Friday, May 28, 2010

The Incarnation: Why God Became Man

This is the text version of the talk I did last night at my parish on the Incarnation. The text is much more rough than the first talk I did on God’s existence. Sorry. But I hope this will provide a general outline to help those who attended the talk last night. For those of you who read this for the first time, I hope it is more coherent than I think it is. Enjoy.

I. Intro-Transition from God’s existence to the Incarnation: Yesterday, we began our inquiry by reading the first part of our Creed. After making a quick investigation into the nature of Theology, we attempted to prove that this God in which we profess our faith actually exists. And we did so with some success, proving that there must be some prime mover—some first cause by which all things continue to be. Yet, we also found that we must hold by faith that this God is the Christian God, the Triune God. Today, we fittingly begin our discussion with the Incarnation as professed in the second part of the Creed. In this way, we are moving from the One God, the Father, to the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Now, the answer to the question up for discussion (Why God became man?) seems obvious: God became man in order to save man. Fortunately, most of these theological questions are quite obvious, since they are to be mastered by all of the faithful. But the beauty of Theology is that there is always another level. There is always a deeper understanding to be had, for the object of Theology is God, who is ultimately mysterious and unknowable.

So then let us re-ask the question. Why did God become man? Or rather, why did God have to become man? Or did He? There are several aspects of this question that are to be addressed, but before we delve in, let us set up some parameters, boundary lines if you will in which we can have our discussion.

II. Dictums on the Incarnation: The first and probably most important dictum to follow in a discussion on the Incarnation is this saying held and taught by the Church Fathers, that is God became man so that man might become God. Ironically, nearly every theological exposition supports this claim, even the heretical ones. The point of contention, as we will find out, is what it actually means for God to become man. What does it mean for the Incarnation to be both fully God and fully Man, yet one person? This is a sloppy and very metaphysically involved question, which we will get into at some length, but let us continue on before we get to the question.

The second dictum to follow is that God is equally just and merciful. Did God become man due to His mercy or due to His justice? We must keep in mind here that God’s justice is His mercy. Sorry, Shakespeare’s ‘justice seasoned by mercy’ is not correct when it comes to God, for perfect justice (not attainable in this world) is merciful. This is not to say, however, that God’s particular actions might seem merciless or unjust from our perspective. Indeed, most of the events in salvation history seem to be without mercy or justice. For examples, please see the Old Testament. Yet, these imperfections in our vision are just that, limited visions of God’s ultimate will for the salvation of souls. Again, this is only an introductory exposition and will be further explained later.

The last dictum is more like a method and will help guide us through the jungle of argumentation we are about to head into. That is the so-called ‘via media’ or middle way. Most often likened to a road splitting two extremes, this view seems a bit impoverished to me. The ‘via media’ is not a compromise or mixed version of two extremes, pleasing both sides. The ‘via media’ is, however, a process of emphasis and modality that allows one to argue for either side at a moments notice without sliding into either extreme. Think of it more like a pendulum on a grandfather clock, swinging back and forth, yet never hitting either side or getting stuck. In this way, the ‘via media’ is a dynamic ‘both/and’ solution to a problem and involves a nimbleness of the mind to step back and see the connections and the differences between opposing views. In this way, most arguments by the Church against heresies or false positions are corrections, bringing one’s understanding back to the ‘middle’. In doing this, the Church in her reasoning does the same that one would have to do in order to straighten out a warped piece of wood, bending it past straight over to the other extreme. This is what I meant earlier about the ‘via media’ being a dynamic back and forth, emphasizing whichever side needs to.

III. Objections to God becoming Man: Having laid out our guidelines, let us begin by outlining some objections to God’s becoming man. By stoking the fire so to speak, we can begin to get into the meat of the question.

There are four basic objections to God becoming man. The first is that it seems to be unfitting for God to become man, to stoop down to the lowliness of man who is hemmed in among the lowest creatures. For God is highly exalted above all things in Heaven. The spirit of this objection is good because it wishes to preserve the majesty of God. It is true that God in His Divine nature cannot become tangled up or marred by creation. He is above and infinitely different than His creation.

