Posted on: December 1st, 2022 Stable but not Bougie

About five months ago I decided to become the rector (i.e., senior pastor) of a funky, urban parish (i.e., church) in East Central Austin.

Today is my three month anniversary. It has been a wild twelve weeks.

As I was telling a friend last night, I’ve experienced many shifts in my being: shifts in marriage, shifts in ministry, shifts in routine, shifts in identity.

Shifts can be like waves when you are swimming in the ocean. They can be turbulent and volatile.

In the midst of the shifts and waves, however, we can strive for stability, or that virtue so prized by the Benedictine monastic tradition, stabilitas.

For me this means praying/meditating, being in authentic relationships, sleeping sufficiently, exerting myself physically, and being present in my work (relationships, tasks, leadership, etc.).

Finally, stability is not bourgeois. One can be stable and bohemian. In fact, that’s the best way to fly.

Share Button

Filed under: Uncategorized | Comments Off on Stable but not Bougie

Posted on: November 11th, 2022 David Bentley Hart on Gender & Sexuality

About six years now I read a book that changed my life: The Experience of God: Being, Consiousness, and Bliss, by David Bentley Hart. (And not just mine: I know of several folks who, upon reading this book, actually made significant life decisions based on it.)

Since then I have followed him on his Substack (as much as I’m able). I have also read a couple of his other books, most recently his riveting and scintillating Roland in Moonlight, which I reviewed here.

More recently, through the reading of Michel Foucault’s posthumous, radically untimely released fourth (and final) volume of his History of Sexuality project (see here), I have become aware that the basic posture of the Eastern Church Fathers (and Mothers) diverges starkly from the dominant stance in the West on the issue of gender and sexuality, in particular their role or presence (or lack thereof) in creation. I have blogged about this latter issue here.

Well, it just so happens that the keynote speaker at my Diocese‘s clergy conference a couple of weeks ago was none other than DBH himself! (Thanks, Bishop Doyle!) His talk was a interation of an earlier one he gave at my Alma Mater (Maynooth University) on Christian tradition and the future (this latter notion being the theme of clergy conference this year), and I could not resist the opportunity to ask him a question from the floor after his lecture. Here is the exchange:

Dr. Hart, it seems to me that you’ve written relatively little about issues of gender and sexuality, and so … I wonder if you could apply your talk to those issues? In particular I’m thinking about the fact that we need to allow the eschaton to shape our understanding of orthodoxy as much as the sacred deposit does and in light of what the Scriptures say (in Matthew 19 about how there is no “giving and receiving in marriage” in the eschaton). Also I’m thinking about people like Gregory of Nyssa and Eastern Fathers who say that there was no sexual difference in the garden. I just wondered if you could apply this vision of orthodoxy to the area of gender and sexuality.

—Matt Boulter

It’s interesting, isn’t it…. I mean, one of the things that happens in early modernity with the evermore literal acceptation started by the Reformation and the Counter Reformation is that readings like Gregory’s or Origen’s—things that remain possible well up into the fourteenth os fifteenth century, even, suddenly become forbidden. It then becomes just a set of positivistic oppositions….
 
… [T]here were actually these early church fathers who didn’t place the garden or the fall within history, and they didn’t believe that sexual hierarchy was inscribed into the eternal divine order of reality, but actually said shockingly antinomian things at times. These were actually the early generations of Christians.
 
For Gregory he speaks … of the acquisition of sexual difference as a kind of providential economy of creation for fallen spiritual beings, not because he is trying to erase or efface sexual difference. He just means that this is not what it means to be in the image of God, this is not therefore what it means to live the life of Christ. But how you appropriate Gregory or Origen in the present is hard to say, because the issues have shifted, haven’t they.
 
So, no, I have not written very much about it. I’m not very imaginative sometimes on certain topics, and don’t know how to go about bridging the questions of the fourth century and [those of the] twenty-first in a way that isn’t purely tendentious. But you are right: as long as we are stuck in … the modern dilemma of the purely fundamentalist approach to Scripture, and that has been the pattern now for 500 years—do you follow any of these arguments online where I am attacked for being a heretic for believing that God is love and other evil things like that?
 
You know, you can cite the church fathers on these issues, and be told that you are a heretic, because so remote is this other world of reading Scripture, that the very notion, not only that it can enter into the present, but that it even has any purchase in Christian history, just seems like pure nonsense to ppl who are funadmentalists, and among the fundamentalists I include not just the white evangelical fundamentalists, I mean a lot of the Thomists I know. They might not be six day creationists, but they read the Bible as a set of propositional algorithms for constructing social reality. They don’t read it as the inspired occasion of reading that requires interpretation, tact, speculative daring, and the sense that there is the law of love, and the law of the spirit, without which the text slays.
 
I wrote a translation of the New Testament. One of the translations for which I got attacked by a very good man was when I translated the verse as “the Spirit gives life, but the Scripture slays,” but that is actually what Paul is saying. The Scripture slays when it is just what is written on the page. “The Spirit gives life, but the letter slays.” What letter is he talking about? He’s talking about Torah there. Now he’s a pious Jew. He does not believe that the Torah is wrong, but he believes that it slays, when it is read under the veil without the Spirit.

—David Bentley Hart
Share Button

Filed under: Uncategorized | Comments Off on David Bentley Hart on Gender & Sexuality

Posted on: November 13th, 2020 The Psalmist goes “meta”

Have you ever heard a theologian say something like the following:

It’s not that God is beautiful; God is beauty itself.

It’s not that God is good; God is goodness itself.

It’s not that God is true; God is truth itself.

When the theologian speaks this way, the theologian has gone “meta.”

I once heard a sermon in which Tim Keller does not say that Jesus revolutionizes the economy, or that Jesus revolutionizes politics or that Jesus revolutionizes marriage. No. Instead what Keller says is that Jesus revolutionizes revolution. When Keller said this, he went “meta.”

In a similar way, in Psalm 68 the Psalmist goes “meta.” In verse 18 of that Psalm (BCP), he says,

You have gone up on high and led captivity captive.

He does not say, “You have led the terrorist captive,” or “You have led the enemy captive,” or “You have led the Pharaoh captive.” No. Instead, the Psalmist goes “meta,” saying, “You have led captivity captive.”

Best of all, St. Paul quotes this “meta statement” in Eph 4:8, applying it to the victory of Christ in the Ascension:

When he ascended on high, he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people.”

