Why Theology Matters

Jim @ Not For Itching Ears asserted that God doesn’t care about theology. Citizen Tom attempted here to rebut his assertion. I suppose the claim was presented because of the intention of wanting to bring together different denominations, but true ecumenicalism shouldn’t forgo truth for religious indifference or syncretism, God in the Old Testament puts those ideas to rest quite often. Jim from his original post doesn’t address Philippians though he brought up to me when I questioned that religious doctrinal indifference is never a theme in the undisputed letters of the Pauline canon. Jim’s argument rests on the Greek phrase “Ti Gar”, which is sometimes translated “What does it matter” in the passage that he quotes Philippians 1:17-18.  I made the point that Paul is very concerned in the Corinthian correspondences, Galatians, Romans, etc. with the understanding revelation correctly. The occasions for Paul’s letters generally center around defending the revelation against circumcision parties or defending his own apostleship. So, I had my suspicions that this just didn’t seem like the correct reading of Philippians, which is usually considered an authentic letter of St. Paul. The few commentaries that I perused didn’t even sniff Jim’s interpretation of the text, so again, exegesis is a conversation, it cannot be done in a vacuum. 

The complete thought of the periscope begins at verse 12, so again, in exegetical work, careful reading must be applied to a particular passage, a verse should not be taken out of its context both within the theme of the letter, it’s rhetorical devices, and its form. 

12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. 

15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. (ESV Phil 1:12-18)

The entire context of verse 18 centers around Paul’s imprisonment which, as we can see from the complete periscope, advances the Gospel message either by men who do so for the sake of Christ’s gospel or personal gain, it has nothing to do with a group getting the gospel wrong. If one group was preaching adherence to the Mosaic law to be justified by Christ, from the context of Paul’s other letters, he would not have been so accepting, but Paul’s concern is the spread of the true message of the good news. 


So, does theology matter to God? Yes. It begins with the kerygma. God loves us and has a plan for us. So, the question should be asked in this manner, does theology matter for us? 

And because of this question we have to fully understand what is theology.  

Theology starts with the most knowable cause itself; it instructs man who God is through metaphors and analogy because man learns through the senses. It is a science that studies higher things, but It differs from the modern understanding of science that is only concerned with information; or the gathering of information to test hypothesis. However, the purpose of science is the certitude of the four causes. The supreme science to arrive at the conclusion of satisfaction is metaphysics. 

Metaphysics does differ from theology as the study of being as being that begins with cause and effect and rises to the cause. The classical understanding of science to knowledge in the strict sense of the word is one that proceeds from cause and effect. Theology is primarily about God as is all religious knowledge; it is not anthropology; it is primarily about the Trinity. Theology is not about the subjective needs of man, it is about God, who is the material object of study and His revelation which is the formal object. 

The trajectory of understanding in Theology is a top down approach where authority takes precedent. In theology, one looks at everything from God’s point of view, where reason cannot follow without help. So, does it matter to God—absolutely in this context. The subject matter is not diverse like it is in philosophy, but it has unity in the subject matter. It is one single unified vision of everything coming from God and leading one back to God in Christ. It is a conformity between nature, grace, and glory. 

The understanding of the nature of faith is predicated on the understanding of theology as a real science, which begins with the Creator and His revelation. Faith is a virtue, and it is necessary. It exists in its subject.

The starting point of the cause helps to understand how the act of our will as a response to grace toward God’s will in love—as St. Paul reminds us in Galatians 5:6—different from some of these commonly held misunderstandings on what is faith—for example, merely blind confidence. Theology depends on faith and revelation, which is how one assents to the propositions of theology as a science—science in the proper sense of all knowledge. In the proper sense of understanding theology as a science—dependent on faith and revelation—one could not be a theologian if one lacked faith because of theology’s dependence of both faith and revelation, one would either be a historian or a philosopher.

Faith is our response to revelation—which is grace; a free gift that is an invitation to the Divine life. One cannot merit this free gift of grace. For modernity, faith is the blind assent to a proposition; however, this is not the proper sense of the definition of the term. The act of belief as a form of knowing is distinct from the act of science and the act of opinion. These differences can be distinguished by the Aristotelean model of the three acts of the mind: simple apprehension, judgment, and reasoning.

