Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christological Hearsay: Three Heresies in Summa Contra Gentiles

It is sadly not uncommon for the average Catholic to encounter Christological heresy, whether it is of the New-Age, Gnostic sort (that Jesus was an ascended being that realized the godhead available to all of us) or of that materialistic type that denies any divinity to Him at all. As with the poor, history shows that we will always have these heresies with us. While certainly it would be an overstatement to claim that every Christological heresy has roots in the old, one can certainly find the familiar taint of the modernist skeptic in the heresiarchs of old. St. Thomas describes many of these early Christological heresies in Book 4 of Summa Contra Gentiles. Of these, three in particular had a tremendous impact on the early Church: Valentinianism, Arianism, and Nestorianism. In striving against these heresies, the early Church defined much of its Christological thought.

Valentinus was a Gnostic of the early second century. According to The Catholic Encyclopedia, he was reputed to be a student of Theudas, a follower of St. Paul. Both Tertullian and Ireneus of Lyons wrote extensively on the false teachings of Valentinus and his followers.[i] St. Thomas, in Book IV of Summa Contra Gentiles, addresses primarily the errors in Valentinus’ understanding of the Incarnation. Despite the clear teaching of the Church that Christ became man, Valentinus taught (as did the Manicheans) that Christ only became man in appearance: “For he said that Christ did not have an earthly body, but brought one from heaven; that He received nothing from the Virgin Mother, but passed through her as through an aqueduct.” The Angelic Doctor addresses the same issue in Question 5, article 2 of Summa Theologica, part III. The root of the problem with Valentinus, as with the Manicheans, is their mistaken identity of the material world as a work of the devil (SCG 4, 30, 2).

He outlines several passages from scripture used by Valentinus to support this belief on the Incarnation, particularly John 3:13 and 1 Corinthians 15:47. Yet the Valentinian position leads to numerous contradictions. First is the direct conflict with scripture. Christ Himself says in Luke 24:39, “[F]or a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have.” Likewise, in the letters of St. Paul, Christ is said to be born of the seed of David (Romans 1:3) and to have taken flesh from a woman (Galatians 4:4). Yet, if Christ did not have an earthly body, it could not be a body of flesh and bone like ours, in direct contradiction to scripture (SCG 4, 30, 3), nor would a heavenly body be passible and susceptible to suffering (ST III, 5, 2). By making Christ only appear to be man, Valentinus detracts from God’s truthfulness by seeming to be rather than actually being man, and we cannot be legitimately called His brethren (SCG 4, 30, 8). Clearly, Valentinus’ non-Apostolic positions caused the shipwreck of the faith of many.

A little over a century later, an Alexandrian priest by the name of Arius would spark a controversy that split the Church. Arius, a follower of Paul of Samasota, Bishop of Antioch, taught that the Logos was less than God but more than man[ii] and not of the same substance as God (animoios).[iii] The Catholic Encyclopedia notes that while the Gnostic heresies such as Valentinus never really had much influence in the West, Arianism had much more broad exposure and came about at a time when the technical language of Greek philosophy was being adopted more and more for the fine distinctions being developed in orthodox doctrine.[iv] The heresy spread so quickly that, in the words of St. Jerome, “The whole world groaned and marveled to find itself Arian.”[v]

Unlike the Valentinians, Arius taught that Christ was a creature. Rather than denying Christ’s human body, Arius denied that Christ had a soul and that the Word (Logos) took the place of the soul, a position he held in common with Apollinaris. As St. Thomas explains,
[H]e wanted to maintain that the Son of God was a creature and less than the Father, and so for his proof he picked up those scriptural passages which show human infirmity in Christ. And to keep anyone from refuting him by saying that the passages he picked referred to Christ not in His divine, but in His human, nature, he evilly removed the soul from Christ to this purpose[.] (SCG 4, 32, 2)

He challenges this doctrine on both philosophical and theological grounds. First, St. Thomas notes that, because the soul is the form of the body, that the Divine cannot replace the soul in a human nature (SCG 4, 32, 3). What’s more, to deprive a man of a soul would be to change his nature: “Take away… what is of the essence of man, and no true man can be” (SCG 4, 32, 5). Just as Christ could not be man without true flesh, He could not be true man without a human soul. St. Thomas continues to note that scripture includes specific references to Christ’s throughout the gospels and also speaks of Christ feeling emotions and bodily appetites, all of which belong to the sensitive soul.

Arius’s primary concern was with preserving the unity of God, as Jaroslav Pelikan notes: “The point at which the Arian understanding of God called forth a controversy was, then, not in the doctrine of God as such, but in the doctrine of the relation between God and the divine in Christ.”[vi] Arius attempted to make the Logos that divine element in the man Christ, but clearly as St. Thomas demonstrates, such an arrangement would not do. One has to hold that the soul of Christ and His Divinity are two distinct things (SCG 4, 32, 9) and the Divinity of Christ to be consubstantial with the Father, the position affirmed by the Council of Nicaea.

Not long after the dust had settled on the Arian question, another controversy arose stemming again from the school of Antioch. Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople, espoused a teaching taught by two anti-Arian bishops, Diodorus of Tarsus and Theodore of Mopuestia.[vii] What really seems to have brought this errant Christology to the forefront were Nestorius’ sermons concerning the title Theotokos given to the Mother of God.[viii] However, this aspect of his teaching was symptomatic of other severe distortions of Christian doctrine.

Whereas the earlier Christological heresies focused on whether Christ was God or man in nature, Nestorianism denied neither of these but addressed the union of natures in Christ. St. Thomas describes this proposed union as the indwelling of God in a true human body with a true human soul. Yet the problem with this notion of indwelling is that it is meant in precisely the same way as God’s indwelling in all holy men by grace (SCG 4, 34, 2). In this indwelling, Theodore and Nestorius saw an affective union between man and God. Yet, the Person of the Son of God and the person of the man Christ were two coincidentally.[ix]

St. Thomas makes note of numerous texts that make Nestorian Christology plainly unscriptural. First, he notes that the words of the gospel and the words of Christ Himself nullify the possibility of two distinct supposita in Christ (SCG 4, 34, 5–6). Clearly, if “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14), the simple meaning of the text does not support indwelling. Likewise, St. Thomas adds,
“[T]he man called Jesus says about Himself: ‘Before Abraham was made, I am,’ and ‘I and the Father are one’ (John 8:58; 10:30), and several other things which clearly pertain to the divinity of the Word. Therefore, the person and hypostasis of the man speaking is plainly the very person of the Word of God.” (SCG 4, 34, 6)

The Angelic Doctor continues on to address the matter of predication of titles and actions to one or the other nature, which he also addresses in Summa Theologica part III, Question 16. Whereas the Nestorians posited that human and Divine activities could only be attributed to the human or Divine natures discretely, St. Thomas affirmed that to Christ must be attributed both Divine and human activities, which is the teaching of the Council of Ephesus (reaffirmed at Chalcedon) also known as the communication of idioms. It follows that Mary could be truthfully titled Theotokos and the Mother of God, rather than the Mother of Christ as the Nestorians would have it. Sadly, this heresy was to result in one of the earliest major schisms of the Catholic Church.

Today, we still see remnants of these heresies among various denominations and movements. The fascination with Gnostic Christianity is evident enough if one turns on the History Channel[x] or peruses the stacks of New Age books at the local bookstore. Arianism has influenced numerous sects, including Islam, Unitarianism, the Christadelphians, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. In the Assyrian Church of the East we see the legacy of Theodore of Mopuestia and Nestorius. There are few new heresies, but rather restatements of the old. Even the best of us are occasionally tempted to respond as St. Nicholas of Myra is reputed to have done to Arius at Nicaea. Yet each of these controversies when reborn gives us an opportunity to witness to the truth and to clarify the teachings of the Church. As the Holy Father has demonstrated in the last few years, sometimes what is needed most is a frank discussion of the Truth rather than a “false irenicism” that papers over real differences.

Works Cited

Aquinas, T. (2009). Summa Contra Gentiles, Book Four: Salvation. (C. J. O'Neil, Trans.) Notre Dame, Indiana, USA: University of Notre Dame Press.

Aquinas, T. (2000). Summa Theologica, Tertia Pars. Retrieved September 18, 2010, from New Advent:

Barry, W. (1907). Arianism. Retrieved December 10, 2010, from The Catholic Encyclopedia:

Chapman, J. (1911). Nestorius and Nestorianism. Retrieved December 11, 2010, from The Catholic Encyclopedia:

Healy, P. (1912). Valentinus and Valentinians. Retrieved December 10, 2010, from The Catholic Encyclopedia:

Pelikan, J. (1971). The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition: The Christian Tradition (Vol. 1). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

i. Patrick Healy, (1912), Valentinus and Valentinians, retrieved December 10, 2010, from The Catholic Encyclopedia:
ii. Jaroslav Pelikan, (1971), The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition: The Christian Tradition, Vol. 1 (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press), p. 198.
iii. William Barry, (1907), Arianism, Retrieved December 10, 2010, from The Catholic Encyclopedia:
iv. Ibid.
v. Ibid.
vi. Pelikan, p. 195.
vii. John Chapman, (1911), Nestorius and Nestorianism, retrieved December 11, 2010, from The Catholic Encyclopedia:
viii. Ibid.
ix. Pelikan, p. 252.
x. I often refer to it as the Heresy Channel.

When Idioms Speak: Communication of Properties

In the early days of the Church, the Fathers knew well the importance of fine care in the choice of language and terminology. Perhaps nothing made the statement more clearly on the difference an iota (or a jot or a tittle) could make than the early Arian and Semi-Arian controversies of the fourth and fifth centuries, when the immense metaphysical gulf between homoousios and homoiousios threatened to capsize the barque of Peter. The question facing them, one that still plagues us today, is how to put the ineffable mysteries of God into language that communicates the Truth. While morphology took center stage in the earliest controversies, semiology became the focus during later debates—in particular, how we speak about Christ and His Divinity and what can be predicated to His two natures.