Share Button

Filed under: Bible, Uncategorized | Comments Off on The Psalmist goes “meta”

Posted on: April 9th, 2020 Dissertation Lecture

I’m looking forward to this! All are invited! https://uttyler.zoom.us/j/815102620

Share Button

Filed under: Uncategorized | Comments Off on Dissertation Lecture

Posted on: January 8th, 2020 Peregrinatio Discussion Group

There is a new discussion group starting up this month in Tyler, TX: “Peregrinatio” … which means “journey.”

We will meet on the 3rd & 5th Thursdays of the month, 6:30-8:30, at least through May, at True Vine Brewery in Tyler.

We will read two short stories by James Baldwin, CS Lewis’ “the Weight of Glory,” sections of Augustine’s Confessions, (Books I, VII, X–XIII) and Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ.

The Lewis essay is easily found online in PDF form; just google it. For the Baldwin shorts (and my notes on “The Weight of Glory”), as well as our reading schedule go here.

Please read the Chadwick translation of the Confessions.

For our first meeting (Jan 16), be ready to discuss Baldwin and Lewis.

Share Button

Filed under: Uncategorized | Comments Off on Peregrinatio Discussion Group

Posted on: November 21st, 2019 Tim O’Malley on Contemplation

Very thankful for Tim O’Malley’s article this morning.

The middle paragraphs on contemplation are extremely well-stated: terms such as “marinate” and “takes time” are deeply satisfying to me.

Of course, even Plato’s Line (end of Bk VI of the Republic) makes it clear that nous (intellectus) is distinct from dianoia (ratio), and this has huge implications for Christian contemplation. CS Lewis has a good section on this in The Discarded Image. (The good strains of 20th-century philosophical hermeneutics are allies here, IMO, especially the likes of Heidegger, Gadamer, and Ricouer, who emphasize meaning over scientific rationality.) Augustine’s portrayal of the time-laden process of reading a Psalm (Confessions XI), further, shows the Christian emphasis on textual (possibly even narratival) “dianoia” (moving through one element at a time, in the spirit of Thomas’ componendo et dividendo), an aspect to which O’Malley alludes.

Good stuff. Thanks be to God!

Share Button

Filed under: Uncategorized | Comments Off on Tim O’Malley on Contemplation

Posted on: November 21st, 2019 Coakley, Theology, & Wigan Pier

I find Sarah Coakley’s program of theologie totalé scintillating and encouraging. Her emphasis on the necessity of ascetic contemplation for theology, together with her sober admission of the validity of various modern, secular critiques is just what is needed for theology to remain vital and credible today.

And yet I do have a couple of questions, which emerge from chapter two of God, Sexuality, and the Self. In particular I have qualms about her schematization of three theological positions which she aims to criticize: from most “conservative” to most “revisionist,” they are represented by Pope John Paul II (now Saint John Paul) and Pope Benedict XVI (a.k.a., Joseph Ratzinger); John Milbank; and Sallie McFague (see 74 n. 6).

Coakley thinks that these three theological approaches are like the Wigan Pier near Manchester, England (derided by Goerge Orwell), in that they are, to put it simply, fake. They try to ignore the receding of the “sea of faith” away from the shores of culture, heralded by Matthew Arnold in his 1867 poem Dover Beach, promoting themselves are “the real deal.” Just as Wigan Pier is a false sea-side resort, then, these three theological approaches are mere imitations of real spirituality, implies Coakley.

Coakley associates the first two positions in their purportedly blind rejection of modern, secular philosophy and the sociology upon which it is built. (This “post-Kantianism” agrees with Kant that God cannot be known “speculatively in a ‘scientific’ metaphysics” [77 n. 8].) While Coakley herself is not simply a proponent of McFague’s (third) approach or indeed the post-Kantianism upon which it relies, she does take the first two positions (above) to task in their (purported) blunt denial of secular critique, the first on the basis of anti-relativism (a moral objection) and the latter on the basis of more intellectual criticisms. Coakley thinks that this shared posture results in a refusal to acknowledge the often embarrassing “messy entanglements and detritus” of the lived experience of actual religious communities, in which oppression occurs, often in the name of normative “orthodoxy.”

Yet I have two qualms with–or at least questions about–Coakley’s categorization: one regarding Radical Orthodoxy (the second position) and the other with respect to Ressourcement theology (with which Ratzinger, a figure head for Coakley’s first position, is closely allied).

Consider Graham Ward’s essay, “The Displaced Body of Christ” in Radical Orthodoxy, published in 1999. I will not here describe that essay, but Ward’s emphasis on the transient suffering and abuse of the poorest of the poor–with whom, argues Ward, Christ identifies–surely strikes a chord distinct from Coakley’s characterization of RO. Or again, what of William Cavanaugh’s Torture and Eucharist, with its extended and harrowing exposé of the ecclesiastically sanctioned Pinochet regime in Chile? True, Cavanaugh is no liberation theologian, but his description is surely not guilty of turning a blind eye to the suffering and the “lived experience” of those wounded by Pinochet’s evil hypocrisy.

Perhaps most importantly of all, Coakley seems to forget the fact that, as Milbank states in the introduction to Theology and Social Theory, RO speaks with the voice of Nietzsche. Coakley suggests that RO is deaf to the hermeneutics of suspicion, yet Nietzsche–arguably the inventor of such criticism–is a chief muse of this movement!

For these reasons Coakley’s characterization of Radical Orthodoxy fails to persuade me, despite my profound respect for her overall project.

My second qualm concerns Benedict XVI, who has been shown to have close ties to the Ressourcement movement of such luminaries as Henri de Lubac and Hans Urs von Balthassar. This connection is clear among other ways in the common involvement in the founding of the Communio journal on the part of all three 20th-century theologians. Further, does Coakley think that these Ressourcement architects of Vatican II are so fearful of moral relativism that the resulting stance is one of obscurantism? (Such a claim would be odd, since during the Vatican II discussions, many accused these thinkers themselves of relativism.) If not, then it would appear that Ratzinger is vindicated, since he himself threw in his lot with them (see Ayers, Kelly, and Humphries, “Benedict XVI: a Ressourcement Theologian?, in Flynn and Murray, eds., Ressourcement: a Movement for Renewed Twentieth-century Catholic Theology).

In short, I support Coakley’s vision, especially with its passionate insistence on the necessity of contemplation. I even admit that RO needs to hear and heed this call. Yet in her attempt to provide foils against which to perceive her own stance, I fear that she has painted with too broad a brush.

