Friday, July 7, 2017

Bite Size Aquinas: Question 1-The Nature and Extent of Sacred Doctrine; Article 6

Article 6: Whether This Doctrine is the Same as Wisdom?

So to the sixth question it proceeds. It is evident that this Doctrine is not Wisdom. Truly, no doctrine which adds to its principles from another science is worthy of the name Wisdom, "he who is wise directs, and is not directed" (I, Metaphysics). But this doctrine adds to its principles. Therefore, this doctrine is not Wisdom.

In addition to that, Wisdom extends to test the principles of other sciences whence it is spoken of as the head of sciences, as is clear in Ethics VI. But this Doctrine is not tested by the principles of other sciences. Therefore, it is not Wisdom. Moreover, this Doctrine is acquired through study, however Wisdom is to be had through infusion. It is counted as a gift of the Holy Spirit, as is clear in Isaiah 11. Therefore, this doctrine is not Wisdom.

But on the contrary, it is said in Deuteronomy 4:6, the original law, "This is your wisdom and understanding publicly for the nations."

I respond saying that this Doctrine is chiefly Wisdom above all human wisdom, indeed not in any type only, but simply. Truly, the Wise person is to order and to judge, however, inferior matters should be judged through a higher principle; anyone is said to be Wise who considers the highest principle in that order. Just as in building, he who arranges the shape of the house is called Wise and architect as opposed to the inferior builders who plane the wood and arrange the stones, whence it is said in 1 Corinthians 3:10, "as the wise builder I have laid the foundation." And again, in the order of all human life, the prudent man is said to be wise in as much as he orders his actions to a fitting end, whence is it said in Proverbs 10:23, "Wisdom is prudence to a man." Therefore, He who considers Himself the highest cause in the whole universe, that is God, is the most Wise. Whence Wisdom is said to be knowledge of the divine, just as Augustine makes clear in de Trinitate XII. However, Sacred Doctrine particularly treats of God that He is the highest cause, not only so far as He can be recognizable through creatures as philosophers recognized Him, "That which is known of God is manifest in them" (Rom 1:19), but truly as much as He is know to Himself solely and through the revelation communicated to others. Whence Sacred Doctrine is the most Wise science.

To the second objection it is said that either the principles of other sciences are noted by themselves and are not able to be tested or they are tested by natural reason through the means of some other sciences. However, the knowledge owned by this science is known by the means of revelation, not, however, by means of natural reason. Therefore, it does not extent to prove those principles of other sciences but only to judge them. Truly, whatever is found is found in other sciences contrary to the truth of this science is condemned as wholly false, whence it is said in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, "Destroying plans and all heights that exalts itself against the knowledge of God."

To the third objection it is said that since judgment extends to Wisdom, the twofold mode of judges creates a twofold Wisdom. Truly, anyone may judge by one mode through the means of inclination, just as whoever has the habit of virtue judges those things which concern virtue. Hence, it is the virtuous man, as it is said in Ethics X, that is the measure and rule of human acts. In another mode, by means of knowledge, just as whoever has been taught in moral science may be able to judge concerning moral actions even though he does not have virtue. Consequently, the first mode of judgment concerning divine things extends to Wisdom which is given by the Holy Spirit, according to 1 Corinthians 2:15, "The spiritual man judges all things." And Dionysius says in Div. Nom. II, "Hierotheus ["sanctification by God] is taught not by mere learning, but by experience of divine things." However, the second mode of judging extends to this doctrine which is acquired by study though its principles are had by revelation.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Bite Size Aquinas: Question 1-The Nature and Extent of Sacred Doctrine; Article 5

Article 5: Whether Sacred Doctrine is Nobler than Other Sciences? 

So to the fifth question it proceeds. It is evident that Sacred Doctrine is not more worthy than other sciences. For certainty extends to the more worthy sciences. But the other sciences of which the principles are not able to be doubted are evidently more certain than Sacred Doctrine, whose principles are naturally articles of faith which receive doubt. Therefore, it is evident that other sciences are more worthy.

Moreover, the inferior sciences are received from the superior ones, just as music from arithmetic. But Sacred Doctrine is accepted somewhat from the philosophical disciplines, for Jerome says in his letter to the great orator of the city of Rome, "The doctors of antiquity so enriched their books with philosophical doctrines and ideas, that you don't know that which to admire in them, their profane erudition or their scriptural learning." Therefore, Sacred Doctrine is inferior to other sciences.