Primarily, when we speak about Christ’s two natures and what can be predicated to each of them, we are referring to the theological concept “communication of idioms” or “communication of properties.” Secondarily, we can include implications drawn from this communication. The teaching of the Church on these matters was established initially at the Council of Ephesus[i] and later clarified and confirmed at the Council of Chalcedon. The majority of these pronouncements addressed what has come to be known as the Hypostatic Union.[ii] Aside from the basic teaching about the dual natures of Christ, the Fathers of the council definitively stated that because one Person subsists in two natures, activities and properties that could be predicated of either nature could rightly be predicated of the Person. Thus, the council defended the use of the title Theotokos, the God-Bearer, for the Blessed Mother, stressing that Mary was the mother of the Person of Christ, Who is God.[iii]

The understanding of how to put these realities into words developed over centuries. According to Ocáriz et al, the first person to set down rules on such Christological language was Leontius of Byzantium. However, St. Thomas is known as the primary source for the main rules on the “exchange of properties” (yet another phrase for the same concept).[iv] This general principle has been formulated in numerous ways. Kenneth Baker writes “that human things can be asserted to the Son of God and Divine things to the Son of Man.”[v] While this description is certainly true, it does not aspire to the level of precision detailed by St. Thomas. The argument, as presented by the council Fathers, is essentially that properties and activities are typically ascribed to a Person rather than to his or her nature. In this sense, one can say that God, in the Person of the Son, was born of a Virgin and was crucified.
Thus, whatever can be said of one of the natures of Christ can be attributed to the Person of Christ. The key in speaking of Christ, then, is precision in predication of actions and properties to natures or to the Person. Anthony Maas suggests three considerations in applying this principle.[vi] This paper will discuss these three considerations in applying the principle of communication of idioms.[vii]

The first consideration is that those statements interchanging Divine and human properties are generally correct, so long as both subject and predicate are stated in concrete terms.[viii] In the most basic sense, we can say that God is man, if we mean this statement in the sense that God assumed a human nature and a body. St. Thomas points out, though, that the Manicheans used this statement in an elliptical way, to mean that God was a fictitious man rather than man in the flesh (III, 16, 1). He notes that both subject and predicate refer to the suppositum, and in this sense, it is true that God is man, and likewise that man is God. In this category, too, fall all of those utterances that pertain to the Person of Christ in His hypostasis or suppositum. When a property belongs to a nature, it can be attributed to the Person, so while Christ suffered in His human nature, His Person suffered. In this sense, God suffered. Inversely, as Ocáriz et al point out, we can say that the Son of David is almighty.[ix]

When we speak of the Person of God, we can speak objectively about a concrete entity. However, as Maas notes, we have to do so with caution. Some utterances, such as “man became God,” suggest that man subsisted in human nature prior to Christ’s assumption of that nature, which is false.[x] In addition, when a concrete term is used with reduplication, for example in “Christ as Man is God,” the emphasis is on the nature rather than the suppositum, as St. Thomas notes, so the clause in this instance is taken to be false (III, 16, 11). In such cases, one must take care not to attribute to one nature that which belongs to the other. If we say that “Christ as Man is a creature” (III, 16, 8), we are referring to His created human nature, but if we say “Christ as Man is God,” we are attributing divinity to His human nature. On the other hand, when demonstrative constructions are used, we are speaking clearly of the suppositum rather than the nature. To say “This Man, Christ…” is to point at the eternal Person of the Son of God since He subsisted first in His Divine nature. Anything, then, predicated to suppositum must take this fact into consideration. If we say, “This Man, Christ, came to be,” we can only say so truthfully with qualification—that He came to be in His humanity (III, 16, 9).

Maas’ second consideration addresses the use of abstract terms, which generally respect one or the other nature. Statements concerning Divine and human properties of Christ are, in general, incorrect if either subject, predicate, or both are abstract.[xi] For example, we cannot say that Christ’s humanity is omnipotence or that His Divinity was humanized. However, some exchange of abstract is acceptable, and we can predicate abstract names of the Divine nature of concrete names of the human nature: for example, this Man, Christ, is the Omnipotence.[xii] There is less danger when we begin talking specifically about the Second Person of the Trinity since abstract properties of either nature can be attributed to Him as the Person of the Son of God. Yet again, this does not mean that the abstract properties of one nature can be attributed to the other. We cannot, without error, say that “The Word is the humanity” or “the Word is the soul or the body of Christ.”[xiii]

St. Thomas addresses the use of abstractions specifically in part III, question 16, articles 3 and 5. In article 3, he discusses the predication of the terms God and Lord denominatively. While we call the Son of God Lord, we cannot call Him “lordly Man” since to do so would derogate the truth about the union of natures in the Person of Christ. In article 5, he writes of the predication of properties of the human nature of the Divine nature, which likewise is errant. So while we can attribute human properties to the Person of Christ, we cannot attribute them to the Godhead. We can say that Christ suffered and died. We cannot say that the Godhead suffered and died or suggest that the Godhead is passible or corruptible.

The third consideration is that statements must be used with care to avoid destroying the properties of one or the other nature.[xiv] Such statements would include those that speak to Christ’s humanity in such a way that His Divinity is put into question. For example, one can say the God was made man without inferring anything about Christ contrary to either nature. However, if the terms are traded and one says “man was made God,” an incorrect impression is given that man subsisted in his human nature prior to being assumed by the Second Person of the Trinity (III, 16, 7). In the same sense it would be incorrect to say that “Christ began to be” without qualifying the statement further: for example, “this Man, Christ, began to be in His humanity” (III, 16, 9).

Maas notes that negative sentences can sometimes be used in such a way that one or the other nature is denied. While it might be true in one sense that the Son of God did not die (in His Divine nature), one cannot say “the Son of God did not die” without implicitly denying His human nature. One might also (errantly) speak restrictively in a way that denies one or the other nature: for example, that Christ was not passible or that Christ was a creature (III, 16, 8). Again, while these statements can be true of one or other of the natures of Christ, they cannot be said to be true of the Person of Christ without denial of either His Divinity or His humanity.

Some theologians say that heresy is the emphasis of one truth to the exclusion or detriment of others. The Arians, not wanting to make Christ the equal of God, emphasized His humanity to the detriment of His Divinity. The Nestorians, not wishing to reduce His Divinity, weakened the union of natures in the Person of the Son. Still later, the Monophysites emphasized the union to such a degree as to destroy the distinction between the two natures. Along the way, simple lack of precision played a part in advancing error (for example, when Euthyches and his adherents misinterpreted St. Cyril’s writings about the union of natures in the Person[xv]). For this reason, theologians must take great pains for clarity in their use of Christological language, particularly in the area of communication of idioms. As the author of Hebrews wrote, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever” (13:8). Yet Jesus was born of a virgin, suffered, and died. We hold many truths in tension, and so our words we must choose with clear intention.

Works Cited

Aquinas, T. (2000). Summa Theologica, Tertia Pars. Retrieved September 18, 2010, from New Advent:

Baker, K. (1983). Fundamentals of Catholicism (Vol. 2). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Maas, A. (1908). Communicatio Idiomatum. Retrieved November 7, 2010, from New Catholic Encyclopedia:

Mosey, R. D. (2006). "Patristics: Lecture 3." International Catholic University. Catholic Educational Television, Inc.

Ocáriz, F., Mateo-Seco, L. F., & Riestra, J. A. (2008). The Mystery of Jesus Christ. Dublin: Four Courts Press.

Ott, L. (1974). Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. Rockford, Illinois: Tan Books and Publishers.

i. Ludwig Ott, (1974), Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, (Rockford, Illinois: Tan Books and Publishers), p. 144.
ii. Douglas Mosey, (2006), “Patristics: Lecture 3,” International Catholic University. Catholic Educational Television, Inc.
iii. Ibid.
iv. F. Ocáriz, L. F. Mateo-Seco, & J. A. Riestra, (2008), The Mystery of Jesus Christ, (Dublin: Four Courts Press), p.135.
v. Kenneth Baker, (1983), Fundamentals of Catholicism (Vol. 2), (San Francisco: Ignatius Press), p. 241.
vi. Anthony Maas, (1908), Communicatio Idiomatum, Retrieved November 7, 2010, from New Catholic Encyclopedia:
vii. Ocáriz et al have a more complex breakdown that also treats the subject well, but the author has chosen Maas’ more basic approach for simplicity’s sake.
viii. Maas,
ix. Ocáriz, p. 134.
x. Maas,
xi. Maas,
xii. Ocáriz, p. 135.
xiii. Maas,
xiv. Ibid.
xv. Ott, p. 146.

Grace and Glory: the Threefold Grace of Christ

Here's what happens when you overprepare for a short paper.


In the Gospel according to John, the evangelist writes, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father” (1:14, RSV). He continues that we have received from His fullness “grace upon grace” (1:16) and that “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (1:17). In these few verses, the evangelist highlights the threefold grace of Christ: the grace of union, the fullness of habitual grace that resided in Him as flesh, and the fullness that He pours out upon us as the Head of the Church. Ocáriz, Mateo-Seco, and Riestra describe this fullness in Christ the man:
When discussing Christ’s holiness, we are referring exclusively to Jesus Christ as man, that is, we are dealing with the divinization of his human nature…. A triple grace is to be found in Christ—the grace of union (that is, the hypostatic union viewed as a gift or grace to the humanity of Jesus), habitual grace (so-called sanctifying grace), and capital grace, that is, the grace he has as head of the human race.[i]

The grace of union, according to the authors, is the source of Christ’s holiness and also what makes Him our mediator, sanctifying us and giving us life.[ii] St. Thomas Aquinas, in Summa Theologica, Part III, Questions 7 and 8, reflects on this threefold grace and the essence of each.

