Category Archives: Philosophy

Ten Thousand Difficulties

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I am far of course from denying that every article of the Christian Creed, whether as held by Catholics or by Protestants, is beset with intellectual difficulties; and it is simple fact, that, for myself, I cannot answer those difficulties. Many persons are very sensitive {239} of the difficulties of Religion; I am as sensitive of them as any one; but I have never been able to see a connexion between apprehending those difficulties, however keenly, and multiplying them to any extent, and on the other hand doubting the doctrines to which they are attached. Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt, as I understand the subject; difficulty and doubt are incommensurate.

Cardinal John Henry Newman

Apologia (Chapter 5)

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

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We have lost not only a great mind, but also a great man. One who stood tall in the defense of the Constitution against the attacks of those who view it as a mere instrument of judicial activism. The view of a living and breathing constitution subjugates the principle articulated by the framers of the Constitution to the predilections of whoever is adjudicating its interpretation.

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His brilliant and witty opinions, whether writing the majority opinion or the dissenting opinion, will be studied for many generations of constitutional scholars. Perhaps the most striking fact about Justice Scalia is his ability to balance a staunch defense of the Constitution and reach across the ideological spectrum.

The United State has lost not only a great man, but also a great patriot.

May the Lord  shine his face upon him!

Some of my favorite quotes from Justice Antonin Scalia:

On interpreting the Constitution:

What is a moderate interpretation of the text? Halfway between what it really means and what you’d like it to mean?

Why in the world would you have it interpreted by nine lawyers?

“Persuade your fellow citizens it’s a good idea and pass a law. That’s what democracy is all about. It’s not about nine superannuated judges who have been there too long, imposing these demands on society”.

“If you’re going to be a good and faithful judge, you have to resign yourself to the fact that you’re not always going to like the conclusions you reach. If you like them all the time, you’re probably doing something wrong.”

On faith in Christ:

God assumed from the beginning that the wise of the world would view Christians as fools…and He has not been disappointed….If I have brought any message today, it is this: Have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity. Be fools for Christ. And have the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world.

On being Catholic:

“Well, we didn’t set out to have nine children. We’re just old-fashioned Catholics, you know.”

On following and forming your conscience:

“More important than your obligation to follow your conscience, or at least prior to it, is your obligation to form your conscience correctly.”

On abortion and the Constitution:

“You think there ought to be a right to abortion? No problem. The Constitution says nothing about it. Create it the way most rights are created in a democratic society. Pass a law. And that law, unlike a Constitutional right to abortion created by a court can compromise.”

On same-sex marriage:

“As I have observed before, the Constitution does not forbid the government to enforce traditional moral and sexual norms. … It is enough to say that the Constitution neither requires nor forbids our society to approve of same-sex marriage, much as it neither requires nor forbids us to approve of no-fault divorce, polygamy, or the consumption of alcohol.”

On arguing:

“I attack ideas. I don’t attack people. And some very good people have some very bad ideas. And if you can’t separate the two, you gotta get another day job.”

“I love to argue. I’ve always loved to argue. And I love to point out the weaknesses of the opposing arguments. It may well be that I’m something of a shin kicker. It may well be that I’m something of a contrarian.”

“A man who has made no enemies is probably not a very good man.”

On breaking the law:

“I have exceeded the speed limit on — on occasion.”

The Apostasy that Wasn’t Part II: Traditions, Scriptures and the Council

For the first part: The Apostasy that Wasn’t Part I: The Council and the Martyrs

Traditions, Scriptures and the Council

Rod Bennett shines a bright light on the role of tradition, biblical interpretation and orthodoxy. Biblical interpretation and tradition were at the heart of the dispute between the Catholic understanding of the divinity of Chris and that claims made by a priest named Arius who posited that the Son of God was a created being, albeit with all the attributes of God the Father. A common refrain of the Arians was: “there was a time when the Son of God was not”. Today heirs of the Arian heresy can be found in groups like the Jehovah Witness and the Church of the Latter Day Saints. This is only to the extent that both groups assert that Jesus is a created being. Bennett points out that both camps were well equipped with biblical passages to argue in favor of their respective positions. However, the Arians were introducing novel biblical interpretations to substantiate their positions. Interpretations that directly opposed the traditions that have been taught by the Church since apostolic times:

“What was that tradition? It might well be described simply as stubbornness: a tradition of stolid, donkey-like stubbornness born out of humility and fear of God. There was a list, that’s all-an unwritten list of four rock–solid facts of our Faith, handed down by the saints gone before us. And the list- well, the list was the list:

1. That the Father is God;
2. That Jesus, his Son, is also God;
3. That Father and Son are not, however mere names but real personalities who can
relate not only to us but to one another;

4. Yet there is only one God”.

Rod Bennett
The Apostasy that Wasn’t

It is important to remember that during the time of the Arian heresy there was no theological treaty that harmonizes a philosophical argument with the gospel teachings about the Holy Trinity. As a matter of fact the word ‘trinity’ was not even common in the lexicon of the council’s father neither did it appear in the bible. Instead the early Church faithfully relied on the traditions taught by the Apostles, as St. Paul urged them in 2 Thessalonians 2:15:

“Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours”.

2 Thessalonians 2:15

It is clear from the writings of the early disciples of the Apostles that the Church universally proclaimed the divinity of Christ, the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the regenerative nature of baptism, and the authority of the Bishop. It was precisely this stubborn faithfulness of the early Church that preserved the teachings of the Apostles against many unorthodox teachings that disputed the nature of the Divinity of Christ, way before Arius was preaching his views. Gnostic for example, claiming that matter is evil and thereby denied that Jesus was truly man, whereas Sabellianism taught that Jesus and God the Father were not distinct person but two aspects of the same person. As with Arianism the Church stood firm against these heresies.

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This juxtaposition between scripture and tradition evident in the Arian controversy is reminiscent of today’s theological disputes between Catholics and some Protestants. Is the “bible alone” necessary and sufficient to resolve matters of faith or as Jesus said in Matthew 18:17-18, it is the Church that ultimately has that authority? The Church assembled in the council composed of an estimated 300 bishops from around the know-world resoundingly affirmed the gospel as taught by the Church since apostolic times.

The declaration of Arianism as a heresy is not an indictment against the development of doctrine or theological speculations, but an indictment against a world view that divorce scriptures from its apostolic traditions. One that puts in perils the teaching of the Apostle Paul:

“Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours”.

2 Thessalonians 2:15

The First Council Of Nicaea and the Nicene Creed

The Church gathers at Nicaea universally reaffirmed the divinity of Christ except for two holdup Theonas of Marmarica and Secundus of Ptolemais who were anathematized. The council condemned the Arian heresy and gave us part of the Nicene Creed, which is professed by many Christians churches around the world.

As Theodoret writes in his Ecclesiastical History, the council’s father represented an army of martyrs. These were the stoics Christians who survived the blunt of the Diocletian persecution and bore in their bodies the sign of the Cross. They were a living witness for Christ and for his Church. Are we willing to bear the same witness today?

Nicene Creed

We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten of the Father, that is, of the substance [ek tes ousias] of the Father, God of God, light of light, true God of true God, begotten not made, of the same substance with the Father [homoousion to patri], through whom all things were made both in heaven and on earth; who for us men and our salvation descended, was incarnate, and was made man, suffered and rose again the third day, ascended into heaven and cometh to judge the living and the dead. And in the Holy Ghost. Those who say: There was a time when He was not, and He was not before He was begotten; and that He was made out of nothing (ex ouk onton); or who maintain that He is of another hypostasis or another substance [than the Father], or that the Son of God is created, or mutable, or subject to change, [them] the Catholic Church anathematizes”.

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Freestyle Writing Challange

My friend  Mitch Teemley  from The Power of Story, a great blog about wit, wisdom and every thing else in between, nominated me to take the Freestyle Writing Challenge:

Rules of the Challenge

  1. Open a blank document.
  2. Set a timer to 5 or 10 minutes, whichever length you prefer.
  3. Your topic is at the foot of this post BUT DO NOT SCROLL DOWN TO SEE IT UNTIL YOU ARE READY WITH YOUR TIMER!
  4. Nominate others to take the Challenge.