On the contrary, other sciences are declared to be handmaids to this Sacred Doctrine, "Wisdom sent her handmaids to beckon to the tower."
I respond saying that with this science, which is somewhat speculative and somewhat practical, it transcends all other sciences, speculative and practical. For one speculative science is said to be more worthy than another because of certainty or because of the dignity of the subject-matter. In both respects this science surpasses other speculative sciences. Indeed, the certainty held by other sciences comes out of the light of human reason which is able to wander, however the certainty this science has comes out of the light of divine knowledge which cannot be deceived. Truly, of the two, the more appropriate subject-matter is that knowledge which itself chiefly transcends the height of reason. Truly, other sciences are concerned with only that which can be subdued by reason.Truly of the practical sciences, that which is more noble is ordained to a further end, just as political science is nobler than military science; for the good of the military is ordered to the good of the State. However, the end of this doctrine, in as much as it is practical, is eternal bliss, to which is the ultimate end to which all other practical sciences are ordered. Whence it is apparent from all modes, it is nobler than the others.

Therefore, to the first objection it is to be said that nothing is preserved because what si more certain is, to us, less certain on account of the weakness of our intellects, "which itself is dazzled by the most apparent qualities of nature just as the eyes of an owl are dazzled by the light of the sun," as is stated in Metaphysics II. Whence doubt which descends on someone concerning the articles of the faith is uncertain not on account of the matter but on account of the weakness of the human intellect. And nevertheless, the smallest knowledge that is able to be had of the highest things is more desirable than the most certain knowledge which had of the lowest things, as is stated in de Animalibus XI.
To the second objection it is to be said that the knowledge received is something for the philosophical disciplines, not out of necessity that it is lacking, but to make more apparent that which is handed down in this science. It is not accepted that its origin is from other sciences but immediately from God by way of revelation. And therefore it is not depednent on other sciences as the higher, but is employed of them as of the inferior, and as handmaids; just as master sciences use sciences that supply their materials, as politics of military science. And so that it uses them is not on account of its weakness or its insufficiencies but on account of the defects of our intellects which is more easily led by what is known through natural reason (out of which proceeds the other sciences) to that which is above reason, such as this science receives.

Friday, June 30, 2017

The Sacraments Aren't Valid Because of Me...And that's the Most Comforting Thing Ever

As a newly ordained priest, I'm still getting used to the whole concept of alter Christus. Priests stand in the breach between the congregation and God, as Moses stood in the breach between Israel and God (Ps 106:23; NRSV):
Therefore, he said he would destroy them--
had not Moses, his chosen one,
stood in the breach before him,
to turn away his wrath from destroying them.
Not only that, but the minster represents Christ in the liturgy. He prepares the feast of the Lord's Supper and invites the people to participate.

This raises some interesting theological questions. Christ is perfect. Priests are very imperfect. Does this invalidate the Sacrament? What if a priest secretly doubts the Gospel or is in some serious, unconfessed sin? Can they still administer the Sacraments or is the congregation "duped" into receiving something invalid?

One of the reasons relationships often fail is because of unrealistic expectations. Friendships, marriages, and many other relationships fall apart because one of the participants in the relationship expects perfection from the other allowing no room to be human. Assuming that the priest "makes or breaks" the validity of the Sacrament is just another unrealistic expectation. The priest is not the reason a Sacrament is effectual, Christ is.

One of the most relieving parts of the 39 Articles of Religion is in "Article XXVI: Of the Unworthiness of the Ministers, which hinders not the effect of the Sacraments":
Although in the visible Church the evil be ever mingled with the good, and sometimes the evil have chief authority in the Ministration of the Word and Sacraments, yet forasmuch as they do not the same in their own name, but in Christ's, and do minister by his commission and authority, we may use their Ministry, both in hearing the Word of God, and in receiving the Sacraments. Neither is the effect of Christ's ordinance taken away by their wickedness, nor the grace of God's gifts diminished from such as by faith, and rightly, do receive the Sacraments ministered unto them; which be effectual, because of Christ's institution and promise, although they be ministered by evil men.
Nevertheless, it appertaineth to the discipline of the Church, that inquiry be made of evil Ministers, and that they be accused by those that have knowledge of their offences; and finally, being found guilty, by just judgment be deposed.
 Did you catch that? God has chosen to work through the Sacraments to bestow upon his people grace. He uses the common to convey the sacred. This is true of his ministers too! The imperfect is used as a vehicle for the perfect. During the Mass, the sinful, broken, wounded priest can be used by a holy God. What a picture of grace!

