Saturday, June 06, 2009

June - Sexual Depravity "Pride Month" - Part 2

Isaiah 5:20 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

Leviticus 18:23 Neither shalt thou lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion.

Friday, June 05, 2009

June - Sexual Depravity "Pride Month" - Part 1

Isaiah 5:20 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

Leviticus 18:22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

June - Sexual Depravity "Pride Month" - Introduction

Isaiah 5:20 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

America's president Obama has declared June to be a month in celebration of sexual sin. While Obama ought to be respected in accordance with the high office he holds, we cannot full join in the spirit of his celebration. Nevertheless, to give some honor to the king (as Scripture commands) even while fearing God (which is our greater duty), this blog will beginning tomorrow and continuing through the end of the month commemorate sexual sin with resort to Scriptural commentary on such. Not every passage will relate directly to the sorts of sexual perversions and wickedness that the president wishes to honor, but instead all manner of sexual sin will be addressed.

We cannot, of course, call these things good or celebrate them in any positive way, for to do so would be to violate the Word of God at the mouth of the prophet Isaiah, whose word will serve as a preface to each of these posts, as it was for this post.


Recommended Reading - Jason Engwer - New Testament Canon

I heartily recommend for your reading edification a series of posts by Jason Engwer of Triablogue on the topic of the New Testament Canon. They are well-researched and well-written. If it is a topic that is of interest to you, I hope you will check out the series (link to index post for series).


Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Irenaeus and the Reliability of "Early" Oral Tradition

People sometimes like to think that if you go back to the earliest fathers you'll get very good accounts of extra-scriptural tradition. There is a certain amount of intuition to back this up. After all, the earliest fathers were closer in time to the gospel accounts than we are.

Intuition is wrong - at least to some extent. One reason it is wrong is that we look at the fathers with a foreshortened perspective. If you've ever looked at a mountain range from a distance and then driven up to it, you know what I'm talking about. From far enough away the mountain range looks like the serrated edge of a knife. From up close, you see that some of the mountains are miles closer or further from you. You also see the same effect when photographers take in urban scenes using a telephoto lens. Things blocks apart can look practically adjacent.

Even so it is with the "Early Church Fathers." Most of the early church fathers are not just decades but centuries removed from the apostles. Even those in the second century were about as far or farther removed (in practical terms) from the gospel accounts than you are from Abraham Lincoln.

Consequently, even as early as the second century there were a number of wildly erroneous traditions trying to take hold with greater or lesser success. Thus, for example, we see Irenaeus (lived and died in the 2nd Century) who declares that Jesus lived to be 50 years old, which today is rejected virtually unanimously.

Of course, Irenaeus also provides testimony that those who are of the Church of Rome today find helpful to their case (they don't much care about the 50 years old claim, but they like some of the other traditions he alleges). Thus, you can see folks like Art Sippo (on the newly re-opened "Speak Your Mind" forum), an apologist who is part of the "Catholic Legate" group making the following claim to try to revitalize Irenaeus:
Jesus was likely 30 or so when he started his ministry. That is close to 50 since the life expectancy of most men at that time was ~45. That age represented a man in his so-called "declining years" since it was all down hill from 30 onwards.

St. Irenaeus was postulating that Jesus as the New Adam had lived out in his body all the ages of man from infancy to adolescence to young manhood to seniority. This recapitulation theory was never picked by other theologians and is of no real importance than as an historical curiosity. The only relevant thing about it is that it emphasizes that Jesus was truly human and not just a phantom.

One wonders whether this is simple ignorance on Sippo's part or a disregard for the truth in the form of a deception (note how artfully he words he claim) to try to support mother Rome. Surely Sippo is aware that Irenaeus doesn't equate 30 and 50, in fact, he specifically distinguishes them:
Now, that the first stage of early life embraces thirty years, and that this extends onwards to the fortieth year, every one will admit; but from the fortieth and fiftieth year a man begins to decline towards old age, which our Lord possessed while He still fulfilled the office of a Teacher, even as the Gospel and all the elders testify; those who were conversant in Asia with John, the disciple of the Lord, [affirming] that John conveyed to them that information.
(Against Heresies, 2:22:5)
and again:
But, besides this, those very Jews who then disputed with the Lord Jesus Christ have most clearly indicated the same thing. For when the Lord said to them, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day; and he saw it, and was glad,” they answered Him, “Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast Thou seen Abraham?” Now, such language is fittingly applied to one who has already passed the age of forty, without having as yet reached his fiftieth year, yet is not far from this latter period. But to one who is only thirty years old it would unquestionably be said, “Thou art not yet forty years old.” For those who wished to convict Him of falsehood would certainly not extend the number of His years far beyond the age which they saw He had attained; but they mentioned a period near His real age, whether they had truly ascertained this out of the entry in the public register, or simply made a conjecture from what they observed that He was above forty years old, and that He certainly was not one of only thirty years of age. For it is altogether unreasonable to suppose that they were mistaken by twenty years, when they wished to prove Him younger than the times of Abraham. For what they saw, that they also expressed; and He whom they beheld was not a mere phantasm, but an actual being of flesh and blood. He did not then want much of being fifty years old; and, in accordance with that fact, they said to Him, “Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast Thou seen Abraham?” He did not therefore preach only for one year, nor did He suffer in the twelfth month of the year.
(Against Heresies, 2:22:6)

No, Irenaeus didn't mean that Jesus was thirty which is basically the same thing as fifty - quite to the contrary he made a big fuss over the fact that Jesus had a long ministry of closer to 20 years than 1 year. Sippo's comment about Jesus being flesh and blood rather than a phantasm suggests that Sippo is not ignorant of the context of the quotation - which then would suggest a measure of dishonesty in suggesting that Irenaeus was simply equating 30 and 50.

Incidentally, in the same thread, another poster recommended an article by another apologist for Rome, Mark Bonocore (link). This article has long ago (January 2005) been rebutted (link to rebuttal), and I will not bog down this blog unnecessarily be repeating what has already been said in rebuttal.

The bottom line is that just because Irenaeus declares something to be tradition and is one of the earliest fathers (though not one of the apostolic fathers), it does not mean that Irenaeus got it right. Sometimes (as with Jesus' age) Irenaeus got it horribly wrong. There's another example we can point to as well:
Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops.
(Against Heresies 3:3:2)

Yes, Irenaeus thought that the church of Rome was founded and organized by both Peter and Paul. In fact, however, we can know with assurance from Paul's epistle to the Romans that Paul did not found the church at Rome. So, again, Irenaeus - while undoubtedly sincere - was sincerely wrong about what the history of the even more recent event of the founding of the church(es) at Rome was.

