Category Archives: Philosophy

Governments, democracy, and the Truth

Yesterday, we had a relatively good sermon about Catholics and the government. The main theme was a Catholics responsibility towards government is trumped by a Catholics responsibility towards God.

Yet two (philosophical) points formed in my mind as I was listening:

Can we still speak about the government as an external reality in a democracy??
In a representational democracy (or an indirect democracy) am I not the government in the act of voting?? (Allow me to remind everyone that Australia is a constitutional monarchy.) Jesus’ point still stands but it needs to be adapted to a modern situation. Conversion includes a desire for a just society! 

My point is that our vote counts! No more voting along party line but along issue lines!

Is the government really interested in truth?? Or just in freedom??
I think this is a central philosophical point. The recent debate in Victoria had little to do with truth but had a lot to do with freedom. Maybe naively we assume that people are interested in truth? I think the modern mind assumes that truth is the outcome of an act that has been undertaken freely. 

That does not mean we adopt a modern world-view and assume truth is unimportant. But it means we need to evangelize people into the idea of truth being important in their life! We need to proclaim again that there are objective guiding principles to life.

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Analogy: Obedience

Obedience (to the Church) is like medicine.

One does not take medicine for the pleasure but for the effect. The medicine is not an end in itself but a means to an end. The act of taking is an expression of the believe that the medicine can have the desired effect.

Obedience is not an end in itself but the expression of a deeper reality. Obedience is the outward expression of the believe that the Holy Spirit works through the Church.

Not perfect, I know, but what analogy is. So the post is more personal but I thought I would throw it out there.

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Reference Point: a suggestion

I have recently discussed the use of Sola Scriptura as a reference point for ecumenical apologetics. I do not think that a narrow Biblicistic attitude is helpful in exploring the differences that still separate us. I also think that it is most unhelpful to accuse each other of all sorts of heresies and prophesy eternal calamities. So it falls to me to suggest another Reference Point.

So my suggestion as a Reference Point are the three commonly accepted symbols of the Faith:

  1. The Apostles’ Creed
  2. The Nicene Creed
  3. The Athanasian Creed

There are some issues (filique etc) but these are commonly accepted statements of faith that have a continuity of use.

What do you think?

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Some logical considerations

I am not the most logical of people, neither do I have any academic training in logic. Yet,I have been musing on the line of arguement sometimes used for the Extraordinary Usage (which, by the way, I have nothing against):

All Norvus Ordo Masses / Parishes are stuffed.
Ipso facto, all TLM (even outside of Communion) Masses / Parishes are okay.

My concern is that in the above one needs only to find one Norvus Ordo Mass / Parish that is not stuffed. (Unless one, of course, considers the use of the Norvus Ordo in itself to be invalid. In that case, one would not be a Catholic!) Yet one needs to show that all TLM Masses / Parishes are beyond reproach. It is a dangerous game to play: is there never ever any departure from the rubrics within communities that use the Extraordinary Usage exclusively? Are all Extraordinary Usage Masses done according to the 1962 Missal with solid sermons and sound Catholic teaching?

It brings me back to an issue I have raised before: why have the Extraordinary Usage?

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Defining Traditionalism

Finish the sentence: Traditionalism is ….

Here is my attempts (trying to cover quite a few religious traditions and seeing the term as primarily derogative) that are not all serious:

  1. …. a worldview where the perceived defined self-identity of a community is being changed by shifting ways of expressing and interpreting that same self-identity.
  2. …. an attitude defined by ‘new’ bad, ‘old’ good.
  3. …. old people who hanker for the good old days.
  4. …. what the religious leaders did and taught when I was growing up.
  5. …. what I say it is so just leave me alone.
  6. …. for those who cover up their ignorance with a religious reason.

Further, is biblicism and fundamentalism a form of Protestant traditionalism??

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Filed under Philosophical Theology, Philosophy

The “I” and “we” discussion

Here is something I found in the Code of Canon Law in relation to the I/We discussion:

212 §3 [The Christian faithful] have the right, indeed at times the duty, in keeping with their knowledge, competence and position, to manifest to the sacred Pastors their views on matters which concern the good of the Church. They have the right also to make their views known to others of Christ’s faithful, but in doing so they must always respect the integrity of faith and morals, show due reverence to the Pastors and take into account both the common good and the dignity of individuals.

I will the practical workings-out of the above for someone else to explain!

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The sciences and epistemology

Even the sciences are vulnerable to dishonesty at precisely the point where one least expects it – quantitative analysis. For eleven years John Bailar (chair of the department of epidemiology and biostatistics at McGill University) served as statistics consultant to The New English Journal of Medicine, during which time he reviewed nearly four thousand articles. He chronicles how scientists practice deliberate deception through the selective reporting of data – their version of half-truths. They accomplish this, for example, by failing to inform readers of the weak spots in their data, selecting data in ways biased to their own interests, failing to give credit to earlier work or placing reliable data in a context that causes readers to draw misleading (usually optimistic) conclusions about the success and significance of the project being reported.

W. Jay Wood
Epistemology: Becoming Intellectually Virtuous.

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Speculative vs practical reason in theology

I am reading Philosophical Introduction to Theology by J. Deotis Roberts. The blurb on the back of the book states that he was (he is no longer listed on their website) the Professor of Philosophical Theology at Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. So he is a Protestant Philosophical Theologian – a most rare of creatures.

In the Introduction he states :

I could also refer this section of the introduction as the hermeneutical role of philosophy in the theological task. … Throughout Christian history, philosophy has assumed the role of interpretation by which theologians have done their most profound work.

I like the quote as it states one side of the role of philosophy well. Reflect on what he is saying about philosophy (and hence human reason) in the above quote! Is reason here speculative or practical?

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Here is something I stumbled across:

I suggest that the use of proof-texts is a manifestation of laziness and the desire to get something for nothing.

From Facing the Proof Text Method by Henry E. Neufeld (who I do not think is a well known theologian of any denomination but I rejoice in Truth no matter who said it!)

The immediate context is a discussion of biblical hermeneutics. Yet, having just received a new copy of Denzinger’s Sources of Catholic Dogma, I think the same could be said about neo-scholasticism.

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Adjectival Theology

I have read a lot of theology lately and I have noticed something: why do we use adjectives and adjectival phrases when talking about the Faith? Do we need adjectives when we speak about the Faith? As a part-time philosopher, I wonder: do these accidents create a new ontological reality? Or to put it more in a scholastic framework: can language express truth?

Let me explain. An adjective is

… a word whose main syntactic role is to modify a noun or pronoun (called the adjective’s subject), giving more information about what the noun or pronoun refers to.

So an adjective modifies the noun. It changes it in some way. It opens up the noun and gives new meaning to the noun. Is this the same as accidents in Aristotle’s Metaphysics? Does the way we speak about something change the object?

So why do we use:

  • Evangelical Catholic
  • Traditional Catholic
  • Neo-conservative Catholic
  • Charismatic Catholic
  • Vatican II Catholic
  • Anglican Catholic

I have heard all of the above being used recently. Are not all the adjectives inherent in the noun? (With the exception of Anglican maybe?) So why use them? What I find even harder to understand is why do we use adjectival phrases such as these:

  • The Faith as we understand it.
  • The Faith in its Anglican expression.
  • The Faith once delivered to the saints.

Do not these modify the noun Faith to make it a new reality? The definite article makes the adjectival phrase even harder to understand. Is it just a way to escape an accusation of arrogance?

So my basic question remains: Why do we feel the need to use adjectives and adjectival phrases in theological discourse?

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