Plantinga, Thomas, and Realism

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s2smodern

I am getting together this week to visit with a sharp young philosopher.  He suggested to me the essay by Alvin Plantinga, "How To Be an Anti-Realist."  Towards the end of the essay Plantinga turns toward Augustine and Thomas as providing a way to think about realism.

The quote from Thomas Aquinas is wonderful:  

"Even if there were no human intellects, there could be truths because of their relation to the divine intellect.  But if, per impossible, there were no intellects at all, but things continued to exist, then there would be no such reality as truth." (De Veritate !. 1, A.6 Respondeo).

Plantinga then writes: "The thesis, then, is that truth cannot be independent of noetic activity of the part of persons.  The antithesis is that it must be independent  of our noetic activity.  And the synthesis is that truth is independent of our intellectual activity but not of God's" (p. 68 of Plantinga's essay).

Augustine and the Impossibility of Political Neutrality

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s2smodern

A quote from Michael Hanby again (again, see my earlier post for a link to his excellent First Things 2015 essay).

I have also been reading a lot of Cornelius Van Til lately, and all of this links together.

But here is Hanby on Augustine and political order: "The fundamental question for Augustine is not whether God will be worshipped, but which god will be worshipped."

Yep.  That is it.  If man, created in the image of God, is fundamentally "homo adorans," worshipping man, and if all of man's endeavors--including political life--reflect and flow from one's ultimate convictions (which are ultimately religious), then Hanby is right.  It is religion all the way down, including the political order of any society.

As Hanby notes: "we therefore act, individually and socially, in pursuit of what we love.  This axiom makes worship the basic form of human action and rules out a purely secular politics or religiously indifferent political realm." ("Democracy and Its Demons," in Augustine and Politics, 117-18).

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.