That's why we need Scripture to be our rule of faith: not oral tradition (even if it was written down in the second century). Oral tradition is prone to error and Irenaeus is a prominent example of that problem. Scripture on the other hand is the inspired Word of God and has been providentially preserved for us down through the centuries so that we me read and believe it. Don't let the telephoto lens of phrases like "the early church" lead you to erroneous conclusions regarding their historical reliability.

Place your confidence without reservation in one worthy of your whole trust, in God the author of Scripture, not in Irenaeus the mistaken author of Against Heresies or in your church which likewise can err - either sincerely or in a self-serving way. The wise man built his house upon a rock, and you will do well to emulate his example.


Basil the Great (Works - Greek With Latin Translation) - Index Page

Google has apparently just one index for this series (link).

Volume 1 (Part 2) (Archive Part 1)(Archive Part 2)

Homiliae in Hexaemeron Novem

I. In illud, In principio fecit Deus etc.
II. In illud, Invisibilis erat terra etc.
III. De firmamento
IV. De aquarum congregatione
V. De germinatione terrae
VI. De generatione luminarium
VII. De reptilibus
VIII. De volatilibus
IX. De terrestribus


I. In Psalmum primum
II. In Psalmum septimum
III. In partem Psalmum XIV, et contra feneratores
IV. In Psalmum XXVIII
V. In Psalmum XXIX
VI. In Psalmum XXXII
VII. In Psalmum XXXIII
VIII. In Psalmum XLIV
IX. In Psalmum XLV
X. In Psalmum XLVIII
XI. In Psalmum LIX
XII. In Psalmum LXI
XIII. In Psalmum CXIV

Libri Adversus Eunomium V.

Liber I
Liber II
Liber III
Liber IV
Liber V

Appendix (Part 2)

De hominis structura oratio I
De hominis structura oratio II
De Paradiso
In Psalmum XIV
In Psalmum XXVIII
In Psalmum XXXVII
In Psalmum CXV
In Psalmum CXXXII
Enarratio in prophetam Esaiam
Eunomii liber
Eustathri in Hexaëmeron Basilii Magni Latina metaphrasis
Notae Frontonis Ducaei
Notae Federici Morelli
Praecipuae antiquarum editionum Prefationes

Volume 2 (Part 2)(Archive Part 1)(Archive Part 2)

Homiliae De Diversis

I. De Jejunio (First)
II. De Jejunion (Second)
III. In illud, Attende tibiipsi
IV. De gratiarum actione
V. In Martyrem Julittam, etc.
VI. In illud, Destruam horrea mea, et majora aedificabo, etc. et de Avaritia
VII. In Divites
VIII. In Famem et siccitatem
IX. In illud, Quod Deus non est auctor malorum
X. Adversus iratos
XI. De Invidia
XII. In principium Proverbiorum
XIII. In sanctum Baptisma
XIV. In Ebriosos
XV. De Fide
XVI. In illud, In principio erat Verbum
XVII. In Barlaam Martyrem
XVIII. In Godium Martyrem
XIX. In sanctos quandraginta Martyres
XX. De Humilitate
XXI. Quod rebus mundanis adhaerendum non sit, et de incendio extra ecclesiam facto
XXII. Ad adolescentes, de legendis libris Gentilium
XXIII. In Mamantem Martyrem
XXIV. Contra Sabellianos et Arium et Anomaaeos


Praevia Insititutio ascetica
Sermo asceticus de renuntiatione saeculi, etc.
Sermo de ascetica disciplina, quomodo monachum ornari oporteat
Proaemium de Judicio Dei
Sermo de Fide
Index Moralium
Initium Moralium
Sermo asceticus (first)
Sermo asceticus (second)
Proaemium in Regulas fusius tractatas
Capita Regularum fusius tractatas
Regulae fusius tractatae

(Part 2)

Capita Regularum brevis tractatarum
Proaemium in Regulas breviores
Regulae brevius tractatae
Poenae in Monachos delinquentes
Epitimia in Canonicas
Capita Constitutionum
Constitutiones monasticae
Homilia de Spiritu sancto
Homilia in aliquot Scripturae locos, dicta in Lacizis
Homilia in sanctam Christi generationem
Homilia de Poenitentia
Homilia adversus calumniatores S. Trinitatis
Sermo de libero arbitrio
Homilia in illud, Ne dederis somnum oculis tuis, etc.
Homilia III de Jejunio
Sermo asceticus, de religiosae exercitationis informatione
Liber I de Baptismo
Liber II de Baptismo
Liturgia S. Basilii Alexandrina
Liturgia S. Basilii Coptica. Latine
Tractatus de consolatione in adversis. Latine
De Laude solitariae vitae. Latine
Admonitio ad filium spiritualem. Latine

Homiliae S. Basilii

Quas transtulit Ruffinus e Graeco in Latinum (which Ruffinus translated from Greek into Latin)

I. In Psalmum I
II. In illud, Attende tibi ne forte fiat in corde tuo sermo occultus iniquitas
III. In illud Lucae, Cujusdam divitis fructus uberes ager attulit, etc.
IV. De Invidia
V. In Principium Proverbiorum Solomonis
VI. De Fide
VII. Ad virginem lapsam
VIII. In Psalmum LIX
IX. Homilia ad invitatos in Baptismum
X. Translatio Latina vetustae versionis Armeniacae, quae hanc homiliam Severiano tribuit

Volume 3 (Part 2)(Second Edition)(Archive Part 1)(Archive Part 2)

Vita S. Basilii Magni (A long biography of Basil in the preface - Latin only, of course, except where Greek words are quoted)

Liber de Spiritu sancto
Sancti Basilii Epistolae secundum ordinem temporum nunc primum dispositae et in tres classes distributae. (An extensive mapping of the number of these letters comes at the end of the preface, after the biography of Basil.)
- Classis I: Continent epistolas ante episcopatum scriptas ab anno 357 ad annum 370, quibus adduntur nonnullae dubiae, quia videntur ad hoc tempus pertinere
- Classis II: Quas episcopus scripsit ab anno 370 ad annum 378
- Classis III: Epistolas nulla temporis nota signatas cum pluribus dubiis et spuriis nonnullis


Sermones viginti quatuor de moribus per Symeonem Magistrum et Logothetam selecti ex omnibus sancti Basilii operibus