“O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer!”[iii] These words from “The Exsultet” underscore the character of the Incarnation as gift. St. Thomas contrasts this pre-eminent grace in our Redeemer, called the grace of union in Summa Theologica (III, 2, 12), with that grace by which the saints are joined to God (III, 2, 10). This grace is unique to Christ, belonging to Him and no one else, and divinizing His human nature:
[H]uman nature is lifted up to God in two ways: first, by operation, as the saints know and love God; secondly, by personal being, and this mode belongs exclusively to Christ, in Whom human nature is assumed so as to be in the Person of the Son of God. (III, 2, 10)

Through this grace of union, according to Kenneth Baker, it is reasonable to say that Christ’s humanity is “endowed with substantial sanctity or holiness.”[iv] He continues, “[I]t is impossible to have a more intimate union between a creature and God than the Hypostatic Union in Jesus Christ.”[v] Ocáriz et al note that this substantial holiness is also referred to by the early Father as “anointing” or “unction.”[vi] They add that, according to the Thomists, grace of union sanctifies Christ formally (formaliter), and not only radically (radicaliter), as was believed by the Scotists.[vii] This grace is the source of Christ’s impeccability.[viii]

This union, St. Thomas explains, occurs by grace in two ways: first, through bestowal by the will of God; second, as a free gift unpreceded by any merit (III, 2, 10). While the grace of union with Christ the man could not be considered “natural” in regard to an essential property of His human nature (III, 2, 12, ad. 3), it was natural in that it occurred by the power of His Divine nature (III, 2, 12, ad. 1 and 2).

The second of the tripartite graces of Christ (in their common order of reference) is habitual or sanctifying grace. This accidental grace initially or formally justifies the human soul (Denzinger, Syst. Ind. Xf, 799) and enables it by operation to know and love God (III, 2, 10). Ocáriz et al highlight that habitual grace and grace of union are closely linked: “[T]he grace of union (which makes Christ’s humanity ‘substantially holy’) involves the need for habitual grace (which sanctifies accidentally) and for glory as the ultimate perfection of operative union with God.”[ix] As with human persons, the operations of the soul to know and love God require this habitual grace (III, 7, 1 ad. 2). Despite the fact that grace of union granted substantial holiness to Christ’s human nature, His soul still required habitual grace to be divinized. St. Thomas writes, “Yet because together with unity of person there remains distinction of natures… the soul of Christ is not essentially Divine. Hence, it behooves it to be Divine by participation, which is by grace” (III, 7, 1, ad. 1.)

Linked to this accidental grace are the infused virtues and gifts of the Holy Spirit. St. Thomas defends against the objection that Christ needed no virtues, pointing out that “as grace regards the essence of the soul, so does virtue regard its power. Hence it is necessary that as the powers of the soul flow from its essence, so do the virtues flow from grace” (III, 7, 2). Yet in Christ, not all virtues are present. Because He held the beatific vision through the Hypostatic Union, He had no need for the theological virtues of faith and hope. The Angelic Doctor writes,
As it is of the nature of faith that one assents to what one sees not, so is it of the nature of hope that one expects what as yet one has not; and as faith, forasmuch as it is a theological virtue, does not regard everything unseen, but only God; so likewise hope, as a theological virtue, has God Himself for its object, the fruition of Whom man chiefly expects by virtue of hope[.] (III, 7, 4)

As faith and hope have as their object God Himself, Christ needed them not. However, as Ocáriz et al point out, “any element of perfection which is found in [faith and hope] is found in Him, raised to a higher level of perfection.”[x] Another result of sanctification is the infusion of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Ludwig Ott examines the differences between the infused gifts and the infused virtues, noting that the “motivating principles of the virtues are the supernaturally endowed faculties of the soul, whereas the motivating principle of the gifts is the Holy Spirit immediately.”[xi] In Christ, according to St. Thomas, “the gifts were in a pre-eminent degree.” (III, 7, 5).

Finally, Christ possessed uniquely what theologians call captis gratia or capital grace:[xii] grace as the Head of the Church, His Mystical Body. This grace He possesses by virtue of His nearness to God and His perfection in the fullness of all graces (III, 8, 1). Pius XII, in “Mystici Corporis Christi,” writes, “It is He who, through His heavenly grace, is the principle of every supernatural act in all parts of the Body.”[xiii] St. Thomas explains the fitness of the metaphor of Christ as Head and His likeness to the human head in order, perfection, and power (III, 8, 1). In order, the head guides and directs the other members of the body, so does Christ influence both body (secondarily) and soul (primarily) (III, 8, 2). In perfection, the head is the seat of the senses. As Ott says, “from Christ, the Head, grace continuously streams to the limbs of His Mystical Body, by means of which He supernaturally enlightens and sanctifies them.”[xiv] Ocáriz et al note that this capital grace finds its source in the habitual grace of Christ.[xv] This personal grace by which Christ is sanctified, St. Thomas indicates, is the same as that grace which He, as Head of the Church, justifies mankind (III, 8, 5).

In Christ is the fullness of grace (III, 7, 9), finite in that it is a created being, but infinite in that He possesses everything pertaining to grace without limitations (III, 7, 11).[xvi] By His grace, we are brought into participation with His Mystical Body and in the Divine Mystery. The early Church Fathers spoke of this participation as adopted sonship in the Divine Nature.[xvii] St. Clement of Alexandria, writing on the sacrament of baptism, describes the effect of this outpouring of grace on the person: “Being baptized, we are illuminated; illuminated, we become sons; being made sons, we are made perfect; being made perfect, we are made immortal.”[xviii] Through Christ’s grace, we have life and have it abundantly.

Works Cited

Aquinas, T. (2000). Summa Theologica, Tertia Pars. Retrieved September 18, 2010, from New Advent:

Baker, K. (1983). Fundamentals of Catholicism (Vol. 2). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Denziger, H. (2007). Sources of Catholic Dogma. Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire: Loretto Publications.

Gassner, J. (2010). The Exsultet. Retrieved October 8, 2010, from Catholic Culture:

Mosey, R. D. (2006). Patristics: Lecture 4. International Catholic University. Catholic Educational Television, Inc.

Ocáriz, F., Mateo-Seco, L. F., & Riestra, J. A. (2008). The Mystery of Jesus Christ. Dublin: Four Courts Press.

Ott, L. (1974). Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. Rockford, Illinois: Tan Books and Publishers.

Pelikan, J. (1971). The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition: The Christian Tradition (Vol. 1). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Pius XII. (1943, June 29). Mystici Corporis Christi. Retrieved October 8, 2010, from Vatican the Holy See:

i. Ocáriz, F., Mateo-Seco, L. F., & Riestra, J. A., (2008), The Mystery of Jesus Christ, (Dublin: Four Courts Press), p. 177.
ii. Ibid.
iii. Gassner, J., (2010), The Exsultet, retrieved October 8, 2010, from Catholic Culture:
iv. Baker, K., (1983), Fundamentals of Catholicism (Vol. 2), (San Francisco: Ignatius Press), p. 260.
v. Ibid., 260–261.
vi. Ocáriz et al, p. 179.
vii. Ibid., 180. Also Ott, L., (1974), Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. (Rockford, Illinois: Tan Books and Publishers), p. 170.
viii. Ibid., 181.
ix. Ibid., 180.
x. Ibid., 183.
xi. Ott, 261.
xii. Ocáriz, 184.
xiii. Pius XII,
xiv. Ott, 293.
xv. Ocáriz, 185.
xvi. Ibid., 186.
xvii. Mosey, R. D., (2006), “Patristics: Lecture 4,” International Catholic University. Catholic Educational Television, Inc.
xviii. Pelikan, J., (1971), The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition: The Christian Tradition,Vol. 1, (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press), p. 164.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

What is really cool about the Catholic blogosphere...

is how you can run across a blogger with shared interests in the faith and find out you're distant cousins.

This happened to me just recently. A post on Mark Shea's blog mentioned Wade St. Onge, a Stuebenville graduate and blogger at The Longsuffering Writer. Having a paternal grandmother with that maiden name, I was intrigued, and I have to agree that St. Onge is a cool last name. Alas, I get "Burns," which is sort of the "Smith" of Irish and Scottish surnames.

Anyway, he mentioned that he had his family's lineage back to the mid-1600s. I checked with my father, who also just happened to have picked up the lineage from his cousin (another St. Onge), and we found we have a common great grandfather. With a little more poking, I found the next generation back, a François Payan dit St. Onge and his wife, Madeleine Cantin. They were the generation just prior to the branch that migrated to Quebec from St. Columbe, Saintonge, France.

Now, if I could only find the lineage for Burns. I understand Irish recordkeeping was not as meticulous.

Drop by and give Wade a hearty welcome!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

χάρις και ειρηνη

Grace an peace to you on this Thanksgiving. I wish you all the best.

Update: Hey, did you know that Squanto was Catholic? Neither did I! Taylor Smith has the scoop.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Some Happy Catholics Goin' On

I spent last week in Plano, Texas where I was doing some training for a client. Since I knew that a certain Happy Catholic lived in the area, I shot Julie D. a message and asked if she and her husband Tom would like to meet up.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

We missed our initial meeting as my flight out of Boise left almost two hours late. However, we rescheduled for the evening just before I left. Julie sent me directions to an out-of-the-way eatery deep in the heart of Dallas, with the instruction that I to make sure no one followed. "Oh yes," she added, "have a newspaper under your left arm, and wear an Aggies ballcap so we can recognize you."

After a long week of work, I was feeling a little punchy anyway, so cruising the back streets of Dallas did little to improve my spirits. I found the diner, an odd little Tex-Mex joint with a broken neon sign that blinked "Jo s ats." I entered and was seated at a booth in a corner. I ordered a beer and waited a good 20 minutes before I noticed that written on the coaster in ink were the words, "Flip over." On the backside, was a note: "Go out the back, and we'll pick you up in the alley."

