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Table of contents :
List of Abbreviations
The Intellectual Context of Theological Philosophy
The Precursor: Pro-Theology Philosophy
The Project: Theological Philosophy
2 Pre-Conditions for Theological Philosophy
The First Condition: Prudence
The Second Condition: Justice
The Third Condition: Fortitude
The Fourth Condition: Temperance
Moral Virtue as Rationality
3 Necessary Conditions for Theological Philosophy
The First Condition: The Transcendent
The Second Condition: The Trinity
The Third Condition: The Incarnation
4 Christian Creedal Reasoning I: Creation and Fall
5 Christian Creedal Reasoning II: Redemption and Church
6 Sufficient Conditions for Theological Philosophy
The First Condition: Faith
The Second Condition: Hope
The Third Condition: Love
7 Consequences of Theological Philosophy
The Personal Power of Love (Prudence)
The Interpersonal Power of Love (Justice)
The Instructive Power of Love (Fortitude)
The Persuasive Power of Love (Temperance)
Moral and Theological Virtue
8 Towards a Trinitarian Philosophy
A Review of the Argument
‘The Seven Cardinal Virtues’ (stained glass, by Thomas Jervais, d. 1799). From left to right: temperance, fortitude, faith, charity, hope, justice, and prudence. © Courtesy of the Warden and Scholars of New College, Oxford/Bridgeman Images.
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Luminously clear, stunningly thought-provoking, wonderfully constructive—this work draws contemporary religious thought towards the very heart of reality, where existence and understanding and love are all one. Philosophers, theologians, and ethicists of many schools and many levels of expertise will be excited to behold something we all somehow knew must be so, but had never yet quite seen for ourselves. Mark A. McIntosh, Loyola University of Chicago, USA For much of the modern period, theologians and philosophers of religion have struggled with the problem of proving that it is rational to believe in God. Drawing on the thought of Thomas Aquinas, Theological Philosophy seeks to overturn the longstanding problem of proving faith’s rationality and to establish instead that rationality requires to be explained by appeals to faith. Building on a constructive argument developed in a companion book, Rationality as Virtue, Lydia Schumacher advances the conclusion that belief in the God of Christian faith provides an exceptionally robust rationale for rationality and is as such intrinsically rational. At the same time, Schumacher overcomes a common tendency to separate spiritual from ordinary life, and construes the latter as the locus of proof for the rationality of Christian faith.
Transcending Boundaries in Philosophy and Theology Series editors: Martin Warner, University of Warwick, UK Kevin Vanhoozer, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, USA Transcending Boundaries in Philosophy and Theology is an interdisciplinary series exploring new opportunities in the dialogue between philosophy and theology that go beyond more traditional ‘faith and reason’ debates and take account of the contemporary reshaping of intellectual boundaries. For much of the modern era, the relation of philosophy and theology has been conceived in terms of antagonism or subordination, but recent intellectual developments hold out considerable potential for a renewed dialogue in which philosophy and theology have common cause for revisioning their respective identities, reconceiving their relationship, and combining their resources. This series explores constructively for the twenty-first century the resources available for engaging with those forms of enquiry, experience and sensibility that theology has historically sought to address. Drawing together new writing and research from leading international scholars in the field, this high profile research series offers an important contribution to contemporary research across the interdisciplinary perspectives relating theology and philosophy. Also in this series Rationality as Virtue Towards a Theological Philosophy Lydia Schumacher Resurrection and Moral Imagination Sarah Bachelard Ways of Meeting and the Theology of Religions David Cheetham Placing Nature on the Borders of Religion, Philosophy and Ethics Edited by Forrest Clingerman and Mark H. Dixon
Theological Philosophy Rethinking the Rationality of Christian Faith
LYdIA SCHumACHEr University of Edinburgh, UK
First published 2015 by Ashgate Publishing Published 2016 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017, USA Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business Copyright © Lydia Schumacher 2015 Lydia Schumacher has asserted her right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. The Library of Congress has cataloged the printed edition as follows: Schumacher, Lydia. Theological philosophy : rethinking the rationality of Christian faith / by Lydia Schumacher. pages cm. -- (Transcending boundaries in philosophy and theology) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-1-4724-4262-8 (hardcover) -- ISBN 978-1-4724-4263-5 (ebook) -- ISBN 978-1-4724-4264-2 (epub) 1. Faith and reason--Christianity. 2. Philosophical theology. 3. Rationalism. I. Title. BT50.S3965 2016 231'.042--dc23 2015019018 ISBN: 978-1-472-44262-8 (hbk) ISBN: 978-1-315-55132-6 (ebk)
This work is dedicated to my father, Rev. Richard H. Schumacher, 11 November 1955–21 May 2011. In loving memory. With love and gratitude to my grandparents, Marvin and Marion Pollard.
Mater artium necessitas.
Acknowledgments List of Abbreviations
Introduction 1 The Intellectual Context of Theological Philosophy 3 The Precursor: Pro-Theology Philosophy 7 16 The Project: Theological Philosophy Endnotes21
Pre-Conditions for Theological Philosophy 27 27 The First Condition: Prudence The Second Condition: Justice 33 The Third Condition: Fortitude 41 The Fourth Condition: Temperance 45 47 Moral Virtue as Rationality Endnotes57
Necessary Conditions for Theological Philosophy 65 The First Condition: The Transcendent 68 The Second Condition: The Trinity 75 The Third Condition: The Incarnation 80 Endnotes89
Christian Creedal Reasoning I: Creation and Fall 95 Creation96 Fall101 Towards Redemption 107 Endnotes112
Christian Creedal Reasoning II: Redemption and Church 117 Redemption117 Church125 Ecumenical Reasoning 132 Inter-Creedal Reasoning 135 Conclusion137 Endnotes138
Sufficient Conditions for Theological Philosophy 143 The First Condition: Faith 143 The Second Condition: Hope 147 The Third Condition: Love 158 Endnotes159
Consequences of Theological Philosophy 163 164 The Personal Power of Love (Prudence) The Interpersonal Power of Love ( Justice) 166 The Instructive Power of Love (Fortitude) 167 The Persuasive Power of Love (Temperance) 171 Moral and Theological Virtue 176 Endnotes180
Towards a Trinitarian Philosophy A Review of the Argument
187 187 195 207
Many institutions and individuals have helped make it possible for me to bring this project to completion. First and foremost, I would like to express my gratitude to the British Academy, which awarded me a three-year research fellowship, during which I had the chance to work on this project; and to the University of Oxford Faculty of Theology and Religion and Oriel College, where I took up the fellowship. While writing this book, I also benefited from the support of colleagues at Wycliffe Hall, where I became Tutor in Doctrine in 2013. Finally, I am grateful for the time I had to complete this book during my first year in post at the University of Edinburgh School of Divinity. Over the years I worked on this project, I had many opportunities to present the ideas outlined in this book in different contexts, for example, through seminars at the Universities of Cambridge, Oxford, Durham, Edinburgh, and at the Aquinas Institute, Blackfriars Hall, Oxford. I am very grateful to those who invited me to speak in these and other contexts and for the feedback I received from seminar participants. I am especially grateful to the Dominicans at Blackfriars, many of whom proved extremely generous in terms of their willingness to discuss questions and ideas that arose over the years I was working intensively on the thought of Thomas Aquinas. In developing this project, I have had the great fortune and pleasure of working with an excellent editorial team, including Sarah Lloyd, David Shervington, and my desk editor, Lianne Tapscott, at Ashgate, and series editors Martin Warner and Kevin Vanhoozer. I am extremely grateful for all that the editors have done to support this work and bring it to the point of publication. In particular, I owe a special debt of gratitude to Martin Warner, who went above and beyond the call of duty, carefully reading multiple drafts and providing detailed comments that helped me significantly improve the final manuscript. In addition to the above, I would like to extend a special word of thanks to colleagues at Oxford University who advised me in different ways as I worked on this project, including George Pattison (now at Glasgow University), Graham Ward, and Simeon Zahl. Other colleagues have been so good as to provide general feedback on the overall project or specific feedback on certain aspects of it, including Frederick Christian Bauerschmidt, William Desmond,
Paul J. Griffiths, Matthew Levering, Sara Parvis, Rudi te Velde, Denys Turner, and Thomas Weinandy. Last but far from least, I wish to thank my grandparents, Marvin and Marion Pollard, for their enduring love, and for their example of faithfulness and faith. I have dedicated this book to my father, Rev. Richard H. Schumacher and have written it in his memory, as an inadequate token of my love and thankfulness for the way he modeled ‘theological philosophy’ before me throughout his life. I am especially grateful for the unfailing confidence he showed in me and the support he offered at every level, which eventually made it possible for me to write about what theological philosophy involves.
List of Abbreviations
The works of Aristotle are abbreviated as follows: EE EN
Eudemian Ethics Nichomachean Ethics
The works of Thomas Aquinas are abbreviated as follows: Comp. Theol. De Veritate De Ente ST
Compendium Theologiae Quaestiones Disputatae de Veritate De Ente et Essentia Summa Theologiae
All references to the Summa are derived from the respondeo portion of the text unless otherwise noted. In references to Aquinas’ Summa such as ST 1.1.2, ST 126.96.36.199, ST 188.8.131.52, or ST 3.1.1, the initial 1, 2.1, 2.2, or 3 represents the part number of the text, while subsequent numbers respectively indicate the article and question number.
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One of the most pressing problems theologians face today concerns the external perception of theology’s legitimacy as a discipline.1 By many accounts, the recent heightening of hostilities towards Christian faith has swept away the very assumption upon which the theological enterprise turns, namely, that it is reasonable to believe in God and to articulate the implications of this belief, not least for human life. In response to this growing threat, theologians and philosophers of religion have attempted in a variety of ways to bolster the contention that faith is rational. In this connection, they have tended to employ one of two main strategies.2 The first, defensive, approach has been implemented by proponents of Christian faith for centuries.3 It involves responding to objections to the faith that have been presented by outsiders on any number of grounds: historical, scientific, intellectual, and even moral.4 The second approach goes on the offensive for the faith. In other words, it endeavors to give a positive account of Christian belief, which anticipates and implicitly overturns the accusations of objectors. Although both of the two aforementioned strategies are essential to the overarching apologetic task, the persuasiveness of the defensive arguments turns on the integrity of the positive account of the faith, which those arguments defend. Without that preemptive account as a basis, defensive arguments inevitably tend to address objections on the implicit assumption that the objections are legitimate, thus exposing faith to ever more and more devastating critiques. The present work will contribute to the positive dimension of the apologetic project, by presupposing a definition of human rationality, which underlines the rationality of faith, where prevailing definitions seem to call it into doubt. On this definition, rationality is not merely an epistemological matter to do with the soundness of human thinking. Ultimately, it is an ethical question whether knowledge is utilized in a manner that is consistent with the overarching purpose of ‘rational animals,’ which is to flourish through the realization of personal potential and thereby contribute to the flourishing of others. In this regard, the argument outlined here might be described as a moral argument for God’s existence, though it is in many respects distinct from and involves
a good deal more than most such arguments, which is arguably essential to their sustainability.5 In ways on which I will soon elaborate, defining rationality in ethical terms, more specifically, in terms of moral virtue, provides an exceptionally effective basis for establishing the rationality of faith. For Christian faith can be shown to enact or provide a rationale for rationality, defined in these terms, such that faith is already rational—and philosophy already theological. As I will demonstrate below, it takes a full-scale re-configuration of philosophy in terms of what I call ‘pro-theology philosophy’ to obtain a definition of rationality that is both amenable to faith and intrinsically more plausible than the definitions that tend to undermine faith. By shedding new light through such arguments on the sense in which faith is intrinsically rational, the project undertaken here aims to lay the foundation not only for defensive apologetic projects but above all for inquiries concerning what it means to live by faith and elucidate the articles of faith—proper to the fields of Christian Ethics and Systematic Theology, respectively—which proceed on the assumption that faith is rational. Before outlining the more detailed steps of the argument, however, a brief word about sources is in order. In preparing this proposal, I have drawn considerable inspiration from numerous pre-modern thinkers, above all Thomas Aquinas. Because Aquinas seems to operate from a theological and philosophical perspective, which does not even give rise to the problem of faith’s rationality, at least in its modern form, his work represents an especially useful resource for overcoming this problem, which urgently demands resolution today.6 Although I follow Aquinas closely on certain matters, the very fact that he operated in a context that is so far removed from our own renders it impossible or at least unprofitable simply to reiterate his thought on, say, the nature of reason or of faith. Thus, the conceptual framework outlined in this context does not entail a reformulation or even interpretation of Aquinas but a constructive effort to resolve the current question of faith’s rationality, which appropriates, sometimes quite extensively, and adapts, sometimes quite heavily, principles Aquinas articulated, insofar as these are still relevant in contemporary circumstances.7 As hinted above, my treatment of this framework falls into two distinct parts, one of which re-defines rationality in ethical terms through the articulation of a ‘pro-theology philosophy,’ and another, which explains how rationality so construed gestures towards the rationality of Christian faith, such that a pro‑theology philosophy turns out to be a theological philosophy. While the present work undertakes the second part of the project, the first is the focus of a separate work entitled Rationality as Virtue. Because the two
distinct works are closely related, I will endeavor in what follows to sketch the overarching line of argument they delineate, by summarizing the discussion of each book’s chapters. First, however, I will situate this argument within its broader intellectual context, describing some of the main approaches to asserting faith’s rationality that have been advocated in modern times. The Intellectual Context of Theological Philosophy Throughout the modern period, two main methods of dealing with the problem of establishing faith’s rationality have predominated, namely, rationalism and fideism. The rationalist approach, commonly espoused by proponents of natural theology, turns on several different types of attempt to establish God’s existence on grounds accessible to human beings. While cosmological arguments appeal to nature to infer the reality of a cause or creator of the world, for example, teleological arguments invoke the order of the universe and signs of intelligent design to establish God’s existence.8 In addition to these two types of argument, some, though admittedly fewer, have advocated an ontological argument for God’s existence, that is, an argument that derives proof for God from the very definition of God and thus from the mere thought of him, working from ‘reason alone’ as opposed to invoking the quasi-empirical evidence of creation or the natural order.9 By contrast to rationalism, fideism tends to trade on the assertion that faith cannot be evidenced or grounded by reason in any way but ought to be adhered to all the same.10 In recent years, many scholars have begun to recognize that neither approach to addressing the question of faith’s rationality is entirely adequate to the task. While fideism simply evades the question, for example, the natural theological proofs for God’s existence mentioned above seem ultimately to beg the question they purport to answer, or to assume what they attempt to prove. They do this by taking God’s existence as evident to the senses or self-evident to the mind, when clearly God’s reality is not evident in these ways to those who deny or disregard it. As numerous critics have noted, such proofs usually only have the power to persuade those who already believe in God.11 At the very least, this suggests that they do not suffice as a main line of defensive argument for the existence of God. That is not to say that the proofs have no place in Christian thought, however. They may enrich the faith of believers or even bring unbelievers to faith, particularly when employed as tools for forming a habit of viewing the world from the perspective of belief in God. As I have argued elsewhere, this
perspective checks the human tendency to ascribe absolute significance to things other than God and so transforms the thoughts and lives of believers into evidence for the difference belief in God can make when it comes to dealing with ordinary affairs.12 Though such a therapeutic or pedagogical interpretation of the theistic proofs is arguably more faithful to the intents of the early Christian and medieval writers who originally developed them, it admittedly diverges rather widely from the modern conception of the arguments, according to which theistic proofs offer direct evidence for God’s existence. In fact, it already moves in the general direction of the new approach to asserting faith’s rationality that this book contributes to developing. In presenting a new way of conceiving faith’s rationality, however, the present work is not alone. Recently, a number of other scholars have sought to re-think the whole project of proving faith’s rationality, in some cases by going so far as to challenge the prevailing standards of rationality that pose problems for faith. For instance, proponents of Reformed Epistemology (RE)—including Nicholas Wolterstorff, William Alston, and especially Alvin Plantinga—ground their religious epistemological agenda on a preliminary reconsideration of the modern ‘evidentialist’ or ‘foundationalist’ standard of knowledge. According to this standard, knowledge claims must be backed by empirical evidence, such that cosmological and teleological proofs provide the sole means to proving the existence of God.13 In challenging this standard, Plantinga in particular argues that belief in God is ‘properly basic,’ such that God is intuitively and ineluctably known, at least amongst those in whom the Holy Spirit has compensated for the effects of sin upon the will by inspiring faith.14 By construing belief in God as properly basic, Plantinga effectively reverses the question of whether it is rational to believe in God. In diverse and highly sophisticated ways to which this brief description obviously cannot do full justice, therefore, he and other Reformed Epistemologists seek to render it inconceivable not to know that God exists. Although the work of RE scholars represents a significant advance in the field of religious epistemology, it has met nevertheless with various forms of criticism. One of the main objections to the approach of RE thinkers is that it seems suspiciously similar to that of fideism, in that it advocates a sort of groundless ground for belief in God, to wit, a properly basic intuition.15 Though proponents of RE have sought to exonerate their program of this charge, another has been raised, which points out that the RE agenda, if successful, still only establishes that there is something like a God, not necessarily the Christian God in whom advocates of RE actually profess to believe.16
A similar charge could incidentally be laid before the natural theologians who advocate the other forms of proof for the existence of God mentioned above. While cosmological and teleological proofs may validly demonstrate the existence of something like a God, they provide no basis for confirming that this God is the Christian God or that of any other religious system. Thus, the question remains how conceptually to connect theistic proofs of any kind—whether natural theological or Reformed Epistemological—with belief in, say, the Triune, Incarnate God of Christian faith, as opposed to appending the articles associated with specifically Christian belief at the end of a line of argument for God’s existence. In order to compensate for the lack of doctrinal content inherent in theistic proofs, certain analytic philosophers with Christian persuasions have recently developed a program they call ‘analytic theology,’ which endeavors to apply the tools and methods of analytic philosophy in elucidating the coherence and rationality of theological doctrines.17 In principle, this is a commendable project to which this work might be seen as contributing, depending on exactly how philosophy is used to illuminate the sense in which Christian doctrines are rational, and indeed, how the terms ‘philosophy,’ ‘rationality,’ and ‘doctrine’ are defined. While it may eventually prove possible and indeed useful to develop an analytic theological account of every major Christian doctrine, and the nature of doctrine overall, it arguably remains the case that such accounts would bring analytic theologians no closer than analytic philosophers of religion to forging a natural and necessary connection between beliefs about the Christian God and the object of attempts to establish the rationality of theistic belief. For it would still be necessary to append arguments highlighting the intelligibility of Christian doctrines to theistic proofs in a seemingly arbitrary way in order to establish that it is the God of Christian belief whose existence is under consideration. That is not a criticism so much as an observation about the possible limits of analytic theology, and the need for a larger framework in which the connection between theistic proof and specifically Christian beliefs is integral, as it is in a theological philosophy. In addition to the accounts already mentioned, a number of other promising approaches to resolving the question of faith’s rationality have been presented in recent years. One account, which is highly congenial to my own, is that of Denys Turner in his Faith, Reason, and the Existence of God. In this book, Turner contends that reason itself needs to be redefined in terms that are more compatible with faith before the question of the rationality of faith can be resolved.
As Turner himself states, however, his essay only ‘clear[s] away a little of the clutter of misconception, philosophical and theological, which has for several centuries stood in the way of a more theologically positive understanding of reason.’18 In doing this, however, he effectively calls for a more comprehensive effort to redefine reason in a manner that is amenable to faith, and to address the question of the rationality of faith on that basis, thus anticipating the project I undertake here. According to another line of argument that has been advanced in recent years—by figures as diverse as the philosopher of religion, Paul Moser, and the Christian ethicist, Stanley Hauerwas—the proof for the rationality of faith in God ultimately derives from the Christian life, or from the life of the Church.19 While I certainly arrive at a similar conclusion in the last analysis—indeed in the last substantial chapter of this book—my own argument over the course of this book and Rationality as Virtue before it should serve to indicate that a good deal of preliminary philosophical and theological work needs to conducted before this compelling conclusion can really hold up to scrutiny or even carry much meaning—whether for Christians or non-Christians—thus providing a fully intellectually satisfactory alternative to, say, natural theology. This preliminary work involves re-construing ordinary rationality in terms of a certain style of life—that is, a virtuous life—and showing subsequently that this life is paradigmatically instanced in or enabled by life in the Church. Such a line of reasoning alone seems plausibly to support the claim that the Christian life is the proof of faith’s rationality. Yet it is just this line of thinking that is lacking in the work of the aforementioned thinkers and particularly that of Hauerwas, who seems to deny the very need for it. By developing precisely this line of thinking, in contrast, theological philosophy endeavors to provide a basis for the claim that the Christian life is the proof for faith’s rationality. At the same time, it lays the foundation for the efforts of theological ethicists to articulate what the Christian life involves and the reasons for living it, without which the Christian life and Christian ethics might easily be perceived as arbitrary, irrational, or irrelevant to all but Christian believers. Although I have acknowledged above the creativity and promise of a variety of accounts of faith’s rationality, I have suggested nonetheless that much remains to be desired when it comes to affording resources conclusively to overturn the question whether it is reasonable to believe in the God of Christian faith.20 Of course, a single work like this one can scarcely overcome completely the skepticism about faith’s rationality that has grown in recent years. Success in that regard depends not only on the plausibility and persuasiveness of the work’s
argument but also on the will of skeptics to receive it. Nevertheless, the present discussion begins to forge a conceptual pathway past the problem of faith’s rationality and on to a plane of systematic and moral theological inquiry, which presupposes it. In its way of doing this, as outlined below, therefore, the project at hand provides conceptual resources for those who wish to employ them to make slow but steady progress towards the victory of faith over doubt. The Precursor: Pro-Theology Philosophy Following an introductory chapter, the effort undertaken in Rationality as Virtue to outline a pro-theology philosophy begins with a chapter (‘The Ontology of Participation’) that explores the sub-discipline of philosophy, which deals with the most fundamental area of philosophical inquiry, namely, ontology. The purpose of this discipline is to describe ‘what there is’ and the ways in which diverse things exist. In particular, an ontology of ‘participation,’ such as can be found in various forms in the work of Thomas Aquinas and other pre-modern thinkers, considers how a being engages in the activities or form of life proper to its specific nature or essence, which is acquired at its inception. This essence makes the being one type of thing as distinct from another and provides it with a potential to actualize through ongoing participation in a certain mode of existence, or life. Since the human essence is that of a rational animal—or embodied intellectual being—I further describe in this chapter the faculties of perception, imagination, and intellect, which allow human beings to actualize their cognitive nature. Subsequent to this discussion, I detail the three main areas in which human beings may have an aptitude or ‘intellectual virtue’ for exercising rationality. These areas include wisdom, which might be understood in terms of the study of theology and philosophy; science, which simply concerns the ordered study of any object of inquiry whatever; and skilled or craft knowledge, which includes all the practical, productive, and creative arts.21 After treating the faculties that enable human beings to acquire knowledge, I turn in the following chapter (‘The Ontology of Knowledge’) to articulate an ontology of knowledge, or an account of the elements or cognitive functions that factor into and facilitate the cognitive process. These include concepts, statements, definitions, and inductive and deductive modes of reasoning. In this context, I also consider the relationship between language and knowledge, which allows me to account for the way and extent to which thought is inevitably shaped by and carried out within particular traditions or spatio-temporal contexts.
In the course of this discussion, I review the various aspects of the Aristotelian system of formal logic, which Aquinas implemented as a tool for the expression of his own thought.22 In doing so, however, it might be argued that I overlook the fact that traditional logic stemming from Aristotle’s works has largely been replaced in contemporary philosophy by modern symbolic logic, especially the predicate calculus.23 The main difference between the two systems is this: while modern symbolic logic operates in an entirely hypothetical mode, ‘traditional logic makes the assumption that no term is empty.’24 That is to say, it presumes that there are real instances of all the terms assessed. The advantage of the predicate calculus, many would assert, is that it allows deductions to be carried out independently of the meaning or content of the propositions involved, thus enabling distinctions to be articulated far more precisely than would be otherwise possible. In an effort to affirm the fundamentality of modern symbolic logic, certain logicians have endeavored to show that the results of the theory of syllogism may be obtained in predicate calculus, provided certain existential assumptions are made.25 By these means, they have tried to show that traditional logic is reducible to predicate calculus.26 Rather than proving that there is a fundamental discrepancy between the two systems, however, this effort simply establishes that traditional logic is a sub-set of predicate calculus, insofar as it makes assumptions about reality, where predicate calculus is also concerned with empty and thus all conceivable terms.27 Although predicate calculus may for this very reason successfully enable professional philosophers to explore hypothetical questions, its corresponding tendency to sever ties with reality renders it rather less suitable for the purposes of the present work. One of those purposes is to elucidate the sense in which logic serves as a training ground or facilitator for ordinary cognitive efforts that promote ‘reason’s self-government, with respect to one’s own practical choices and those of others.’28 In other words, the aim of this work is to explain logic in a way that illustrates that it ultimately ‘points beyond itself to a valuable ethical end.’29 Aristotelian logic is highly compatible with this purpose, precisely because it deals primarily with actual realities, which are the concern of ordinary knowing agents. By clarifying some difficult aspects of Aristotle’s logic, consequently, this chapter sets the stage for the next chapter’s effort to illustrate the vital role logic plays in the successful execution of the cognitive process. As I show in later chapters of the book, particularly one on moral virtue, this process through which reason properly governs its own operations in turn predisposes the mind effectively to govern the self and its relation to others and thus to tailor logic to larger ethical ends.
On the grounds that human knowledge like all things is subject to development, the subsequent chapter (‘The Conditions for Knowledge’) demonstrates how the ideas whereby humans realize their potential also undergo growth and change. As I elaborate in this context, the dialectical process of intellectual development, facilitated by the elements of logic, takes place in three stages, which I treat in terms of expectant, fulfilled, and informed faith. One of the main reasons why I appeal to the concept of faith, generically not religiously defined, to explain the process of development in knowledge is that it testifies to the fact that unknowing, the subconscious, or tacit knowledge fuels the knowing process.30 On another level, the concept of faith bespeaks the goalorientation of knowledge, or the fact that we do not start out knowing whatever we want to know but set objectives to know which we must strive gradually to fulfill over time on the belief that we will eventually do so. In this connection, the first phase of expectant faith is characterized by a lack of knowledge and a desire to know that motivates inquiries that are designed to bring about the acquisition of knowledge. That knowledge is achieved in the second phase of fulfilled faith, while the third phase of informed faith involves placing confidence in the knowledge obtained in fulfilled faith in order to make sense of further experiences. In doing this, clarity and precision is not only added to that knowledge, but we also begin the whole process of moving from expectant to fulfilled to informed faith again, such that the search for truth is interminable, and knowledge never ceases to be a matter of faith.31 Because our thinking is always caught in the throes of expectant, fulfilled, or informed faith, it is evidently impossible to capture thoughts about things that are true for all persons at all places and at all times, that is, to be objective or rational on one common modern definition of the term. Thus, the following chapter (‘Rationality’) seeks to explain the sense in which human beings engaged in the cognitive process as I describe it may be considered rational. To this end, I follow Aquinas in appealing to the indispensable role the will plays in collaboration with the intellect at every one of the three aforementioned phases of inquiry. The work of this faculty is implied in the previous appeal to the concept of faith, which is suggestive of intellectual as well as volitional components of cognition, that is, both knowledge and the desire to pursue or employ knowledge. In expectant faith, for example, the will to account for reality alerts us to the fact that there is something important in our experience for which we are unable to account, filling us with the desire and motivation to compensate for the deficiency in our understanding. Moreover, the will signals when we have achieved the understanding we desire, refusing to settle for any solution that
fails to satisfy this desire. Finally, the will compels us to apply the understanding we have achieved in order to make sense of further experiences in informed faith. Without the will moving the intellect at all times, in summary, it would be impossible for the intellect to gain and grow in understanding. In order to uphold the intellect’s commitment to the truth, the will seemingly needs a means by which to make contact with the particular realities of experience for which the intellect is responsible to account. Aquinas explains the embodied nature of human knowing by appealing to the ‘passions.’ Whenever we experience our bodies or an object in the external world, the passions register the object of experience as helpful or inimical with respect to the intellect’s purpose of knowing what is true. They thereby help the will determine how to direct the intellect towards or away from that object. As essential as the passions may be when it comes to helping us testify to the truth, they can also lead us astray from the truth when we fail to evaluate particular objects of knowledge in terms of the larger effort to promote the truth, and instead reduce the pursuit of truth to the promotion of one theory or ideology about which we are particularly passionate. When we become so preoccupied with one perspective, channeling all our passions to promote it, those passions become ‘dis-passions.’ For they prevent rather than enable the mind to remain receptive to the ongoing discovery of truth. They put us out of touch rather than in touch with reality, often leading us to fabricate, modify, or block out information to the end of bolstering personal opinions. When explaining how to counteract the dis-passions, I appeal to Aquinas’ famous discussion of the four cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance, arguing that these can be construed not merely as moral but also as intellectual virtues that rectify the intellect, will, and passions for their purpose of pursuing the truth. In this regard, I seek to contribute to recent discussions of what is known as ‘virtue epistemology,’ that is, the growing field of philosophical inquiry in which the success of knowledge is said to turn on various epistemic character qualities such as commitment (i.e. fortitude) or a sense of accountability to the truth (i.e. justice).32 In a virtue epistemology inspired by Aquinas, prudence can be described as the virtue that compels the intellect to seek contact with reality. On my account, it allows for this possibility because of the justice of the will, which motivates the mind to testify about reality in a way that does justice to it, inasmuch as it is accessible to human knowledge. As I understand it, the collaborative work of prudence and justice is sustained by the two further ‘virtues of the passions,’ namely, fortitude and temperance, which can be counted amongst the intellectual virtues insofar as they promote the work of prudence and justice.
While fortitude plays its part in this regard by giving us the passion or strength to overcome challenges to prioritizing truth over personal opinions or agendas, temperance fills us with the passions we need to perform the regular work involved in pursuing truth, thus preventing us from indulging in passions for pursuits that would distract us from this endeavor. To sum up: fortitude and temperance make it possible to follow through on the purposes of prudence and justice by teaching us to have the courage and discipline to do exactly this. As this confirms, the four intellectual virtues together—and only in that way—enable us truthfully to testify to our experiences. Although they do not allow us to meet the seemingly impossible standard of knowledge according to which our ideas must remain perennially true, they do predispose us to revise beliefs we originally took to be true whenever new experiences require that we do so. These revisions are possible—and human beings are rational—because of the work not only of the intellect but also of the will and passions and the intellectual virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance, which form them. In advancing this argument about the indispensability of the intellect, will, and passions to human rationality, some readers might suspect that I endorse the so-called ‘faculty psychology’ that contemporary philosophers have found so objectionable, but which is common amongst pre-modern philosophers including Aquinas and, before him, Plato and Aristotle. In the iconic critique of faculty psychology developed in The Concept of Mind, Gilbert Ryle contends that the traditional dogma ‘that the mind is in some important sense tripartite, that is, that there are just three ultimate classes of mental processes … namely, thought, feeling, and will,’ represents ‘such a welter of confusions and false inferences that it is best to give up any attempt to re-fashion it. It should be treated as one of the curios of theory.’33 As a quasi-behaviorist, Ryle rejects such a faculty psychology on the grounds that it supposedly ‘assumes that there are mental states and processes enjoying one sort of existence and bodily states and processes enjoying another [such that] an occurrence on the one stage is never numerically identical with an occurrence on the other.’34 According to most versions of this myth of what Ryle calls ‘the Ghost in the Machine,’35 overt actions ‘are the results of counterpart hidden operations’36 in the secret mental life of the knowing agent. For Ryle, in fact, appeals to the intellect, will, and emotions are the prime exemplification or ramification of the notion that the mental faculties lead a life of their own, over and above the human acts they affect. Thus, they reinforce the insurmountable mind-body dualism, which Ryle perceives as intrinsic to faculty psychology and as the most problematic feature thereof.
Since the time Ryle first mounted his critique of faculty psychology, numerous philosophers have responded to his arguments in ways that call attention to his fundamental misapprehension of the theory to which he so forcefully objected.37 For example, David Braine has stressed that the mental states, such as thinking, willing, and feeling, which faculty psychologies postulate, are not real entities in the way Ryle seemingly envisaged them. Rather, they represent logical constructions or explanatory locutions, the purpose of which is simply to elucidate the psychological impetuses behind changes in behavior, without which there could arguably be no changes in behavior.38 On the assumption that ‘any proper account of the mental involves the physical, and any proper account of the physical involves the mental,’39 Braine concludes that all statements about human acts are or must be ‘hybrid’ statements that recognize both the cognitive and behavioral components of human action.40 Far from indicating the existence of three autonomous entities that function on a plane that supersedes that of natural life, his account consequently confirms, the language regarding intellect, will and passions of which faculty psychologists tend to avail themselves points up the constraints of language when it comes to giving an account of something as unified and fluid as embodied human action. In employing this language, my own treatment of faculty psychology in chapter 5 operates on the assumption that appeals to the intellect, will, and passions serve collectively to explain the occurrence of embodied human acts—whether intellectual or moral. Rather than implying the existence of irreducibly distinct entities that operate over and above the embodied life of the human being on a separate, mental, plane of being, references to these faculties facilitate understanding of the conditions that give rise to human actions on the only plane of being in question, namely, that of natural life. As argued in the chapter on the ontology of participation, the pursuit of knowledge by way of the three aforementioned faculties is our means as human beings to accomplishing the larger task of becoming what we are. On this basis, I argue in closing chapter 5 that our cognitive efforts are best undertaken with a view to the larger moral or personal goal of self-actualization. By situating our intellectual efforts within the context of this greater goal, we achieve the optimal position from which to utilize our knowledge for rational ends, namely, ones that are consistent with rather than inimical to our maximal moral or personal development as ‘rational animals’ with skills in the areas of wisdom, science, or art. On the grounds that moral virtue is the final arbiter or paradigm case of intellectual virtue and thus of human rationality, the remaining chapters of Rationality as Virtue explain how the four cardinal moral virtues enable us to become rational in the fullest sense of the term, by cultivating ‘an individual
orientation towards the highest good,’ which is the definition of the moral life, and therefore rationality. As a preliminary to this discussion, I explore in a further chapter (‘Deficient Conditions for Pro-Theology Philosophy’) certain factors that might prevent us from fully realizing our personal or moral potential. In this connection, I start by explaining that the dis-passions, which sometimes lead us astray in the pursuit of truth, are particularly liable to detract from our efforts when it comes to engaging in the moral task of self-actualization. They acquire the power thus to render us deficient for our human purpose when they lead us to believe that our good or happiness consists in goods that are inferior to that of self-actualization. In cases where such ‘dispassionate’ tendencies become entrenched, they create fixed dispositions whereby we cultivate the worst rather than the best possible versions of ourselves, self-destructing rather than self-actualizing. These dispositions are what are called vices. In this chapter, I outline the implications of the seven main vices that are recognized in the pre-modern Christian tradition and the work of Aquinas, drawing on these sources to construct an account of the way that pride, greed, envy, apathy, anger, lust, and gluttony unravel our ability to be and become what we are. In treating these vices, I call attention to the two extreme forms in which each vice may express itself. For example, I show that pride not only manifests in an excessive form through arrogance or hubris; it can also emerge in a deficient form, namely, false humility. As I further demonstrate, greed may also surface in extremes of excess or deficiency, respectively, that is, in an unbridled lust for pleasure or privilege, or in a sort of ‘greed for pain.’ Moreover, apathy may appear in the guise of sheer laziness or lack of ambition, or it may assume the form of extreme busyness and preoccupation with pointless activities. On my argument, drawing attention to the excessive and deficient forms of every vice is absolutely vital to recognizing and thus correcting as opposed to exacerbating the vices individuals actually possess. Once this account of the vices is elaborated, it becomes evident that we need to be informed about the fact that self-realization is our highest good, and about that in which self-actualization consists, if we are to avoid confusion on account of the passions regarding what it means for us to live good lives, and thus escape the snare of the vices. What it means to actualize personal potential, on my understanding, is quite simply to ‘bear well’ whatever intellectual aptitudes, resources, and circumstances may be given to us to bear, at any given point in time. Since these may change over time and with experience, it follows that we must always remain open to reconsidering what it means for us to bear our lives well. By bearing ourselves well in the aforementioned respects, we not only realize who we are but also
exploit our personal skills for the sake of contributing to the well-being of others, or the common good, in our invariably individualized and finite ways. On this showing, consequently, there is no dichotomy between the personal goal of striving for our own highest good, which consists in bearing our circumstances to the best of our abilities—thus engaging in selfactualization—and the aim of realizing our potential to promote the common good. The two goals of human and humane being represent two aspects of one phenomenon.41 In closing on this note, I set the stage for the last major chapter of the book, which covers how we bear our lives well by cultivating the four cardinal moral virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. As I explain in this chapter (‘Sufficient Conditions for Pro-Theology Philosophy’), the four cardinal virtues operate in the moral context in ways that are recognizable from their work in the intellectual context. For instance, prudence puts us in touch with who we are as individuals, helping us accurately to assess our intellectual and other abilities, without over- or under-estimating them, thus predisposing us to make the most of our limited lives, in part through the exercise of intellectual virtues. In general, then, prudence teaches us to ‘bear well’ whatever we may have to bear in terms of abilities, resources, and circumstances, and thus to strive for the highest good in the way we can from within the confines of our individual lives. In cooperation with prudence, justice enables us to bear ourselves to the best of our abilities not only because this maximizes our existence and thus our experience of what it means to thrive in the human condition, but also because such self-actualizing efforts double as the actualization of our potential personally to contribute to the good of others, albeit in a limited way. While fortitude further affords the courage we need to fight for the highest or common good in the face of obstacles, temperance disciplines us to carry out the daily responsibilities involved in bearing our lives well, when it is open to us to be distracted from or neglect these responsibilities. In their distinctive ways, consequently, the four cardinal virtues collectively enable us to maintain a personal commitment to the highest good, which ideally entails the exercise of the intellectual virtues as well. In the final section of this chapter, I address a number of questions, which bear on the larger question regarding the sense in which moral virtue is the final arbiter of human rationality. For instance, I consider the extent to which we can be considered virtuous or rational while still in the process of habituating ourselves in virtue. Additionally, I inquire about the extent to which we can be regarded as rational if we possess only intellectual without moral virtue or moral without intellectual virtue.