The second objection has to do with the universality of salvation and what the Bible means when it says that Jesus died for ‘all’. One version of the objection highlights the salvation of those before Christ. It states that if God had to become man in order to save men, then—men existing before the Incarnation—it appears that God ought to have been Incarnate from the beginning of the world. In this objection, it seems that all those men proceeding the incarnation were left out of salvation. Keep in mind that this objection does not address those outside of the ‘means’ of salvation, i.e. baptism. This problem (the necessity of Baptism for Salvation) will be addressed more in the next topic: On the Church.

The third objection looks at the oddity of death, a privation and evil, satisfying for sin and bringing about salvation and eternal happiness, a good. The objection is fourfold: (1) only God’s grace can cleans man of sin, not death or anything else; (2) God cannot satisfy for those who have sinned, for in His justice every one shall bear his own burden; (3) Sin is not expiated by Sin, that is the sin of those who crucified Jesus causing His ‘death’ can not satisfy for sin; and (4) if death was required for the satisfaction of sin, then the Incarnation must die for each man that is saved, dying over and over again. Now, some of these objections seem ridiculous and indeed they are, but they are useful for getting us thinking.

The fourth and final set of objections has to do specifically with satisfying for original sin, not just the particular sins committed by each man. The objections are threefold: (1) if man could not save himself, then how does Christ’s death as a man satisfy for sin; (2) if Jesus died for us, saving us from original sin, then why do we continue to suffer the punishments of sin after baptism; and (3) if Christ’s death remitted man of all sin, then why must further absolution of sin need to be sought, or why go to confession if Christ died for our sins on the cross? This set of objections gets very messy and will begin to draw some distinctions we will use in our talk on the Church, since in the response to these objections highlights the division between the different Christian faiths.

We will not refute these objections at this point, but we will come back to fight them after we have honed our skills and armed ourselves with a better understanding of the Incarnation.

IV. St. Anselm: Here we will be following St. Anselm, a Benedictine Monk writing in the 9th and 10th century. He is what we in the Church call a Church Doctor, a title given to writings, which are recognized by the Church to be authoritative in matters of faith and morals. Though such writings do not hold the same weight that scripture or a papal decree, there is a certain weight to them. St. Thomas Aquinas, who we followed yesterday in our discussion on the existence of God, is another such Church Doctor, and there are many more.

St. Anselm develops in a work called Cur Deus Homo a syllogism to prove the necessity of the Incarnation. Ultimately, the Incarnation is not necessary and we will get into this at some length later on, yet as will be shown, the Incarnation is the most fitting way for God to save man. Fitting in so far as it was not necessary, but that it was the best way for God to have done this. Any other means seems less noble than the way that salvation was accomplished.

V. The Syllogism: So what then is the syllogism?

1. The end of Man’s nature towards which God created Man is happiness

2. Every nature must be capable of reaching its end, for God does not create to frustration, that is God does not (cannot) create something that is deficient.

a. In the case of Man, God has created a being, which is dependent on His grace for Happiness. In other words, Man cannot reach his end alone. He needs God.

b. This understanding still follows our dictum (man must reach his end), since man was originally created in a state of grace by which he could achieve happiness. And indeed he was happy.

c. Therefore, we are dependent on some other thing (grace) to reach our end as appointed by our nature, however, God has promised that we shall always have in a sufficient amount that which we need to reach our end.

d. His grace is always sufficient before and after the fall.

3. Yet, man has sinned, thwarting man’s ability to reach his end.

a. Sin removes man from a state of Grace in which man is capable of reaching true happiness.

b. Sin renders man incapable of achieving his own end.

4. What is sin? Sin is not rendering to God what is due (justice). What is due to God?—every wish of man (rational creature), i.e. the subjugation of man’s will to God’s.

