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Showing posts from August, 2011

Light from Copleston on Augustine’s View of Faith and Reason

Frederick Copleston’s collection of books on the History of Philosophy are an important tool for any student of philosophy or Theology.In volume 2, part 1, where he talks about Medieval Philosophy Copleston gives an introduction to Augustine’s philosophical and theological thought. In two earlier posts I discussed the relation between faith and reason, from the perspective of Augustine, as well as from the perspective of Aquinas. Copleston has this to say about Augustine’s view of man and of the relation between  faith and reason.
“In short, Augustine did not play two parts, the part of the theologian and the part of the philosopher who considers the ‘natural man’; he thought rather of man as he is in concrete, fallen and redeemed mankind, man who is able indeed to attain truth but who is constantly solicited by God’s grace and who requires grace in order to appropriate the truth that saves. If there was question of convincing someone that God exists, Augustine would see the proof as a …

Is Abortion Morally Right or Wrong?

One of the most debated questions today is whether or not abortion is morally acceptable, and, if it is, until what stage in the development of the substance which is created by the fertilization of a human egg by a human sperm? (I will be using, as much as possible, the term substance created by human fertilization, rather than the less morally neutral terms such as: human baby, human fetus, etc. This will not be satisfactory for those who are pro-life activists, who will probably say that I’m giving too much to the pro-choice activists. Please forgive me for this; if someone so desires, they may read baby, or human fetus into the text, it won’t change the effect of the argument.) I would like to advance the following argument, based upon the progress that we have made so far (See: What it means to be a Human Person, parts 1-13). The following argument seems to demonstrate that abortion, from the moment of fertilization onward, is pre-meditated murder (Pre-meditated murder is defined…

Modern Movies and an Ancient Critic

Frederick Copleston, in his exposition of Aristotle's theory of Aesthetics, makes an interesting comment which is all too applicable to modern films.

    He says,

   "The getting-up of the mise en scène is 'more a matter for the costumier than for the poet.' It is a pity that Aristotle's words on this matter have not been heeded in later times. Elaborate scenery and spectacular effect are poor substitutes for plot and character-drawing."[1]


    It is an unfortunate fact that many, if not most, modern films put more emphasis on the visual effects then on the plot and the development of character. It is, perhaps, a sign of the moral and intellectual depravity of our age, that people in general are seeking bigger and flashier, rather than artistic and moral excellence, both in the message of the art and in the presentation of the art.
[1]Frederick Copleston, Greece & Rome, part 2, in A History of Philosophy (1946; repr., Garden City, NY: Image Books, 1962)…

The State of "the Mind" in the Church

I recently came across an interesting blog posting by Randall Smith called Thinking in Church and with the Church. To read the full posting follow this link. I will quote some interesting thoughts below.
    "Theology is about growing in your understanding of the faith.  And growing in your understanding of the faith is an important part of what it means to have a living faith.  First of all, you need to know what you believe in order to say you believe at all.   Consider how odd would it be if, hearing a person repeat over and over: “I believe; I really, really believe,” you asked: “That’s interesting; what do you believe?” – and the only response the person could give was: “I don’t know, but I know I really believe.”   Living in the South, I hear a lot of Pentecostal preaching about the name of Jesus.  “Do you believe in Jee-zus?”  “Yes!,” the crowd shouts.  It would be more than a little embarrassing if a member of the congregation were asked: “Who is this Jesus?” and the re…

Thomas Aquinas on Faith

Thomas Aquinas, in the Summa Theologiae II-II, Question 2, addresses the question of faith. From the first article we can see that he follows in the footsteps of St. Augustine. The question that is addressed in the first article is “Whether to Believe is to Think with Assent?”[1] After considering 3 objections to the contrary, Aquinas answers, “On the contrary, This is how to believe is defined by Augustine.”[2] Aquinas goes on to elaborate Augustine’s definition by distinguishing between, three senses in which we use the word think. The first sense is the general sense and seems to imply, for Aquinas, knowledge, that is, the end of the thinking process. This sense is what is behind the affirmation “I think X.” X is a conclusion, an object of knowledge. Aquinas claims that if faith is to think with assent in this first sense, then even those objects of knowledge which have been gained through science must be said to be the objects of faith, which is ridiculous. Aquinas says, “If to th…

Faith and Reason: Is there a Conflict?

The relationship between faith and reason is, in our modern times, seen as a stressful relationship. Many people, having a religious bent, whether they be Christians or otherwise, seem to think that faith and reason are two archenemies, and that ultimately faith is the victor. On the other hand, many people who despise religion, holding to the same view of a war between faith and reason, think that reason will ultimately reign supreme. Belief, a synonym of faith, is treated with contempt by authors such as Valerie Tarico, who, in a recently published article treats belief as an anti-rational action that is applauded, primarily, by religious people.[1]
         Daniel Dennett, for example, in his book Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, talks a lot about belief without ever giving a precise definition of it. Reading through the book we can glean some hints at what he might mean by belief. He differentiates between what he calls “the faith of religious belief”,[2…

Inspiration from Augustine

This morning I came across a well-known prayer of Augustine, in the book Flame in the Mind by Michael Marshall (p. 18), which I find particularly interesting, and well worth sharing.

    "O God, you are the light of the minds that know you,
     The joy of the hearts that love you,
     And the strength of the wills that serve you.
     Grant us so to know you that we may truly love you;
     And so to love you that we may fully and freely serve you,
     Whose service is perfect freedom,
     In and through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

    This prayer reflects something which I have frequently taught in churches and youth groups. In order to truly love and truly serve God, one must first know God as much as he can be known by finite human minds.

Les Fins Humaines : La Base de la Moralité

Dans ma dernière publication sur le blog, j’ai parlé des fins et de la fin ultime de l’homme. Je voulais regarder plus en profondeur la question d’une fin pour démontrer que les jugements moraux sont basés sur la nature humaine et que les fins sont intrinsèques à cette nature.
J’ai dit antérieurement que la fin d’une chose est déterminée par sa nature. Alors dans cette publication, nous allons bâtir un argument, basé sur des définitions, qui va démontrer que la moralité humaine est basée sur sa nature. La nature d’une chose, selon Thomas d’Aquin, semblerait être l’essence d’une chose quand on la considère en fonction de sa propre fonction.[1] Étienne Gilson a dit ceci, « On sait d’ailleurs que, dans le sens Aristotelien, ‘nature’ est la source intérieure et directe de l’activité et des actions de n’importe quel être. »[2] Donc, on dit que l’essence d’un humain est animale rationnelle. Ceci inclus le genre – animal, et la différence – rationnelle. Un animal est un être composé de matièr…