Although I affirm that rationality is possible on some level under both circumstances, I conclude by building on the argument of chapter 5, according to which rationality ideally entails both intellectual and moral virtue, offering reasons to support this contention. Where there is a unity of intellectual and moral virtue—or better, intellectual for moral virtue, and moral virtue conversely substantiated by intellectual virtue, in summary, I identify the paradigm case of human rationality. In the final, concluding chapter, I briefly summarize the argument of the book and extrapolate some additional conclusions from it. In this connection, I show that the process of self-actualization described above doubles as a process of self-discovery, provided it is undertaken in a conscious or deliberate manner. Since all our labor to bear things well strengthens our sense of personal identity and purpose under these conditions, I elaborate, that work in turn facilitates further attempts to engage in self-actualization. As this brief summary of the book’s argument suggests, the effort to re-define rationality undertaken here involves a foray into all the main sub-disciplines of philosophy: ontology, the theory of knowledge, and ethics. On the account I have advanced, these sub-disciplines, while distinctive, cannot be treated as altogether unrelated to one another, as they often are in contemporary philosophy, because they collectively describe and prescribe a functional and fulfilling—or rational—human life.42 While ontology and the theory of knowledge delineate the necessary conditions for that life and thus for pro-theology philosophy in that they respectively describe the way all things become themselves and the cognitive means through which human beings realize their potential, ethics satisfies the sufficient conditions by accounting for the way these necessary conditions are ultimately fulfilled in the lives of moral agents, or human beings. There are at least two reasons why I call this philosophy, whereby rationality is re-construed in terms of a personal commitment to the highest good, a ‘pro‑theology philosophy,’ that is, a philosophy that by its very nature gestures towards the rationality of the claims of faith. One reason concerns the fact that the theory of knowledge that is proper to this philosophy presupposes and explains the vital role that faith plays in human reasoning. Although this faith is not specifically religious, the very fact that faith of any kind is indispensable to ordinary rationality already suggests that religious faith and even Christian faith may have a sort of rational substance that is often overlooked on prevailing conceptions of both reason and faith. While the account of knowledge developed in this work may afford some initial and potentially fruitful grounds for asserting the rationality of Christian faith, I have suggested that there may be an even more powerful and conclusive
approach to doing this, which involves showing how faith explains the possibility of maintaining the individual commitment to the highest good, or moral virtue, that I have described as the final arbiter of human rationality. In my proposal, in fact, an ‘ethical’ re-definition of rationality in terms of a personal commitment to the highest good ineluctably calls for a theological explanation as to how this commitment can be upheld. Thus, a pro-theology philosophy, fully enacted, is strictly speaking a theological philosophy. For this reason, I will proceed in the section below to illuminate pro-theology philosophy’s relation to theological philosophy by outlining my understanding of this final rendering of philosophy. The Project: Theological Philosophy After rehearsing the account of the four cardinal moral virtues outlined above in Chapter 2 of Theological Philosophy (‘Pre-Conditions for Theological Philosophy’), I turn in Chapter 3 (‘Necessary Conditions for Theological Philosophy’) to argue that belief in the God of Christian faith—a God whose nature and ways are treated by Christian theology—provides an exceptionally profound explanation or rationale for moral virtue, or human rationality, and is rational in that sense. Such an explanation is arguably necessary on account of the human tendency to reduce the highest good of ‘bearing things well’ or self-actualization to lesser goods—like the promotion of a specific cause or institution, the pursuit of knowledge, wealth, fame, pleasure, family, friends, or honor, to name a few examples—or even to ‘goods’ that may not be good at all. To make this reduction is ironically to exchange an ability to utilize our lives and resources in ways that promote our own flourishing and that of others for one of using other persons, objects, and circumstances to the end of reinforcing self-serving interests, and ultimately, a prideful perspective on the self. It is to undermine rather than support the highest good and therefore compromise rationality. In order to obtain a rationale for refusing to jeopardize our rationality along these lines, therefore, it seems necessary to posit the reality of one ultimate good that cannot be reduced to any finite good: a single highest good that is transcendent, even divine.43 Though such an affirmation of divine unity or simplicity, such as can be found in the work of Aquinas to say nothing of other monotheists, suffices in many respects as a rationale for rationality, there is a level on which an account of the reality of a single transcendent being necessitates an appeal to a Trinity of divine persons, namely, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. An analogy derived
from human knowing, or better, self-knowing—which presupposes the knower, the object known, which is the self, and the will or desire to know the object known—illustrates why this is so. Where this analogy is invoked, the Father may be regarded as the first knower who knows the Son in the way one would know oneself. Since the Father’s knowledge on this understanding is reflexive—it is self-knowledge—the Son in turn can be said to know the Father. Thus, the Father’s knowing of the Son and the Son’s knowing of the Father reflect their mutual desire to know one another, that is, God’s desire to know himself and make himself known as the highest good that he is, which is encapsulated by the person and work of the Holy Spirit. From this analogy, it follows that the doctrine of God as Father, Son, and Spirit is essential to accounting for one God who is capable of knowing and communicating himself as God and of willing to do precisely this. Since a God incapable in these respects could scarcely be considered worthy of the name ‘God,’ the doctrine of the Trinity, which establishes a perfect correspondence between who God is, what he knows, what he says, what he wants, and what he does, satisfies the conditions for the possibility of affirming that God is God: a being who always completely is what he is, which is to be and to know and to utter and to desire and to do all that is good. Although the doctrine of the Trinity upholds the doctrine of the one God, it remains the case that human beings are incapable of knowing God directly apart from his own efforts to reveal himself, on account of the fundamental incommensurability of transcendent and immanent, simple and complex, infinite and finite, eternal and temporal, beings. By thus affirming that the immediate knowledge of God lies beyond our cognitive reach, I do not mean to suggest that we must abandon the task of thinking about who God is, or to deny that we can articulate a positive or cataphatic theology. As I will demonstrate in subsequent chapters, the unknowable nature of God simply stipulates that positive theological work be defined in terms of delineating what can be said about God for the sake of confirming that he is God, to wit, a being who by definition transcends human knowledge. Put differently, God’s nature requires that claims about him be treated as formal rather than substantial, or indicative of the kind of being that he is, who as yet subsists beyond our ken, as opposed to disclosing him as an object that might be encountered and subjected to direct analysis in this life. While such an appropriately reserved approach to the theological task allows us positively to articulate a great deal about God’s nature, the apophatic or negative theological outlook that nonetheless underlies it prevents us from defeating the whole purpose of theology by describing God as though he were a
being that could be rendered intelligible on our terms, that is, an idol. In order to span the otherwise unbridgeable gap between humanity and God, the Incarnate Son of God revealed the kind of Being God is—indeed, Triune—by expressing his Spirit, which always operates out of a desire to make the Father known as the highest good and accomplish his purposes. In thus revealing the Trinity, the Son provided us with the fully delineated conception of the supremely transcendent or highest good, which we need in order to secure a rationale or motivation for sustaining rationality. By adhering to the doctrines of Trinity and Incarnation, or to belief in the God of the Christian creed, thus engaging in what I call ‘Christian creedal reasoning,’ consequently, we obtain the most robust account conceivable of the conditions that allow for the possibility of maintaining an orientation towards the highest good.44 That is not to deny that it is possible to exercise rationality or moral virtue without the relevant rationale for rationality. As native speakers of a language can communicate relatively successfully without knowledge of grammar, so rational human beings may exercise moral virtue or strive for the highest good apart from belief in God. In much the same way that grammatical knowledge is essential to teaching a language or communicating in the most effective and articulate manner, however, a rationale for rationality is arguably constitutive of rationality, when rationality is defined in the fullest sense of the term. From this, it follows that belief in the God of Christian faith not only allows us fully to account for rationality but also to be rational in the most robust sense. While a capacity to account for rationality by appealing to key articles of Christian faith naturally does not substitute for efforts to be rational, nevertheless the ability to be rational, combined with an explanation of the conditions for the possibility of rationality, guarantees human rationality in its paradigmatic form. On my account in chapters 4 and 5 (‘Christian Creedal Reasoning,’ parts I and II), the Son’s revelation of God in the form of a human person does not merely offer us the resources needed to explain and even sustain efforts to promote the highest good. It simultaneously establishes that our efforts to promote the highest good, facilitated by Christian creedal reasoning in light of belief in the Triune, Incarnate God, strictly speaking entail efforts to live by faith in the God of Christian creed. That is to say, they represent efforts to imitate the Son by using the abilities he bestowed on us through his creative act to express our human spirits to the Father’s glory, or in light of the knowledge of his absolute significance. As this suggests, the process of becoming individuals that promote the highest good is one and the same as the process of growth as a Christian believer,
at least if it is understood as such.45 This contention will be bolstered through a further discussion of other doctrines that are the subject of Christian creedal belief, in particular, creation, fall, redemption, and church. Towards the end of my discussion of these doctrines, I extrapolate the implications of my arguments thus far for an understanding of the relationship between Christianity and other systems of belief. Far from precluding conversations amongst members of diverse religious and moral traditions, I demonstrate that Christian creedal reasoning holds potential to facilitate them. In developing the argument of the previous two chapters, Chapter 6 (‘Sufficient Conditions for Theological Philosophy’) outlines the conditions which, when satisfied, ensure that we operate under the auspices of belief in the simple, Triune, and Incarnate God, such that our ordinary lives become convertible with our lives in God. These conditions are composed of the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and love. On my account, the process of habituating ourselves in these virtues involves learning to bring the knowledge of God as the sole object of absolute significance to bear in knowing the immediate objects of our knowledge. By organizing our lives around God along these lines, we are equipped to unlearn our natural tendency to ascribe greater significance to ordinary circumstances than they deserve and to prioritize greater over lesser goods, thus bearing things well at all times. Though we are unable to obtain knowledge of God himself in the process, we do come to understand our experiences rather differently than we might have done otherwise. In much the same way that the grammar of a language helps us conceive the meaning of a sentence, consequently, belief in God provides us with the rules for thinking about reality, which enable us to put the world of our experience into proper perspective, without over or under-estimating the worth of the things we know.46 The difference belief in God makes to our understanding of the world in this instance is the sort of indirect knowledge of him that we may presently attain, through the mediation of the things which are directly accessible to our understanding. Provided we cultivate a habit of thinking about these things in terms of the fact that they are not supremely significant, that is, ‘not God,’ even for a particular purpose or in a specific respect, we may begin indirectly to experience the God who is ‘nowhere’ in all the ordinary circumstances of our lives until we may eventually come to sense his presence continuously. Though the theological virtues of faith and hope are the means through which we actually engage in such Christian creedal reasoning, I call attention in Chapter 7 (‘Consequences of Theological Philosophy’) to the fact that the life of love alone furnishes proof of the orientation towards the highest good that
such reasoning fosters. In developing this claim, I show how love creates the optimal conditions for cultivating the four cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance, which are convertible on my account with the personal, inter-personal, instructive, and persuasive powers of Christian love. On the grounds that rationality construed in terms of moral virtue—or love—constitutes the substance of a life in God, I further argue that a life of love, led on account of the rationale for rationality that faith in the Triune, Incarnate God provides, represents the final arbiter or proof of faith’s rationality. By this account, therefore, the rationality of Christian faith and even of particular doctrines like Trinity and Incarnation is not established as the articles or divine object of faith are somehow rendered intelligible on the terms of human reason, let alone any modern standard of reason. Rather, faith is reconciled with reason as belief in God, Triune and Incarnate, motivates us to be rational, in the way I have defined rationality in terms of intellectual and ultimately moral virtue, culminating in an authentic life of Christian love. As I will show in the course of this discussion, efforts to demonstrate love—and thus the theological and cardinal virtues—are bound to involve difficulties and sufferings of various kinds, particularly in a society permeated by the sin tendencies that undermine the virtues. In ways I will explain, the love of God makes it possible to bear these otherwise unbearable sufferings well. In that sense, the proof for the rationality of faith that the life of Christian love affords at once provides a theodicy, that is, a case for the goodness of God in the face of sufferings and evil. After all, it is the love of a fundamentally good and loving God that makes it possible in the first place to bring the good of bearing things well out of experiences that could not objectively be described as good. In Chapter 8 (‘Towards a Trinitarian Philosophy’), I summarize the argument of the book. Subsequently, I explain how its efforts to overturn the question of faith’s rationality open doors for theological inquiries that are based on the assumption that faith is rational, including the inquiries concerning how to live by faith that are proper to the field of theological ethics. More specifically, I demonstrate how theological philosophy lays the foundation for what I call a Trinitarian philosophy, in which the affirmation of the Triune God that this work establishes as constitutive of the final rationale for human rationality is construed as the source and basis for all reality, human knowledge, and human life, which conversely represent modes of participation in the life of the Triune God. The account of the relationship between philosophy and theology that has been developed in this work, and that such a Trinitarian philosophy would presuppose, turns on the initial articulation of a pro-theology philosophy.
Such a philosophy defines rationality in terms of a personal commitment to the highest good, through engagement with all three of philosophy’s sub‑disciplines, namely, ontology, the theory of knowledge, and ultimately ethics. Since an appeal to belief in God, Triune and Incarnate, is required to explain and even maintain this commitment, or rationality, I have suggested that a pro-theology philosophy is strictly speaking a theological philosophy. Although philosophy and theology are treated as distinct disciplines on this account, the fact that each informs and enables the purposes of the other suggests that a framework for understanding the inter-relationship of the two fields is necessary for the purpose of doing justice to the subject matter proper to each discipline, namely, human and spiritual life respectively. This is the framework I begin to construct in the following chapters, which collectively delineate a theological philosophy. Endnotes Though it is not part of my present project to analyze how this challenge arose, I have shed some light on this question in Divine Illumination: The History and Future of Augustine’s Theory of Knowledge (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011). 2 See Paul Griffiths’ helpful discussion of the distinction between defensive and offensive apologetics in An Apology for Apologetics: A Study in the Logic of Interreligious Dialogue (Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2007). 3 The most famous early example is Justin Martyr’s Apologies. Augustine’s City of God also exhibits some of the characteristics of a defensive apologetic. 4 For a contemporary example of such a response to faith’s critics, see David Fergusson, Faith and Its Critics: A Conversation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009). 5 Immanuel Kant is perhaps the most famous proponent of this form of argument. 6 As Peter Geach writes in Mental Acts: Their Content and Their Objects (London: Routledge, 1957), 117: ‘the usefulness of historical knowledge in philosophy … is that the prejudices of our own period may lose their grip on us if we imaginatively enter into another period when people’s prejudices were different.’ 7 This is roughly an approach to recovering medieval thought that Jean Porter endorses in her book, Nature as Reason: A Thomistic Theory of the Natural Law (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 30. 8 See William L. Craig, The Cosmological Argument from Plato to Leibniz (Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2001). 9 See Graham Oppy, Ontological Arguments and Belief in God (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007). Alvin Plantinga, The Ontological Argument from 1
St Anselm to Contemporary Philosophers (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1965); see also Plantinga’s defense of his own version of the ontological argument in God, Freedom and Evil (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989). 10 Blaise Pascal, Soren Kierkegaard, William James, and Ludwig Wittgenstein are often regarded as fideists, though this interpretation of their work may be contested, or at very least, nuanced. 11 Jennifer Faust, ‘Can Religious Arguments Persuade?’ International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 63:1 (2008), 71–86. 12 Lydia Schumacher, ‘The Lost Legacy of Anselm’s Argument: Rethinking the Purpose of Proofs for the Existence of God,’ Modern Theology 27:1 ( January 2011), 87–101. See also Victor Preller’s re-interpretation of Aquinas’ five ways in Divine Science and the Science of God: A Reformulation of Thomas Aquinas (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967); and a related work by Eugene F. Rogers, Thomas Aquinas and Karl Barth: Sacred Doctrine and the Knowledge of God (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995). 13 The most famous statement of the Reformed Epistemological project can be found in Alvin Plantinga, Warranted Christian Belief (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000). See also William Alston, Perceiving God: The Epistemology of Religious Experience (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993); and Nicholas Wolterstorff, Reason within the Bounds of Religion (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988). 14 See chapters 6 and 8 in Plantinga’s Warranted Christian Belief, which respectively cover his Aquinas/Calvin and extended Aquinas/Calvin models of warranted Christian belief. For a further discussion of Plantinga’s approach, see Lydia Schumacher, ‘Towards the Integration of Religious and Ordinary Experience: In Conversation with Alvin Plantinga, Mark Wynn, and Thomas Aquinas,’ International Journal of Philosophy and Theology, published online June 3, 2015. 15 See Richard Swinburne, ‘Review of Warranted Christian Belief by Alvin Plantinga,’ Religious Studies 37 (2001), 203–14. 16 On this point and other possible objections to Plantinga’s religious epistemology, in particular, the charge that it can in principle be employed to defend religions other than Christianity, contrary to Plantinga’s intent, see James Beilby, ‘Plantinga’s Model of Warranted Christian Belief,’ in Alvin Plantinga, Deane Peter Baker (ed.) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007). See also Deane Peter Baker, Tayloring Reformed Epistemology (London: SCM Press, 2007). 17 See Michael Rae’s introductory chapter in Analytic Theology: New Essays in the Philosophy of Theology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009). 18 Denys Turner, Faith, Reason and the Existence of God (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).
Paul Moser, The Evidence for God: Religious Knowledge Re-Examined (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009); see also his earlier work, The Elusive God: Re‑Orienting Religious Epistemology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008). Stanley Hauerwas, With the Grain of the Universe: The Church’s Witness and Natural Theology (Brazos, 2001). 20 James Beilby makes this point about Plantinga’s project in his article, ‘Plantinga’s Model of Warranted Christian Belief,’ 158. 21 See Mark D. Jordan, Ordering Wisdom: The Hierarchy of Philosophical Discourses in Aquinas (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1986). 22 On Aquinas’ presupposition of Aristotelian logic (including grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric), see Mark D. Jordan, Ordering Wisdom, 42, 47. Also see other relevant works by Jordan, including, The Alleged Aristotelianism of Thomas Aquinas (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 1992); Rewritten Theology: Aquinas After His Readers (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2005); ‘Thomas Aquinas’ Disclaimers in the Aristotelian Commentaries,’ in Philosophy and the God of Abraham (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1991), 99–112. 23 See E.J. Lemmon, Beginning Logic (London: Nelson, 1971), on the propositional and predicate calculi. See especially his section on ‘The Syllogism’ at pages 169–77. G. Leibniz is generally accredited with being the first to envision logic along modern lines. See the section on ‘The Modern Type of Formal Logic,’ in Heinrich Scholz, Concise History of Logic, Kurt F. Leidecker (trans.) (New York: Philosophical Library, 1961). I am indebted to Martin Warner for bringing these texts and issues to my attention. 24 E.J. Lemmon, Beginning Logic, 175. 25 Ibid. 26 Ibid., 177. 27 See Peter Alexander’s section on ‘Criticisms of Syllogistic Theory’ in An Introduction to Logic: The Criticism of Arguments (London: Allen & Unwin, 1969), 179–221. His lengthy discussion of modern criticisms of traditional syllogistic theory nevertheless turns on the contention that ‘the theory of the syllogism is not wrong in principle but merely incomplete’ (179). Also useful in this regard is A.N. Prior’s article on ‘Logic, Traditional,’ in vol. 5, The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Paul Edwards (ed.) (London and New York: Collier-Macmillan and Macmillan, 1967), 34–45. 28 Martha Nussbaum, The Therapy of Desire: Theory and Practice in Hellenistic Ethics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009), 351. For another albeit very brief account according to which traditional logic explains ordinary acts of human reasoning, see S.H. Mellone, Elements of Modern Logic (London: University Tutorial Press, 1945), iii and 178ff. 29 Martha Nussbaum, The Therapy of Desire, 350. 19
See Michael Polanyi, The Tacit Dimension (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009). 31 Josef Pieper, Belief and Faith (London: Faber and Faber, 1962): ‘to be a creature means to be continually receiving being and essence from the divine source and creation and in this respect therefore never to be finally completed.’ 32 In the analytic tradition, for example, see the work of John Greco, Ernest Sosa, and Linda Zabzebski, whose outlook, particularly as presented in her Virtues of the Mind (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), is especially compatible with the virtue epistemology developed in this context. 33 Gilbert Ryle, The Concept of Mind (London: Hutchinson’s University Library, 1949), 62. 34 Ibid., 63. 35 Ibid., 15. 36 Ibid., 64. 37 In response to Ryle’s claims, Alasdair MacIntyre has argued that while we admittedly do not tend to distinguish our volitions, to take one example, and our actions, in common language, but simply treat our acts as fluid motions, his extreme way of making this point risks ‘treating ordinary non-philosophical modes of speech as canonical for philosophical analysis.’ See Alasdair MacIntyre, ‘The Antecedents of Action,’ 208. See also the important critique of Ryle mounted by Hidé Ishiguro in ‘Imagination,’ in British Analytical Philosophy, Bernard Williams and Alan Montefiore (eds) (London: Routledge, 1966). 38 David Braine, The Human Person: Animal and Spirit (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1994), 442: ‘The having of a thought cannot be logically severed from the change in the structure of behaviour [that is] inseparable from it.’ 39 David Braine, The Human Person, 4. 40 Ibid., 35. 41 See Jean Porter’s excellent article on ‘The Common Good in Thomas Aquinas,’ in In Search of the Common Good (London: T & T Clark, 2005). On Aquinas’ virtue ethics, see various works by Alasdair MacIntyre, Herbert McCabe, Josef Pieper, Jean Porter, especially the following: Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2007); Herbert McCabe, The Good Life: Ethics and the Pursuit of Happiness (London: Continuum, 2005); Josef Pieper, The Four Cardinal Virtues: Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, Temperance (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1966); Jean Porter, The Recovery of Virtue: The Relevance of Aquinas for Christian Ethics (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1990). 42 On this, see Pierre Hadot, Philosophy as a Way of Life (Oxford: Blackwell, 1995). 30
David Burrell celebrates ‘the distinction’ between God and creatures in virtually all of his works. For a brief discussion of this distinction, see his article, ‘Creator/ Creatures Relation: “The Distinction” vs. “Onto-Theology,”’ Faith and Philosophy 25 (2008), 177–89. Also see the chapters on ‘Distinguishing God from the World’ and ‘The Christian Distinction Celebrated and Expanded,’ in Faith and Freedom: An Interfaith Perspective (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2004). Then refer to Knowing the Unknowable God (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1992). Burrell regularly acknowledges his own debt to Robert Sokolowski’s account of the ‘Christian distinction’ in The God of Faith and Reason (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1995), as well as to Kathryn Tanner’s God and Creation in Christian Theology: Tyranny or Empowerment? (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2005), and Sara Grant’s Towards an Alternative Theology: Confessions of a Non-Dualist Christian (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2002). 44 On the idea that doctrine facilitates Christian practice, see Ellen Charry, By the Renewing of Your Minds: The Pastoral Function of Christian Doctrine (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999). 45 As Jennifer Herdt has argued in her important work, Putting on Virtue: The Legacy of the Splendid Vices (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008), our Christian understanding of virtue—and I might add, vice—needs to be attributed real practical substance, lest it become divorced from the exigencies of ordinary human life. 46 On ‘theology as grammar,’ see Rowan Williams’ chapters under the heading ‘The Grammar of God,’ in On Christian Theology (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2000), 129–80. David Burrell, ‘Religious Life and Understanding: Grammar Exercised in Practice,’ in Grammar and Grace: Reformulations of Aquinas and Wittgenstein (London: SCM, 2010). See also Paul J. Griffiths’ highly relevant work titled, Intellectual Appetite: A Theological Grammar (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 2009). 43
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Pre-Conditions for Theological Philosophy
For reasons mentioned in the Introduction, rationality as understood here ultimately consists in moral virtue, that is, the four cardinal moral virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance.1 On the argument I will develop in the present chapter, the exercise of these virtues—or the ability to ‘bear things well’—does not merely conduce to the realization of personal human potential; it constitutes the realization of that potential, or self-actualization. In what follows, therefore, I will treat the four moral virtues in turn, with a view to explaining how faith enacts rationality in the next chapter. By these means, I will delineate the pre-conditions for the development of a theological philosophy: the conditions, consisting in the exercise of the four moral virtues, which, when satisfied, actualize the potential of individuals to promote the highest good. In the last section of the chapter, I will elaborate on the claim that a personal commitment to the highest good or moral virtue is the final arbiter of human rationality. The First Condition: Prudence When it comes to bearing things well, our main resources consist in any intellectual abilities or virtues we may have in the areas of wisdom, science (knowledge), or the arts, which include various practical skills.2 The first two fields of inquiry are primarily speculative, in that they are concerned with universals or general principles—although there are some practical or applied sciences like politics, ethics, economics, engineering, and medicine. Thus, wisdom accounts for the nature of reality (ontology), the nature of knowledge (epistemology), and the nature of the good life (ethics). In short, it pertains to the work of philosophy. Additionally, wisdom may investigate the transcendent source and end of reality, knowledge, and human life. It may extend to the study of theology.3 Whereas wisdom outlines the nature of reality and its transcendent conditions of possibility, science elucidates the nature of particular objects of inquiry. Any object of interest may become the basis for a scientific inquiry,
including history, society, language, nature, and so on.4 The arts or areas of skilled or craft knowledge are practical, and thus concerned with particulars by contrast to universals. Some arts are productive, such as the technical and domestic arts, including cooking, home economics, gardening, farming, and woodworking. Others are artistic in the strict sense of the term, as in the case of the creative, performing, and visual arts, which pertain to literature, poetry, dance, music, drama, painting, sculpture, and so on. As I have suggested elsewhere, bearing aptitudes well in any one or more of these three areas presupposes an accurate preliminary assessment of the nature, degree, and scope of an individual’s potential.5 Put differently, it turns on an initial effort to curb pride, which may manifest in the excessive and deficient forms of hubris and false humility, respectively. Whereas hubris entails an inflated sense of personal power or importance and a refusal to accept personal limitations, false humility reduces the self to its limitations, rendering it inadequate to the task of recognizing personal aptitudes and taking ownership of the corresponding responsibility to exercise them.6 Whether through hubris or false humility, pride evidently represents a failure to embrace human finitude, either by trying to transcend it, or by utterly devaluing the self on account of it. In keeping with an excessive or deficient self-image, individuals naturally tend to ascribe more significance to finite objects and circumstances that those things actually possess, and to discredit the importance of other things accordingly. For example, those characterized by false humility, who attribute too much significance to other persons and their ambitions on account of thinking too little of themselves, open themselves up to various forms of abuse and exploitation, particularly by the hubristic. In such cases, prideful persons treat the pursuit of limited objects or experiences as the organizing principle or highest good of life, overlooking the fact that finite entities cannot make or break happiness or a sense of identity and purpose, even for certain purposes or in certain respects, precisely on account of their finitude. For instance, one relationship cannot substitute for all other human relationships. To say this is not to devalue finite goods like human relationships but rather to insist on valuing them for exactly what they are—bearing them well—thus avoiding disappointment or unhappiness in the course of pursuing them. To this end, the preliminary self-assessment, described above as the pre‑condition for cultivating moral virtue, must entail efforts in the case of the hubristic to curb the tendency to assume entitlement to authority, privilege, or opportunity. In turn, these efforts enable the hubristic to perceive and accept limitations on their power and importance. By contrast, undertaking an
Pre-Conditions for Theological Philosophy
adequate self-assessment summons those susceptible to false humility to take ownership of personal aptitudes and assert the right to exercise them, despite external pressures or expectations to do otherwise. Since self-actualization takes time, it should come as no surprise that the process through which aptitudes are evaluated and implemented with increasing effectiveness over a lifetime ineluctably resembles the three-stage process of discovery. In Rationality as Virtue, I described these stages in terms of expectant, fulfilled, and informed faith, which respectively anticipate, achieve, and apply understanding, in this case, self-understanding. In the present, moral, context, these three stages arguably correspond to childhood, youth, and adulthood.7 In the first of these stages, individuals do not normally possess a clear sense of their abilities, precisely because they are in the phase of life during which the very tools needed to discover those abilities are acquired, to wit, the tools of discovery itself. For this reason, children—or novices in any new field of inquiry—might be said to live by an expectant faith, which leads them to believe they possess certain latent abilities and thus to position themselves eventually to discover those abilities.8 For the sake of making this discovery, children must be permitted to explore different life possibilities or professions. When children play in these respects, they acquire the sense that they have something to offer society, even though they may not yet know exactly what this is. Without such scope for the imagination, they might fail to acquire the confidence they will eventually need to chart a course in life. While imaginative play should consequently be encouraged, children must also be disciplined in love as necessary. By ‘discipline,’ I refer to correction for deviant behavior as well as the imposition of responsibility for tasks, both of which help correct the urge for instant gratification that makes it impossible to achieve worthwhile goals. Out of love, those tasks should be assigned in proportion to each child’s level of development and ability. Furthermore, correction for misbehavior should only be administered for behavior for which a child can reasonably be held accountable. Moreover, it should generally be implemented after an initial offense, certainly before the situation gets out of hand. It should be preceded by a calm and complete explanation why the punishment is being administered and should entail an appropriate form of punishment, which is not more or less severe than the offense warrants and which is relevant to curtailing the kind of offense committed, without publicly shaming or embarrassing the child.9 When children are thus disciplined in love, they have a chance of acquiring the sense that correction is for their benefit. Through such early training, they are predisposed—if they will—not to be put off by but rather to appreciate
the value of sacrificing lesser goods to gain something of greater personal value, namely, an ability to control the urge for instant gratification. Thus, the combination of discipline and love amounts to a lesson in delayed gratification, through which children may eventually come to realize that they cannot play at different options and occupations forever but must identify the one for which they are best suited and apply themselves to it.10 In the phase of expectant faith, or childhood, consequently, prudence strikes a mean through an imposed balance between space for imaginative exploration and appropriate discipline with regard to both positive behaviors and misbehaviors. Children who benefit from this combination of space and supervision—freedom and restraint—have a good chance not only of acquiring a sense of personal purpose but also of developing the inner wherewithal to fulfill it. They become able to identify where their good lies and pursue it, without feeling subject to desires for or distractions from things that might detract from this effort. Though most children need an environment conducive to proper development to be created for them, there are evidently exceptional children who find ways to provide space and supervision for themselves. They are naturally prudent. Thus, a lack of good upbringing need not keep children, at least extraordinary children, from self-actualization. By contrast, many children who are given every advantage when it comes to the realization of their potential fail to make the most of the opportunity and simply take it for granted. In light of this, the question whether children demonstrate the level of prudence that befits them should be treated not only as a matter of nurture but also as one of nature.11 Whether they have it by nature or nurture or both, children who realize through prudence that they have some purpose and develop the discipline to realize it have a foundation for the effort they must make in young adulthood to specify the direction of their lives. This is a notoriously difficult task to undertake, given that every individual is differently gifted, such that there are innumerable ways to be a human being. For this very reason, Aristotle notes, there is no such thing as absolute correctness when it comes to choosing a course in human life.12 The only ‘wrong’ way is not to have a way at all, or to pursue a way that precludes bearing aptitudes and resources prudently, or well.13 Though advisors can certainly provide important and indeed indispensable guidance when it comes to determining how the human ‘norm’ of bearing things well should express itself in individual cases, decisions along these lines ultimately rest with those that have to make them.14 However, a number of special obstacles to sound life decision-making tend to present themselves in the
Pre-Conditions for Theological Philosophy
period of young adulthood. The main obstacle concerns the lack of experience needed to make choices that are consistent with the personal abilities, which young people are generally still discovering. This deficiency in experience renders youth susceptible to confusing their individual identities with roles projected upon them in keeping with various social conventions. Although these conventions provide an important framework for human interactions and collaborations, they can also hinder human thriving when they presuppose a division of labor on the basis of various accidental features of human existence, such as class, race, or sex, which have no bearing on the essential question of a person’s fundamental abilities. In young adulthood, then, prudence strikes the mean between the extremes of conforming to a conventional role that is inconsistent with personal capabilities, and failing to make anything of those capabilities, by compelling individuals to consider where, if anywhere, they fit with reference to existing conventions, rather than allowing conventions to dictate their place in the world.15 As noted, it can prove difficult to deliberate along these lines in youth, since a certain degree of experience is needed to build a sense of personal identity and the confidence to live in accordance with it. The difficulty can be exacerbated by the fact that there is often considerable pressure at this phase to conform to conventions and the expectations of others—and even the threat of penalization for a failure to do so. Although some may disapprove or at least neglect to support unconventional decisions for malicious reasons, it is worth noting that others may do so for rather more benign but nonetheless problematic reasons. For instance, they may desire to protect young persons from struggling or failing at a challenge. Alternatively, they may wish for youth to position themselves within the confines of perceived norms because this reinforces the rest of society’s commitment to living within those norms, where breaking with convention might seem like an affront to standard ways of life. Though there is no point—or prudence—in contesting conventions and the expectations of others for its own sake, the prudence that compels us to promote the highest good at every turn reconciles us to the fact that we may have to decline the opportunities that others urge us to pursue, even in cases where we have no other prospects. Far from a sign of disdain for the highest good, the rejection of these lesser goods is an indication of commitment to it, unless the impression is deceptively given that the expectations of others will be met when there is no intention of doing so. By placing appropriate limits on the demands and expectations of others, the prudent strengthen their sense of identity as individuals, thus distinguishing their roles from those others might project upon them.16 In this way, they
gradually fulfill their original expectant faith to find out their purposes in this world. At the same time, they teach others who they are and how they wish to be treated—something that is more important to be able to do the more established conventions and social norms require to be challenged or abandoned. Although it can be a considerable challenge thus to follow through on the decision to engage in self-actualization, it is worth emphasizing that such a decision is not really a matter of choice. After all, choice and deliberation factor in to human operations only when it comes to determining the most effective means to an end;17 or when it is necessary to prioritize different ends with respect to one another.18 The ends themselves are given to us in virtue of our natural aptitudes, that is, in virtue of an essence or nature that is accompanied by a responsibility to respond to others and act in certain ways. In that sense, it is not possible to choose but merely to consent to being who we are and to striving towards the ends that are appropriate for us, given our capabilities.19 That is not to say that our actions are somehow predetermined—that we are not free. To the contrary, our freedom consists in exercising the ability to be ourselves, without the hindrances to self-actualization that arise from trying to be something more, less, or other than we are. Since few of us know exactly what course our lives should take, just as soon as we become capable of deliberating on this score in young adulthood, the process of considering what it means to consent to ‘becoming ourselves’ invariably involves some trial and error. To engage in this process, it is necessary to follow the normal course of prudence and pursue with singleness of mind the strongest leads available, always opting for what seems like the greatest, if not the easiest, good at the time. Though many of the approaches or activities undertaken in this connection may ultimately be outgrown, trying them out and eliminating them as options affords a more refined sense of what is best for us in life and redirects efforts accordingly. Where prudence has truly attuned us to our deepest passions and thus the source of our potential, consequently, these failed attempts and alterations in course do not represent aimless wanderings or the pursuit of futile whims, as they would in the case of those who lack prudence and thus remain endlessly undecided about the direction of their lives. Rather, the changes in course that are a natural part of self-discovery instill a clearer sense of direction in life, while strengthening a commitment to follow it. Once this mature sense of self has been achieved, the phase of personal development that corresponds to informed faith begins. At this stage, prudence manifests itself by shaping our decisions about how to act in keeping with the knowledge we have acquired as to the nature of our purposes.20 By contrast to
Pre-Conditions for Theological Philosophy
the run up to fulfilled faith, which is inevitably characterized by all kinds of changes in course, the eventual fulfillment of faith in informed faith enables us to translate self-knowledge immediately and decisively into action. As a result of doing this, we do not scatter but streamline our energies to achieve maximum personal effectiveness, even if we do so through a wide range of activities. Whereas counsel from others may prove helpful when it comes to making decisions during youth, it should not be necessary at this stage to take advice in order to determine what it would mean to realize personal potential in different situations. That is not to deny that it may prove relevant, even essential, to rely on others to share expertise or experience, which is necessary for personal engagement in certain activities. Yet it is to underline that our reliance upon others for information and assistance under these conditions differs qualitatively from the normal way of depending on others in youth. For it is not a sign of immaturity but of mature interdependence, and an ability to contribute significantly to the accomplishment of major goals that require collaboration.21 The ultimate objective of cultivating prudence in the phase of informed faith is to become so well acquainted with our abilities as to be able on some level to forget them and simply act automatically in accordance with authentic selfknowledge.22 By these means, our own flourishing or happiness is fostered, and at the same time, we make the greatest possible contribution to the well-being of others. As this confirms, a prudent commitment to accomplishing our personal best—or the highest good—is convertible with a commitment to the common good, that is, the good of humanity. As I will demonstrate further below, the two goals of individual human and humane being mutually imply one another, because prudence without justice generates actions that fail to meet the needs of others and therefore render the use of personal abilities irrelevant. By the same token, justice without prudence satisfies the needs of others at the expense of fulfilling the most basic human need—and responsibility—to maximize personal potential.23 Thus, it remains to explore how prudence operates under the aspect of the common good, or in the context of interpersonal relations, through the next virtue of justice. The Second Condition: Justice Whereas prudence determines personal aptitudes—and limitations—or how it is appropriate or inappropriate to interact with others, the virtue of justice presupposes this basis for acting in order to discern and meet the needs of potential beneficiaries.24 According to Aquinas, there are three species of justice,
all of which operate on a principle of equality, which posits that persons and parties ought to receive assistance that is equal to their capabilities and needs.25 This is what it means to appoint the mean with respect to justice, namely, to determine what is appropriate—neither excessive nor deficient—when it comes to giving others their due.26 In this connection, it is worth stressing that the principle of equality does not translate into a principle of uniformity, according to which individuals should receive the same benefits, regardless of their differences. On the contrary, it turns on the assumption that human beings differ significantly amongst themselves, such that administering justice which is equal or proportional to the needs of individuals may mean offering them very different forms of support, all of which are nonetheless ordered towards facilitating the cultivation of diverse human capabilities.27 The first form of justice is commutative justice, which concerns the relations of persons to one another.28 The second is distributive justice, which deals with the relationships between institutions and their members, or authorities and those they govern. The third type of justice is legal justice, whereby the actions of individuals are ordered towards the state.29 Since a discussion of the latter topic falls outside the compass of the current inquiry, I would refer readers to the extensive work of others on the subject.30 Before turning to a more detailed discussion of commutative and distributive justice, it seems fitting to offer some preliminary remarks about what it means to ‘give others their due’ in either context. This is an important question to address at the start of any treatment of justice, because human beings tend automatically to perceive the world in terms of their own interests and are consequently prone to deal with others in ways that are ultimately ordered to accomplish personal ends or reinforce personal opinions. Whether consciously or unwittingly, individuals who operate along these lines defeat the whole purpose of justice, which is to assist others on their own terms. There are a number of ways in which the power to administer justice may be abused in this manner. One involves treating others in ways that reinforce a sense of personal importance, fulfillment, or usefulness. When this approach is employed, assistance can actually become a hindrance to the thriving of alleged beneficiaries and prevent the actual satisfaction of their needs. This is especially true in cases where a benefactor simply does not possess the ability or resources to meet the needs of beneficiaries but is too proud to admit it and invoke the aid of individuals who might be more capable of offering the relevant assistance.31 It is still more true when ‘help’ or ‘advice’ is designed to control, limit, or suppress activities through which individuals might challenge
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a certain understanding of the way things should be done or even supersede a benefactor in power. Such forms of assistance are clearly aimed at protecting a prideful ego that is unwilling to accept personal finitude and therefore refuses to recognize the validity of alternative ways of thinking and living.32 Since efforts indirectly to enlist others in the fulfillment of personal needs or the reinforcement of personal opinions and power are bound ultimately to undermine the flourishing of beneficiaries, the feigned interest in others that motivates such efforts might be described as a ‘complicated form of hatred.’33 For the sake of fostering justice, therefore, it seems necessary to identify and check any concern to protect or promote personal interests or satisfy personal desires at the outset of efforts to administer so-called justice. Whatever these personal concerns, projects, or affiliations may be, they are irrelevant when it comes to evaluating the needs of others on their own terms, just as the self is evaluated in prudence.34 The greatest of these needs, of course, is that of learning to realize personal potential. Thus, acts of justice should be tailored towards providing others with the training, resources, opportunities, or encouragement relevant to enabling them to thrive independently of any external aid or approval.35 In other words, any help or aid offered should be of a sort which ultimately renders that help superfluous. Far from aiming to keep others under our control, in need of ongoing advice or aid, consequently, justice requires that we create the conditions and above all provide the freedom whereby they may operate on their own terms, of their own accord. By evacuating the space our beneficiaries need to exercise their humanity, we obviously relinquish the right to take credit for any success they may experience in this regard or to hold them in our debt.36 Precisely for this reason, however, we truly do them justice. For it is only when our contribution to the thriving of others is non-specifiable, even invisible, that we can be certain that our efforts have been entirely altruistic, not tinted in any way by self-serving motives, as justice demands.37 With these considerations in view, I will now turn to consider how justice plays out in the contexts of commutation and distribution, respectively. As mentioned, commutative justice pertains to inter-personal relationships. Thus, it is relevant here to discuss the three different kinds of inter-personal relationship—or friendship—that Aquinas following Aristotle describes.38 The first type of relationship, ‘for the sake of utility,’ unites individuals or parties who are able to help one another in a particular way. The second kind of relationship, ‘for the sake of pleasure,’ exists between those who enjoy the same activities or have similarities in temperament or personality.
