Book Summary__ TECHNOPOLY: The Surrender of Culture to Technology By Neil Postman

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Whether or not it draws on new scientific research,

technology is a branch of moral philosophy, not of science

PAUL GOODMAN, New Reformation 

Prescript

It’s no secret that western civilization and the global community are enamored with and have benefitted much from the many technological advances from the last century.   The most popular technological marvel is that pocket computer we carry around called the “smart-phone”.   To call an inanimate machine “smart” seems ironically “stupid” because persons, not machines design the input and output of the parts.  People think and do, machines just do.

Historically, man-made machines (tools) always attempt to make life better, safer, and the unthinkable (to most of us) possible.  While there is much good that comes from human ingenuity, it’s also accompanied by a great down side most of us don’t consider.

The late critic and communications theorist, Neil Postman who chaired the Department of Communication Arts at New York University in, TECHNOPOLY: The Surrender of Culture to Technology, considers how historically the inventions of man have shaped the rise and fall of empires, changed the ways in which commerce is conducted, and how society has been positively and negatively impacted by them.  The wisdom in this book is as applicable today as when it was first authored in 1992.

INTRODUCTION: Pgs. Xi-xii

Postman in his introduction explains that most people think that technology is a staunch friend because first, it’s made life easier, cleaner and longer, and secondly because of its lengthy, intimate and inevitable relationship it has with culture.  But technology is a friend that asks for trust and obedience without inviting a close scrutiny of its consequences.

The fact is that this friend has a dark side where its’ uncontrolled growth has resulted in the destruction of the vital sources of our humanity.  Technology has created a culture void of a moral foundation; it’s undermined certain mental processes and social relations that make human life worth living.  In a nutshell, technology is both a friend and foe.

Reflections from ESTHER: THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD THROUGH A PAGAN RULER

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            The book of Esther is another marvelous account of the annals in the mosaic of Israel.  The book reads like history, not fantasy where Jewish enemies as in the past sought to destroy them, but God in his providence rescued them through a non-Jewish king named Ahasuerus.

This is a colorful account of a young beauty named Esther who was taken into Mordecai’s home after she became an orphan.  She was left with no kin to care for her, nevertheless God’s sovereign hand was moving behind the scenes.  Today we don’t talk much about God’s providence in the Church and for that matter in the world at large.  We prefer to use words like “chance” or “fate” or “karma” to describe uncanny situations that seem to be going one way, but turn instantly on a dime.

God’s providence among other things concerns the attributes of His power, knowledge, wisdom and goodness that for reasons unknown to creatures He performs for His names sake.  That means that at the center of all divine activity is the renown of the NAME, for unlike the creation which is finite and needy, the God of scripture is infinite and self-existent.  Thus, to attach supreme value to anything other than the ultimate is ultimately irrational and absurd, it is sinful and God is perfectly holy, without any sin.  That is why God does everything for the renown of the NAME.

I’ve read this account several times and peculiar to this book is the mentioning of the Jews but never of God’s name.  It’s as if Israel’s redeemer is preaching to the nations through them with a specific message that needs to be heeded but so often neglected.  The truth is that Israel’s history is the story of God’s dealings in space and time with a particular people to preach a specific message.

This message is one of favor being bestowed on them through a pagan ruler, the king of the land whose heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD, for He turns it wherever He wishes.  Among other things, this is a reminder to God’s people that even if rulers despise God, they are not ultimate God is.  This means that God will see to it that His hidden purposes are established while simultaneously working through the creature.  The scriptures teach that when a man’s ways are pleasing to the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at piece with him.

America needs a move from God in order to deliver us from our own cultural captivity of irrationality grounded in a darkened mind because of our many stony hearts to His law and ways.  God have mercy on your people, including those who have been grafted into the vine by Christ’s great rescue on Calvary’s bloody cross.

(SDG)

Reflections from NEHEMIAH 1-4: RESTORING WORSHIP IS COSTLY BUSINESS

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Our rebellion results in the desolation of our souls.  Only after contrition and repentance before Yahweh is complete are we His people ready to rebuild that which our sin decimated.

Nehemiah loved God’s people and Jerusalem, for biblically, worship and the land are always closely linked.  The land prospers when the worship of Yahweh obtains but desolation is assured when idolatrous wayward people have their own way.  Nonetheless, God’s promise of returning back to the land from Babylonian captivity after seventy years had come to fruition.

As the kings cupbearer, Nehemiah had favor with Artaxerxes such that he was granted royal support to return to Jerusalem in order to rebuild its walls:

And it came about in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, that wine was before him, and I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. So the king said to me, “Why is your face sad though you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of heart.” Then I was very much afraid. I said to the king, “Let the king live forever. Why should my face not be sad when the city, the place of my fathers’ tombs, lies desolate and its gates have been consumed by fire?” Then the king said to me, “What would you request?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. I said to the king, “If it please the king, and if your servant has found favor before you, send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ tombs, that I may rebuild it.” Then the king said to me, the queen sitting beside him, “How long will your journey be, and when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me, and I gave him a definite time. And I said to the king, “If it please the king, let letters be given me for the governors of the provinces beyond the River, that they may allow me to pass through until I come to Judah, and a letter to Asaph the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress which is by the temple, for the wall of the city and for the house to which I will go.” And the king granted them to me because the good hand of my God was on me.

