Reflections From ECCLESIASTES 1-4: THE PREACHERS DOWNWARD MUSINGS

REFLECTIONS FROM THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES

My goal in writing reflections from Ecclesiastes are the following: First, to encourage you the reader that if you will pay attention to the words on the page and listen carefully you will mine a lot of truth for life without the need of a commentary or any secondary source (although I provide a lexical explanation for the word vanity here).  That is, “take up and read” to enrich your soul Christian.

Second, I write to give you a model of how observations can be done in scripture that do not read into the text something foreign to the author’s intent.  This will help you experience the joy of discovery and increase your confidence in your ability to comprehend God’s word.

Third, by doing the above my hope is that you will be able to hear God’s voice all the more clearly and follow Him all the more closer.  For, it is the word of God that is forever settled in heaven, and not our subjective impressions however valid they may be.  That is, we have a more sure word of prophecy according to Peter—meaning the inscripturated word of God—then a glorious experience we may claim to have (2 Peter 1:16-21).  Too often we Christians have bizarre ideas of what “God” is supposedly speaking to us and when it contradicts the Bible, be assured we are not hearing his voice.

ECCLESIASTES 1-4: THE PREACHERS DOWNWARD MUSINGS

The pace at which time moves astounds me.  The year is almost up and what was true for Solomon applies to me “A generation goes and a generation comes, But the earth remains forever.” (1:4) It’s a humbling fact—the span of our lives, my life, is ever so slight!  The letter of James in the New Testament agrees:

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” 14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” 16 But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. ” 

This pessimistic account from the Preacher king, though negative is true.  Nothing is new under the sun but foolish mankind would disagree (1:9).  Of particular interest and serious consideration is the task of exploring wisdom concerning the created order, which from his view is the acquisition of affliction and grief:

12 I, the Preacher, have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 And I set my mind to seek and explore by wisdom concerning all that has been done under heaven. It is a grievous task which God has given to the sons of men to be afflicted with. 14 I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and striving after wind.(1:12-14)

According to Solomon, wisdom and its acquisition is burdensome, unlike Proverbs, this book hits us with a bombshell affirming life’s futility.  With the acquisition of wisdom there’s much grief and the end of increased knowledge is pain:

16 I said to myself, “Behold, I have magnified and increased wisdom more than all who were over Jerusalem before me; and my mind has observed a wealth of wisdom and knowledge.” 17 And I set my mind to know wisdom and to know madness and folly; I realized that this also is striving after wind. 18 Because in much wisdom there is much grief, and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain.”   (1:16-18)

What a realist view of labor and what a downer for someone who wants to pursue the knowledge of God.  There is however here more than meets the eye.  There’s something the Preacher—Solomon the wisest man to have ever lived other than Christ Jesus—wants the reader to get his angle, but it’s going to require more reading to grasp his thought.

LORD, help us understand this book in light of its purpose and message.

(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.

Summary of CHAPTER 5:  THE 19TH CENTURY_PROTESTANTISM    [pp.158-201]

 

imagesAt this time in history, it appears that man is most in touch with his individuality and subjectivity.  Contact with the higher world was sought not through abstract reason, but rather through feeling and the movements of the heart.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) led the way for this new apologetic.  In his Critique of Pure Reason (1781) he understood that:  Reason is nothing but a calculating machine with the ability to organize data of sense experience.  It nevertheless is not able to rise above the empirical, nor able to deal realistically with the divine.

In his Critique of Practical Reason (1788) Kant saw it necessary for moral obligation to postulate the existence of God, freedom, and immortality.  He made room for faith in a new sense where belief rests not simply on external authority but also on personal motives.  This is subjectively compelling but objectively insufficient.

In his Opus Postumum Kant identified the voice of conscience very closely with the divine presence within man.  In his Religion within the Bounds of Reason Alone (1793), Kant gave a secure philosophical status to several fundamental Christian doctrines, even though he severely criticized the notion of historical revelation.