The third kind of relationship, ‘for the sake of prudence,’ connects those who are governed by an overarching concern to ‘bear things well.’ On account of this concern, individuals in relationships for prudence are also generally concerned to bear their relationships well. As a result, their primary reason for being in relationships is not to derive something pleasurable or useful from them but to do justice to those with whom they relate and thus to help them cultivate prudence, or the ability to bear things well—a form of assistance they receive in return. Since there is nothing more useful or pleasurable in life than to aid and be aided thus to flourish, relationships for prudence are arguably the most useful and pleasurable of all relationships, even though they often require the relinquishment of personal needs or desires for the sake of the other in the relationship. By acting in ways that always promote one another’s best interests, in fact, persons in relationships for prudence may achieve a level of intimacy that far exceeds what is possible in relationships for utility or pleasure. After all, there is nothing more natural than to draw close to those who offer the freedom and support to engage in self-actualization.39 In contrast, it is virtually impossible—and often unsafe—to cultivate intimacy with those who enter into relationships in order to reinforce a prideful self-image and thus to obtain benefits for themselves. When their expectations along these lines are not fulfilled, such individuals cannot help but behave in possessive and imposing ways that undermine the trust on which relationships turn.40 Whether a relationship exists for prudence, pleasure, or utility, it can last only so long as each party provides an equal measure of utility, pleasure, or prudence, respectively, to the other.41 In relationships for utility and pleasure particularly, this equality is frequently thrown off by the give and take that is characteristic of all relationships. The role of commutative justice is to restore the equilibrium that upholds the relationship.42 In this connection, it is worth noting that an equality of sorts may be maintained between parties that are strictly speaking unequal, such as employer and employee, or parent and child, insofar as the inferior offers the superior service, obedience, gratitude, or respect that represents an appropriate return for benefits or aid received.43 In any case, commutative justice stipulates that no more should be repaid than is owed, lest the repayment come across as ostentatious, manipulative, or sycophantic; and no less, in order to express due appreciation for the gift originally given and the relationship overall.44 Moreover, it requires that recompense be made for a debt owed within a reasonable period of time. That stated, it is not always fitting to make an immediate return. On some occasions, justice is best served by waiting until the time or opportunity arises to offer restitution in a way
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that does perfect justice to the original gift. For this reason, it is incumbent upon those who are owed a debt to wait patiently for appropriate compensation and to consider discontinuing a relationship only in cases of unreasonable delay.45 When it becomes necessary, the dissolution of a relationship for utility or pleasure need not involve any animosity or hard feelings on the part of either party, particularly if both parties recognize the inability of one or both to meet the other’s needs for utility or pleasure. The prudent do not generally struggle thus to accept the termination or suspension of a relationship, since they have the virtue needed to discern that relationships other than those for prudence cannot satisfy human social needs on a comprehensive or permanent basis. Those lacking in prudence on the other hand may prove extremely reluctant to let go of relationships that have become asymmetrical, especially if the asymmetry is owing to their own shortcomings. This reluctance is attributable to a tendency not only to resist confronting personal finitude but also to treat relationships for utility or pleasure as though they could exhibit the longevity that is only proper to relationships for prudence. As I have suggested elsewhere, this tendency is symptomatic of a deeper proclivity to regard whatever is most pleasurable or expedient in an immediate sense as the arbiter of happiness.46 Because the imprudent make decisions about relationships at the impulse of what is effectively an urge for instant gratification, they often form binding relationships—which should arguably always be based on prudence—out of a desire to unite themselves with individuals who seem at the time like all-sufficient sources of utility or pleasure, which will inevitably prove insufficient in ways that bring about the painful deterioration of what should be interminable relationships. On account of this liability to confuse relationships for prudence with those organized around utility or pleasure, the imprudent are likely to struggle to form not only relationships for prudence but also the relationships for utility and pleasure that every prudent person possesses. Whereas the balance in relationships for utility and pleasure is preserved through the exchange of various goods and services, relationships for prudence survive only so long as both parties remain equally committed to bearing things well.47 In the event this commitment stays strong on both sides, relationships for prudence may endure all sorts of imbalances with regard to utility and pleasure, which would spell the demise of relationships organized around these matters. Since prudence is a rare virtue that can take a lifetime to cultivate, however, it bears noting that relationships for prudence are generally quite uncommon. This is all the more true in light of the fact that it can take a lifetime to prove that another person is really prudent. Though an individual may appear prudent for a certain period of time or in a particular context, the passage of time and
changes in circumstance often reveal that relationships for prudence really only existed for the sake of utility or pleasure. For this reason, it is advisable particularly in the impressionable period of youth to be cautious about pronouncing relationships ‘for prudence,’ organizing life around these relationships, which may eventually turn out to be merely pleasurable or useful and break down. Where a relationship for prudence has been established, it remains to inquire how to discern when an insuperable inequality has arisen in such a relationship, which calls for its dissolution. Such discernment is particularly difficult to exercise in this context, precisely because relationships for prudence are built on the belief that each person will act in accordance with the best interests of the other. Any legitimate suspicion to the contrary clearly undercuts the whole foundation for the relationship, summoning the offended party to extend forgiveness. Though it is often argued that forgiveness necessitates the restoration of broken relationships, forgiveness as I understand it is only secondarily concerned with reconciliation. First and foremost, by my account, forgiveness is the means through which the forgiving party is protected from the threats of an offender and thus enabled to bear life well.48 Of course, ‘forgiving and forgetting’ may involve overlooking an offense, re-embracing the offender and moving forward in a relationship, in cases where the harm one individual causes another is unintentional, incidental, or irregular: where it is readily acknowledged and not repeated. When offensive acts are consciously and continually committed, however, extending forgiveness necessitates the withdrawal of the offender’s opportunity to do damage by discontinuing the relationship itself. It requires forgetting quite literally about any past or future role the offender might play in the forgiver’s life. In some situations, inevitably, there is not much that can be done to escape a harmful situation involving a particular offender. When it is impossible to escape a traumatic situation physically or practically, however, there are other ways to engage in self-protection or forgiveness, for example, by denying oppressors power over personal feelings and thus over reactions and further actions. Because so much is at stake in relationships for prudence, it obviously takes considerable discernment to decide which form of forgiveness—acceptance or rejection—is appropriate in any given situation. The upshot of the foregoing discussion, however, is that forgiveness is always ultimately orientated towards preserving the integrity of the forgiver, and, in particular, the forgiver’s ability to bear things well. It is about observing the rule of equality in relationships for prudence, which sometimes requires the dissolution of a relationship that has become hopelessly imbalanced or abusive.
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Whereas commutative justice concerns interpersonal relationships for utility, pleasure, or prudence, distributive justice entails the one-sided form of justice through which individuals fulfill a duty to utilize personal aptitudes for the benefit of others. In this connection, it is worth emphasizing the importance of being selective when it comes to deciding how to make the most of personal abilities to help others—of setting priorities with regard to the distribution of justice.49 As Aristotle writes, just individuals ‘refrain from giving to anybody and everybody that they may have something to give to the right people at the right time and where it is noble to do so.’50 Since relationships for prudence—normally close family and friends—are most crucial to the thriving of all involved, they should seemingly enjoy a certain primacy in our lives.51 Next in the order of priority stand relationships for utility, including the work-related relationships, which invariably consume a good deal of energy with regard to the commutation and distribution of justice. When it comes to these relationships, it seems consistent with the goal of maximizing the good that can be accomplished for others to prioritize helping not only those we are most able to help but also those who are most worthy or in need of our help.52 For some distributors of justice, maximizing the good along these lines may involve very little or highly selective interaction with other people, as in the case of a scientist or researcher who works for long hours in isolation. Given the laborious and time-consuming nature of many tasks that support the common good, it would be a mistake to assume that distributing justice always involves direct contact with human beings, particularly large groups of human beings. Though there is a risk of overlooking the common good in the absence of certain social connections, it remains nonetheless true that most need to manage interactions with others in order to do as much as possible for the good of humankind. Arguably, relationships for pleasure fall last in the order of priority, as these relationships are largely superfluous if pleasure is derived from relationships for prudence and adequate time is invested in relationships for utility, especially in places of work. In fact, the accumulation of many relationships for pleasure may indicate a lack of prudent relationships and of prudence more generally, as well as a deficient sense of vocation or commitment to profitable work. Although I have been trying to suggest that a personal commitment to the common good can only be fulfilled through efforts to administer justice to particular persons in a certain order of priority, it bears stressing that such efforts are the locus of this larger commitment. Where a sense of this commitment is lost, I will show below, it becomes impossible to serve others well. Ironically, this loss is particularly common in the case of distributive justice, on account of its
intrinsically one-sided nature, or the fact that others cannot be expected in this context to offer much or anything of substance in return for efforts on their behalf. Because of the asymmetrical nature of relationships revolving around distributive justice, work to facilitate the self-actualization of others may not be recognized as the means through which self-actualization occurs in our own lives. In other words, we may not realize that our service to the common good is the source of our vocation or purpose in life and thus our main resource for achieving our own highest good. When we neglect as a result to treat particular responsibilities as mere means to the end of fulfilling a more significant responsibility to all that is good, our allegiances to particular persons, parties or institutions cannot help but replace an allegiance to the common good and consequently undermine it in the limited and specific circumstances that represent the only site for serving it. In normal circumstances, of course, it can prove difficult to distinguish those who fulfill their responsibilities for the sake of the common good from those who do so merely to promote those persons, parties, or institutions that pertain to their areas of interest or responsibility. Many take considerable care to administer justice in the ways mentioned above, even though they lack a commitment to the common good. They give others their due, because doing so provides a sense of fulfillment, or is essential to securing the support and protection of society. Although promoting the common good for the sake of surviving and thriving is a natural reason for acting, it is not strictly speaking a reason that has anything to do with the just promotion of the common good. Thus, true motives for acting generally only come to the surface in extenuating circumstances, when serving the highest good proves incompatible with the promotion of private interests, such that it becomes necessary to choose one end over the other. For example, a deficient commitment to the common good comes into relief when undue and thus unjust favoritism is shown towards particular persons and projects that promote a personal agenda, while those who truly need and deserve support stand in neglect.53 A commitment to the common good is also undermined in cases where individuals or groups are excluded from society on account of breaking with convention for the sake of the common good, or for some other unwarranted reason stemming from prejudices or vices that are nursed by society itself.54 The threat to the common good in this instance is exacerbated by those who neglect to support the marginalized and oppressed out of concern for their own status in society. On yet another level, a predisposition to betray the common good becomes evident when individuals fail to attend to the needs and sufferings of those in the wider world, because of the discomfort that is involved in observing distant
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or atrocious suffering, or out of a selfish desire to spend resources exclusively on personal or local projects. In these exceptional cases and others, a lack of commitment to the common good leads to undermining the common good in the only way it can be promoted, namely, by dealing with the personal, local, and even global concerns that present themselves, with a view to a goal that transcends them.55 While some refuse to distribute justice in these ways, others are simply unable to do so, on account of a disability, mental or physical.56 That is not to say that disabled individuals are incapable of participating in the distribution of justice. Their participation rather takes the form of receptivity to the help others may give them to realize the limited level of potential they possess—or the exertion of an extra measure of determination and effort when this help is not offered or available.57 A similar principle applies in the case of those who for reasons unrelated to disability—for example, poverty or racial discrimination—lack the power personally to create conditions that are conducive to the realization of personal potential. For these, involvement in distributive justice also means seeking and making the most of appropriate forms of aid, or striving to overcome the odds associated with any lack thereof. As the discussion above suggests, the way individuals are treated who desperately need or deserve our aid yet have no power to hold us accountable to administer it ultimately determines whether we are just at all. Since justice means serving others without regard for what can be gained in the process, and the aforementioned cases are among the most extreme in which no compensation can usually be made for our services, they are some of the only cases in which our motives for acting justly can be confirmed completely pure. In that sense, those who need distributive justice the most yet possess no power to compel us to administer it contribute most significantly to the cause of justice by creating the clearest opportunities to advance it. The Third Condition: Fortitude Thus far, I have explained how prudence and justice respectively determine what is fitting for individuals to do, both on their own terms and with regard to their treatment of other people.58 In these respects, prudence and justice are concerned with human operations. The last two cardinal virtues of fortitude and temperance do not pertain to these operations as such. Rather, they are virtues that regulate the passions that enable efforts to perform the operations associated with prudence and justice.59
For example, fortitude is the virtue related to the passions, which affords the courage to overcome the challenges that are often involved in prudent and just projects.60 In performing its primary function, fortitude simultaneously curbs what Rationality as Virtue described as the dis-passions on account of which the challenge of completing these projects might be avoided. The dis-passionate dispositions that are most opposed to the virtue of fortitude include fear and recklessness.61 While fear creates a tendency to cower in the face of difficult circumstances, recklessness generally results in heedlessly rushing into them, before an adequate course of action has been planned. In either case, the vices in question are indicative of a deficiency in both prudence and justice. This is true of fear insofar as it depletes the ambition needed to complete prudent and just tasks, and of rashness, inasmuch as it wastes energies that ought to be spent on those tasks. By reassuring us of our purposes and reconciling us to them, fortitude makes it possible to avoid both of these extremes.62 The steadfastness of purpose it thus affords is what enables us to confront the challenging feelings and overcome the obstacles associated with the fulfillment of those purposes. That is not to say that courageous individuals are unaffected by challenging feelings—that they feel no fear in the face of difficult circumstances. Fortitude is distinguished from cowardice not by a lack of fear, but simply by a refusal to lapse into evil or back away from realizing the good on account of fear.63 Provided the object of fear is truly terrifying, there is no shame in feeling fear in the face of it.64 In fact, the absence of fear in circumstances requiring fortitude might be indicative of rashness, which disregards dangers where fortitude is conscious that challenges require courage. By instilling a commitment to bear things well notwithstanding the risks involved in doing so, fortitude renders individuals willing to sacrifice the energy and resources needed to fight for prudence and justice.65 Furthermore, it gives them the perseverance and patience to work until their goals in these respects are achieved.66 Because the courageous do everything in their power to serve the good, they always enjoy the knowledge that they have borne their circumstances to the best of their abilities. Although their efforts may meet with failure for reasons beyond their control, consequently, they need harbor no regrets. They can accept their failures, and negative feedback more generally, for it is part of fortitude to remain open to correction in all spheres, including the personal or moral sphere in which even the courageous may fail. Though all human beings behave badly on occasion, vices can clearly be exacerbated when the very fact that circumstances have been borne badly is itself borne badly. While the cowardly generally do this by refusing to confront their
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failures to bear things well, for example, the rash simply disregard their obvious shortcomings. Because they deny their failures, albeit in different ways, both the cowardly and the rash set themselves up to make more of the same, albeit possibly more serious, mistakes in the future. By sharp contrast, the courageous acknowledge personal failures as soon as they become aware of them and immediately seek to correct or compensate for their shortcomings. In this way, they bear even their mistakes well and thus learn from them how to bear similar circumstances better in the future. Of course, it would be incompatible with fortitude to indulge in personal vices simply for the sake of overcoming and learning from them. Nevertheless, it is consistent with fortitude to make good of personal mistakes in the way I have described. While the courageous keep no record of past wrongs for any other reason than to learn from them, they also resist resting on past accomplishments or indeed worrying about the future. Though they build on past achievements and plan prudently for the future, they live fully in the present. After all, this is the only context in which fortitude can exert itself. Thus, it is by acting courageously with respect to immediate concerns that those with fortitude not only overcome past failures and build on past accomplishments but also prepare for the future. Though the description of fortitude given so far presupposes the practical possibility of setting prudent goals that are consistent with personal aptitudes and realizing them justly, it bears acknowledging that a lack of or sudden change in fortune, social injustice, or disability can deplete any power to realize personal potential that the courageous may possess. In what follows, however, I will show that such extenuating circumstances, which may deplete human potential in different ways, need not pose any ultimate hindrance to the life of virtue—let alone fortitude—through which human nature is realized. They only call for a different approach to realizing personal potential and indeed to exercising fortitude. This difference can be underlined through the invocation of a distinction between what might be called ‘imperfect’ by contrast to ‘perfect’ happiness.67 The former type of happiness turns on the acquisition of certain goods and resources that allow for the free exercise of personal aptitudes.68 These goods may include money, education, a good upbringing, physical attractiveness, health, friends, family, honor, rights, sustenance, shelter, work, and so on.69 By contrast, perfect happiness consists in needing nothing for happiness but an ability to bear things well, an ability that can be exercised even when any or all of the aforementioned goods have been lost.70 However it may seem, the detachment from or indifference towards the good things in life that characterizes perfect happiness does not imply that
they are devalued in this context. Because the goods proper to imperfect happiness are intrinsically good, it falls to the virtuous to pursue, maintain, and appreciate these goods, as appropriate, so far as this is possible. Moreover, it is incumbent upon them to seize every opportunity to cultivate and maximize personal abilities.71 It is only by forswearing the available goods, abilities, or opportunities—whether out of a reluctance to embrace the responsibilities that accompany them or a sense of guilt regarding these privileges—that individuals denigrate those goods, and at the same time neglect the means they have to improve the lives of others or make a difference in the world. Though the goodness of all goods must be affirmed and optimized when they are available, it is nonetheless possible to be struck by misfortunes or even to undergo sustained trials, which deprive us of some or all such goods.72 While misfortunes may thwart the exercise of our aptitudes, however, I have suggested that they do not deplete our ability to realize personal potential by bearing things well. They only alter what presents itself to be borne well, namely, misfortunes instead of good fortune. In the case of those who suffer from a debilitating illness, for example, the human task of bearing things well might be re-construed in terms of bearing the sickness well by complying with necessary treatments without complaining, requesting aid without being demanding, and so on.73 Similarly, those who lose considerable fortune and the attendant comforts would bear poverty well by seeking new employment and curbing expenditures appropriately. As these examples confirm, the circumstances individuals are called upon to bear well are more or less irrelevant to the question whether it is possible in principle to bear things well. Whether it is necessary to bear well opportunities to exercise aptitudes or the sufferings that hinder efforts to do so, what matters is simply that circumstances are borne well.74 That is the sum total of what it means to be human, and it is all that is required of human beings. As indicated above, perfect happiness is the sort of happiness which is enjoyed by those who are able to bear not only good but also difficult circumstances well. To reiterate, this sort of happiness does not turn on a denigration of ordinary goods. Rather, it is indicative of an ability to appreciate these goods when they are available without failing to appreciate the gift of life itself in the face of their loss. On account of this ability, those with perfect happiness may secure the greatest good, namely, the ability to bear things well, in the midst of some of the most horrendous sufferings. This is the upshot of the maxim that ‘virtue is its own reward.’75 Since it is difficult to obtain perfect happiness apart from the sufferings and losses that necessitate bearing difficult circumstances well, such happiness
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is ironically contingent upon the experience of trials. Although I noted above that there is no objective difference between bearing trials or benefits well, consequently, the subjective difficulties inherent in suffering would seem to necessitate a greater measure of the fortitude that is needed to face the ordinary challenges involved in the realization of personal potential. Because bearing things well is the arbiter of human happiness, it could be argued that the intense sufferings that call for a heightened ability to bear things well can create the most gratifying experiences in life—if they are managed with the fortitude that effectively enables individuals to bear the loss of all things. On this basis, moreover, maturity might be regarded as a function not of age but of the number and gravity of the challenges an individual has faced with fortitude. After all, a higher degree of fortitude is indicative of a stronger ability to bear things well. This fortitude is what ultimately prepares us to face death—the ultimate loss of our lives.76 For Aquinas, fortitude by definition involves a ‘preparedness to die,’ since it operates out of a determination to bear things well—or die trying.77 That is not to say that the courageous live to die, much less that they live in fear of sudden disasters. Because they focus on the present, they do not preoccupy themselves with disasters that might unexpectedly happen, until they happen. They do not organize life around averting disaster, let alone death. Still, the courageous are prepared to face either disaster or death when these events strike, because they habitually ready themselves to bear whatever they are called upon to bear well, to the point of and thus including death itself. The Fourth Condition: Temperance While fortitude provides the strength to follow through on prudent and just purposes, temperance teaches us to take pleasure in or be supremely passionate about doing just this. In the process, it curbs the passions that might entice us in other directions.78 Whereas fortitude helps us reckon with feelings that spring from the fear of death, consequently, temperance regulates passions that accompany our natural desire to preserve and continue life. Though sex and food are the paradigmatic examples of life-perpetuating goods, the purview of temperance is not limited to these goods, which can include any goods of the external world—such as possessions, relationships, knowledge, honor, fame—or goods of the body—like beauty or health—that might be regarded as essential to personal survival and thriving. Although it is both natural and appropriate to engage in self-preservation through the procurement of such goods, these goods, which serve the purposes
of life, can prove inimical to human life where desires for them grow excessive or deficient. Since the tendency thus to treat various goods as ends in themselves as opposed to means to the end of bearing life well destroys their life-giving power, these desires, which are otherwise natural, become unnatural when they come to control us rather than the other way around. As a counterbalance to such unnatural desires, temperance gives us the discipline to pursue only the goods that are needed to sustain life, in exactly the quantity they are needed for this purpose.79 In this way, temperance follows through on the directives of prudence, which often conflict with bodily desires for instant gratification. In thus eliminating the inner tension or conflict between soul and body and creating harmony between the two, temperance aligns our desires for pleasure with the true sources thereof. As such, it acts as the arbiter of the functionality and flourishing of rational animals, and in that sense, of the other moral virtues. By disciplining us to take pleasure where we ought to do so, and not where we ought not to do so, however, temperance by no means obliterates the passions we have for various goods of the body and the external world. Instead, it fosters the only true enjoyment of these life-giving gifts that is available to us as human beings. Temperance allows us to be passionate about these gifts in the true sense of the term, because it attunes us to our deepest passion for our own thriving and disciplines us to chase only the desires that advance the pursuit of this passion. As it focuses all our energies or passions on the project of self-actualization, temperance maximizes the energy and thus the passion we have for whatever we do, which would be diffused and dampened were it not thus directed.80 Far from compelling us to denigrate bodily or external goods, consequently, temperance helps us to use these goods in ways that promote rather than undermine our thriving, within our limitations. Without the discipline it affords, the dis‑passions that are irrelevant or inimical to our flourishing would tend to overcome us.81 As a result, we would squander our energy or passions on things that are incompatible with our well-being and consequently disperse and finally deplete our passion to act in our own best interests. By contrast to temperance, which teaches us to manage the dis-passions for the sake of our own thriving, our culture today often suggests that we may do as we please with our bodies and lives, without detriment to our physical or emotional well-being, let alone our capacity fully to realize our potential. In fact, it frequently implies that self-actualization might actually be hindered by a failure to follow personal whims and urges. By thus obscuring the fact that physical and personal limitations call for the discipline to operate in keeping
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with those limitations, society may deceive us into believing we can obtain the effect of a fulfilled life without its cause, which is temperance. Where our culture might have us self-destruct through the pursuit of a desire for instant gratification, temperance again instills in us the willingness to deflect this desire, and thus to promote our own self-preservation and thriving.82 Put differently, temperance gives us the freedom that comes from exercising appropriate restraint. It enables us to follow the rules for our own thriving and so find fulfillment in life. Admittedly, these rules, dictated by temperance, vary from person to person, as they depend upon individual physical and personal limitations. By leading us to operate in accordance with these limitations, however, temperance creates the conditions in which the operations of prudence and justice may be successfully carried out, even though it cannot perform those operations itself. Where prudent and just plans come to fruition, consequently, this must be credited to temperance, which gives us the daily discipline to live our embodied lives in accordance with who we really are—no more, no less—and to take pleasure in doing this above all else. Moral Virtue as Rationality According to the argument I have been developing, the four moral virtues are the means through which we satisfy the conditions for the possibility of promoting the highest which is at once the common good. As I have been insisting throughout, our ability to sustain rationality is contingent upon our willingness to recognize the limited way and extent to which we are able to do so. Though prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance allow us personally to fulfill a commitment to the highest good, which is the final arbiter of human rationality, there are a number of other conditions for rationality, so construed. The question whether these conditions are fulfilled must be answered on the basis of whether individuals have habituated themselves in moral virtue and enlisted the intellectual virtues in the service of moral virtue. Of course, some degree of rationality is attainable apart from a consistent habit of moral virtue, and in cases where intellectual virtue is not cultivated for the sake of moral virtue, such that moral virtue is not conversely substantiated intellectually. In such cases, however, rationality defensibly remains to some extent deficient, precisely because the commitment to the highest good that establishes rationality is inconsistent and unrelated to the intellectual virtues that represent our prime resources for exercising moral virtue.
In light of these considerations, my goal in this final section is to demonstrate that rationality in its optimal form must be exercised as a matter of habit and entail both intellectual and moral virtue. I will make this case as I address four questions concerning how to achieve habituation in moral virtue; whether there can be moral virtue in the absence of a habit of virtue, that is, in cases of ‘accidental virtue’; whether there can be intellectual without moral virtue; and whether there can be moral without intellectual virtue. Habituation in Moral Virtue As mentioned above, a robust commitment to the highest good requires habituation in moral virtue, that is, an ongoing effort first to acquire and then to maintain a virtuous disposition. Since rationality ultimately consists in moral virtue, it must be proportional to the degree to which that disposition has been acquired. Though it is possible and even necessary to make an initial resolution to develop such a disposition, virtuous habits cannot be formed in a moment.83 Rather, it takes practice in order for the will to become accustomed to, and indeed passionate about, following through on the moral directives of the intellect; in short, habits take time to form. In order to obtain the practice required to perfect a habit of virtue, it is necessary pro-actively to seek out and enter into situations that call for the exercise of a new habit.84 Conversely, it is imperative to avoid situations in which it would be practically impossible to refrain from indulging in a corresponding vice. This is particularly true early on in the process of habituation, when the temptation to carry on committing old vices is especially strong. In the two aforementioned respects, then, enough effort must be initially and continuously exerted not only to foster a given virtue but also to curb the countervailing vice.85 As this suggests, it is impossible to work half-heartedly or inconsistently and cultivate any given virtue. A full commitment to forming a habit of virtue is required if such a habit is to be formed at all.86 To sustain such a commitment, it is necessary to maintain a clear sense of the kind of quality we are trying to cultivate and the efforts it will take to cultivate it, ordering our lives accordingly. As Aquinas suggests, there is no way around the hard work involved in following through on the decision to replace vicious with virtuous habits.87 Aristotle echoes this point in his own way when he affirms that, ‘the things we have to learn before we can do, we learn by doing.’88 Though specific acts of justice, for example, may not immediately form in us the just disposition we seek to develop, they dispose us to an increase in the habit of acting justly.89 Provided we persevere in performing such just acts, we will
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eventually begin to see the cumulative effect of our work in the formation of a more consistent and automatic habit of acting justly. On the grounds that the acquisition of virtue is a matter of habit formation, Aquinas following Aristotle names different levels of virtue that correspond to different phases in the process of habituation. The first level is called ‘continence.’90 Although the continent act virtuously, albeit with varying degrees of regularity and success, this takes considerable effort on their part. For while they know their base appetites are base, they do not yet possess a will and passions that are perfectly aligned with the determination of reason to overcome those appetites, which is why they are still fickle and fallible when it comes to doing so. In ancient and medieval times, many intellectual schools developed various ‘tools’ or ‘exercises’ tailored towards helping individuals practice exercising virtue—thus demonstrating continence—until it became natural to do so.91 The so-called ‘practical syllogism’ in Aristotelian thought is one example of this sort of exercise.92 In such a ‘syllogism,’ the first line ‘consists of a statement of the end to be pursued plus a definition, account, or theory of the nature of that end.’93 After the first line indicates the end or good being pursued, the second summarizes the particular situation that calls for striving towards that good, instigating deliberation regarding the most effective means to the end in question. The last line brings the universal or overarching goal to bear on the particular situation, in a conclusion about how to think or act under the circumstances. In the most general terms, the premises of a practical syllogism might be spelled out along these lines: 1. the ultimate good is to ‘bear things well’; 2. X is a situation that needs to be borne well; 3. Y is what can be done to bear the situation well. Though such a syllogism is certainly useful as a general guide for bearing things well, it obviously needs to be specified further by particular persons seeking to confront particular vices and cultivate specific virtues in specific circumstances.94 For example, individuals struggling to check hubris might apply the principles of the practical syllogism by acknowledging that they are: 1. responsible to bear their lives well; 2. do not have an aptitude to meet a need or make a valuable contribution in a certain area; 3. such that it is fitting for them to forego involvement in this area in favor of working in another for which they are better suited. When we strive to specify the practical syllogism in ways appropriate to ourselves and subsequently utilize it on an ongoing basis, the tension we tend to feel between what we know is in our best interests and our desires contrary to these interests will gradually begin to dissipate. For the more the will incites action on the basis of what the intellect knows to be right, the easier it is to appreciate what a life-enhancing thing it is to bear things well. As a result of this
realization, our motives or passions will cease to be mixed or to conflict with the intentions of reason, and will increasingly support as opposed to protest the proper purposes of reason and will in the moral context. If we continue along these lines, we may ultimately reach the point of willing only one thing, namely, to be virtuous, such that all our passions support the pursuit of the good life in which we bear all things well. At this point, virtue is achieved in the true sense of the term, namely, temperance.95 In a state of temperance, the base appetites or aversions that formerly troubled us no longer pose a hindrance to our thriving, because we no longer take pleasure in doing anything that contradicts our own best interests, as I showed in the section on temperance above. Under these conditions, reason enjoys the full support of the will and the passions, which it lacked in the state of continence. Owing to the union of reason, will, and passions at this point, it is no longer necessary to go through calculations each time we wish to act virtuously. We no longer have to try to be good, because acting virtuously has now become second nature, and has thus attenuated any power other persons or circumstances might previously have held in terms of dissuading us from virtuous living. At this stage, the highest possible level of happiness is achieved, namely, the perfect happiness discussed in the section above on fortitude. This again is the happiness we find in continuously deriving pleasure from the only matter that is entirely subject to our control, namely, our ability to act in our best interests by bearing everything well.96 Though we achieve what is objectively the highest degree of happiness when we are temperate, precisely because we engage fully in the activity of bearing things well, which is convertible with self-actualization, it is arguable that other degrees of happiness are attainable at earlier stages in the process of habituation, when a completely consistent habit of virtue has yet to be developed. Assuming we do as much as we can at a given point in time to cultivate this habit and thus to engage in self-actualization, the correlative level of happiness we enjoy represents the highest level of happiness that is personally obtainable at that stage. That is not to deny the possibility of cultivating the habit further and thus of experiencing a concomitant increase in happiness. The potential we realize and the happiness we achieve at any given moment is precisely what allows for the further realization of potential and a corresponding increase in happiness, which consists in the activity of bearing things well. As with knowledge, so with virtue, the question whether we have achieved our personal best does not, or not only, call for an objective answer concerning the degree to which we have approximated the ultimate human end of bearing things well
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at all times. It can also be answered on subjective grounds, or with reference to the extent to which we make the most of every opportunity we have to cultivate virtue—and happiness—while still on the way towards this end. Moral Virtue without Habituation The preceding account of habituation in virtue segues naturally into the next question I wish to address, namely, whether there can be virtue without efforts to cultivate virtue, that is, habituation. There are a number of possible ways in which individuals may act virtuously without intending to do so. For instance, they may perform virtuous acts in ignorance, that is, without realizing they act virtuously when they do so. Alternatively, persons may act virtuously for reasons that have nothing do with virtue, namely, because virtue happens to be the by‑product of other pre-existing and even quite self-serving plans. In other cases, virtuous acts may be performed involuntarily, under force; or semi-voluntarily, when there is a vested interest in doing so—such as that of gaining good repute in the eyes of others. It is even possible to act rightly as a result of being in an altered mental or emotional state.97 Though these cases all involve some exemplification of virtue, they do not strictly speaking count as genuine instances of virtue because the subject in all instances lacks a virtuous disposition. In other words, the ‘means’ to virtue are not in place, despite evidence of the ‘ends.’ According to Aristotle, these means are only secured in cases where the following three criteria are met.98 The first criterion posits the necessity of knowing that virtuous acts are virtuous when performing those acts. To guarantee such knowledge, the second criterion stipulates that virtuous acts must be performed precisely because they are virtuous and for no other primary motivation. Where a virtuous act is committed for any reason other than that of fully realizing personal potential to promote the highest good, that act is potentially self-serving and not strictly speaking virtuous. The last criterion holds that genuine virtue must proceed from a consistent habit of virtue. Put differently, human acts only count as virtuous when they flow from a fundamental impulse to engage in the virtuous activity of bearing things well. Apart from such a conscious and consistent habit of virtue, Aristotle concludes that there is no way to ensure that acts which appear virtuous are nonaccidental or intentional and can therefore be repeated on a consistent basis, regardless of circumstances. Since circumstances are contingent and subject to considerable variation, only such a habit can predispose moral agents to discern how to act virtuously on short notice or under new or unfamiliar conditions.
This last contention must be bolstered against the deontological and utilitarian moral philosophies, which have sought to delineate external criteria for virtue that guarantee the virtuousness of any given act on the basis of whether it fulfills a preconceived sense of duty or accomplishes the greatest good for the greatest number, respectively. Although these two moral philosophies have held considerable sway during the modern period, both seem to overlook the simple reality that human beings alone are capable of formulating criteria, rules, or principles for moral living in the first place, to say nothing of deciding what rules relevantly apply in the case of particular moral dilemmas.99 While such external criteria for virtue—including various binding duties, regulations, or the principle of utility or expediency—are admittedly important for moral judgment in many contexts and for many reasons, they clearly cannot take the place of the moral agent with whom the primary responsibility for moral adjudication inescapably lies, even if external criteria are invoked for this purpose. Conversely, the mere ability to satisfy such criteria or abide by duties, principles or laws does not substitute for a capacity to exercise sound judgment regarding the rules themselves and their appropriate and inappropriate applications. Though the idea of outlining hard-and-fast criteria for virtue might seem appealing, given that a list of these would relieve human beings of the burden of considering what it means to bear things well in every single instance, it emerges for this very reason as a tactic for evading or deferring the whole responsibility associated with being human, indeed, as a rejection of the human condition and its finitude. Since it belongs to human nature to be intentional about virtue, whether intellectual or moral, the humanity of those who exhibit virtue in either way, without any deliberate intention or sense of vocation to be virtuous, not to mention those who fail to exhibit virtue altogether, clearly leaves something to be desired. For these reasons, an ethic of virtue, and specifically one that entails the three criteria for virtue mentioned above, ought to be regarded as foundational to the whole moral task, even if other moral philosophies are invoked to supplement it. On Aquinas’ showing, the satisfaction of these criteria entails the unity of the four virtues I have been discussing.100 In fact, the absence of any one of the four virtues is likely to generate a vicious act. For example, fortitude without justice results in anger and other forms of aggression and oppression. Temperance without prudence entails mere prudishness or even self-abasement, while fortitude without prudence reduces to recklessness. Though these four virtues are distinct, therefore, they do not ultimately work in isolation but necessarily collaborate to accomplish any given moral act. As I have shown, prudence plans the work that justice executes with the help of the fortitude to overcome
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difficulties that arise in the process and the temperance or discipline to follow through on prudent and just causes. Thus, it is as impossible to exhibit prudence without the other virtues, which follow through on prudent purposes, as it is to exemplify the other moral virtues without prudence, which guides all our moral efforts. In harmony, then, and only in that way, the four cardinal virtues foster the unified or holistic style of life in which every human act promotes rather than thwarts self-actualization. Together, they create the dependable character or habit of virtue through which we are able to make a personal contribution to the highest good and therefore confirm our rationality. Intellectual without Moral Virtue Now that the conditions or criteria for authentic virtue have been delineated, I wish to pursue the related questions whether there can be intellectual without moral virtue and moral without intellectual virtue. The answer to the first question is obviously affirmative.101 There is no reason why a lack of moral virtue should hinder the embodiment of intellectual virtues like prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance, which hold us accountable to testify to the truth, inasmuch as we can do so through the implementation of our aptitudes in the areas of wisdom, science, or art. In fact, many who are considerably deficient in moral virtue—who have little or no idea about what is best for them in life or what it would mean to bear things well—enjoy tremendous success when it comes to the use of the intellectually virtuous (prudent, just, courageous, temperate) use of their intellectual virtues (wisdom, science, or art). Nevertheless, I will discuss in what follows some important reasons for casting the quest to cultivate the intellectual virtues in the larger context of a quest to be morally virtuous, or to orientate our lives towards the highest good. Indeed, there are reasons why a moral orientation might in many cases turn out to be the condition for the possibility of exercising intellectual virtue in a genuinely virtuous way. The first and arguably most fundamental reason pertains to the fact that moral virtue—particularly prudence—is essential to an accurate assessment of intellectual virtues in the areas of wisdom, science, or art. Without prudence, we are at risk of over or under-estimating our capacities in these areas, thus obscuring any sense of what our abilities really are and consequently neglecting to invest our energies where we could make the most effective use of them. In losing a sense of vocation along these lines, we may take up tasks on the basis of what is lucrative or easy to do, or what is likely to please our superiors or
enhance our reputation, as opposed to working in the areas where our abilities really lie. As a result, our own flourishing may be undermined in the very pursuits through which we expect to enhance it. A moral framework provides protection from this end by giving us a proper perspective on our abilities and where we should correspondingly spend our time and energies. In this regard, moral virtue might incline us to use skills and pursue lines of thought and work, which we might have neglected, if we were striving for an end other than self-actualization. It might even raise our awareness of intellectual virtues we would not have recognized in ourselves any other way. Another reason why moral virtue is indispensable for the fullness of intellectual virtue concerns the fact that theories and ideas can become objects of undue fixation, like all things. In developing an account of any phenomenon, for instance, it is possible to become so enchanted with an explanation of it as to lose sight of the actual object of our analysis, thus defeating the whole purpose of pursuing knowledge, which is to testify to the way things really are. In this connection, truth that contests the relevant account is often denied or glossed over, even while information is modified or fabricated in ways that support personal perspectives. By these means, the intellectual virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, or temperance are undermined rather than enacted through the pursuit of wisdom, science, or art. As a result, either nonsense or outright falsehoods are invariably propounded. Through the former, energy is expended accumulating knowledge and furthering projects that are irrelevant to and a distraction from the actual truth—projects that are simply pointless. Owing to the latter, human life and thought is built on a foundation that is genuinely incorrect—and potentially destructive. Though the ideas espoused in both cases may be internally consistent, and in that sense valid, the fact that they fail to bear entirely on reality—or contradict it—suggests that their coherency derives from a sort of perverse as opposed to authentic intellectual virtue. In order to avoid corrupting the truth in these ways, a frame of mind is needed that has the power to check our natural tendency to favor personal intellectual agendas to an inappropriate degree. The four cardinal moral virtues—or a commitment to the highest good—offer the very accountability that is needed in this respect, because they implicitly render us responsible to exhibit an authentic version of those virtues in the intellectual context as well as in the moral context. In cases where it would be tempting or easy to betray the truth for the sake of personal gain, the moral virtues give us a rationale or motivation for manifesting the intellectual virtues; they give ‘form’ to the
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‘substance’ of intellectual virtue, without which we might fail truly to exhibit intellectual virtue at all. So far, I have only considered scenarios in which moral virtue would make a difference with regard to an individual’s actual competence to exhibit intellectual virtue. But I have already admitted that there are many cases where a lack of moral virtue makes no difference to the exercise of intellectual virtue; where intellectual virtue comes naturally to individuals. In spite of such cases, there are other ways in which moral virtue might prove indirectly necessary for sustaining intellectual virtue. For example, a moral outlook might help a person perceive their intellectual life and work in the larger context of other activities that are relevant to selfactualization, such as personal relationships or time for rest and relaxation. As important as meaningful work may be when it comes to fostering a sense of fulfillment in life, a fulfilling life cannot normally be reduced to meaningful work. Most people need to feel that their work is part of a larger effort to realize their potential for flourishing, which generally involves various aspects of a personal as well as a professional or vocational life. Without a balanced lifestyle, feelings of dissatisfaction in life can easily emerge; questions may start to arise as to whether certain lines of work have been taken up for the right reasons and whether they merit any further investment of time. As a result of such doubts, appropriate and timely choices to pursue certain lines of intellectual work may be regretted or revoked. By contrast, a moral outlook allows for prioritizing the various areas of life, personal and professional, and thus for maintaining a perspective on work that contributes to a general sense of thriving on account of which intellectually virtuous efforts may be sustained over the long term. Furthermore, moral virtue makes it possible to face challenges or even outright failures and losses in the professional context. While such experiences would likely devastate those who stake all hopes for happiness in professional success, setbacks can be incorporated into the grander scheme of life in the case of those who do not live to work but work in order to live, or bear things well. A moral outlook further removes some work-related pressures, like collegial competition, which might skew a person’s perspective on the work they should undertake or why they should undertake it. In this way, moral virtue allows moral agents to remain true to the demands of their work—and themselves—thus keeping them from becoming disillusioned with their work to the point of giving up on it. For all these reasons and no doubt others, it is in our best interests to conceive of our intellectual work as part of a larger moral process of self-actualization. As I have suggested, such an outlook heightens our chances of exhibiting the
intellectual virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance in the fields of wisdom, science, or art. Though it is certainly possible to operate at the purely intellectual level of rationality without a moral outlook, any success in this regard is bound to be accidental, insofar as it is unintentional or unsupported by its proper moral rationale, that is, a sense of personal vocation to be virtuous on all levels. Since accidental success is generally short-lived—and is highly likely to be interrupted by any of the factors I mentioned above—it stands to reason that a lifelong commitment to intellectual virtue is most effectively fostered by a commitment of equal longevity to moral virtue. Moral without Intellectual Virtue The converse of the preceding question concerns the possibility of exhibiting moral virtue without any of the intellectual virtues of wisdom, knowledge, or art.102 Of course, all human beings possess intellectual virtue in some measure, even if this consists only in the potential to possess intellectual virtue, as in the case of those with mental disabilities or physical disabilities that hinder the life of the mind. Thus, the question in this context is not whether individuals actually possess intellectual virtues; rather it concerns the extent to which it is possible to meet the conditions for moral virtue while neglecting to make the most of personal intellectual virtues. Under such circumstances, the ultimate criterion for rationality can obviously be met, inasmuch as the four moral virtues are exhibited, which foster an internal ordering towards the highest good.103 Since a central purpose of prudence is to identify and govern the use of intellectual virtues, however, it seems doubtful that we can really bear our lives to the best of our abilities if we bypass those virtues; in other words, it is unlikely that the ‘form’ of moral virtue can be upheld where the ‘substance’ afforded by the intellectual virtues is lacking. That is not to deny that it is possible to be moral in a meaningful sense without recourse to personal aptitudes or intellectual virtues. It is simply to acknowledge that the virtuous activities undertaken in these conditions neglect to optimize intellectual aptitudes, and as a result, fail to maximize individual contributions to the highest good. This moral deficiency is potentially problematic, both intellectually and morally, because of the separation of the moral from the intellectual it presupposes. As I have already shown, the lack of a moral framework can lead to bearing intellectual resources badly. In the moral context, moreover, a failure to recognize that the ordinary or intellectual life is the site for moral living can cause morality to be construed in
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an arbitrary, artificial, or exaggerated manner, as a code to be adhered to over and above ordinary efforts to bear things well in daily life. The moralistic or even legalistic ethical codes produced as a result may then render moral acts immoral and vice versa. When human acts are judged in accordance with these codes, the common good may ironically be undermined in attempts to uphold it that are far too restricted in scope and therefore fail to appreciate the diverse ways in which different human beings may bear things well, and flourish. Because these codes lack intellectual substance, moreover, there can be no grounds for upholding them apart from the sheer will or desire to do so. Since many persons lack the passions necessary to behave morally, however, and most intellectually astute individuals need reasons for acting that have real points of reference, a voluntarist concept of the moral life is not likely to engender much in the way of moral living, at least amongst the intellectually virtuous. As I have been trying to suggest, the moral life as well as the intellectual life is jeopardized when the two spheres—moral and intellectual—are segregated. For this separation enables us to evade the full measure of our responsibility to be rational in both spheres, depriving both the intellectual and ultimately the moral life of the integrity they enjoy when they stand in a mutually complementary relationship. Though I have readily acknowledged that it is not out of the realm of possibility to accomplish good intellectually or morally where intellectual and moral virtue do not co-exist, their separation is clearly less than conducive to rationality, because the intellectual virtues need a moral framework in order to maintain the standards of rationality proper to human knowledge, and the moral virtues require the substance provided by intellectual skills in order to seem well founded. In spite of the possibility of an intellectually virtuous life that is lacking in moral virtue, and a morality without intellectual substance, consequently, rationality in its most robust form entails both. To sum up: the paradigm of human rationality consists in intellectual and moral, or better, intellectual for moral virtue. Endnotes ST 184.108.40.206–7. EN III.3, 1112b. On these virtues, outlined from Aquinas’ point of view, see Josef Pieper’s, The Four Cardinal Virtues (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1966). See also works by Herbert McCabe OP such as The Good Life: Ethics and the Pursuit of Happiness (London: Continuum, 2005) and Peter Geach, The Virtues (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 1977. 1
See Gregory M. Reichberg, ‘The Intellectual Virtues,’ in The Ethics of Aquinas, Stephen J. Pope (ed.) (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2002), 131–50. 3 Aristotle discusses the ‘intellectual virtues’ including wisdom, science, and art in EN book VI. 4 APo I.13, 78b34–79a16. 5 See chapter 6 on ‘The Deficient Conditions for Pro-Theology Philosophy’, in Rationality as Virtue. See also EE III.7, 1234a3: ‘the man who represents himself as he is, is sincere.’ 6 Our aversion to assuming responsibility for our own existence is a topic that Kierkegaard explores in The Concept of Dread (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1957). 7 As mentioned at the end of chapter 4 on ‘The Conditions for Knowledge’ in Rationality as Virtue, intellectual operation at any of the three stages involves the eight ‘integral parts’ of prudence. The first three of these—‘reason,’ ‘the use of reason,’ and ‘memory’—necessarily enter into any act of deliberation, where the others may or may not do so (ST 220.127.116.11–2, 5). These integral parts also enter into deliberations about how to exercise prudence in the moral context. 8 ST 18.104.22.168: on foresight. 9 Martha Nussbaum, Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of the Emotions (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001): on shame and disgust in children. 10 EN II.3, 1104b. See also Martha Nussbaum, The Therapy of Desire: Theory and Practice in Hellenistic Ethics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009), 356. 11 See Justin L. Barrett, Cognitive Science, Religion and Theology: From Human Minds to Divine Minds (West Conshohocken: Templeton Press, 2011), 25ff. Barrett discusses the nature/nurture distinction and argues that both must be appealed to in any adequate account of the factors involved in human development. 12 EN II.2, 1104a4–8: ‘matters concerned with conduct and questions of what is good for us have no fixity, any more than matters of health. The general account being of this nature, the account of particular cases is yet more lacking in exactness, for they do not fall under any art or set of precepts, but the agents themselves must in each case consider what is appropriate to the occasion.’ 13 Thus, in EE I.2, 1214b6–10, Aristotle ‘enjoins every one that has the power to live according to his own choice to set up for himself some object for the good life to aim at, with reference to which he will then do all his acts, since not to have one’s life organized in view of some end is a mark of much folly.’ See also EN I.1–2, 1094a, on all human activities being directed towards the good. 14 ST 22.214.171.124–4: on docility and shrewdness. 15 ST 126.96.36.199: on caution. 16 ST 2.2.109–10. 2
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ST 2.1.13. ST 2.1.16. 19 ST 2.1.15; see also David Burrell, Aquinas: God and Action (London: University of Scranton Press, 2008), 141ff. 20 ST 188.8.131.52, 49.4; cf. EN IV.9, 1142b32–5: ‘if, then, it is characteristic of men of practical wisdom to have deliberated well, excellence in deliberation will be correctness with regard to what conduces to the end of which practical wisdom is the true apprehension.’ 21 See Martha Nussbaum, Upheavals of Thought, chapter 4. 22 ST 184.108.40.206: on circumspection. 23 For example, Jean Porter, Moral Action and Christian Ethics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 194. Jean Porter describes the inter-relationship between justice and prudence in this instance in terms of integrity, along these lines: ‘the person who attains integrity does not so much move from self-love to altruism as to a new construal of her own good which is now seen in relation to a larger good.’ 24 EN V: Aristotle on justice and injustice. 25 ST 220.127.116.11; cf. EN VIII, 1158b. 26 ST 18.104.22.168; cf. EN VIII.7. 27 ST 22.214.171.124. On this, see Martha Nussbaum, Creating Capabilities: The Human Development Approach (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011). 28 ST 126.96.36.199, 62. 29 Joseph Pieper, The Four Cardinal Virtues, 71; see also EN 5. 30 See Jean Porter, Ministers of the Law: A Natural Law Theory of Legal Authority (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010). 31 C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves (London: Harcourt, 1988), 50: love ‘desires the good of the object as such, from whatever source that good comes.’ 32 Soren Kierkegaard, Works of Love (New York: Harper Collins, 2009), 254: ‘for one who has individuality, another person’s individuality is no refutation but rather a confirmation or one proof more; it cannot disturb him to be shown as he believes that everyone has individuality. But for small-mindedness every individuality is a refutation.’ 33 C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, 8. 34 EN IX.11, 1171b32: ‘as a man is to himself, so is he to his friend.’ 35 C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, 50: ‘but the proper aim of giving is to put the recipient in a state where he no longer needs our gift. … Thus a heavy task is laid upon [justice]: it must work towards its own abdication. We must aim at making ourselves superfluous.’ 36 Herbert McCabe, God Matters (London: T & T Clark, 2005), 179: ‘space is not something that is simply there; on the contrary, we are hedged and hemmed around with things. It is only a person who can give us space. … To love is to give to another 17 18
not possessions or any such good thing. It is to give yourself, which means providing a space in which the other can be himself or herself. … Love in this way is surprisingly like indifference, though it is at the other end of the spectrum.’ 37 Soren Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 255–6. 38 EN 35 VIII.3ff. 39 Josef Pieper, Death and Immortality (St Augustine’s Press, 1999), 103: we ‘possess only what we let go of and lose what we try to hold.’ 40 Paul Griffiths, Intellectual Appetite: A Theological Grammar (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 2009), 136–8: greater intimacy is gained by treating others in keeping with their needs and nature as opposed to our own. 41 EN VIII.3, 1156a. 42 ST 188.8.131.52. 43 ST 184.108.40.206: cf. 104, 106. Aquinas argues that we owe respect to some people, especially parents, regardless of how they treat us, simply on account of the role they have in our lives. 44 Simone Weil, Waiting for God (New York: Harper Collins, 2009): ‘a certain reciprocity is essential in friendship. If all good will is entirely lacking on one of the two sides the other should suppress his own affection, out of respect for the free consent, which he should not desire to force. If on one of the two sides there is not any respect for the autonomy of the other, this other must cut the bond uniting them out of respect for himself.’ 45 EN IX.3. 46 See Rationality as Virtue, chapter 6 on ‘Deficient Conditions for Pro‑Theology Philosophy.’ 47 EN VIII.6, 1158b. 48 For more on this score, see Lydia Schumacher, ‘Forgetting and Forgiving: An Augustinian Perspective,’ in Forgetting and Forgiving: At the Margins of Soteriology, Johannes Zachhuber and Hartmut von Sass (eds) (Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2015). See also Martha Nussbaum, Anger and Forgiveness: Resentment, Generosity, Justice (Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming). 49 EN IX.8. Stephen J. Pope, The Evolution of Altruism and the Ordering of Love (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 1995). Nevertheless, it is possible to have goodwill towards many people, as Aristotle writes in EN IX.5. 50 EN IV.1, 1120b3–5; cf. ST 2.2.117. 51 ST 2.2.26. 52 ST 220.127.116.11; cf. 2.2.31. 53 ST 18.104.22.168. 54 Rene Girard, The Scapegoat (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989). 55 ST 22.214.171.124.