Then I came to the governors of the provinces beyond the River and gave them the king’s letters. Now the king had sent with me officers of the army and horsemen. 10 When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about it, it was very displeasing to them that someone had come to seek the welfare of the sons of Israel. (2:1-10)

And yet, Nehemiah had enemies that would linger whose sole purpose was to mock, threaten and discourage the work of rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls and infrastructure:

“Now it came about that when Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became furious and very angry and mocked the Jews. He spoke in the presence of his brothers and the wealthy men of Samaria and said, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Are they going to restore it for themselves? Can they offer sacrifices? Can they finish in a day? Can they revive the stones from the dusty rubble even the burned ones?”Now Tobiah the Ammonite was near him and he said, “Even what they are building—if a fox should jump on it, he would break their stone wall down!” Hear, O our God, how we are despised! Return their reproach on their own heads and give them up for plunder in a land of captivity. Do not forgive their iniquity and let not their sin be blotted out before You, for they have demoralized the builders.” (4:1-5)

 Nehemiah, like a recon man, did not show his hand in the land until after he examined the damage that needed reparation (2:11-18).  Among those involved in repairing the broken down walls were priests, goldsmiths and perfumers yet the nobles did not support the work (chapter 3).

Opposition is often manifested through mockery fueled by anger.  These two go hand in glove by those who hate righteousness and laud wickedness (4:1-3).  The way to combat such spiritual warfare (and it is spiritual wrestling) is sometimes through imprecatory prayer directed to Almighty God.  This type of intercession is pivotal for combating the dangers we His people confront.  When our passion is the renown of God’s Name, He hears our cries evidenced in Nehemiah’s experience (4:7-14).

In order for the work to continue, the laborers needed protection and this through swords, spears and shields.  That is, after the intercession was offered, the people still needed to arm themselves:

“When our enemies heard that it was known to us, and that God had frustrated their plan, then all of us returned to the wall, each one to his work. 16 From that day on, half of my servants carried on the work while half of them held the spears, the shields, the bows and the breastplates; and the captains were behind the whole house of Judah. 17 Those who were rebuilding the wall and those who carried burdens took their load with one hand doing the work and the other holding a weapon. 18 As for the builders, each wore his sword girded at his side as he built, while the trumpeter stood near me. 19 I said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “The work is great and extensive, and we are separated on the wall far from one another. 20 At whatever place you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.” 21 So we carried on the work with half of them holding spears from dawn until the stars appeared. 22 At that time I also said to the people, “Let each man with his servant spend the night within Jerusalem so that they may be a guard for us by night and a laborer by day.” 23 So neither I, my brothers, my servants, nor the men of the guard who followed me, none of us removed our clothes, each took his weapon even to the water.”  (4:15-23)       

I have often felt that that the walls have been torn down in the American church because the culture, not the scriptures, are what dictates to many professing Christians what they believe.  Included in the range of issues are: the issue of origins (a-la Darwinism), the status of the unborn (Abortion), the meaning of marriage (a-la same-sex “marriage”), embracing a pluralistic view of salvation (a-la any religion can lead you to Jesus), etc.  It’s only because of His great mercy we’re not wiped off the face of this earth.

Personally, I’m often overwhelmed and burdened with the sin of unbelief that keeps me from pursuing God in the midst of my anxieties, fears and doubts.  Fortunately, God’s word here in Nehemiah reminds me that where God guides He will provide the necessary resources to accomplish the tasks put before us.  So LORD we look to you to be our strength, light, and courage as we your people endeavor to be salt and light in this land.  Help us be faithful stewards of the gifts given to each one of us for the common good of the Church and our Neighbors.  Give us a renewed vision of your Holiness!

(SDG)

Reflections From 2 CHRONICLES 31-34 “ARE YOU EVER AMAZED BY GOD’S MERCY?”

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The heart of man is deceitfully wicked above all things who can know it?  Other than the LORD God, the scriptures constantly remind me of how deep human depravity goes.  For example consider King Hezekiah who demonstrated his faithfulness to God by destroying the idols in the land, then re-instituting the nurture and care for God’s ministers and reviving the worship of Yahweh in Israel.  Nevertheless, this king still had to deal with his own pride which set him against the LORD God 2 CHRON: 32:23-26:

And many were bringing gifts to the Lord at Jerusalem and choice presents to Hezekiah king of Judah, so that he was exalted in the sight of all nations thereafter.  24 In those days Hezekiah became mortally ill; and he prayed to the Lord, and the Lord spoke to him and gave him a sign. 25 But Hezekiah gave no return for the benefit he received, because his heart was proud; therefore wrath came on him and on Judah and Jerusalem. 26 However, Hezekiah humbled the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the Lord did not come on them in the days of Hezekiah.

Manasseh, who succeeded Hezekiah, returned to the idolatrous ways, formerly practiced in Israel and skillfully rebelled against God (33:3-9).  It was only after Manasseh humbled himself that he showed himself to be faithful to Yahweh 2 CHRON. 33:10-16:

The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention. 11 Therefore the Lord brought the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria against them, and they captured Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze chains and took him to Babylon. 12 When he was in distress, he entreated the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. 13 When he prayed to Him, He was moved by his entreaty and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God.  14 Now after this he built the outer wall of the city of David on the west side of Gihon, in the valley, even to the entrance of the Fish Gate; and he encircled the Ophel with it and made it very high. Then he put army commanders in all the fortified cities of Judah. 15 He also removed the foreign gods and the idol from the house of the Lord, as well as all the altars which he had built on the mountain of the house of the Lord and in Jerusalem, and he threw them outside the city. 16 He set up the altar of the Lord and sacrificed peace offerings and thank offerings on it; and he ordered Judah to serve the Lord God of Israel.