- I. De virtute et vitio
- II. De doctrina et admonitione
- III. De caritate in Deum et proximum
- IV. De eleemosyna
- V. De divitiis et paupertate
- VI. De avaritia
- VII. De peccato
- VIII. De poenitentia
- IX. De oratione
- X. De jejunio
- XI. De morte
- XII. De tristitia et animi dejectione
- XIII. De patientia et longanimitate
- XIV. De futuro judicio
- XV. De imperio ac potestate
- XVI. De ingluvie et ebrietate
- XVII. De ira et odio
- XVIII. De invidia et malevolentia
- XIX. De temperantia et incontentinentia
- XX. De humilitate et inani gloria
- XXI. De prospera et adversa fortuna, et de prudentia
- XXII. De providentia
- XXIII. De anima
- XXIV. De honore parentibus exhibendo, ac de senectute atque juventute

Liber de Virginitate


I've tried to follow the table of contents laide out in the books. As you should know, the same works appear in Migne PG 29 - 32 (see the Migne PG index). Please note: just because a sermon (or other work or letter) can be found on the list above doesn't mean that it is a genuine work of Basil of Caesarea. Read carefully!



Responding to Paul Hoffer on Morality and the Gospel

In response to anonymous comments on a previous post, Paul Hoffer wrote:
Dear Anonymous, the reason that Dr. Tiller's murder was intrinsically wrong is because he was deprived of the chance of repenting of the evil that he had done on this earth and truly coming to know the saving grace of Our Lord, Jesus Christ as opposed to merely going to church on Sundays. Since he is now a martyr for the abortion rights advocates, the evil that Dr. Tiller perpetrated gets to continue on.

Another thing that gave me pause was the fact that this man was killed within a Lutheran Church, so called, and dared to call himself a Christian. Obviously he was not familiar with the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great Lutheran theologian who was killed opposing the Nazis, who wrote about the difference between true grace that comes from Christ Jesus and that which deludes men in his book "The Cost of Discipleship." He wrote:

[It] is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate." pg. 30.

Cheap grace which appears to be preached at Tiller's church is truly horrific because it justifies one's sins without achieving the justification or sanctification of the sinner. Whether one is Catholic or Protestant, we all can decry the kind of Gospel that must be preached there.
I answer, going section by section:

"Dear Anonymous, the reason that Dr. Tiller's murder was intrinsically wrong is because he was deprived of the chance of repenting of the evil that he had done on this earth and truly coming to know the saving grace of Our Lord, Jesus Christ as opposed to merely going to church on Sundays."

Uh ... no. The reason that Dr. Tiller's murder was intrinsically wrong is because men are created in God's image and their lives cannot lawfully be intentionally ended by their fellow men without God's authority.

Uzzah was killed instantly for his sin, without the chance to repent. Furthermore, in general, capital punishment is prescribed by God's word as the appropriate punishment for numerous crimes (as I've laid out elsewhere). The issue is not the fact that death takes away the ability to repent, but that to lawfully kill another person intentionally, one must have divine warrant.

"Since he is now a martyr for the abortion rights advocates, the evil that Dr. Tiller perpetrated gets to continue on."

He is treated as a martyr by some, to be sure. However, his death will actually discourage other young doctors from taking the path of becoming professional murderers. So, it's really hard to guage whether his murder will have positive or negative consequences. Consequentialism, however, is a flawed ethic.

"Another thing that gave me pause was the fact that this man was killed within a Lutheran Church, so called, and dared to call himself a Christian."

Many call themselves Christians who are not Christians.

"Obviously he was not familiar with the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great Lutheran theologian who was killed opposing the Nazis, who wrote about the difference between true grace that comes from Christ Jesus and that which deludes men in his book 'The Cost of Discipleship.'"

I don't have any way of knowing whether he was familiar with those writings or not. I assume this is just a bit of rhetorical flourish by Mr. Hoffer.

"[It] is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession."

I wonder whether Mr. Hoffer is willing to direct Bonheoffer's cannon Rome-ward? How often are we reminded of the fact that church discipline in the Roman church is largely lacking!

"Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate."

The concept of "cheap grace" is one error into which one can fall. It is the error of the libertines. But there is an equally dangerous error: the error of grace cheapend by purchase. The error of legalism that supposes that one's own works contribute to one's justification in the sight of God, or that somehow one's personal righteousness is the basis of or the maintenance of a right relationship before God. Mr. Hoffer is locked on one error, but has he forgotten the other?

"Cheap grace which appears to be preached at Tiller's church is truly horrific because it justifies one's sins without achieving the justification or sanctification of the sinner."

An antinomian gospel purports to justify sinners, just as a legalist gospel purports to justify "righteous" folks. Both are serious errors, for justification is by faith alone - but a true faith is one that comes out of a love of Christ - one that will consequently be accompanied by fruits of that love of Christ. Mr. Hoffer seems to be good at straking the other ditch for its errors - but we invite him to come out of the opposite ditch and join us on the straight and narrow road provided by Christ.

"Whether one is Catholic or Protestant, we all can decry the kind of Gospel that must be preached there."

Yes, both the legalist and the orthodox can decry the antinomian. Nevertheless, it would be a false ecuminism to suggest that because we both reject the false gospel of antinomianism (live as you please) we are of one mind.


Obama is a "Vatican II" President

So declares John W. O'Malley in a recent article in America: The National Catholic Weekly. John W. O'Malley, S.J., is university professor, theology department, at Georgetown University and author of What Happened at Vatican II. I found the article interesting on several levels. Not simply because he promotes Obama, but because he seemingly views the "spirit of Vatican II" as largely lost in at least the American branch of the Church of Rome.