5. Thus by sinning, man incurs a debt, which he owes to God and must be repaid.

a. After the sin of Adam, the universe is thrown into a state of disarray, because justice was not served. Remember God is justice.

b. The universe being out of order (the debt being due), there must be some reparation or satisfaction by which the universe is restored to order (order being the fulfillment of justice).

c. It is not right for the universe to remain in disorder for the rest of eternity (God’s justice remains unfulfilled)

6. Who should pay the debt?—the one who incurred the debt, Man.

a. The debtor must make the payment, especially in this case when the will, not a monetary or material thing needs to be paid.

b. No one can make an act of the will on your behalf—is that right? (Baptism)

c. Can only make an act of the will which is efficacious for another if it has been preordained to be so. Sacraments, Contract or Covenantal Theory.

7. Can man pay the debt?—No, because to render what is due to God is to do what is required for the present time and can never make up for the offense.

a. The payment must be supererogatory, that is over and above the current justice being owed.

b. Example: debtor paying off a loan in payments, which max out his income, yet he has fallen behind.

8. Yet, as we said, the debt must be paid. So who pays?—God, and He must do so out of His justice as a man because man must pay the debt. Therefore, God becomes man, God-man.

And there we have the syllogism for why God had to become man in order to save man, or make it possible for man to achieve salvation again after the fall. A debt was incurred through sin, which must be paid off by man, the offender. Yet, man cannot pay the debt, therefore, only God can as a man, the God-man.

VI. Response to Objections in sec. I

1. Unfitting—man being connected to God and directed towards God Himself through the intellect, what was proper to each nature was preserved, so that nothing of the excellence of the divine nature was lost, nor was there an exaltation which drew the human nature beyond the bounds of its species; assumed nature not stooped divinity.

2. Universality of Salvation

a. One must receive the remedy against sin only after he first acknowledges his failure, so that man in his lowliness, not relying on himself, may put his hope in God by whom alone sin can be healed.

b. Likewise, God left man to himself to realize his inequality of knowledge (pre-law) and of virtue (under the law). Thus there are three steps of the human race: before the law; under the law; and under grace.

c. The condition of the human person requires that it be not led immediately to the perfect, but that it be led by the hand through the imperfect so as to arrive at perfection (childhood).

d. This [the incarnation] did take place when, because of the promises and testimonies that had gone before, the minds of men were disposed the more readily to believe Him who had had envoys before Him, and the more eagerly to receive Him because of the previous promises.

3. Death

a. Although the grace of God suffices…the remission of sin requires something on the part of him whose sins are remitted; namely, that he satisfy the one offended. And since other men were unable to do this for themselves, Christ did this for all by suffering a voluntary death out of charity.

b. In satisfaction, we consider the charity and benevolence of him who makes satisfaction and this is most especially appears when one assumes the penalty of another.

c. As much as the person is higher, by so much is the penalty he bears reckoned for more. Thus the death of Christ was sufficient for the expiation of all sins.

4. Original Sin

a. Dignity of the person of the Son of God (humanity); Christ is the new Adam. (Christ is the cause of salvation just as the first man was a kind of cause of damnation by introducing death and sin into the world)

b. Why effects of original sin remain?

i. It was fitting to His faithful first to undergo the sufferings and so to arrive at immortality, bearing in themselves, so to say, the marks of the passion of Christ, in order to achieve a likeness to His glory.

ii. The newly found life of immortality and impossibility would render the merit of faith diminished.

c. The effect of the death of Christ comes to each one in a spiritual regeneration in which the man is somehow conjoined with Christ and incorporated into Him. And for this reason each must seek to be regenerated through Christ, and must himself undertake to do those things in which the power of Christ’s death operates (Sacraments).

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Theology as a Science

This is an introductory talk I gave for a class I am teaching at my home parish, St. Martin de Porres. It is a very quick exposition on the nature of Theology or Sacred Doctrine and why it is properly called a science. It follow to a ‘t’ the first several question of St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica with a little of my own embelishments. Hope you enjoy the post. Comments welcome, please.

Good evening ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the first of a three night series I am calling: Theology 101—a crash course. I thank you for coming and hope you enjoy the evening of theological and philosophic discourse. It should be fun.