Unfortunately, the damage had already been done.  For under Josiah’s reign there’s a devotion to the LORD God (34:1-13) where the reading of the Torah warns of the coming Babylonian captivity that he would not experience because of his devotion to God but many in Israel would have to endure(34:14-21, 27-30).

God’s mercy is daunting like His wrath.  What a God!  What a patient Creator!  Why don’t we trust Him?!  It’s because of sin.  This menace has blinded God’s people since time and the “Fall” inaugurated it.

LORD, your patience and mercy are stunning.  To consider your dealings with sinners like us through immeasurable grace makes the heart glad.  So may we consider your attributes, and reflect on them as we live out the rest of this journey on until the new heaven and new earth arrive.

(SDG)

Summary of Chapter 5: 19TH CENTURY_ CATHOLICISM_[Pgs. 158-201] With PostScript

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CATHOLICISM IN FRANCE: 1800-50 [Pp.171-179]

Cardinal César de La Luzerne (A.D. 1738-1821) in his Pastoral Instruction on the Excellence of Religion; lays down the principal of showing Christianity’s beauty because its knowledge was so odious to non-Christians.  Here, the Cardinal focuses on the aesthetics of religion.

Francois René de Chateaubriand (A.D. 1768-1848) in his Beauties of the Christian Religion uses aesthetics as a means to do apologetics.  He held that Dogmas and Doctrines find their beauty in their mystery; Christianity stimulates the poetic and drama; Fine arts and literature are depicted in the music of the Gregorian chant, seen in the art of Raphael and Michelangelo; and the liturgy is also beautiful.  Through his use of the arts, Francois used this apologetic as an attempt to reach his culture.

Vicomte Louis de Bonald (A.D. 1754-1840) a French nobleman; held that the essential truths needed to live a human life are beyond the reach of rational inquiry, but have been revealed by God since the dawn of time.

CATHOLICISM IN GERMANY: 1800-50 [Pp.179-181]

Johann Sebastian von Drey (A.D. 1777-1853) was the founder of the Catholic Tubingen School.  In his Apologetics as a Scientific Demonstration of the Divinity of Christianity, he understands apologetics to be a mixed discipline of philosophy, philosophy of religion especially, and it’s material contents from the history of religions.  In this work he focuses on the General philosophy of revelation; the Tradition scope in revelation; and the relationship between Christianity and Judaism.  His work is valuable for its recognition of Christianity’s historicity, the multi-facets of the revelation, and the organic view of tradition and the Church.

CATHOLICISM IN SPAIN AND ITALY: 1800-50 [Pp.181-183]

ENGLISH SPEAKING CATHOLICS IN ENGLAND: 1800-50 [Pp.184-189]

 John Henry Newman (A.D. 1801-90) was the leading Catholic apologist of the 19th century and one of the greatest of all times.  A cautious and critical thinker, he was at all times concerned with the criteria of religious knowledge.

In his An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, Newman gives reasons for why the Roman Catholic Church is the successor of the early Church.  Newman seeks to show that the Catholic Church has followed an organic development that is proof of its continuity with the past to biblical revelation.

In his An Essay on the Development of a Grammar of Assent, Newman seeks to diagnose how man comes to his convictions of knowledge and understanding especially in religious matters.  Understanding the subjective element in all religious inquiry, he casts his apologetic in an autobiographical scheme.   He approaches the Christian evidences with a whole set of presumptions and hopes to provide the clue to complex materials of religious history.

ENGLISH SPEAKING CATHOLICS IN THE U.S.: 1800-50 [Pp.189-191]

CATHOLICISM IN CONTINENTAL EUROPE: FRANCE AND BELGIUM; VATICAN COUNCIL1850-1900  [Pp.191-195]

Vatican Council I (A.D. 1869-70) took up the relations between faith and reason, where primary focus was given to the conflict between science and religion.

Abbé Paul de Broglie (A.D. 1834-95) was professor of apologetics at the Institut Catholique at Paris.  In his Positivism and Experimental Science, he dealt with the theory of knowledge.  While affirming the contributions metaphysics made to the apologetic enterprise, he understood that it was the most difficult of the sciences and as such, he avoided that approach.  Instead, Abbé used purely inductive arguments that were universally recognized historical facts where he argues for Christianity’s transcendence and it’s divine origin.

CATHOLICISM IN CONTINENTAL EUROPE: GERMANY 1850-1900  [Pp.195-196]

PROTESTANTISM: GERMANY 1850-1900 [Pp.197-198]

Albrecht Ritschl (A.D. 1822-89) was a liberal theologian who understood that the kingdom was a communion of love, as the heart of Jesus’ message.  This message is self-authenticating and therefore needs no apologetic.

Julius Kaftan (A.D. 1848-1926) in his The Truth of the Christian Religion, Julius uses a teleological approach to his apologetic for Christianity and that if we have not revelation, it’s hard to make sense out of human history as a whole or even understand the questions of origins.

Hermann Schultz (A.D. 1836-1903) in his Outlines of Christian Apologetics, Hermann rests his defense of Christianity on ethical grounds.  The purely ethical content of the Gospel could never be overthrown by scientific discovery.