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ST 126.96.36.199. On disability, see the work of John Swinton, Stanley Hauerwas, and Jean Vanier. 57 See chapter 2 on ‘The Ontology of Participation’ in Rationality as Virtue. See also C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, 132: ‘in such a case to receive is harder and perhaps more blessed than to give.’ 58 ST 188.8.131.52. 59 ST 2.1.62. 60 ST 184.108.40.206; cf. EN III.8. 61 ST 220.127.116.11, 125–7. 62 ST 2.2.123, 128. 63 EN III.8. 64 ST 18.104.22.168; cf. EN III.7. 65 ST 22.214.171.124: contra meanness; ST 126.96.36.199–4: magnificence is part of fortitude. 66 ST 188.8.131.52. 67 ST 2.1.3. See Martha Nussbaum, Upheavals of Thought; Richard Sorabji, Emotion and Peace of Mind: From Stoic Agitation to Christian Temptation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000). 68 EN I.8, 1099a32–3: ‘it is impossible, or not easy, to do noble acts without the proper equipment.’ 69 ST 184.108.40.206; cf. ST 220.127.116.11. 70 ST 2.1.4; cf. EN I.10. 71 See the Stoic Epictetus’ The Discourses of Epictetus (Everyman, 1995), I.6; cf. II.1, II.16. On Aquinas’ use of Stoic thought, see chapter 4 on ‘The Morality of the Passions,’ in Robert Miner, Thomas Aquinas on the Passions (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011). 72 ST 18.104.22.168. 73 Epictetus, The Discourses of Epictetus, III.10: on bearing sickness and other trials well. 74 ST 2.1.2, 4. 75 EN 1.7–8. 76 Pierre Hadot, Philosophy as a Way of Life (Oxford: Blackwell, 1995), 273. According to Hadot, many ancient schools of thought treated philosophy as a way of life, which ultimately provides preparation for death. 77 ST 2.2.124. 78 ST 22.214.171.124; cf. EN III.10. 79 ST 126.96.36.199. 80 ST 188.8.131.52. 81 ST 184.108.40.206; ST 220.127.116.11; see chapter 4 on ‘The Morality of the Passions’ in Robert Miner, Thomas Aquinas on the Passions. 56
See Pieper’s chapter on ‘Temperance’ in The Four Cardinal Virtues. ST 18.104.22.168. 84 EN III.5, 1114a6–10: ‘for it is activities exercised on particular objects that make the corresponding character. … Not to know that it is from the exercise of activities on particular objects that states of character are produced is the mark of a thoroughly senseless person.’ 85 ST 22.214.171.124. 86 ST 126.96.36.199–3. 87 ST 188.8.131.52. 88 EN II.1, 1103a32. 89 ST 2.1.53. 90 ST 184.108.40.206. 91 See Pierre Hadot, Philosophy as a Way of Life, and Richard Sorabji, Emotions and Peace of Mind. 92 De Veritate 17.2; Anthony Kenny, Aristotle’s Theory of the Will (London: Duckworth, 1979), 111. 93 Anthony Kenny, Aristotle’s Theory of the Will, 132. See also Alasdair MacIntyre, Whose Justice? Which Rationality? (London: Duckworth, 1988), 129; EN VI.11, 1143b, VI.12, 1144a. 94 On this, see both Hadot’s Philosophy as a Way of Life and Sorabji’s Emotions and Peace of Mind. 95 ST 220.127.116.11. 96 According to Aquinas (ST 18.104.22.168–5), happiness is an activity, namely, a life in accord with virtue. As Aristotle also writes in, EN I.13, 1102a5–6, ‘happiness is an activity of the soul in accordance with complete excellence,’ cf. EN X.7, 1177a2–3: ‘the happy life is thought to be one of excellence [virtue]; now an excellent life requires exertion, and does not consist in amusement.’ 97 On the circumstances affecting the voluntariness or involuntariness of actions, see EN III.1, 1110a-b and ST 2.1.6. 98 EN II.2, 1105a28–1105b1: ‘the acts that are in accordance with the excellences [virtues] themselves have a certain character … the agent must also be in a certain condition when he does them. In the first place, he must have knowledge [of what he is doing]; secondly, he must choose the acts, and choose them for their own sakes [rather than any other motive]; and thirdly, his action must proceed from a firm and unchangeable character.’ 99 See the landmark article by Elizabeth Anscombe, ‘Modern Moral Philosophy,’ originally published in Philosophy 33:124 ( January 1958). 100 ST 22.214.171.124; EN VI.13, 1144b30–1145a11. 82 83
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ST 126.96.36.199; cf. EN VII.10 1152a8–10, ‘a man has practical wisdom not by knowing but only by acting … [thus] there is nothing to prevent a clever man from being incontinent.’ 102 ST 188.8.131.52. 103 ST 184.108.40.206–5. 101
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Necessary Conditions for Theological Philosophy
In the previous chapter, I outlined the conditions for maintaining a personal orientation towards the highest good, which turns on the exercise of the four cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. Through this discussion, I developed my understanding of the ultimate arbiter of human rationality and thus delineated the preconditions for articulating what I will describe as a theological philosophy. In the present chapter, I will demonstrate how the affirmation of a transcendent being or God, even one who is Triune and Incarnate, enacts the possibility of explaining to the fullest possible extent how a commitment to the highest good may be upheld.1 On my account, a pro-theology philosophy, which redefines rationality in terms of intellectual and moral virtue, is ultimately a theological philosophy precisely because the three theological doctrines of divine transcendence, Trinity, and Incarnation explain or provide a rationale for rationality, such that faith in the God these doctrines depict is inherently rational. For this same reason, I will demonstrate, these three articles of faith fulfill the necessary conditions for the development of a theological philosophy.2 While the doctrine of divine transcendence plays its role in this regard by positing the existence of a single highest good, the doctrine of the Trinity characterizes that good in a way that affirms its intrinsic capacity for self-communication. Finally, the doctrine of the Incarnation reveals how this good, which strictly speaking exceeds the finite capacities of human knowledge, actually communicates itself to human beings. Before elaborating on the exact way the aforementioned doctrines fulfill the necessary conditions for theological philosophy, some introductory remarks are in order regarding the reason why the affirmation of a transcendent being or God might be needed to explain and even maintain an orientation towards the highest good in the first place. The fundamental reason concerns the human tendency to ascribe absolute significance to particular, finite goods, at least for certain purposes or in certain respects. The goods in question may include, among others, wealth, honor, fame, education, power, health, pleasure, family, relationships, institutions, causes, and ideas or schools of thought.3
Although such goods are generally intrinsic goods, and the pursuit of them is usually our only recourse to promoting the highest good in accordance with individual abilities and interests, they are nonetheless limited in their goodness. That is to say, they are good for specific purposes or persons within certain contexts, not for all persons or purposes. They are means to the end of serving the highest good rather than ends or highest goods in themselves. Because we are limited to perceiving reality in immediate terms, we often overlook this fact of finite existence and view whatever seems conducive to our happiness in the moment as compatible with our best interests overall. When finite goods are thus conflated with the highest good, the value of those goods is overestimated such that they fail to be conceived in terms of the worth they actually possess. By the same token, the value of goods other than those that have been overvalued is underestimated. As a result, desires for inevitably fleeting and finite things come to enslave us, and our happiness becomes contingent upon circumstances that determine whether or not we obtain what we want. Whereas bearing things well enables us to find the good—and happiness—in all things, we become closed-minded under these conditions concerning ways of serving the highest that which may differ from our own but which may be appropriate for other persons in other situations. Thus, we become liable to denigrate or deny the legitimacy of other views about what is good and treat those who hold them accordingly, inciting inter‑personal conflict. In the aforementioned respects, it seems evident, we utilize other persons, objects, and circumstances to accomplish self-serving ends and so reinforce a prideful perspective on the self, as opposed to employing our lives and resources in ways that promote our own flourishing and that of others. That is to say, we undermine rather than support the highest—and common—good and therefore compromise rationality. In light of our proclivity to reduce the highest good to finite goods—what theologians call the ‘sin’ tendency—it therefore seems necessary to affirm the reality of a good that is exempt from the limitations of ordinary goods and is utterly irreducible to them.4 Only the concept of such a good that supersedes all ordinary goods is fully suited to providing complete accountability when it comes to pursuing personal purposes in a manner that furthers rather than undermines rationality. Before elaborating on this contention, it bears acknowledging that many persons seem naturally disposed to act in accordance with the highest good and evidently need no account of the transcendent, let alone the Christian account, as a motivation to curb the natural tendency to conflate that good with lesser goods and thus to ‘bear things well.’ Far from denying that morality is
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in principle sustainable outside the boundaries of religion, the more modest contention I am bolstering posits that a governing idea of transcendence seems necessary for providing a rationale for efforts to promote the highest good, which may well be successfully undertaken without awareness of or reference to that rationale. Though it is possible to act rationally or to bear things well apart from a rationale for doing so, the rationale is nonetheless significant. As I tried to show in an earlier context, rationality in its most robust form entails not merely an ability to act in an intellectually or morally virtuous way but also to explain what virtuous actions involve and how and why they are executed.5 The ability to offer such an explanation guarantees the intentionality or non-accidental nature of any given action. In other words, it ensures the repeatability of a given course of action in the long term or under different circumstances, as well as the capacity to explain and if necessary defend it to others. In the last chapter, three criteria were outlined for confirming the intentionality of virtuous or rational actions. The first criterion holds that moral agents must be aware that they act virtuously, or for the highest good, whenever they do so. Otherwise, their virtue may be accidental or unconscious, a matter of mere ‘moral luck.’ Though the accidentally successful moral acts at stake here may be consistent with rational ends, I noted that they are less than ideal instances of rationality, insofar as the agents of rational action in these cases are not internally constituted as rational beings. The second criterion elaborates on the first, positing that moral agents must choose moral acts for the sake of accomplishing the highest good and for no other primary reason. In other words, they fall short of full or deliberate rationality if they meet ends consistent with the highest good in the course of aiming for other, ineluctably inferior ends. Although they may fortuitously accomplish the highest good by these means in some situations, they inevitably undermine that good when working for it turns out to be incompatible with the reasons on account of which they are really acting. These reasons generally stem from pride. In spite of the fact that they may serve the highest good, consequently, those who do so for reasons unrelated to the promotion of that good presuppose irrational reasons for being rational. The third criterion for authentic virtue precludes the rationality of actions that are motivated by such reasons, stipulating that moral agents must possess a persistent habit of virtue. As I have suggested, external moral acts simply do not suffice to ensure human rationality. For this purpose, an internal state of affairs, a predisposition, or habit is required, as a result of which the external acts are produced. Such a predisposition guarantees unmixed motives for serving the
highest good. It ensures rationality by providing the rationale for it, confirming that a rationale for rationality is constitutive of rationality in the fullest sense of the term. As noted above, this rationale logically entails belief in the transcendent, which is the one being or state that cannot be reduced to any finite reality and therefore has the power to compel us to strive for the highest good in our way of dealing with particular goods and present circumstances. The rationale in question helps us thus to bear things well by instilling in us the awareness that there is nothing in this life that is able to offer all-inclusive, perpetual happiness. Far from denigrating temporal goods and circumstances, however, this focus on the highest good gives us the perspective from which to perceive the true nature and extent of the value ordinary things may have for us. In that sense, the goal of promoting the highest good does not preclude or compete with other goals concerning the attainment of temporal things; much less does it add to these goals the burden of striving for another that is unrelated to them. To sum up: this goal presupposes no false alternative between living with a view to the beyond or in the here and now. It is what might be described as a formal rather than a substantial goal, that is, an overarching aim or motivation which puts us in the optimal position to achieve the ordinary goals associated with making the best of our personal abilities to promote the highest good.6 The First Condition: The Transcendent In what follows, I will present a number of accounts of transcendence, in the order of their increasing conductivity to the purpose of explaining and even maintaining a commitment to the highest good.7 Among these accounts, there are those which treat transcendence in one way or another as a human state of mind or being, as opposed to a divine being; there are also others, which in some respect conflate transcendence with the divine. These include polytheism, pantheism, panentheism, and the doctrine of God as ‘infinite being,’ which has also been described in terms of ‘onto-theology.’ As noted above, my present concern is simply to characterize the aforementioned types of account and elaborate reasons why they prove more or less useful when it comes to facilitating human rationality. It would be another project entirely to do justice to the diversity of systems and thinkers that might be categorized in relation to the different types of account I mention. A still further—and indeed important—project would involve assessing the potential value the diverse concepts of transcendence possess when it comes to promoting
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purposes other than that of accounting for and sustaining an individual orientation towards the highest good. Through the process of eliminating the aforementioned accounts on the basis of their varying degrees of relevance to fostering human rationality in the fullest sense of the term, I set the stage for a discussion of the account that seems capable of doing this most effectively, namely, that of God as simple. In anticipation of this discussion, I will consider the first of the aforementioned concepts of transcendence, represented by a cluster of spiritual systems, which on some level define transcendence as a state of mind, attainable in this life, in which the concerns of this life are forgotten and the mind rests untroubled. This understanding of transcendence has sometimes been described in terms of ‘monistic mysticism,’ in which the mind’s object is simply the self or better pure, empty consciousness.8 Additionally, there is a theistic version of monistic mysticism, which entails a personal encounter with God that precludes awareness of the world.9 Although some such mystical or other worldly experiences seem to give contemplatives the strength or perspective needed to return to real life circumstances with a sense of how to cope with them, and, in that sense, promote rationality, the escapist pursuit of enlightenment as a permanent state of being, which characterizes most forms of monistic and theistic mysticism, renders these accounts inadequate as candidates for a concept of transcendence that fosters human rationality.10 The next concept I will consider is polytheism, which affirms a multiplicity of transcendent beings or deities. Although polytheism may not be commonly adhered to in contemporary Western culture, it bears noting that polytheist theologies are nonetheless unsuitable for the present purposes because they fail to offer a transcendent being that radically exceeds all others. The plurality of divinities they posit effectively produces the same moral vacuum that arises in the absence of any presumed highest good. That is, it generates the problem of discriminating rather arbitrarily between competing concepts of the greatest good, which are represented in this instance not by natural goods but the mandates of different divine beings. The next account that demands attention is pantheism.11 Pantheism reduces the transcendent God to the world or creatures within it, rendering nothing but the objects of natural experience divine. Within this conceptual framework, relation to God is achieved through so-called ‘nature mysticism,’ or the sort of spirituality in which insight is sought in the universe and our own inter‑dependence upon it.12 While it is admittedly part of my own argument to affirm that proper relation to the transcendent entails and even requires appropriate interactions
with creatures in the world and the world as a whole, pantheism itself is arguably not ultimately suited to facilitating such interactions in the most effective way. By elevating nature or creatures to the status of the highest good, pantheism reduces that good to goods that are limited and thus risks undermining the highest good by, say, underplaying the significance of some creatures, including human beings, by comparison to others. As this suggests, the good of all beings existing within the natural order—and the natural order overall—can only be promoted in the optimal sense by answering to a being that subsists beyond the natural order, as opposed to consisting or residing within it. In many respects, the aforementioned criticisms of pantheism also apply to panentheism.13 Although the panentheist God exists beyond the universe and is not one and the same with it, as in pantheism, he is nevertheless defined as that which contains or ‘prehends’ the universe and all its events in himself. As such, he is subject to temporal change, suffering, evil, and other phenomena associated with creaturely existence. Since at least the middle of the twentieth century, panentheism has held considerable sway amongst theologians, presumably because it describes a God who can identify with the human condition in ways many modern thinkers suppose a loving God should be able to do. In defending panentheism, modern theologians generally criticize so-called ‘classical theism,’ which is often associated with figures like Thomas Aquinas. On the caricatured picture of classical theism they tend to portray, features like divine immutability and the corresponding attribute of impassibility supposedly render God incapable of showing compassion for his creatures. On this basis, panentheists tend to accuse classical theists like Aquinas of uncritically appropriating the ancient Greek philosophical concept of an inert God that is utterly detached from his creation. Though the God of many Greek philosophers admittedly was connected to his creatures only through the mediation of a further god, gods or spiritual entities of decreasing divinity, I will demonstrate below that Aquinas’ way of distinguishing God from creatures differs rather drastically from this scheme of ‘emanation.’ Through his discussion of this distinction, moreover, Aquinas does not undermine the divine ability to extend compassion to say nothing of redemption from sin to creatures. Instead, he affirms it fully in a way I will describe further below. By contrast, the panentheist God who is so easily identifiable with creatures is arguably unfit to assist his creatures in the gracious or loving manner appropriate to the divine.14 For these reasons, stemming from a failure to preserve the total otherness of God, panentheism ultimately lacks conceptual resources optimally to enact rationality.
Necessary Conditions for Theological Philosophy
The next concept of the transcendent that I will treat is one to which religious believers often seem to revert by default. This concept has been called by various names over the course of intellectual history. While it is closely related to the deism that sprang up during the Enlightenment, it has more recently been characterized in terms of ‘onto-theology,’ a term coined by Kant and later employed by Heidegger, Derrida, and many others. Another label for this concept of God is that of ‘infinite being.’ In what follows, I will offer a somewhat generic characterization of this being, which synthesizes insights from various sources. In many onto-theological accounts, the infinite Being of God is explicitly or implicitly treated as the genus or category under which all other beings fall. So construed, God is unlike his creatures only in the sense that he holds together in one place, namely, his mind, the perfect models or essences after which all real and conceivable things are patterned. According to the very strong form of essentialism that seems to underlie many versions of this account, God simply assigns the predicate of existence to some of these models when he creates actually existing beings. As a result, those beings perfectly reflect ideas or essences in his mind. Conversely, God knows every being in its totalized form: he is privy to a sort of ‘grand narrative’ about the way things are, which holds true at all places and times. This kind of grand narrative, in which all ontological entities are fully realized and grounded in the being of God, has generally been considered as characteristic of onto-theology. In order to know things as they really are, this account assumes that human beings must have access to a means of knowing things as God knows them. This access presumably springs from an innate concept of Being, sometimes construed as the Being of God who pre-contains knowledge of all finite beings. While such a concept of Being does not afford knowledge of God himself, let alone knowledge of ordinary beings, which can only be derived from empirical sources, it supervises or guides the mind in ways that ensure that the human intellect conceptualizes the objects of experience in a manner that corresponds to their exemplars in the mind of God. Such a posteriori knowledge of finite beings, acquired through the assistance of the a priori concept of Being, confirms not only the existence of the Being that is the source of beings; it also discloses some aspect of the nature of that Being, while never revealing the Being of God in full. Since beings reveal some facet of the essence of God through their own essences, it is further possible on this account to ascribe to creatures names like ‘good’ and ‘wise’ in exactly the same sense as they are applied to God, that
is, to predicate these terms of beings and Being univocally. On this basis, the difference between God and creatures can be described in purely quantitative terms. Instead of positing an ‘infinite qualitative difference’ between the two extremes, in other words, this account defines God as the highest good who is beyond human comprehension merely in the sense that he is the sum total of all possibly and really existing instances of finite being. So conceived, God is effectively nothing more than the largest object in the universe, albeit an intelligent object, which is therefore more appropriately likened to a human agent that lacks normal human limitations. In light of this, some writers have claimed that the onto-theological God is in all reality an idol, that is, a God fashioned in the image of his human subjects.15 Because the concept in question allows God’s nature and ways to be envisaged in terms of our own, it gives rein to the very tendency that I have argued that any appropriate concept of God should check, namely, the tendency irrationally to reduce the highest good to our own notions of what is good. On another level, the idea of God as an infinite being that is qualitatively akin to any other being tends to foster the notion that exercising belief in him is just one of many different and indeed unrelated activities in which human beings may engage, as opposed to that one activity that informs and guides all other activities. Simply put, it can foster a false dichotomy between the sacred and the secular, faith and reason. For this reason, and on account of the way it allows for the illicit invocation of divine endorsement for personal agendas, the concept of God in question is not ideally compatible with efforts to form ideas about what is good under the influence of belief in a transcendent being or God. It may instead foster various fundamentalist religious tendencies to impose a narrow human vision of a just social or intellectual order on others, in ways that may undermine justice altogether. This brings us to the last concept of transcendence—the one I wish to endorse—according to which God is fundamentally simple.16 Although I will closely follow the thought of Aquinas on this score, the notion of divine simplicity has arguably predominated in the wider pre-modern tradition of Christian thought and indeed in monotheist thought more generally.17 By all such accounts, ‘simplicity’ denotes a lack of composition. In other words, the doctrine of divine simplicity affirms that God is not comprised of parts nor constituted by different kinds of substance, such as matter and soul.18 Rather, he is indivisible or one.19 Though all creatures exhibit unity in the sense that they possess finite essences, which differentiate them from creatures exhibiting other essences, God is ‘one’ in a special and supreme sense, because he is not subject to the
Necessary Conditions for Theological Philosophy
constraints of space and time associated with finite, embodied beings. Whereas such beings come into being at different points in time and gradually actualize their essences—or potential to be limited beings—over the course of time, the one God does not ‘become himself.’ As the only undivided and unlimited reality, he always completely is what he is, which is all there is: he is an eternal and infinite being.20 As such a being whose ‘essence is his existence,’ the divine being is rightly described as immutable or insusceptible to change and thus impassible or incapable of being affected by temporal circumstances.21 Contrary to a common contention of panentheist thinkers, however, the doctrines of divine immutability and impassibility do not bespeak a static and inert—even unfeeling—God.22 Rather, they point up the reality that God is so completely engaged in the activity of being himself that he is never uncertain or fickle when it comes to deciding how to act in accordance with his nature, which entails working in the best interests of human beings. Far from undermining God’s ability to extend compassion and aid to his creatures, consequently, the doctrines of divine immutability and impassibility emerge here as the arbiters of his totally dependable character and unfailing faithfulness in these respects. They guarantee that he could not possibly do anything more than he already does to support human thriving. In Aquinas’ account, this is what it means to describe God as ‘Being Itself ’ (esse ipsum) or ‘pure act’ (actus purus). While the onto-theological account described above construes Being, or God, as the ground or sum total of all beings—a construal many modern theologians and philosophers have rightly challenged—Aquinas’ distinctive conception of Being bears witness to a God who is ‘beyond beings.’ By his account, God is ‘wholly other’ not in the sense that his mind represents the culmination of all possibly and really existing beings—which is more than the human mind can ever know—but insofar as he is neither like nor unlike any object of human knowledge. On the grounds that God is ‘Being Itself,’ and being or existence is an intrinsic good, Aquinas further affirms that God is fundamentally good, or better, the highest good—perfection.23 He is perfect because there is no disparity between what he is and what he could be, which is everything, since he is unconstrained by the exigencies of embodied existence.24 As such a purely spiritual being, God is the ultimate good that is the source of the good that is in all things. While they have their goodness derivatively, from him, he is the very definition of goodness and is therefore present anywhere anything exhibits goodness—or exists—in the way and to the extent it does so. That is not to
imply that God and creatures share a common nature, or that the Being of God is the genus or category under which finite beings fall.25 As already stated, there is on this showing an infinite qualitative difference between beings which are complex, diverse, finite, temporal, mutable, located, and good by participation, and thus incomplete or imperfect, and the being who is simple, one, infinite, eternal, immutable, omnipresent, good, and perfect. In that sense, these ‘formal features’26 of God’s nature simply serve to confirm that God is a being whose ways are totally incommensurable with those of creatures. As such a ‘known unknown,’ God cannot be perceived directly through human experiences, even in part.27 He can only be known indirectly or by analogy, inasmuch as knowable objects are evaluated in the light of the belief that God is the highest good of all. For this very reason, the affirmation of God as simple affords the conceptual resource needed to check our tendency to ascribe absolute significance to specific goods and private interests, the inordinate pursuit of which obscures our sense of the good in interests other than our own. In sum, the doctrine of divine simplicity prevents us from forfeiting our rationality, holding us accountable instead to strive for the highest good. This is something the aforementioned ideas of transcendence are not equally equipped to do, insofar as they fail in different degrees to render God truly transcendent or wholly other. Although they may possess some power to compel us to support the highest good—to say nothing of many other merits—these ideas clearly do not provide the most robust rationale for rationality, which I have been seeking in this context and have found in the doctrine of God as simple. Although it is often supposed that the idea of God as simple or one is attainable ‘by reason alone,’ without recourse to the revelation of any one specific religion, there is a level on which it is impossible to obtain absolutely certain and clear knowledge of God as simple apart from his self-revelation. After all, God alone is privy to the knowledge of himself, even if his existence can be conceived simply by envisaging a being that is the source and end of all known beings and consequently transcends those beings in the way described above.28 For this reason, it is arguable—and it will be argued further below—that genuine knowledge of him even as simple depends upon his own efforts to make himself known not only to himself but also outside himself, to us—efforts which will be shown to be explicable only in terms of God’s Trinitarian nature. While some scholars have insisted that the affirmation of God’s simplicity downplays the significance of the doctrine of the Trinity, a case can be made for the claim that an account of the reality of one God who is worthy of the name ‘God’ actually calls for an appeal to three divine Persons: Father, Son, and
Necessary Conditions for Theological Philosophy
Holy Spirit.29 Though such an appeal necessitates the benefit of hindsight—or Christian revelation—since the doctrine of God as three-in-one cannot on any level be derived from natural knowledge, I will argue below that this doctrine is profoundly rational and indeed constitutive of a complete rationale for rationality precisely because it allows for a fully delineated account of the one God. The Second Condition: The Trinity According to the traditional teaching, the doctrine of the Trinity presupposes: ONE God, in whom there are TWO Processions (generation, spiration) THREE Persons (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) FOUR Relations (paternity, filiation, spiration, procession), and FIVE Notions (innascibility, paternity, filiation, spiration, procession) Although the technical nature of this terminology sometimes inadvertently reinforces certain common prejudices, according to which the doctrine of the Trinity is incoherent, unnecessary, or even indicative of tri-theism, the following explanation of the processions, persons, relations, and notions in God is designed to show how these aspects of Trinitarian doctrine ultimately enact the reality of the one God.30 For this purpose, it is arguably insufficient simply to affirm God as the simple being described above. In order to demonstrate his ability to be this being, the divine being must also be shown to be capable of knowing and communicating himself as such a being—to will to be and thus to act like the highest being that he is. With a view to explaining how the doctrine of the Trinity upholds the unity of the divine being, knowledge, word, will, and action, I will begin with a discussion of the two divine processions, or ways of coming forth from the first principle of the Trinity, that is, God the Father. While the First Person of the Trinity alone is innascible, not begotten or produced in any way by another, the Second Person of the Son is believed to proceed from the Father by way of knowledge or intellect, because his relationship to the Father is like that of one known by a knower.31 When the Father knows the Son, he is said to generate a thought of himself, that is, his image, or a word of self-expression.32 After all, God is simple and is as such the highest object of knowledge, such that his supreme knowledge as God can consist in the knowledge of nothing other than himself. Since the Father’s
knowledge of the Son is therefore reflexive, it can be likened to self-knowledge. Thus, the Son can conversely be said to know and make known the Father in the very experience of being known by him. Since a good withheld is not truly good, Aquinas argues that a good incapable of communicating itself along these lines could not be considered the highest good. Because the communication of goodness is an expression of love, Aquinas identifies love as the ultimate attribute of the Trinity in which the Father and the Son communicate God’s goodness to one another.33 This brings us to the role in the Godhead of the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and the Son not by way of intellect but by way of the will—or love and desire—for that which is known, namely, the Son by the Father, and the Father, in turn, by the Son.34 In Aquinas’ account, the Father’s knowing of the Son and the Son’s knowing of the Father ultimately reflect their mutual desire to know one another, that is, God’s desire, consisting in the Holy Spirit, to know himself and make himself known as the highest good that he is. Since the Spirit is indicative of the Father’s will to make himself known in the Son, and the Son’s will to know and make known the Father, he is generally described as the ‘Love’ or the ‘Gift’ exchanged between the Father and Son.35 In this connection, the Spirit is said to be spirated or breathed out by the Father and the Son (filioque), thus binding them in unity.36 Because this spiration enacts the knowledge shared by the knower and the known, the Spirit is said to constitute the very life or indeed the Spirit of the Trinity, which consists in honoring or loving God as the highest good or object of devotion and adoration, which he is known to be. On the grounds that God is the highest object of love, who as God loves himself as much as he could possibly be loved, Aquinas stresses that God could not have created the world out of necessity, in order to complete himself or satisfy some need for love of his own. Though the history of monotheistic religious philosophies evidences a perennial inclination towards this view, Aquinas discredits it, by delineating a doctrine of the Trinity, which gives an account of God’s self-sufficiency to love himself, as the ultimate subject and object of love.37 As the foregoing discussion of this doctrine confirms, an appeal to the processions of the Son and Spirit from the Father generates an account of one God who is truly worthy of the name ‘God,’ because it affirms the perfect correspondence between who God is, what he knows, what he communicates, what he wants, and what he does. This is the upshot of Aquinas’ affirmation that God is his act of understanding, such that whatever is understood by God is the very living or life of God, namely, that God always completely is what he is, which is to be and to know and to say and to desire and to do all that is good, or consistent with love.38
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Further support for this contention can be derived from a discussion of the four different types of relation, which characterize each of the three Persons of the Trinity. These relations include: paternity, proper to the Father; procession, proper to both Son and Spirit; filiation, proper to the Son, who proceeds from the Father; and spiration, proper to the Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and the Son.39 According to Aquinas, each person is identified and distinguished by its mode of relation to the others. Thus, Aquinas speaks of the persons as subsisting in their relations or as ‘subsistent relations.’40 For instance, the Son is the individual person of the Godhead he is because he proceeds from the Father and is the second source of the procession of the Spirit. By contrast to the divine relations, which are essential to the being of the divine persons, it is worth noting that human relations are accidental or contingent. That is to say, they are not necessary to the identity of human beings, contrary to what some scholars have supposed in arguing that subsistent relations are common to human and divine persons.41 Though human beings obviously depend on other human beings, are formed by their social situations, and require relationships to instigate the expression of their individual personalities and abilities, nevertheless they are ‘always more than the sum total of their relationships.’42 They are not defined or wholly constructed by their relations or social circumstances. Otherwise, it would be necessary to draw the absurd conclusion that a mother has no personal identity without her children, and those brought up in poverty can never overcome it—to take two examples. The reason human beings cannot be reduced or limited to their relations in these ways concerns the fact that their personalities—which predispose them to relate to others—are limited. Although the human inability to relate fully to others renders it largely impossible for human beings to find complete fulfillment in their relationships, it has the advantage of rendering illegitimate any attempt inappropriately to constrict human beings in accordance with their relationships or communities of upbringing. As God is an unlimited being, by contrast, the three personalities that constitute his being are not subject to limitations, although they are distinct in their modes of relation. On account of this unlimited-ness-in-difference, the three Persons enjoy a capacity to relate to one another completely.43 Thus, there is nothing about the Father that is not known by the Son in the Spirit, and nothing that is not known by the Son about the Father in the Spirit. For precisely this reason, the Father, Son, and Spirit, are described by Aquinas as ‘Persons’ in the fullest sense of the term. According to the traditional philosophical definition, a person is an ‘individual substance of a rational nature’
(hypostasis), where rationality presumably entails both the intellect that knows and the will that motivates the intellect to pursue knowledge.44 While this definition applies to human beings and to God, since both operate by means of intellect and will, the limited nature of human personalities—which generates a limited capacity to relate to others—suggests that human beings only possess their personalities in a qualified or circumscribed sense which is not applicable to God.45 Because God as described above subsists in three Persons who in distinct ways possess an unlimited capacity to relate to one another, these Persons can ultimately be said to stand in the one and only relationship that exists without remainder and thus to constitute the one and only being that is personal in the fullest sense of the term.46 As the one truly personal and relational being, God can be credited once again with the unity of essence, knowledge, word, will, and action as a result of which he is worthy of the name ‘God.’ Although the characteristics or names proper to the mode of relation or personality of each of the divine Persons cannot be predicated of the others on this account, it is exactly by subsisting in their different modes of relation that the three Persons enact the reality of one God, who is ‘good’ in the way attested by the doctrine of divine simplicity precisely because he is personal and relational in the manner established by the doctrine of the Trinity.47 In elaborating his understanding of the three Persons’ subsistent relations, Aquinas points out that these are closely related to the Persons’ varying origins, or ways of deriving if at all from one another.48 While the Son is said to be begotten by or to proceed from the Father, for instance, and thus to originate in him, who alone is unoriginate or unbegotten, the Spirit proceeds or originates from the Father in the Father’s begetting of the Son, and from the Son in his own expression of the Spirit he receives from the Father. In treating the five notions of origin, namely, innascibility (‘ungenerateness’), paternity, filiation, spiration, and procession, that factor into his account of the Trinity, Aquinas writes that: The person of the Father cannot be known by the fact that He is from another; but by the fact that He is from no one. And thus the notion that belongs to him is called innascibility. As the source of another, He can be known in two ways, because as the Son is from Him, the Father is known by the notion of “paternity”; and as the Holy Ghost is from Him, He is known by the notion of “common spiration.” The Son can be known as begotten by another, and thus He is known by “filiation”; and also by another person proceeding from Him, the Holy Ghost, and thus He is known in the same way as the Father is known, by “common
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spiration.” The Holy Ghost can be known by the fact that He is from another, or from others; thus He is known by “procession”; but not by the fact that another is from Him, as no divine person proceeds from Him.49
As this account suggests, relation and origin do not differ significantly as principles that distinguish the Persons of the Trinity. Though it is easy for this reason to conclude that neither takes priority as such a principle, Aquinas for one argues—contrary to much of the current Eastern Orthodox tradition—that relation rather than origin should be regarded as the primary principle of distinction amongst the Persons.50 He supports this claim on the grounds that distinctions ought to be based on intrinsic properties of Persons, and relations represent the intrinsic causes of the Persons’ varying origins. From the consideration of these origins, it follows that the Persons move eternally in directions appropriate to themselves, such that ‘the names which designate them designate the acts by which they are defined.’51 In performing their characteristic acts, the Persons in their diverse ways contribute to and enable God’s overarching act of being the highest good there is, knowing, expressing, and loving himself as such. For this purpose, it seems clear that any more or any less than three Persons would be inimical. In this case as in many others, Aquinas writes, the number three, which admits of a beginning, middle, and end, turns out to be the ideal number, which creates unity by allowing for a mediator—namely, the Son—between the extremes of Father and Spirit.52 Since the unity of the divine being evidently depends so much on the joint existence of the three Persons, it seems to follow that an over-emphasis on the distinctness of the Persons might threaten to undermine the unity of the divine being, knowledge, word, will, and act. Arguably, such an emphasis can be found in so-called ‘social’ doctrines of the Trinity, which are often constructed on the contestable claim to precedent in the Eastern tradition of Christian thought. Such doctrines turn on a rejection of the filioque clause concerning the procession of the Spirit from both the Father and the Son, which guarantees the unity of these two.53 Although the contrasting doctrine of the Trinity that Aquinas and many other Western thinkers endorse upholds the unity of God, it is important to stress that it does not go any further than the doctrine of divine simplicity in terms of giving access to the substance of the divine being. It only offers a more, indeed the most, elaborate ‘formal’ explanation of the kind of being God is.54 Whereas the doctrine of divine simplicity teaches us that God is a kind of being who is infinite, eternal, immutable, and omnipresent—and thus wholly incommensurable with the objects of our knowledge, which are complex, finite,
temporal, changeable, and local, the doctrine of the Trinity adds to this account of the ‘known unknown’ an explanation of his ability to make himself known as such in virtue of his personal and relational nature. Though the doctrine of the Trinity can therefore be said to affirm to the fullest possible extent God’s ability to express himself as the simple and indeed selfcommunicating God monotheists believe him to be, it is worth reiterating that the profound logic the doctrine consequently exhibits can only be perceived in retrospect of Christian revelation.55 Thus, it remains to be shown how the God who exists beyond our cognitive reach makes himself known to us in a personal form with which we are capable of identifying as human beings, by assuming the form of a human person. The Third Condition: The Incarnation Although the doctrine of the Trinity may be retrospectively read into certain passages of Scripture, the Triune nature of God was not explicitly known prior to the Incarnation of God’s Son. Though Christian faith affirms that God’s selfrevelation was accomplished at the direction of the Father and in the power of the Spirit, and thus by the whole Trinity, it was strictly speaking achieved by the Son of God rather than one of the other Persons of the Trinity. As the one through whom all creation came into being in the first place, the Son was apparently the most fitting member of the Trinity to come to earth as a human person.56 As already hinted, it was appropriate for him to assume a human as opposed to any other natural—vegetative or animal—form, not only because the human form presupposes the functions of vegetative and animal beings, thus allowing God’s grace to be virtually dispensed to all beings, but also because human nature most closely resembles the divine nature in virtue of intellect and will. It therefore represents the only means through which knowing and willing human beings may grapple with God’s gracious self-disclosure.57 After all, human beings have no recourse to the knowledge of God, short of his own efforts to communicate himself on the terms of human knowledge and thus in the context of human life. That is not to suggest that a merely human being would have been adequate to reveal God. For this purpose, the human being in question would also need to be God, indeed a personal and consequently Triune God. In light of these considerations, I will engage below in an investigation of the two natures of Christ and the way in which they were reconciled in what has often been called the ‘hypostatic
Necessary Conditions for Theological Philosophy
union,’ that is, the union of the two natures of Christ. This inquiry is notoriously difficult to undertake, given that the attributes associated with the divine and human natures seem at face value mutually to exclude or contradict one another. Although numerous theologians have developed different views on how to reconcile the two seemingly irreconcilable natures, just as many have arrived at the ultimate conclusion that the natures are not logically compatible, such that their union in Christ can only be affirmed—if at all—as a matter of blind faith. While the hypostatic union can certainly be considered a divine mystery, since it cannot be fabricated and thus comprehended fully by human beings, I will endeavor to show that it is not by the same token mysterious or offensive to reason in the sense that it undermines the law of non-contradiction. To this end, it is relevant to say a brief word about the Council of Chalcedon, which established Orthodox belief about the two natures of Christ on a preliminary basis. The Council convened in 451 ad with the chief purpose of curbing certain heretical teachings, which had arisen regarding the relationship between Christ’s two natures. These teachings emerged in the wake of a first major wave of heresy, associated with Arianism, which denied the full divinity of Christ, precisely on account of his seemingly incompatible humanity.58 Once the Council of Nicaea came to the then novel but orthodox conclusion in 325 ad that Christ is fully divine, early Christian writers inevitably faced the challenge of explaining how to reconcile his divine and human natures.59 In this connection, the heterodox thinker Apollinarius held that the divine nature simply replaced the human soul or mind in Christ and joined itself to a human body. While this theory allowed on some level for the unity of Christ’s two natures, it did so at the cost of accounting fully for the humanity—body and soul—of Jesus Christ, thus undercutting his capacity to reveal God to human beings.60 Another major Christological heresy of the day, propounded by Nestorius, avoided downplaying the humanity of Christ and preserved the fullness of the two natures, but did so by denying that the two natures were really united in the person of Christ. By thus implying that Jesus exhibited a ‘split personality,’ Nestorius rendered it impossible for the benefits of God’s self-revelation to be conferred to humanity and for humanity to be receptive to those benefits in turn. In an effort to compensate for the deficiencies of Nestorianism, Monophysitism affirmed that Christ possessed but one nature, namely, the divine nature, into which his human nature was absorbed. Although this teaching overcame the Nestorian bifurcation of the two natures, it undermined the full humanity of Christ and so became subject to the same fundamental weakness as characterized Apollinarianism.
