Nov. 19, 2009, at 2:01pm
Speaking of admirable summations:
I am sometimes asked by fellow Catholics for clarification about the role of philosophy in renewing the culture. Shouldn’t we spend our time and energy “announcing the Good News” or engaging in apologetics or supporting pro-life causes or caring for the poor or teaching catechism classes at the parish? Are not all of these things more directly Catholic, so to speak, and more urgently needed in our society? Isn’t philosophy comparatively inessential, impractical, and even perhaps a bit self-indulgent—like an extremely elaborate game of sudoku? Fine for a little intellectual stimulation, or okay if you hope to earn a living as a professor, but not really a serious, concrete help to the world?
A paper recently sent to me by John Crosby, titled “God and morality,” (which we hope will be the theme of an upcoming reading circle gathering at our house) gives a succinct, helpful answer to this question.
Let us examine this conflict between Christians and atheists about the relation of morality to God. And let us examine it in such a way as to engage the atheists in debate. This means that we cannot continue to draw on Christian sources, such as scripture and Vatican II, for atheists do not recognize these sources. It means that we have to turn to philosophy; only as philosophers can we engage atheists in debate, and give reasons which will challenge them. JP 2 said in FR: “Philosophical thought is often the only ground for understanding and dialogue with those who do not share our faith.” But the recourse to philosophy is not only for the sake of engaging the atheist; it is also for our sake, that is, for the sake of us understanding with precision what we hold and do not hold about the dependence of morality on God. Only philosophical reflection can enable us to achieve this clarity.
And the same is of course true about all the deep and serious questions about life.
I'm all in favor. I think it's a great gift for the faithful to get to see, in real time, the way the teachings of the Church are worked out in human terms.
It's always been messy. It's always been politically fraught.
The only thing that has distressed me surrounding the Synod is the reaction to it among traditionalists, which has struck me as depressingly faithfuless. (Don't we believe the Holy Spirit is at work? Don't we trust fully that the Church will not fall into error? Don't we really see the Pope as the Vicar of Christ?)
Oct. 22 at 9:24am | See in context
Peter, I'm sorry we don't see eye to eye. You see me throwing out red herrings and trying to prove something. I see myself explaining my reasoning and the meaning of the claim in our essay.
I'm afraid there isn't enough common ground to make the discussion fruitful.
Oct. 18 at 8:44am | See in context
This brings up the next point about doctrines. Doctrines are rules written by human beings. God does not write rules. God can inspire rules and humans can do their best in translating God’s revelation of The Rule into rules but God does not write rules, God is the Rule.
This reminds me of Flannery O’Connor’s quote from, A Prayer Journal:
“No one can be an atheist who does not know all things. Only God is an atheist. The devil is the greatest believer and he has his reasons (p74).”
Oct. 16 at 6:18pm | See in context
Through Grace if a person is fortunate enough, the person may experience flashes of God or insights into God, which can remain anchored in the psyche as reference points for reframing the person’s reality.
The term “false gods” is a misnomer for misunderstandings under the One True God. All persons of all religions share the same God and all religions may be operating under misunderstandings unique to the religion. For Catholics, Jesus Christ was the One True God, and having the teachings of Christ at Catholicism’s disposal is a great advantage to encountering the One True God, but this doesn’t mean persons who practice Catholicism are not operating under misunderstandings of the One True God.
This is due to: 1) the inherent problems of translating the teachings of Jesus Christ into a religion and 2) the nature of each person’s unique spiritual potential. There are no such things as “false gods”. There is only God and misunderstandings.
Oct. 16 at 6:16pm | See in context
The One True God reins over persons under such misunderstandings the same as He does persons who see Him clearly, persons all of who are subject to God’s Divine Providence.
More specifically and to frame it for the Catholic, these misunderstandings are unresolved aspects of the person stemming from the person’s connection with original sin and either made more convoluted by the free choices of the person or relinquished by freely choosing to surrender to God one’s unresolved aspects stemming from original sin, thereby removing the obstruction to God to the extent possible for the person and thus increasing the person’s awareness of God.
These kinds of misunderstandings are the obstructions to seeing and experiencing true spiritual power. As a Catholic, you could say we all have these misunderstandings to a certain degree so that even the “god” that Catholics refer to falls short of the Real Thing and thus even Catholics may worship “false gods” and have misunderstandings.