Tonight the subject of inquiry is the relationship between faith and reason, and whether or not God’s existence can actually be proved. And though we will get into this with some vigor, I wish to give a quick exposition on the nature of Theology. In other words before we delve into the vast depths of theological discourse, let us first ask ourselves what Theology actually is.

I. Theology as Science: Seemingly a self-evident answer—‘the-ology’: the study of God—the answer is a bit more complicated. For if theology is supposed to be the study of God, how does one go about studying God? Again, the answer is obvious, is it not? Read the Bible, compare interpretations and come to some conclusions—your typical bible study. Yet, contrary to popular opinion, this is only a small part of the entirety of Theology. Yes, the Bible is fundamental to Theology, but there is some ‘ground work’ so to speak that has to be done in order to understand the Bible correctly. Not to mention a whole realm of theological knowledge that can be founded solely on natural reason. If this seems odd, that is okay. Bear with me.

Theology, or Sacred Doctrine, is a science just like chemistry, physics or math. How can this be? Well, what is a science? Science draws from principles—that are securely founded on basic truths—new knowledge through a strict scientific method, and unites the whole in a closed system. Take for example Architecture, which draws up plans and blue prints based on a set of securely founded truths as demonstrated in Geometry or Mathematics. In the same way, Theology reasons in a strict way from those basic truths of Divine Revelation, coming up with proofs for different theological conclusions (much of this presentation follows Ludwig Ott's Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma). In much the same way, the science of Architecture and Theology are working on the same project by building up from the foundation a new and truth filled structure in which we can live and dwell.

In this way, Architecture and Theology are ‘lower’ sciences, proceeding from the principles set by a ‘higher’ science, i.e. Geometry and Mathematics or Revelation. This is not to say that Architecture and Theology are less important than Geometry or Mathematics. It is, rather, that Architecture and Theology build upon a foundation, a set of truths, laid down by a ‘higher’ science such as Mathematics and Geometry or Revelation. These ‘higher’ sciences are guided respectively by Reason and Faith (Reason illuminated by Faith). These guiding principles (or guiding lights) allow us to set up and validate certain basic truths: Reason validates the rules and principles of the natural sciences (Math, Geometry, etc…) and Faith validates the sources of Revelation (the Bible and Tradition). From these basic truths, the ‘lower’ sciences (Architecture and Theology) reason and deduce new conclusions through a strict method, unifying the ‘higher’ truths into greater closed systems of thought.

This ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ understanding of the sciences is not to be confused with which science is the most noble. The nobility of the sciences has to do with the worth of the resulting knowledge (speculative) and the end to which the science is ordained (practical). In other words, nobility deals with the hierarchy of the knowledge gained by the science and the purpose of the knowledge gained, rather than the sources of its subject matter. Fittingly, Theology is the most noble, for not only it is better to have one small bit of theological knowledge than knowledge of the entire world, but its knowledge is also directed towards eternal happiness, the highest of all purposes.

II. Natural and Supernatural Theology: Having properly located Theology in its relation to the other fields of study or sciences, now we can look at the content of Theology itself. There are two kinds of Theology: Natural and Supernatural. That is what can be known about God through reason, otherwise known as the culmination of philosophy—Natural Theology. And what can be known about God through reason illuminated by the Light of Faith—Supernatural Theology. There are three main differences between these two realms of theology. The first we have already hinted at, that is ‘the Principle of Cognition’. ‘The Principle of Cognition is which Light we are guided by in our investigation of God: the Light of Reason (Natural Theology) or the Light of Reason illuminated by Faith (Supernatural Theology). The second difference is closely related to the first and that is ‘the Means of Cognition’, that is what medium we use to investigate God: created things (Natural Theology) or divine revelation (Supernatural Theology). The third and last difference is called ‘the Formal Object of the science’, or one might say the subject of study. In either case ‘the formal object’ is God, but in Natural Theology we study God as creator and Lord of the universe, while in Supernatural Theology we study God as one and three, the Triune God.