With a view to counteracting these teachings, the definition of Chalcedon posited that: one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, [is] to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten God (μονογενῆ Θεὸν), the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ; as the prophets from the beginning [have declared] concerning Him, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.
In affirming that the two natures of Christ are united ‘inconfusedly and unchangeably,’ and ‘indivisibly, and inseparably,’ this statement effectively precludes the Orthodoxy of Apollinarian, Monophysite, and Nestorian teachings, respectively. Though its outline of the contours of unorthodox belief provided a sort of ‘negative definition’ of Orthodox belief concerning Christ’s two natures, it remained after Chalcedon for a positive account to be developed of the two natures and their inter-relationship. Though subsequent generations made considerable progress in this regard, Thomas Aquinas is arguably responsible for articulating one of the first mature accounts of the two natures and their union in Christ.61 Following him to a great extent, I will describe the divine and human natures and their interaction in what follows, with the aim of allaying doubts about their compatibility. As stated in the section above on the Trinity, the divine nature entails both the divine intellect, which knows God, and the divine will, which loves God.62 Since the divine nature is simply to know and love the invisible, incorporeal God—and thus to be or act like God—that nature or mode of existence is purely spiritual. In other words, it determines a way of doing things as opposed to a specific activity or set of activities, such as would be proper to a physical or created nature. As shown above, the Son of God participates in the divine mode of existence by expressing the Spirit of God, which glorifies God the Father, that is, by reflecting the image of the Trinity. Since the Son is co-eternal and co-equal with the other Persons of the Trinity, he continued to play this role within the Godhead while he lived the life of a human being.63 The ongoing nature of that role did not undermine the fullness of his human life in any way, however, precisely because his divine activity of perpetually glorifying God only represents a way of living, namely, to the glory of God. If anything, Christ’s divinity realized his human
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nature to the fullest possible extent. After all, human beings were made to glorify God constantly, albeit not in the unlimited way as God is able to glorify himself. As the Image of the Trinity—who eternally expresses the Spirit to the glory of the Father—through whom human beings were made in the image of the Trinity—or to reflect their spirits (minds, lives) to the glory of God the Father—the Incarnate Son was nothing more than the most supremely human, indeed, universal, human being. Further support for this claim can be derived from an examination of the nature of human nature and the more specific ways in which the divine nature of Christ affected his humanity. As I have indicated, human nature consists in the conjunction of the body and the soul, which is in turn constituted by intellect and will. Because he was a full participant in this nature, Christ possessed both a human body and a human soul; like all human beings, he was an embodied soul or rational animal.64 Thus, his divine nature did not substitute for any aspect of his human nature as Apollinarius argued.65 On account of his human body, Christ experienced the full range of human feelings, which Aquinas describes as ‘passions.’ There are two main types of human passion. The first includes the passions of the body, such as hunger, thirst, and exhaustion.66 The second type concerns the passions of the soul, as a result of which persons are affected not by their bodily needs and functions but by external objects and events.67 The passions of the soul include temptation, grief, and fear. As I have demonstrated in another context, both types of passion provide raw data to the will, helping it decide in specific circumstances how to direct the intellect to act in accordance with human flourishing or the effort to ‘bear things well.’68 As a result of sin, such passions become subject to considerable distortion. For the loss of the knowledge of the transcendent being or God depletes the will’s capacity to discern that finite objects of passion are not highest goods or the be-all and end-all of human existence, even for certain purposes or in certain respects. Rather than signaling to the will and thus the intellect which objects of passion should be pursued and avoided for the sake of bearing things well, consequently, the sinful passions—or, better, ‘dis-passions’—compel us to pursue things we should avoid and avoid things we pursue, thus undermining rationality. Although Christ certainly shared in all aspects of our passionate human nature—and could therefore really be tempted, fearful, and so forth—his participation in the divine nature ensured that he always operated in the light of the knowledge of God’s absolute significance and thus that his will was never led astray by the dis-passions. Owing to his divinity, in other words, Christ was immune to the effects of sin upon the intellect and will. For this reason, he was able to cultivate appropriate desires for the objects of passion. On this
basis, Aquinas speaks of the passions in Christ as ‘pro-passions,’ which can be contrasted with the sinful human ‘dis-passions’ that prevent us from being passionate about things in a way that is consistent with what they are and with the integrity of human nature more generally.69 In addition to the pro-passions he possessed for bodily and external goods, Christ possessed a human soul, including the intellect that acquires knowledge and will that motivates it to do so. Because the human soul is embodied and therefore subject to the constraints of space and time, Christ could not have achieved his human knowledge all at once, on acquiring his human rational faculties. Rather, he encountered various situations for the first time and gained understanding as a result of navigating them, in the way any human being would. In short, he accumulated knowledge through experience.70 For Christ, the process of gaining experiential knowledge presumably involved the same three stages of expectant, fulfilled, and informed faith, which I mentioned briefly in the introduction to this book, and which factor into all human investigations.71 The first phase of expectant faith is characterized by a lack of knowledge of the desired object of knowledge as well as the desire to know it. In this context, the mind believes it can and will obtain knowledge before actually obtaining it. On account of this belief, the will motivates the intellect to undertake researches that are orientated towards hastening the arrival of knowledge. The second phase of fulfilled faith, in which a judgment is formed, is the one in which the intellect beholds the truth it sought, and the will is satisfied with the answer it obtains to the intellect’s original question. The mind sees what it believed it could see. In the third phase of informed faith, the mind places faith in the knowledge it has obtained in fulfilled faith and, under the impetus of the will, uses that knowledge as a resource to make sense of new experiences. Whenever it does so, the whole process of moving from expectant to fulfilled to informed faith begins again, such that the search for truth is interminable. Though Christ invariably grew in knowledge over time, Aquinas insists that, on account of his divine nature, his actual ability to know was not subject to improvement like that of ordinary human beings.72 Whereas human persons generally require numerous experiences of a similar kind in order to discern how to reckon appropriately with such experiences, and make many mistakes in the process of learning to exercise this discernment, Christ’s continuous knowledge of God allowed him to obtain a proper perspective on circumstances as soon as he encountered them. While he lacked experience, in summary, he did not lack the capacity rightly to evaluate his experiences, as is often the case with inexperienced human beings.73
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As this confirms, the fullness of Christ’s divinity did nothing to negate the fullness of his humanity but instead perfected or fully realized Christ’s human nature. Conversely, Christ’s growth in experiential knowledge did not conflict with or undermine the integrity and constancy of his knowledge of God. His human activities only affected the way he exercised his unfailing knowledge of God—not only directly, by enjoying the vision of God, but also indirectly, by bringing it to bear in evaluating human experiences.74 On account of his continuous vision of God, Christ did not have to have faith in God, nor did he need to hope that the Father’s purposes would be fulfilled, even if he did not know as a human being precisely how those purposes would be fulfilled until the moment of their fulfillment approached.75 In these respects, Christ was utterly unique amongst human beings. He was simultaneously a ‘comprehensor,’ who had nothing more to learn about God, and a ‘wayfarer,’ who had yet to discover the world in light of his knowledge of God.76 Although he was subordinate to the Father in the latter capacity, I have already noted that, in virtue of his divinity, he was co-equal with the Father at all times.77 In illustrating further the relationship between Christ’s human and divine natures that made this situation possible, Aquinas appeals to the idea of ‘mixed relations,’ that is, a relationship between two entities that is asymmetrical.78 On his account, human knowledge and creation ex nihilo represent other cases of mixed relations, which can help us understand the coincidence of the two natures of Christ at the Incarnation. On encountering a new object of knowledge, for instance, the object itself does not undergo change; only our understanding is affected as it expands to encompass the object.79 Because our understanding rather than the object of understanding is altered in an act of knowing, the relationship of the mind to its object is not the same as that of the object to the mind. Thus, human knowledge is an example of ‘mixed relations.’ As the discussion of the next chapter will elaborate, the creation of the natural order is also a matter of mixed relations, since it has an effect on the creatures God makes, bringing them into existence, without detracting from or altering the nature of God. In a similar manner, the hypostatic union represents an instance of mixed relations in the sense that it makes no difference to God whether he exercises his nature in the context of a human life, yet it makes all the difference to sinful human beings, who lack the knowledge of God, which the Incarnation bestows. This account of mixed relations provides resources to return to the question raised near the start of this section as to whether and how the attributes or idioms associated with Christ’s human and divine natures can be ‘communicated’ to one another.80 As mentioned, the attributes associated with the divine nature include
simplicity, eternity, infinity, immutability, and others that establish God as a being that subsists beyond all known beings, as their source. The idioms proper to the Son’s divine nature pertain to his ability to save humankind, accomplish the divine purposes, and grasp fully the Father’s will. By contrast, the attributes associated with the human nature include complexity, temporality, finitude, and mutability, while the idioms of this nature concern suffering, feeling, eating, drinking, and other forms of embodied action. Whereas Aquinas only allowed for the transference of the divine qualities that elevated Christ’s human nature and enabled him to bring the knowledge of God to fallen humankind, some more recent accounts argue that certain attributes or idioms of the human nature must be ascribed to the divine nature in turn. In some of these accounts, the Son is supposed to have restrained or even emptied himself of his divinity in order to assume a human nature.81 By these means, the mutability and passibility that characterize human nature are said to become part of the very life of God.82 Although proponents of such accounts generally regard the attribution of human limitations to the divine as the sole means of affirming God’s ability to empathize with and demonstrate love for humanity, the discussion of divine impassibility above serves to suggest that construing God as passible, mutable, or capable of changing his mind strictly speaking renders him incompetent or inconsistent when it comes to accomplishing his divine work. Ironically, consequently, the idea of divine mutability logically entails God’s inability consistently to fulfill his loving purpose of making it possible for human beings to flourish, thus defeating the whole purpose of its introduction. The idea of a suffering God likewise undercuts its own ends, insofar as a suffering God would inevitably be too distressed or incapacitated by his own afflictions to come to the rescue of a suffering human race. Since it makes no difference to human beings whether God suffers in virtue of a nature they do not possess, moreover, it is unnecessary on still another level to affirm that God suffers in his divine nature. For the sake of his ability to empathize with the plight of rational animals, all that matters is that he suffered in the human nature in which they participate, as indeed he did.83 Although Christ on this account suffered and changed only in virtue of his human nature, the unity of his two natures in his Person, namely, the second Person of the Trinity—participating in human nature—allows for the affirmation that God did in fact suffer, assuming it is qualified that he did so ‘as a man.’ This is what it means properly to communicate the idioms associated with the divine and human natures, namely, to add the appropriate disclaimer identifying which nature is primarily active when speaking about the work of the
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Person of Christ. By affirming, for example, that ‘the man Jesus saves humankind as God,’ or that ‘God wept as a man,’ the power the divine nature invested in Christ’s human nature is affirmed, even while his divine nature is safeguarded from any aspects of human nature which might hinder his ability to promote the thriving of human beings. By now, it should be clear how both divine and human natures can be attributed to the Person of Christ without contradiction, and indeed, complementarily. As shown above, Christ possessed a human intellect, will and body, designed for acquiring knowledge of the world, as well as a divine intellect and will, designed for maintaining eternal knowledge of God.84 These natures do not mutually exclude one another, insofar as the divine nature operates spiritually, or through a way of doing things, whereas human nature exercises itself through the governance of embodied life, which is designed to be led in the manner modeled by Christ, that is, to the glory of God.85 As this suggests, it is only by thinking of God’s nature too much in terms of the constraints associated with a physical or human nature—or by entertaining a false concept of God—that it seems possible to generate a conflict between the two natures. This brings us to the question how Christ actually imparted the knowledge of the Triune God through his Incarnation. He did this by doing what he always does within the Godhead, namely, expressing his Spirit (life, mind, personality, etc.) of love for the Father. By willing the Father’s glorification or the accomplishment of his purposes through the mediation of every activity on earth, he brought his eternal knowledge of God’s absolute goodness and purposes to bear in his dealings with human circumstances. In sum, Christ revealed the Trinity to humankind by weighing and finding the best way to bring glory to God in every human situation he faced. By these means, he provided the fully delineated conception of the supremely transcendent or highest good, which is required to secure a rationale for rationality, to wit, a morally virtuous orientation towards the highest good. In this connection, however, it bears noting that the revelation of the Triune God by the Incarnate Son did not go any further than the doctrines of divine simplicity and Trinity in terms of offering substantial or direct knowledge of God. The knowledge of God delivered by his Son is still formal knowledge, that is, knowledge of the kind of being God is—not only simple, infinite, eternal, and so forth—but also Triune and consequently personal, both in theory as the doctrine of the Trinity establishes and in practice, as the Incarnation confirms. To sum up, the knowledge of God bestowed by the Incarnation is still mediated, in this case, through the human life and work of Christ, informed
by his direct knowledge of God the Father. In that sense, the Son’s revelation of the Father through efforts to express the Spirit that glorifies God at all times entails nothing but the revelation of the Person of Christ himself.86 In other words, Christ at once imparts and is the revelation of God. When he offered his personal revelation of the tri-personal God, I have noted that Christ did not simply reveal his own ability to operate in accordance with the knowledge of God as highest good, that is, in accord with God’s Spirit. As a human person, he simultaneously revealed that all human persons are made in the image of the Trinity and are therefore designed to bring glory to the Father through efforts to express the human life or spirit (mind, personality, etc.) that is received through the creative work of the Son. Thus, he demonstrated that human beings were made to imitate Christ—not by acting exactly as he did, in ways appropriate in his context—but by living in the way he lived, namely, for the glory of God, or in the light of the knowledge of God’s highest goodness. In this way, Christ influenced not only the way we think about our own responsibilities but also about other human beings. As his testimony and example confirms, other persons are dignified individuals, made in God’s image, to be valued in their own right, rather than treated as instruments for reinforcing a prideful perspective on the self or for satisfying personal desires. Thus, the power Christ’s revelation imparts to orient our lives towards the highest good is at once a power to transform relationships for sheer utility or pleasure into personal relationships, or friendships based on prudence, in which the best interests of others or the common good is served.87 In addition, the Son’s revelation of the Trinity—and the image of the Trinity in humanity—also confirmed the Trinitarian structure of all the things he created, though it exceeds the scope of the present argument to specify how. While only human beings bear the image of the Trinity, strictly speaking, in virtue of intellect and will, the Trinitarian structure of all beings will become evident in the next chapter’s treatment of other ontological realities, which presuppose the triad of ‘essence, existence, and life.’ As I will demonstrate in that context, part of what it means for human beings to participate in God is to perceive and appreciate other creatures in terms of an overriding knowledge and love of God. Because it takes an overarching belief in a transcendent—even Triune, Incarnate—God fully to account for the possibility of such a humane lifestyle, the revelation of the Trinity by God’s Son gives us the complete resource we need to maintain that belief and, consequently, the lifestyle that is the arbiter of human rationality. At the same time, it confirms that a rational life in accordance with the highest or common good is strictly speaking a life that involves imitating
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God’s Son by expressing the spirit received through his creative work to the glory of God the Father.88 As this suggests, the application of Christian belief in the simple, Triune, Incarnate God that I have been advocating in this chapter is not merely a means to the end of rational human being in accordance with the highest good. Rather, such Christian creedal reasoning is a means to the end of participating in the life of the Triune God. By this account, there is no bifurcation between the ordinary and the spiritual life, for the latter is simply the formality under which or the perspective from which ordinary affairs are evaluated and handled. These are claims that will be developed more fully in the next chapter. Endnotes Charles Taylor argues along related lines in The Sources of the Self (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989), affirming that, ‘in order to make minimal sense of our lives, in order to have an identity, we need an orientation to the good, which means some sense of qualitative discrimination, of the incomparably higher’ (47). In applying this principle, he writes, ‘I may come to a belief in a God, a being who infinitely transcends my moral experience and understanding’ (74); see pages 3–107 for the full discussion. 2 For an excellent explanation as to how the Christian understanding of God, rightly construed, has the power to foster ‘self-critical cultures’ which are predisposed to act in the interests of social justice, see Kathryn Tanner’s Politics of God: Christian Theologies and Social Justice (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992), particularly chapter 2 on ‘Self-Critical Cultures and Divine Transcendence’ and chapter 3 on ‘Sociopolitical Critique and Christian Belief.’ 3 ST 220.127.116.11–8. 4 See Iris Murdoch, The Sovereignty of Good (London: Routledge, 2001). 5 See Rationality as Virtue, particularly the section on ‘informed and uninformed faith’ in chapter 4. 6 On the non-competitive relationship between God and creatures (or supernatural and natural goals), see Kathryn Tanner, God and Creation in Christian Theology: Tyranny or Empowerment? (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2005). See also David Fergusson’s, Faith and Its Critics: A Conversation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 35. There, Fergusson writes that faith ‘is not so much a judgment about one object amidst many others in the universe but more a judgment about how the entire universe is to be regarded.’ In that sense, he concludes, ‘belief in God is quite different from belief in other things.’ 1
For a helpful, related discussion, see Fergus Kerr, Immortal Longings (London: SPCK, 1997). 8 Paul J. Griffiths, An Apology for Apologetics, 55. 9 See for example Bonaventure’s Journey of the Mind into God. 10 Augustine, Benedict of Nursia, and Aquinas are all believed to have had such experiences. 11 Kathryn Tanner offers a superb argument in support of the claim that pan(en)theism and deism fail to offer a genuine account of transcendence in ‘Creation ex nihilo as Mixed Metaphor,’ Modern Theology 29:2 (April 2013), 138–55. 12 Paul J. Griffiths, An Apology for Apologetics (Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2001), 54. 13 Panentheists include Jürgen Moltmann and John MacQuarrie, among others, though it is worth noting that there are considerable differences amongst these thinkers. 14 David Burrell, Aquinas: God and Action; Thomas Weinandy, Does God Change? chapter 5 on ‘Process Theology’ (124–53). See also his Does God Suffer? 15 See especially Jean-Luc Marion’s arguments in works like God Without Being (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995). 16 ST 1.3. 17 David Burrell, Knowing the Unknowable God (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1996). 18 ST 1.3.2. 19 ST 1.11.1–4. 20 ST 1.7, 10. 21 ST 1.3.4. 22 See Thomas Weinandy, ‘God and Human Suffering: His Act of Creation and His Acts in History,’ in Divine Impassibility and the Mystery of Human Suffering (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009). See also Thomas Weinandy, Does God Change? The Word’s Becoming in the Incarnation (Still River: St Bede’s, 1985). 23 ST 1.4, 6. 24 ST 1.3.1. 25 ST 1.3.5. 26 See chapter 1 of David Burrell’s Faith and Freedom and ST 1.3–11. 27 See David Burrell, Aquinas: God and Action. See also, Robert Sokolowski, The God of Faith and Reason (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1995). 28 I owe this insight to D. Stephen Long, in a paper on ‘The Perfectly Simple, Triune God’ presented at a Colloquium on ‘Ecumenical Readings of Aquinas’ on June 19, 2014. 29 In recent decades, certain modern theologians such as Catherine LaCugna (in God for Us: The Trinity and Christian Life (San Francisco: Harper, 1993)), have accused thinkers like Aquinas of over-emphasizing the unity of God to the point of presenting 7
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the doctrine of the Trinity as a theological after-thought. The theologians in question reach this conclusion largely on the grounds that Aquinas’ treatise on one God in his magisterial Summa Theologiae immediately precedes his treatise on the Triune God. By thus delaying his discussion of the Trinity, they allege, Aquinas risks advocating belief in an idolatrous and impersonal, even onto-theological, ‘god of the philosophers,’ as opposed to the Triune God of Christian faith and revelation. Contrary to these assumptions, however, Aquinas articulates the fundamental nature of God as simple prior to treating the doctrine of the Trinity in order to preclude the possibility of projecting an onto‑theological concept of God onto the Trinity. In doing so, he sets the stage for a further effort to show that the doctrine of the Trinity, far from a theological afterthought, is absolutely indispensable when it comes to substantiating fully the account of the one God he has given. For a rebuttal of the general critique, see Karen Kilby, ‘Aquinas, the Trinity and the Limits of Understanding,’ International Journal of Systematic Theology 7:4 (October, 2005); Ellen Charry, By the Renewing of your Minds: The Pastoral Function of Christian Doctrine (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), chapter 8; Fergus Kerr, ‘God in the Summa Theologiae,’ in After Aquinas: Versions of Thomism (Oxford: Blackwell, 2005), 181–206. For a fuller account of Aquinas’ doctrine of God, see Rudi te Velde, Aquinas on God (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006); see also, Mark D. Jordan, Rewritten Theology: Aquinas After His Readers (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2006). 30 For a much more elaborate account of Aquinas’ doctrine of the Trinity, see Gilles Emery, The Trinitarian Theology of St Thomas Aquinas (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007). Also relevant is Russell L. Friedman’s study, Medieval Trinitarian Thought from Aquinas to Ockham (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010). 31 ST 1.33. 32 ST 1.27.2; ST 1.34–5: on the Son as Word and Image. 33 ST 1.37. 34 ST 1.36. 35 ST 1.37–8 36 ST 1.27.3–4. 37 Thomas Weinandy, Does God Suffer? 142. 38 ST 1.18.4. 39 ST 1.28. 40 ST 1.29; cf. 1.40. 41 See Kathryn Tanner’s article on this topic, ‘Social Trinitarianism and its Critics,’ in Rethinking Trinitarian Theology, Robert J. Wozniak and Giulio Maspero (eds) (London: T & T Clark, 2012). 42 Thomas Weinandy, Does God Suffer? 116; The Father’s Spirit of Sonship: Reconceiving the Trinity (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1995). See also Philip Rolnick, Person, Grace, and God, 194–6, on Aquinas’ understanding of subsistent relations in the divine persons.
ST 1.28. Boethius, Contra Eutychen, in Theological Tractates. The Consolation of Philosophy, H.F. Stewart, E.K. Rand, and S.J. Tester (trans.), in Loeb Classical Library 74 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1974), chapter 2. 45 ST 1.29.3. 46 ST 1.39.6: The divine essence is not only really the same as one person, but it is really the same as the three persons. 47 ST 1.39.6–8. 48 ST 1.41. 49 ST 1.32.3: Igitur persona patris non potest innotescere per hoc quod sit ab alio, sed per hoc quod a nullo est, et sic ex hac parte eius notio est innascibilitas. Sed inquantum aliquis est ab eo, innotescit dupliciter. Quia inquantum filius est ab eo, innotescit notione paternitatis, inquantum autem spiritus sanctus est ab eo, innotescit notione communis spirationis. Filius autem potest innotescere per hoc quod est ab alio nascendo, et sic innotescit per filiationem. Et per hoc quod est alius ab eo, scilicet spiritus sanctus, et per hoc innotescit eodem modo sicut et pater, scilicet communi spiratione. Spiritus sanctus autem innotescere potest per hoc quod est ab alio vel ab aliis, et sic innotescit processione. Non autem per hoc quod alius sit ab eo, quia nulla divina persona procedit ab eo. 50 ST 1.40.2. 51 Thomas Weinandy, Does God Suffer? 119. 52 ST 3.53.2. 53 See Karen Kilby, ‘Perichoresis and Projection: Problems with Social Doctrines of the Trinity,’ New Blackfriars 81:957 (November, 2000), 432–45. 54 For this reason, as Karen Kilby argues in her article, ‘Is an Apophatic Trinitarianism Possible?’ International Journal of Systematic Theology 12:1 ( January, 2010), the doctrine of the Trinity confirms the unknowable nature of God even more decisively than that of God as simple. 55 ST 1.32.1. 56 ST 3.3.8. 57 ST 3.4.1. 58 See Rowan Williams, Arius: Heresy and Tradition (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002); and chapter 1 on ‘Nicea’s Homoousion: Defining God’s Begetting and Becoming,’ in Thomas Weinandy, Does God Change? (Still River: St Bede’s, 1985), 3–31. 59 See Lewis Ayres, Nicaea and Its Legacy: An Approach to Fourth-Century Trinitarian Theology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006). In this work, Ayres argues that the patristic Trinitarian doctrines of the East and West are not as incommensurable as they are often perceived to be today. 60 See Thomas Weinandy, ‘The Inadequacy of the Logos/Sarks Framework,’ in Does God Change? 30ff. 43 44
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Thomas Weinandy, Does God Suffer? 197. See also Weinandy’s Does God Change? chapter 2 on ‘Chalcedonian Christology’ (32–66) and its mature development in ‘Thomistic Christology’ as Weinandy discusses it in the third chapter of his book (67–100). Another perspective on Aquinas’ doctrine of the hypostatic union, which also covers many other late medieval, particularly Franciscan, theories, is Richard Cross’s Metaphysics of the Incarnation: Thomas Aquinas to Duns Scotus (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007). 62 ST 1.14, 19. 63 ST 3.10–11. 64 See Rationality as Virtue, chapter 2. 65 ST 3.2.5; cf. 3.5. 66 ST 3.14. 67 ST 3.15.4. 68 See especially chapter 5 on ‘Rationality’ in Rationality as Virtue. 69 ST 3.46.7; see Paul Gondreau, The Passions of Christ’s Soul in the Theology of Thomas Aquinas (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009). 70 ST 3.9.4; cf. 3.12. 71 For a more detailed explanation of this three-stage process of inquiry, see chapter 4 on ‘The Conditions for Knowledge’ in Rationality as Virtue. 72 Comp. Theol. 1.216: He ‘increased in knowledge of sensibly perceptible things by experiencing them with his bodily senses over the course of time’ (Sed manifestum est quod res sensibiles per temporis successionem magis ac magis sensibus corporis experiendo cognovits). 73 ST 3.12.2. 74 ST 3.9.3; Thomas Weinandy, Does God Change? 54: ‘the Incarnation does not bring into existence a new person. On the contrary the Incarnation is the same person existing in a new way.’ 75 ST 3.7.3–4. 76 ST 3.15.10. 77 ST 3.20: on Christ’s subjection to the Father. 78 ST 3.2.6. 79 Joseph Owens, ‘Aquinas on Cognition as Existence,’ Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 48 (1974), 74–85. 80 ST 3.16. 81 For example, proponents of ‘Kenotic’ Christology have tried to resolve this problem by affirming that God emptied, or, better, restrained, his divine knowledge and other benefits of his divinity in order to identify fully with humanity. See Thomas Weinandy, chapter 4 on ‘Kenotic Christology,’ in Does God Change? 101–23. 82 See for example Jürgen Moltmann, The Crucified God (London: SCM Press, 1974); and Paul Fiddes, The Creative Suffering of God (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992). 61
As Thomas Weinandy writes in Does God Suffer? 167, ‘God’s compassion and mercy is of far greater consequence than human compassion and mercy. We may suffer in love with those who are suffering, but often we are incapable of relieving the evil that is the cause of suffering. This is not the case with God.’ As Weinandy goes on to write on page 206: ‘This is what humankind is crying out to hear: not that God experiences in a divine manner, our anguish and suffering in the midst of a sinful and depraved world, but that he actually experienced and knew first hand as one of us as a man human anguish and suffering within a sinful and depraved world.’ 84 In spite of this, he did not possess a split personality, for the standard definition of a ‘person’ offered by Boethius applies to both God and human beings—albeit to God in a more excellent and proper sense, for reasons explained above. According to this definition, a person is an ‘individual substance of a rational nature’ (naturae rationalis individua substantia), where the rational nature entails both intellect and will. Because the received definition of a person encapsulates both the divine and human natures, it allows for the possibility of a person, in specific, the second Person of the Trinity, who participates in both natures in the fullest possible sense. 85 ST 3.2.2; Thomas Weinandy, Does God Suffer? 198. 86 In affirming this, it becomes possible to address a common criticism that the Western doctrine of the Trinity entails an underdeveloped theology of the Holy Spirit by comparison to social doctrines of the Trinity, which reject the filioque and regard the Spirit not as the bond between the Father and the Son, which enacts their unity, but as a separate Person who proceeds like the Son from the Father, as one of the ‘two hands’ of the Father. This criticism seemingly fails to appreciate that the Spirit on the Western understanding is active anywhere the Son acts out of a desire to glorify the Father, and is in that sense so pervasively active when it comes to facilitating the life of the Godhead as to be distinguished by that very fact. As I have already noted, the advantage of construing the Spirit as the life force and motivator behind all the efforts attributed to the Son, which are in turn motivated by the commands of the Father, is that this highlights the unity of divine action and indeed the convertible status of the divine action, will, word, knowledge, and being. 87 On this, see Andrew Pinsent’s, The Second-Person Perspective in Aquinas’ Ethics: Virtues and Gifts (London: Routledge, 2012), especially chapter 2 on ‘The Gifts as Second-Personal Dispositions’ (31–63) and chapter 3 on ‘Virtues and the SecondPerson Perspective’ (64–83). 88 On this see A.N. Williams, The Ground of Union: Deification in Aquinas and Palamas (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 34–101, on Aquinas. 83
Christian Creedal Reasoning I: Creation and Fall
In the previous chapter, I argued that the affirmation of a transcendent being is essential to accounting for an individual orientation towards the highest good, or human rationality. Since it is impossible to know about this unknowable being apart from his Incarnation in human form, and to affirm his capacity for self-communication apart from describing him as Triune, I further contended that the Christian doctrines of Incarnation and Trinity are essential to our understanding of the transcendent and thus to a full account of human rationality. As I sought to demonstrate, Christ offered us this account through the example of his own human life, that is, his efforts to know the Triune God and make him known as a human person. Through this example, I will argue here, Christ not only imparted to us the knowledge of God we need in order to recover our humanity in our individualized ways. He also simultaneously and indeed primarily illustrated that all human beings are designed to know God and make him known. What he revealed, in summary, is not so much that belief in the God of Christian faith re-enacts the possibility of being the human beings that we are, but that our efforts to become what we are, are constitutive of our participation in the life of the Triune God of the Christian creed.1 So far I have only treated the most fundamental elements of Christian creedal belief, namely, the doctrines of divine simplicity, Trinity and Incarnation. Over the next two chapters, I intend to discuss some other key facets of Christian faith, including creation, the fall, redemption, and the church.2 In expanding upon these doctrines, I will endeavor to provide a fuller sense of what is involved in a Christian life guided by belief in the Triune, Incarnate God, that is, Christian creedal reasoning. In the process, I will explain what God has done and promised to do over the whole course of human history to enact the possibility of human participation in his life, which is the fullest form of life itself. Throughout this discussion, I operate on the assumption that Christian doctrines ought to be understood in terms of the different roles they play in elucidating and facilitating the Christian life—or outlining the ‘grammar’
of faith. While the doctrine of creation on this understanding establishes the fact and nature of our participation in God, the doctrine of sin relates the reasons why and means by which that participation is thwarted; the doctrine of redemption elucidates how the possibility of participating in God—indeed, the Triune God—is fully enacted; and the doctrine of the church explains the circumstances of this enactment at both the individual and communal levels. As means to the end of participating in God, formulations of doctrine would appear in principle to be subject to changes that might become necessary for the sake of facilitating this participation—that is, the Christian life—through changing social and historical circumstances. Although the nature of that life itself is not subject to change, in the sense that it always consists in overcoming sin for the sake of bringing glory to God, consequently, it bears re-evaluating regularly whether existing doctrinal formulations effectively serve this end in a given situation. In this connection, I have aimed in my treatment of Christian creedal reasoning to preserve those aspects of Aquinas’ thought that seemingly remain relevant and indeed exceptionally conducive to supporting the Christian life, while updating other areas of his thought in order to show due consideration for modern circumstances and knowledge. What results, as noted, is an interpretation of the way the main articles of the Christian faith help us conceive our efforts to live a rational life in the world as a life of participation in God, which is itself open to reconsideration and further development. Creation An initial point that can be inferred from Christ’s revelation of the Trinity concerns the nature of the God who originally created the world. For in identifying the Triune God as our end, Christ simultaneously, albeit retroactively, confirmed the Tri-unity of the Creator, who was not explicitly known as Triune from the time human beings first became conscious of the supernatural or God.3 Although Christ’s revelation fills out our understanding of the nature of God the creator, I argued previously that creation itself does not change the nature of God. Because the Father eternally generates the Son in the Spirit internally, it was unnecessary for him to alter his nature or ways in order externally to manifest his Spirit through the Son who animated, enlivened or ‘en-spirited’ the created order. Creatures alone undergo alteration in order to participate in different ways in the Spirit that glorifies God, which is communicated by the Son. This is
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because God created the world ex nihilo, from nothing, as opposed to fashioning creatures from something, that is, his very substance.4 In addition to preserving the impassibility of God, I have noted that the doctrine of creation from nothing confirms that God was under no compulsion to create the world—that he is a ‘free creator.’5 For this reason, God did not create the world to fulfill some need of his own or to compensate for a deficiency in himself; after all, he is entirely self-sufficient. Rather, he created out of his own purely gratuitous will to do so. Although creation consequently makes no difference to God in the sense of altering or detracting from or even enhancing his existence, it makes all the difference to his creatures, which resultantly come to participate in the good life of glorifying God. The summons to participate in the divine life is implicit in the utterance ‘let there be light,’ through which God is symbolically said to have brought the world into existence, to operate in accordance with the spiritual purpose of bringing him glory.6 Retrospectively, the presence of all three Persons can be interpreted as factors in this proclamation, inasmuch as the Word the Father uttered was His Son, who gave outward expression to his Spirit, which is eternally communicated within the Godhead.7 While non-rational, created beings participate in the life of God in the way particular to themselves by exhibiting goodness—or fitness for a particular purpose—rational animals, that is, human beings, participate by identifying the type and level of goodness beings exhibit and organizing them accordingly.8 As this suggests, the existence of all creatures on this planet on some level facilitates embodied human existence, which entails resourcing and administering the created order, insofar as it stands within our reach, in accordance with a higher purpose, namely, the glorification of God. That is not to advocate an excessively anthropocentric concept of creation, however, or to affirm that creatures are unable to fulfill their God-given potential apart from our enabling efforts. After all, creatures glorified God in ways appropriate to themselves long before the appearance of human life on earth. In that sense, they do not participate in God through our operations so much as we participate in him through them, that is, through the evaluation of natural realities and circumstances in the light of the knowledge of God as highest good. This perspective equips us not only to make the best of our natural resources but also to ‘make more’ of them than they would otherwise involve. So construed, the governing relationship of human beings over other creatures and the whole of nature, far from one of exploitation, entails a role of responsible and resourceful stewardship, which enhances the life of all creatures. As I will explain further below, however, it is precisely on account of this positive
role we are capable of playing with respect to the rest of the created order that we are at once able perversely to employ our administrative powers to the detriment of creatures. While our God-given abilities enable us to compound the integrity of nature when properly employed, in other words, the inappropriate use of them leads us to obfuscate the glory they would bring to God were it not for our interference. According to Aquinas, the creation of a diverse range of beings— non‑rational beings, non-rational animals, and rational animals—was part of God’s plan to manifest the extent of his glory. Since ‘it was impossible that one thing perfectly represent the divine goodness because of the remoteness of each creature from God,’ he writes, ‘it was necessary that many things represent him so that one thing supplied what another lacks.’9 To this end, Aquinas notes that all living creatures are divinely bestowed the capacity not only to perpetuate their own existence through self-nutrition but also to proliferate the species through reproduction. Whether individually or taken together, creatures of all kinds manifest the glory of God on earth more profoundly than they might have been able to do if they were purely spiritual beings like him, insofar as they illustrate his ability to enable beings drastically unlike himself to participate in his purposes. As regards the different species of creatures, each one is characterized by its own distinctive form, essence, or nature, which is consistent with the role it has been assigned in facilitating the glorification of God. The essence of every creature is what renders it one thing as opposed to another and unifies its component parts, ensuring that those parts work together to perform the same types of operations, whereby the being engages in its particular mode of creaturely existence.10 A being’s participation in a specific mode of existence represents its life, or the expression of its spirit, through which it activates its potential to instantiate an essence and thus to become the good entity it was designed to be. Since creaturely forms are imposed upon ‘nothing,’ which is best defined as ‘not something’ and is as such intrinsically formless or malleable, creatures are marked by both the actuality or definition afforded by their essences and the potential for becoming something that accompanies their creation from nothing. In consequence, creatures do not start out as full instantiations of their essences but are constrained gradually to become whatever they were made to be through ongoing participation in their characteristic modes of existence. This participation gives rise not only to the aforementioned development of individual entities but also to the evolution of species themselves, where both forms of development serve increasingly to convey the infinite glory of God. Such ‘continuous creation’ (creatio continua) in time is the logical corollary