(One final thought: I’d suggest that the posture of Ratzinger, de Lubac, Balthassar, and Milbank, in their attitudes toward post-Kantian secular critique of tradition is infinessimally alined with someone like Paul Ricouer, himself a hair’s breadth, I’d argue from Gadamer. Would Coakley be critical of him in the same way she is critical of the former thinkers? I see that she cites Ricoeur twice later in her book. Thus to this issue I will plan later to return.)

Share Button

Filed under: Uncategorized | Comments Off on Coakley, Theology, & Wigan Pier

Posted on: September 4th, 2019 End of the World (my own positions)

“The end of the world” means: the termination of chronos. The giving way of chronos to some other kind of time. Bonaventure in II Sents posits 4 kinds of time, including “angelic time” (Kohlbinger, Tempus, Aevum, Aeternitas). Augustine agrees on angelic time.

Why do I think that there will be some kind of time, something like time, after the end (or, what Josef Pieper calls “the transposition” in The End of Time)? Because I am committed to the resurrection of the body, which surely entails the ongoing presence of materiality. (I am willing to say that departed souls are completely outside of time, but language fails here.)

What about aeternitas? Do I not concede that, since God is non-temporal (without qualification), one must say that God is absolutely not in any temporal realm? Yes, I do concede that. Hence, I suspect that after the transposition we will oscillate between the two “realms” of (alternative) temporality and God’s timelessness.

Share Button

Filed under: Uncategorized | Comments Off on End of the World (my own positions)

Posted on: August 14th, 2019 Hebrews 11 & “a heavenly country.”

Last Sunday (in accordance with the lectionary in the Book of Common Prayer) I preached on Hebrews 11, verse 16 of which speaks of “a better country” which Abraham and company desired and sought, a better country with is also “a heavenly one.”

Verse 16 speaks of a “homeland” (Gk. patrida) which informs the medieval obsession with the notion of patria, the homeland which is often associated with beatific vision which Christians will enjoy as the final purpose of their very existence.

In my sermon last Sunday, I said (as I have done, surely, every time I have preached on Heb 11 over the past 19 years I’ve been a minister in the church) that this “heavenly country” for which Abraham and company were hoping and waiting is, in reality, the Church, the Body of Christ.

The main point I want to register in this blog post is just how strange this idea is. Just how difficult it is for folks in the 21st century West to grasp and believe this. If one is strange enough to take her faith seriously in the first place, it is almost impossible not to hear “heavenly country” as referring to “heaven, the place you go when you die and will float on the clouds like an angel.” Or something like that.

Instead, what I tried to say last Sun in my sermon, is that this “heavenly country” the church is the portal between heaven and earth. I feel that I did not do a very good job of convincing folks of my point.

And, what is worse, I failed to connect my point to the last verse of chapter 11, verse 40 (not included in last Sunday’s reading, in my defense) which is surely clear: since the object of Abraham’s hope “has been provided for us,” such that “without us they will not be saved” … surely it is clear that the “heavenly country” which Abraham and company were looking for … surely it’s clear that this refers to the church! (Right?)

Share Button

Filed under: Uncategorized | Comments Off on Hebrews 11 & “a heavenly country.”

Posted on: May 3rd, 2019 Kristeva’s Western Metaphysical Destiny

This paragraph in Pickstock’s Repetition and Identity just blew my mind:

[Kristeva] suggests that the West has a ‘metaphysical’ destiny, because it has always been afflicted by an overwhelming sense of something missing: ‘is not our life on earth a shadow?’ (Job 8:9). As a result, she argues, cultural and philosophical processes become a question of how this missing thing is to be conveyed in time and space. By comparison, she suggests, Chinese culture has always concerned immanent, cosmic transcription, via a ceaseless repetition of signs. But the closed and all-sufficient character of this process confines such repetition to a variation of the same figures and tropes, though this is rather more than mere ‘rotation of crops’. And in consequence there tends to be an absence of language for personal grief, dissapointment, dispossession, and ontological anxiety.”

Catherine Pickstock, Repetition and Identity, 171–2.
Share Button

Filed under: Uncategorized | Comments Off on Kristeva’s Western Metaphysical Destiny

Posted on: May 17th, 2018 Book Note: Hunting the Divine Fox (Capon)

Despite the fact that I’ve spent a grand total now of about 90 minutes reading from two different Robert Capon books, I can tell that he is a good writer. Two important samples:

Answering theological questions [I might change this to: “discussion theological topics”] is like trying to straighten up a totally unmade bed: The only way to do the job is to strip the problem all the way down to its basic elements and start again from the beginning. Unfortunately, most inquirers–like most bed wetters–are in such a rush to get results that they simply make a casual pass at the lumpy dilemma in front of them and then cover it over with any tattered theological bedspread they can put a hand to.” (Preface)

And again:

For after all, only a fool of a lover ever tries to change his beloved; it is only after we have lost the thread of our love that we start giving orders and complaining about life styles. For as long as we follow it faithfully, it is always a matter of, “I could never have invented you; how should I know how to change you?” Outrage at the beloved is possible, of course. But in a wise lover, it is never outrage at anything but the beloved’s destruction of herself. Inconvenience, pain, sleeplessness–even rejection–are nothing. The beloved is all. (38)

 

Share Button

Filed under: Uncategorized | Comments Off on Book Note: Hunting the Divine Fox (Capon)

Posted on: October 6th, 2017 Phlsphy of Rlgn: Starting Points

If I were to teach an intro to philosophy of religion course (which I’d love to do), I would approach the course in the following way:

I.  God according to “Natural Reason.”

A. Parmenides on Simple Being.

B. Aristotle’s Qualified “hi-5” to Parmenides.

 • “P., you think you’re describing “Being,” but really you’re describing God.”

• “Yes, ultimate reality is simple, but we must respect sense perception.”

C. From Aristotle to Plotinus. Teasing out threeness from Divine Oneness.

II. God (& creation) according Revelation (or the Hebrew Scriptures).

A. Tautologies & Jewish Jibberish: “I am what I am”. Huh?!?

B. The opposite end of the cosmological spectrum from God: the tôhu vbôhu, terra vacua et inanis of Gen. 1:2. Sounds like “prime matter,” devoid of form & logos.

III. Putting it all together, both legacies fulfilled: the logos becomes flesh.

 

 

Share Button

Filed under: Uncategorized | Comments Off on Phlsphy of Rlgn: Starting Points

Posted on: January 16th, 2017 Month 2 of Mission: Good Problems

Well, as the dust settles from the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan (the metaphorical version, that is: see last week’s Crucifer article) dozens of us at Christ Church South are beginning to catch our breath, and we are trying to settle into a routine.