PROTESTANTISM: GERMANY 1800-50 [Pp.159-164]

Friedrich D. E. Schleiermacher (A.D. 1768-1834) was raised among the Moravian brethren, he retained a strong pietistic leaning.  For him the thoughts of antiquity concerning religion are a hindrance to epistemological progress which led him to re-define all key concepts of religion (e.g., miracle, revelation, prophesy, God, etc.), revising Christianity to his tastes so that it would be palatable to his times.

In his The Christian Faith, he attacks arguments from miracle and prophecy and held that these signs are not probative (i.e., having the quality or function of proving or demonstrating something) in order to bring conviction for the non-believer.  To be Modern, Schleiermacher held that dogma must be reinterpreted. Hence, to fit into his sitz em leben, he reconstructed a new epistemology, thus redemption by Jesus of Nazareth cannot be verified outside of faith which is purely subjective.  Thus, there’s no room for an objective body of knowledge.

In his Brief Outline on the Study of Theology, Schleiermacher sets forth a new apologetic where he states that biblical, historical, and practical theology should be prefaced with a new discipline—philosophical theology—which is both apologetical and polemical.  Where apologetics seeks to generally view Christianity in relation to its communities, polemics seeks to detect and correct any deviations within the Christian community.

Karl Heinrich Sack (A.D. 1789-1875) was a disciple of Schleiermacher who wrote Christian Apologetics.  In it, he seeks to do his apologetics as a rational grounding for the Christian faith based on demonstrable divine facts.  He demonstrates that God’s self-revelation finds its zenith in Jesus Christ by using OT texts.

Georg W. F. Hegel (A.D. 1770-1831) sought to make his philosophy a rational appropriation of the Christian patrimony.  He sought to show how the principal Christian dogmas (Trinity, Incarnation, Redemption, etc.) were a symbolic projection of rational truths set forth in his evolving pantheistic system.

David Friedrich Strauss (A.D. 1808-74) reinterpreted Christian theology by subordinating traditional orthodoxy to the new evolutionary philosophy.  In his book Life of Jesus, he maintained that the finite and the infinite are realized in the whole of humanity, not in one individual (Jesus Christ).  The Christ of the NT was mythical, not actual.  This work devotes its energies to showing the historical unreliability of the Gospel stories.  The positive results from the writings of Strauss are that he helped NT scholarship hone their skills at historically verifying the NT.

PROTESTANTISM IN DENMARK: 1800-50  [Pp.165-168]

Søren Kierkegaard (A.D. 1813-55) is seen by some as the greatest eristic (one given to argumentation) thinker of the Christian faith within Protestantism.  He viewed rational proofs to be out of place for theology, because faith does not need them.  He was fideistic at the core.  For him, to defend something is to discredit it.  Moreover, he rejected all demonstrations of the divinity of Christ, which he sees as the central fact of the Christian faith and insisted that there can be no access to faith through objective rational thinking.  An apologetic of sorts can be made from the apparent absurdity of faith (i.e., Incarnation of Christ where the infinite One became finite,) which is itself a miracle.

In his Sickness unto Death, he affirms that sin is despair before God, that despair is failure to have faith, but it’s also the first step to faith grounded in man’s pursuit of God.  Thus for Kierkegaard, Faith is ultimately irrational at the core, but simultaneously he is giving an apologetic for his view.

PROTESTANTISM IN GREAT BRITAIN: 1800-50  [Pp.168-171]

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (A.D. 1772-1834) in his Aids to Reflection, he castigates the evidential school for forgetting that Christianity is not just theoretical but spiritual and living.  Coleridge saw faith as preceding understanding like Augustine.

Frederick Denison Maurice (A.D. 1805-72) in his What Is Revelation, Maurice maintained that documents could never lead to any religiously satisfying results.  In faith, one knows God, as He existentially imparts Himself to man, which for the believer said communion is proof.

Thomas Chalmers (A.D. 1780-1847) a Scottish preacher wrote The Evidence and Authority of the Christian Revelation.  In it he makes his demonstration mainly on miracles, prophecies, and the historical reliability of the NT.  Chalmers held that for the Biblically and morally oriented person, Christianity’s truths are evident.