PROTESTANTISM: THE ENGLISH SPEAKING COUNTRIES 1850-1900 [Pp.198-201]

J.B. Lightfoot, the English scholar who wrote Essays on the work of ‘Supernatural Religion, and used his massive understanding in the area of origins to decimate his British opponents.

Darwin’s: On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection brought about many conservative pens in response to his views; Charles Hodge the theologian form Princeton, Mark Hopkins, William Gladstone who wrote The Impregnable Rock of Holy Scripture, Princeton’s President James McCosh who penned Christianity and Positivism.

Alexander B. Bruce (1892) wrote Christianity Defensively Stated, where he

sketches out the Christian worldview of origins and compares them to other systems.  In it, he deals with Wellhausen’s theory of the Old Testament and with the authorship and historicity of the New Testament Gospels.  His approach is more Biblical than epistemological.

CONCLUSION

During this period apologetics came to the forefront as a distinct theological discipline.  Moreover, the relationship between apologetics and philosophy cannot be separated, and the rise of the scientific era brought about new challenges that had to be met head on.

MY THOUGHTS_POST-SCRIPT Sergio R. Tangari

There’s a treasure trove of wisdom the church has at its disposal that is too often neglected either through: ignorance (i.e., people don’t read Church History), or perhaps through spite (i.e., Protestants and Catholics refuse to appreciate one another’s contributions), even a lack of evangelistic urgency (i.e., Believers don’t really care to share their beliefs because of fear, indifference, etc.), perhaps because of an unbiblical view of the life of the mind as it informs our daily living (i.e., a Fideistic bent).

To the believer, remember that the Great Commandment to Love God and neighbor includes the Mind, not just the Heart.  If you don’t get better at thinking, you are neglecting what Jesus clearly modeled of how to love God with thought, argumentation, and wit.

To the skeptic, remember that you just like any other creature will decide to ultimately believe and obey someone’s word.  Because of the claims of Christ (I.e., the uncreated Creator, who is the self-existent One who took on humanity so that God’s wrath would pass over us, the only redeemer of humanity and all others are imposters), and because of the stakes that naturally flow from his claims, it seems prudent and to your advantage to consider out said claims.

How is this done?  First begin with reading the primary source documents (the Old and New Testament) and give primacy to the eyewitness accounts, rather than those who many years later claim to know, but are ignorant about the Man Christ Jesus.

Second, find believers that appreciate your skepticism and won’t be afraid to consider the questions raised, but instead these people engage honestly, cogently and recognize they too don’t have all the answers.  These persons have a knack to be both logical and visceral, clear headed and tender hearted.

Third, understand that your time like everyone else’s is limited, so consider if on your journey time is being wasted and remove said obstacles (e.g., endlessly listening to social media forums that are given to ad-hominem attacks, rather than arguing about ideas).

Fourth, if you think these people are hard to find, or don’t exist when it comes to talking about ultimate issues…they do, and they are out there.  But please don’t kid yourself through the empty rhetoric of the day that separates reason from faith, religion from science, the private from the public.    Those paradigms are bogus, irrational and keep you enslaved to actual lies that are parroted in the hallowed halls of academia, media, and pop-culture by people that don’t care (really) at the end of the day, to consider the God question, the meaning of life question, the life and death question, the Jesus of Nazareth question.

2 CHRONICLES: 21 “A FOOLISH KING’S REWARD”

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          The saga of the kings of Israel and Judah continues its’ sad account of the age old truth: before you and I, God has placed both blessing and cursing, life and death, therefore we should choose life.  Yet too often the kings like us, chose death not life.

Jehoshaphat now dead previously appointed his first born son to rule, but he did so wickedly.  He killed all his siblings and many of Israel’s rulers (Vv.1-4), yet God because of His covenant with Davids’ house, did not destroy Jehoram, even though he did evil in the sight of the LORD by causing Israel to play the harlot.

However, God will not be mocked (Vv.14-20) for He promised calamity by His own hand to come upon Jehoram even through a letter delivered by the prophet Elijah came to pass:

14 behold, the Lord is going to strike your people, your sons, your wives and all your possessions with a great calamity; 15 and you will suffer severe sickness, a disease of your bowels, until your bowels come out because of the sickness, day by day.’”

16 Then the Lord stirred up against Jehoram the spirit of the Philistines and the Arabs who bordered the Ethiopians; 17 and they came against Judah and invaded it, and carried away all the possessions found in the king’s house together with his sons and his wives, so that no son was left to him except Jehoahaz, the youngest of his sons.

18 So after all this the Lord smote him in his bowels with an incurable sickness. 19 Now it came about in the course of time, at the end of two years, that his bowels came out because of his sickness and he died in great pain. And his people made no fire for him like the fire for his fathers. 20 He was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years; and he departed with no one’s regret, and they buried him in the city of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.

To trifle with God’s people and His authority is no small matter.  Rulers forget that they are not ultimate, but God who raises them up is.  What God promised to the king came to pass and what He promises to us will also.  Obey Him and blessing will follow, disobey Him and cursing is assured.

(SDG)

Summary of Chapter 4: FROM THE SIXTEENTH THROUGH THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURIES_Part 1

imagesThe sixteenth century saw primarily religious controversies within Christendom.  Protestants and Catholic controversies were over the Mass, indulgences, purgatory, the sufficiency of Scripture, etc.  The primary apologetical issue was the credibility of the Faith.