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of creation from nothing, insofar as time enacts the possibility of changes whereby natural realities actualize the potential their essences give them and thereby actualize the potential that was evidently latent in the initial, inchoate primordial state, for the rise of complex creatures and, ultimately, human life. As creatures participate in their own modes of being through the co‑operation of essence, existence, and life, they arguably participate in the divine mode of being, which is to be one thing in virtue of three constitutive elements. For this reason, any ontology of participation such as I developed briefly above and elaborated at length elsewhere must ultimately be an ontology of participation in God—even, retrospectively, the Triune God.11 On this basis, it can be inferred that creatures participate in God to a greater extent the more they participate in their distinctive modes of being. For the gradual actualization of their respective essences through existence allows them to approximate the unity of essence and existence that is characteristic of the divine. Because the life of God himself admits of no distinction between essence and existence, it is precisely his being that makes it possible for finite beings to come into being and gradually become what they were made to be over the course of time. Indeed, God’s singular idea of his own simplicity-in-trinity, which is instantiated in a vast variety of ways in beings that diversely exhibit unity of essence, virtually pre-contains and makes possible all creaturely ways of exhibiting unity.12 In that sense, he who is the source of the essences that enable beings to become what they are is closer to his creatures than they are to themselves, even though he is at once as far removed from them as he could be, owing to the infinite qualitative difference between God and creatures, on which I elaborated in the last chapter.13 On account of this difference, I have noted, beings cannot actually reveal anything about the nature of God. By exemplifying simplicity in their own finite and temporal ways, they merely point up that they are ‘not God,’ that he is wholly other and irreducible to anything familiar to our knowledge. In this way, I have intimated, creatures hold us accountable to think about themselves with a view to their limitations and the impossibility of conflating them with a good that is unconstrained, even for a particular purpose or in a particular respect. As I mentioned above, God created human beings not only to express the goodness or spirit of God but also to evaluate themselves and other beings in light of the knowledge of his ultimate goodness, in accordance with their own wills for knowledge in the fields of wisdom, science, or art. For this purpose, the arguments of the last chapter suggest, they presumably require an awareness of the supernatural or God as the supreme good that prevents them from reducing the highest good or organizing principle of life to any finite good. As noted
previously, such a turn away from God as highest good involves a correlative turn to the self as the arbiter of happiness, or pride, whether it manifests in the excessive form of hubris or the deficient form of false humility. By curbing pride, belief in God predisposes human beings to regard themselves and finite goods exactly as they are and so to discern the difference between greater and lesser goods. In thus perceiving reality from a ‘divine perspective,’ as it were, human beings are equipped to manage and oversee the natural order in a manner that is consistent with the flourishing of all creatures—and thus to bear their circumstances well. So long as human beings are still in the process of achieving the fullness of existence, albeit finitely, that God always enjoys infinitely, this perspective represents the means through which human beings have access to the knowledge of God, namely, through the mediation of experiences evaluated in terms of belief in his existence. As human understanding of the good of creation, made possible by the exploration of creation, expands over time, it fosters growth in the knowledge of the all-encompassing goodness of God. In turn, such mediated or indirect knowledge of God predisposes those who accumulate it to recognize him substantially while not yet allowing for anything more than the formal knowledge of the kind of being God is—that but not what he is—that is attainable in this life. Though human success in these respects can be credited to the God who empowers human beings in the first place with the aptitude to make the best of all things by bearing them well, the fact that human beings must exhibit this aptitude at their own initiative and of their own accord makes it possible to affirm without contradiction that all human acts are both enabled by God and completely under the control of those that perform them.14 In other words, these acts, to say nothing of all natural developments, are the product of both human efforts and God’s continuous creation.15 As mentioned above, such acts are enabled by a formal awareness of the supernatural or God which human beings possessed from their very beginnings, though this awareness did not likely entail anything like a distinct concept of God, at least at first. This awareness is attributable to the level of consciousness humans achieve, as distinct from other animals and especially mammals, in virtue of intellect and will.16 On account of consciousness, human beings exhibit a natural tendency to assign meaning to their experiences—and especially to identify personal agency or intentionality behind events affecting themselves.17 In the case of experiences or events that have no obvious natural explanation, consequently, humans often automatically infer the agency of a god or gods. In such instances of ‘natural religion,’18 the gods in question might be demons, ghosts, ancestors, or other objects of superstition, not necessarily gods in the
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polytheist or even monotheist senses of the term. Such ideas of divinity seem to have developed somewhat later in the history of human thought. According to current research in the cognitive science of religion, however, the emergence of these more sophisticated conceptions of the divine can be interpreted as an attempt to identify gods that have ‘greater and broader inferential potential in domains of human concern,’19 that is, greater powers for intervening helpfully in human affairs than would be possessed by, say, dead ancestors who are also subject to human limitations.20 Because of the tensed nature of the human quest for the divine, the human race could not have possessed from the start the most productive or profitable idea of the divine I described in the last chapter under the auspices of the doctrines of divine simplicity, Trinity and Incarnation. As I will demonstrate further below, such a robust concept of God was itself subject to evolution and emergence. Above all, it was contingent upon God’s own revelation. Though human beings operating prior to the development of this concept were not altogether lacking resources for checking the sin tendency to regard particular objects and circumstances as ‘highest goods,’ in virtue of the natural religious impulse, consequently, they were without recourse to the optimal resources for doing so. That is not to suggest that the eventual attainment of those resources did away with let alone lessened the problem of sin. For the natural exigencies of human existence always contribute to the pervasiveness of sin or the fallen situation that will be described in more detail below. Fall According to a traditional and somewhat literal reading of the first few chapters of Genesis, which Aquinas to some extent endorses, sin entered the world when the first man and woman fell from a pre-lapsarian state in which they enjoyed continuous knowledge of God, which enabled them to maintain a proper perspective on reality such as the one described above.21 Although many Christian thinkers have held that all members of the human race resultantly inherit the guilt associated with the sin of their first parents, as well as an individual tendency to sin, Aquinas himself affirms that fallen humans inherit only a predisposition to sin that they actualize in highly personalized or ‘original’ ways, through sins for which they alone are responsible.22 By the testimony of this traditional account, often traced back to Augustine, the consequences of original sin are numerous, not only for human beings but also for the whole created order.23 First and foremost among these consequences
is the human soul’s loss of the knowledge of God, which imparts to individuals a proper sense of self and indeed the purpose of all things. Although human beings supposedly retain their faculties for knowing reality as well as a sense that they were made for happiness subsequent to this ‘spiritual death,’ the loss of the awareness that their happiness consists in participating in the life of God leads them to develop their own ideas about what it means to live a meaningful life and to operate accordingly. As I have shown, these ideas may have to do with the acquisition of material possessions, the cultivation of certain relationships, or the promotion of particular institutions or causes. By organizing their lives around these things as opposed to the unmitigated worship of God, I have noted, human beings do not further but frustrate their efforts to obtain happiness, as well as those of others. On the grounds that the human soul is the form of the body, which sustains the life of the body, Aquinas argues that the loss of the spiritual or cognitive connection with God brought about the body’s corruption, rendering human beings susceptible to physical pain and ailments and to the inner pain of hurt feelings over various losses and unfulfilled desires.24 According to Aquinas’ understanding, such experiences of sickness and suffering were not possible prior to the fall, because the human soul or mind so ordered the body as to render it insusceptible to harmful internal and external forces.25 While the body was subject to its functions and to contact with the external world, in other words, it was only vulnerable to positive and lifepromoting stimuli and could not therefore be damaged or threatened in any way. Because all creation on this account is subject to the governance of humankind, the loss of the human soul’s control over the body further entailed the loss of creation’s own internal order. With the exception of the heavenly bodies, which keep time, fallen creation is supposed to have become prone to disorder and natural disasters. The resistance the natural world consequently posed to human attempts to impose order upon it, coupled with the human body’s own resistance to the purposes of the soul, therefore introduced an element of toil into human labor for the very first time. Under the fallen regime, moreover, time itself became a source of pressure to complete tasks as opposed to merely an opportunity for accomplishment. Another consequence of sin, namely death, represents the culmination of all the other consequences on the traditional account, insofar as it entails the final separation of the body from the soul from which humans suffer in various ways throughout their lives. Provided humanity had managed to avoid sin, Aquinas seems to think, a time would have come when individuals would have undergone a non-terrifying death, or separation of the soul from the mortal body, whereby
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they would achieve the personal fullness or maturity that would enable them to see God.26 Because of sin, however, a traumatic separation of body and soul—or death—is bound to be experienced by every human being, at the end of a life spent struggling with the various consequences of the rebellion of the body against the soul that precede death. As I have noted, these include the ongoing tendency to sin, sicknesses and sufferings, and the disordered state of the world. As the description above suggests, the traditional Augustinian or Thomist account has the advantage of successfully avoiding the implication that God created a world rife with suffering and evil, insofar as it locates the origins of suffering, disasters, and death in human sin. Though it is therefore highly amenable to the purposes of theodicy, this account has been rendered untenable by more recent discoveries in evolutionary biology—to say nothing of geology, paleontology, and other scientific fields—according to which sickness, suffering, and death are endemic to the natural order and occurred long before the rather late development of human life on earth. Although it is necessary in light of these discoveries to deny that the exigencies of natural existence are attributable to the fall of humanity, I will show in what follows that it need not be affirmed by the same token that God created an intrinsically defective order. As mentioned above, an order that is created from nothing does not start out in its fully perfected form but necessarily achieves maturity over time. This process of maturation ineluctably involves considerable growing pains, including disasters, death, and even the extinction of many species. Without minimizing the suffering involved in such events, it is therefore imperative to assert that they ultimately contribute to the enhancement and development of the world’s increasingly complex and sophisticated order and are not in principle problematic.27 As I will explain further below, the evolutionary processes—and suffering—to which we are now subject appear to be the means of bringing an order created from nothing to the point of completion and perfection which ultimately inaugurates a new form of natural life ‘in which the evolutionary struggle and material suffering do not continue.’28 In other words, they represent what seems to be an exceptionally effective way of fulfilling the overarching and fundamentally benevolent divine purpose of enabling entities utterly different from God to participate fully in the glories of his life, to enter into ‘a new kind of eschatological life where there is no “shadow side,”’29 or evolutionary suffering. Because the exigencies of natural existence contribute to the eventual appearance of such a ‘new creation,’ they clearly cannot have been the product of an initial sin on the part of two original parents. Instead, the possibility of sin—to say nothing of an awareness of the supernatural—arose with the
development of consciousness in hominids and specifically homo sapiens.30 As conscious agents, human beings do not exist simply to ensure their own physical survival or that of their kind; their physical life is or ought to be ordered towards enabling them individually and collectively to undertake intellectual and moral projects that foster a distinctly human culture and society. The greater goal of furthering these projects renders inappropriate some of the predatory tactics that enable other animals to flourish. In many cases, it requires that the greater good of intellectual and moral progress be given priority over matters of immediate personal security or gain. The challenge of maintaining this priority—and virtue, both intellectual and moral—is increased insofar as consciousness renders human beings capable of reflecting upon, anticipating, and resisting threats to immediate personal thriving, including disasters and death. Although non-human animals certainly appear to suffer in ways that are not dissimilar to the ways in which human beings suffer—such that it is unacceptable to inflict certain evils upon them—human beings seem exceptionally capable of experiencing evolutionary sufferings as the evils they are, in the presence of an ability fully to recognize them as such.31 This is because human beings do not simply suffer at the level of the ‘passions of the body,’ like other animals.32 They also suffer on account of the ‘passions of the soul,’ which foster and orientate the intellectual, moral, and indeed spiritual life that is unique to human beings. Because they participate in these forms of life, human beings face a choice with respect to sufferings that cannot be said to present itself to other animals, namely, to resist and grow embittered about suffering or to accept it, not as an intrinsic good, but as a fact of life that should not be permitted to thwart the intellectual, moral and spiritual purposes for which human beings are designed. Such an appropriate, even sinless, response to evils would by the same token entail efforts to manage and temper the effects of evolutionary suffering on natural and all beings to the extent this is possible, though not by interfering with their structural integrity or developmental trajectory. In undertaking such efforts, human beings protest the very fact of suffering—denying its goodness or value and declaring it intolerable—while bearing witness to and already inaugurating a coming order in which sufferings will all be overcome.33 In this respect, they co-operate with what appears to have been their original divine design for them, namely, to live in accordance with the good of creation’s development and perfection in their own moral way and to refuse to give up on God’s purposes and to fight for them as necessary in the face of the challenges involved in doing so.
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As indicated previously, there is nothing intrinsically problematic about the fact that human beings do not start off in a state of full maturity in this regard but instead begin with a store of largely unrealized potential. For it has been shown to be constitutive of God’s intent for us gradually to realize our potential as individuals and indeed as a created order overall. Though our ability to grow and change was part of God’s plan for enabling us to become what we are, it nevertheless allowed for the possibility of becoming something other than God designed us to be, to wit, beings that pervert rather than realize their potential, problematizing rather than flourishing in life.34 Though this possibility is ‘impossible’35 as Karl Barth put it, insofar as it contradicts God’s design, it is one that all human beings ineluctably realize. Since conscious beings cannot help but regard their own flourishing as an ultimate good, it is practically—though not entirely theoretically—impossible to perceive the sacrifice of lesser for greater goods, to say nothing of suffering and death, in a positive light and embrace these as contributors to human thriving and that of all creation in the long term; and it is in failing to do so that human beings neglect to operate in accordance with the highest good, and sin. So construed, the fall of humanity has been described by numerous authors as a ‘fall upwards,’ to wit, a fall into sin that accompanied the very capacity to sin—as well as to obey God by exhibiting moral and intellectual virtue—which accompanies the onset of consciousness.36 On account of our universal failure and apparent inability to align ourselves to God’s will along these lines, we individually and thus ‘originally’ choose to sin or pervert our nature in ways for which we alone can be held accountable. On this showing, in fact, the doctrine of original sin need not be supposed to imply that all humans inherit the guilt for sins committed by their first parents—or even their predisposition to sin. Rather, it may bespeak the reality that sin is that which all individuals contract at the origins of their operations and which permeates the world into which they are born. Whereas natural evils associated with evolutionary suffering, though not strictly speaking good, possess a positive value with reference to the larger end of creation’s development, the human tendency to sin turns on a genuine privation of the good or evil, which does not merely allow for the emergence of the good but undermines the good altogether.37 Since sin presupposes a privation of the good, it is worth noting that evil is parasitic on the good.38 While there can be good without evil, in other words, there cannot be evil without good. One implication of this claim is that it is impossible to sin for its own sake. Instead, sins are committed as a result of deceiving oneself to believe that evil—or a lesser good—is good or vice versa. Thus construed, evil has no
proper purpose or cause, but entails a strictly speaking fruitless or meaningless forfeiture or loss of life, time, energy, and resources.39 The unfounded or absurd nature of evil is precisely the reason why persons often make excuses when they sin or blame others for their actions and the consequences of those actions. Since there is no good reason to sin, human beings are constrained unless they are unscrupulous to find causes for their actions that deflect the responsibility for any detrimental repercussions. Though the idea of evil as a privation is often accused of downplaying the devastating ramifications of sin, it actually has the opposite effect according to this analysis. By calling attention to the ways in which sin introduces disorder and destruction where there ought to be order and peace, the privation theory of evil instills a deep awareness of the ways in which sin totally disrupts the way things should be, while offering a clear standard concerning the state to which they should be restored, and thus the resources for overcoming evil in the short and long term.40 As noted above, the willed instances of disorder and destruction that constitute sin differ qualitatively from those that contribute to the evolution of the natural order. For they are the byproduct not of natural processes that facilitate the circle of life but of sheer human malice or ‘greed for the world’s natural resources.’41 Although natural evils cannot be helped, we have full control over those which are willed, which wreak havoc not only in our own lives but also on our planet and other creatures within it, with implications for present and future life. Although God presumably foreknew creatures would eventually evolve to the point where sin along these lines would become possible, he did not establish sin as part of the fabric of human nature—let alone create an intrinsically defective order. For the exigencies and difficult aspects of created existence and our inappropriate responses to them are a function of our creation from nothing, which is the only ‘stuff ’ from which creatures can seemingly be made. On this basis, God can be re-affirmed as the author of all and only what is good, including the good of human existence, which consists in the capacity freely to will or choose the highest good. Since the possibility of abusing this capacity was latent in God’s original creation, however, the question might be raised why God did not create human beings so that they were able only to prefer the highest good from the beginning. The obvious answer to this question is that forcing our wills along these lines would have defeated the whole purpose of our creation, which was to enable us to choose the good at our own initiative and of our own accord. This is something that we seemingly cannot do in the absence of the option to fail to choose the good and thus to lapse into moral evil. Ironically, consequently, the good of
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the life that is proper our species is only available if we have the opportunity to reject that life and invite our own misery. Although we can and do fail through sin appropriately to employ the God-given gift of the freedom of the will, in summary, that alone is not a reason to withhold from us so great a good. This is especially true considering that the good in question can only be extended to us under precisely such circumstances. Because sin robs us of the ability to operate in accordance with our own best interests, it adds to the challenges involved in realizing our potential to work for the highest good over time the challenge of learning how to do so. On account of our rebellion against God, therefore, we effectively double the work involved in being what he made us to be. For this very reason, however, we have an opportunity to experience a double measure of the divine grace that has been bestowed upon us in the same degree of abundance from the very beginning: the grace we need to exercise our humanity and the grace to learn how to overcome sin in order to do just that.42 Paradoxically, then, our sinfulness allows a more intense experience of grace: we become familiar with the extent of God’s mercy on account of our deep and extreme need for it. Towards Redemption That stated, it inevitably takes time for human beings to learn how to operate in the light of God’s purposes—and thus participate in his work of redemption, which will be further described in the next chapter. Furthermore, it took time for a robust understanding of God to emerge in a society that originally possessed only very inchoate, if natural, ideas about the supernatural. A fuller understanding of God is communicated over the course of Scripture, the overarching narrative of which progressively reveals the Triune God in a threefold series of the three distinct phases through which we come to know anything at all, namely, expectant, fulfilled, and informed faith.43 This revelation is accompanied by the corresponding revelation that human beings are created in the image of the Trinity to express their spirits given through the Son in view of the Father’s glory, and to do so in increasing measure over the course of their lives. Although Scripture allows us progressively to discover the fullness of God insofar as it is possible in this life through a threefold series of phases, chapter 3 demonstrated that God himself is not subject to a process of self-discovery as many so-called panentheist or process theologians suppose. The very fact that he made himself known to us over the course of human history, in accordance with our slowly increasing capability to receive knowledge of him,
is a testimony to his unchanging nature and his utter faithfulness to his word at creation to let himself be known by human beings, notwithstanding their failure to follow through on their purpose of knowing him continuously, even when their resources are enhanced for doing so. The progressive nature of God’s self-revelation aside, the modes of this revelation also seem to be progressive in the sense that stories that appear to have been relevant at one stage to communicating what it means to follow God as the highest good—about how the obliteration of various people groups seems to have been part of God’s plan for his people in the Old Testament, for example—would now seem contrary to this end. As a good deal of recent research has shown, many biblical texts are not only ideologically problematic or ‘politically incorrect’ in the light of current knowledge; they are also historically and in some cases scientifically inaccurate. By way of illustrating this point, it is worth mentioning that large portions of the Old Testament are now believed to recount Israel’s history, not as it actually transpired, but as it was retrospectively re-interpreted while Israel was in exile, by chroniclers known as ‘Deuteronomists.’ Evidently, the purpose of their re‑interpretation was to underline how God worked and revealed himself in Israel’s history in important ways that could scarcely have been realized or appreciated fully at the time. Among those aspects of Israel’s history that were re-cast was the nation’s allegedly longstanding belief in one God. Contrary to what the text of the Old Testament conveys, monotheistic beliefs may have emerged somewhat late in the life of Israel. Although research on such matters has established that large portions of the Old Testament cannot be regarded as historically accurate, the upshot remains that God progressively revealed himself over the course of Israel’s history—to say nothing of Christian history—in accordance with humanity’s gradually increasing capacity to receive the knowledge of who he is. Thus, doubts about Scripture’s literal truth do not undermine its gradually unfolding message about God or its morally or spiritually instructive power when it comes to characterizing the single-minded manner in which God calls his people to lead lives that are qualitatively different from the lives of those who do not answer to him as the highest good. The first step in the process of God’s self-revelation is represented by stories concerning the formation by God of the very idea of ‘one true God,’ distinct from the idols of pagan nations. This idea creates an ‘expectant faith’ for the realization of who God is, and at the same time starts to foster a sense of what it might mean to be the people of God. The heightening of such an expectant faith is symbolized by God’s calling of Abraham, who was instructed to leave his
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home country and travel to a land provided by God, where God promised to make Abraham’s descendants into a great nation. Once Abraham had arrived in this land of Canaan, God reiterated and even expanded on his covenant, declaring to Abraham: You will be the father of many nations … I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.44
In spite of this promise, the nation based on Abraham’s descendants was not established entirely straightforwardly. Abraham’s grandson Jacob (Israel), together with his 12 sons, the fathers of what ultimately became the 12 tribes of Israel, were eventually forced to abandon their homeland for Egypt, to escape the devastating effects of a famine in their area. However, this move proved providential, in that it provided a context, which allowed Jacob’s descendants to multiply greatly over the course of about 400 years. At the end of this period, God raised up a leader in Moses, who directed the Israelites out of Egypt, where they had become subject to enslavement and captivity, back into their promised land. In summoning Moses to service, the God who had previously only been known as ‘the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’ declared himself as, ‘I AM.’45 In doing so, he re-asserted himself albeit even more emphatically as the only true God. On the basis of this self-definition, God issued the Ten Commandments through Moses, the first of which instructed the Israelites to have no other Gods before the one true God. With these Commandments, God defined his kingdom as a fundamentally spiritual one, in which human beings were to operate in accordance with the belief that God is higher and cannot therefore be conflated with any known good. He brought Israel to a crucial moment in the fulfillment of their expectant faith concerning who God is and what it meant that he would rule over them and make them into a nation distinct from surrounding peoples. This fulfilled faith informed Israel’s subsequent efforts not only to conquer the land God had promised to them but also to establish themselves therein. Although Biblical accounts of Israel’s successes and failures in this regard admittedly may have been massaged by the ‘Deuteronomists,’ with a view to emphasizing their message about the nature of God’s kingdom, this message arguably stands regardless of accuracy of the historical account that still symbolically supports it.
As Scripture reports, Israel operated for some time in accordance with a view to the absolute significance of God and in that sense answered to him alone as their ruler. That is not to say that Israel’s ‘informed faith’ was continuous and unbroken during this entire period, however. There were many instances in which God’s people are said to have doubted or trespassed his commands, to their own detriment, and to the considerable prolongation and complication of their settlement in the Promised Land. After settling in this territory, Israel’s tendency to doubt God’s leading and thus his absolute significance reportedly did not cease to be a problem. If anything, this tendency was exacerbated by Israel’s urge to organize itself along the lines of neighboring nations, which were governed by human political rulers and ultimately a king. By disregarding God’s intent for his people to live directly under his rule, administered by the priests of Israel (i.e. the Levite tribe), in a sort of theocracy, Israel eventually established its own monarchy. While some of Israel’s early kings willingly answered to God, and Israel supposedly flourished under their leadership, many of the kings of Israel flagrantly rejected the authority of the God the nation had been founded to serve and worked for self-serving purposes. According to biblical reports, which may have been manipulated here as elsewhere, these rulers eventually—though not always immediately—contributed to divisions within the nation and finally its dissolution and captivity by other nations. In the exilic period, prophets rose up to call Israel to repent from taking God’s kingdom into their own hands, thus defeating its very purpose. These prophets foretold the eventual coming of a Messiah or Savior and ruler who would give God’s people a new opportunity to choose God alone as their leader: to operate as a spiritual body. After a period in Israel’s history during which informed faith in the one true God had disintegrated, consequently, the prophets aroused new expectations for the appearance of God himself, expectations that came increasingly into doubt during the approximately 400 years, intervening between the end of the story of the Old Testament and the start of the story of the New. At the end of this lengthy silence, during which Israel had become subjected to foreign rule and ultimately to that of Rome, and all hope of their reinstatement as a distinct nation seemed lost, the birth of the Son of God to the Virgin Mary fulfilled the expectation and promise of a Messiah for Israel. Ironically, many of the Israelite religious leaders who had supposedly been expecting him did not recognize him as the Messiah. This was because they had been looking for a political leader or king under whose reign they themselves might acquire power and prestige. As the son of a carpenter, the Incarnate Son, Jesus Christ, did not
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meet the expectations of these leaders, who clearly still failed to comprehend God’s intent to form a spiritual rather than a political nation, wherein human hearts would be ruled by the desire for God above all else. Although those who were strictly speaking anticipating a Messiah rejected him on his arrival, persons of both Jewish and Gentile descent who were seeking a spiritual leader were receptive to Christ and his message. They came in crowds to listen to him and sought him out for help and healing. In his interactions with these mostly lowly, poor, and unmistakably sinful people, including his own 12 disciples, Jesus not only fulfilled the expectant faith for the Messiah but also informed that faith by offering indications of the kind of leader he would be and what it would mean to be part of his kingdom. As mentioned in the last chapter, he did this simply by continuing to perform his eternal role within the Godhead, that is, by expressing the Spirit that glorifies the Father, albeit through the mediation of his human decisions how to act with respect to particular human affairs. The first indication of God’s Trinitarian nature defensibly derives from the Son’s conception by the Holy Spirit, in the Virgin Mary, according to the plan of the Father.46 The first example of a case in which Christ himself testified to his purpose of revealing the Trinity can be detected in the story where his parents found their young son explaining deep things of God to the doctors in the temple.47 In response to their queries about where he had been and what he was doing, he simply replied that he had to be about his Father’s business. In thus bearing witness to the Father, the Incarnate Son gave expression to the Spirit that glorifies the Father and consequently gestured towards the Triune nature of God. Admittedly, these early intimations of the Trinity are quite subtle; even more so are the types of Christ—to say nothing of the Trinity—that can be retrospectively discerned in certain Old Testament passages.48 For our sakes, it took time for an understanding of both God and the nature of the kingdom or the people of God to emerge. These matters became somewhat clearer at Jesus’ baptism by his cousin John, which is often taken as the initial explicit revelation of the Trinity. At this event, the Father himself sanctioned the work of his Son, by sending the Spirit upon him in the form of a dove. This is the Spirit the Son continued to express throughout his public ministry as he by his own testimony worked to accomplish the purposes of the Father through his teachings and miracles. Since the Son’s revelation of the Trinity by these means simultaneously confirms that all human persons are images of the Trinity and are designed to do what Christ does, namely, to express their spirits or lives to God’s glory (i.e. worship God), as I mentioned in the last chapter, Jesus’ efforts through all
his words and actions to show us who God is at once demonstrated what life in his kingdom entails. It involves a way of life in accordance with God’s glory, and thus, a spiritual life which can be led in the context of engagement in any number of human activities, by contrast to a specific activity or set of activities associated with membership in a particular human institution or political body. The chapter that follows will discuss how Christ enacted the possibility of this life. Endnotes See Kathryn Tanner’s congenial account of human participation in the life of the Trinity in the chapter on that topic in Christ the Key (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010). 2 ST 18.104.22.168–8. Many doctrinal issues covered in this chapter are treated in a compatible manner in Kathryn Tanner’s Jesus, Humanity and the Trinity: A Brief Systematic Theology (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 2001), which includes chapters on ‘Jesus,’ ‘The Theological Structure of Things,’ ‘The Shape of Human Life,’ and ‘The End.’ 3 See Gilles Emery, ‘Trinity and Creation,’ in The Theology of Thomas Aquinas (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2005), 58–77. 4 ST 1.45. 5 ST 1.46. On this, see David Burrell, Faith and Freedom: An Interfaith Perspective (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2004). See also Creation and the God of Abraham, David B. Burrell and Janet Soskice (eds) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010). 6 Gen. 1:3–5. 7 De Veritate 4: The Divine Word. 8 Mark Harris, The Nature of Creation: Examining the Bible and Science (London: Routledge, 2014), 132. As Harris notes here, God’s pronouncement of beings as ‘good,’ or ‘very good’ in the case of human beings, designates that they were fit for a purpose, not fully mature or morally perfect. 9 Comp. Theol. 1.102: Quia enim divinam bonitatem perfecte repraesentari impossibile fuit propter distantiam uniuscuiusque creaturae a Deo, necessarium fuit ut repraesentaretur per multa, ut quod deest ex uno, suppleretur ex alio. 10 See Aquinas’ De Ente on the essence/existence distinction and a discussion of his contention that essence and existence are not distinct in God. 11 See chapter 2 on ‘The Ontology of Participation,’ in my Rationality as Virtue. 12 ST 1.44.3; De Veritate 2–3. 13 David Burrell celebrates the distinction between God and creatures in virtually all of his works. For a brief account, see his article, ‘Creator/Creatures Relation: 1
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The Distinction vs. Onto-Theology,’ Faith and Philosophy 25 (2008) 177–89. Also see his chapters on ‘Distinguishing God from the World’ and ‘The Christian Distinction Celebrated and Expanded,’ in Faith and Freedom, and his book, Knowing the Unknowable God (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1992). Burrell regularly acknowledges his own debt to Robert Sokolowski’s account of the ‘Christian distinction’ in The God of Faith and Reason (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1995), as well as to Kathryn Tanner’s God and Creation in Christian Theology: Tyranny or Empowerment? (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2005). 14 According to David Burrell, human freedom is the logical corollary of God’s free creation, or creation ex nihilo, which is the fundamental presupposition or ‘hidden element’ in Aquinas’ thought, as Josef Pieper puts it. See Burrell’s Faith and Freedom, 16, citing Josef Pieper, The Silence of St Thomas: Three Essays (New York: Pantheon, 1957), esp. 47–67. See also Kathryn Tanner’s account of the way grace or God’s self-revelation satisfies the conditions of possibility for and sustains the exercise of human nature in her chapters on ‘human nature’ and two chapters on grace in Christ the Key (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010). 15 Mark Harris, The Nature of Creation, chapter 6, 111–30: on creation ex nihilo vs continuous creation. 16 Justin L. Barrett, Cognitive Science, Religion and Theology 80: ‘The capacity to have thoughts about thoughts—to exercise meta-representation—would enable the animal to both recognize that others have a relationship with the same god and see the god as a collaborator in joint activities. It seems that only humans have this potential for collaborative relationship and collective relationship with a god.’ 17 Justin L. Barrett, Cognitive Science, Religion and Theology: From Human Minds to Divine Minds (West Conshohocken: Templeton Press, 2011), 99. 18 Justin L. Barrett, Cognitive Science, Religion and Theology, see chapter 8, pages 130ff. on natural religion. 19 Ibid., 106. 20 Ibid., 108: on common criteria for more successful god-concepts. 21 De Veritate 18: The Knowledge of the First Man in the State of Innocence; cf. ST 2.1.81–2. See Ian A. McFarland, In Adam’s Fall: A Meditation on the Christian Doctrine of Original Sin (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010). 22 ST 22.214.171.124–3. 23 In Evil and the God of Love (London: Macmillan, 1977), John Hick distinguishes between what he describes as the ‘Augustinian type of theodicy’ (part II, especially chapter 3) and a type of theodicy he traces to Irenaeus (in part III). While it is questionable whether Hick’s discussion rests on entirely sound readings of the two Church Fathers, nevertheless his typology has become common currency in contemporary discussion. Although the present work follows an Augustinian and
Thomist line of thinking in many ways, it is in some respects more closely aligned to the Irenaean account, in which the world, and human nature, are said to involve a mixture of good and its privation that allows for development towards perfection. 24 Josef Pieper, Death and Immortality (South Bend: St Augustine’s Press, 2000), 72: the punishment for sin is that ‘the soul loses the power of effectively immunizing the body against corruption; it loses that gift of paradisial deathlessness in which the purpose and potentiality of its nature has been fully realized.’ 25 ST 2.1.85. 26 Josef Pieper, Death and Immortality 70: ‘the gift would have consisted in the spiritual soul’s having so effectively infused the body with its formative power and thus made it alive that the body-soul unity would not have dissolved against man’s will. The end of earthly man would have been a death without death, a pure manifest active completion from within.’ 27 Mark Harris, The Nature of Creation 149: so-called natural evils are not ‘obviously evil in the sense that freely willed human action can be evil.’ 28 Ibid., 141. 29 Ibid., 156. 30 Mark Harris, The Nature of Creation 145: the ‘fall is the theological name for the onset of consciousness in human kind … only hominids and perhaps only humans have a well-developed sense of sin and shame which we connect with conscience.’ 31 On animal suffering, see Christopher Southgate, The Groaning of Creation: God, Evolution and the Problem of Evil (Minneapolis: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008). 32 Thomas Suddendorf, The Gap: The Science of What Separates Us from Other Animals (New York: Basic Books, 2013). 33 As David Fergusson writes, an adequate theological response to the exigencies of created existence must seek not so much to justify or explain them away ‘but to assist every initiative for overcoming suffering and resisting evil.’ See The Cosmos and the Creator: An Introduction to the Theology of Creation (London: SPCK, 1998), 83. As Fergusson writes elsewhere, ‘suffering and death are not merely natural phenomena that promote a process of selection and survival. They are experienced as negating the way the world ought to be and by grace how it may eventually become.’ See Faith and Its Critics: A Conversation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 63. For this reason, he concludes, ‘the only justifiable response’ to suffering ‘is one of protest.’ David Fergusson, The Cosmos and the Creator: An Introduction to the Theology of Creation (London: SPCK, 1998), 83. 34 ST 1.48. 35 Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics II/1, Geoffrey W. Bromily and T.F. Torrance (eds) (London: Continuum, 2003), 505–6: ‘And if He [God] is the Creator and Lord of the world, this settles the fact that even in creation sin can only be the impossible possibility, the possibility rejected by His sustaining grace.’
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The phrase ‘fall upwards’ has been employed by a number of thinkers in the science and religion field. For example, the concept is referenced in Mark Harris, The Nature of Creation 145, 157; and as Martin Warner pointed out to me, at least as early as William Temple. In a letter to Bishop Barnes in 1930, quoted on p. 491 in F.A. Iremonger’s biography, William Temple: Archbishop of Canterbury (Oxford University Press, 1948), Temple wrote: ‘As soon as it is realized that the Garden of Eden is a myth, it is seen to be a very good myth, curiously congruent with evolution, because the Fall is (in the myth itself ) a “fall upwards” seeing that by it the knowledge of good and evil was obtained.’ As Temple elaborates in his Christus Veritas (London: Macmillan, 1924), in his ‘Note’ to chapter IV about this myth: ‘Man arrived at conscious realization of Value (Good and Evil) by doing what was in fact forbidden, but was (ex hypothesi) not realized as wrong; in breaking a rule he discovered a principle. Thereby he became a conscious sinner. But thereby also he became capable of fellowship with God.’ 37 Brian Davies, in Thomas Aquinas on God and Evil (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 35–6, speaks of the two types of ‘absence’ of the good mentioned in Aquinas’ works (citing ST 1.48.3), namely, a privation of the good that allows for the emergence of the good—in which category arguably falls evolutionary suffering and so‑called natural evils—and the genuine privation of the good that consists in the abuse of the freedom of the will, which itself consists in the capacity to prefer greater to lesser goods. 38 ST 1.48.3. 39 ST 1.49. 40 As noted above, the willed instances of disorder and destruction that constitute sin differ qualitatively from those that contribute to the evolution of the natural order. For they are the byproduct not of natural processes that facilitate the circle of life but of human ‘greed for the world’s natural resources’ (Mark Harris, The Nature of Creation 152). 41 Mark Harris, The Nature of Creation 152. 42 ST 2.1.109. 43 See chapter 4 on ‘The Conditions for Knowledge,’ in Rationality as Virtue. Expectant faith involves the desire for and anticipation of knowledge, which motivates us to search for understanding, until it is found the mode of fulfilled faith, while informed faith is the means through which we apply the knowledge we acquire fulfilled faith to undertake further inquiries. 44 Gen. 17:4–8. 45 Ex. 3:14. 46 ST 3.1.3. As the next chapter will elaborate, the Incarnation on some level represents the logical completion of creation through the Son of God. Since the Father fashioned all reality through the Son in the Spirit, it was fitting for the Son in whom 36
all things hold together to come into the realm of all the things he holds together. Some of Aquinas’ Franciscan contemporaries went so far as to argue that creation was incomplete short of the Son’s Incarnation, which entailed the final divine sanctioning of creation. On these grounds, they claimed that the Son would have come to earth even if the salvation of humankind had not been at stake. As Aquinas stresses, however, it is difficult to determine whether this really is the case, since human beings have sinned, and salvation is in fact necessary (ST 3.1.3). 47 Luke 2:49. 48 One example of a type of the Trinity can be found in Gen. 18, where three angels visit Abram at Mamre.