And drum roll, please…my topic was:

The Book (or Books) That Changed My Life

The first thing I though when I read the challenge was: oh easy I just write a poem about whatever topic… it’s going to be brilliant! Well, let’s set aside what I mean by “brilliant” for a second and go back to the topic at hand: book that changed your life. This topic is almost unfair to the extend that I will probably need 10 minutes to come up with at list of my top 5 books followed by hours of agonizing introspection about which book has changed my life… great I am almost at the 5 minute mark and already managed to filibuster myself!

At the top of my list I will have to say “Theology and Sanity” by Frank Sheed simply because it was the book that first introduced me to the richness and beauty of Catholic theology. The eloquence of its clarity and its ability to explain some of the most important aspects of theology is absolutely brilliant. Far beyond than that it made such a big difference in my life because it brought me closer to God… the mere act of study/reading can also be an act of prayer and this book offer me many hours of intense prayerful reading.


Note: That was 10 minutes flat with additional extra minutes to check grammar.

After reading the instruction again I noticed that Mitch very wisely didn’t limited the number of books to just one book! I guess I completely failed the challenge for not reading as carefully as I should do and rushing to write about it!

Thank you Mitch for the nomination, sorry it took me a little while to finally scroll down and do the challenge but it was definitively too much fun!

My nominees are:

Age of Discernment
Frontier Ruminations
Sincerely James
Lance Childers
Men of One Accord
Freedomborn
Double U The Poetic Journey of John White

OK If you choose to accept it…

Wait for it.

What are your favorite movies that proclaim the beauty and excitement of being alive?

Have fun with it!

Cheers,

Caleb

Lets remind the world what marriage is…

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In the mist of the sexual revolution Pope Paul VI issued an encyclical letter titled Humanae Vitae to address moral issues facing the church about marriage, sexuality and moral law. It was a beacon of light and clarity in a much confused and troubled time. It was also a prophetic text that has been maligned and ridiculed by those who opposed its content.

Humane Vitae directly addresses the issue contraception among      married couples. It states that contraceptive acts are against natural and divine law and reaffirms the institutional foundation of marriage as the union between a husband and a wife for their own benefit and the rearing of new life:

“Marriage, then, is far from being the effect of chance or the result of the blind evolution of natural forces. It is in reality the wise and provident institution of God the Creator, whose purpose was to effect in man His loving design. As a consequence, husband and wife, through that mutual gift of themselves, which is specific and exclusive to them alone, develop that union of two persons in which they perfect one another, cooperating with God in the generation and rearing of new lives”.

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Contraception frustrates the total act of unconditional self-giving between a husband and a wife by divorcing the conjugal act from procreation. This ultimately reduces the conjugal act to a mere instrument of self-gratification between couples thereby eroding the unitive foundation of marriage. This erosion has directly led to devaluation of marriage to a commodity. This is clearly reflected by the normalization of sex outside marriage, the advent of no fault divorce laws, and the advocacy to redefine marriage as the legal union of two consenting adults irrespective of their sexes.

The advent of “same sex marriage” partly grew out of a vacuum left by the erosion of marriage as an institution and the rise of relativism. The re-definition of marriage as a “bond of love” rather than total self-giving union between a husband and a wife for the upbringing of children depreciates its value and relevance. If marriage is just a union between people who love each other then why not polygamous marriage or marriage between siblings? After all love is love!

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Pope Paul VI warned the world about the adverse consequences of contraception on moral values, life, womanhood and marriage. No other document of its time has so accurately predicted today’s culture but at the time such warnings were met with outright mockery. Many contemporary evangelicals and some Catholics argued that the used of contraception was intended for married couples to “judicially” space their children, nothing more and the idea of handling contraception to six graders was viewed as delusional and reactionary. Today calling “same sex marriage” as the dissolution of marriage as an institution is met with mockery or outright moral indignation but history will look back as the pinnacle of the sexual revolution and the abolishment of a social construct design to reinforce a patriarchal hierarchy.