The seventeenth century saw much skepticism and religious indifferentism largely due to the Christian disunity.  The main apologetic focus (for Protestant and Catholic) was to show Christianity’s importance and relevance.

The eighteenth century manifested blatant attacks contra Christianity due to the Enlightenment’s appeal to the sciences in history to prove their case.  Hence, Christian’s apologetic focused on scientific historical evidences and also on the role of metaphysics in the debates.

THE PROTESTANT REFORMERS [Pp.113-116]

Martin Luther (A.D. 1483-1546) constructed no formal system of apologetics, although polemicized with the Jews.  Saw reason in two spheres.  The first sphere: reason is a a proper guide when used properly to sharpen man’s natural prudence and might even lead to a sort of civil righteousness.  In the second sphere: reason is incompetent and arrogant when concerned with divine things, it’s “the devils whore”.  Luther understood that reason prior to faith can only be used to raise objections and engender doubts.  But if it was submitted to faith, then reason was a useful handmaid to faith.  For Luther, the problem of faith and reason was not epistemological (i.e. how we know what we know), but rather soteriological (i.e., how one can be saved and know it).

Philipp Melanchthon (A.D. 1497-1560) was Martin Luther’s Systematizer.  In his Loci communes (A.D. 1521) he adopted a negative view of the autonomous use of reason and philosophy.  But philosophy was not only a great servant of the faith; it is also a propaedeutic device (I.e., preliminary instruction) for leading men to the gospel.

John Calvin (A.D. 1509-64) was the most systematic of the sixteenth century reformers.  In his Institutes of the Christian Religion (completed definitively, A.D. 1559), he saw several things:  First, by contemplating creation, man could arrive at the knowledge of God’s existence, wisdom, life, power, etc.  But man’s inherited depravity, unless aided by positive divine revelation, leads him only into idolatry.  Second, the witness of the Spirit is the primary and sufficient reason for admitting the origin of Scripture.

THE COUNTER REFORMATION AND BAROQUE SCHOLASTICISM [Pp.116-120]

Whereas those responding to Luther were mainly in Germany and the Low countries, Catholic apologetics in a more traditional style continued to be in Italy and Spain.

Gian Francesco Pico della Mirandola (D. 1533) in the footsteps of his uncle Giovanni inveighed the philosophical errors of the Epicurean Aristotelians.

St. Robert Bellarmine (A.D. 1542-1621) was an Italian Jesuit and the greatest Systematizer of Catholic polemics against the Protestants. He wrote Disputations Concerning the Controversies of the Christian Faith against the Heretics of this Age.

Cardinal Caesar Baronius wrote Ecclesiatical Annals, intended to offset the propagandistic of the Lutheran account of Church history.

Francisco Suarez s.j. (D. 1617) wrote on the motives of credibility, putting primary emphasis on the inner qualities of Christian doctrine, its purity, and its efficacy in leading men to a higher moral life.

FRANCE BEFORE 1650 [Pp.120-123]

The chief apologetical questions focused on the dangers and values of doubt, tolerance, and religious indifference.

Philip du Plessis-Mornay (A.D. 1549-1623) was the leading Protestant apologist and Hugenot of the sixteenth century.  In his treatise On the Truth of the Christian Religion, he specifically emphasizes as method; one must find common ground by arguing from principles that are accepted by your adversary.

Moise Amyrut a Hugenot author, wrote A Treatise Concerning Religions, in Refutation of the Opinion which Accounts All Indifferent (A.D. 1631).

Catholic apologetics after Montaigne combines skepticism and fideism to pave the way for faith by exposing the feebleness of reason.

J.F. Senault in his L’ Homme criminel (1644) grounds his apologetic from an anthropological stance and prepares the way for Pascal’s existential logic of the heart.

FRANCE IN THE SECOND HALF OF THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY [Pp.123-133]

Blaise Pascal (A.D. 1623-62) after making breakthrough discoveries in mathematics and physics, he became convinced that the certainties of faith are unattainable, except to the heart that loves.  In his Pensées he covers many issues.  First, the psychological fabric of man mingled in a paradox of our pride and feebleness.  Second, he makes no effort to ground the faith metaphysically.

He thought even if one can prove God’s existence, all these arguments at best leads one to deism.  He instead proved the existence of God by referring to man’s unhappiness until he finds happiness in God (a la Augustine).

Third, Pascal makes an inventory of the various philosophies and religions, profoundly analyzes the relationships between faith and reason, and as Augustine, he finds a unity of the two in diversity.

Fourth, his biblical apologetic is profoundly Christocentric, arguing from miracles and prophecies.  For Pascal prophecies are the greatest proofs of Jesus Christ.  He also demonstrates a keen understanding of the human heart and a deep Christian spirituality in his apologetic.  His apologetic work outshines most in helping unbelievers come to the faith.

Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet (A.D. 1607-1704) in his Discourse on Universal History, he relies heavily on historical apologetics, specifically using prophecy.  He uses a more questionable approach were the desolation of the Jews is an apologetic strategy. He also impugns Protestants for their lack of unity and stability in his A History of the Variations of the Protestant Churches (1688) and concludes that Catholicism’s constancy in doctrine, is never contradictory, and thus built on the rock.