Things continue to go well, and to be a huge encouragement. Literally dozens of new families continue to visit for the first time, to express interest, and to return the following Sunday.

We do have two problems which I wanted to make you aware of, however.

First, it seems that we have an issue with our offering plates. You see, in an effort to be a good steward of the finances which God has intrusted to us, I made the decision a while back to re-use the same offering plates down south that he had been using for five years in the Epiphany Eucharist on the fourth floor of Christ Church. To that end, a few weeks before our launch I asked a very skilled “layperson” to stain the plates in a dark mahogany / cherry color which would go well with our Christ Church South sacred furniture. (I’m looking at you, Tony Patterson!)

So far so good. Except for one little problem. Our ushers have been consistently complaining that the offering plates are too small! They tell me that the checks, envelopes, and bills are overflowing over the edges of the plates, and falling onto the floor. Indeed, this report “meshes” with the chaotic scenes I have witnessed from the sacred altar out of the corner of my eye as I prepare the elements of bread and wine: on a couple of occasions, I have noticed a chaotic flurry at the back of the Great Hall as little bit of paper float to the ground, only to be picked up and stacked back onto the plates. (Thanks be to God for a dedicated usher team, who has been making sure not to lose one red penny.)

Second, we are apparently out of nursery space! On at least two different occasions, we have had reports of concerned parents who say that their littlest ones are a bit too crowded in that dedicated space for the children of the Lord. Please pray that we will find a solution, so that young families with children will be confident that, at Christ Church, their little ones will have the best possible provisions for their safety and growth in Christ.

So, there we have it. Things are going well, but we do have these two problems: offering plates that are too small, and a nursery that is bursting at the scenes.

To say the least, and to state the obvious, these are very good problems to have. Thanks be to God!

Share Button

Filed under: Uncategorized | Comments Off on Month 2 of Mission: Good Problems

Posted on: September 24th, 2016 Plato, Patriotism, & the Polis

One of Plato’s dialogues which I assign for my undergraduates is also a text appearing on my upcoming comps exams at UD: the Crito.

In it, Socrates’ friend pleads with him to escape (with the friend’s own help) from the prison where he is being held. Time is of the essence: the one month grace period (resulting from a sacred season of non-violence and mercy toward convicts) is about to end.

In the end, Socrates turns down his friend’s persuasive offer to rescue him and spare his life. Why? There are many detailed reasons and arguments that Socrates gives, including that to escape death would be to renig on an agreement that he had implicitly or tacitly made with city (a kind of social contract). But for me the most compelling motive for Socrates’ resistance has to do with a kind of patriotism, which for Socrates, is constitutive of his identity.

For Socrates, that is, no longer to be Athenian is to be no longer Socrates. There is not such thing as non-Athenian Socrates. For him, the political community to which he belongs is so important that it makes him who he is. For him, the political community is prior to the individual.

Sometimes, this kind of “priority of the corporate” is true for modern people (for example, members of a street gang such as the Crips or the Bloods, or members of extremely tight-knit families, such as the Sopranos family in the HBO series of the same name from a decade ago), but even then it is almost never a political community which takes precedence, thus forming the identity of the individual.

And even though I do sometimes say that I am Texan before I am American, neither of these political entities hold the same sway for me as Athens did for Socrates.

To my mind this leads in as straight line to the sole political community which truly is constitutive of human identity, and only one from which alienation seems worse than death itself: the Church of Jesus Christ.

Share Button

Filed under: Uncategorized | Comments Off on Plato, Patriotism, & the Polis

Posted on: February 26th, 2016 Lunging into the Future

It is no secret that we in 21st century America are living through a time of extreme upheaval. To point this out now borders on extreme banality. Yet as a quick example of what I am talking about consider a recent study:

Millennials[*] are less religiously affiliated than ever before. According to the 2012 Pew Research Center report, “Nones on the Rise,” nearly one in three do not belong to a faith community and of those, only 10% are looking for one. Though many millennials are atheists or agnostics, the majority are less able to articulate their sense of spirituality, with many falling back on the label ‘spiritual-but-not-religious’. The General Social Survey of 2014 shows that the disaffiliation trend is only growing.[†]

If one still doubts that the American cultural landscape is shifting immediately before our eyes and directly under our feet, one only need to watch any of the four recent Republican Presidential debates, all of which are easily available on line. St. Thomas Aquinas teaches (in his commentary on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics) that prudence requires right desire, and yet the presumptive presidential frontrunner of the Republican party today uses words in public speech which I would discipline either of my daughters for using. Chaos is ensuing.

In the midst of these cataclysmic shifts, what of the local Body of Christ? Is she simply another item in a long list of “institutions” which will have crumbled and disintegrated 100 years from now? Not according to Scripture: “for the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”

Not, in addition, to what we are seeing at Christ Church in Tyler, Texas. For here, we find a community of believers that is straining and pushing, prudentially, into the future. I want very simply to list several dimensions in which Christ Church is adapting with the times (not simply like a thermometer, but more closely akin to a thermostat):

  1. Evangelism & Newcomer Ministry: we are removing barriers for folks visiting our church.
  2. Worship: we are drawing & “wooing” people into the richness of our sacramental tradition.
  3. The Brotherhood of Saint Andrew: we will infuse it with a small army of new, excited men.
  4. A Christ Church App: we will soon launch a platform for “Christ Church Global”[‡] to communicate more efficiently.
  5. The Christ Church South Altar Guild: we are raising up and training leaders to perform this crucial ministry, in conjunction with our Altar Guild who serves our downtown community.
  6. Forming an Executing Committee and broad-based Launch Team for Christ Church South: as we “ramp up” to Opening Sunday, we will sow the seeds and position ourselves wisely in the community in all sorts of ways.

When it comes to church, it is no longer true that “if you build it they will come.” However, it will always be true that human beings (who are spiritual by nature) will be drawn irresistibly into the love of Christ when it is embodied by a healthy, sacrificial community of Jesus.

Anyone remember the original “creation mandate” given to the Man and the Woman in the Garden of Eden? “Fill the earth and take dominion of it.” This is what we are doing here at Christ Church, Tyler Texas. We are not simply lunging into the future. Humbly and by the grace of God, we are co-creating it.

[*]Roughly defined, a millennial is one who was between the ages of 18 and 34 in the year 2015.

