31 July 2020 200731 junglefowl images
26 July 2020

Thomas Aquinas on the Goal of All Things

Each soul [referring to the vegetative, animal, and rational souls],” Thomas reminds us, has a primary goal—for the human soul what it understands to be good—which all its other goals serve.” Thomas further explains what the good is: The beauty and goodness of God to which all things, in their particular instantiations, try to embody to bring the cosmos and world we inhabit to fullness of life. God’s providence,” Thomas writes, orders everything to a goal—his own goodness; not as if what happens could expand that goodness in any way, but things are made to reflect and express it as much as possible.” Thomas’ cosmos is mystifying because it is a cosmos permeated with love, relationality, and attachment. Everything, ideally, moves together in a seamless waltz, an orchestra, an opera, of life and love which blossoms to produce a grand radiance reflecting the life, love, and beauty of the Trinity.

Paul Krause, Thomas Aquinas: Front Porch Cosmologist (Front Porch Republic, 20 May 2020).

Aquinas Cosmology Enchantment
26 July 2020

On Christian Writing

In writing this piece, I reached out to a Catholic writer I admire: Phil Klay, whose 2014 book of short stories, Redeployment, won the National Book Award. What, I asked him, made his writing Catholic, in content and form and subject matter?

The best writing, he responded, rejects the idea that the shape of the world can be easily explained away by reason alone,” or understood as a confederacy of isolated individual consciousness.” It takes seriously the understanding that evil is real, as are sin, redemption, atonement, and the soul. It does not allow itself the cheap comfort of despair, or utter cynicism. It accepts that we are fallen creatures in a world full of suffering, but that there is grace.”

Furthermore, he says, it thinks novelists who write as though the world is intelligible are silly. It thinks novelists who write as though human beings are intelligible are silly. It’s more terrifying, disorienting, forgiving, and challenging than either the bland humanism or strident politics than underlie many contemporary novels. It suspects that if you don’t have a bloody, beaten body dying in agony at the center of your symbolic system, you’re not playing the game right.

Tara Isabella Burton, Toward a Christian Aesthetics: Novel-Writing in an age of COVID (Breaking Ground, 15 July 2020).

Aesthetics Christian Writing Christian Aesthetics Arts Leisure
23 July 2020

Aristotle on Striving to Live as Immortals

We must not follow those who advise us, being men, to think of human things, and being mortal, of mortal things, but must, so far as we can, make ourselves immortal, and strain every nerve to live in accordance with the best thing in us; for even if it be small in bulk, much more does it in power and worth surpass everything.

Aristotle, Ethics 1177b33-78a3

22 July 2020

Confucius on Governing by Law and Punishment

[2-3] 子曰。道之以政、齊之以刑、民免而無恥。道之以德、齊之以禮、有恥且格。

[2:3] The Master said: If you govern the people legalistically and control them by punishment, they will avoid crime, but have no personal sense of shame. If you govern them by means of virtue and control them with propriety, they will gain their own sense of shame, and thus correct themselves.”

Confucius Government Law
18 July 2020

Blog Posts as Geological Strata

Geological Strata

One of the things that I used to be very worried about when blogging was thematic consistency. What was a blog if not a collection of posts on a certain topic or set of topics which were related in some way? This blog certainly has gone out of hand in that regard, with a mix of posts about drawing, theology, law, politics, and gaming.

I say used to be”, because I’ve given up on maintaining the purity of this blog. I’ve now come to realise that part of the fun of having a blog with variety is to see the blog as a cross-section of the interests I entertain at any given point in time. The recent few months have focused more on theology and the Bible, as I’ve been trying to get myself re-focused on the pursuit of God. Before that, there was a bit more on drawing and gaming, and before that, many more posts on law and politics. Each, of course, remains an interest, but in that sense, keeping this public record of posts is a good way of delving deeper into my own past.

18 July 2020

Bavinck on the Value of the Sacraments

[T]he sacraments have great value. Because we are not [disembodied] spirits but sensuous earthly creatures who can only understand spiritual things when they come to us in humanly perceptible forms, God instituted the sacraments in order that by seeing those signs we might gain a better insight into his benefits, receive a stronger confirmation of his promises, and thus be supported and strengthened in our faith. The sacraments do not work faith but reinforce it, as a wedding ring reinforces love. They do not infuse physical grace but confer the whole Christ, whom believers already possess by the Word. They bestow on them that same Christ in another way and by another road and so strengthen the faith. Furthermore, they renew the believers’ covenant with God, strengthen them in the communion of Christ, join them more closely to each other, set them apart from the word, and witness to angels and their fellow human beings, [showing] that they are the people of God, the church of Christ, the communion of the saints” (Reformed Dogmatics, vol 4, 489-490).

Herman Bavinck Theology Sacraments Church
18 July 2020

Calvin on Growth through the Church

John Calvin, Institutes 4.I.5.