The important aspect of this distinction between Natural and Supernatural Theology will be more apparent later on in our discussion; however, it can already be seen quite well. If I can know through the light of unaided human reason that God exists, then God’s existence is a logical conclusion, which can be arrived at through the study of created things (Natural Theology). Yet there is a limitation. In this case, God would be known as Creator and Lord, but not as Triune, the God in which we Christians believe (Supernatural Theology). Again, this will become more apparent later, but I thought I should give you a preview of where we are going.

III. Fields of Theology: Now, before we get into the proofs for the existence of God, one last aspect of Theology has to be cleared up. And that is the differing fields of Theology and their methods. I hinted at this earlier in the opening and in the chart, but I will now explicate these with greater clarity.

There are three basic fields of theology: (1) Dogmatic or Fundamental Theology; (2) Biblical-Historical Theology; and (3) Practical Theology. Dogmatic Theology is what we will primarily be doing in this class and in involves using human reason to penetrate the content and the context of the supernatural and natural systems of truth. It is heavily steeped in Philosophy, Theologies handmaiden, and gets quite speculative. Biblical-Historical Theology has several subfields if you will, which are: Biblical Introduction, Hermeneutics, Exegesis; Church History, History of Dogmas, History of Liturgy, Church Legal History, and Patrology. As you can see, this field is heavily steeped in scripture and is typically practiced in Bible studies. Lastly, Practical Theology is the application of those truths found in the other fields to practical day-to-day life. It includes Moral Theology, Church Law, Pastoral Theology, as well as Catechetics and Homiletics. It should be noted that although there are differing fields of Theology that one can specialize in, one is not, however, to specialize in a field to the exclusion of the others. As our Pope so rightly mentions, proper Theological Inquiry involves the integration of all three fields of study.

IV. Methods of Theology: Lastly within these differing fields there are three methods of doing theology: (1) Positive Theology; (2) Speculative or Scholastic Theology; and (3) Negative Theology. Positive Theology is the study of God from the doctrines proposed to the faithful by Scripture, Revelation and Tradition. In a way, it is a deduction from certain teachings of the Church to new conclusions.

Speculative Theology is the application of reason (usually Philosophical principles) to the particular contents of faith, teasing out a greater understanding of the mysteries. In other words, one takes a Philosophical principle from another tradition, say Chinese, and tries to see if a greater understanding of our Faith can be attained through it, all the while staying faithful to the proper understanding of our Faith. The idea is that Truth is such regardless of its form. And other truths from differing traditions can be properly incorporated into our understanding of the Faith. As St. Augustine says, these truths possessed by other traditions are to be retaken, or re-conquered, as lost treasures, restoring them to their rightful place in the Faith.

Lastly, Negative Theology is in a sense the stripping of man’s understanding of God from man’s understanding of God. Knowing that anything we say about God is finite and thus ultimately falls short of a proper understanding of God, since He is an infinite being, Negative Theologians look to negate and wipe away all improper understandings of God, leaving a more ineffable (or inarticulate mystical) understanding of God. In this way, Negative theology is much like a sculptor, removing all of the marble that is in the way of the proper image of God. Again, any proper investigation of Theology must include in some way all three methods, for without the integration of all three each one has an impoverished understanding of the Faith.

The New Knights of Columbus Policy Controversy

Having read the letter and several critiques, I found myself unsatisfied with both sides. The Knight (it seems to me) are emphasizing the wrong aspects of their reasoning, creating ‘straw man’ arguments as one critic says, while the critics are attacking wholesale the Knights lack of courage in the matter by defaulting to the Clergy to make such decisions. Both of these critiques miss the mark.

A proper understanding needs to be based on the essence of the actual policy, which is as follows:

A subordinate council may not impose fraternal discipline with respect to a public figure's official actions on matters pertaining to faith and morals. Rather, any such discipline must be made by or at the direction of the Supreme Board of Directors, which will consider the prudence of addressing the conduct of the public figure in light of the overall good of the Order.