There are two ways in which a person can come to judgment within this model. The first is philosophical in which one reasons through composing, combining, comparing, contrasting different beings. The second way is the movement of the intellect by an act of the will. If a person has assented to some propositions of faith through reason but cannot fully understand who God is, they will have a natural desire to move the intellect.  It is from the revelation of God that our natural desire is satisfied by an act of the will to faith. 

For example, Jesus gives us provocation to trust in His divinity through the signs of miracles. So, by these signs, a person can believe in His divinity because a person trusts in the authority in which Jesus speaks. An example of assenting to the authority and divinity of Jesus through signs would be St. Thomas the Apostle’s response to the sign of touching the man Jesus’ wounds which causes him to assent to the faith of the divinity of Jesus with the response, “My Lord, and my God.”[1]

So when it comes to assenting to a proposition, there is a similarity and difference between science and faith. In science, the mind is convinced by the examination of the scientific method and cause and effect. After such discourse through examination, assent puts an end to any further dialogue and ends examination. However, in faith, discourse and assent are in movement together at the same time. It is faith seeking understanding. When our will assents to faith in Christ, it moves also orders our will to acts of charity as the fruits of that faith.            The nature of faith is more closely related to a verb because it moves twofold from the intellect to faith by revelation and acts of charity.  The act of faith is when the intellect is moved by the will assents to the articles of faith given to us by God through revelation. It differs from doubt, opinion, and science because it assents by trust in the revelation of the revealer. It is done by ordering our will with God’s will by acts of charity. 


[1] St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, II-II 4.

The Great American War Crime: Responding to Weigel on the Atomic Bombs — Clarifying Catholicism

By: Phillip Hadden, Holy Apostles College The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of Clarifying Catholicism. We appreciate responses submitted in our comments section or through our Contact Us page. A recent article by George Weigel on First Things titled “Truman’s Terrible Choice, 75 years ago,” rehashes the ‘consensus’ school of […]

The Great American War Crime: Responding to Weigel on the Atomic Bombs — Clarifying Catholicism

“On the Pilgrim Road” The Journal and Newsletter of Pilgrims of Christ. What is Christian Pilgrimage? Pope Francis, “Be Pilgrims of Mercy,” The True Presence of the Eucharist

Thank you for taking the time to read On the Pilgrim Road, The newsletter and journal of the new spiritual lay apostolate Pilgrims of Christ. If you want to see more and better stuff like this, please consider donating at Patreon and get some cool stuff too! https://www.patreon.com/pilgrimsofchrist

Discussion: Prayer is the Encounter of God’s Thirst with Ours.

“Jesus thirsts; his asking arises from the depths of God’s desire for us. Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him.[1]

In our monthly discussion group, today we began our discussion on Christian Prayer. I wanted to highlight something in particular that Fr. Dominic expressed early in our discussion where the Catechism focuses on the woman encountering Jesus at the well in the Gospel of John Ch. 4. Christ asks her for a drink, and in fact, in prayer, it is here where it is revealed that God thirsts so we may thirst for Him. The woman at the well is such a beautiful image of the give and take of prayer life. The woman encounters the Incarnation is the prime revelation of God and the prime revealer. The more I thought about it today with its connection to Jesus on the cross, “I thirst” and St. Mother Teresa the more and more it became clear. So, I thank Fr. Dominic highlighting it. It is when we take up our cross and join it with Jesus that our thirst begins to be quenched by living water.
In fact, St. Teresa of Avila uses the imagery of well in her famous autobiography to illuminate the development of prayer. She explains that it is the constant struggle of pulling up buckets sometimes filled with mud that is part of the development of prayer. The more one sends down the bucket the more one begins to pull up water to grow a beautiful garden.

What is this beauty? It is the fruit of joy from our relationship with God! It must all begin with prayer or there can be no relationship with God. “Prayer is the response of faith to the free promise of salvation and also a response of love to the thirst of the only Son of God[2]” So, if prayer is the response of faith then ask yourself “how is your prayer life?” What does this tell you about your faith?