He writes:
We have a Vatican II president. ... [W]hen I heard his speech at Grant Park in Chicago the night he was elected, and more recently his commencement address at Notre Dame, that is what immediately struck me. On those occasions he embodied and professed in his public persona the spirit of the council. ... The expression [“the spirit of Vatican II”], used widely at the time of the council and given a certain official standing at the Synod of Bishops in 1985, has lately in Roman circles been quietly downgraded, if not dismissed as meaningless. ... In my book, What Happened at Vatican II, I argue that beneath the particular issues the council dealt with—episcopal collegiality, for instance, and religious liberty—more profound and far-reaching issues lurked. I call these the issues-under-the-issues. I ground them in the texts of the council and in that way ground “the spirit of the council” and give it verifiable substance. Among the issues-under-the issues was style, the issue especially pertinent for grounding “the spirit of the council.” The council spoke in a new style, a style different from all previous councils. It eschewed words implying punishment, surveillance, hostility, distrust and coerced behavior-modification that characterized previous councils. It employed words that espoused a new model for Christian behavior—not new, of course, to the Christian tradition as such, but new to council vocabulary. I am referring to words like brothers and sisters, cooperation, partnership, human family, conscience, collegiality and especially dialogue. The new words cannot be dismissed as casual asides or mere window dressing. The council used them too insistently, intentionally and characteristically for them to be that. This new vocabulary made the council a major language-event in the history of the church. ... I often hear laments that the spirit of Vatican II is dead in the church. Is it not ironic that not a bishop but the President of the United States should today be the most effective spokesperson for that spirit? To judge from the enthusiastic response he received from the graduates at Notre Dame, his message captured their minds and hearts. Maybe through young Catholics like those at Notre Dame who are responding to Obama’s message the spirit of Vatican II will, almost through the back door, reenter the church.
(source - Obviously, I've heavily edited it, including adding emphases)


Love of the Unseen Christ (and other Sermons) - Thomas Vincent

Thomas Vincent was a Puritan preacher (1634-1678) who allegedly had the whole New Testament and the Psalms memorized. Whether or not this account of his prodigious memory is correct, he wrote some very powerful sermons. Here are links to a few, together with a little sample material from each, to whet your appetite.

The True Christian's Love to the Unseen Christ

- Part 1

The life of Christianity consists very much in our love to Christ. Without love to Christ, we are as much without spiritual life—as a carcass when the soul is fled from it is without natural life. Faith without love to Christ is a dead faith, and a professor without love to Christ is a dead professor, dead in sins and trespasses. Without love to Christ we may have the name of Christians—but we are wholly without the nature of Christians. We may have the form of godliness—but are wholly without the power of godliness. "Give me your heart!" is the language of God to all people, Proverbs 23:26; and "Give me your love!" is the language of Christ to all His disciples.

- Part 2

The second sort of motives to excite your love to Christ, may be drawn from the consideration of Christ's love unto true Christians. If you are Christians indeed, Christ loves you:

(1) with the freest love;

(2) with the truest love;

(3) with the strongest love;

(4) with the surest love.

Christ's manifestation of Himself unto those who love Him

"He who loves Me shall he loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him." John 14:21

We read in Luke 4:22, "All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips." Never did such gracious and sweet words drop from the lips of any man who ever lived, as those from the lips of Christ when He was here upon the earth; and of all Christ's words, those which He spoke to His disciples in His last sermon, before His last suffering, in the 14th, 15th, and 16th chapters of John, are superlatively sweet, and none more sweet in this sermon than the words of my text read unto you, "He who loves Me shall he loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him." In the former part of the verse, we have the character of one who truly loves Christ, "He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is that loves Me." In the latter part of the verse, which is my text, we have the privilege of one who truly loves Christ; and that is in three promises which Christ makes unto him:

(1) he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father;

(2) and I will love him;

(3) and will manifest Myself to him.

Fire and Brimstone in Hell, to Burn the Wicked

The flames and fiery streams, which were rained down from heaven upon Sodom and Gomorrah formerly, and which issued forth from the earth in the eruptions of Mount Aetna lately, are but shadows of the future flames, and like painted fire in comparison, with the streams of fire and brimstone, which in hell shall burn the wicked eternally. For as the glory of heaven (while we are in the dark vale of this world) does far exceed all conception, and therefore cannot be set forth in full by any description; but as one says, whoever attempts to speak of an heavenly state, while himself is upon the earth, his discourse of that must needs be like the dark dreams and imaginations of a child, concerning the affairs of this world, while itself is yet swaddled and cradled in the womb; and the Apostle Paul himself, though he had been taken up unto the third heaven, and had such discoveries made unto him there, that he lacked words to utter what they were, as II Corinthians 12:2, 3, 4, yet acknowledges that he understood like a child, and had but dark views of this glory, even as through a glass, I Corinthians 13:11, 12. So also the torment of hell through that fire and brimstone, which shall burn the wicked, is beyond all thought to imagine, or words to express. And when we have strained our conceptions unto the highest pitch, when we have made use of the most dreadful and tremendous things that ever came to our eyes or ears, or any way to our understanding to help us in forming notions to ourselves of the horrible punishment, which the damned shall endure in the unquenchable flames of hell-fire; all does fall beneath and far short of the thing, all our views hereof by any representations, being like our sight of colours in the night, which if not in whole, yet in the greatest part do fly from our sight and disappear.

The Only Deliverer from the Wrath to Come!

"Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come!" 1 Thessalonians 1:10

Past pains may easily be forgotten. Future pains are not easily believed. Present pains in extremity are so grievous and afflicting that all the wealth and honor in the world cannot countervail them—and, oh, how welcome is such a physician who can give ease and remove them! But if people believingly apprehended what horrible pains and torments the wicked must endure in the unquenchable flames of hell fire, where they can have no ease, and their misery shall have no end; if they apprehended how fearful a thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God, and to be swallowed up by His wrath, which pursues all who are out of Christ, and who will certainly come and may quickly seize upon them—surely they would use their utmost diligence now to escape—surely they would, with the greatest inquisitiveness, seek out a place of refuge from the fiery tempest of God's vengeance!

This text, which makes a revelation of the only Deliverer from the wrath to come, would sound with most transcendent sweetness in their ears; and the glad tidings thereof, concerning what Jesus has done for His people, would, above all things, be most welcome in their hearts. "Jesus, who delivered us from the wrath to come!"


May God edify the reader of these powerful sermons!


Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Knowledge of God by Faith in the Word of God: Fideism or Orthodoxy?