Pierre Daniel Huet (A.D. 1639-1721) was an erudite man who became Bishop of Avranches.  He wrote several philosophical works on faith and reason.  His major apologetical work,  A Demonstration of the Gospel to his Highness, the Dauphin.  He viewed that all the Biblical books were written at the times to which they are attributed to their commonly supposed authors.

Jacques Abbadie (A.D. 1654-1727) was a Hugenot pastor who wrote Treatise on the Truth of the Christian Religion, where he demonstrates extensively God’s existence, the necessity of religion, the truth of the Jewish religion, and the truth of the Christian religion.  He displays a defiant attitude toward all those who oppose Christianity in his Treatise on the Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, especially towards Mohammedanism.

Summary of Chapter 3: The Middle Ages_Part 2_THE TWELFTH CENTURY [Pp.81-85]

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            Peter Alphonsi (A.D. 1062-1110) [P.81] was a Spaniard converted Jew who became a Christian at age 44.  In his Dialogue with the Jew Moses, he ridicules the Talmud and mounts a rigorous attack against Islam.

Rupert of Deutz (A.D. 1075-1129) [P.81] writes in his Dialogue between a Christian and a Jew, an apologetic that focuses primarily on the miracles of Scripture.

Peter the Venerable (A.D. 1094-1156) [Pp.81-82] is the most eminent 12th century apologist and the last great abbot of Cluny.  In his Against the Inveterate Obstinacy of the Jews, he aims at converting Jews by demonstrating that the divine Messiah, his humiliations, and his establishment of a spiritual kingdom are grounded in the Israelite prophets.  In his treatise A Book Against the Sect or Heresy of the Saracens, he addresses the Moslems through; reason, not hatred, by words, not force, not in hatred, but in love.   He appeals to them from the Koran and affirms that; their book commands them to look to the Christian Bible as divinely authoritative and it is this Bible which points to Jesus rather than Mohammed as the true teacher.  Hence, in following the Bible one is to reject Mohammed.

Peter of Blois (D. 1202) in his Against the Perfidy of the Jews, he warns Christians of the diabolical tactics by which the Jews evade the evidences.  He also used arguments from the Incarnation, virginal birth, Passion, and Resurrection of Christ in his apologetic.

Peter Abelard (A.D. 1079-1142) [Pp.82-84] gave considerable clout to reason in the area of religious conviction.  He maintained that human reason (unlike the Augustinians), making use of objectively accessible evidences, could achieve some kind of initial faith.  For Abelard, the “blind faith” of Abraham is an exceptional grace, and thus not normative for ordinary Christians.

In his A Dialogue between a Philosopher, a Jew, and a Christian, Abelard discusses the rational grounds for faith and highlights the moral superiority of Christianity, with its’ ethics of charity over every religion including Judaism.

In his Christian Theology, Abelard deals with the divine Logos doctrine, and tackles the Trinitarian implications of the Neo-Platonic doctrine of divine emanations.  Abelard’s enthusiasm to build bridges from Christian orthodoxy to alien religions and philosophies, coupled with his attempt to close the gaps between faith and reason, brought on opposition by Bernard of Clairvoux who distrusted dialectics.  This tension between Abelard and Clairvoux symbolize the struggle of every generation.

Richard of St. Victor (1155) [Pp.84-85] wrote a treatise On the Trinity where he combines the traditional insistence on external signs of revelation with a serious quest for necessary reasons.  He also justifies his initial faith by appealing to the extrinsic evidence of miracles.

Alan of Lillie (D. 1202) [p.85] convinced that Moslems could not be won over through arguments from the Scriptures, vied for using intrinsic arguments for the truth of various Christian doctrines.  In On the Catholic Faith against Heretics of His Time, Alan sought to demonstrate Christianity’s faith by using a few simple truth maxims.  In The Art of the Catholic Faith, Alan (supposedly authored) directs his arguments specifically against Moslem tenets.

THOMAS AQUINAS (A.D. 1225-74) [Pp.85-94]

Augustine’s spiritual theology was declining, while Aristotelian philosophy was coming to the forefront of popular thought.  For the first time since the Patristic era, Christians were being offered a scientific vision of the universe that depended not on the Bible.  Through the Spanish Arabic philosopher Averroes (A.D. 1126-98) the teachings of Aristotle became available and the penetration of Averroes precipitated a major spiritual crisis in the European universities.

Combating Aristotelianism could be realized by simply erecting Christian Aristotelianism.  Thomas wrote a series of philosophical commentaries on Aristotle.  On certain points he conceded with Aristotle.  However, Christian revelation had corrected and completed Aristotle’s deficiencies.

In his Summa Contra Gentiles, (either authored in 1258-1264 or 1270-1272), a work understood by many as addressing Christian missions and the university scholar.  This word has no equal in its field.  The aim of the Summa is to be an apologetical theology confronting the new challenge of the scientific Greco-Arabic worldview.  Among other things, the work deals with:  First Book: Chapters 1-9 deals with all things that make one a wise man in light of the supreme truth (first principles) from which all reality derives.

The theologian who contemplates reality in light of divine wisdom has the task of refuting errors in religious teaching, as well as making known the truth of the Catholic Faith and confuting her opponents.

He understands that if the scriptures are not taken to be authoritative, it is appropriate to argue from reason rather than authority.  This does not mean that Aquinas viewed reason as limitless, but he understood that the human mind could discover the divine.  For him, some truths of God are revealed in nature, whereas other truths can only be known through revelation (i.e., Trinity, Incarnation, Sacraments, resurrection).  Aquinas sees that the chief end of man is to find his felicity in the contemplation of God.

