okay, it wasn't my first comment. It was the first comment I had to moderate.

Sorry, sir, but profane, irrelevant commentary isn't allowed. However, feel free to read up and maybe take a look at some of the other blogs to which I've linked. Based on the posts on your blog, I suspect you really need another purpose and another guide. I'd suggest Christ. He's the only way. God bless you.

Oh, but feel free to leave relevant comments. If they aren't too crude, I might leave them. Fewer (like no) f-bombs would help.

I'm a slimy mollusc!

Whaddaya know? I'm a slimy mollusc in the TTLB ecosystem. How serendipitous! I ate some slimy molluscs last night!

Personhood and Incarnation

Questions from Lesson 11. We're drawing ever closer to the final. I'm looking forward to moving on to the theology courses, but this has been an interesting class. Maybe I'll have to pursue more education in philosophy when this course of study is over. Lessee... maybe in 2010 when I finally finish this program.

What is a Christology "from below"?

"Christology from below" is meant to describe A Christology that emphasizes the human aspect of Jesus Christ. This emphasis was meant to counter monophystism, which denied that Chirst had two natures and believed only in His Divine nature. This Christology rightly notes Jesus's human nature but puts more focus on that than on His Divinity. While monophysitism hid or denied the humanity of Christ, Christology from below threatens to lower God to our own image or our own concepts. It tends to make Jesus appear to be a human person rather than a Divine person. To see Christ properly, we must keep in mind both his human and Divine natures.

What in Christian doctrine is a "mystery"? Why isn't it logically contradictory ?

A mystery is a reality that cannot be deduced or proven by reason, that must be shown to us through Divine revelation. However, it also cannot contradict fact. By "contradict," we do not mean something that is out of the ordinary or unexplainable, as that is the very definition of mystery. However, it cannot stand in direct opposition to fact or stand against a mutually exclusive fact.

Why must all our terms that refer to God and the order of grace be analogical? What is an analogy?

God is beyond our comprehension, and His true nature cannot be fully known to us. However, we can find in our experience parallels to God's character. These parallels or analogies allow us to relate concepts to God. For example, we claim to be able to understand an artist by knowing the creations of the artist. Given that God also creates, we can parallel the create acts of the artist to the creative acts of God can see the goodness and widsom of God in the created world. We can find an analogy in the human family for the Divine family, the Trinity.

Analogies do not get at the true essence of God, but they can suggest a smilitude by which we can come to better understand or approach that essence.

Is Jesus Christ a human person? If not how is he "like us in all things but sin" as the New Testament teaches?

Jesus is not a human person, but he is a human being and has a human nature. He also has a Divine nature. While His Divine essence and its existence are one and the same, his human essence and existence are distinct. Having a human nature, Jesus was subject to pain, sorrow, joy, temptation, hunger, and all other feelings and sensations that humans experience. However, sin is not a feeling or sensation but
an act of the will, a choice to favor our human will over God's.

If we take Christ's words in the Garden of Gethsemane to be accurate, we have to accept that will is tied to essence. Jesus clearly distinguishes His will from the Father's. If His will is different, it must in some way arise from that which makes Him different from the father, and that would have to be His human essence. Otherwise, Jesus's Divine person would want something different from the Father's Divine person. The will He speaks of, then, must arise from His human essence. It is in His choice in the garden that He best exemplifies the way. He denies the will that arises from his human essence and chooses the will of the Father, which ultimately must be the will of His Divine person as well. His choices, in all things, conform to God's will, not to his human will.

So He is like us in all things but sin, not because His will arises from something different than our but because He consistently chooses God's will over the will arising from His human essence. We, on the other hand, may sometimes choose God's will, but due to our imperfections, we frequently choose our own will.

Why are Father, Son, and Holy Spirit not three Gods?

God is the necessary being, the One in whom existence and essence are the same.
God is by necessity One because He is all perfect, all knowing, all powerful, and actualize all that is possible (all potentiality). If the three Divine Persons were separate in essence, then each would be lacking something that the others have. That would mean three gods that are not all perfect. Such gods could not be the necessary beings we believe them to be. If they were separate in existence, at least two would be redundant. I could say unnecessary, but I think that would be sophistry. Redundancy, however, isn't indicative of perfection, and it's contradictory to say that there are three supreme beings. So the three cannot have separate existence.

So, next question, given this sharing of existence and essence, what is personhood?

Describe the human person from the viewpoint of reason and of Christian faith. Apply this doctrine to the Incarnation. Be sure to include the definition of the person found in the Catechism.