"Except ye believe ye shall not understand" - Isaiah 7:9 (LXX)

"The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God." - Psalm 14:2 (KJV)

"God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God." - Psalm 53:2 (KJV)

"As it is written in the law of Moses, all this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the LORD our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand thy truth." - Daniel 9:13 (KJV)

"Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you." - John 14:17 (KJV)

"My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; so that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God." - Proverbs 2:1-5

"Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me." - Isaiah 43:10 (KJV)

"Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear." - Hebrews 11:3 (KJV)

Church Fathers

Third Century
But the husbandry is twofold,— the one unwritten, and the other written. And in whatever way the Lord's labourer sow the good wheat, and grow and reap the ears, he shall appear a truly divine husbandman. "Labour," says the Lord, "not for the meat which perishes, but for that which endures to everlasting life." [John 6:27] And nutriment is received both by bread and by words. And truly "blessed are the peace-makers," [Matthew 5:9] who instructing those who are at war in their life and errors here, lead them back to the peace which is in the Word, and nourish for the life which is according to God, by the distribution of the bread, those "that hunger after righteousness." For each soul has its own proper nutriment; some growing by knowledge and science, and others feeding on the Hellenic philosophy, the whole of which, like nuts, is not eatable. "And he that plants and he that waters," "being ministers" of Him "that gives the increase, are one" in the ministry. "But every one shall receive his own reward, according to his own work. For we are God's husbandmen, God's husbandry. You are God's building," 1 Corinthians 3:8-9 according to the apostle. Wherefore the hearers are not permitted to apply the test of comparison. Nor is the word, given for investigation, to be committed to those who have been reared in the arts of all kinds of words, and in the power of inflated attempts at proof; whose minds are already pre-occupied, and have not been previously emptied. But whoever chooses to banquet on faith, is steadfast for the reception of the divine words, having acquired already faith as a power of judging, according to reason. Hence ensues to him persuasion in abundance. And this was the meaning of that saying of prophecy, "If you believe not, neither shall you understand." [Isaiah 7:9] "As, then, we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to the household of faith." [Galatians 6:10] And let each of these, according to the blessed David, sing, giving thanks. "You shall sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed. You shall wash me, and I shall be whiter than the snow. You shall make me to hear gladness and joy, and the bones which have been humbled shall rejoice. Turn Your face from my sins. Blot out mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit in my inward parts. Cast me not away from Your face, and take not Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and establish me with Your princely spirit."
- Clement of Alexandria (about A.D. 150 - 215), Stromata, Book I, Chapter 1

It is clear, then, that the truth has been hidden from us; and if that has been already shown by one example, we shall establish it a little after by several more. How entirely worthy of approbation are they who are both willing to learn, and able, according to Solomon, "to know wisdom and instruction, and to perceive the words of wisdom, to receive knotty words, and to perceive true righteousness," there being another [righteousness as well], not according to the truth, taught by the Greek laws, and by the rest of the philosophers. "And to direct judgments," it is said— not those of the bench, but he means that we must preserve sound and free of error the judicial faculty which is within us— "That I may give subtlety to the simple, to the young man sense and understanding." "For the wise man," who has been persuaded to obey the commandments, "having heard these things, will become wiser" by knowledge; and "the intelligent man will acquire rule, and will understand a parable and a dark word, the sayings and enigmas of the wise." [Proverbs 1:2-6] For it is not spurious words which those inspired by God and those who are gained over by them adduce, nor is it snares in which the most of the sophists entangle the young, spending their time on nought true. But those who possess the Holy Spirit "search the deep things of God," [1 Corinthians 2:10] — that is, grasp the secret that is in the prophecies. "To impart of holy things to the dogs" is forbidden, so long as they remain beasts. For never ought those who are envious and perturbed, and still infidel in conduct, shameless in barking at investigation, to dip in the divine and clear stream of the living water. "Let not the waters of your fountain overflow, and let your waters spread over your own streets." [Proverbs 5:16] For it is not many who understand such things as they fall in with; or know them even after learning them, though they think they do, according to the worthy Heraclitus. Does not even he seem to you to censure those who believe not? "Now my just one shall live by faith," [Habakkuk 2:4] the prophet said. And another prophet also says, "Unless you believe, neither shall you understand." [Isaiah 7:9] For how ever could the soul admit the transcendental contemplation of such themes, while unbelief respecting what was to be learned struggled within? But faith, which the Greeks disparage, deeming it futile and barbarous, is a voluntary preconception, the assent of piety— "the subject of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen," according to the divine apostle. "For hereby," pre-eminently, "the elders obtained a good report. But without faith it is impossible to please God." Others have defined faith to be a uniting assent to an unseen object, as certainly the proof of an unknown thing is an evident assent. If then it be choice, being desirous of something, the desire is in this instance intellectual. And since choice is the beginning of action, faith is discovered to be the beginning of action, being the foundation of rational choice in the case of any one who exhibits to himself the previous demonstration through faith. Voluntarily to follow what is useful, is the first principle of understanding. Unswerving choice, then, gives considerable momentum in the direction of knowledge. The exercise of faith directly becomes knowledge, reposing on a sure foundation. Knowledge, accordingly, is defined by the sons of the philosophers as a habit, which cannot be overthrown by reason. Is there any other true condition such as this, except piety, of which alone the Word is teacher? I think not. Theophrastus says that sensation is the root of faith. For from it the rudimentary principles extend to the reason that is in us, and the understanding. He who believes then the divine Scriptures with sure judgment, receives in the voice of God, who bestowed the Scripture, a demonstration that cannot be impugned. Faith, then, is not established by demonstration. "Blessed therefore those who, not having seen, yet have believed." The Siren's songs, exhibiting a power above human, fascinated those that came near, conciliating them, almost against their will, to the reception of what was said.
- Clement of Alexandria (about A.D. 150 - 215), Stromata, Book II, Chapter 2

5. That the Jews could understand nothing of the Scriptures unless they first believed in Christ

In Isaiah: "And if you will not believe, neither will you understand." [Isaiah 7:9] Also the Lord in the Gospel: "For if you believe not that I am He, you shall die in your sins." [John 8:24] Moreover, that righteousness should subsist by faith, and that in it was life, was predicted in Habakkuk: "Now the just shall live by faith of me." [Habakkuk 2:4] Hence Abraham, the father of the nations, believed; in Genesis: "Abraham believed in God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness." [Genesis 15:6] In like manner, Paul to the Galatians: "Abraham believed in God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. You know, therefore, that they which are of faith, the same are children of Abraham. But the Scripture, foreseeing that God justifies the heathens by faith, foretold to Abraham that all nations should be blessed in him. Therefore they who are of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham."
- Cyprian of Carthage (died about A.D. 258), Treatise 12, First Book, Section 5 (heading of section is accurate but authorship may not be original)

Fourth Century
Now as for the question, how any single thing came into existence, we must banish it altogether from our discussion. Even in the case of things which are quite within the grasp of our understanding and of which we have sensible perception, it would be impossible for the speculative reason to grasp the "how" of the production of the phenomenon; so much so, that even inspired and saintly men have deemed such questions insoluble. For instance, the Apostle says, "Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen are not made of things which do appear [Hebrews 11:3]." He would not, I take it, have spoken like that, if he had thought that the question could be settled by any efforts of the reasoning powers. While the Apostle affirms that it is an object of his faith that it was by the will of God that the world itself and all which is therein was framed (whatever this "world" be that involves the idea of the whole visible and invisible creation), he has on the other hand left out of the investigation the "how" of this framing. Nor do I think that this point can ever be reached by any inquirers.
- Gregory of Nyssa (about A.D. 335 - 394), On the Soul and the Resurrection