Thomas Erskine (A.D. 1788-1870) wrote Remarks on the Internal Evidence for the Truth of Revealed Religion (1820) and stresses the moral influence of the gospel and avoids the usual arguments from miracles, prophecy, and eyewitness testimony.  He had a strong appeal to natural religion but philosophically and empirically was anemic.

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 3_MISSIONARY APOLOGISTS A.D. 1250-1320 [Pp.94-98]

 

images            Raymond Martini (C. 1220-C. 1285) was a Catalan Dominican who wrote several works.  There’s Explanatio Symboli Apostolorum (A.D. 1257), where he sets forth the basic articles of Christian belief and holds that discursive proofs for God’s existence are superfluous.  Then there’s A Muzzle for the Jews (A.D. 1267), which is a polemical work impatiently exhorting for the Jews to embrace Christianity.  And lastly there’s The Dagger of the Faith (Pugio fidei) (A.D. 1278) which is a treatise dealing with—God’s existence, the end of man, the immortality of the soul, the creation of the world, God’s knowledge of creatures, and the resurrection of the body.

Another missionary apologist was Raymond Lull (A.D. 1235-1316) a Catalan who is famed or ridiculed for called ars compendiosa inveniendi veritatem (the great art) is a brief technique for finding truth.  He authored Book of the Gentile and the Three Wise Men (1273), an allegorical disputation involving a pagan philosopher, a Jew, a Christian, and a Saracen.

SCHOLASTICISM AFTER ST. THOMAS    [Pp. 98-103]

John Duns Scotus (A.D. 1266-1308) was an English Franciscan who gave greater weight to the extrinsic evidences in supporting the judgment of faith.  He gave ten reasons for the credibility of the Scriptures: Fulfilled prophecies, the Concordant teaching of the texts, the Writers spoke on God’s behalf, the Church’s careful discrimination in drawing up the canon, the Immorality of those who reject the Scriptures, the longevity of the Church as predicted by Christ, the Miraculous conversion of the world to Christianity, the Harmony of the Scripture’s teaching with reason, Josephus’ testimony to Christ, and the comfort experienced by those who become believers.

Nicholas of Lyra (A.D. 1270-1349) was a Franciscan Biblical commentator who made interesting use of the extrinsic signs of credibility in his two apologetic works: In his Proof of the Time of the Incarnation, he uses Scriptural apologetic proofs although they are not altogether clear.  He also wrote An Answer to a Certain Jew Who Denounced the Gospel According to Mathew.

Henry Totting of Oyta (A.D. 1397) provides a view of apologetics that distinguishes between intrinsic and extrinsic evidence.  The human mind seeks to grasp things through intrinsic reason.  However, many elevated truths can only be known through divine revelation and hence are not susceptible to inner demonstration. When an internal necessary reason is absent, the act of faith requires for its rational justification external reasons giving at least a well-grounded probability.  Miracles and prophecies were the extrinsic evidences heralded.

FIFTEENTH-CENTURY APOLOGETICS [Pp.103-111]

Catalan Raimundus Sabundus (A.D. death in 1436) wrote “Book of Creatures”, whose main goal was contemplative, not apologetic.  It was a: “Natural Theology” treatise aimed at stimulating devotion by allowing the mind to reach to the various stages of the ladder of being to God.  His work demonstrates exceptional confidence in the power of reason to prove almost all of the Christian faith, such that one need not appeal to the Bible or the Church.

He saw that there were two books: From nature, And from revelation.  He exalted natural knowledge excessively and minimized the supernatural of divine revelation that his book was eventually placed on the Index in 1559.  He was not a heretic, but a man of piety.

Denis the Carthusian (died in 1471) wrote on Scripture and scholastic theology.  In his Dialogue Concerning the Catholic Faith; the contents are somewhat Anselmian and covers topics such as:  The relationship between Faith and reason, Denis Demonstrates that reasonable faith is grounded in God’s words and deeds via the Apostles.  He is however grossly incompetent in historical criticism.  In His book Against the Perfidy of Mohammed is a refutation of the Koran.  Among other things, he shows the general truth of Christian Faith.

He also argues from the miracles of Christ, fulfillment of OT prophecies, the destruction of Jerusalem, the purity of the Church and its doctrines, and Christianity’s expansion despite persecution.