This isn't an excuse for priests to be immoral or lack doctrinal commitments required of orthodox Christians. This is, however a powerful reminder that God's grace prevails. Thank God it's not contingent on me and that the parishioners at our church don't have to wring their hands and hope I live a worthy life.

Even for priests...especially for priests, Luther's words ring true: simul justus et peccator. I am simultaneously righteous and a sinner. It is comforting to know the objective reality of grace in the sacraments. It's objective not because of any effort on my part but because Christ is so loving that he has bound himself to pour out grace through the Sacraments, even if the priest isn't perfect.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Bite Size Aquinas: Question 1-The Nature and Extent of Sacred Doctrine; Article 4

Article 4: Whether Sacred Doctrine is a Practical Science?

Objection 1: It is evident that Sacred Doctrine is a practical science. For the end of a practical science is an activity, according to the Philosopher in II Metaphysics. Sacred Doctrine is ordered to activity. Secondly, James 1:22 states, "Be doers of the word and not hearers only." Therefore, Sacred Doctrine is a practical science.

Objection 2: Moreover, Sacred Doctrine is divided into Old and New Law. The Law, however, belongs to the science of morality, which is a practical science. Therefore, Sacred Doctrine is a practical science.

But on the contrary, all practical science is concerned with human operations; just as morality is concerned with human acts and architecture with buildings. However, Sacred Doctrine is principally concerned with God, whose best work is mankind. Therefore, it is not a practical science but more speculative.

I respond that Sacred Doctrine, being one, extends to those things which belong to different philosophical sciences, because it considers in each the same formal aspect, that is to say they are divinely illuminated. Hence, it is permitted in the philosophical sciences that some are speculative and others are practical. However, Sacred Doctrine is itself comprehended under both; as God, by the same science, knows Himself and His works. Nevertheless, it is more speculative than practical because it is more concerned with divine things than human actions; though it does treat even of these inasmuch as man is ordained by them to the perfect knowledge of God in which consists eternal bliss. This is a sufficient answer to the objections.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Bite Size Aquinas: Question 1-The Nature and Extent of Sacred Doctrine; Article 3

Article 3: Whether Sacred Doctrine is One Science?

Objection 1: It is evident that Sacred Doctrine is not one science. According to the Philosopher in Poster., 1, "Science is one which is of a singular type of subject." However, the Creator and creation, concerning that which is discussed in Sacred Doctrine, are not connected under one type of subject. Therefore, Sacred Doctrine is not one science.

Objection 2: Besides, Sacred Doctrine discusses Angels, bodily creatures, and human laws. However, these belong to different philosophical sciences. Therefore, Sacred Doctrine is not a singular science.

But on the contrary is that Sacred Scripture, concerning this, says it is one science, as Wisdom 10:10 states, "he gave this sacred knowledge."

I respond that Sacred Doctrine is to be considered a singular science. Truly, the singularity of an ability or habit is considered by its object, not in fact, its materiality, but as regards the exact formality under which it is an object, for example, man, ass, and stone assemble in a single formality of being colored, because color is the object of sight. Therefore, because Sacred Scripture is considered something following divine revelation those words, all that are divinely revealed, communicate in one manner the formal object of this knowledge. And therefore it is comprehended under Sacred Doctrine as under one science.

To the first objection, therefore, it is to be said that Sacred Doctrine is not determined about God and creation out of equality but about God principals and about creation secondly because it was made known by God as the beginning and the end. Hence, the unity of knowledge is not impeded.

To the second objection, it is said that nothing prohibits inferior faculties from being differentiated by something which falls under a higher faculty or habit as well because the higher faculty or habit regards the object in its more universal formality. Just as the object of common sense is whatever affects the senses that is comprehended under that which is seen and heard, whence common sense with its one faculty is extended itself to all objects which are perceived through the senses. And similarly, those objects discussed in different philosophical sciences can be considered under this one Sacred Doctrine under one aspect insofar as they are divinely revealed so that this Sacred Doctrine bears the impression of divine science which is one and simple, yet extends to all.