Sunday, November 1, 2009

All Saints Day - Aquinas

Hans Urs Von Balthasar said that the Saints were so important for us because they were examples of people who were holy, participants in the divine nature who reminded us that sanctification is not a myth, but a possibility and a reality through God's grace.

Today as we remember all the saints, I wanted to focus on how important the saints are in my life. The democracy of the dead as Chesterton called them/Tradition.

I have to write a paper for philosophy on Martin Buber's "I and Thou". It's basically existential monotheism/judaism. He says that any time we speak of God it is equivocal (he doesn't use the word) and we turn him into an It. Thus God can only be experienced. Thus it is a further renunciation of 'natural theology' and ultimately reason I think.

Modern Protestantism seems to almost agree with him on this for the most part because of Karl Barth's analogy of faith - the idea that we can only speak of God using analogies from his self-revelation / the Bible. Because of course we are all so depraved that we can't even think straight. Thus while they retain analogical description of God it is only in a pre-suppositionalist framework really.

On the contrary, St. Thomas proposed the Analogy of Being. The idea that as creatures, we can infer things about God the Creator, from his creation and from reason (as well as from the deposit of faith) and speak of God analogically. This is because our sanctifying grace lost in the fall is restored to us through the sacraments on account of Christ's superabundant merit and grace. This allows us to have meaningful dialogue about God and discuss his persons and works. This is particularly important for inter-faith dialogue, as presuppositionalism leaves us with nothing to talk about, as Buber's theory leaves us nothing to talk about.

This is where St. Thomas has helped me propose the analogy of being against Buber and where a saint on All Saints day has helped me. And far from being a dry philosopher, Aquinas could still speak of God using reason, and admit at the end of the day that compared to mystical union with God, it was all "straw".


  1. An image of a man prostrating himself before an image? Sin does indeed compound itself.

    You mentioned that presuppositionalism leaves us nothing to talk about. What do you mean by that?

  2. Yes sin does indeed compound itself, Luther's schism from the church which didn't deny the usefulness of Crucifixes compounded with your schism from Luther rejecting his practice as Idolatry, is just another example of how far Reformed Protestantism is from catholic Christianity which affirms in an ecumenical council no less, that images of Christ are not idolatry.

    Presuppositionalism leaves us nothing to talk about because it attributes nothing to reason, and thus interfaith dialogue is impossible. As soon as someone starts questioning the bible, we can't talk about it anymore because it's just a presupposition. It's sole work is cutting the ground out from others without proposing a reasonable interpretation itself.

  3. To be schismatic is to divide the visible church. The understanding of Reformed Catholicism is that Luther didn't leave the visible church. He left an institution that claimed to be the church but had ceased to really be it. It is sad that the Reformed and the Lutheran couldn't unite visibly, but thankfully the divide wasn't/isn't as absolute as that between Rome and Constantinople. The doctrines of liberty of conscience and doctrine-based unity at least provide allowance for measures of unity between differing expressions (i.e. more or less pure) of the visible church. With Rome, on the other hand (or should I say foot), its all or nothing. Your either with us or against us, right?

    On presuppositionalism, I'm not following your line of reasoning (maybe I can't since I'm a presuppositionalist?). All the presuppositionalists I know welcome the questioning of the Bible, including me. I'm all for doing the hard work of exegesis. On the contrary, I would say Roman Catholicism shuts down interfaith dialogue regarding the Bible. If the Magisterium has ruled officially on a particular doctrine then all other perspectives are out, right?

  4. hah Rome and Constantinople are in virtual agreement on almost every issue. And in the end, you Calvinists are in the same camp of 'for us or against us' (everyone is)

    And I don't think you're as open to biblical criticism as you imagine. Just look at how you treat Arminian biblical theologians, etc.

  5. Nice to see you say something positive about Constantinople ;) .

  6. Yes, Rome and Constantinople may agree on quite a bit, just as they agree with the Reformed on quite a bit, but ultimately agreement on doctrine makes no difference with respect to unity in the Roman system. For Rome unity is a matter of fidelity to the Apostolic office of St. Peter. If you're not in on that, there is no unity.

    As I pointed out in the previous comment, this is not the case for the Reformed. We understand unity can have varying degrees, since it is based on doctrinal purity. In other words, we are actually able to recognize a degree of unity between ourselves and Roman Catholicism (insofar as there is doctrinal agreement). Rome, on the other hand, cannot recognize unity with the Reformed at all, since we deny its basis (i.e. the supremacy of the Petrine ministry).

    Did you have a particular example of how we (or I?) have treated Arminian biblical theologians?