I finished my beer and made my way to the rear exit. As I did, a set of headlights flicked on, a Buick sedan glided up, and a door opened. "Get in."

I looked up and down the alley, then ducked in just, my foot just barely leaving the pavement before the vehicle pulled off.

"Did anyone see you leave?"

"No," I said, "Hey, what's this all about?"

"Too much to explain right now. Are you packing any heat?"

"No, unless you're talking about the Icy Hot I use for my strained back."

"You're a smart guy. Smart guys don't live long in this neck of the woods."

Tom drove. I noticed that the panel under the steering column had been ripped out, and some wires were spliced together haphazardly. Julie handed back something heavy and cold.

"You'll probably need this. Aim carefully. That's all the ammo you have."

"So what's up? I thought we were just getting together for a nice meal and some chat."

"Yeah, well, that was until we got this new job, you see? It was supposed to be simple... a little marketing piece with some product listings, four colors, a slam dunk in InDesign. And then, the scope creep. A tweak to the margins here, an extra column to a table there, and now we're looking at a 2500-page monstrosity with nested tables, custom layouts on every page, and a ransom-letter type style. I snapped. There's no going back."


Okay, I might be exaggerating a bit.

Okay, maybe a lot.

Actually, we had a great time, and it didn't involve Berettas, Buick's, or neon signs. We talked a bit of shop, since we're in related fields, and we shared a bit about family and dogs and faith. We talked for a good two hours and never even got around to books, movies, music, football, food, or Pope Benedict. I'm very much looking forward to seeing Tom and Julie the next time I'm in Dallas. They're actually the first Catholic bloggers I've met outside the Boise area, and it was so great putting faces to names. A note for Mike Lee and Brent Brown: Julie really misses your pod casts. When your lives are less hectic, I think we all hope you'll resume them.

Thanks for a nice evening, Tom and Julie!

And Julie also said some nice things here about our visit.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Prayer Request for Injured Soldier

A member of our young-adult ministry team posted a request for prayers for his high-school friend, Trey Humphries, who today was injured in an IED blast in Afghanistan and lost his leg. He was transported to Germany (most likely Landstuhl). I will post relevant information about his rank and branch of service when I can, in case anyone has connections with Soldiers' Angels and would like to help out.

Please pray for Trey's healing and recovery and for his family to be comforted.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Barcelona Photoblog Comments


This entry is for anyone coming over from Barcelona Photoblog (a blog which I, by the way, love for its beautiful images) wants to lambaste me for my comments in support of the institutional Church and its charitable works. I will respond to any of your comment as updates to this post. Any posts with vulgar and abusive language will be deleted, and I will be the sole judge on whether a comment is sufficiently vulgar or abusive. I have a moderate tolerance for the former and a low tolerance of the latter. In any case, welcome and God bless you, whether you wish it or not.

Thursday, November 04, 2010


I have a special intention regarding... well, I can't really say just yet. I've been given hints that I'm going to get some unpleasant news tomorrow. However, there are so many different directions it could go. So please pray that God's will for me will be done and that my family will be supported regardless of the outcome.

Thanks to you all.

UPDATE: As I suspected, my contract is being terminated early. My manager dug in his heels for as long as he could, but the definitive word came down. I have work until the end of January. After that, I'll need to have some new contracts or land a full-time position somewhere. If you know anyone who is trying to get into the XML/XSL and content-management space, please send them my way, or send me their way. And your prayers are greatly appreciated.

Here's my company web site:

Defects of human nature assumed by Christ

These summaries address Summa Theologica part III, Q14 and 15 respectively.

Q14. Defects of body assumed by Christ

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Cor. 13:9

A1. Christ came to satisfy for the sin of mankind. The only way to do this was to take on the punishment due to sin, of which the bodily defects are part. So this did not hinder the Incarnation but was useful toward this end. Also, for people to believe in the Incarnation, Christ had to become fully human. A human being who doesn’t appear to suffer like others would not seem to be a real man, and indeed some early heresies (the Manicheans and Docetists) proposed just this sort of belief. Finally, by suffering Christ teaches us patience and fortitude.

A2. In considering whether Christ was subject to bodily defects by necessity, we have to consider necessity as both something imposed externally by another person against our nature and will and as something that is imposed by the very nature of a thing. It is the nature of flesh to be subject to hunger, thirst, sorrow, pain, and death. In this sense, Christ was subject to the defects of the body by necessity. However, while He willed His body to suffer these defects with both His Divine and human wills, the natural instinct of His human will would be against these defects. In this way, He was subject to bodily defects by necessity.

A3. The cause of death, hunger, illness, thirst, and other bodily defects is sin. In this sense, as all men except Christ are subject to sin, all men contract these defects. (In this, St. Thomas differed from the faithful in that he did not believe that the Blessed Mother was conceived without original sin but was sanctified after animation. See III, Q27.) However, in Christ, the cause (original sin) did not exist. While He had the defects attributed as an effect of sin in mankind, He assumed them willingly rather than had them thrust upon Him, knowing that through these weaknesses He would conquer sin.

A4. Christ assumed what was necessary to make satisfaction for sin. To do so, He needed the fullness of grace that His soul possessed. However, He did not assume those defects that would’ve been incompatible with perfection of knowledge and grace. In addition, other defects are caused by external factors due to the overall corruptibility of the body rather than as a direct result of sin (for example, bodily ailments or by defects during gestation). These are secondary defects rather than the primary defects of corruptibility and passibility. Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit and endowed with every natural perfection. Those defects He assumed were those that are the condition of mankind due to sin, although in Him not caused by sin.

Q15. Defects of the soul assumed by Christ

A1. Christ assumed those defects that aided Him in proving the truth of His human nature and for providing and example of virtue. Sin would be a hindrance in both of these efforts since it impedes satisfaction of penalties for sin. In addition, sin is not natural to the human soul, so sin does not prove Christ’s humanity. Finally, sin itself is opposed to virtue, so it adds no value as an example except as an example for further sin.

A2. The moral virtues make the irrational parts of the soul subject to reason The more perfect the virtue, the more subject are the irrational aspects of the soul, of which concupiscence is part. While concupiscence is, according to Hardon, a “movement of the sensitive appetites” toward things one sees as pleasures and away from thing one sees as painful, it can also include inordinate desires, which here are called the “fomes of sin.” These are inclinations that are contrary to reason. Strong virtue weakens the influence of the fomes of sin, so it only makes sense that Christ, who had the virtues perfectly, would have no fomes of sin in Him. So while Christ had concupiscence to a degree (ad 2), He had it within right reason.

A3. We know from questions 9–12 that Christ had fullness of knowledge, and from question 7, the fullness of grace and virtue. While virtue excluded the possibility of fomes of sin, fullness of knowledge excludes the possibility of sin. Just as the fullness of virtue excludes the fomes of sin from Christ, so the fullness of knowledge excludes ignorance.

A4. A soul can be affected by both bodily and animal passions. The former refers to those aspects that disturb both body and soul, given that soul is the form of the body. Since Christ’s body was passible, it follows likewise that His soul was passible. In the animal passions, all of the sensitive appetites are properly considered passions of the soul, so Christ had these as well, just as He had all things pertaining to human nature. However, whereas these passions can become unruly and contrary to reason, in Christ this wasn’t so. He had the bodily and animal passions but always held them in check by way of reason.

A5. Christ possessed all of the qualities natural to a human nature, both in body and soul. Christ’s body was able to hurt since it was passible and mortal and since He possessed a human soul with all of its powers, so was able to suffer as the form suffers with the body. Thus He experienced true pain.

A6. Divine dispensation prevented the joy of the beatific vision from overwhelming the sensitive powers and reducing pain. Likewise, it prevented other effects of the sensitive appetites such as sorrow to be suppressed. Unlike pain, which affects the physical senses, sorrow addresses things that can be hurtful or evil interiorly as understood by reason or imagination. So just as He could suffer true pain, He could suffer true sorrow.

A7. There are two kinds of fear. One is an irrational fear of the unknown. The other is a reasonable fear of something that will likely cause pain. When the pain is imminent, then fear gives way to sorrow. When the threat of pain is still future and possibly avoidable, fear is a reasonable response. In this latter sense, Christ felt fear.

A8. We can wonder in different ways. If we wonder about causes we do not see or understand, we wonder due to our ignorance. However, we can also wonder in a speculative fashion about our experiences in order to draw deeper meaning from them. In this latter sense, Christ had the ability to wonder, even if to model for us how we should reflect on our experiences and come to greater understanding through them.

A9. Anger is a passion that arises from sorrow and a desire for revenge. Sometimes that desire for revenge can be irrational, which is sinful. Such a desire doesn’t exist in Christ. However, sometimes this desire for revenge is for due justice. In this sense, Christ did have this desire, as mentioned in John 2:17 and elsewhere. Since Christ also had sorrow, so together, Christ would have anger in Him. Anger motivated by a desire for justice is righteous or zealous anger and not sinful.

A10. Perfect beatitude pertains to both body and soul. It is clear that Christ’s mind had the beatific vision (called the science of vision by Ocáriz et al). Yet His body, which was passible and mortal, did not yet posses this. So in regards His soul, He was a comprehensor in all that was proper to it, but regarding the rest of His human nature, He was a wayfarer.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


My regular weekly installment of summaries for Christology. I plan to post something on the "AI Wars," an episode aired on National Geographics' channel tonight. I'm hoping I can lure Jimmy Akin to responding on that post since he seems to speculate quite a bit on such things.

But for now, it's all Aquinas... all the time.

A1. The Divine nature is unbounded and from it flows active power to all things that have the nature being. Clearly, since the principle of human nature is the Divine power, human nature (in Christ’s soul) cannot itself be omnipresent. However, as ad 1 notes, by the communication of idioms (also called the communication of properties by Ocaríz et al), the man Christ can be said to be omnipotent since His human nature is in union with His Divine nature in the Person of the Word.