This discussion group is available for all patrons of the Pilgrims of Christ tier.

God Bless!

[1] Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), 614.

[2] Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), 614.

New Catechesis Resources!!

Pilgrims of Christ now provides free public domain copies of the Baltimore Catechism No. 1, the Confessions of St. Augustine Trans. EB Pusey, and Summa Theologica: Part 1.

It’s the fraternity’s hope with time to provide a more detailed break down of each particular texts for reference to specific chapters and parts. Of course, until that time, the text is easily referenced using your “find” feature on your computer.

For further edification, please feel free to read my post On the Influence of St. Augustine and check out my videos where I give small lectures on main topics found in each lesson in the Baltimore Catechism.

God Bless!

The Birth of God in Historical Context

Dear Readers,

I mentioned earlier this year that I hoped to publish this book by year’s end. The book is a compilation of my earlier work in history as an undergraduate student, posts and debates that had been published on this blog and material written from my most recent Master’s class in theology on the Synoptic Gospels.

The book looks for a historical foundation within the gospel texts under a proper understanding of historicism. An understanding of the influence of both era and culture of the authors in their proper contexts. It expresses agreement with Pope Benedict XVI that the writers do not give a video camera recording of the Gospels, but rather gives a substance of the historical truth–no different from modern testimony. The book sets out to explain why there is good evidence to believe that the Christmas date is of Christian origin and not of pagan origin. It explains via Thomas Aquinas why Jesus had to be born in Bethlehem and what Bethlehem was like when Jesus was born. In the book, I examine the veracity of the census found in Luke’s gospel account. The book also examines the traditions of Mary–the Mother of God, Old Testament typology and prophecy, different historical figures found in the infancy narratives. Finally, the book concludes with a chapter on what is the importance of the genealogies found in the texts of the gospels and the Incarnation of Christ.

Excerpt:

The conception of this book began a few years back, originating from a course I took in college called “The History of Christmas”. The course introduced me to many of the written sources presented in this book as well as fostering a great interest in the infancy narratives of Jesus Christ. After some years, I decided to present some of the material in a discussion group at my local parish to discuss some of the historic legitimacy of infancy narratives found in the Gospels. The book’s text expands on my notes and outlines from this discussion group.

My goal for this book is to distill the many arguments about and ideas on the infancy narratives into one, easily accessible analysis, as well as to shape the dense academic historiography and theological typology into something more palatable for lay readers. Naturally, in this project, some generalizations are needed to summarize the extensive academic scholarship on the subject, so I fully encourage readers to look beyond this book and to explore all sources that I’ve presented here.

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-birth-of-god-in-history-phillip-hadden/1134980944;jsessionid=93B1BDFE33FD0730049AD04C9BE50EB0.prodny_store02-atgap10?ean=9781078744492

 

Farewell to the Devil?

In his essay “Farewell to the Devil?”, Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) examines and rebuts the argument presented by Swiss Catholic Theologian Herbert Haag, who asserts that Satan does not exist and that Satan was an idea that manifested ancient Jewish culture’s understanding of evil and sin. (Ratzinger, Farewell to the Devil? 197.) Haag’s thesis was written during the time of great cultural upheaval both in secular culture and in Catholic Culture as his book “Farewell to the Devil” would be printed after the Vatican II council. It should be no surprise that Superior General of the Jesuits, Fr. Sosa, has recently made comments that Satan is an analogy making very similar points as presented in Haag’s argument ( A comment that Fr. Sosa has since walked back a bit).

Ratzinger explains that this position is one that uses a methodology that is devoid of literary analysis of scripture but rather is a methodology that focuses on a false historicism (emphasis mine) that those of a different era are either stupid, naive, or both, so in effect, Haag’s position is based on the rhetoric fallacy of “poisoning the well” of the witness testimony of Jesus and the Apostles as it is presented in the New Testament. Haag’s thesis is refuted by Ratzinger by examining the New Testament in which Satan and Demons exist, and the Devil is not a synonym for sin which is claimed by Haag (Ratzinger, Ibid.).