Then, too, what is that immaterial and ethereal empyrean, and the intermediate air which forms a wall of partition between that element in nature which gives heat and consumes, and that which is moist and combustible? And how does earth below form the foundation of the whole, and what is it that keeps it firmly in its place? What is it that controls its downward tendency? If any one should interrogate us on these and such-like points, will any of us be found so presumptuous as to promise an explanation of them? No! the only reply that can be given by men of sense is this:— that He Who made all things in wisdom can alone furnish an account of His creation. For ourselves, "through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God," as says the Apostle [Hebrews 1:2].
- Gregory of Nyssa (about A.D. 335 - 394), Answer to Eunomius' Second Book

Fifth Century
Faith needs a generous and vigorous soul, and one rising above all things of sense, and passing beyond the weakness of human reasonings. For it is not possible to become a believer, otherwise than by raising one's self above the common customs [of the world].
- Chrysostom (about A.D. 347 - 407), Homily 22 on Hebrews, at Hebrews 11:3.

I Believe, therefore, is placed in the forefront, as the Apostle Paul, writing to the Hebrews, says, "He that comes to God must first of all believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who believe in Him." The Prophet also says, "Except ye believe, you shall not understand." That the way to understand, therefore, may be open to you, you do rightly first of all, in professing that you believe; for no one embarks upon the sea, and trusts himself to the deep and liquid element, unless he first believes it possible that he will have a safe voyage; neither does the husbandman commit his seed to the furrows and scatter his grain on the earth, but in thebelief that the showers will come, together with the sun's warmth, through whose fostering influence, aided by favouring winds, the earth will produce and multiply and ripen its fruits. In fine, nothing in life can be transacted if there be not first a readiness to believe. What wonder then, if, coming to God, we first of all profess that we believe, seeing that, without this, not even common life can be lived. We have premised these remarks at the outset, since the Pagans are wont to object to us that our religion, because it lacks reasons, rests solely on belief. We have shown, therefore, that nothing can possibly be done or remain stable unless belief precede. Finally, marriages are contracted in the belief that children will be born; and children are committed to the care of masters in the belief that the teaching of the masters will be transferred to the pupils; and one man assumes the ensigns of empire, believing that peoples and cities and a well-equipped army also will obey him. But if no one enters upon any one of these several undertakings except in the belief that the results spoken of will follow, must not belief be much more requisite if one would come to the knowledge of God? But let us see what this "short word" of the Creed sets forth.
- Rufinus (about A.D. 345 - 410), Commentary on the Apostles' Creed, Section 6

If we have understood this, thanks be to God; but if any has not sufficiently understood, man has done as far as he could: as for the rest, let him see whence he may hope to understand. As laborers outside, we can plant and water; but it is of God to give the increase. "My doctrine," says He, "is not mine, but His that sent me." Let him who says he has not yet understood hear counsel. For since it was a great and profound matter that had been spoken, the Lord Christ Himself did certainly see that all would not understand this so profound a matter, and He gave counsel in the sequel. Do you wish to understand? Believe. For God has said by the prophet: "Except ye believe, you shall not understand." [Isaiah 7:9] To the same purpose what the Lord here also added as He went on— "If any man is willing to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak from myself." What is the meaning of this, "If any man be willing to do His will"? But I had said, if any man believe; and I gave this counsel: If you have not understood, said I, believe. For understanding is the reward of faith. Therefore do not seek to understand in order to believe, but believe that you may understand; since, "except ye believe, you shall not understand." Therefore when I would counsel the obedience of believing toward the possibility of understanding, and say that our Lord Jesus Christ has added this very thing in the following sentence, we find Him to have said, "If any man be willing to do His will, he shall know of the doctrine." What is "he shall know"? It is the same thing as "he shall understand." But what is "If any man be willing to do His will"? It is the same thing as to believe. All men indeed perceive that "shall know" is the same thing as "shall understand:" but that the saying, "If any man be willing to do His will," refers to believing, all do not perceive; to perceive this more accurately, we need the Lord Himself for expounder, to show us whether the doing of the Father's will does in reality refer to believing. But who does not know that this is to do the will of God, to work the work of God; that is, to work that work which is pleasing to Him? But the Lord Himself says openly in another place: "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent." [John 6:29] "That ye believe in Him," not, that you believe Him. But if you believe on Him, you believe Him; yet he that believes Him does not necessarily believe on Him. For even the devils believed Him, but they did not believe in Him. Again, moreover, of His apostles we can say, we believe Paul; but not, we believe in Paul: we believe Peter; but not, we believe in Peter. For, "to him that believes in Him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted unto him for righteousness." [Romans 4:5] What then is "to believe in Him"? By believing to love Him, by believing to esteem highly, by believing to go into Him and to be incorporated in His members. It is faith itself then that God exacts from us: and He finds not that which He exacts, unless He has bestowed what He may find. What faith, but that which the apostle has most amply defined in another place, saying, "Neither circumcision avails anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith that works by love?" Galatians 5:6 Not any faith of what kind soever, but "faith that works by love:" let this faith be in you, and you shall understand concerning the doctrine. What indeed shall you understand? That "this doctrine is not mine, but His that sent me;" that is, you shall understand that Christ the Son of God, who is the doctrine of the Father, is not from Himself, but is the Son of the Father.
- Augustine (about A.D. 354 - 430), Tractate 29 on John's Gospel, Section 6

"Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings You have made perfect praise, because of Your enemies." By enemies to this dispensation, which has been wrought through Jesus Christ and Him crucified, we ought generally to understand all who forbid belief in things unknown, [1 Corinthians 2:6-10] and promise certain knowledge: as all heretics do, and they who in the superstition of the Gentiles are called philosophers. Not that the promise of knowledge is to be blamed; but because they deem the most healthful and necessary step of faith is to be neglected, by which we must needs ascend to something certain, which nothing but that which is eternal can be. Hence it appears that they do not possess even this knowledge, which in contempt of faith they promise; seeing that they know not so useful and necessary a step thereof. "Out of the mouth," then "of babes and sucklings You have made perfect praise," Thou, our Lord, declaring first by the Apostle, "Except ye believe, you shall not understand;" and saying by His own mouth, "Blessed are they that have not seen, and shall believe." [John 20:29] "Because of the enemies:" against whom too that is said, "I confess to You, O Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hid these things from the wise, and revealed them unto babes." [Matthew 11:25] "From the wise," he says, not the really wise, but those who deem themselves such. "That You may destroy the enemy and the defender." Whom but the heretic? For he is both an enemy and a defender, who when he would assault the Christian faith, seems to defend it. Although the philosophers too of this world may be well taken as the enemies and defenders: forasmuch as the Son of God is the Power and Wisdom of God by which every one is enlightened who is made wise by the truth: of which they profess themselves to be lovers, whence too their name of philosophers; and therefore they seem to defend it, while they are its enemies, since they cease not to recommend noxious superstitions, that the elements of this world should be worshipped and revered.
- Augustine (about A.D. 354 - 430), Exposition on Psalm 8, Section 6

These things you do not understand, because, as the prophet said, "Unless you believe, you shall not understand." [Isaiah 7:9] For you are not instructed in the kingdom of heaven—that is, in the true Catholic Church of Christ. If you were, you would bring forth from the treasure of the sacred Scriptures things old as well as new. For the Lord Himself says, "Therefore every scribe instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like an householder who brings forth from his treasure things new and old." [Matthew 13:52] And so, while you profess to receive only the new promises of God, you have retained the oldness of the flesh, adding only the novelty of error; of which novelty the apostle says, "Shun profane novelties of words, for they increase unto more ungodliness, and their speech eats like a cancer. Of whom is Hymenæus and Philetus, who concerning the faith have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already, and have overthrown the faith of some." [2 Timothy 2:16-18] Here you see the source of your false doctrine, in teaching that the resurrection is only of souls by the preaching of the truth, and that there will be no resurrection of the body. But how can you understand spiritual things of the inner man, who is renewed in the knowledge of God, when in the oldness of the flesh, if you do not possess temporal things, you concoct fanciful notions about them in those images of carnal things of which the whole of your false doctrine consists? You boast of despising as worthless the land of Canaan, which was an actual thing, and actually given to the Jews; and yet you tell of a land of light cut asunder on one side, as by a narrow wedge, by the land of the race of darkness—a thing which does not exist, and which you believe from the delusion of your minds; so that your life is not supported by having it, and your mind is wasted in desiring it.
- Augustine (about A.D. 354 - 430), Contra Faustum, Book IV, Section 2

And therefore it is laid down by all the Catholic fathers who have taught perfection of heart not by empty disputes of words, but in deed and act, that the first stage in the Divine gift is for each man to be inflamed with the desire of everything that is good, but in such a way that the choice of free will is open to either side: and that the second stage in Divine grace is for the aforesaid practices of virtue to be able to be performed, but in such a way that the possibilities of the will are not destroyed: the third stage also belongs to the gifts of God, so that it may be held by the persistence of the goodness already acquired, and in such a way that the liberty may not be surrendered and experience bondage. For the God of all must be held to work in all, so as to incite, protect, and strengthen, but not to take away the freedom of the will which He Himself has once given. If however any more subtle inference of man's argumentation and reasoning seems opposed to this interpretation, it should be avoided rather than brought forward to the destruction of the faith (for we gain not faith from understanding, but understanding from faith, as it is written: "Except ye believe, you will not understand" [Isaiah 7:9]) for how God works all things in us and yet everything can be ascribed to free will, cannot be fully grasped by the mind and reason of man.
- John Cassian (about A.D. 360 - 435), Conference 13, On the Protection of God, Chapter 18

Now, from here he proceeds, If you do not believe, neither will you understand, a statement not lacking probability; understanding would not be granted by him to people who insult the word of God with unbelief. They ought therefore immediately accept what comes from God and readily agree with what he promises and says. This, in fact, is the way for us to achieve a sound understanding and for our mind to be illuminated by the light of wisdom that comes from him.
- Cyril of Alexandria (about A.D. 378 - 444), Commentary on Isaiah, at Isaiah 7:9

Medieval Scholastics
Be it mine to look up to your light, even from afar, even from the depths. Teach me to seek you, and reveal yourself to me, when I seek you, for I cannot seek you, except you teach me, nor find you, except you reveal yourself. Let me seek you in longing, let me long for you in seeking; let me find you in love, and love you in finding. Lord, I acknowledge and I thank you that you has created me in this your image, in order that I may be mindful of you, may conceive of you, and love you; but that image has been so consumed and wasted away by vices, and obscured by the smoke of wrong-doing, that it cannot achieve that for which it was made, except you renew it, and create it anew. I do not endeavor, O Lord, to penetrate your sublimity, for in no wise do I compare my understanding with that; but I long to understand in some degree your truth, which my heart believes and loves. For I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, --that unless I believed, I should not understand.
- Anselm (about A.D. 1033 - 1109), Proslogium, Chapter 1

Article 8. Whether faith is more certain than science and the other intellectual virtues?

Objection 1. It would seem that faith is not more certain than science and the other intellectual virtues. For doubt is opposed to certitude, wherefore a thing would seem to be the more certain, through being less doubtful, just as a thing is the whiter, the less it has of an admixture of black. Now understanding, science and also wisdom are free of any doubt about their objects; whereas the believer may sometimes suffer a movement of doubt, and doubt about matters of faith. Therefore faith is no more certain than the intellectual virtues.

Objection 2. Further, sight is more certain than hearing. But "faith is through hearing" according to Romans 10:17; whereas understanding, science and wisdom imply some kind of intellectual sight. Therefore science and understanding are more certain than faith.

Further, in matters concerning the intellect, the more perfect is the more certain. Now understanding is more perfect than faith, since faith is the way to understanding, according to another version [the Septuagint] of Isaiah 7:9: "If you will not believe, you shall not understand [Vulgate: 'continue']": and Augustine says (De Trin. xiv, 1) that "faith is strengthened by science." Therefore it seems that science or understanding is more certain than faith.

On the contrary, The Apostle says (1 Thessalonians 2:15): "When you had received of us the word of the hearing," i.e. by faith . . . "you received it not as the word of men, but, as it is indeed, the word of God." Now nothing is more certain than the word of God. Therefore science is not more certain than faith; nor is anything else.