A2. St. Thomas identifies three ways in which transmutation of creatures occurs. Transmutation can be brought about by an agent naturally or by means of the miraculous. For example, naturally we can bring about changes in other creatures through the use of practical knowledge. Supernaturally, we can be an instrument of God in bringing about some transmutation (such as miraculous healings attributed to saints, conversions brought about by witness, and so on). Finally, something’s existence can be brought to nothing. The power of Christ’s soul can be viewed in respect to proper nature and its power of grace or as the instrument of the Word. In the former case, Christ’s soul had the power proper to its nature, including its ability to enlighten other rational creatures in a way appropriate to another rational creature. As an instrument of the Word, it could be used in a way to effect miraculous transmutations. In both these senses, His soul had the same capacity as other human souls but He had them in perfection while we do not. Of the final mode of transmutation—of bringing something’s existence to nothing—only God has this capacity. The final mode, then, cannot be seen as simply the ability to destroy another creation but to actually make an existent cease to exist.

A3. While Adam in his prelapsarian state may have had the ability to keep himself from harm, Christ took on the penalties mankind’s separation. Christ’s soul, in its natural power, was incapable of preventing the natural workings of natural bodies, including His own. As an instrument of the Word, He was able to do so, but it would be attributable not to His soul but to the Word of God. Thus, Christ’s soul was not omnipotent in regard to His body.

A4. Christ, having two wills, willed in two ways. First, He willed those things which were in the power of His human nature to do. Second, He willed those things that could be brought about by Divine power. The first could only extend as far as His own capabilities and influence. Compelling other human wills was not within His natural power as a man. The second extends to His use as an instrument of the Word: miracles deeds and His own bodily resurrection.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

That's my girl

Last week, I was fortunate to attend my daughter's first orchestral concert of the year. This week (tonight, in fact), I was able to attend her first choral concert. I'm pleased on both accounts. In last week's concert, she conducted one of the pieces. This week, she sang in the a Capella and treble choirs. She will be playing with the chamber orchestra in November, and I'm hoping my travel schedule doesn't conflict. I could brag more about her cello playing, but that wasn't the intent of this post. I'll save it for later.

Tonight's concert, though, I was particularly pleased. This was the first time I had seen her sing since she was in the All City choir in fourth grade. I saw back when she was six and singing along with pop tunes (matching their technique) that she could not only carry a tune but do it artfully. Somewhere along the line, something happened: one or more of her peers made cutting remarks, maybe I said something that she took the wrong way, whatever. She lost confidence, and she lost interest.

So this year, when she threw caution and a clear-cut path to graduation to the wind and took four music classes, I was a little concerned. Yet, she auditioned for three ensembles and made all three. I took too few risks. She took a small one this year, and I'm proud of her for doing it.

There was also another very nice surprise. The director put together a 100-minute program including nine religious pieces, most of which came from the Catholic tradition. I was pleased enough to hear religious music being performed so beautifully by a high-school choir. The director explained that this was all in preparation for a section they're doing on Renaissance music. She then added that most of these pieces came from the Catholic Church.

Now, from junior high on, my daughter's teachers have included both religious and secular pieces in their programs, which is to their credit. The bulk of our musical heritage comes from religious works or popular devotional works. However, I was quite frankly stunned that she would even bring this fact to the audience's attention. And I'm gratified that she did. Music seems to be, in a sense, a last bastion of Catholic tradition in our schools. If it disappears from there, what will we have left?

So I was gratified by the program. As a side, I would mention that only one or two of the pieces I recognized to be from the Renaissance. Most seemed to be Baroque or early classical. Perhaps the director was being a bit subversive. If so, I'm in cahoots with her completely.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Infused and Acquired Knowledge in Christ

It seems that last week's marathon was bit of a fluke. I'm still sticking with an abbreviated summary of the questions.

A1. St. Thomas distinguishes between two passive powers in the soul: the active intellect, which operates by natural reason, and the obediential potency [Hardon] which is reduced to act through Divine revelation. Through the first, we can know through empirical knowledge and reason. Through the latter, we know by way of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In Christ, both these powers were reduced to act by Divinely infused knowledge. However, both of these are proper to the human soul and limited. Thus, the Essence of God was not known by this knowledge by the beatific vision.

A2. Christ was both wayfarer and comprehensor. While we as wayfarers can only know via mental images and sense data, the blessed are able to understand without resorting to mental images. As wayfarer, He could also make use of sense data and mental images.

A3. Knowledge can be collative or discursive in two distinct ways. First, we can process from a known to an unknown or from cause to effects. In this way, Christ’s knowledge was not discursive. However, it can also be discursive in how it is used—that is, by using reason not in order to learn but to demonstrate movement from cause to effect for whatever reason. In this sense, Christ’s knowledge could be collative or discursive.

A4. The knowledge imprinted on Christ’s soul, which flowed directly from Divine essence, exceeds that of the angels in both quantity and in certitude because of its source. The knowledge in the soul of Christ pertaining to its natural operation by way of mental images, sense data, comparison, and discursion was less than the knowledge of the angels.

A5. Human knowledge is naturally both actual and habitual. Habit is the means by which potential becomes actual and can be employed at will. So Christ’s imprinted knowledge was habitual, and He chose to make it actual as He willed.

A6. The knowledge imprinted in Christ’s soul was befitting to human nature. Human souls receive knowledge naturally by lesser abstraction than do angels, so it knows different natures by relating to different classes of species. Because there are different classes of things to know, human natures have different habits of knowledge. So know things in a fully human way, Christ must have had diverse habits of knowledge.

A1. Christ’s soul possesses acquired knowledge by the action of the active intellect, which works to make things intelligible. In His infused knowledge, Christ’s soul knows all that is in potential for perfection of His passive intellect. Thus, He must be able to reduce that knowledge and everything that could be known to act in His active intellect.

A2. One can grow in knowledge in essence (as if one increases their own habit of knowledge) or in effect (as if one used a habit of knowledge in increasingly greater ways in the act of proof). In the second way, Christ clearly advanced in knowledge, age, and grace because He continually performed greater acts and demonstrated greater knowledge. His habit of infused knowledge could not increase since He possessed it from the beginning. The only knowledge that could be increased was that habit that grows by abstraction from experience of intelligible things, for example, the way by which one abstracts from mental images.

A3. We know from III, Q8 that Christ is both Head of the Church and Head of all men. Through Him comes grace but also the fullness of the Truth which is in the Church. He questioned as a mode of instruction, but His role was as our master and teacher, not as one to be taught.

A4. Human souls, being between both spiritual and physical things, are perfected from both sensible things and by that knowledge imprinted on their souls through Divine revelation. Christ’s human soul, likewise, was perfected in this way. Thus there was no need for Him to receive knowledge of the angels having received infused knowledge from the highest source. In addition, these angels received their knowledge from Christ in the beginning, so it would be unfitting for them to be the source of his knowledge.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Questions about God's and Christ's Knowledge

For all my non-Catholic friends, the title should not suggest that we Catholics don't believe that Christ was God. We absolutely believe in His divinity. However, these questions treat God's knowledge in the Divine nature, and Christ's knowledge in human nature. It's a rather interesting exercise that St. Thomas puts us through.

A1. Possessing a human soul (a rational soul), Christ possessed created knowledge. A perfect human soul has potential to know intelligible things. To be perfect it must know what is intelligible. If Christ had had an intellect, it would have been to no purpose if He had not used it to know that which was intelligible. Created knowledge belongs to the human soul by nature. Since nothing was wanting in Christ, He did not want created knowledge.

A2. Man has the knowledge of the blessed in potentiality. Men are brought to this beatitude through Christ’s humanity. So this knowledge had to belong to Christ pre-eminently since cause must be more efficacious than the effect. Christ must have what He gives to others.

A3. Everything potentially is imperfect unless it is reduced to act. The passive intellect of man is potential until it is reduced to act in intelligible species, which are its completed form. The Word imprinted upon the soul of Christ all things that are potential in the human intellect. Christ knows the Word, and all things in the Word, and all things in their proper nature as they make sense to the human mind.

A4. Christ’s human nature lacked nothing that our nature has, so Christ had both a passive and an active intellect as we do, and it functioned in the same fashion in relation to objective experience and “intelligible species.” Thus, Christ acquired knowledge by the action of His active intellect.

A1. In the Incarnation, the Divine and human natures remain unconfused or intermingled. So the uncreated remained as it was, and the created was still limited by its nature. It’s impossible for a finite creature to comprehend the Divine Essence, which is infinite (that is, finite cannot comprehend the simply infinite).

A2. All things (to an extent) belong to Christ as the creator and judge, and any created intellect knows more perfectly in the Word what they knew before being beatified. All beatified intellects know whatever pertains to themselves. So the soul of Christ, being both beatified and being Christ, would know everything existing in time that the Word knows. Some things are in Divine power alone and cannot be known by the soul of Christ (for example, potentialities in God that are never actualized). However, anything potential in created being would have been known by the soul of Christ.

A3. Knowledge regards being, which is said either to be in act or in potential. Things are known primarily as they are in act rather than in potential, which is known secondarily by way of the one in whose power it could exist. In regard to the first, Christ cannot know the infinite because there are not an infinite number in act regardless of how many acts may take place since they are all temporally bound. In the second sense, Christ does know the infinite because He knows the power in the creature, which is infinite even though its acts are not.

A4. While the blessed see the Divine Essence, the soul of Christ is more closely joined to the Word than any other creature, so it receives the full illumination in which God is seen by the Word Himself, more so than any other creature. So more perfectly than all other creatures does the soul of Christ see the First Truth, which is the Essence of God.