Marsilio Ficino (A.D. 1433-99) was an Italian who first headed up the Platonic Academy at Florence.  His main philosophical work was Platonic Theology, which focused on the immortality of the soul.  His main apologetical treatise is On the Christian Religion.  In both works he uses ratio platonica to argue for Christianity.  He held that what separated man from all the other beasts is the natural desire to contemplate God.

He saw that all religion is preferable to irreligion.  Christianity is the most perfect religion because of the worship it renders to God.  That grace is necessary for true blessedness; that the Incarnation of the Word not only raises human nature to the divine, but all of creation can be brought together as a result.  Man is a microcosm.  His work breadth, depth and width theologically and philosophically are truly remarkable.

Girolamo Savonarola, the Dominican preacher who wrote an apologetic work titled The Triumph of the Cross.  In it, among other things he addresses the issue of man’s destiny that can be shown by reason.  As opposed to heavily emphasizing proofs from prophecy and miracles, Savonarola argues from the wisdom and goodness of Christ and how the gospel affects one’s life as a result of accepting its truth.

Conclusion: issues of faith and reason were a tension for medieval apologetics but there were also those who advanced and compared religious studies.  The difference between the patristic and medieval apologists was that the former chiefly capitalized on the success of the Church, whereas the latter profited from the reverses of Christendom.  

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.

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)

Chapter 2 Summary: The Patristic Era_Part 4_THE LATIN APOLOGISTS OF THE THIRD CENTURY [pp.38-45]

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After considering some of our Eastern Apologetic Fathers, a look at some of the Latin apologists reveal men who were very practical most likely because most of them were converted Lawyers.  Among them was Marcus Minicius Felix [p.39-40] who was well versed in classical philosophy, letters and expresses himself in a pleasant Ciceronian manner.  There are more prominent ones, which we will consider.

Perhaps the most famous of these men is Tertullian a prominent speaker for the Carthaginian Church at the beginning of the 2nd century.  He was converted about (AD 193) and wrote profusely in defense of Catholicism until his lapse into Montanism (AD 207).  He was a skilled lawyer in the practice of the Roman courts.  [Pp.40-43]

The Apology (AD 197) is perhaps his finest work where he employs his juridical skills to defend Christianity raising questions like: “Why are Christians exclusively convicted for their name without a trial?”  In it he also notes how absurd charges brought against Christians of infanticide, sexual promiscuity, and atheism, issues of which he refutes with wit and sarcasm.  After refuting the charges that Christians are evil, he proceeds to demonstrate their goodness.

This book is the most powerful and moving of its kind, it throbs with a fierce love of truth and virtue, it’s filled with intensely passionate and searing argumentation that’s biting and clearly this African raised the Roman court to new heights of eloquence.

In his work Prescription of Heretics reveals his forensic talents, arguing that Christ gave over His revelation to the Church so that it may be taught by its authorized spokesmen.   For Tertullian getting at the truth equaled being at a Church that could claim to have continuity with the Apostles.  Heretics are not entitled to appeal to Scripture, because those were given to the Church.  This shows that he was a Papist whose hermeneutics were exclusive.

Concerning the issue of Faith and Reason he viewed the latter as foe not a friend because he wanted to liberate Christianity of the straightjacket of all metaphysical systems whenever God’s revelation was in danger of being trumped by human speculation.

This stalwart of the Faith is to be highly commended for his faithfulness to his convictions and the Church.  Agree or disagree with his ecclesiology, Tertullian is a serious thinker worthy to be read.

Cyprian of Carthage was its Bishop who wrote several works: [pp.43-45]  On the Vanity of Idols (247) where he seeks to apologetically demonstrate that idols are not divine, and that there is only one God; On the Unity of the Catholic Church (251) which is pastoral in its tone and directed against schism, not unbelief.  Here he mentions the moral miracle of the Church’s universality, it’s inner cohesion and marvelous fecundity.  In his Testimonies are three books which best typify the literature of the early Church.