[†] This study can be found here: https://caspertk.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/how-we-gather.pdf

[‡] My new term for Christ Church Downtown plus Christ Church South.

Share Button

Filed under: Uncategorized | Comments Off on Lunging into the Future

Posted on: December 12th, 2015 Anglicanism, “Missions” & the Bible Belt

Ah, the joys of being an Episcopal priest in the Bible Belt. Never shall its thrill wane, I suspect.

The latest wave of joy springs from a conversation with a man who works closely with me in ministry under the aegis our local Episcopal parish. He and I both have a good friend who is a kind of “missionary,” among many kinds of missionaries in East Texas. (Surely we in East Texas boast the highest per capita density of missionaries in the US.)

Our friend finds it objectionable and offensive that our Episcopal Church has no foreign missions pastor or committee or budget.

At a certain level, that makes sense. After all, I too grew up in an evangelical, Bible Belt culture. I vividly remember the first time I ever put money into an offering plate at my family’s Bible church: two silver dollars, after a slide-show missionary presentation, to support a missionary working on the other side of the globe.

However, there are many good reasons why Episcopal Churches, in the main, do not have these kinds of structures. Today I mention only two: historical consciousness and global communion.

First, historical consciousness. Ever wondered why most Roman Catholic churches in American don’t have “missions pastors?” Maybe it has something to do with the fact that they don’t see themselves as the “Mother Ship” of their church, which after all was established 2000 years in Rome. And I’m not referring to Rome, Texas.

American Roman Catholic churches see themselves as the mission field, themselves as the result of missionary efforts (from the other side of the Atlantic, not to it). The real missionary control center of the Catholic Church is in Rome, or perhaps in the headquarters / cathedral of each diocese, but not at the local church. Only American evangelicals (and some mainline Protestant liberals) see America as the Mother Ship, the sending center from which the conversion of the heathen issues forth.

Secondly, and related, global communion. How does one explain the shocking and horrendous fact that virtually no American Episcopal Church raises up and sends missionaries to, for example, Nigeria? Maybe it is because Nigeria has 25,000,000 Anglicans who love and worship Jesus. That’s more than twelve times the amount in the states. And while the numbers vary, similar things could be said about Japan, the Middle East, and Asia.

The American Episcopal Church is one of 38 global Anglican provinces, among whom are numbered the Church of Kenya, the Church of Australia, the Church of the Southern Cone in South America. Should we be sending missionaries to those countries? In the main the Anglican tradition has answered questions like this in the negative. In fact, historically Anglicans have refused to send missionaries to lands that already have a Christian presence. (So for example, there have never been Anglican missionaries in Russia.)

To my mind, there are two fundamentally different ways of being Christian. There is the American Evangelical way (based in many assumptions which are typically American), and there is the historical catholic way (with many habits, convictions, and quirks rooted in the past). This issue of foreign missions is a case in point.

 

 

Share Button

Filed under: Uncategorized | Comments Off on Anglicanism, “Missions” & the Bible Belt

Posted on: July 31st, 2013 My Take on (American) Evangelicalism

Thanks to my friend Tish for posting this, I assume at least partly in response to this. And also one should see this, with which I heartily agree.

Of course “evangelicalism” is a slippery term b/c it is both a sociological descriptor and a theological tradition.

Question: where does Catholic Christianity figure in all this?

Reason I ask: I walked away from evangelicalism (at least in my own mind!) not so much b/c it was so militantly opposed to progressive culture (in terms of science, poverty, & liberal politics … the things cited in the title of Tish’s blog post), as Tish’s interlocutors (eg, Rachel Evans) seem to be saying and against which Tish seems to be protesting, but precisely for the opposite reason.

I see evangelicalism as being part and parcel with secular culture: individualistic, private, trend-obsessed, market based. (Example: show me a church planter’s vision statement [the mere fact that evangelicals use “vision statements” speaks volumes] that does not tacitly try to position itself in terms of the contemporary religious “market” in America.)

Which of course is why many, many of those who decry evangelicalism are themselves … evangelicals. It is now trendy in evangelical circles to be progressively anti-evangelical. (Witness the “emergent church” … as I throw up in my mouth a teency bit.)

Evangelicalism, as best I can discern, is not sacramental; it is not sacred; it is not other worldly; it is not mystical; it is not transcendent; it is not rooted in history (by and large). I say this as an ex-evangelical (said in the most wounded tone of voice I can muster, imagining myself to have gone through a painful “de-conversion” experience.)

I’ve been convinced for about a decade now that evangelicalism is actually the reverse face (the “kissing cousin” or the “other side of the coin”) of our distinctively American secular culture.

 

 

Share Button

Posted on: July 23rd, 2013 Rainbows & Light (Nyssa & Desmond)

Gregory of Nyssa and quantum physics (about which I know almost nothing) agree: the rational mind cannot fully grasp the nature of light.

William Desmond might say that it is “overdetermined:” the problem is not that light manifests too little to our souls (mind, sense perception, imagination), but rather that it manifests too much. We cannot stare directly at the sun. Light is both wave and particle at the same time (which makes little sense rationally).

This “overdeterminedness,” Gregory argues, characterizes the Christian God who manifests himself (“godself” if you like) by revelation and who is apprehended by faith.

In Gregory’s words, in the context of his rainbow analogy for the Trinity,

… for just as in the case of things which appear to our eyes experience seems better than a theory of causation, so too in the case of dogmas which transcend our comprehension faith is better than apprehension through processes of reasoning, for faith teaches us to understand that which is separated in person [in the three persons of the Trinity], but at the same time united in substance. – St. Gregory of Nyssa, Epistula XXXVIII, quoted in Adrian Pabst, Metaphysics 71.

What is the relationship between nature and grace, between philosophy and theology, between reason and faith? Here we find a clue: faith apprehends that which overwhelms and transcends reason. Against virtually all modern thought beginning with late medieval nominalism, faith is more than reason, not less.  Which is what John Milbank is trying to get at with his language of “intensities.”

Question: how does Desmond‘s “overdeterminedness” differ from Marion’s “saturated phenomenon?”

Share Button

Posted on: February 7th, 2012 Beer to the Glory of God

Of the many times I have been proud to be Episcopalian, a few truly special moments come to mind. My ordination to the priesthood at the hands of two dearly beloved bishops. The opening Sunday of the Epiphany Eucharist, when I got a vision for what is possible. My chance to meet with the Most Reverend Archbishop Benjamin Kwashi of Nigeria.