I Q14
A1. Intelligent beings have their own form but also the forms other things as ideas, a thing known in one who knows. Forms approach, in their immateriality, a kind of infinity. God possesses the highest degree of immateriality (I,7,1), so He occupies also the highest place of knowledge.

A2. God understands Himself through Himself. Some operations are internal in the operator, having the object of term within. When we know of an object within, we know that which is intelligible through our intellect in act. Each can be in potential, but the object is known by the intellect in operation or act. In God, there is no potential of intellect or object, and intellect and object are the same. The intelligible species in God is the Divine intellect. God does not have knowledge, but is knowledge.

A3. A thing is comprehended when the end of knowledge about it has been attained, that is, when it is known as perfectly as it can be known. God knows Himself perfectly, and He is knowable according to His own mode of actuality. The power of God in knowledge is as great as His actuality in existence, which is pure act and free from any potentiality. So He is supremely knowable and knows Himself supremely. Hence, He comprehends Himself.

A4. If God’s act of understanding were something different than His substance, then something other than His substance would be the act and perfection of His substance, which would mean that His substance was related as potentiality to the act of understanding, and this we know is not possible since He is pure act, and the act of understanding is the perfection of the one who understands. In addition, to understand is not something extrinsic to the one understanding but remains in the one understanding and is the perfection of the one understanding, just as existence is the perfection of the one who exists. Since God’s existence is His essence, His essence is also His intelligible species, so His act of understanding, His intellect, is the same as His essence and existence.

A5. God necessarily knows things other than Himself. He perfectly understands Himself. If He knows Himself perfectly, He knows His power perfectly. Since His power extends to other things as He is their First Cause, He necessarily knows things other than Himself. Otherwise He would not know the extent of His own power. So all things that pre-exist in God must be within His act of understanding. Yet as He sees Himself through Himself, He also sees other things not in themselves but in Himself.

A6. To know a thing in general and not in particular is to know it imperfectly. If God knows things only in general, His understanding would not be perfect. So God must have proper knowledge of this, both that which is general and common to all and that which distinguishes one from another. Any perfection that exists in any creature, pre-exists in God, hence, must be known in proper ratio.

A7. We know things discursively in two ways: successively and by causality. However, many things that we could understand in succession we can also understand simultaneously, as parts of a composite. God, however, sees all things in Himself, which is one thing, so He sees them immediately rather than sequentially. In the second case, one who proceeds from cause to effect moves from principles to conclusions rather than both at once, or from what is known to what is unknown. But God sees effects in Himself as the cause, so He does not see discursively.

A8. The knowledge of God to all things is likened to the knowledge of a craftsman to the things he makes. The knowledge of the latter is the cause of the things he makes since he works by his own intellect, so the form of intellect must be the principle of action (the cause). To an intelligible form in an intellect, though, must also be added the will of the craftsman. So likewise is God’s knowledge, when joined to His will, the cause of things.

A9. God knows all things in whatever way they exist. Some things that do not have actual existence can be in terms of being possible in God’s power. They can exist in thought or imagination. Anything that can be made, thought, or said by a creature are known by God, even though they have no other material existence. However, such things are known not by vision but by simple intelligence.

A10. To know a thing perfectly, one must know everything accidental to it. Some good things can be corrupted by evil accidentally. Thus God could not know good things perfectly unless He also knew evil things. A thing is knowable to the degree in which it exists. Since evil is a privation of good, God knows evil in that He knows what is good and what can be lacking in it.

A11. All perfections found in creatures pre-exist in God in a higher way. To know singular things is part of our perfection, so God must likewise know singular things since what is known to us must also be known to God. Although we might know abstractions and singular things separately, God knows them both by His simple intellect. As mentioned in Q14 A4, since God is the cause of all this by His knowledge and His knowledge extends as far as His causality extends, He extends not only to forms but to the matter in which they inhere and are individualized. Thus He knows singular things.

A12. God knows all that is actual but also all that is possible to Himself or created things. Thus He must also know infinite things. The knowledge of a knower is measured by the mode of the form, which is the principle of knowledge. Now when we know something by sense, we know only of the immediate individual. However, when we know its nature, we can know infinite individuals that participate in that nature. So in some ways, we know the infinite, not as distinct individuals but in the principles of that species. However, the Divine essence is a likeness of all things that are or can be, not merely in universals but also in proper ratio top each individual. Thus His knowledge extends to infinite things.

A13. God knows all things, not only actual things but also things possible to Him and creatures. Since some of these are future contingent to us, it follows that God knows future contingent things. A contingent thing can be considered in itself, in which case it is not future but exists now in act (that is, an image of what will be). It can also be considered contingent in its cause, and in this way it is a future thing. Since God knows causes and effects simultaneously, He knows the contingent cause of a contingent effect together. So He knows the contingent future thing, which is future in relation to its cause.

A14. It is in our power to form enunciations, and God knows of all things in His power or those of His creatures. It follows that He knows enunciable things. He knows them not in the same manner as human intellects do, as if division or composition existed in His intellect, but by understanding the essentials of each thing, as well as all that is accidental to them.

A15. God’s knowledge is His substance, which is immutable. Thus, His knowledge is immutable

A16. Knowledge can be called speculative in three ways: first, on the part of things that are known but are not operable by the knower (for example, man’s knowledge of natural or divine things); second, in the manner of knowing (for example, as one considers what is necessary for a composition in general); and thirdly, as one considers different ways that a thing could be made without actually making it. Of Himself, God has only speculative knowledge since He in Himself is not operable. Otherwise, He has both speculative and practical knowledge because He can consider both what He can make and does not, as well as those things which He can make and does. So if He knows something in itself, it is speculative knowledge. If He knows something that is directed toward an end, it is practical.

Friday, October 01, 2010

In case you weren't sure what the sponsors of 10:10 think of dissenting views...

They make it plain and simple. Don't watch if you're squeamish.

When I first saw this, I thought it was a satire of how some climate-change advocates view the opposition.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The mode of union in the Person of the Word

In article 1, St. Thomas addresses three objections to the question of whether it befits a Divine Person to assume: first, that a perfect Person cannot add to Himself; second, that in assuming something, He communicates something of Himself to what is assumed; and third, that its repugnant for something constituted to assume its constituent because effect does not act on cause. On the contrary, he notes citing Fulgentius, that the only-Begotten of God assumed a nature, and the only-Begotten is a Person, so it’s fitting. He adds, in this case, that in this assumption the Person is both principle and terminus, since the union took place in the Person. He agrees that on cannot add to perfection, but that in union, the Divine perfects man. He clarifies that a Divine Person isn’t communicable in the sense of being predicated of several supposita. However, he notes that nothing prevents several things to be predicated of a Person, so that even in a created person several natures may concur accidentally (for example, quality and quantity). In the Divine Person, who is eternal, it’s fitting for there to be a conjunction of natures in subsistence. To the third objection, he responds that the Divine Person is not constituted a person by human nature but is constituted man by that assumption.

In article 2, St. Thomas addresses three objections concerning whether the Divine Nature assumes. First, he addresses the notion that the Divine Nature did not assume since the union did not occur in the nature. He notes that the Divine Nature is not a distinct suppositum, but that “taking to Oneself” refers back to the suppositum, of which the Divine Nature cannot be separated. Objection 2 poses whether assumption is befitting to all three Persons of the Trinity Who share the Divine Nature, to which the Angelic Doctor responds that to assume is befitting only to the Person of the Word given that the Word assumed. The third objection distinguishes between what acts and how it acts and claims that acting befits a Person not a nature. St. Thomas points out that what acts and how it acts, in God, are one and the same in the Divine Nature. He accedes the propriety of saying that the Person assumes, yet he adds that Divine Nature is the principle of assumption, so it is by no means unfitting to say that the Nature assumes.

In article 3, St. Thomas addresses the question of whether the Nature abstracted from Personality could be said to assume. In objection 1, which posits that Nature only assumes by reason of the Personhood to which it belongs, he responds that all attributes of Nature, which are rational, would still subsist and be a Person and could still assume. Objection 2 suggest abstracting the Person would leave no terminus, but clearly, if the response to objection 1 is true, it follows that there still remains a terminus. Objection 3 posits that nothing remains when Personality is abstracted, leaving no-thing to assume. St. Thomas replies that all of the essential attributes of God still remain, subsist, and hence, are a suppositum that can assume. Even without the relationality of the Persons, there is still rational Nature and all other essential attributes that subsist as a Person.

In article 4, St. Thomas addresses whether one Person can assume without the others. In response to objection 1, which posits that the works of the Trinity are inseparable so precluding the possibility that one can assume without the others, he responds that the action of assumption pertains to all three Persons, the term pertains to the Son only. Objection 2 concludes that since the Divine Nature is common to all three Persons, so the assumption is befitting of all three Persons. To the contrary, St. Thomas responds that Divine Nature assumes by reason of the Person of the Son, and is thus befitting to the one Person alone. The third objection likens the assumption of human nature by Christ to the assumption of all men to God through grace. He responds that the assumption by grace of adoption is terminated in the three Persons, but the terminus of assumption of human nature is Christ, although the principle of each is the three Persons. In conclusion, St. Thomas underscores again that what has to do with the action is common, but what has to do with the term is unique to the Person of the Word.

In article 5, three objections are given to the notion that only the Son could be the term of the assumption: first, that to be otherwise would confuse the distinctions among the Divine Persons; second, that sonship by adoption is a participation in likeness to the natural sonship of the Son, which doesn’t belong to Father or Holy Spirit; and third, that the Father is innascible, incapable of becoming incarnate. St. Thomas notes that while the Father is eternally innascible, temporal birth would not change this. To the contrary, he says that what the Son can do, so can the other two Persons. Otherwise, their powers would be different. The principle of the act of assumption is the Divine power, which is common to all three Persons. The term is the Person of Christ. However, it could’ve been any one of the Persons.