The Writers of the 3rd Century were exceptional, energetic and talented.  Their focus and genius was on the practical rather than on the speculative aspects of apologetics.  This again is instructive for too often the apologetics being practiced don’t aim at winning the affections, but purely the intellect.  To make Disciples of Christ we are called to do both [P.45].

Summaries__CHAPTER 2: THE PATRISTIC ERA [Pgs.23-71]

images The Patristic (Latin—Father) era of the Church historically describes the times and writings of the “Church Fathers”.  During this time we see the end of the Apostolic age (i.e., Christ’s apostles) and one where their first disciples make a mark on their generation.  Dulles points out that the main apologetic focus during this era tackled both the political and religious venues.

APOLOGISTS OF THE SECOND CENTURY [pp.24-31]

 First, there was the Preaching of Peter, an apocryphal fragment that exalts Biblical monotheism and ridicules idolatry.  This fragment differentiates between Jesus’ miracles and magic because Christians didn’t want their faith confused with pagan religions. [pp. 24-25]

Second, we have Aristedes, who was the most important apologist before Justin Martyr.  In his Apology addressed to the Emperor Hadrian (125 AD), Aristedes focuses on five groups of humanity in a sort of comparative religion excursion, these are; Barbarians, Greeks, Egyptians, Jews, and Christians.  When coming to Christians, he asserts that they surpass all the above because of their worship of the one true God, and their moral pure conduct.  This is a powerful apology for its brevity and cogency. [P.25]

Third, we have Justin Martyr [pp.25-27] who wrote several apologies. In his First Apology, Justin addresses the Emperor Antoninus Pius and Lucius Commodus and argues that Christians should not be condemned based solely on their name.  However, if they deserve condemnation for wrong acts, so be it.  In his Second Apology, much like in the first apology, Justin seeks to defend his brethren from unjust condemnations and in some parts he alludes to pagan philosophies that achieved similar insights Christians believe because of divine revelation.

In Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, he attempts to show that Jesus is the Messiah of the Old Testament, that the New Covenant has abrogated the Old Covenant and that only Christians are in a position to properly interpret the Hebrew text, not the Jews.

The value of his writings consists of his sincere character, his frank and open esteem of pagan philosophers, and his respect for Jewish Theologians.

Fourth, there’s Tatian a disciple of Justin Martyr [p.27] who wrote a bitter polemic against the Greeks deploring: their immoral Olympian gods; the absurdities of their myths; the indecency of their public religious festivals; and the vices and contradictions of the philosophers.  Then, he advances the superiority of Christianity in his search for truth through the prophetic writings which superior to those of their philosophers.  He would take Moses’ writings over Homer’s texts any day.

Fifth, there’s Athenagoras of Athens [pp.27-28] who Johannes Quasten calls ‘unquestionably the most eloquent of the early Christian apologists’.  In his Embassy for the Christian, he pleads with the Emperors Lucius Aurelius Commodus and Marcus Aurelius (176-180) for civil toleration of Christians.  He demonstrates that the charges against Christians (E.g., atheism, cannibalism and promiscuity) were misguided.  He also produced an apologetic work On the Resurrection of the Dead.

Sixth, there’s Theophilus the Syrian Bishop of Antioch is impressed with Moses’ wisdom and of the creation account of Genesis as the only reliable guide to the origins of the universe.  For Theophilus, God is manifest to the soul who is open to the Spirit’s light, but God is hidden to the man who loves darkness. [P.28]

Seventh, in a Letter to Diognetus, whose author is unknown, is a text considered by many critics to be the pearl of early Christian apologetics.  The letter’s aim is: respond to what sort of cult Christianity is, to answer why Christians love each other so much, to answer why Christianity came about so late in the world’s history.  The letter reveals that the author was a brilliant rhetorician and that early Christendom was serious [pp.28-29]

There are however several Weaknesses of the Apologists [pp.30-31].  The following examples: they demonstrated certain excesses in exegesis; they exaggerated the Bible’s antiquity; they lacked any consistent view of classical literature’s value; unfortunately they too rapidly rejected Judaism (although at times it is warranted).  Moreover, they make too little of the Character of Jesus in their apologetic, they were often unclear between the relationship of reason and revelation.  Given that the church emerged from the catacombs, what the apologists did cover is to be lauded and their strength is worthy to be emulated.