And then, there is this:

shota_house_beer

Way to go, Nashotah House!

For more on this vital means of grace, see here.

 

 

Share Button

Posted on: October 11th, 2010 Augustine on _Totus Christus_

From Augustine’s Homilies on the First Epistle of John:

Then let us rejoice and give thanks that we are made not only Christians, but Christ. Do you understand, brothers, and apprehend the grace of God upon us? Marvel, be glad, we are made Christ. For if he is the head, we are the members: the whole man is he and we… The fullness of Christ, then, is head and members. Head and members, what is that? Christ and the Church (In. Io. XXI.8).

Thanks, David Thomas.

Share Button

Posted on: November 6th, 2009 Breathe

These days are better than that.

These days are better than that.

Every day I die again and again I’m reborn.

Every day I have to find the courage to walk out into the streets

with arms out

Got a love you can’t defeat.

Neither down nor out

There’s nothing you have that I need.

I can breathe.

– U2, “Breathe” from No Line on the Horizon

Share Button

Posted on: August 3rd, 2009 Pentecostal Heterogeneity

Joel Green writes in this Festschrift to Richard Hays about the event of Pentecost in Acts 2:

“I will urge that Luke’s account constitutes a profoundly theological and political statement displacing Babel – and Jerusalem – and Rome centered versions of a unified world in favor of an altogether different sort of community. Unity is found at Pentecost, but not by reviving a pre-Babel homogeneity. With the outpouring of the Spirit, koinonia is possible not by the dissolution of multiple languages but rather by embodiment in a people generated by the Spirit, gathered in the name of Jesus Christ.” (pg. 199)

Share Button

Posted on: March 7th, 2009 The Moral Tradition of Virtue: Kenneth Kirk & Conclusion

Last semester I had the opportunity to do an independent study with Nathan Jennings at the Seminary of the Southwest in the moral tradition of virtue in Christianity. I felt that this tradition was something almost completely eclipsed in my Reformed theological training at Westminster Theological Seminary. I am grateful for the opportunity to engage in this study, which follows. For the introduction to this five-part essay see here; for Part I see here; for Part II see here; for Part III see here.

We turn now to a consideration of virtue as represented in the Anglican tradition, the representative in this case being Kenneth Kirk, who stands in direct succession with the moral tradition of virtue on at least two of the three features articulated above: the necessity of a pre-theoretical (note Aristotle’s use of theoretikos above) practice and an anthropological commitment to man as teleological by nature. (On the other of my three “marks” of the moral tradition of virtue – the priority of the social – Kirk is silent. We will forgive him for that, however, since he lived before this postmodern insight came to be appreciated, for example, by Michel Foucault among many others.)

Beati mundo corde, quoniam ipsi Deum videbunt.    The history of these words, Kirk writes, is the history of Christian ethics itself,  for Christian ethics centers on the idea of, the possibility of, the experiential attainment of, the vision of God.  For Kirk, steeped as he is in the moral tradition of the Church (and that in more than a merely academic way), this vision of God is the chief end of man. Not unlike his contemporary Henri de Lubac, he articulates this position, however, by means of a panoply of historical voices, beginning with characters from (what Christians have traditionally and historically called) the Old Testament, progressing through “pagan” stages (both “classical” as well as from the so-called mystery religions) and neo-Platonic fathers of the Church, and finally culminating with medievals such as Thomas Aquinas and 15th century figures such as Ignatius of Loyola and Francis de Sales.

“They will see God.” Virtually all of the Christian thinkers enlisted by Kirk to represent the sweep of the tradition agree that man’s ultimate purpose is the vision or the contemplatio  of God, whatever inter-mural squabbles they might  have on the details of such an experience.  Thomas Aquinas, perhaps, is on what one might think of as the “conservative” extreme of the spectrum, in that he insists that the intuition of the divine essence – the sight of God “face to face”  – is sternly reserved for eternity.

And yet, what all have in common in the conviction that the human life ought to be ordered around this telos of the direct experience of the divine. And what is this telos? Kirk is more explicit than many of his fellow participants in the tradition, certainly more concrete in elaboration of this telos than Alisdair MacIntyre, for example.  For Kirk identifies this telos for which humanity was made as worship:
The doctrine “the end of life is the vision of God” has … been interpreted by Christian thought at its best as implying in practice that the highest prerogative of the Christian, in this life as well as hereafter, is the activity of worship; and that nowhere except in this activity will he find the key to his ethical problems.

Taking precedence over “codes of behavior,” it is worship which orients the ethical project, which orients the moral life of Christian (and human) persons. Appealing to Aristotle, Kirk writes:
Aristotle … explicitly invested the high pursuit of philosophic truth with a religious coloring.  The ‘highest branch of contemplation,’ he said, ‘is theology,’ and the philosophic ideal is the ‘worship and contemplation of God.’ Met V, I (1026a, 19).

Such primacy of worship or praise could also be adduced from multiple Old Testament texts to which Kirk appeals: Jacob saw God face to face and lived (Gen 32:20) (The Hebrew Peniel here means “the face of God”). Similar insights are gleaned from Abraham and Moses in Gen 12:7; 18:1. Isaiah held the LORD high and lifted up in Isaiah 6. Amos & Micah report similar visions: Am 7:7; 9:1; Mic 1:1-3. Ezekiel saw God in his chariot; he saw the Shekinah glory.  Kirk supplies us with many more examples from history and tradition to show that, according to the moral tradition of virtue in which Kirk situates himself, worship is our ultimate purpose.
One primary way in which Kirk’s understanding of worship as man’s end is so fecund, however, is that for Kirk, while worship is an end or a purpose or a telos, it is also more than that: for it is also the way to the telos, as Kirk makes clear throughout his discussion of worship. One can see this discussion as implying a view of worship as (something like) both means and end. It is an end, but it is also the precondition to the achievement of that end. In this sense there is a deep resonance with Kirk’s understanding of worship and Aristotle’s understanding of eudaimonia, for, on Aristotle’s view, happiness is not merely a means to an end, pursued for the sake of something else, but nor is it nothing more than a telos in the sense of terminus, for it is also the way.
For example, Aristotle’s understanding of happiness is not like the production of walls from bricks and morter. The sole (or at least the overwealmingly primary) purpose of brick-laying is to produce a wall. The brick-laying is the means to that end which is the wall. But for Aristotle, eudaimonia is neither reducible down to brick-laying nor reducible down to the wall. It is both, and / or it is neither.  So also, on Kirk’s view, for worship. It is not merely a means, for worship is what we will be doing for all eternity, and is our highest possible way to commune with God. And yet it is a medium or a way which leads to something else, something more. But nor, on the other hand, is worship merely an end, for surely it is more true to say that our end is God himself, and worship is a means to that higher end. And yet, in saying this one must constantly remember that not true apprehension of God can ever take place outside of or independently of worship or praise, and so worship itself is ultimate, in that it is bound up with the ultimate end of man which is God Godself.