The following are some of His Apologetic Arguments: [Pp.91-92]

Miracles were a sign of being God’s messenger, which are stressed in the prophetic writings.  Aquinas defines a miracle strictly as a work that only God could perform.  Moreover, he argues from the impact of Christianity in the world as a proof of its veracity and he indicts Mohammed’s testimony as that which seduced people with carnal pleasures; it taught no sublime truths but those which are common to man; the Koran is mixed with fables and errors and those who trust Mohammed’s words believe lightly.

Augustine and Aquinas’ Differences: [P.92] His Summa Contra Gentiles is a masterpiece and is considered in the Middle Ages as a work comparable to Augustine’s City of God, of the Patristic era.  Thomas used Aristotelian philosophy, whereas Augustine used Neoplatonic philosophy.  Thomas argues from a metaphysical angle, whereas Augustine argues through interpreting history. Thomas uses dispassionate reasoning in his persuasion, whereas Augustine uses rhetoric as his persuasion.

Concluding Remarks:  In his Summa contra Gentiles towers above all previous apologetic works in its clarity, perfect coherence, balance, economy, and precision.  Aquinas like Augustine responded to the challenges hoisted against Christendom with the tools they had a developed.

Summary of Chapter 3:  THE MIDDLE AGES Part 1_[PP.72-111]

 

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The apostolic struggle during this period was not with old pagans or young barbarians, but with other races that had a rich cultural heritage.  Among these were Jewish and Moslems.

DISPUTES WITH SARACENS AND JEWS: 600-1000 [Pp.72-76]

JOHN DAMASCENE (d. c. 754) is often designated as the last Father of the East. He was born in Damascus.  Among his works the following obtain: In 727, he wrote his first apologetic piece defending the veneration of images contra the Iconoclastic emperor, Leo the Isaurian.  In The Source of Knowledge and The Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith (around 745), in the monastery of St. Sabas, near Jerusalem, he composed these masterpieces and from the latter argued that: All men naturally know God through creation; that the Biblical revelation is however the zenith of God’s self-disclosure; and he addresses the controversy between Christians and Jews over the Sabbath.  In his, Dialogue between a Saracen and a Christian, he considers the problem of evil and points to Christ as not avoiding it but rather experiencing its hardships.

THEODORE ABU QURRAH (c. 740 to c. 820) [Pp.73-74] a disciple of John Damascene, became the Bishop of Kara (Haran) in Mesopotamia.  He is best known for his Arabic treatise God and the True Religion, where he analyzes and confronts the problem of choosing among the various religions that claim to be revealed (E.g., Zoroastrianism, The Samaritan religion, Judaism, Christianity, Manicheism, Sects of Marcion, Bardesenes, and Mohammed.

After examining the similarities and differences, Abu Qurrah concludes that Christianity: first, presents the most plausible idea of God; second that it exhibits the fullest understanding of man’s actual religious needs; third that it prescribes the most appropriate remedy and that miracles and the expansion of Christianity point to its truthfulness.

ABD AL-MASIH AL-KINDI (10th century) allegedly wrote an Arabic apology titled The Epistle of Abdallah ibn-Ismail al-Hashimi to Abd-al-Misah ibn-Ishac al-Kindi, inviting him to embrace Islam; and the Reply of Abd-al-Masih, refuting the same, and inviting the Hashimiteto to embrace the Christian Faith.  In this work he considers the prophecies and miracles of Jesus as reasons that testify in favor of Christ, not Mohammed; he contrasts the methods of spreading the message of Christianity and Muslims, where the former by the apostles won people through miracles, their example, and preaching, as opposed to Mohammed’s message was spread through the sword.

ISIDORE OF SEVILLE [P.74] composed a work titled Against the Jews: On the Catholic Faith from the Old and New Testament.  The aim of the treatise was to educate believers on how to converse with Jews, rather than on how to convert them.

CARDINAL PETER DAMIAN [Pp.75-76] (1007-72) composed two polemical opuscules (i.e., a small or minor literary or musical work) against the Jews.

In his, A Reply to the Jews, Peter contends with his monks that it is better to war with the flesh than with the Jews who are but extinct.  Moreover to protect the faithful, it is admonished that vain disputes be shunned and with the Jews to show the most evident prophetic texts concerning the Christian faith.  In the book, Peter also deals with: The Trinity, The Incarnation, and The Sufferings of Christ.

In Peter’s, A Dialogue between a Jew Asking Questions and a Christian Responding, he addresses the non-observance of the laws such as: Circumcision, the Sabbath, the Dietary laws, and Animal Sacrifices.  Unfortunately, in concluding this treatise, he impatiently scolds the Jews for their incredulity.

            ANSELM (A.D. 1033-1109) [Pp.76-81], known as the great Benedictine Abbot who became the Arch Bishop of Canterbury in (A.D. 1093).  Very important to the apologetic enterprise is the thought Anselm disclosed concerning the relationship between faith and reason, which impacted greatly the High Middle Ages.  In his classic, Cur Deus Homo, (started around A.D. 1094 and completed around 1098), Anselm stands in the tradition of the Jewish-Christian polemical dialogues of the Middle-Ages.  This treatise deals with the reasons for the Incarnation of Christ Jesus and the theology of Redemption tied to it.