Oct. 16 at 6:10pm | See in context
Persons don’t have “false gods” they have misunderstandings, those of which persons with other “false gods” or misunderstandings call “false gods”.
The term “false god” is oxymoronic and the notion of a “false god” is an empty one. There is no objective metaphysical reality in existence besides the One True God. God is complex and has many mysterious qualities and attributes that persons have attributed separate, distinct and objective metaphysical realities apart from God to, but any of these that can truly be attributed to God are derivative of the One True God and are merely references to the One True God’s spiritual powers by degree and kind.
Anything else that cannot truly be attributed to God that someone may call a metaphysical reality is a misunderstanding attributed to the limited awareness of the person. Examples of misunderstandings attributed to the limited awareness of persons are demons and/or ghosts; these are not objective metaphysical realities. They are real in the sense that they can be dangerous and destructive to persons who experience them and to others who find themselves in their path, but they are merely misunderstandings and have no bearing against the spiritual powers of God.
Oct. 16 at 6:06pm | See in context
Jules I disagree with what you stated:
"That last word, esteem, does not apply, as far as I can tell, to the Islamic conception of God's relationship to human beings. That explains why it is not included with Judaim and Christianity as a religious soil in which genuine personalism can develop and thrive."
Here is my reply:
Esteem is actually an emotional quality almost identical to respect. To take it one notch deeper and still be considered esteem would be an emotional quality of reverence. Reverence is the emotion one feels when they have reached the state of being of God's Love.
An expression of loving acceptance and inner peace is actually the centerpiece of the Islamic faith. If Islamic persons are faithful and observant to the One True God then they may experience God's love and therefore reverence for and from God and therefore esteem from God.
Islamic persons who are faithful and observant to the One True God know that God loves them and therefore know that they are esteemed by God.
Oct. 16 at 10:54am | See in context
You say this as if you have proved a point.
If you would stop with committing fallacies, you would encounter the truth of what I am saying, which is that it is not only ungrounded but offensive to state as you do in your essay that all persons of other faiths do not have the spiritual resources to acknowledge the unconditional worth in all human persons.
You have essentially agreed that the written statement in your essay is false by making the statement:
"None of this is to suggest that a non-believer can't have an individual experience of God's love that might lead him to conclude that human life is infinitely precious."
but then you add another straw man:
"But such an experience is not enough to sustain a demanding philosophical enterprise."
which has nothing to do with my contention.
If you agree with me on this particular contention, then why do you keep adding straw men and pretend to have proved a point?
Oct. 15 at 7:22pm | See in context
adding your interpretations of the written statement described in different terms than what is written in your essay such as that it is an “observation or insight”, or “a summing up of what see and experience”, or as what Newman called, “a convergence of probabilities”?
Why all of these red herrings. Why are you trying to lead me away from my point of contention?
In addition, you introduce straw men such as “only Jews and Christians have the spiritual resources to grasp, appreciate and develop a personalist approach to human life.”
“I observe that the philosophical enterprise of personalism depends on 1) a [conceptual] framework present in the Judeo/Christian tradition and not present in others, and 2) a lived personal relation with the Divine Person who is the ground of our being as persons…”.
These are straw men that you have set up as representing the actual written claim in your essay that I dispute and you distort my argument in doing so, then you say my disagreements with the straw men you have set up are “no more than an ungrounded assertion that the claim is false.”
Oct. 15 at 7:12pm | See in context
It is written in your essay that, “Only Jews and Christians have the spiritual resources to acknowledge the unconditional worth in all human persons.”
This sentence states that all persons of other faiths do not have the spiritual resources to acknowledge the unconditional worth in all human persons. The meaning of this is derived directly from the words used in stating it, that is: all persons of other faiths do not have the spiritual resources to acknowledge the unconditional worth in all human persons. This is the meaning I dispute.
Why have you intentionally tried to divert my attention away from this written statement that I believe is untrue by using red herrings in the form of:
"Can you point to non-Judeo Christian traditions that acknowledge both conceptually and in practice the unconditional worth of all human persons as individuals?"
"Maybe it would help if I add that statement in manifesto isn't meant to be taken as a syllogism. It isn't strict conclusion from indubitable premises. It's more like an insight or an observation into the way things are. To challenge it then, I would be good if you could provide counter-examples."
and (next comment box)
Oct. 15 at 7:08pm | See in context
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