It’s so glaringly obvious in the belief of those in scripture that both Satan and Demons exist that Haag had to admit this is a commonly held belief of those in 1st century Palestine. However, Haag argues that these people were victims of their understanding and culture during this period of time. Again, it’s important to reiterate that Haag’s position is based on his own cultural bias in which he has already assumed those in Jesus’ time are inferior to his own understanding. Naturally, this type of assertion is one of the most dangerous facets of a strict historical-critic exegesis and the use of historicism by modern scholars. Ratzinger does a good job acknowledging that it’s Haag’s bias that has predetermined his conclusion on this matter, Ratzinger writes, “Haag bids the devil farewell, not in his capacity as exegete or interpreter of Scripture, but rather as a contemporary, who considered the existence of a devil untenable (Ratzinger, 198).”

One of the key aspects in understanding Satan and Demons, after examining the role of the Old Testament as being dependent on the New Testament, is understood when Ratzinger writes, “The spiritual battle against the enslaving powers, the exorcism pronounced over a world blinded by demons, is an inseparable part of Jesus’ spiritual way that belongs to the heart of his own mission and of the mission of his disciples.” (Ratzinger, 202). Furthermore, Ratzinger indicates that our understanding of the faith must be rendered within the faith community. If it is to be determined that Satan is merely an analogy to sin or a sort of moral taboo then the Church’s sacramental life with the foundation of baptism would be moot. Ratzinger writes, “One must be able to take baptism at its word, especially in its central action. It indicates what takes place in becoming a Christian and what does not…exorcism and the renunciation of Satan are part of the central action of baptism.” (Ratzinger, 203.)

At the end of the essay, Ratzinger questions what Haag means that the Devil cannot be understood to exist by what we know in our modern age. In many respects, I believe the question of “Farewell to the Devil?” is one that originates in the metaphysical and spiritual and moves into the material, perhaps, there is to be understood better the sacred and the profane. A good measurement of whether something is contingent on faith testimony which is the essence of the faith is its relation to the Incarnation itself.

How does Satan, the demonic, and hell relate to the Incarnation? In the course of the history of the Church, the great heresies have always been misguided teachings on who is Jesus Christ. Satan and hell must be articles of faith as without those parts of revelation, it would render the Incarnation useless. If theologians eliminate Adam and Eve, the fall, hell, and then the slope—as we see today—leads to there being no such thing as sin, then those theologians have rendered Jesus Christ merely an ancient understanding of the world.

Moonlight’s Grace

A  series of Haiku inspired by Chopin’s Nocturne No. 19

Soft clouds in moonlight

Precision grace strikes my heart

A twill spins twilight

Iv’ry sounds belt sky

A soul lifted up Divine

clouds cover moonlight

Truth known by beauty

Expressed; heard; attained—now gone.

Drowned by modern noise

Biblical Exegesis: Primarily a philosophical discussion or historical?

Bourdon_Sebastien-Moses_and_the_Burning_Bush

Pope Benedict XVI explained in his 1988 Erasmus lectures, “The debate about modern exegesis is not at its core a debate among historians, but among philosophers”. (Matthew J. Ramage, Jesus Interpreted, 9).

Is the discussion of the Holy Scriptures primarily a philosophical debate of those who claim there is a God and those who do not?

The statement appears to be correct on the surface; however, the difficulty with this particular assertion is that it is a false dichotomy when it comes to the interpretation of what is true and what actually happened as it is described in the written word. In attempting to determine what is true, the historian–both secular and religious–deals with the axiological value judgment of the truth just as much as any philosopher would when it comes to scriptural exegesis and the matter of what is the truth.

Make sure to pre-order my new book: The Birth of God in Historical Context: An Examination of the Infancy Narrative of Jesus Christ: 

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-birth-of-god-in-history-phillip-hadden/1134980944?ean=9781078744492

A Seed Must Fall

O’ Ancient Beauty
Thy torrents call deep to deep
Thy Word makes it be

Darkness; frost and chill
The Sun rises into vale
Thy word; speak and melt

O’ Morning Sun, shine forth
Thy rays of promise to renew
A Handmaid says, “yes.”

Water drops renew
For those who repent unto law
Now Binds all to He

Hand to Hand—Matters
a seed that died now revived
Single touch from He