Augustine on Empire

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s2smodern

No, I am not using the word "empire" because it is an easy way to garner attention!  Rather, in my reading for the book I am writing on Augustine, I found the following quote in an essay by Michael Hanby, "Democracy and Its Demons," in Augustine and Politics (edited by John Doody, Kevin L. Hughes, and Kim Paffenroth).

And speaking of Michael Hanby, if one has not read his essay from First Things (February 2015), it is excellent.

Anyway, Augustine writes:

"I would therefore have our adversaries consider the possibility that to rejoice in the extent of empire is not a characteristic of good men." (Augustine's City of God IV.15).

Trouble with Pelagians

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s2smodern

I am currently reading B.B. Warfield's essay, "Augustine and the Pelagian Controversy."  It is a goldmine.  At one point he is discussing how a recently-elected pope, one Zosimus, may have been a bit soft on Pelagianism.  Pelagius and one of his followers, Coelestius, had been condemned, but Zosimus was letting them off the hook.  A number of African bishops gathered and pronounced that Pelagius and Coelestius should continue to be considered out of bounds theologically.  They were to be considered out of bounds until they could affirm the following:

"we are aided by the grace of God, through Christ, not only to know, but to do what is right, in each single act, so that without grace we are unable to have, think, speak, or do anything pertaining to piety."

B.B. Warfield, "Augustine and the Pelagian Controversy," in Studies in Tertullian and Augustine, 303.

Gilson, Bonaventure, and the Fall

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s2smodern

It is always interesting to watch contemporary theologians speak to the issue of the Fall.  If one is trying to keep in step with the zeitgeist, it is certainly easier to evade, obfuscate, etc.  For to affirm a real space-time fall means you are saying something about the very heart of reality and history.  You are not just shadow-boxing.  You are putting yourself out there.  You are saying there was an era of history before sin entered the world.  You are saying there was an era where man was not sinful, and that now he is.  You are saying that there was a major shift in the very nature of the created order, brought about by real, historical human disobedience.  You are saying that death entered into a world which up until that time had not known death.  And if you tease that out, well, you have put yourself on the wrong side of history.

So, it was interesting as I read Etienne Gilson on Bonaventure on this issue.  

". . . for the absurdity [i.e., that God created things in the way we currently find them--broken, sinful, etc.] instantly becomes apparent of supposing that a perfect God created man in the state of wretchedness in which he now is." (p. 435)

Bonaventure, Van Til, and Idealism

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s2smodern

Another brief thought on Bonaventure and Van Til and the nature of knowledge.  In the quote from the last post, notice what Gilson says: "things are true in so far as they are conformed to the thought God has of them,  . . ."

I supposed someone could say, "Then is God the ultimate Idealist?"  Interesting thought.  It does seem that (if we are to trust Gilson's summary of Bonaventure at this point) that something is what it is, because of what God "thinks" of it.  Now, God has created all things.  But we could still say that reality is what it is because God--in his thoughts--constitutes all things.  

I have tried long and hard to understand how someone could really be, philosophically, an "Idealist."  Does anyone really think that reality is what it is because the human person "constitutes" reality?  I doubt it.  But God is different, of course and indeed!!!

 

Bonaventure and Van Til

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s2smodern

Greetings Friends.  I am currently reading Van Til (Common Grace and the Gospel), while I am working on a book introducing Augustine.  I have also been reading Etienne Gilson on a variety of things.  With Van Til in mind, it is interesting what Bonaventure could say (I have in front of me Gilson's The Philosophy of St. Bonaventure.  Here is Gilson on Bonaventure:

"Consider Adam's intellect: it was endowed with a perfectly right knowledge. Truth, by St. Anselm's definition, is  rectitude perceptible only by the soul: which signifies that the thought of God is the measure of all things, that things are true in so far as they are conformed to the thought God has of them, and that our thought in turn is true in so far as it is conformed to the nature of things and to the divine model that they reproduce." (p. 432).

Now, I suspect Van Til could pretty much affirm/say this.  Things are the way they are because God has created all things, and he currently is governing all things.  In Van Til's terms, there are no "brute facts."  Rather, all things are--all the way down--"interpreted" facts.  That is, God's understanding or "interpretation" of all things is what a thing (and every thing) is.  

Thus--as Van Til works this out, we come to truly understand something, when we understand it in light of, and in agreement with, and in terms of God's understanding or "interpretation" of what a thing is.  

Augustine on Happiness

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s2smodern

It is good to be reminded of why we read, why we think, why we take classes, why we read a good novel.  Augustine is often a good one to turn our minds to the basics.  For Augustine, we all want to be happy (maybe in another post we can try to push or challenge Augustine here.  We shall see).

But, Augustine is on to something.  He writes:

"Man has no reason to philosophize except with a view to happiness" (The City of God 19.1.3).

Found in Gilson, The Christian Philosophy of Saint Augustine, 115.