Christian Creedal Reasoning II: Redemption and Church
Redemption Though Christ revealed the nature of God and life in God over the course of his ministry, he did not fully enact the possibility of this life until the last week of that ministry. In that sense, Christ’s ministry—which informed our understanding of what it means to call him Messiah—in turn aroused the expectation that he would make a way for us to participate in the form of life he modeled in modeling God’s life as a human being. For the purpose of fulfilling this expectation, it was not enough for Christ to make known the Trinity and indeed the Triune structure of human and all beings. Since human beings lack the ability to participate in the God-glorifying life of God on account of sin, it was necessary for him to bestow on us the very capacity to express our spirits along the lines of the Son’s example to the glory of God the Father. This capacity could not be acquired of our own accord, precisely because the power to acquire it has been forfeited through sin. For this reason, the means through which it was objectively activated had to be provided by the one through whom humanity had been given the potential to glorify God in the first place, namely, God the Son. Though Christ himself was no under no obligation to atone for sin, since he had committed no offense against God, he chose not to exempt himself from human life and all that entailed, though his divinity safeguarded him from sin.1 Instead, he voluntarily took on the flesh that would render his life of toil and suffering and ultimate death inevitable. In a manner consistent with his unfailing love and God’s will always to enable human beings freely to engage in a relationship with God, in summary, he did what he did not have to do for those he did not have to create in the first place. While the entirety of Christ’s life illustrated the nature and possibility of a sinless way of life, the final events of his life, namely, his passion, death, resurrection, and ascension, made it possible for human beings to follow this way, thus fulfilling the expectation his life itself engendered. Though all
the events of Christ’s life and especially his final days on earth were certainly essential to restoring humanity’s capacity to participate in the life of God, the Lord’s passion, that is, the suffering he underwent in the final days of his life, represents the most crucial event with respect to his atoning work.2 Thus, Aquinas affirms that Christ’s death achieved the final culmination of his passion, while the resurrection and ascension brought forth its fruit.3 As I will elaborate below, the passion is the ‘efficient cause’ of redemption, because it is the means through which Christ not only reversed the effects of disordered passion or sin, but also sanctioned or anticipated the fulfillment or perfection of all created things. In the first connection, there are at least three respects in which Christ’s passion atoned for human sin. One concerns the internal sufferings or emotional pain that arises for example with the fear of death, which Christ clearly experienced at Gethsemane, or with unjust accusations and persecution, which he subsequently underwent in the course of his trial. Another pertains to the loss of external goods, such as friends, supporters, or material possessions. A third relates to the bodily damage caused by sufferings, sicknesses, disasters, and ultimately death. Although Christ clearly did not experience every imaginable kind of suffering, whether internal and emotional, external, or physical, Aquinas contends that he did so virtually, and to the most extreme degree, insofar as he shared in the divine nature as a result of which his human experiences all attained universal significance.4 Precisely because of his divinity, however, I have indicated that Christ was not subject to the sin nature that exacerbates sufferings of all kinds, even though he was a sharer in human nature who felt the full force of all the passions produced by those sufferings.5 On account of his divinity, therefore, Christ remains the only human who was capable of responding infallibly to the sufferings and death that in the long term contribute to the perfection of creation on the assumption that they are not as life threatening as they appear to be in the immediate sense. In other words, he was the only person with an unflagging ability to embrace rather than resist his finitude and mortality—and to hold fast to God’s purposes in the face of the tragedies associated with natural existence. Although other humans—for example, many Christian martyrs—have admittedly endured many sufferings with patience like Christ’s, only he as God showed forbearance with respect to all forms of suffering. Far from sanctioning suffering by these means, Christ operated with a view to confirming that pain and death are not part of the order God eventually intends to establish. Thus, he suffered for the sake of protesting suffering and overcoming it. By facing all the exigencies of human existence in a sinless manner, Christ not only modeled how human beings are meant to face challenges with
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properly ordered passions. He also made atonement for their failure to do so and reinstated the ability to order passions in accordance with the knowledge of God’s good purposes, that is, the ability to participate in the life of God.6 Because of his divinity, and the universalized status of all his human actions, in summary, he atoned in principle for the sins of all persons—past, present, and future—who opt to receive the benefits of his work on their behalf. Although Christ potentially freed humanity from sin or the dis-passions that complicate life in the present, evolving order, he did not remove the suffering and death that represent a permanent feature of that order. Nevertheless, he set the stage for the redemption from suffering of all creation. As numerous theologians have argued, Christ would have become Incarnate for this purpose regardless of the need to atone for human sin, which was not part of his original design. For this broader and more fundamental form of redemption became necessary and was even anticipated by his very act of creation from nothing, which set in motion the evolutionary developments—and evolutionary suffering—which call for the ultimate perfection of creation. Since the Son is the one through whom all things were made in the first place, he was clearly the most fitting member of the Trinity to come to earth to lay the foundation for this event. Through his passion, death, and resurrection, therefore, he not only reversed the devastating effects of sin, but also—first and foremost—virtually underwent and potentially overcame all the tragedies that are ineluctably if ironically indispensable to the maturation of an order made from nothing.7 By these means, he inaugurated a coming ‘new creation,’ free from the ‘growing pains’ that characterize the present life. While Christ brought about the redemption of all creation—including humanity—because of his divinity, it bears noting that his human rather than divine nature served as the actual instrument or means of his redemptive work. Since the divine nature is impassible, the human nature of Christ alone was capable of engaging in the human acts associated with this work.8 As Chapter 3 established, however, the human life of Christ exhibited the divine efficacy needed to enact the possibility of redemption for all beings precisely because the Son of God remained unchanging with respect to his divine nature.9 On this basis, Aquinas contends that Christ experienced all the events of his human life not as God but as a man who was also God.10 At the moment of his death, consequently, Aquinas insists that, far from severing or losing any contact with the divine, Christ merely delivered up his human spirit, which nevertheless remained completely united to his divine nature.11 In virtue of his divinity, moreover, he surrendered his human spirit to death entirely voluntarily. While death comes on its own timing to all human
beings, Christ exceptionally chose the precise moment of his death, yet without bringing it about himself. In spite of the necessary separation of the human soul and body that occurs at death, Aquinas further argues that the whole of Christ’s divine Person remained both united with God and separated from him in hell during the three days intervening between his death and resurrection. Because the human person in hell was united to God, however, Christ’s descent into hell did not entail the separation of the soul from God and the related spiritual death that is the very definition of hell. Rather, it afforded the opportunity to liberate those who had lived by faith before his time on earth, and potentially to free humanity and all creation from the powers of sin and suffering, respectively.12 On account of his divinity, however, Christ’s human soul could not remain in hell or his human body dead forever. By necessity, he instead returned to life after the appropriate time had passed for the purpose of accomplishing his divine ends.13 These ends can be further elucidated through a discussion of the main interpretations of, or metaphors for, the atonement that have been advocated over the course of Christian tradition, namely, devil’s ransom, satisfaction, and moral exemplarism. While most theologians throughout history have made recourse to only one of these main metaphors to the exclusion of the others, Aquinas recognized the difficulty of capturing the extent of Christ’s atoning work through any one metaphor in isolation and offered an account which incorporates all three.14 Admittedly, he gave pride of place to the satisfaction theory of atonement, which was first and most famously developed by Anselm of Canterbury in his Cur Deus Homo as a response to the devil’s ransom theory, which had prevailed throughout the patristic period.15 In this connection, I have noted, Aquinas holds that Christ’s passion is the locus of the satisfaction or restitution the Son offers to God for the human failure to live in keeping with God’s purposes. By making recompense for the debt human beings owe to God in this way, he posits, Christ simultaneously restored in them the capacity to honor God of their own accord, and thus to operate in their own best interests. Although Aquinas’ account of the way Christ’s passion rectified the relationship between human beings and God seems to turn primarily on satisfaction theory, he also appeals in a more limited way to the devil’s ransom interpretation of the atonement in treating the objective transaction that wrought our salvation.16 According to this theory, the atonement is the means through which Christ—particularly through his death and descent into
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hell—effectively bought humanity back from the devil, who had supposedly acquired rights over the human race as a result of sin.17 A common objection to this account is that it seems to attribute too much power to the devil, to whom God could not possibly owe anything. In response to this contention, recent scholars have pointed out that the devil’s ransom theory turns on ‘a bait-and-hook account of what happens on the cross [in which] the devil takes Jesus to his death, as if he were a sinner whom death can rightfully claim, thereby overstepping his bounds and losing his rights to us.’18 Thus interpreted, the theory does not actually affirm but deny the power of the devil. This is all the more true in light of the fact that sin, on account of which ‘God justly ordains that we be held in bondage and punished by the devil … is an offense against God, the debt of punishment [for which] is owed to God; [such that] nothing is owed to the devil,’19 who incidentally need not be described as a literally existent being but as a representative for the forces of sin and evil which grip humanity and all creation, respectively.20 In his account, Aquinas certainly takes care to emphasize that Christ died and descended into hell in order to free humanity from sin.21 For him, however, this freedom is primarily a by-product of Christ’s passion, which reversed or made satisfaction for sin and so re-introduced the very possibility of freedom in the true sense of the term. Although Aquinas mainly describes the objective transaction outlined by the first two theories of atonement as a means of compensating for human sin, it is worth noting that both accounts seem to offer resources largely untapped by Aquinas for explaining how Christ set the stage for the redemption of the whole created order from the treacherous evolutionary processes through which creation is ultimately perfected. By undergoing the sufferings and death that are proper to all created beings, Christ not only overcame in potency the power of human sin. As mentioned above, he also incorporated the tragedies of evolutionary existence into a larger process of enacting the fullness of life he desires for his creatures, yet which is only possible for them after a period of growth and development that is necessitated by their unavoidable creation from nothing. That again is not to say that he sanctioned suffering and death as intrinsic goods. To the contrary, Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection represent the sort of protest against the negative aspects of the current state of things that is most productively expressed in efforts to supersede it. Through personal efforts subjectively to realize the benefits of Christ’s atoning work, I hinted previously that we participate in precisely these efforts. On my argument, such efforts are closely linked on one level to ordinary attempts to bear sufferings well as far as they are unavoidable. On another level,
these efforts may be exerted in the context of compensating for and overcoming suffering wherever possible through the exercise of intellectual and moral virtues, thereby witnessing to the eschatological hope for a new creation free from sin and suffering. This brings us to the third theory of atonement, initially developed by Peter Abelard, in what was apparently a reaction against the theory proposed by Anselm. In Abelard’s ‘subjectivist’ or ‘moral exemplarist’ account, Christ atones for sin mainly by acting as a moral example of proper passion and love for God, which encourages human subjects to live by this same love.22 By many accounts, Abelard’s interpretation of the atonement is inferior to the others, in that it neglects to explain the objective transaction through which human atonement is affected, or through which the very capacity of human beings to love God is reinstated. As some recent scholarship has demonstrated, however, Abelard does provide such an explanation, albeit in a somewhat underdeveloped form.23 In Aquinas’ work, by contrast, the relevant account is fully delineated through the other two theories of atonement I have mentioned, particularly satisfaction theory. At the same time, Aquinas reaps the benefits of exemplarism by presenting Christ as the paradigm of a human life lived in accordance with the knowledge and love of God, which has the power to inspire humanity to do the same. As Aquinas relates, Christ served as the ultimate moral example insofar as he channeled all his intellectual virtues—consisting in his human intellectual capacities elevated by his knowledge of God—to the morally virtuous end of promoting the highest good, which he recognized and loved as God.24 When he hung upon the cross, Christ illustrated by his posture alone—his outstretched arms, for instance—that there is nothing, not even the suffering and finally the death of the Incarnate Son of God—that cannot be embraced and employed to accomplish the Father’s good purposes: nothing that can be excluded as a means of promoting the highest good, and God’s glory. As I have contended, it was precisely by bearing this supreme atrocity well that the Incarnate Son accomplished the greatest good of enabling humanity and on some level all creation to participate in his life. Though I have argued that Christ’s passion is in all respects decisive for his redemptive work, I have also noted that his death on the cross essentially finalized the achievement of his passion. Furthermore, his descent into hell and resurrection three days later brought forth its initial fruit.25 In particular, the resurrection of his body anticipated the final resurrection not only of all those who reap the benefits of his work to atone for sin, but also that of all creatures, who will come by these means to subsist in a new creation, not subject to evolutionary suffering.
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Following his resurrection, Christ appeared to his followers in a glorified human body, that is, a body immune to alteration, corruption or decay, thus illustrating the sort of embodied life he intends to bestow upon human and all beings at his second coming. As Christ’s own resurrected life confirms, this life will not be discontinuous with embodied life in the present order; human beings, for instance, will not be suddenly transformed into airy ghosts or spirits. Rather, Christ’s example suggests, the resurrection will permanently establish all beings in maturity and perfection as the beings they actually are. In the case of human beings, it will solidify the personalities that have been cultivated over the course of time and thereby predispose individuals to gaze on the immutable God. Thus confirmed, human beings will apparently go on operating in eternity much as in time, albeit according to wills uninhibited by as yet unrealized potential or by sin, that is, a tendency to operate in ways that are inconsistent with human thriving. Far from inhibiting our freedom, this inability to sin will render us supremely free, precisely because sin entails slavery to desires for finite and fleeting things, the pursuit of which can only lead to the frustration of the desire for happiness. In sum, it inhibits our freedom to navigate the world without the compulsion of addictions and preoccupations.26 The freedom derived from an inability to sin will be further enhanced at the resurrection by a redeemed created order free from suffering, death, disorder, natural disasters, or difficulties of any kind. After providing a foretaste of our future life, Christ ascended into heaven. To some extent, this event was inevitable or necessary, since the fullness of God’s Spirit dwelt in him, such that it was proper for him on being glorified as a man to return to the God in glory from whom he had never departed in terms of his divinity. When he ascended into heaven, withdrawing the fully actualized presence of God’s Spirit from the world, Christ set the stage for Pentecost, at which he reinstated the potential of all human persons to live in keeping with the Spirit that strives to do the Father’s will.27 By thus fulfilling God’s plan not only to reveal himself as Triune but also to confirm the human purpose of imaging the Trinity, he positioned us to live with an informed faith—fulfilled by his passion and death and expected on account of his earthly life—in his resurrected life. This informed faith in turn creates an expectant faith for Christ’s return and the fulfillment of his promise to bring us into our own resurrected life and an eternal existence that is informed by the vision of God.28 At present, we express our expectation to achieve the direct vision of God and make gradual progress towards it by expressing our spirits, given to us through the creative work of the Son, to the Father’s glory, imitating Christ and thus imaging or participating
in the life of the Trinity. As I have noted, this effort involves bringing the knowledge of God to bear in our way of thinking and acting in reality, learning to do so with increasing facility, such that we ultimately develop a steady habit of bearing things well. The reason Christ did not immediately return to draw us directly into the promised vision of God arguably concerns his plan to give us the opportunity to learn to be exactly what God always intended us to be, namely, individuals who work consistently of their own accord in a spirit that prioritizes the highest good over temporal goods.29 Paradoxically, our current residence in an order where it is possible and practically inevitable to do otherwise represents the very reason why we now enjoy this opportunity, indeed freedom, to discriminate between greater and lesser goods. As I contended in the last chapter, it is only possible to learn to be virtuous under circumstances in which the option is available not to be virtuous. Thus, it is only in an order like ours that we can learn constantly to reflect the image of the Trinity on earth and thus be readied to gaze upon its reality, which has been made known formally, though not substantially, through the Incarnation of the Image of the Trinity, God the Son. However arduous, consequently, our current situation would appear to be our best and perhaps only means to our most glorious end. By accepting rather than resisting or even resigning ourselves to this fact, therefore, we may make our way towards our proper end. As the narrative of the last chapter and the above confirms, the nature of God and his purposes for humanity are communicated through three full cycles of expectant-fulfilled-informed faith, the third of which currently unfolds only in the mode of expectant faith and remains to be fulfilled at the second coming. The first cycle involves expectant faith for an understanding of the ‘God of Abraham’ and the realization of God’s promise to turn Abraham’s descendants a great nation. This promise was fulfilled at God’s self-revelation to Moses as ‘I AM’ and informed over the course of Israel’s efforts to conquer the Promised Land, which was eventually lost through disregard for the ultimate authority of God. In spite of this rebellion, God inspired expectations for an Israeli Messiah through the voices of the prophets: an expectation that was eventually fulfilled at the coming of Christ and informed through his life and ministry. This life and ministry in turn fostered the expectation that Christ would make it possible for his people to live the life he prescribed—an expectation that was fulfilled by his passion, death, resurrection, and ascension. At present, we live by an informed faith in these saving events, which in turn entails an expectant faith that will be fulfilled at the return of Christ and informed by the vision of God throughout eternity.
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Church By living in expectation of Christ’s return, I have noted that we already participate potentially, though not yet actually, in an eternal life with God and thus participate in our own ways and of our own accord in the reflection of his Triune nature. This participation involves thinking and living in light of the knowledge of God’s absolute significance. As that in turn entails thinking and living in relation to things other than God, not least other human beings, our own mode of participation is at once a mode of enabling the participation of other beings and especially human beings in God. In that sense, our embodied lives represent extensions of the life of the Son of God. Conversely, his body is constituted by those who are committed to conducting their lives as the Incarnate Son lived his, in line with the Spirit that works to illuminate the supreme goodness of God and thereby enables others to do the same. As such, members of Christ’s body—the church—comprise a spiritual body, united by this common overarching goal, which they serve in diverse ways, by means of different capabilities for intellectual and moral virtue, which are transformed in this context into gifts for expressing God’s Spirit, or spiritual gifts.30 In this connection, a parallel can be drawn between our lives as members of Christ’s body, the life of Christ himself, and the message of Scripture.31 As an account of the progressive revelation of the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit, delivered in three cycles of threefold faith, Scripture gradually tells an overarching story, entailing many specific stories, about who God is and who he has made us to be. This story culminates in the work of Christ, who in the course of his life expressed the Spirit of God to the Father’s glory and enabled humankind to do the same: who established the Triune nature of God and the creation of human beings in his image. To say this is to interpret Scripture theologically, or ‘with a concern for the enduring truth of Scripture’s witness to the nature of God and humanity, with a view to enabling the transformation of humanity into the likeness of God.’32 Furthermore, it is to suggest that Scripture is infallible not because it is literally true, or contains direct and complete answers to all human questions, but insofar as the goodness of the God revealed therein never fails, much like his will to communicate who he is to humanity, notwithstanding the fallibility of human beings as receivers of this communication. As these observations suggest, the purpose of Scripture is ultimately to bear witness to the revelation of God in Christ.33 So construed, Scripture is at once a facilitator of the Son’s work in the Spirit to foster the participation of human
spirits in the work of glorifying the Father. Thus, its function is realized, and reflected, when those who are members of Christ’s body do and enable others to do what Scripture and Christ do and enable them to do, gradually expressing over the course of their lives their spirits, given through the Son, to the glory of the Father. The Christian tradition, advanced by Christ through his church, promotes commitment to a life of glorifying God in his Spirit and does not therefore diverge from Scripture in terms of its ultimate purpose.34 On account of its fundamentally spiritual nature, this tradition transcends and includes all the conceivable forms in which the substance of the Spirit may be manifested in a wide range of historical and cultural traditions. It is not bound by any one local or temporal tradition, one form. As already noted, there are as many ways to express the Spirit as human spirits, which are varied by different types and levels of intellectual ability and by circumstances. Because the goal of glorifying God is formal—a kind of goal which can be fulfilled by many means—the diverse ways in which different Christian individuals and traditions meet this goal are not a cause for competition or division as they might be in many other cases. Rather, they are a reason for celebration and unification, at least where the Spirit that promotes the highest as opposed to a private good is truly at work. For diversity only confirms that God can be glorified in innumerable ways and that he is the supreme good we must believe him to be if we are to have the motivation we often need to operate for the highest as opposed to a private good. In addition to encouraging us to work towards our shared goal, diversity is often the means through which we glean insights from one another as to how to go about this task. Where our goal is truly to glorify God, in summary, diversity within the body of Christ only furthers efforts to reach this goal.35 All too often, however, this goal is confused with that of furthering one particular form of Christian belief or practice, one specific Christian institution or agenda. As noted previously, this is what sin involves in any instance, namely, a reduction of the highest to some specific good. In the case under consideration, this reduction is particularly serious, precisely because the whole point of Christian faith is to free human beings from the tendency to conflate the highest good with a temporal one, such that the reduction of this faith to a time-bound approach to thinking about or living it represents the gravest instance or epitome of human sin. Where religious and theological commitments are themselves the cause of pride, they have the potential to become just as great a source of conflict and division as any other object of sinful or inordinate desire.36 In fact, they may
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prove more divisive than other such objects, insofar as religious beliefs tend to govern the lives of adherents, such that differences concerning these beliefs entail differences on practically every level, and differences of the most significant and irreconcilable kind. While Christian society, like any human society, at some level cannot succeed without structure and organization, what has been said so far implies that Christian institutions should be regarded as mere means to the end of Christian spirituality. When they are institutionalized as the sole or primary site of spiritual existence, the whole purpose of their existence—and the Christian tradition—can hardly avoid collapsing. As this suggests, the greatest obstacle to true religious worship may ironically derive from religious belief and practice itself. In recent generations, this paradox has been exacerbated, at least in the West, by the fact that traditional religious institutions have become subject to the growing threat of secularism and disbelief.37 As many abandon old religious institutions and practices, ecclesial institutions have in many cases become all the more rigorous in the way they assert their own authority, all the more concerned with the preservation of their particular religious species. For reasons that will be explained below, this strategy is generally counter-productive, precisely because it undercuts the faith in what is ultimately a misguided attempt to salvage it. By contrast, an authentic attempt to further the Christian faith would seemingly seek to glorify God above any particular institution. On the negative side, this attempt entails relinquishing a driving concern for institutional selfpreservation, including the common preoccupation with drawing in new members and proliferating church programs. On the positive side, it means taking seriously the idea of a ‘religionless Christianity,’38 in which efforts to reach the world turn on embracing individual potential for being in the world. In this connection, it could be argued that we as Christ’s body represent him most effectively insofar as we are dispersed and scattered within the institutions and structures of the world that are not proper to the church itself—just as Christ himself made the Triune God known to humankind by appearing in a human form unlike that of his own divinity. When we are immersed in the world, employing our abilities under the influence of a faith that checks our tendency to think that happiness rises and falls with present circumstances and attainments, we attain the optimal opportunity to image a God who maximizes creaturely awareness of his glory by drawing all that is radically other to him into this overarching effort. While this line of argument stands regardless of historical circumstances, it seems all the more relevant in the current context, in which many ecclesial
institutions have been all but evacuated. In a world where many have ceased to turn to the church, it is all the more urgent for the church to disperse itself in the world. This outward focus precludes an inward-looking orientation towards institutional self-preservation. At the same time, it checks a common tendency within certain Christian circles to presume that Christian thought and practice afford exclusive access to standards of intellectual and moral perfection, by which the world can supposedly be judged and to which it should presumably be converted. As recent authors have contended, what distinguishes the church from the world is not an intellectual or moral superiority, but an attitude of faith or repentance, which recognizes human imperfection before a perfect God.39 In that sense, the difference between the two bodies is not literal or practical but spiritual. It consists in the way—not what—things are done, namely, a way that acknowledges human limits and human sins as opposed to covering them up. Although the remarks above have challenged certain ideas about how the role of the institutional church should be conceived in today’s world, they have not been intended to deny but merely to qualify the nature of that role when it comes to fostering the life of faith. Where life in the church is defined in terms of a faith-informed life in the world, or a secular vocation, the institutions through which that life is sometimes facilitated can be said to exist for the primary purpose of enabling and urging Christians to participate faithfully in the structures of the world in the ways for which they are suited: to send them out, just as Christ commissioned his disciples at his ascension.40 This commission was necessary in the first place because the security and pleasure afforded by the luxury of Christian congregation might have prevented the disciples from fulfilling the great commission—from spreading throughout every corner of the world, shedding the light of faith on all its institutions and structures. In order to fulfill this commission today, consequently, the church must seemingly acknowledge continually that ecclesial institutions mainly exist to instruct members in the grammar or form of life they are designed to lead outside the church, where the opportunities really to be the church arise, and to offer them support as they do so. Because this grammar is embedded in the very life of the church, it bears noting, the church may go on existing, even when there are few institutionalized means of offering instruction in it. As the history of Christianity and its present growth in certain parts of the world evidences, the persecutions that force faith communities to disperse actually tend to enhance believers’ understanding of the grammar of faith and their commitment to live by it, thus promoting the growth and perpetuation of the Christian tradition. That, however, is not to suggest
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that persecutions are intrinsically good, let alone to imply that the gathering of believers is unnecessary and can easily be forsaken. Although some men and women may be called to articulate or offer instruction in that grammar through a theological or ministerial vocation, nevertheless, there is nothing intrinsically more spiritual on this showing about a sacred by contrast to a secular vocation. Each is significant in its own way: while those with a specific ministerial calling enable the life of the church and thus give it form, individuals with ordinary responsibilities give it substance by enacting it. Though many accept sacred vocations under the auspices of a particular Christian institution, and this is appropriate and commendable in normal circumstances, it is worth acknowledging that a select few might be called of God to a vocation that involves standing outside all ecclesial establishments precisely to remind them that the church transcends and cannot be reduced to them.41 In allowing for such an independent Christian vocation, I do not mean to endorse those who would invent their own orthodoxy or break from tradition over some trifling quibble. The vocation I have in mind actually entails a stronger than normal sense of accountability to orthodox faith and to the tradition of the church universal. For its whole purpose is to remind establishments not to overlook the spiritual and thus institutionally unbounded nature of this tradition. As I have noted, this reminder is always needed because of the common tendency to reduce the identity and purpose of the church universal to the identity and purpose of a particular institution—to what might be called a ‘group identity’ or ‘collective personality.’42 In addition to detracting from the church’s ability to relate to the world in the ways described above, this tendency also seems to hinder relations within the church itself. On the account developed so far, those relations and the church community overall are or ought to be ordered towards fostering the personal and consequently spiritual development of individuals, thus preparing them to reach the far corners of the world in accordance with their abilities. Where a specific ecclesial identity is regarded as the locus of Christian spirituality, this purpose is practically impossible to fulfill, because the goals of the community tend to be tailored in this instance towards constraining individuals to conform to the relevant group identity or collective personality. Though the limitations associated with this identity may or may not be overtly destructive, they are ineluctably incompatible with efforts to encourage all individuals to realize their full potential. They thus prevent some in the community from doing so, often by imposing predetermined roles on the basis of sex or race, for example, as opposed to spiritual gifts. Since the promotion of a group identity thereby restricts the expression of the unlimited Spirit of
God, the constraints associated with it are normally inimical to the effort to maximize the witness to Christ in the world.43 On another level, these constraints undermine the internal purpose of the ecclesial community, to say nothing of other communities, which is to promote the thriving of the individuals who in turn constitute the community. Where an authentic church body would not stifle but encourage many diverse ways of glorifying God, the sort of ‘pseudo-community’ I have been describing excludes and withholds support from those that do not conform to the collective personality associated with a specific religious institution, and to the gender stereotypes, for example, that this entails. While such exclusiveness may be common in many fallen human societies, there is no justification for it in the church, which is the one society which purports to encompass and extend to all social entities. As this suggests, the authentic practice of Christianity—that is, the full realization of human potential to the glory of God—may become virtually impossible in the ecclesial context, especially for women and minorities.44 In particularly problematic cases, tactics may be devised, consciously or subconsciously, to silence or dis-empower those who would proclaim the all‑surpassing goodness of God in ways that do not comply with a given group identity. Such non-conformism is often perceived as anti-Christian practice by the upholders of ecclesial convention. Yet the marginalization of those whose diverse ways of proclaiming God’s glory evidence his unlimited nature is the actual means by which Christian practice is thwarted. As a result of their exclusion, practitioners of Christianity may become constrained to worship outside the walls and without the support of the institutional church. Since the church is consequently mixed in with the world, just as much as the world is conversely mixed in with the official church, personal and spiritual formation cannot be construed as a function of life in a particular ecclesial body. Nevertheless, some theologians have recently insisted that Christian individuals can only cultivate virtue—and thus themselves—in the context of church life, narrowly defined, such that their identities ultimately derive from or are dependent upon the body of which they are a part. Although such ‘communitarian’ theologians, as they are called, have argued along these lines in an admirable attempt to combat the trend towards individualism that has given rise in modern times to an unhealthily strong sense of autonomy from the Christian or other communities, they appear to have overcorrected individualism to the point of undermining individuals.45 This extreme is arguably just as threatening to the life of the church as individualism itself. For while individuals certainly require the support of
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communities in order to ‘become themselves,’ and to have a context for sharing individual gifts, I have already noted that they cannot thrive—nor can a community—when a ‘collective personality’ other than that of Christ predominates. For the sake of sustaining his life within the Church, neither the individual nor the community can rightly be prioritized absolutely, as in individualism and communitarianism, respectively. Only when each is understood to exist for the other may a commitment be maintained, individually and collectively, to manifest God’s Spirit in the world.46 Though it is crucial to formalize the practices and systematize the doctrines that facilitate this effort, these practices and doctrines, unlike the substance of the life they facilitate, are subject to change over time and in different contexts. Thus, the substance must not be confused with its form. What makes for continuity amongst diverse forms is precisely the effort to translate the substance of Christian faith into new forms that are relevant in different contexts. As suggested in Chapter 3, belief in the God of Christian faith—simple, Triune, and Incarnate—keeps us true to our responsibilities in this regard. This transcendent objective, namely, to know the Trinity, is the most ‘objective’ objective there is, because it cannot be reduced to any goal in this life and is therefore apt to govern, though not to compete with, the objectives of this life, including that of articulating and re-articulating Christian doctrines. In elaborating on the implications of these claims, I have shown that the reason for believing in God is not merely to facilitate human rationality. Rather, the motivation for cultivating rationality is ultimately to know God and make him known. To summarize, the transcendent objective of knowing the Trinity is not the means to other ends; other ends are instead the means to the true and final end of participating in the life of the Triune God. The three transformations of expectant to fulfilled to informed faith, previously described, represent the context in which the Triune God has drawn, is drawing, and will draw us into the knowledge of himself over the course of history and in the future. By elaborating these three transformations—and the high points of Christian belief—I have gradually worked towards providing a more robust understanding of all that is implied in reasoning and thereby living in the light of the God professed in the Christian (Nicene-Constantinopolitan) Creed: I believe in one God the Father Almighty Maker of Heaven and earth And of all things visible and invisible And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, The only begotten Son of God
Begotten of the Father before all worlds God of God, light of light, very God of very Good Begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father By whom all things were made Who for us and for our salvation Came down from heaven And was Incarnate by the Holy Ghost Of the virgin Mary, and was made man And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate He suffered and was buried And the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures And ascended into heaven And sits at the right hand of the Father And He will come again in glory To judge both the quick and the dead Whose kingdom will have no end And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord the Giver of Life Who proceeds from the Father and the Son Who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified Who spoke by the prophets And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic church I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins And I look for the resurrection of the dead And the life of the world to come. Amen.
Ecumenical Reasoning The foregoing discussion of the church inevitably gives rise to the rather more complex question how members of different, even competing, Christian ecclesial traditions ought to relate to one another. Whatever their differences, most members of the various Christian denominations commonly adhere or at least profess to adhere to the belief in God as simple, insofar as they understand him to be wholly other and solely worthy of worship; and as Triune, insofar as Christian belief turns characteristically on the affirmation of God Incarnate. As I have been hinting, belief in the Triune, Incarnate God calls for more than a mere profession of faith; it summons us to live in accordance with that profession. Though we may have different ways of going about this task in
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different ecclesial contexts, we all share the one ultimate goal. For this reason, the different ways in which we strive for the goal are not a cause for competition but celebration. When we see how others glorify God in their own way, after all, this can only reinforce in our minds that there is no limit to the ways in which he can be glorified—or indeed to his goodness. This is precisely the awareness that needs to be cultivated if we are to have the motivation to bring belief in him as highest good to bear in own our dealings with temporal goods and situations. In that sense, the existence of many ways of following God provides the very encouragement we need to follow him in our own ways. It may also open our eyes to other ways of glorifying God or facilitating this effort, which are not common in our own tradition but may help us undertake the tasks proper to it. The only exception to this rule arises when the goal of glorifying God by bringing belief in him to bear in ordinary life is confused with the goal of adhering to the tenets or participating in the practices of particular religious traditions, which should be ordered towards facilitating the intellectual and moral virtue that is constitutive of human rationality. In reducing belief in God to religious rituals—something that is possible even in cases where the ritual in question turns on the rejection of ritual—we replace God with an idol. In the same instance, we come into competition with those in other religious traditions who have similar idolatrous tendencies, defeating the whole purpose of our religion, which is to make us one as the Son is one with the Father in the Spirit.47 Though such rivalries dissolve when the Christian tradition is properly construed, it nevertheless remains an open question whether there are some specific ecclesial traditions which have more to offer than others when it comes to providing theoretical and practical resources for facilitating the life of faith. For example, institutions might be regarded as healthier spiritually in which faith—and the other theological virtues to be discussed in the next chapter—are treated not as separate from the moral and intellectual virtues but in terms of the way they inform and encourage those virtues’ cultivation. Such a complementary conception of the spiritual and natural spheres of life obviously cannot be entertained in sectarian or anti-intellectual religious contexts, which emphasize the radical otherness of the ‘secular’ to the ‘sacred’ as opposed to seeing the secular as a site for the influence of the sacred. Also preferable would be those institutions, which operate on the assumption that all human beings are fully created in the image of God and are therefore equally capable in principle of taking up vocations both sacred and secular, which they should be urged and enabled to pursue in accordance with their various types and levels of ability or ‘spiritual gifts.’ According to a
robustly Christian anthropology, God does not distribute those gifts in keeping with accidental features like sex, race, or class but bestows them on whomever he will—and if the beatitudes are any indication, most profoundly on the least obvious candidates. The Christian institutions that deny this by the way they organize themselves inadvertently or intentionally, dividing ecclesial and other labors on the basis of sex, for instance, reject the chief tenet of the gospel, according to which Christ came to restore his image in all human beings, however they may bear it. Moreover, such institutions seem to work against the advance of the gospel insofar as they obstruct the restoration of that image in all but a privileged few, whose spiritual development is seemingly corrupted by the fact that it prevents rather than enables others to image or participate in the life of God. Also essential to the health of any ecclesial tradition is an appropriate balance of power between church authorities and constituents. As mentioned above, both authoritarianism on the part of the clergy and disregard amongst the laity for the accountability the church provides prove inconsistent with the thriving of the church; the same goes for the extremes of individualism and communitarianism. While no Christian institution is likely to strike the perfect balance in all of these and other important areas of consideration, some manage to achieve more than others in this regard and therefore possess superior resources for facilitating the life of the church. That is not necessarily a reason to convert from one Christian ecclesial tradition to another, however. Unless it has become impossible to practice Christianity in one of the respects described above within a particular context, it is often more admirable to remain in the tradition of one’s upbringing as an act of service to the tradition, and with a view to encouraging it to work more consistently with reference to the larger goals of the church universal, than to switch to another, which is all too often a means of self-gratification. Where a tradition to which one is considering converting does not strike the proper balance in any of the aforementioned practical respects, it may actually be better not to align oneself to it, whatever its other merits. In the case of those who find themselves already placed in ecclesial traditions that are exceptionally well equipped with theoretical and even practical resources for facilitating the life of faith, the importance should be emphasized of initiating conversations with members of other ecclesial traditions from a posture of humility as opposed to condescending arrogance. After all, Christians are not distinguished by an ability to achieve standards of intellectual or moral perfection, but by knowledge of the supremely unknowable God, which exposes our imperfections and the need to adhere fervently to him
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in order to think and live rightly.48 If we insist to the contrary that a particular tradition has more to offer in terms of facilitating the Christian life of faith, then we ironically risk undermining our relevance to the discussion as to how to go about this. For living by faith ultimately amounts to acknowledging the superiority of God’s ways to our own. Inter-Creedal Reasoning While the belief in God, simple, Triune, and Incarnate, creates grounds for conversation amongst members of different branches of the Christian faith, the basic conception of God as simple represents a common point of reference for Christians and members of altogether different religions, especially monotheist religions. As Chapter 3’s delineation of the doctrines of Trinity and Incarnation suggests, Christians who adhere to the doctrine of divine simplicity do not worship an altogether different God from that of other monotheists. Rather, the Christian faith accounts for the nature and knowableness of the God monotheists worship in the most robust of terms.49 Insofar as Christianity delineates fully the conditions for organizing life around belief in the transcendent or God that most religions affirm, it confirms the integrity and truthfulness of other religions, which do not always recognize the truth of Christianity. In ideal circumstances, consequently, Christianity possesses a unique power to foster understanding, collaboration, and opportunities for mutual exhortation and encouragement in relation to members of different religions, who sometimes lack resources sympathetically to converse amongst themselves. By affirming the possibility of glorifying God by all means, therefore, Christianity allows for learning how to glorify the God of Christian faith not only from other Christians but also from members of other religions. As such, it turns on an ‘open inclusivism’ concerning the truth claims of other religions. While this position entails that Christianity ‘contains implicitly everything of religious significance,’50 it recognizes nonetheless that Christians may not have cause or concern explicitly to delineate all matters of significance to their faith and may for that reason come to understand some of the Christian faith’s implications from members of other faiths.51 Such inclusivism can be contrasted with several other conceptions of the relationship between Christian and other religious truth claims. For example, closed inclusivism posits that Christianity ‘is at the top of a hierarchy of truthteaching religions. [Since] it includes their truths, if they teach any, in its truths,’52 Christians can learn nothing new from members of other religions. Another
account, namely pluralism, maintains that the truth claims of all religions are equally sound. Finally, exclusivism turns on the contention that Christian teachings alone obtain truth, while the claims of other religions are outright false.53 Though these categories represent different approaches to the question whether other religions generate truths that could count as true for Christianity, they also bear on the question whether other religions are salvific.54 For instance, pluralism posits that all religions are equally salvific, where exclusivism holds that salvation is only attainable through an explicit profession of Christian faith. By contrast, the inclusivist position that has gained momentum in recent years affirms that while Jesus Christ is strictly speaking the only way to God, it is possible to take this way without explicitly recognizing it. As Paul J. Griffiths writes, an inclusivist understanding of what it means to be a Christian ‘is intended to safeguard the centrality of what God has done in Christ, while not requiring any particular level of explicit knowledge or understanding of this. That is not to say that such knowledge or understanding is unimportant or irrelevant to salvation; it is only to say that Christians ought not to think that they can perform the difficult and theologically dubious task of saying just how much explicit knowledge and understanding is necessary in order for salvation to be possible.’55 By this account, human beings may organize their lives around belief in God in the manner I have described in previous chapters without realizing that this involves participation through Christ in the life of the Triune God. According to a famous proponent of inclusivism, Karl Rahner, it is even theoretically possible for professing atheists to practice such ‘anonymous Christianity.’56 Though inclusivism invokes the doctrines of Incarnation and Trinity amongst others to affirm on some level the primacy of Christianity amongst other forms of monotheist religious worship, consequently, it by no means implies that members of other religions are less capable than Christians when it comes to worshipping the one God. There are numerous cases in which members of other religious faiths actually lead the religious life far more effectively and consistently than Christians who can offer the fullest rationale for it. Ironically, the deficiency of Christians in this regard is often attributable at least in part to the ultimate doctrinal rationale for religious practice that they possess. When the doctrines and practices that provide means to the end of facilitating the worship of God come to be regarded as ends constitutive of worship itself, I have noted, Christians may defeat the very purpose of their faith, which members of other religions may well fulfill. By these means, moreover, Christian believers may inappropriately judge those who do not adhere to specific doctrines and practices and thus foreclose
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the possibility of positive interactions with members of other religions, forfeiting the opportunity to learn a great deal about their own faith by these means. As this suggests, interactions with members of other faiths should not be motivated by triumphalism or a desire to ‘convert’ them to Christianity.57 For many proponents of other religions—including those who are ‘spiritual but not religious’—already believe and live in a genuinely religious way, even if they do not possess the robust account of their belief and life which could reshape aspects thereof.58 In fact, there is a sense in which Christians who presuppose the concept of God as simple have more in common with Muslims and Jews who do likewise than with other Christians who uphold the doctrines of Trinity and Incarnation and yet conceive of God’s nature along the lines of an infinite being or in terms of process thought. These conceptions of God’s nature make for a difference in ways of understanding not only the nature of God but also the nature of human life before God. While the doctrine of divine simplicity teaches its adherents to usher in a purely spiritual order such as I described in the section on the church, for instance, that of divine infinity may give rise to fundamentalist strands in all religions which in one way or another aim to enforce the divine order through various social and political structures on earth. On some level, the commonalities also stand between Christians and those who possess no explicit religious persuasions but simply desire happiness, which Christians believe consists in the knowledge of God. Although members of other faiths, or no faith at all, may come to find the Christian rationale for human spirituality attractive in the course of engaging with Christians, altering their beliefs and practices accordingly, consequently, such interactions should not be treated as means to that end. Once again, any influence either way should be the product of an authentic, non-instrumental, and therefore personal relationship. Conclusion In Chapter 3, I began by asserting that adherence to belief in a transcendent being is needed in order to explain and even sustain a commitment to the highest good, or rationality. Subsequently, I argued that the doctrine of divine simplicity gives fullest expression to the very idea of transcendence. In order to outline fully the conditions for affirming the simple nature of God and his knowableness, I further contended, it is necessary to appeal to the Christian doctrines of Trinity and Incarnation, respectively. In that sense, these doctrines are constitutive of