The essence of the policy, as I see it, is the hierarchy of authority within the organization itself. In other words, the K of C leadership does not want some local council making some bone head decision, going on a ‘witch hunt’ and removing any member who can be remotely associated with pro-choice or gay rights movements. This is because, as the Knights rightly say, each local council is a representation of the Order and in making such decisions, a local council will affect the entire Order. The scope of such decisions being understood, it is not a mystery as to why the K or C leadership wants to make such decisions for the Order as a whole.

It is apparent, however, that the position the K of C leadership holds in relation to dismissing or suspending members of the Order is one that is connected to the Clergy in a very concrete way. For it is stated that:

The Order must be sensitive to the role of the bishops, with whom we stand in solidarity. If the public figure's bishop has not excommunicated him for his public positions on issues relating to matters of faith and morals, it would be highly inappropriate for the Knights of Columbus to do so.

This being the case, it is my understanding that this position is just that a position, not an actually policy for the K of C. I say this because of the wording and the placement within the documents itself. It is stated more as a suggestive statement within the section of the letter outlining the reasoning for their new policy. It is certainly the case that the Knights of Columbus think it right and proper to dismiss members who are excommunicated from the Church. It does not seem from these statements, however, that a K of C member who has not been excommunicated from the Church cannot be dismissed or suspended from the Order. Rather, that such action would be highly inappropriate for the Knights if done by a local council without proper consultation of the K of C leadership and the local Clergy. Such a policy appears to me to be extremely prudential and wise, hoping to avoid scandal and improper use of the Orders authority.

Let me iterate here that I might be tweaking the proper understanding of the new policy, for there is much interpretation to be had here, since the policy is pretty vague (much like Cannon Law, which requires much commentary for understanding). Yet, if this understanding, which I have outlined, holds, then what the opponents have been arguing against is not the policy itself, but how the K of C leadership intends to carry it out. Furthermore, the criticism would then be directed at the leadership themselves, rather than the Rule of the Order. In other words, the way I see it is that those opposed to the latest statements by the Knights think that there is a people problem, not an organizational problem.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

St. Anselm in the Summa

Making my way through deep dark caverns of the Summa preparing for a class I am teaching on the existence of God, I ran across what seems to be St. Anselm’s proof for the existence of God. Though not altogether strange, since Thomas cites many arguments from other thinkers in his work, the proof shows up in a rather odd place, as the second objection in the article on Whether the Existence of God is Self-Evident. Why would St. Anselm’s proof for the existence of God be an objection to Aquinas’ understanding of God existence not being self-evident?

If you are not familiar with St. Anselm’s proof, allow me to give a quick review. The argument is short although hard to wrap your head around. The proof goes somewhat like this:

The teacher asks the fool (non-believer or atheist): “Would you not agree that the idea of God is ‘that-which-nothing-greater-can-be-conceived’?”

Fool responds: “If such a God does exists, I would have to admit that He would have to be ‘that-which-nothing-greater-can-be-conceived’.”

Teacher asks again: “Would it not also be the case that whatever exists in actually and mentally is greater than that which merely exists mentally?”

Fool responds: “I find no quarrel with your statement.”

Teacher asks a third time: “Then, by agreeing to my definition of God and conceiving of it merely in your mind (but not in actuality), would you not be holding yourself in contradiction, since you could conceive of this idea also existing in actuality, making it greater than ‘that-which-nothing-greater-can-be-conceived’ as merely held mentally.”

At this point in the proof, the fool is trapped in contradiction. Having understood the word ‘God’ as ‘that-which-nothing-greater-can-be-conceived’ mentally, it must then follow that ‘God’ as such must also exist in actuality. The key here is that inherent in the definition of God is existence itself. This is the point of contention for most modern analytical critiques of this proof, believing that St. Anselm has defined God into existence, rather than proved His existence. Yet this is the point, since St. Anselm only intended this ‘proof’ as a mental exercise to wrap one’s mind around the true essence of God (His omnipotence). This can only be done through the eyes of faith. Thus, St. Anselm’s dictum: fides quaerens intellectum (Faith Seeking Understanding).