In article 6, St. Thomas addresses whether several Divine persons can assume one human nature.

As an aside, I would say that I like the creativity of the objections in this article, and it’s to his credit that he responds so deftly. I have to wonder, though, whether these are his own manufactured objections or if these disputes were floating around in his day. Perhaps one of our philosophy colleagues could comment.

Anyway, proposed as objections are the following: that several Divine Persons could not assume one human nature because either several gods would result or because one person would result, confusing the distinction of Divine Persons; next, that because assumption terminates in unity of Person, and the Divine Persons are not one person, they could not assume one human nature; and finally, that what can be predicated of one Person to the man would be predicable to the Persons as well, which would allow for something proper only to the Father (such as begetting the Son) to be predicated of the Son. First he notes that “one man” does not equal unity of person, only unity of human nature. Second, he states that the unity occurs in regards the nature to the Persons and would mirror the unity of the Divine nature with each Person. Third, he clarifies that the Person communicates to the human nature, but those distinctions are not communicated from Person to Person. In all, he distinguishes between unity in hypostases versus unity in Person. Just as the Incarnate Person subsists in two natures and the three Persons subsist in one, all three can assume one.

In article 7, St. Thomas addresses the question of whether one Divine Person can assume two human natures. He provides three objections: first, that a Divine Person assuming two human natures would result in a single suppositum composing two natures of one species, which would be a contradiction since one species is multiplied by distinct supposita; second, that an Incarnate Person having assumed two human natures could not be said to be one man, nor two; and third, that two human natures could not be united, because the uniting of human bodies and souls would result in a confusion of Divine Persons. St. Thomas appears to be using the trump card of omnipotence here: God cannot be limited be created things, or He would be limited in power. To the objections, he replies as follows: first, the Incarnation doesn’t result a new supposita, so neither would another assumed nature; second, that unity of nature does not imply unity of suppositum; and third, that unity between one human nature and the Divine Persons would not imply a unity of the two human natures, so there could still be a uniformity in assumption among the Divine Persons without any union between the assumed natures.

In article 8, St. Thomas addresses whether it was more fitting for another of the Divine Persons to become incarnate. First, one objection posits that if the Father had become incarnate, there would be less occasion for error to come into man’s thinking. St. Thomas counters, citing Romans 2:4, that man would still be capable of error in this case. In objection 2, the Father is seen as more fitting since He brought about the first creation. In reply, the doctor notes that the first creation was brought about by the Father through the Word. Finally, because the Incarnation was ordered toward the remission of sins, the Holy Spirit should have become incarnate since remission of sins is a gift of the Holy Spirit. St. Thomas responds that it is proper for the Holy Spirit to be the gift of Father and Son, hence more fitting that the Son become incarnate to bestow this gift upon us. He notes that it is fitting for the Son, Whose concept is the exemplar likeness of the created, to restore mankind, much in the way that a craftsman restores a work that has been damaged or ruined. In addition, he adds that the Son’s natural sonship makes Him the fitting Person to bring mankind into adopted sonship. And finally, the Incarnation is a remedy for mankind’s overweening desire for knowledge, making it fitting that the Word of true knowledge might lead mankind back to God.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Oddly enough, I can't be completely negative about this date. Nine years ago today, I first met the woman who is now my wife.

The mode of union of the Word Incarnate

This is my second batch of summaries for Christology. Fire away! I can use all the help I can get in sharpening my understanding of St. Thomas.


In article 1, St. Thomas dispenses with the Monophysite argument that the union of the word took place in the nature. The first objection, he notes, is based on a selective reading of St. Cyril. The second objection, he notes, is essentially a false analogy. The third objection, he notes, confuses two natures being changed as opposed to two natures being joined and that the Divine nature cannot actually be the form of a body but is simply joined to the flesh. He goes on to explain that nature has two senses: one, which deals with the begetting of things (birth) and a second, which deals with that which is essential to a thing (its quiddity). Union couldn’t then, be accidental, as with a composition of different elements; nor could it be a mixture of elements, which would result in nature neither Divine nor human. Nor could two natures be combined as two imperfect things, like members of a body, since each is perfectly complete or “has its specific perfection.”

This second article appears to be geared toward the opposite position at the Council of Chalcedon—that taken by Nestorius—that the union did not take place in the Person of the Word of God. In response to the first objection, St. Thomas notes that in God, nature and Person are not distinct (owing to God’s simplicity), but that the words “nature” and “person” do not mean the same thing. However, human nature is united to the Person of the Word without changing the Divine nature. In response to the second, he notes that human nature has greater dignity because it exists in the Person of the Word. In response to the third objection, he points out that the human nature assumed by Christ does not have its own personality because it did not exist apart from the Person of Christ. He then notes that while in the Divine Person, nature and essence are the same, that in created things, nature and person are not the same because other things adhere to the person that are not essential. Yet the suppositum is taken as whole, regardless of whether what is joined to it is essential or accidental. Hence, the human nature of the Word, which doesn’t belong to the Divine nature, is united in the Person of the Word.

In article 3, the Angelic Doctor addresses whether the union of natures in Christ took place in the suppositum or hypostasis. In response to objection 1 that Augustine and Pope Leo both refer to an “other” or to the Word and man as distinct, St. Thomas notes that they referred to His natures, and not to distinct hypostasis. To objection 2, he responds that a hypostasis includes those things in union to a substance and not only the substance itself. In objection 3, he explains that a thing is placed in a genus or species not based on individuating elements but by nature or essence. He sums up by noting that a person is simply a suppositum or hypostasis with a rational nature. To attribute a thing to a person is the same as to attribute it to their hypostasis. He points out that the Second Council of Constantinople and the First Council of Ephesus both condemned the position that two subsistences resulted from the Incarnation and anathematized anyone who denied that the Word was united to flesh in subsistence.

In Article 4, St. Thomas addresses the question of whether the Person of Christ was composite after the Incarnation. The first objection, St. Thomas addresses in the main body of his presentation as it is the primary consideration. In the second, St. Thomas notes that composition is not solely in parts but also in number. In the third, explains that not all composition requires homogeneous parts since animals are composed of soul and body, neither of which by itself is an animal. The first objection adheres to a view of the person of Christ prior to the Incarnation, as the Nature of the Word only. But following the Incarnation, Christ subsists in two natures: one subsistent being but different aspects of subsistence. So Christ is, after the Incarnation, a composite being.

In article 5, St. Thomas notes that the essence of a human being is for soul to be united in body. To objection 1, he points out that union of soul and body result in a person since they exist in themselves, but in Christ, they are joined to an existing person, so a new person need not result. In his response to objection 2, he notes that the human nature He assumed was of an individual, which isn’t common in the sense of something generalized and purely abstract, nor was the Damascene talking about a nature that came about after the union of human and Divine natures. Finally, he distinguishes between the effective principle of life (the Word) and the formal principle (the soul) and adds that the former cannot be the form of the body. As the essence of being human requires a soul to be united to a body, it could be no less in Christ. To claim such would be to diminish the humanity of Christ and lapse into heresy.

In article 6, St. Thomas addresses whether human nature was united to the Word accidentally. He responds to the objection that St. Paul referred Christ as being “in the habit found as a man” (Phillipians 2:7), and that habits are accidents. To this he replies that examples need not (and in fact should not) be similar in every way. Oddly, he doesn’t refer to his own argument on habits (II, 51, 1) in which he quite clearly says that some habits accrue to nature and not ass accidents (for example, knowledge as an operation of intellect). In the second objection, St. Thomas notes that something that is assumed into a complete subject is accidental only if it is not assumed into the same being. In response to the third objection, he notes that accident is divided against (distinct from?) substance and that substance can be either the nature or the hypostasis. A union taking place in a hypostasis, then, wouldn’t be an accidental union. Pointing out that this accidental union was part of the error of Nestorius and Theodore of Mopuestia, he points out that union by accident of various kinds was condemned by the second Council of Constantinople and that they confessed a union of the Word with flesh in one subsistence.

In article 7, St. Thomas addresses whether the union was created. In response to the first objection that nothing in God can change, he notes that the union is really more in our way of thinking since the creature is united to God with no change to God. To the second objection that the union should be judged in reference to the dignity of the Divine Person, he states that the union exists only in a created nature, hence, is a created being. To the third, that Man is called Creator is on account of the terminus being the Divine Person, not in the union itself. He states simply that the union came to exist in time rather than existing from all eternity and that it represents a change in relation between God and creature rather than a change in the Creator.

In article 8, St. Thomas deals with the question of whether union is the same as assumption. He dispenses fairly quickly with each objection: first, that union and assumption have different relations to the terminus or end, union addressing relation while assumption addresses action; second, that action and patient differ between assumption and union; and third, that assumption implies patient and agent, so is logically different from union or Incarnation. His answer clarifies that the Son of God assumes human nature, while God the Father unites the Son with human nature. So while the relationship is the same, the agency is clearly identified by the word “assumption” but not by “union.”

In article 9, St. Thomas deals with the question of whether the union of two natures in Christ is the greatest of all unions. He dispenses with the objections by noting that the unity of the Divine Person is greater than mere numerical unity due to the fact that it is uncreated and self-subsisting, and that it is the union in the Divine Person which gives the union pre-eminence over other unions. Each objection and reply essentially addresses this aspect.

In article 10, St. Thomas points out that accidental grace is a likeness of the Divinity in which men participate. However, in the Incarnation is no participation in likeness but is actual union, which is greater. Also, while habitual grace is in the soul only, the grace of being united to the Divine Person belongs body and soul to the whole human nature. Grace, he notes, can be understood as God bestowing something gratuitously but also as a free gift. Both ways can be seen in operation in the Incarnation: first, that God willed the Incarnation gratuitously and second, that the union was a free gift that was not preceded by any merits.

