I think anytime I have read Dallas Willard, I have benefitted immensely. Today I was reading his essay, "How Reason can Survive the Modern University: The Moral Foundations of Morality" (found here). In light of Rod Dreher's The Benedict Option, I found the following quote very interesting and helpful:
The details are far from clear to me, but I think something like the development of a community of moral understanding in the Christian tradition must be the answer to our current situation. This seems to me the only thing capable of redeeming reason, of providing the moral substance and understanding that can make the life of reason possible. Though I do not share MacIntryre's philosophy of mind and logic, and believe that the understanding and practical appropriation of moral insight is much freer of specific communities than he supposes (There is a human nature, in my view, and it is fairly obvious), I am sure that the restoration of moral knowledge to our academic culture will require a certain community of professionals, academics and intellectuals devoted to that cause over a lengthy period of time.
The essays at Willard's website (here) are a goldmine. They are free, but I still wish someone would put them all together and publish them. Tolle lege!
Greetings. We are in the Netherlands, where I am teaching a class on Augustine at Tyndale Theological Seminary. Ran across the following in preparing for class. Augustine wrote a volume, Answer to an Enemy of the Law and the Prophets. Some real gems on how to approach the Bible, the nature of language about God, etc., is found in this great piece. On the rainbow in Genesis, did God need a sign because of a poor memory (i.e., because God needs to be "reminded")? No, says Augustine. In criticizing the person in error (who would suggest that God perhaps does have a poor memory), Augustine writes:
"The fellow does not know what he is saying at all, not because his memory is dead, but because his soul is dead." (I.20.43). My!
Augustine is nothing if not fascinating. Over the years, various folks (theistic evolutionists among them), have turned to Augustine. Most of us would like to have Augustine "on our side," if possible. As I work on my own Augustine book, I have attempted to explore some of these issues. In an interesting turn, Etienne Gilson somewhat turns the tables on the attempt to bring Augustine to the defense of Darwinism (unnamed). Here is what Gilson writes:
Concerning Augustine's notion of "seminal reasons" (which for Augustine permeate/mark all of created order): "Far from being called upon to explain the appearance of something new, as would be the case with creative evolution, they serve to prove that whatever appears to be new is really not so, and that in spite of appearances, it is still true that God 'created all things simultaneously' (creavit omnia simul). This is the reason why seminal reasons, instead of leading to a transformist hypothesis, are constantly called upon by Augustine to account for the stability of species."
Gilson goes on:
"The element from which the seminal reasons are made have their own nature and efficacy, and this is the reason why a grain of wheat produces wheat rather than beans, or a man begets a man and not an animal of another species. The seminal reasons are principles of stability rather than of change." (Gilson, The Christian Philosophy of Augustine 207).
Christmas in Cambridge (2016). On Christmas eve morn we went to the local bakery in Newnham, and enjoyed some goodies. A real blessing to be in Cambridge at Christmas.
Reading Etienne Gilson has been extremely helpful. And reading Augustine has been a blessing. My love for Augustine has increased, but also has my love for the Evangelical faith. I have simultaneously appreciated Augustine, and grown--I hope--in my appreciation for what it means to be a Protestant. The following quotation from Gilson I put here mainly just so I do not lose it. He is here writing on the nature of creation in Augustine. What is helpful, I think, is that in a Christian doctrine of creation God is not simply creating "stuff." He is doing that, but not simply that. He is creating a world which is structured, ordered, and designed a certain way, and with certain purposes. I suspect these insights are ones which Christians need desperately today. We live in a world in which there are deep and fundamental structures which we kick against at our own peril.
I was also reminded of this while listening to a Crowded House song, "Into Temptation." I really could not believe what I was hearing. Some of Crowded House's ringleader Neil Finn's insights and wording are startlingly insightful. In the melancholy song about temptation Finn sings that in giving into temptation, one does so "knowing full well the earth will rebel." He continues to describe the person walking into temptation: "safe in the wide open arms of hell." The song rings true and perhaps is a lamentation and song of regret. It can be heard and viewed here. How insightful: "the earth will rebel." We do in fact live in a world which is ordered and structured. When we rebel, we are not simply rebelling against abstract "law" which--we might think--is haphazardly given to us. We are rebelling against the very structures of a morally ordered world. Morally ordered by a good God who has created a good world.
I am not here taking sides whether Augustine's understanding of "matter" and "form" need to be affirmed. But Gilson's summary here is helpful, at least to me:
"He [God] gives being to a matter which tends to nothingness because of its formlessness alone, while in so far as He speaks (dixit Deus, fiat), i.e. in so far as He creates as the Word, God impresses, as it were a movement upon matter whereby it turns towards Him, and this movement in turn is but an imitation of the Word's eternal adherence to the Father." (Gilson, The Christian Philosophy of Saint Augustine, 205).
So, for Gilson Augustine teaches that when God creates the world, God "impresses" upon matter in such a way that the world--as created matter--inherently, inextricably, is ordered to God. And tantalizingly, Gilson goes on to say that this aspect of the world whereby it is ordered to God is a type of reflection or echo or imitation of the Son's love for the Father. Provocative. Our world is a marked world, an ordered world. We kick against the order and truth of things to our own peril.