I'm not able to find a clear definition of person in the Catechism. From our lectures and reading, we can assert that a person has essence and existence.

Here's the Catechism's description of the Divine persons:

Because it does not divide the divine unity, the real distinction of the persons from one another resides solely in the relationships which relate them to one another: "In the relational names of the persons the Father is related to the Son, the Son to the Father, and the Holy Spirit to both. While they are called three persons in view of their relations, we believe in one nature or substance."89 Indeed "everything (in them) is one where there is no opposition of relationship."90 "Because of that unity the Father is wholly in the Son and wholly in the Holy Spirit; the Son is wholly in the Father and wholly in the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit is wholly in the Father and wholly in the Son."91

By analogy, we would then say that a person has essence and existence and lives in relationship with others. The Incarnation has essence and existence, but His essence and existence are one, which is the definition of necessary Being. So the personhood of the Incarnation is different than our personhood. His personhood is distinct from the Father and the Holy Spirit but is in relationship with them. The human person lives in community with others and only becomes fully human in relation to living in a human community.

I'll have to think about this one some more.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Yes, I'm lame.

I gave up on the Blogger Word of the Day. I just don't have the time to do justice to it. Anyhoo, when I do come across an interesting term, I'll post it here—maybe something like the clotheslines at Fiddleback Fever.

I had another one of those spontaneous typological revelations today, but I wasn't close to a keyboard at the time. I miss my Sprint PDA/cellphone. It was archaic compared to most, but it sure was handy.

Monistic and Creational World Views

Lesson 10 - two more left before the last paper and the test.

How does Thomist thought complete the foundations of natural science according to Aristotle and his metaphysics by establishing God as Creator of the universe out of nothing?

Aristotle established in his natural science that the material universe and the immaterial both exist, but that all change in the material universe had to have an immaterial First Cause. He also established that the human soul goes beyond experience of the material to discover truth and so must be, itself, immaterial. However, he could not go beyond his pagan acceptance of an eternal material universe to see the First Cause as a Creator of that material universe, to see that material was created by God ex nihilo (from nothing), nor did he go beyond the existence of the immaterial human soul to suggest immortality of the soul.

Why is process philosophy an inadequate instrument of a Christian theology?

Process philosophy reduces God to merely the highest order of being, one which exemplifies the supreme concept of creativity. God's "antecedent nature" consists of a number of eternal objects, which in themselves have no order. God provides the ordering, creative principal that puts these eternal objects into the material form of the universe and sets in motion the events of history. God is the only person in this scenario, and humans are only "streams of consciousness," a sort of accident of historical events. This point alone is problematic because it eliminates any matter of choice or Divine Plan in the Incarnation, meaning Jesus is not really a person but a stream of consciousness. Hence, no Trinity, no need for a Christ, and no Christianity. No theology either, in that there is no one to really know God. There are only material accidents (pun somewhat intended) that are more or less conscious of creation and of God.

Why is the evolutionism of Teilhard de Chardin also an inadequate instrument of a Christian theology?

De Chardin tries to bring evolution into theology, but he does so using a flawed concept of evolution as a set of laws. Laws would make such operations ordered toward an end. However, evolution has no such laws, operates by chance, and aims at no particular end or goal. Like Whitehead, de Chardin tries to suggest differing levels of consciousness in all material existence (from atoms, to plants, animals, and so on) to suggest the rise of spiritual existence apart from God's direct creative action. Both process philosophy and evoltionism propose a watchmaker God who sets the material world in motion and allows it to wind down without intervention. Evolutionism, too, leaves us with a world in which the Incarnation has no place and violates the order of spiritual evolution.

Interestingly enough, in my early agnostic days, I began to conceive of consciousness in panpsychic terms. I don't recall if I read it somewhere first or if it just came to me. It was about the time I was delving into Heidegger, existentialism, theatre of the absurd, and surreal continental literature. The Ionesco play Rhinoceros seemed to me to exemplify a backward trend in modern society toward a less-than-human consciousness. I referred to it in one paper as "pachydermatitis." I still like that line.

How can the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, who knew nothing of the modern scientific theories of biological or cosmological evolution, be shown not to contradict them but to enable theologians to make use of them?

St. Thomas demonstrated that the natural science points to an initial cause, just as all effects point to some initiating cause. In the material world, a material cause can have material effects, but all material causes have at some point another cause behind them. So at some point there must have been a first cause that was not material. On this much, Aquinas and Aristotle agreed. St. Thomas identified the First Cause, the immaterial cause of the material universe, as God.