            In Anselm’s Proslogian (A.D. 1077-78) and the Monologion (1076) he deals both with the existence and attributes of God.  There’s a similarity with the three works:  First, Anselm begins in faith in order that he may ground his understanding in both the Scriptures and in the creeds.  Second, Anselm is far removed from the rationalism of the Enlightenment, for although he uses reason to discover and understand the depths of God, there remains our faith in redemption that keeps us persevering.

Third, for Anselm, to understand is the grasping of objective reasons that underlie and illumine the data of faith.  Fourth, Anselm sees man’s image as effaced, not erased through the fall and as such, man is not fully rational. [P.78]

Theology for Anselm must therefore be conducted prayerfully and with divine aid.  But it must necessarily be conducted sola ratione.  He understands that circular reasoning must be avoided when doing exegesis (Monologion).

Fifth, He does his apologetic partly for the benefit of believers (1 Pet.3:15) thus doing his theological reasoning to equip believers to deal with non-Christians.  Anselm sees theological knowledge as a single science, which operates by reason under the leading of faith, but arguments, as long as they were cogent reasons, could be understood from those who have no faith.  Anselm has a high view of reason.

Concluding Thoughts: Anselm’s ominous contribution to the history of apologetics is seen in his raising so clearly the question of the intrinsic demonstrability of the Christian faith.

WHAT’S THE BIG IDEA? “Why Black Lives Can’t Matter…If…” PART 1

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We humans share many things in common; we desire to be loved and accepted for who we are not what we can do; we long for happiness and fulfillment; we don’t like it when people mistreat us; we dislike it when people lie to us; we all try to make sense out of reality as we know it.  These dearly held notions are mainly communicated through words.

The “Black Lives Matter” notion is a case in point.  The desire to communicate that “we matter” can be put “our lives have meaning” and we should thus be treated a certain way.  But whether or not that’s actually true depends on the worldview held.

For example, if naturalism is true (a la Atheism), and humans are merely material entities without an immaterial soul, an accident of macro-evolution where there’s no design, purpose or meaning, then “Black Lives” actually don’t matter.  This is true for at least two reasons; first, “meaning” is not something physical—it can’t be tasted, seen, smelled, heard, or touched, but its’ effects (which are immaterial) are constantly seen in the physical world.  Secondly, the basis of naturalism is that there is no “mind”, no “design”, no “better”, no “progress” but “eternal matter that just is”.

According to the this worldview, humans are simply born, live out their meaningless lives, and then die, never to be remembered, cherished or loved again.  It’s a cold reality.  Thus if this position is true, “Black lives can’t matter”.

Another example comes from nihilism (naturalism’s child) which reduces all of life to chance plus matter plus time.  This means that human decisions are matter in motion and are thus determined.  This means that human choices are not significant, but a mere illusion.  The reason is because what seems to be “our decisions” is actually, impersonal, mechanistic matter in motion.  According to this worldview, those in favor of or against “Black lives matter” have no choice in the matter, but are simply determined to one “view” or another.  Thus if this position is true, then really “Black lives can’t matter”.

Still another example is pantheistic monism (a la Buddhism and certain branches of Hinduism), which among other things teaches that the individual is part of the oneness of the universe, that life is illusory and thus “individuality” is not real, but a fantasy.  Trying to get meaning from this position is an exercise in futility.  Ironically, many Westerners have looked to the East for its wisdom and insight on reality, except that at its core, there’s a denial of reality.  According to this worldview, there’s no real “Black lives that matter” because that whole notion too is an illusion.  Thus, if this position is true, “Black lives can’t matter”.

Yet another example is moral relativism (a la the University), which among other things is the self-refuting position that there’s no such thing as absolute truth (i.e. correspondence view of truth) and “we know this to be absolutely true”.  That is, the basis for reality is not any higher power, God, etc., but the individual who creates what is true and right for herself/himself.

If this worldview is true, then “Black Lives can’t matter” for it means that we can’t tell anyone that they are wrong because the individual decides; we can’t complain about the problem of evil because the individual decides; we can’t blame or praise anyone for deeds they’ve performed because the individual decides; we can’t object to injustice because the individual decides; we can’t improve on our morality because the individual decides; we can’t have meaningful moral discussions nor demand tolerance from the opposition because the individual decides.

The “Black Lives Matter” position under this worldview is incoherent at best and diabolical at worst.  Under this self-refuting worldview, “Black lives can’t matter”.

In contradistinction to the aforesaid, theism (a la Judaism or Christianity) holds that the universe—contra naturalism—is not a closed system but one that is open.  This means that both divine and human decisions significantly shape the present and the future.  Moreover, in a theistic world human beings are not chance accidents or illusory entities—contra nihilism and pantheistic monism—but created in God’s image and likeness with the purpose to reflect the wonder of the Creator unlike any other creature.  And in opposition to moral relativism, theism grounds all truth and morality in the Creator not the fading whims of the creature.

Only in a theistic worldview can one coherently and rationally argue that “Black lives matter”.  For if the God of Scripture (I.e., The Law, Prophets, & Writings, and the New Testament) actually exists, not only do Black lives matter, but every life matters.  The reason is because human meaning under this worldview comes from the Self-existent, Eternal, All-wise, All-powerful, All-knowing God who came near to us in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

And I would further say that only from this theistic worldview can emotions rightly and compassionately be expressed, because they are rationally based on the God who is there, the One to whom all humanity will give account for their lives—which indeed matter.

(SDG)