As the words of Humanae Vitae become true today it is time to remind the world what marriage really is: a total self-giving of a husband and a wife with an unconditional openness to life for the greater good of the fruit of that union, mainly children.


HUMANAE VITAE

ENCYCLICAL LETTER 
HUMANAE VITAE 
OF THE SUPREME PONTIFF
 PAUL VI 
TO HIS VENERABLE BROTHERS 
THE PATRIARCHS, ARCHBISHOPS, BISHOPS 
AND OTHER LOCAL ORDINARIES 
IN PEACE AND COMMUNION WITH THE APOSTOLIC SEE, 
TO THE CLERGY AND FAITHFUL OF THE WHOLE CATHOLIC WORLD, AND TO ALL MEN OF GOOD WILL,
ON THE REGULATION OF BIRTH

Honored Brothers and Dear Sons, 
Health and Apostolic Benediction.

The transmission of human life is a most serious role in which married people collaborate freely and responsibly with God the Creator. It has always been a source of great joy to them, even though it sometimes entails many difficulties and hardships.

The fulfillment of this duty has always posed problems to the conscience of married people, but the recent course of human society and the concomitant changes have provoked new questions. The Church cannot ignore these questions, for they concern matters intimately connected with the life and happiness of human beings.

To continue reading click here: Humanae Vitae

Relativism and Abortion

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The coup of relativism in the abortion holocaust is that it convinced societies that abortion does not end a human life but stop it from being. It created a false distinction between biological potentiality and actualization of that potential. The argument often goes like this:

Something is not truly alive until x or y or personhood is not achieved until z or w.

The biological fact that a unique human being is created at the moment of conception is irrelevant because biological potentiality does not equate with personhood only the fulfillment of some arbitrary or subjective developmental landmark. In other words life that is afforded rights only begins after some subjective conditions have been fulfilled. One extreme example, is clearly articulated by Joyce Arthur in an article titled the Fetus Focus Fallacy:

“We all have our own opinions about what the moral status of the fetus might be. Some people believe a fertilized egg is a full human being with an absolute right to life that supersedes any right of the woman. Others believe that a fetus attains moral value only after it becomes viable, or upon birth. But that’s all these beliefs are – opinions. There’s no way to decide between them, because they’re entirely subjective and emotional. Therefore, the only opinion that counts is that of the pregnant woman. The status of her fetus and any moral value accorded to it is entirely her call. A fetus becomes a human being when the woman carrying it decides it does.”

Joyce Arthur
The Fetus Focus Fallacy

The beginning of life, according to Joyce Arthur, is a matter of opinion, an arbitrary delineation that can only be bestowed by an “act of the will” of the biological mother. This absurdity states that being human is not an intrinsic property of humanity, but rather an acquired trait that is only bestowed by an intellectual accent of another human being: “A fetus becomes a human being when the woman carrying it decides it does”. This is perfectly consistent with relativism. In that it presupposes that A) objective truth cannot be known and therefore B) truth is only relative to the opinion of the individual. In the case of abortion the only opinion that matters is that of the mother. The explicit outcome of such argumentation is the denigration of the dignity of human life to a subjective opinion. The consequence is about 730,000 abortions in the US alone in 2011, according to the CDC. That is almost a million lives quenched before they were born.

The problem with such a framework is that it removes the intrinsic value of human life by imposing conditions on it. It ignores the biological fact that at the moment of conception a unique and different human being is created. That its value is not dependent on achieving some developmental stage, but that is intrinsic to its creation. In the words of Dr. Zeus: “A person, is a person no matter how small.”

This post was a continuation of Relativism and Natural Law.

For a detail and frankly better explication of the issue of Abortion read Trent Horn book, from which I draw guidance in writing this post:

Persuasive Pro Life: How to Talk about Our Culture’s Toughest Issue