We see how God, who could in a moment perfect his own, nevertheless desires them to grow up into manhood solely under the education of the church. We see the way set for it: the preaching of the heavenly doctrine has been enjoined upon the pastors. We see that all are brought under the same regulation, that with a gentle and teachable spirit they may allow themselves to be governed by teachers appointed to this function…

By this plan He willed of old that holy assemblies be held at the sanctuary in order that the doctrine taught by the mouth of the priest might foster agreement in faith…

But as he did not entrust the ancient folk to angels but raised up teachers from the earth truly to perform the angelic office, so also today it is his will to teach us through human means. As he was of old not content with the law alone, but added priests as interpreters from whose lips the people might ask its true meaning [cf. Mal. 2:7], so today he not only desires us to be attentive to its reading, but also appoints instructors to help us by their effort. This is doubly useful. On the one hand, he proves our obedience by a very good test when we hear his ministers speaking just as if he himself spoke. On the other, he also provides for our weakness in that he prefers to address us in human fashion through interpreters in order to draw us to himself, rather than to thunder at us and drive us away. Indeed, from the dread with which God’s majesty justly overwhelms them, all the pious truly feel how much this familiar sort of teaching is needed…

For, among the many excellent gifts with which God has adorned the human race, it is a singular privilege that he deigns to consecrate to himself the mouths and tongues of men in order that his voice may resound in them. Let us accordingly not in turn dislike to embrace obediently the doctrine of salvation put forth by his command and by his own mouth. For, although God’s power is not bound to outward means, he has nonetheless bound us to this ordinary manner of teaching. Fanatical men, refusing to hold fast to it, entangle themselves in many deadly snares. Many are led either by pride, dislike, or rivalry to the conviction that they can profit enough from private reading and meditation; hence they despise public assemblies and deem preaching superfluous. But, since they do their utmost to sever or break the sacred bond of unity, no one escapes the just penalty of this unholy separation without bewitching himself with pestilent errors and foulest delusions. In order, then, that pure simplicity of faith may flourish among us, let us not be reluctant to use this exercise of religion which God, by ordaining it, has shown us to be necessary and highly approved. No one—not even a fanatical beast—ever existed who would tell us to close our ears to God. But in every age the prophets and godly teachers have had a difficult struggle with the ungodly, who in their stubbornness can never submit to the yoke of being taught by human word and ministry. This is like blotting out the face of God which shines upon us in teaching. Believers were bidden of old to seek the face of God in the sanctuary [Ps. 105:4], as is oftentimes repeated in the law [Ps. 27:8; 100:2; 105:4; 1 Chron. 16:11; 2 Chron. 7:14] for no other reason than that for them the teaching of the law and the exhortations of the prophets were a living image of God, just as Paul asserts that in his preaching the glory of God shines in the face of Christ.

Theology John Calvin Church Preaching
18 July 2020

Psalm 122

I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the LORD!”
Our feet have been standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem!

Jerusalem—built as a city
that is bound firmly together,
to which the tribes go up,
the tribes of the LORD,
as was decreed for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the LORD.
There thrones for judgment were set,
the thrones of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
“May they be secure who love you!
Peace be within your walls
and security within your towers!”
For my brothers and companions’ sake
I will say, Peace be within you!”
For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,
I will seek your good.

7 June 2020

Bavinck on the Trinity

Some choice quotes on the Trinity this Trinity Sunday.

On the Trinity as a doctrine of the plenitude of life in God:

God’s fecundity is a beautiful theme, one that frequently recurs in the church fathers. God is no abstract, fixed, monadic, solitary substance, but a plenitude of life. It is his nature to be generative and fruitful. It is capable of expansion, unfolding, and communication. Those who deny this fecund productivity fail to take seriously the fact that God is an infinite fullness of blessed life. All such people have left is an abstract deistic concept of God, or to compensate for this sterility, in pantheistic fashion they include the life of the world in the divine being. Apart from the Trinity even the act of creation becomes inconceivable. For if God cannot communicate himself, he is a darkened light, a dry spring, unable to exert himself outward to communicate himself to creatures (Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol 2 at pp 308-309)

Trinitarian doctrine as a mediation between deism and polytheism:

[T]he doctrine of the Trinity makes God known to us as the truly living God. The church fathers already observed that this doctrine rejects the errors of, while absorbing the elements of truth inherent in, Deism and pantheism, monism and polytheism. Deism creates a vast gulf between God and his creatures, cancels out their mutual relatedness, and reduces God to an abstract entity, a pure being, to mere monotonous and uniform existence. It satisfies neither the mind nor the heart and is therefore the death of religion. Pantheism, though it brings God nearer to us, equates him with the created world, erases the boundary line between the Creator and the creature, robs God of any being or life of his own, thus totally undermining religion. But the Christian doctrine of the Trinity makes God known as essentially distinct from the world, yet having a blessed life of his own. God is a plenitude of life, an ocean of being.” He is not without offspring” (αγονος). He is absolute Being, the eternal One, who is and was and is to come, and in that way the ever-living and ever-productive One (Reformed Dogmatics, Vol 2, p 331).

On the centrality of the Trinity for the Christian’s understanding of the world:

The thinking mind situates the doctrine of the Trinity squarely amid the full-orbed life of nature and humanity. A Christian’s confession is not an island in the ocean but a high mountaintop from which the whole creation can be surveyed. And it is the task of Christian theologians to present clearly the connectedness of God’s revelation with, and its significance for, all of life. The Christian mind remains unsatisfied until all of existence is referred back the triune God, and until the confession of God’s Trinity function at the centre of our thought and life. (Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol 2, p 330)

Theology Herman Bavinck Trinity