In showing that worship is humanity’s true end, two voices which Kirk enlists are those of Psalm 24 (“Those with clean hands and a pure heart … will seek the face of the God of Jacob”) and Psalm 27 (“One thing have I asked of the LORD, and that will I seek: to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple”). These two ancient Hebrew poems, separated by only a few strophai in the Hebrew Bible, are among the most provocative of all the voices Kirk brings to bear upon this issue of worship as both (or neither) the way to our ultimate telos and part and (or nor) parcel of that same telos. Consider Psalm 27, which conflates worship and the experience of beholding God, as if they are the same thing. Indeed these two things, says the Psalmist, are the “one thing” that he seeks. Worship and the vision of God are bound up in unity. And yet, worship is also a preparation for that “one thing:” worship purifies us (cf Isa 6,where Isaiah is penitentially “purified” by a burning coal from God’s altar) such that we are able to worship and to see God, as implied in Psalm 24. Kirk therefore shows that worship is not just (wo)man’s ultimate end but also our way of preparation unto that end.
In other words, “they will see God,” indeed. But who is “they?” Only the pure in heart, says Jesus in Matthew 5 and the tradition which follows his lead. There thus develops in the tradition, an emphasis on the pre-theoretical preparation for such a vision. The entire (neo)Platonic tradition, of course, heavily emphasizes such preparation, often in the form of purification, an emphasis nicely summarized by Seneca’s  dictum that “the mind, unless it is pure and holy, cannot see God.”

Kirk receives this emphasis on preparation for the divine vision and reads (Christian) worship as its fulfillment, for such purity must involve first and foremost a sense of disinterestedness, which “Christian ethics must advocate.”  “Worship [alone],” Kirk argues, “lifts the soul out of preoccupation with self and its activities, and centers its aspirations entirely upon God.”

Where, then, Kirk invites us to ask, is the place for service and self-discipline? By showing that “both of these are antecedents and the consequences of worship” Kirk argues for an approach to ethics which does in fact begin and end with worship but is fruitful for the life of the world:

When once it is recognized that worship is the key to disinterestedness, the effort to conform to codes and standards falls into its proper place. it is, on the one hand, an effort which the worshipping soul finds itself compelled to undertake, so that its worship may flow more freely; on the other, an invariable outcome of all true worship, insofar as it the latter invariably strives to render its environment more harmonious with the Idea of which it has caught glimpses.

Here we see that for Kirk, ethics begins with worship and ends with worship (of God, finally in the beatific vision). However, the value of this approach for (what I think of as) “the streets of the real world,” consistent with the best of the virtue tradition of Christian moral philosophy, is that worship (together with the worshipping community) is a “glimpse” (to borrow Kirk’s own term) or an icon of the world’s true nature, reality, design, and goal.

This actually underscores, and does not diminish, the importance of service and self-discipline, for Christian practices such as alms-giving, fasting, meditation, and service to neighbor flow in and out of worship – concretely in the Eucharist – as its “wings.”  Worship is a means to our final end, as are (and for that reason) Christian self-discipline and service.

We have considered, as two modern advocates of what can be thought of as a deeply traditional (though not without real critique and certain innovations) moral tradition of virtue. I would like to suggest in closing, however, that without Kirk, MacIntyre would be incomplete. For as John Milbank has argued,  MacIntyre’s articulation of the tradition, despite all its philosophic erudition, despite all its historical context, despite all its grasp of the real issues, is at the end of the day, insufficient in its affirmation of real, concrete content.
What is the concrete content of moral thought, to which the tradition of virtue, from Homer to the present, in its best and truest moments, has pointed (even if at times obscurely)? Surely it is, as Kirk argues, that man’s moral life begins, ends, and flows forth, from the worship of God, who will be seen by the pure in heart.

Share Button

Posted on: March 7th, 2009 The Moral Tradition of Virtue (III): Teleological Anthropology

Last semester I had the opportunity to do an independent study with Nathan Jennings at the Seminary of the Southwest in the moral tradition of virtue in Christianity. I felt that this tradition was something almost completely eclipsed in my Reformed theological training at Westminster Theological Seminary. I am grateful for the opportunity to engage in this study, which follows. For the introduction to this five-part essay see here; for Part I see here; for Part II see here; for the conclusion see here.

Having now considered two overlapping features of these three historical stages of the virtue tradition which are the predecessor cultures to modernity (Heroic society, classical Athens, medieval Christendom), we turn now to the third: the ways in which these cultures conceived of man or humanity. The core idea here which overlaps onto all three civilizations is that humanity is a functional concept, about which MacIntyre writes:

… Moral arguments within the classical … tradition – whether in its Greek or its medieval versions – involve at least one central functional concept, the concept of man understood as having an essential nature and an essential and an essential purpose or function…. That is to say, “man” stands to “good man” as “watch” stands to “good watch” of “farmer” to “good farmer” in the classical tradition.

Nowhere does one see Thomas’ reliance upon Aristotle more clearly than in this anthropological commitment to man as a functional concept. Here the Angelic Doctor appears to be taking his cues directly from Aristotle (e.g., chapter 13 of Book I of the latter’s Nicomachean Ethics, where he states and then builds upon the analogy, alluded to above, that a good man is analogous to a good harp player).  Ralph McInerny argues, that on Aquinas’ view,

Beginning with the classical tradition,  Aristotle says in Nicomachean Ethics, that the relationship of “man” to “living well” is analogous to that of “harpist” to “playing the harp well.” (Nicomachean Ethics 1095a 16). This “living well” for Aristotle is man’s essental telos, and the word he uses to denote it is eudaimonia, variously translated as “happiness,” “success,” and “blessedness” (among other options).