I answer that, As stated above (I-II, 57, 4, ad 2) two of the intellectual virtues are about contingent matter, viz. prudence and art; to which faith is preferable in point of certitude, by reason of its matter, since it is about eternal things, which never change, whereas the other three intellectual virtues, viz. wisdom, science [In English the corresponding 'gift' is called knowledge] and understanding, are about necessary things, as stated above (I-II, 57, 5, ad 3). But it must be observed that wisdom, science and understanding may be taken in two ways: first, as intellectual virtues, according to the Philosopher (Ethic. vi, 2,3); secondly, for the gifts of the Holy Ghost. If we consider them in the first way, we must note that certitude can be looked at in two ways. First, on the part of its cause, and thus a thing which has a more certain cause, is itself more certain. On this way faith is more certain than those three virtues, because it is founded on the Divine truth, whereas the aforesaid three virtues are based on human reason. Secondly, certitude may be considered on the part of the subject, and thus the more a man's intellect lays hold of a thing, the more certain it is. On this way, faith is less certain, because matters of faith are above the human intellect, whereas the objects of the aforesaid three virtues are not. Since, however, a thing is judged simply with regard to its cause, but relatively, with respect to a disposition on the part of the subject, it follows that faith is more certain simply, while the others are more certain relatively, i.e. for us. Likewise if these three be taken as gifts received in this present life, they are related to faith as to their principle which they presuppose: so that again, in this way, faith is more certain.

Reply to Objection 1. This doubt is not on the side of the cause of faith, but on our side, in so far as we do not fully grasp matters of faith with our intellect.

Reply to Objection 2. Other things being equal sight is more certain than hearing; but if (the authority of) the person from whom we hear greatly surpasses that of the seer's sight, hearing is more certain than sight: thus a man of little science is more certain about what he hears on the authority of an expert in science, than about what is apparent to him according to his own reason: and much more is a man certain about what he hears from God, Who cannot be deceived, than about what he sees with his own reason, which can be mistaken.

Reply to Objection 3. The gifts of understanding and knowledge are more perfect than the knowledge of faith in the point of their greater clearness, but not in regard to more certain adhesion: because the whole certitude of the gifts of understanding and knowledge, arises from the certitude of faith, even as the certitude of the knowledge of conclusions arises from the certitude of premisses. But in so far as science, wisdom and understanding are intellectual virtues, they are based upon the natural light of reason, which falls short of the certitude of God's word, on which faith is founded.
- Aquinas (about A.D. 1225 - 1274), Summa Theologica, Second Part of the Second Part, Question 4, Article 8

Article 5. Whether the gift of understanding is found also in those who have not sanctifying grace?

Objection 1. It would seem that the gift of understanding is found also in those who have not sanctifying grace. For Augustine, in expounding the words of Psalm 118:20: "My soul hath coveted to long for Thy justifications," says: "Understanding flies ahead, and man's will is weak and slow to follow." But in all who have sanctifying grace, the will is prompt on account of charity. Therefore the gift of understanding can be in those who have not sanctifying grace.

Objection 2. Further, it is written (Daniel 10:1) that "there is need of understanding in a" prophetic "vision," so that, seemingly, there is no prophecy without the gift of understanding. But there can be prophecy without sanctifying grace, as evidenced by Matthew 7:22, where those who say: "We have prophesied in Thy name [Vulgate: 'Have we not prophesied in Thy name?]," are answered with the words: "I never knew you." Therefore the gift of understanding can be without sanctifying grace.

Objection 3. Further, the gift of understanding responds to the virtue of faith, according to Isaiah 7:9, following another reading [the Septuagint]: "If you will not believe you shall not understand." Now faith can be without sanctifying grace. Therefore the gift of understanding can be without it.

On the contrary, Our Lord said (John 6:45): "Every one that hath heard of the Father, and hath learned, cometh to Me." Now it is by the intellect, as Gregory observes (Moral. i, 32), that we learn or understand what we hear. Therefore whoever has the gift of understanding, cometh to Christ, which is impossible without sanctifying grace. Therefore the gift of understanding cannot be without sanctifying grace.

I answer that, As stated above (I-II, 68, 1,2) the gifts of the Holy Ghost perfect the soul, according as it is amenable to the motion of the Holy Ghost. Accordingly then, the intellectual light of grace is called the gift of understanding, in so far as man's understanding is easily moved by the Holy Ghost, the consideration of which movement depends on a true apprehension of the end. Wherefore unless the human intellect be moved by the Holy Ghost so far as to have a right estimate of the end, it has not yet obtained the gift of understanding, however much the Holy Ghost may have enlightened it in regard to other truths that are preambles to the faith.

Now to have a right estimate about the last end one must not be in error about the end, and must adhere to it firmly as to the greatest good: and no one can do this without sanctifying grace; even as in moral matters a man has a right estimate about the end through a habit of virtue. Therefore no one has the gift of understanding without sanctifying grace.

Reply to Objection 1. By understanding Augustine means any kind of intellectual light, that, however, does not fulfil all the conditions of a gift, unless the mind of man be so far perfected as to have a right estimate about the end.

Reply to Objection 2. The understanding that is requisite for prophecy, is a kind of enlightenment of the mind with regard to the things revealed to the prophet: but it is not an enlightenment of the mind with regard to a right estimate about the last end, which belongs to the gift of understanding.

Reply to Objection 3. Faith implies merely assent to what is proposed but understanding implies a certain perception of the truth, which perception, except in one who has sanctifying grace, cannot regard the end, as stated above. Hence the comparison fails between understanding and faith.
- Aquinas (about A.D. 1225 - 1274), Summa Theologica, Second Part of the Second Part, Question 8, Article 5


Is the idea that knowledge of God comes by faith in the Word of God fideism or orthodoxy? I think the latter is the best designation. It is well attested by Scripture and it is not a new idea. It is not that there is no reason to believe, but that some things cannot be reached by bare reason. That's why tools like the Transcendental Argument for the existence of God (TAG) can be a useful negative tool to expose presuppositions, but it cannot be a complete defense of the faith - it cannot be a stand-alone apologetic. Human reason must be subordinated to divine truth, even though human reason is an instrument and tool by which and through which we understand.


Murder Update - Tiller Receives Justice

Apparently George Tiller, a notorious murderer of children, was himself murdered by an unknown assailant. It was wrong of the assailant to do this, and yet I rejoice that this killer of children has received substantive (though not procedural) justice that he would not have received under the laws of the place where he was.


Thanks to Ms. La Shawn Barber for pointing out both this murder and another murder that happened about the same time (link). In the second case, however, the murdered person did not receive substantive justice - he was not himself guilty of a crime worthy of death (as far as we can tell).