Being apart from the material world, natural sciences can tell us nothing more of God except His existence. From there, metaphysics allows us to posit other qualities that God, to be God, would have to posses. Here the theologian can find a wealth of support.

Because natural science (which includes the study of both biological and evolutionary evolutionary processes) points to a First Cause that is outside of its own system of reference (the material universe), it cannot contradict its existence. It can only claim agnosticism with any intellectual integrity.

What is "panpsychism" and what are the objections to it?

Panpsychism is the hypothesis than consciousness is present in all material in varying degrees. Aquinas' objections to this concept have to do with the evidence of it in inorganic material. We can equate panpsychism to hylozoism, which is the belief that all material is alive (and, as such, has consciousness). Living things have certain characteristics: they change under their own power (grow), they move spontaneously (even if imperceptibly), and at some point, they cease growing or moving and degenerate. Inorganic matter cannot do the first two, and if they do the latter, they do so only under external impetus (physical forces acting upon them in an unusual way). Living things can also heal. Inorganic things cannot. At very least, then, inorganic things are different than living things. The assumption, then, is that consciousness is one of those ways in which the organic differ from the inorganic.

I see a few problems with this idea, outside of what has been covered in the lesson. If consciousness is merely something that matter has in varying degrees, the only thing giving us a unique identity that can be the "image of God" is our physical body, which we share with the Incarnation of Christ. This, then, reduces Christ to another historical accident. Otherwise, what makes us to be "in the image of God" would have to be shared by other material beings and results in paganism.

Monday, November 07, 2005

NAB = American Intellectual Decline?

As a former 1980s-glam-rock nightclub musician, I'm always ready to exploit an audience when I can. (Sorry if I conjured up any bad images. You can't gouge out your mind's eye.)

Just had a thought here after struggling with some rather flat passages from the NAB (still waiting for my Ignatius Bible to arrive). So why have we been saddled with this rather colorless interpretation as the standard for our liturgy? Is it because it's the clearest, most culturally objective presentation of scripture as Catholic theologians and translators understand it? Or is it because our American Bishops have accepted the judgement of the rest of the modern world that Americans are shallow, intellectually inferior, and unable to appreciate the subtleties of a more poetic or more linguistically faithful interpretation?* If it's the latter, are they correct?

Discuss amongst yourselves.

*Yes, I'm fully aware that I'm setting up a false dichotomy. Please see my initial comment.

A Lowly Insect! Woo hoo!

Whoa! I've apparently jumped from being an insignificant microbe to a lowly insect, no doubt due to Rick Lugari's post on his blog. (HT, Rick!)

Anyway, mind the antennae as you check out my little niche in the blogospeher. ("You call this a niche?")

Typology: Finding Jesus in the Temple

I usually start the morning in contemplative prayer for a few minutes. (I didn't start off this practice with the intention of doing contemplative prayer, but I'm really not capable of much more until I wake up.) Anyhoo, this morning I was struck (ouch) by a thought about the fifth of the Joyful Mysteries. I don't even recall how I got there, but I gues I didn't really get myself there at all.

I'd never really thought much of the story of the 12-year-old Jesus being left behind in Jerusalem. This morning, though, I noticed a few parallels that suggest that this episode is typologically the death and resurrection of Christ from the perspective of the Blessed Mother:

The points of similarity:

- The event takes place in Jerusalem.

This needs no explanation.

- It's the feast of Passover.

Nor does this.

- Jesus "is lost" by His own choice.

Just as Christ chose His death, He chose to remain behind.

- His parents search for and find Him on the third day.

This represents their separation from Jesus and the anxiety and fear they undoubtedly had for Him. They find Him on the third day and are relieved of their fear and anxiety.

- He's in His Father's house (the temple) speaking to the teachers.

The teachers could represent the righteous in Limbo. Jesus listens and asks questions, but clearly his questions are not of the usual cut.

Of course, like any analogy, this story doesn't perfectly reflect the antitype of Christ's death and resurrection:

- Being lost isn't the same as being dead.

- There's no sufferring on Jesus's part as far as we can tell.

- Jesus is in His Father's House, which differs from Limbo symbolically, and the teachers are not necessarily as righteous as the Old Testament fathers.

Nonetheless, the similarities are striking.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Where have I been?

Yes, I've been lame. Working more than I'd like. Struggling to keep up with my coursework, but enjoying what I'm able to do.

So, what have I been missing?

Kathy Shaidle notes that Reformed Congregationalists have apparently risen up against their overlords in France and Denmark now. Oh, I'm sorry, they're not Reformed Congregationalists. My mistake.