The question then remains, why is Aquinas using this proof as a claim on God’s existence being self-evident. Not citing St. Anselm directly here, St. Thomas seems to be refuting those who use the proof in a different way than was originally intended. Thomas admits in his reply that if the person understands God to mean that-which-nothing-greater-can-be-conceived, it must then follow that God actually exists. It is not the case, however, that all people understand and will admit to God being such.

For St. Thomas a proposition is self-evident when its predicate is included in the essence of the subject as ‘Man is an animal,’ for animal is contained in the essence of man (Summa Ia Q. 1 art. 1). Thus, certain propositions will be self-evident to some, while not to others as with the learned and the un-learned. For example: if one did not know the essence (or definition) of a man, it would not be self-evident that man is an animal. Yet after learning the essence of a man, it would then be self-evident that man is an animal.

In the same way, God’s essence is His existence (predicate is included in the subject), making His existence self-evident, but only to those who through the eyes of faith understand God to be such. It is this understanding of God as ‘that-which-nothing-greater-can-be-conceived’ that the non-believer would deny. This is why in the proof it was essential for the fool to admit to the teacher’s definition of God as such. Moreover, this understanding of God is not held by all, and thus cannot be held as universally self-evident.

God is, then, not self-evident, unless of course one admits through the eyes of faith that God is ‘that-which-nothing-greater-can-be-conceived’. In this case, God must exist, and indeed he does. Aquinas it seems is critiquing the proof here in order to reveal the original understanding of the proof, an understanding that St. Anselm most certainly intended. That is, a proof only through the eyes of the believer. Therefore, we say faith seeks understanding or as St. Augustine says, “I believe so that I may understand.”

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Since dialogue most certainly takes two, I would like to welcome Paul Bechter, Seminarian of the Diocese of Dallas, as a Co-Author! Paul is a good friend and has been a great interlocutor in many theological discussions at seminary. We agree on quite a bit, but as will probably show up in our writings, we each have our own particular approach to theological discourse.

Paul’s addition will also provide a multi-cultural aspect to this blog since he is from Bermuda. That’s right. He is a foreigner. I will let him explain how he ended up as a seminarian in Dallas.

Anyways, we (Paul and I) look forward to posting and keeping a somewhat sophisticated level of theological discourse. We hope you enjoy.

Relictis Omnibus Secuti Sunt Eum

Although this isn’t quite the best time to start a blog since I am leaving for Guatemala in two weeks, nevertheless I have decided to begin somewhat of a theological journal. I hope to share my findings and thoughts as I advance in my studies as a seminarian for the Diocese of Austin. However, it must be noted that in no way am I speaking on behalf of or in the name of the Diocese in this blog. This is merely a private investigative journal into the mysteries of the faith. I hope you will enjoy.

The title of this blog is somewhat obscure, yet relevant. St. Peter is my confirmation saint and has been a huge influence on my discernment. His example continues to be an inspiration to me. Thus, I chose as the title of this blog from the fifth chapter of Luke’s Gospel the words: “Relictis omnibus, secuti sunt eum—Having left everything, they [the disciples] followed Him.” This line concludes the famous fishers of men passage when Jesus commanded Peter to cast his nets into the sea. Peter’s humility in this passage is particularly moving when he says: “Exi a me, quia homo peccator sum, DomineDepart from me, who am a sinful man, Lord.” In many ways, I think all of us who have joined seminary feel this way when confronted with the grace of God in His calling. Yet as our Lord responds to Peter: “Noli timere—Do not fear.” I find much comfort in these words. Indeed, the late Pope John Paul ‘the great’ did as well, repeating them often when he spoke to the youth.

It is this connection to the first disciples in particular Peter that makes the Faith so alive to me. The struggles, thoughts, and trials that the saints went through are the same and continue to be the same for the faithful today. Thus we find comfort in their example, conquering through the grace of God sin and death, finding ultimate life and happiness with Him. So as I undertake my journey towards the priesthood (God willing), I attempt to do the same thing the apostles did: leave everything and follow him.