What is interesting about this elusive sense of eudaimonia for Aristotle is that it is neither simply a means to some other end (although at various points in his corpus the Philosopher does suggest that meditative contemplation of the divine – that is the Unmoved Mover – is the supreme telos of the human person ) nor is it simply an end in itself. Reducible to neither of these, it is instead a virtue (perhaps, for Aristotle, the ultimate virtue) whose end is intrinsic to itself. That is, its ultimate end (what both D.S. Hutchinson and Stanley Haurwas  / Charles Pinches consider to be “living a well-lived life”)  is intrinsic to the practice, and even the attainment of, eudaimonia. What is clear, however, is that for Aristotle man does have a purpose, which he can fulfill or accomplish well or poorly. Just as a hammer can be said to be a good hammer or a bad hammer based on how well it fulfills its purpose or performs its function, so also a human being can be said to be a good or a bad person.

Turning now to the medieval period, nowhere does one see Thomas’ reliance upon Aristotle more clearly than in this anthropological commitment to man or humanity as a functional concept. Here the Angelic Doctor appears to be taking his cues directly from Aristotle (e.g., chapter 13 of Book I of his Nicomachean Ethics, where he states and then builds upon the analogy, alluded to above, that a good man in analogous to a good harp player). Ralph McInerny argues that, on Aquinas’ view,

… the human agent is precisely one who performs human actions with a view to the good. If we want to know whether something or someone is good, we ask what its function is…. I can say that an eye is good if it performs its function of seeing well. The organ is called good from the fact that its operations are good, are performed well. The “well” of an action, its adverbial mode, is the ground of talk of virtue. The “virtue” of any thing is to perform its natural function or proper task well.

We have looked at three “chapters” in the story of the development of this tradition of virtue: heroic antiquity, classical Greek civilization (rooted in fifth century Athens), and the medieval synthesis which finds it main protagonist in Thomas Aquinas.

But where does this leave us in the early 21st century? Following on the heals of modernity’s rejection (a la Descartes and Kant, two name two foundational examples) of these three common strands we have traced (the social rootedness of morality, the pre-theoretical practice of philosophy, and the anthropological presupposition of human as a functional concept with a concrete telos) it leaves us in the morally chaotic state of what Alisdair MacIntyre describes as “emotivism.”   For MacIntryre, only traditioned inquiry is capable of sustaining a coherent, rational discourse about the good life for humans, but this – tradition in general, as well as this tradition of virtue in particular – is precisely what modernity rejects.

In our emotivistic society, moral consensus is necessarily blocked because there is no agreement among the plurality of voices on what constitutes the common good. And MacIntyre is pessimistic to say the least. Given his insistence (along with modernity’s predecessor cultures, with which he is in intellectual and moral solidarity) upon the priority of the social, the best he can envision is a “new St. Benedict” who will create new communities of formation in the midst of our fragmented and fragmenting culture.

It seems clear from the preceding account of the classical virtue tradition that the most fundamental way in which the virtue-centered, Christian moral tradition differs from modern ethical theory is that, according to the former, there is more to the moral – or even the decisional – life of persons than merely the consciously rational dimension. It is this “more than,” this dimension of the human psyche beyond reason (or perhaps behind and under reason) which must be formed or shaped according to an informed rationality. For the most part ignored by modern ethical theory, this dimension of the human psyche will inevitably be shaped and conditioned by something: left to its own devices it will be imprisoned by the drives and desires of human appetite.

See here for the conclusion to this series.

Share Button

Posted on: March 7th, 2009 The Moral Tradition of Virtue (II): the Practice of Philosophy

Last semester I had the opportunity to do an independent study with Nathan Jennings at the Seminary of the Southwest in the moral tradition of virtue in Christianity. I felt that this tradition was something almost completely eclipsed in my Reformed theological training at Westminster Theological Seminary. I am grateful for the opportunity to engage in this study, which follows. For the introduction to this essay see here, and for Part I see here.

We turn now to a consideration of the priority of practice – the practice of philosophy – in each of the three predecessor cultures. Once again, we see a unity among the differences: in all three cultures there is what Pierre Hadot calls a “philosophy before the [moral] philosophy.” Before an agent can know what is good or right (let alone succeed in doing it) she must do something other than – she must do something before – knowing. Knowledge of the good is conditioned by something prior.

The pre-classical society of the heroic is perhaps the most difficult case to establish, but things get clearer when we do two things. First, we must realize that, for a Homeric warrior to be morally successful, he must arrive back to his home victorious after battle. This is the primary standard for virtue in this society. Second, we must ask, “What moral presuppositions must obtain for such a victorious return? There are two moral prerequisites for success  which come into play here, and both are human practices: loyalty and accountability to his kin (otherwise he would not be motivated to return home), and appeasement of the Gods in prayer and sacrifice. The two practices – loyalty or accountability and obiessence before the divine – are for this society its “philosophy before philosophy.” They are the practices which precede and undergird the achievement of virtuous eudaimonia.

In fifth-century Athens the successful moral life also presupposes a disciplined praxis, well documented and described by Pierre Hadot. Hadot points out that, once, when Socrates was challenged
to quit his annoying irony and offer is own definition of justice, he replied: ”I never stop showing what I think is just. If not in words, I show it by my actions.” At the heart of what Socrates meant by knowledge, Hadot says, is a way of life, ”a love of the good.” That love comes from within the individual, and after it is awakened it must be renewed through self-questioning, self-examination, a personal commitment to a life of philosophy.

As Socrates and his contemporaries of fifth-century Athens would say, however, this love for the good must be nurtured and fostered. Hence the practice of paideia, what Hadot describes as “the desire to form or educate:”
This education was imparted by adults…. In the fifth century, as democracy began to flourish, the city-states showed … the concern for forming their future citizens by physical exercises, gymnastics, music, and mental exercises.

Turning now to medieval Christendom, we can see a similar commitment to a disciplined praxis which precedes the attainment of virtue. The supreme articulation and defense of this stance comes the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas, where he mounts a defense of habituation or the formation of habits by human acts, as a cause of virtue. In the second article (“Whether any Virtue is Caused in us by Habituation from our Acts?”) to Question LXIII (“The Cause of the Virtues”) Thomas writes

… Dionysius says that good is more efficacious than evil. But vicious habits are caused by evil acts. Much more, therefore, can virtuous habits be caused by good acts.… We have spoken already in a general way about the generation of habits from acts. Speaking now in a special way of this matter in relation to virtue … it follows that human nature, directed to the good which is defined according to the rule of human reason, can be caused by human acts; for such acts proceed from reason, by whose power and rule the good in question in established.… Accordingly, human acts, in so far as they proceed from higher principles, can cause acquired human virtues.

For Part III of this series go here.

Share Button