St. Thomas points out in article 11 that holy men could not have merited the Incarnation condignly as if it were something they justly deserved but only congruously because their love and devotion elicited such a response from God. In addition, he notes that Incarnation is the principle (agency) of grace, which is the principle of merit. Referring to Titus 3:5, he notes that we are not saved by our own works but by Christ’s mercy and through baptism.

In the final article of this question, St. Thomas notes that something can be termed natural in two ways: first, it can be from the essential, or second, it can be with a man from birth. While the grace of union was not natural in the first sense, it most certainly was natural in the second sense in that it came to Him by way of His Divine Nature from the moment of His conception.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Summa Theologia pt. III, Question 1

This is my first summary of St. Thomas Aquinas for my Christology class. Feel free to offer corrections. Some of the objections and responses are less than clear to me.

In Article 1, St. Thomas deals with whether it was fitting that God become incarnate. Addressing first the objection, he responds that immutable God is not changed in state from this unity, but that the mutable creature is changed. While man is not naturally endowed with this dignity (Obj. 2), God’s goodness made this unity fitting for our salvation. St. Thomas notes the confusion with which objection 3 treats the matter of evil, returning to the distinction he makes in PI, Q48, A5 between evil of pain and evil of fault. Finally, he underscores that God is not great in material terms but in terms of might or power (potentia). He notes that the end of the material world is itself to make known “the invisible things of God” and that it is most fitting for God, who is goodness itself, to communicate that goodness to man, whose nature is reasonable, in a means that befits the highest manner of the creature (which would be reason or logos).

In Article 2. St. Thomas first responds is to the definition of “necessary,” that the Incarnation was not exclusively necessary but suitably necessary in that it accomplished what needed to be done and did so for the “furtherance of our good”—that is, as Augustine noted in De Trinitate xiii, it demonstrated God’s love for us by condescending to share our lot. Through the Incarnation, He instills in us faith and hope, and through His demonstration of love, gains our love in return. In addition, He gives us an example to be followed and, by uniting Himself to flesh, divinizes humanity, as the Early Fathers would say. In addition to this “furtherance of good” is a withdrawal from evil, in which, being united to God, we understand our true dignity, not as some merit of ours but as a gift from God.

St. Thomas acknowledges in Article 3 a diversity of opinion on the question of whether God would have become incarnate had man not sinned, he comes down on the side of those who say He would not have become incarnate. He notes in response to objection 1 that all causes assigned in article 2 (the previous article) pertained to remedies for sin, and in response to objection 2 that all that is required for the perfection of nature is that creatures be ordered toward God as their natural ends. While St. Thomas agrees that God certainly could have become incarnate in any case, none of the objections necessitate that God become incarnate in such case. However, scripture makes clear that the purpose of the Incarnation was the redemption of man from sin, as the author notes in Luke 19:10 and Ephesians 5:32.

As sin came into the world through one man, one man would defeat sin through His action. St. Thomas notes in Article 4 that the Lamb comes to absolve the sins of the world. While this undoubtedly includes actual sins, it must primarily address the first cause of sin, the original fall. As Paul notes in Romans, many died through one man’s sin, but many more have “the free gift in the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many” (5:15, RSV). One of the distinctions the Angelic Doctor makes in this article is between intensive and extensive greatness of sin, the former which is hereditary and the latter, voluntary (II, 81, 1). While actual sin may be more grievous in a personal sense, its effects are limited in scope to the individual, while the effects of original are more extensive, applying to all humanity.

In Article 5, St. Thomas addresses objections that charity, effectiveness, and perfection of grace would all have been better served had God become incarnate at the beginning of the human race. He counters that God in His Divine wisdom knew best when and where the Incarnation was needed and would be most effective for the perfection of human nature. Because the Incarnation was provided as a remedy for sin, it was only fitting for the Incarnation to come after the fall. He also points out the root of Adam’s fall in pride and the need to bring us to humility to recognize our need for grace. Come too soon, and man would fail to recognize his need for a liberator. The furtherance of our good required the spiritual man to follow the “earthy” man (adamah). In addition, Christ’s dignity necessitated that He be preceded by heralds who went before Him. Finally, so that the fervor of those coming to faith did not grow cold toward the end of time, it was fitting that God become Incarnate when he did, and not at the beginning of the human race.

In Article 6, St. Thomas points out that the Incarnation is both perfect Himself and also our means of perfection. In this sense perfection both precedes our imperfection, but in terms of our nature, follows imperfection. By coming when He did, He found us in our imperfection, when we most needed His grace and when we would be most likely to respond. Had he come at the end, memory and reverence of Him may have been forgotten, along with the natural law and morality. By coming neither at the beginning of the human nor at the end of the world, God saves through faith in past, present, and future events.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Mullets on Parade

I posted some old band photos on Facebook from the last two decades. It was an amusing visit to the past. I'm sure my old bandmates are thrilled with being tagged on them.

See the parade of bad haircuts here.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sen. Coburn on Life

"We now record fetal heartbeats at 14 days post-conception. Re record fetal brainwaves at 39 days post-conception. And I don't expect you to answer this, but I do expect you to pay attention to it as you contemplate these big issues. We have this schizophrenic rule of law where we have defined death as the absence of those, but we refuse to define life as the presence of those."

Coburn makes an excellent point here, but as others have put it, since we do not know when life begins, we should deal with such matters with caution. Conception results in a unique human being—genetically and spiritually. Disimissing that fact is what leads to such schizophrenic rules of law.

HT to Julie D.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Fr. Barron responds to Anne Rice

I've been reading with some sadness many of the rather tart if not caustic comments about what Anne Rice recently wrote concerning Christianity and her rejection of the label Christian. It saddens me because I saw someone who truly wanted to come back but perhaps was seeing through a glass darkly. I reviewed Ms. Rice's two books on the early life of Jesus here, both of which I enjoyed, and she was kind enough to drop by and comment. I truly believe she wants to find the truth, and I also believe the Church is the place she will find it. However, it seemed to me that she was responding less to the teachings of the Church and more to personal attacks on her struggles with those teachings. The responses just proved her point. Christians, and particularly Catholic Christians, can be an uncharitable lot. I'm not saying anyone should discard the truth for a lie, but we should speak the truth in love. When we don't, we look like the caricature she has in her mind of us. How do we say that we don't support homosexual activity, abortion, and contraception because we love, then we turn around and act hateful? We have to act on love in our insistence of the truth about the teachings of the Church.

Fr. Robert Barron of the Word on Fire ministry posted what I think is the only really compassionate response I've seen, which is why I haven't posted anything myself. At the end, he posts, "Come back, Anne. We need you!" To which I agree. We need all the members of the Body of Christ and their gifts. And also importantly, come back, Anne, because you need the Church.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Michael Totten in Israel

Michael Totten, a blogging photojournalist who works extensively in the Middle East, is currently in Israel. He posts this very interesting interview with an Israeli friend on how different the perspective on Israel is from the inside. Something he notes that many people are blissfully unaware of is that 70% of Jewish Israelis emigrated against their will: that is, they were either run out of Europe before, during, or after World War II, or run out of other Middle Eastern countries after the partition. One of my colleagues there had a family who had lived in Damascus who finally had to leave during the 70s because of the persecution of Jews there.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Streets of Tel Aviv

I noted in my previous post my stop at the Etzel House and my walk around Tel Aviv. I'm always struck, when I go to Israel, by the contrasts as I move from block to block. Tel Aviv-Yafo appears, in some places, like a cosmopolitan metropolis and in other places, like a third-world slum. Keep in mind that Tel Aviv is younger than Boise, Idaho. It was established in 1909 as a settlement for Jews outside of the city of Jaffa (or Yafo, the Hebrew name). Yet it's a world city, and a place where cultures and markets meet rather than collide. It has almost twice Boise's population with more than twice its density (that is, twice the population on less space).

Tel Aviv is sometimes not much to look at, especially in the areas close to Jaffa. There's a lot of construction, and many of the buildings are run down. Graffiti is everywhere.

I asked a coworker about the graffiti, and he indicated that people just didn't have the energy to keep up with it. He recounted an experience he had when the local authorities had required him to rebuild a wall on the boundary of his property. Within hours of it being completed, he caught a couple of kids painting on it.

Amid all the old townhouses is new construction, and since the town houses are owned by multiple parties, the upkeep is sometimes a little uneven. Here's a place in Neve Tzedek that caught my eye. While the doors downstairs are quite stunning, the balconies are falling apart.

Right across the street was this beautiful house.

You'll often see two apartment complexes, one next to the other, identical in design, but one looking rather shabby and the other pristine. In a way, it sounds a bit like the Boise north end.

As I was wandering around Neve Tzedek looking for a restaurant, I walked past this compound. If anyone of my readers knows Hebrew, feel free to add a translation. Sorry for the poor quality.

It's really easy to get hung up on differences in other locales. In Sant Cugat and Barcelona, it was the poor sewer ventilation. In Israel, it's trash collection. I got momentarily lost in Neve Tzedek and walked past this street. In Boise, the trash collection contractor would leave a nastygram on this pile.

All of this contrast, but so much charm as well. On my last full evening in Tel Aviv, I took these shots of Neve Tzedek, a neighborhood close to the hotel. You can see how densely packed the houses are. There's something compelling about these warrens

The street along the left is Yitzak Eichmann, which leads up to Shalom Tower, the beige high rise on the left. It was the first high rise in Tel Aviv. The most visible street in the image below is Pines Avenue, which runs right across Shabazzi. There are some good restaurants on Shabazzi.

Finally, on my last evening in Tel Aviv, I visited Carmel Market to get a shot of the market after hours. I don't know just how garbage collection works in Tel Aviv, but I wouldn't want to have to clean out the market place after hours.

My last day on the ground I spent hitting some other museums and walking around Jerusalem. I'll post those photos soon.

*As it turns out, I hear Masada is miserable at this time of year. Perhaps I lucked out.