Reflections From 1 CHRONICLES 16-21 “OF KING’S & WAR: DAVID’S EXPLOITS RETOLD”

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When Israel worshipped the LORD under David’s command, the song of the LORD God of Israel was skillfully sung with instruments, cymbals, trumpets, harps and lyres 16:1-7:

“And they brought in the ark of God and placed it inside the tent which David had pitched for it, and they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before God. When David had finished offering the burnt offering and the peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord. He distributed to everyone of Israel, both man and woman, to everyone a loaf of bread and a portion of meat and a raisin cake.  He appointed some of the Levites as ministers before the ark of the Lord, even to celebrate and to thank and praise the Lord God of Israel:Asaph the chief, and second to him Zechariah, then Jeiel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Mattithiah, Eliab, Benaiah, Obed-edom and Jeiel, with musical instruments, harps, lyres; also Asaph played loud-sounding cymbals, and Benaiah and Jahaziel the priests blew trumpets continually before the ark of the covenant of God.  Then on that day David first assigned Asaph and his relatives to give thanks to the Lord

The ark of the presence reminded Israel of their God who acts in space time history and reveals His covenant to the chosen ones.  These revelations are to be in song (16:8-36) so that a telling and remembering of Him could be passed down to the generations.  This is why God raised David up as leader, and it’s also obvious to David that his successes are based on the God who is there (17:16-27) not through the arm of man.

Moreover, this warrior-king David, was God’s chosen to administer justice and righteousness for all His people 18:14-17:

“So David reigned over all Israel; and he administered justice and righteousness for all his people. 15 Joab the son of Zeruiah was over the army, and Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud was recorder; 16 and Zadok the son of Ahitub and Abimelech the son of Abiathar were priests, and Shavsha was secretary; 17 and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the Cherethites and the Pelethites, and the sons of David were chiefs at the king’s side.

Why do rulers rule?  They should do it so that justice and righteousness reign, not for self-aggrandizement.  Rulers should recognize that they serve those who they rule, but too often, the converse is true.  David as warrior-king was also ruthless when it came to dealing with his enemies and a bloody scene transpired 20:2-8:

David took the crown of their king from his head, and he found it to weigh a talent of gold, and there was a precious stone in it; and it was placed on David’s head. And he brought out the spoil of the city, a very great amount. He brought out the people who were in it, and cut them with saws and with sharp instruments and with axes. And thus David did to all the cities of the sons of Ammon. Then David and all the people returned to Jerusalem.  Now it came about after this, that war broke out at Gezer with the Philistines; then Sibbecai the Hushathite killed Sippai, one of the descendants of the giants, and they were subdued. And there was war with the Philistines again, and Elhanan the son of Jair killed Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam. Again there was war at Gath, where there was a man of great stature who had twenty-four fingers and toes, six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot; and he also was descended from the giants. When he taunted Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimea, David’s brother, killed him. These were descended from the giants in Gath, and they fell by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants.”  

Perhaps the puzzling to me was the numbering of Israel and the severe punishment meted out by God (21:1-17) toward David.  Why did God allow Satan to move David to number Israel?  (See: Gleason Archer: Bible Difficulties).  According to Archer:

“God’s anger was unleashed on Israel because of their pride thinking their numbers are what gave them victory and prominence as a nation, rather than God’s sovereign grace.”

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will trust in the name of the LORD our God.  Whenever we as a people move away from the bedrock of the Savior as our protector, deliverer and our Good Shepherd, we inevitably fall into self-reliance and pride swells up the soul.  This ends in judgement always depicted in the Angel of the LORD’s destruction through pestilence.

After the judgment was met out, David was terrified of the Angel’s sword before the altar of God.  It’s as if his pride melted away before the God of creation, the God who redeems Israel (21:18-30).  We must thus tell and remember with thankful hearts the deeds of the LORD God so that we don’t forget the Creator/creature distinction and His good acts toward His people and opposite wrath toward His enemies.  Today this is very instructive.

(SDG)