Anne Rice has published a novel on Christ as a child. I'm happy for her conversion, and I look forward to reading her novel. I think Amy Wellborn was right to assess it on what she considered to be its literary merits rather than whether her fictional account used noncanonical sources.

I've been following the story about Katelyn Sills. If the expulsion was as groundless as it appears, I hope there will be an appropriate response from the archbishop. I'm tired of the institutions of the Catholic Church being co-opted for the agenda of feminists, pagans, and the pro-death camp.

Yes, I'm happy that Alito was nominated for the SCOTUS, notwitsthanding my concerns about Scotus... but that would be Duns Scotus. And I'm not really a Bush fan either.

I doubt I'll be generating as much traffic as these other sites. After all, I'm still an "Insignificant Microbe in the TTLB Ecosystem." However, I do want anyone who visits to know that I have no control over the code that concatenates the TTLB ranking. Apparently, it doesn't understand English morphology.

The Historical and Ontological Unification of Modern Knowledge

Lesson 9 is bringing a lot more theology into the mix. Bonsor's approach perplexes me a little, but I'm not always clear where his views stop and the views of the theologian or philosopher in question begin.

What is "historicism"? Illustrate the unification of knowledge by history.

Historicism is the use of history or the sequence of events as the means of unifying human experience and knowledge. Prior to the modern era, history was used solely as an object lesson. Thucydides wrote his history of the Greek states in an effort to teach Roman politicians about political problems. In the Pagan world, history was simply the cycles of change over time. However, the modern mind took the cyclical aspect and stretched it out to "reveal" an evolutionary aspect of history. Each stage of history demonstrated incremental advances in human knowledge determined solely by the conditions of those periods.

As evolution posits a series of random changes that lead to progression of forms, historicism is a series of random events that lead to a progression in societal/cultural terms.

Frankly, it's odd to speak of of evolution or history as progressions if taken in their modern usage. Progress imples a goal. In the case of both evolution and history, there is no goal. There is only change. One can suggest that survival is the goal, but that's inaccurate. Survival is a means toward something. It is not a state but a process, and a process can never be an end.

What is the difference between an Aristotelian metaphysics and a Scotistic metaphysics?

Scot's metaphysics are the starting point for all disciplines. It is the starting point from which other disciplines derive. In this sense, it's similar to Plato's metaphysics, which reduce all knowledge to a single source, the One.

For Aristotle, metaphysics is what follows the other disciplines and unifies them. Essentially, the goal of Aristotelian metaphysics is to unify human knowledge. To unify existing disciplines, it must follow those disciplines. However, as the unifying "science," it is the first science (or the supreme science).

Another distinguishing characteristic is that Scot's metaphyiscs wind up with God as the One or highest order of being. In Aristotle's metaphysics, the first mover is immaterial and not of the order of Being.

Why do many modern philosophers rejected the validity of metaphysics and claim that metaphysical concepts are meaningless?

For idealists working from the Kantian perspective, metaphysics are impossible because they would only reflect the catagories that our minds project onto our experience. At best, for Kant, we might have some commonality of our projections due to the similarity of those mental categories. For modern-day idealists, I assume that metaphysiscs is impossible solely because every subjective experience has been ratified as valid and legitimate, leaving no hope for a single, unified truth.

For empiricists, there's no need for metaphysics. Natural science is supposed to explain all based on the four foundational forces (gravitation, electromagnetism, string nuclear bonds, and weak nuclear bonds). Essentially, empiricists who hold this view see no means of critiquing natural science except through the lense of natural science, which leaves us in a question-begging death spiral.

The problem is that these forces may very well not be the only four forces. They're simply the only four forces of which we currently have empirical data. Empiricism traps itself in a fishbowl from which it can only look out and from which it can never escape.

What is "onto-theology"?

This term was coined by Heidegger to describe metaphysics that reduced God to the highest order of being. For Plato and Scotus, the concept of Being includes God (hence, is onto-theological), for Aristotle and Aquinas, God is the cause of or principle of Being, thus placing Him outside of Being.

How does an Aristotelian-Thomist metaphysics unify knowledge without a reduction of the autonomy of the special sciences and without falling into onto-theology?

An Aristotelian-Thomist metaphysics follows the disciplines, so it doesn't impose its own methods on them. Because it follows them, it can only presume the knowledge that derives from them, which means it can point to some first cause, but it cannot identify a Being within the horizon of the sciences that can be that first cause. Therefore, any first cause is apart from Being in the sense that can be confirmed with certainty by natural or any other human sciences.