the most robust account of the transcendent or simple God, which is required for the purposes of rationality. The main corollary of this contention is that rationality as I have construed it is conversely constitutive of participation in the life of the Triune, Incarnate God. The purpose of the present chapter and the one preceding it has been to elaborate what that participation entails, through a treatment of numerous other central aspects of Christian creedal relief, including creation, fall, redemption, and church. Through the delineation of these doctrines, I have aimed to provide a fuller understanding of the grammar that facilitates reasoning in the light of belief in the Triune, Incarnate God, or Christian creedal reasoning. Now that I have elaborated the necessary conditions for Christian creedal reasoning as fully as I can within the limits of the current discussion, I will turn in the chapter that follows to explore how the sufficient conditions for reasoning along these lines may and must be satisfied, through the cultivation of the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and love. Endnotes Thomas Weinandy, In the Likeness of Sinful Flesh: An Essay on the Humanity of Christ (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1993). 2 See ST 3.47: on the passion as the ‘efficient cause’ of salvation. 3 ST 3.46. 4 ST 3.46.5–7. 5 See Paul Gondreau, The Passions of Christ’s Soul in the Theology of St Thomas Aquinas (London: University of Scranton Press, 2009). 6 ST 3.46.1–4; 3.48. 7 Mark Harris, The Nature of Creation (Durham: Acumen, 2013), 156: ‘Christ completes creation and brings about perfection by first experiencing its imperfect shadow side,’ including suffering and death, ‘and then by passing through it into a new kind of eschatological life where there is no shadow side.’ 8 Comp. Theol. 1.240. 9 Comp. Theol. 1.212: ‘Christ’s human activity proceeded from his humanity in such a way that the power of his divinity was active in it.’ Quia scilicet sic procedebat ex humanitate, quod tamen in ea vigebat divinitatis virtus. 10 ST 3.46.12 11 ST 3.50; Comp. Theol. 1.229. 12 ST 3.52; Comp. Theol. 1.235. 13 ST 3.53. 1
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See Adam Johnson, ‘A Fuller Account: The Role of Fittingness in Thomas Aquinas’ Development of the Doctrine of Atonement,’ International Journal of Systematic Theology 12:3 ( July 2010), 307–18. 15 For recent responses to the common objection that Anselm’s satisfaction theory relies too heavily on feudal imagery, see David L. Whidden III, ‘The Alleged Feudalism of Anselm’s Cur Deus Homo and the Benedictine Concepts of Obedience, Honor, and Order,’ Nova et Vetera 9:4 (2011), 1055–87; Nicholas Cohen, ‘Feudal Imagery or Christian Tradition? A Defense of the Rationale for Anselm’s Cur Deus Homo,’ The Saint Anselm Journal 2.1 (Fall 2004). 16 ST 3.48; 3.49.2. 17 A well-known defense of the ransom theory can be found in Gustav Aulen, Christus Victor: A Historical Study of the Three Main Types of the Idea of the Atonement (New York: MacMillan, 1969). 18 Kathryn Tanner, Christ the Key (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 253. 19 Philip L. Quinn, ‘Aquinas on Atonement,’ in Trinity, Incarnation, and Atonement (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1989), 162. 20 See Nicholas Lombardo’s defense of the devil’s ransom theory in The Father’s Will: Christ’s Crucifixion and the Goodness of God (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014). 21 ST 3.49.1–3. 22 On the different theories of atonement, see Paul Fiddes, Past Event and Present Salvation: The Christian Idea of Atonement (Westminster: John Knox Press, 1989). Eleonore Stump reads Aquinas’ theory of atonement as exemplarist in her Aquinas (London: Routledge, 2005). This interpretation is refuted by Adam Johnson in, ‘A Fuller Account: The Role of Fittingness in Thomas Aquinas’ Development of the Doctrine of Atonement.’ 23 Thomas Williams, ‘Sin, Grace and Redemption,’ The Cambridge Companion to Abelard (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 258–78. 24 ST 3.7.2. 25 ST 3.53.1. According to Aquinas, Christ basically came back to life of necessity because of his divine nature. 26 See Simon Gaine, Will There be Free Will in Heaven? (London: T & T Clark, 2003), 130: on the ability not to sin or the inability to sin in heaven. See also ST 2.1.67 on the duration of moral and intellectual virtues after this life. 27 ST 3.57.6 28 Comp. Theol. 1.201: ‘Since God has been united to a human being by assuming the nature of a human being,’ Aquinas writes, ‘it does not remain unbelievable that a created intellect can be united to God by seeing his essence.’ Non enim restat incredibile quin intellectus creaturae Deo uniri possit, eius essentiam videndo, ex quo Deus homini unitus est, naturam eius assumendo. 14
ST 3.1.5 ST 126.96.36.199. 31 This claim regarding Scripture is developed much more extensively in Eugene F. Rogers, Thomas Aquinas and Karl Barth: Sacred Doctrine and the Natural Knowledge of God (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1995); see especially chapter 1, pp. 3–16. 32 Walter Moberly, ‘What Is Theological Interpretation of Scripture?’ Journal of Theological Interpretation 3:2 (2009), 163. 33 As Karl Barth affirms: ‘The Bible is not in itself and as such God’s past revelation. As it is God’s Word, it bears witness to God’s past revelation, and it is God’s past revelation in the form attestation’ (Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics I.1, p. 111). The real Word is the ‘word, witness, proclamation and preaching of Jesus Christ’ (Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics I.1. 107). 34 See Joseph Pieper, Tradition: Concept and Claim (Wilmington: ISI, 2008). 35 See Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together (London: SCM Press, 1954). 36 ST 188.8.131.52. 37 See Charles Taylor’s magisterial, A Secular Age (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007). 38 Dietrich Bonhoeffer is famous for developing the idea of ‘religionless Christianity.’ See Jennifer McBride’s interpretation of this idea in, Church for the World: A Theology of Public Witness (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), chapter 2. 39 See Jennifer McBride, Church for the World, and Matthew Meyer Boulton’s discussion of Karl Barth’s critique of religion in, God Against Religion: Rethinking Christian Theology Through Worship (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008). 40 On this subject, see David Fergusson’s Church, State and Civil Society (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004). 41 Simone Weil is often regarded as an individual with such a vocation. 42 Johannes Zachhuber, ‘Who Loves? Who is Loved? The Problem of the Collective Personality,’ in Ulrich Schmiedel and James Matarazzo (eds), Dynamics of Difference: Christianity and Alterity (London: Bloomsbury, 2015), 199–207. 43 Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship 86: ‘wherever a group be it large or small prevents us from standing alone before Christ, wherever such a group raises a claim of immediacy, it must be hated for the sake of Christ. For every immediacy whether we realize it or not means hatred of Christ, and this is especially true where such relationships claim the sanction of Christian principles.’ 44 Soren Kierkegaard, Practice in Christianity, Howard and Edna Hong (eds) (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), 107, 139: ‘Christendom has destroyed Christianity.’ 29 30
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See, for example, Stanley Hauerwas and Charles Pinches, Christians Among the Virtues (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1997). 46 In Community, Liberalism and Christian Ethics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), David Fergusson endeavors to strike a balance between the liberal emphasis on individuals and their rights and the communitarian stress on the role of communities in the formation of individuals. 47 John 17:21. 48 Jennifer McBride argues this powerfully in chapter 2 particularly of her Church for the World. 49 David Burrell, Towards a Jewish-Christian-Muslim Theology (Oxford: WileyBlackwell, 2011). 50 Paul J. Griffiths, Problems of Religious Diversity (Oxford: Blackwell, 2001), 63. 51 In Theology and Religious Pluralism: The Challenge of Other Religions (Oxford: Blackwell, 1986), 122–5, Gavin D’Costa suggests that we can not only learn from members of other faiths how to realize our own spiritual goals as Christians but also thereby come to a better understanding of our own Christian principles. 52 Paul J. Griffiths, Problems of Religious Diversity 57. 53 On exclusivism, see Paul J. Griffiths, Problems of Religious Diversity 53. 54 See Paul J. Griffiths, Problems of Religious Diversity, chapter 5 (138–69). 55 Ibid., 164. 56 See Karl Rahner, ‘Observations on the Problem of the Anonymous Christian,’ in Theological Investigations XIV (Baltimore: Helicon Press, 1961–92), 280–94. According to Brian Davies in Thomas Aquinas on God and Evil (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 112, Aquinas implicitly supported or anticipated Rahner’s theory of the anonymous Christian. 57 As Gavin D’Costa writes in Theology and Religious Pluralism, we must allow, ‘the partner to speak for themselves. The partner should not be labeled and imprisoned in a priori categories and caricatures’ (119). Furthermore, we should not regard a dialogue partner as an object to be manipulated (120). 58 See Linda A. Mercadante, Belief without Borders: Inside the Minds of the Spiritual but not Religious (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014). Mercadante gives a fascinating account of the growing class of individuals she labels ‘nones’ who have no formal religious affiliation but nonetheless regard themselves as spiritual. 45
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Sufficient Conditions for Theological Philosophy
In Chapter 3, I explained how the Incarnate Son of God satisfied the necessary conditions for theological philosophy as he revealed the simple, Triune nature of God. By providing a rationale for rationality in this way, the Incarnation established that rationality, or a personal orientation towards the highest good, strictly speaking entails an orientation towards God. In the present chapter, I will consider how the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and love enable us to orientate our thoughts and lives around God, or engage in Christian creedal reasoning. By these means, I will demonstrate, the virtues allow us to exhibit rationality in the fullest sense of the term, thus fulfilling the sufficient conditions for theological philosophy.1 While faith performs its function in this regard by inspiring assent to God’s revelation of our creation in his image, hope allows that faith actually to influence the way we think about ourselves and other realities. As the means through which a desire for happiness is staked on God as opposed to any other object of knowledge, hope is the locus of Christian creedal reasoning. Since the evidence of engagement in this type of reasoning consists in actions, or the way objects of knowledge are treated, however, there is a strong sense in which the last theological virtue of love is the final indicator of faith and hope, or Christian creedal reasoning. For this reason, the next chapter will be devoted to a lengthier discussion of the virtue of love, which enacts the personal orientation towards the highest good that is upheld by the four cardinal moral virtues and therefore renders our ordinary moral—including intellectual—lives convertible with a life by faith in Christ.2 The First Condition: Faith As the first of the three theological virtues, faith lays the foundation for Christian creedal reasoning under the influence of belief in God.3 In faith, we acknowledge what Jesus Christ revealed about both God and humankind when he reflected the
image of the Trinity, expressing the Spirit that glorifies the Father, in the context of his human life. In operating along these lines, Christ not only established the Triune God as the highest good; he also highlighted that all human beings were made through the creative work of the Son to express their spirits for ‘nothing more than the glory of the Father, and to hold all things secondary to praising him.’4 In short, they were made by God to image or God, and thus, to imitate Christ. When we acknowledge with assent that we have been created by a Triune God to participate in his life, a fundamental change occurs in the patterns of our thinking and ultimately living. So long as we lack the knowledge of God and our purpose in him, we can scarcely help but live in a self-centered fashion, whether through hubris or false humility. As I have elaborated elsewhere, these versions of the vice of pride entangle us in further vices that not only render it impossible to live for the highest good, namely, God, but at the same time undermine our happiness, which depends upon ‘bearing things well.’5 As soon as we admit under the impetus of faith in Christ that we cannot thrive so long as we regard ourselves rather than God as the arbiter of happiness in life, we come to terms with the fact that God alone is our highest good. Thus, he becomes the primary object of our desire, which confirms Aquinas’ claim that faith is a matter of both the intellect and the will: what we assent to with our minds and what we want in our hearts.6 In affirming that only God can fulfill our deepest desire for happiness, however, we by no means downplay the value of our own abilities, let alone the objects of human experience.7 On the contrary, we attain the optimal position from which to evaluate rightly and consequently make the most of both. After all, God’s will is that we glorify him freely in accordance with our own wills to use the capacities he has given us.8 As I previously demonstrated, it turns out to be difficult accurately to estimate the type and level of those capacities, to say nothing of the value of other things, apart from a belief in God as highest good which regulates our assessment of temporal goods. In that light, there is no conflict between God’s will for our lives and our own freedom, since it is precisely by following his will in faith that we enjoy the freedom to bear things well or in a way that is compatible with our own desire to flourish.9 In addition to affording the freedom to embrace and express an individual identity in the way described above, God’s will concerning the realization of our potential as individuals provides the accountability that is often needed to do so. The reason why some fail to achieve their full potential is that self-actualization requires that we confront our own finitude—our inability to be God—and thus overcome the hubris on account of which we may refuse to accept our limitations or the false humility whereby we reduce ourselves to those limits, thus denying
Sufficient Conditions for Theological Philosophy
our candidacy for self-actualization. When we accept our human limitations in a more measured manner, we humble ourselves before God in a way that never entails the denigration or rejection of our gifts, but merely curbs the pride that in one way or another inhibits their use. In doing so, we achieve the best position from which to ‘be ourselves.’10 According to Aquinas, the humility faith instills effectively brings about repentance from so-called mortal sin, namely, the sin of disregarding God as our end, which invariably leads to viewing things other than God as that end.11 This sort of sin can be distinguished from what Aquinas labels venial sin, which does not imply aversion to God as an ultimate end but pertains to those things we do or fail to do which are inconsistent with our profession concerning our final end.12 As we shall soon see, venial sins are cured by hope, while mortal sin is mastered by faith.13 Both sorts of sin can be committed whenever we think with assent about them, even if no action is taken or can be taken on the basis of sinful desires. Because it is only possible to treat God as an ultimate end through dealings with ordinary objects, it is worth emphasizing that there is no substantial difference between sin before God and the seven capital vices of pride, greed, envy, apathy, wrath, lust, and gluttony, which represent the main categories of misbehavior in the context of dealing with other persons and ordinary things.14 While vice implies a lack of orientation towards the good, generically conceived, sin implies disorder in relation to God, who is the full definition of the highest good. As this confirms, the difference between vice and sin is formal; it has to do with the context or frame of mind in which we engage in deviant behavior rather than the nature of the act committed. So construed, the Christian doctrine of sin provides the most precise diagnosis concerning the cause of human shortcomings, namely, the loss of an orientation towards God. This diagnosis can prove valuable when it comes to explaining effectively how to overcome those shortcomings. Because the context of ordinary life is the only one in which it is possible for human beings to sin before God, conversely, a full explanation of the ways in which we may fall short of our humanity through the seven capital vices is crucial for overcoming sin and entering into the fullness of life in God. Whether the process of turning from sin involves a change in the whole direction of life, in faith, or the purgation of old habits that are inconsistent with faith, in hope, it does not strictly speaking involve work or effort on our part. For it entails nothing more than releasing our grip on natural objects, including the self, to which we often attribute undue levels of significance, owing to a failure to ascribe the relevant degree of significance to God. Through this release, we open up our hands in faith and accept him for who he is—the highest
good—simultaneously affirming to an appropriate degree the value of the self and all other things.15 This is what it means to receive the grace of God, namely, to relinquish the idols we erect in the place of God, the pursuit of which prevents us from receiving the gift of a robust life for which we are divinely designed.16 Part of what it means to abandon these idols is to give up reasons for following God which have little or nothing to do with the love of God himself. For some, such reasons might pertain to a desire to attain the rewards of heaven and alleviate the fear of eternal punishment. Others serve God because this reassures them of their own piety or spirituality; it gives them grounds for believing that they are ‘good people,’ boosting the ego or assuaging a guilty conscience.17 Still others profess the Christian faith for the sake of furthering a familial or cultural tradition, or in order to fit into society and thus reinforce a sense of identity. In extremely problematic cases, some adhere to Christianity in order to acquire spiritual or intellectual authority and a power to manipulate, exploit or abuse others on religious grounds.18 While some of these reasons might represent good motivations for engaging in other activities, none signals the most important or indeed the proper reason for practicing Christianity, which simply concerns the adoration of God for his own sake. When any such reason is conceived as the main motivator for worshipping God, consequently, the worship of God is replaced with the idolatrous worship of the self that employs the doctrines and practices that ought to facilitate God’s glorification as means to self-gratification or self-promotion. In such cases, I argued in the last chapter, the purpose of true religion is defeated, since the practice of religion becomes a matter of gaining divine endorsement for a personal agenda or way of life rather than learning to organize all aspects of life around God. As noted previously, the case of those that orientate life around specific Christian institutions or agendas rather than God himself is even more ironic and problematical than other imaginable instances of sin—or the reduction of a greater to a lesser good—because what is idolized is precisely what is ordered to bring about the end of idolatry. In this instance, Christianity is undermined by the very means through which it is supposedly advanced, because what is advanced is not Christianity and its divinely ordained concern to promote the glory of the Father, but the human concern to promote the self, which true religion purports to unravel.19 When the decision is reached in faith to live for the love of God as opposed to that of the self, any such false form of Christianity is abandoned and membership is acquired in the church, the spiritual body of Christ, the purpose of which is to do nothing more than uphold the Son’s tradition of expressing
Sufficient Conditions for Theological Philosophy
the Spirit that operates with a view to the all-surpassing goodness or glory of God the Father.20 Through this membership, we become co-missionaries with Christ, who was sent by the Father to establish us in our human purpose so that we might facilitate the efforts of others to do the same. While our decisions to fulfill this purpose are truly free, as indicated above, they are not strictly speaking a matter of choice but of consenting to the truth God has communicated to us about himself and ourselves and to the opportunity to participate in a personal way in his plan for knowing his goodness and making it known. They represent acts of acceptance, or faith. As suggested previously, such faith fills us with a sense of responsibility and even urgency to make the most of our lives and to refuse to be hindered in this regard by allowing any lesser good to take God’s place in our lives. Although all are called to fulfill the singular objective of knowing God and making him known, I have already noted that it is inevitably necessary to strive to reflect God’s image in accordance with an individual type and level of ability, applying the faith in different situations and in different ways. In fact, there are as many ways of thinking in light of the ultimate goodness of the Father, through the cognitive abilities given by the Son, as there are individuals with cognitive abilities. There are as many ways of exhibiting the mind of Christ or of working in his Spirit as there are embodied human spirits. According to Aquinas, the call of God to participate in the work of the Spirit should fill us with a fear of failing to do so to the best of our abilities, in accordance with our individual gifts.21 However, the fear Aquinas has in mind is not the kind of servile fear that might overcome us in the face of an oppressor, but the sort of ‘filial’ fear that characterizes children who desire to please parents who generously offer their love and support.22 By consenting in filial fear to be what God made us to be, we relinquish the right to boast about anything we do for his sake. For this sort of fear instills in us an acute awareness of the truth that we only do our duty by our maker when we realize the potential he has given us. We perform this duty, which is nonetheless consistent with our own flourishing and interests, whenever we allow our faith in God to inform the way we think about ourselves and all other things in the context of Christian hope. The Second Condition: Hope Although faith lays the initial foundation for creedal reasoning, it represents nothing but a potential for developing theological virtue or a full orientation
towards God that waits to be actualized in the mode of Christian hope and ultimately that of love. In hope, human lives are actually built with gradually increasing consistency around faith in Christ, which teaches us to affirm that God is the highest object of desire and that our purpose is to glorify him. In the process, preoccupations with the things around which our lives were organized before we came to faith are unraveled. In short, our hopes for happiness are transferred from the things of this world, to God. By these means, we participate to some extent in the eternal life of knowing God and making him known which we do not yet enjoy in full, insofar as we can only presently think about realities in light of belief in God and have yet to encounter the Reality of God himself. Whereas faith illumines our minds to the fact that the Son has made our participation possible through the Incarnation, consequently, hope operates in the present on the basis of Christ’s past accomplishment with a view to the future, when we expect to find God as we now believe him to be, to wit, the highest good. Where hope fails to be expressed along these lines, this may be due to some degree of indifference towards the faith that is professed. That is to say, the faith in question may be nominal, half-hearted, dead, or ‘unformed.’23 On Aquinas’ account, there are two main ways in which faith can fail to take root in our lives through hope. One is by way of despair, which effectively involves a ‘perverse anticipation of the non-fulfillment of hope.’24 In contrast to despair, presumption leads us to operate on the assumption that the object of hope, namely, salvation, has already been achieved, such that there is no need to do anything further to realize its benefits.25 By striking the mean between these two extremes, hope gives us the power to bring faith to life by allowing the overarching knowledge of God’s ultimate goodness to inform the way we evaluate and determine how to deal with the circumstances that come to our attention on a daily basis. Through hope, therefore, we exercise the discernment and make the decisions involved in expressing our spirits or minds with a view to the Father’s all-surpassing goodness. In order to do this in any instance, it is necessary to extrapolate the repercussions of our belief in God’s absolute significance for our assessment of whatever object, circumstance, or individual calls for our immediate attention. This effort would seem to require that we acknowledge that 1. God alone is absolutely significant; 2. we have professed this by placing faith in him; and 3. it is therefore fitting for us to evaluate the objects of our knowledge in light of the fact that they are not absolutely significant, even for a specific purpose or in a specific respect. When we think along these lines, which resemble those I outlined in the second chapter’s treatment of the ‘practical syllogism,’26 we avoid ascribing an
Sufficient Conditions for Theological Philosophy
inappropriate degree of significance to anything that is not God and thereby acquire the resources to perceive the type and level of significance the objects of our knowledge actually exhibit. In this way, we express our hope to find both in current circumstances and eternally that God is who he has declared himself to be: the supreme being. The three mental steps through which we do so are detectable in the Lord’s Prayer, which Christ established as the ideal form of prayer for his followers:27 Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever and ever. Amen.
After acknowledging God’s absolute significance, this prayer invokes God’s aid to align human purposes to his and to subject temporal considerations, above all, worries about daily life, to that ultimate consideration. Finally, the prayer seeks deliverance from both past and future failures in these respects, for the sake of God’s eternal glory. Because this prayer effectively delineates the threestep mental process, which I indicated is implicit in any exercise of hope, it seems reasonable to conclude that, ‘prayer is nothing other than the voicing of hope.’28 Moreover, it should come as no surprise that Aquinas writes that the Lord’s Prayer is the ‘form of prayer that most directs our hope towards him.’29 Though the three-step line of thinking outlined above is helpful for general purposes, it arguably needs to be applied in highly specific ways if it is to be effective in individual lives. After all, individuals vary greatly when it comes to the type and level of their intellectual and moral capacities and therefore have very different ways of falling short in these respects. For this reason, each person must identify precisely their particular weaknesses and the situations in which they tend to fail to bring the knowledge of God to bear, while at the same time considering exactly how it might be possible to do that in their circumstances. In short, they must engage in what is known amongst
Christians as confession and repentance, through which sins are recognized and renounced, respectively. In the case of those prone to a hubristic self-image, for example, such repentance inevitably entails an effort to bring faith in God’s ultimate authority into conversation with an overly inflated sense of personal power or entitlement, tempering both that sensibility and the actions it engenders. Those that struggle with false humility, and a concomitant tendency to abandon personal resolutions too quickly, will by contrast be required to recognize that belief in God’s absolute significance renders them responsible to make the most of their abilities to testify to this significance, even if this means inviting disapproval from others or following a more difficult course in life.30 Since transparency before God is so essential to our transformation by hope, there seems little point in approaching him in prayer with lofty concerns that we do not actually possess but which strike us as potentially meritorious in his sight.31 For the sake of cultivating an authentic spirituality, we ought instead to present to him our very specific requests for ‘daily bread’ or provisions and ‘deliverance from evil’ or trials, even if these seem mundane or self-serving. When we acknowledge our real desires along these lines, we make recourse to our only means of bringing the knowledge of God’s ultimate goodness to bear in deciding how to reckon with them: to be transformed by hope. Where this transformation is the real object of our petitions, prayers concerning trivial matters will not represent an attempt to manipulate God to fulfill our own desires, however base. Rather, they will be ordered towards subjecting those desires to an overarching desire for God and allowing them to be altered accordingly, such that we do ultimately obtain what we want whenever we pray, which is simply to commune with God through our alignment to his will.32 Though faith frees us from mortal sin by confirming that communion with or participation in God is our proper end, I have noted that it does not immediately free us from the venial sins on account of which we think and act in ways that are incompatible with that end. As a result of sin, the habit of operating in accordance with this end is more or less lost. Thus, the transformation by hope described above ineluctably involves a lifelong process of re-gaining and maintaining the habit of placing hope in God as opposed to temporal things. By means of transferring hopes from temporal to eternal things, we not only answer Christ’s call on our lives, of which we become aware in faith, but also discover just what that call entails—and who we are. I have already mentioned a number of resources for facilitating this process of discovery, namely, the practical syllogism and the Lord’s Prayer. In the effort
Sufficient Conditions for Theological Philosophy
to characterize this process further, I will offer below an interpretation of Aquinas’ famous five ways of demonstrating the existence of God. Although this interpretation will admittedly diverge from the sort of reading of the five ways that has predominated in the recent past, numerous scholars have drawn attention to the fact that the received reading largely disregards the broader context and aims of Aquinas’ theological works, and in particular, his magisterial Summa Theologiae.33 As other recent interpreters have noted, these aims are primarily pedagogical, even therapeutic: they revolve around facilitating personal transformation by Christian hope.34 In this connection, Aquinas composed his Summa as part of an effort to help novices in the Dominican Order to integrate their theological studies with their own moral or spiritual development.35 Through this text, more specifically, he aimed to help students of Christian thought and life grasp the principle that doctrines about, say, a Triune, Incarnate God are not merely speculative or theoretical but have a practical application, which consists in thinking and living in light of the knowledge of this God. In that sense, the locus of Aquinas’ pedagogical project could be said to consist in the five proofs that appear near the start of his Summa. At the outset of my discussion of these proofs, I should characterize the standard reading of Aquinas’ five ways and the ways themselves, which are derived from works by Aristotle and Plato. According to the standard reading, the five ways are instances of what is known as natural theology, in which the existence of God is supposedly proved through material that is accessible to human reason, unaided by faith or revelation. So construed, the proofs allegedly allow those who do not as yet believe in God to be persuaded of his existence. Although a variety of such natural theological proofs exist, Aquinas’ are primarily cosmological, or in the case of the fifth way, teleological. Thus, they infer God’s existence from the very existence of the world or from the evidence of order or design in nature, respectively. The first proof, for example, argues from natural entities that are in motion to a first mover who places and sustains all things in motion, namely, God. The second, related, proof, argues from created effects to a divine efficient cause of those effects; the third argues from contingent beings and circumstances—or things which do not have to be, such as all objects of human experience are—to the existence of one being who is the necessary source of all contingent realities. The fourth argues from the gradation of beings to a highest being. According to this proof, the ascending levels of truth and goodness that can be identified in various ideas and entities, to say nothing of the increasing degrees of being observed in rocks, plants, animals, humans and angels, presuppose a maximal
being that is the source of all things. The fifth way posits the existence of a divine being on the basis of the order or purpose which natural beings exhibit. While these proofs may have been intended to provide natural theological proof for God’s existence in the thought of the philosophers who originally propounded them, the discussion of this chapter and book gives reason to believe that the proofs are employed for a different purpose in the distinctly Christian theological context into which Aquinas imports them. In that sense, Aquinas’ appropriation of these proofs may serve as a paradigmatic example of the way he transforms and corrects authoritative sources, including works by Aristotle, in the process of drawing upon them. As previous chapters have noted, Aquinas operates on the assumption that direct or substantial knowledge of God’s essence or nature is unattainable in this life.36 On this basis, he seems to suppose that any positive or cataphatic theology must limit itself to describing the kind of being God is, namely, simple—and therefore infinite, omnipresent, immutable, eternal, perfect, and one—as well as Triune. Since the Triune nature of God can only be known through his Incarnation, however, Aquinas insists that there is no authentic or certain knowledge of God outside this revelation, which only confirms that God is a being that is wholly other to human experience: a ‘known unknown,’ as it were. In light of these considerations, Aquinas’ thought actually seems to contest the natural theological interpretation of theistic proofs as faith-free arguments for a detached and impersonal First Mover. The evidence suggests instead that Aquinas himself designed the proofs to aid those who have already become receptive to the Christian God’s revelation in faith actually to understand the world and everything in it as his effects.37 What it means to understand reality along these lines is a matter on which some of our earlier discussions will have prospectively shed a good deal of light. In acknowledging with Aquinas our inability to know God’s essence, for instance, I have affirmed that our only apparent recourse to knowing him is through evaluating the actual objects of our knowledge under the formality or influence of the belief, reinforced at the Incarnation, that the Triune God is the highest being and good there is.38 Although direct knowledge of God cannot be obtained by bringing belief in him to bear in assessing the world along these lines, it is possible thereby to acquire an understanding of the world that is shaped by belief in him. This is the sort of indirect knowledge of God that can be acquired through the mediation of circumstances that are considered through the lens of the belief that he alone is the highest good. This in sum is what it might mean to see God in his effects, namely, to see things in a manner that is affected by a positive theological belief in the kind of being God is. Such ‘seeing as’ in turn allows for the negative
Sufficient Conditions for Theological Philosophy
theological discovery that the objects evaluated in human knowledge do not reveal what God is like and cannot take his place as the sole object of absolute significance.39 Thus, Fergus Kerr denies that the five ways are ‘an exercise in rationalist apologetics’ and insists that they are ‘the first lesson in Aquinas’ negative theology.’40 With these reflections in view, I would submit that Aquinas’ five ways to ‘see God in his effects’ or demonstrate his existence can be interpreted as five ways or resources that may be employed in efforts to unravel the fallen habit of ascribing temporal objects and circumstances greater significance than they deserve, while learning to regard them in a way that is more consistent with the limited value they actually possess. The first and second arguments from motion and efficient causality, for example, might respectively be employed to remind us that the objects of our experience are made possible, actualized, or caused, by a being who is not subject to causation: that they are finite rather than unlimited goods which should be regarded as such, for the sake of the one that is not constrained as they are. The argument from necessity and contingency can serve to remind us that everything we have is a gift, which we should not take for granted and to which we should not become so attached as to be unable to live without it. The fourth way, found in the gradation of things, can teach us to marvel at the manner in which God’s unchanging goodness appears to increase as we improve at the art of thinking about things in light of it. Finally, the argument from final causality makes it possible to consider any situation that may arise in light of the fact that it can contribute to accomplishing God’s ultimate purposes, provided it is evaluated from this perspective and thus in the knowledge that it is not the be‑all or end-all of human existence, which God alone can be. As the next chapter will elaborate, such a perspective may be maintained even in the midst of the difficult circumstances or sufferings, which are in no way good or part of God’s overarching plan and are in that sense strictly speaking meaningless. Where the five ways are consistently applied in these respects, a habit of perceiving all things in the light of God—and treating them accordingly—can scarcely help but be cultivated over the course of time. The epistemological and ultimately moral transformation that accompanies such habituation might in turn be regarded as the ultimate proof for the existence of God that Aquinas purports to provide or encourage his readers to provide. On my reading, consequently, the proof Aquinas has in mind is not some natural theological ‘paper proof,’ but the proof that consists in a life transformed by adhering to belief in God. While a life lived by the light of belief in God—Triune, Incarnate—may provide evidence to those who do not believe of the power of this belief and
thus the reality of its object, it also successfully integrates the ordinary and spiritual life of the believer. These elements of our existence—the natural and the ‘graced,’ the rational and the faithful—are not dichotomized or in competition by this account.41 For the substance of life in God becomes interchangeable with the normal human life of intellectual and moral virtue when that life is led on account of belief in him. To reiterate, the understanding of God that is obtained in the process of living by belief in him falls short of understanding God himself. Put differently, the experience of God is not normally direct or unmediated.42 Nevertheless, an understanding of the difference belief in God makes to the way ordinary objects are perceived and handled makes it possible to experience God indirectly through the mediation of all ordinary experiences, such that there is ultimately no bifurcation between the ordinary and the spiritual life.43 By virtue of assessing reality under the formality of faith in God, the goodness, justice, beauty, wisdom, and other attributes that come to be appreciated in and through ordinary experiences can themselves be ascribed to God, provided we acknowledge that our understanding of the attributes in question is circumscribed by our ordinary experiences in ways that the nature of God itself is not circumscribed.44 Precisely because our knowledge and talk of God is a function of how we think and resultantly talk about our lives and circumstances in light of belief in him, however, it behooves us ultimately to deny that the aforementioned attributes are names of God—not because God is not good, just, beautiful, or wise, but because his goodness, justice, beauty, and wisdom exceed our powers of comprehension. Since words or thoughts about God’s goodness, for instance, can never capture all that his goodness implies, Aquinas asserts that we cannot mean the same thing when we call creatures and God ‘good.’ In other words, the meaning of the term ‘good’ in the two cases is not univocal.45 That is not to say that the significance of the label ‘good’ in the two instances is equivocal or altogether different. For Aquinas, rather, any given term is predicated of God and creatures analogously, that is, in a distinct but comparable or related manner. In using terms analogously, however, we must recognize that we cannot identify precisely what the relation between our conception of God’s goodness and his actual goodness entails, insofar as we lack as yet the full understanding of his goodness, which would allow us to determine the manner and degree to which our concept is adequate to his reality.46 Because we ineluctably say more than we realize when we speak of the divine attributes, there is always room for growth in our understanding of the divine referent of our language when we speak of, say, the goodness of God.
Sufficient Conditions for Theological Philosophy
Such growth arguably results from additional efforts to live by faith in God when dealing with our experiences, and thereby to form a habit of doing so, perhaps with the help of the five ways. Insofar as these experiences render us increasingly conscious that it is impossible to capture God’s essence in this life, the use of the proofs or other similar resources does not, ironically, render God ever more comprehensible to natural reason so much as it gradually enhances our appreciation of his total otherness, transcendence, and mystery. The paradoxical upshot of this observation is that our thinking about God is bound to become more rather than less analogous to God’s thinking about himself as we grow in our awareness of our total inability to capture his supremacy by our understanding. After all, God is always fully aware of himself as the Supreme Being whose ways are not like or unlike ours: who is simple. In the immediate context, this ‘learned ignorance’47 prevents us from thinking and speaking about God in ways that are likely to come across as hypocritical or empty platitudes. When we describe God as supremely good and yet speak and act as though we know better than him in reality, as a result of attributing undue significance to temporal things, we cannot help but fail to make the best of our circumstances in the ways that would evidently be essential to substantiating our testimony about who God is.48 We cannot avoid leaving the impression that we do not really believe what we say we believe about God—that it is worth placing hope in him first and foremost as opposed to the things of this world. In that sense, we cannot help negating or even on some level dis-proving the reality of God. Of course, it takes practice operating in faith through hope to acquire ‘learned ignorance.’ While the Christian calling to cultivate this habit may initially seem laborious, we should not forget that Christ promised his followers an easy yoke.49 As noted above, living by faith simply means opening our hands to receive the grace of God, or the knowledge of his goodness, releasing the idols we have made of more limited goods in the process. In this connection, the only ‘work’ we have to perform is that of realizing in increasing measure the implications of Christ’s accomplishment on our behalf. Although a fairly consistent habit of living by grace through faith and hope may eventually be developed, it bears noting that there is no such habit which is not potentially subject to disruption in a fallen order. That is why it is necessary to continue to rely on the grace of God, even once a habit of living by faith and hope has more or less been formed. There is all the more reason to depend perpetually on God’s grace in light of the possibility of making an idol of the habit itself, or of the religious practices and the doctrines that are employed to support it. As this suggests, there is never a moment when our
ability to operate by faith through hope does not depend completely on the grace of God. Even so, our sense of reliance upon this grace is likely to be stronger on some level at the start of our journey of faith. When that faith is still untried in hope, concrete and immediate things are bound to seem more conducive to our thriving than faith’s hard work through hope to release those very things, which are our only known recourse to happiness. As a result, our determination to place our hopes for happiness in Christ as opposed to these things might seem initially to involve an unfounded or irrational leap of faith. When we allow faith to influence our thinking—when we hope—however, the logic of the faith we exert by staking our hope for happiness in God should begin to emerge, along with the absurdity of a tendency to seek happiness in the here and now. For doing this enables us increasingly to identify and experience where true happiness lies, namely, in God. In turn, this realization often increases our longing for the God who is the source of that happiness, as well as our motivation to place our hope in him by extrapolating the implications of faith for new experiences. As I have noted, the ongoing effort to do this may enable us to experience God through the mediation of ordinary experiences at more places and times, with fewer interruptions or aberrations, until it eventually becomes so automatic to perceive the many objects of our experience in terms of the reality of the one God that our sense of reliance upon and indeed enjoyment of his grace achieves the highest possible level of intensity, albeit in a manner that differs from the way his grace tends to be experienced in extreme ways at the start of attempts to cultivate faith through hope.50 When this point of maturity in hope is reached, the analogy between our thinking about God and his thinking about himself is perfected insofar as we see him as he really is, namely, infinite—or in all things—and eternal—or at all times—omnipresent, and consequently simple. In coming to conceive of God along these lines, moreover, we learn to appreciate that all the various attributes like goodness, wisdom, and justice, which we hitherto attributed to God, do not represent different aspects of his character—which simply entails being whatever it is best to be—but diverse ways in which we experience his character on account of our own decisions whether or not and how to bring the knowledge of his supreme goodness to bear in evaluating ordinary experiences. This is the upshot of the common medieval maxim according to which ‘God’s essence is his attributes.’ As our awareness of God’s ultimate goodness grows, our experience of him inevitably ceases to be subject to these variations and becomes characterized
Sufficient Conditions for Theological Philosophy
constantly by the certainty that he works all things for the good that is the definition of his simple nature. On account of this certainty, ordinary experiences cannot affect us in the way that is possible when our hope for happiness is staked on the things of this world. Though the circumstances in which we may be called upon to place our hope in God may change for better or for worse, our belief that it is in our best interests to do this need not come under threat. Under these conditions of unflagging hope, we enjoy the freedom to flourish in all circumstances, which we cannot possibly possess when we navigate the world with the fixations and fears that are produced by the assumption that temporal things can make or break our happiness. In short, we possess the peace that passes all understanding.51 This peace derives from a habit of operating in faith by placing hopes for happiness in God above all else. By doing this, it bears noting, we pray as much as we think, since prayer as I have described it is the act of expressing the spirit, life, or mind given through the creative and redemptive work of the Son with a view to the supremacy of God the Father.52 In performing our acts of knowing as the Father performs his, namely, through the Son and in his Spirit, we participate in the life of God in the way and to the extent that we do so. By thus imaging the Trinity, no longer intermittently but perpetually—or by praying without ceasing—our lives are rendered consistent with our profession of belief in God.53 In this way, we are readied to gaze upon the divine reality. For it is by acquiring the indirect vision of all things in God’s light that we are predisposed to the direct vision of the light or beatific vision itself. As this suggests, the point of learning to place our hope in God above all else in this life is to learn to enjoy him to the greatest possible extent in the present, so as to make a seamless transition to the vision of God at the end of time and maximize the experience of him for eternity. As described above, the process of coming to know God gradually can be likened to the process through which we come to know any ordinary object of knowledge. All acts of knowing involve faith in that they do not start with knowledge but with a goal to know which we believe can be fulfilled and towards which we work in hope to fulfill on the basis of our faith. The major difference between such ordinary acts of knowing and the act of knowing God is that he is the one object of faith that cannot become an object of direct knowledge in this life, because he can only be known indirectly so long as things other than him are known directly. Precisely for this reason, however, belief in him, expressed through hope, is the reason why the knowledge of other things may be pursued in a way that does justice to them, without misconstruing what they are or over- or
under‑estimating their worth. Since the process of knowing God not only accounts for the success of ordinary acts of knowing but also parallels them in terms of its pattern, it seems to follow that the act of knowing him represents the paradigm case of human knowledge. Because the knowledge of God is that by dint of which other cases of knowledge can be explained, in other words, God is the true and ultimate object of human knowledge. Every act of human knowing is first and foremost an act of knowing God, albeit indirect, even if it is not recognized as such. On these grounds, belief in God can be described as intrinsically rational, and faith and reason reconcilable. This is not because the divine being can currently be rendered intelligible in the way that ordinary beings may be rendered intelligible, but because faith in the Triune God known through Christ to be beyond knowledge is that on account of which it is possible to explain the ability to think and act appropriately—indeed, rationally—with respect to ordinary objects of knowledge.54 In operating on the assumption that it is precisely belief in God that enables us to do this, all our direct efforts to contemplate ordinary realities are transformed in the way described above into indirect thinking about God, which is not only an expression of the hope we have placed in him in the present but also of our earnest desire to see him face‑to-face in the future. The Third Condition: Love Although hope plays an indispensable role when it comes to actualizing the potential faith affords to render ordinary life convertible with life in Christ, Scripture nonetheless states that the only thing that really matters is ‘faith working through love.’55 The absence of any reference to hope in this context can be explained by invoking hope as the means through which the principles of faith are actually applied; and by conceiving faith as evidenced not merely by a mind transformed by hope, but ultimately by actions that are consistent with hope, namely, acts of love that are indicative of an overarching faith in—or love for—God.56 At one level, love is the greatest of the three theological virtues because it is the sign that faith has been made effective by hope. It is the evidence of our transformation after the image of the crucified Christ. Indeed, his cross, rooted in the ground, with beams stretching upwards and outwards, illustrates how faith gives us the foundation needed to ‘set our sights on things above’57 in hope and thereby acquire the ability to deal appropriately, or lovingly, with matters all around us.58
Sufficient Conditions for Theological Philosophy
On another level, love is the supreme theological virtue because it is the only virtue that will endure when the eternal life for which we presently hope in faith is attained.59 These other two theological virtues are only necessary in the present life, or as long as we are still striving towards an eternal life in which we participate both already and not yet.60 That is not to undermine the significance of all three theological virtues for the present life, to say nothing of eternity, inasmuch as the present life prepares us for this end. As in the case of the moral virtues, all the theological virtues are required for the sake of exhibiting any theological virtue at all. After all, these virtues jointly facilitate the single activity of orientating our lives around glorifying God. Although it takes faith and hope to acquire love in this life from the human standpoint, the God who is Love primarily perceives the way and extent to which our actions are characterized by love when he operates from his own divine point of view. Because love is the only virtue that endures from an eternal perspective, it is the only real source of merit. For this very reason, the nature and extent of the love for God we cultivate now through faith and hope will be proportional to the nature and extent to which we know Love eternally.61 Thus, it remains in the next chapter to throw into sharper relief the nature of the life of Christian love, which is not only the final arbiter of faith and hope—and theological philosophy—but also the optimal site for cultivating the four cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance, along with the orientation towards the highest good these virtues collectively support. Endnotes ST 2.1.62–3; cf. 184.108.40.206: on grace. Following Aquinas, I therefore affirm a distinction between the ‘acquired’ cardinal virtues and those that are ‘infused’ by God through the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love (ST 220.127.116.11). See Jean Porter, ‘The Subversion of Virtue: Acquired and Infused Virtues in the Summa Theologiae,’ The Annual of the Society of Christian Ethics (1992), 19–42. For other classical accounts of the three theological virtues, see Augustine’s Enchiridion and Dante’s Paradiso. 2 Josef Pieper, Faith, Hope, Love (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1982), 35–41. On the theological virtues, also see Peter Geach, The Virtues (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 1977. 3 See De Veritate 14: Faith. 4 Comp. Theol. 2.8: Digna est Deum deprecantis oratio nihil ante patris gloriam petere, sed omnia laudi eius postponere. 5 See chapter 6 of Rationality as Virtue. 1
ST 2.2.4: on faith. ST 18.104.22.168. The soul of a human being does not represent their last end because the soul aims for and participates in the good and is not the all-encompassing good itself. It is the means to the good, but not the end itself. 8 De Veritate 23: God’s will. On the interchangeability of Christian and secular vocations, see Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (Touchstone, 1995), 239: ‘the otherworldliness of Christian life ought to be manifested in the very midst of the world in the Christian community and in its daily life. Hence the Christian’s task is to live out that life in terms of his secular calling. That is the way to die unto the world. The value of the secular calling for the Christian is that it provides an opportunity of living the Christian life with the support of god’s grace and of engaging more vigorously in the assault on the world and everything that it stands for.’ 9 ST 1.19; cf. 1.22; De Veritate 24; see also Augustine’s In Iohannis evangelium tractatus 7.8: ‘have charity and do what you will.’ 10 Josef Pieper, Faith, Hope, Love (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1982), 102. 11 ST 22.214.171.124. 12 ST 126.96.36.199. On this, see Jean Porter, ‘Virtue and Sin: The Connection of the Virtues and the Case of the Flawed Saint,’ Journal of Religion (1995), 521–39. 13 ST 2.1.88. 14 See chapter 6 of Rationality as Virtue. 15 ST 188.8.131.52; cf. 184.108.40.206. 16 ST 2.1.112; De Veritate 27–8. 17 See Soren Kierkegaard, ‘Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing,’ chapters 4–6, in Kierkegaard’s Writings: Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits 15 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009). 18 See Kathryn Tanner’s The Politics of God: Christian Theologies and Social Justice (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992), especially chapter 4 on ‘Christian Belief and the Justification of Hierarchy.’ 19 Soren Kierkegaard, Practice in Christianity 107, 139: ‘Christendom destroys Christianity.’ 20 See Joseph Pieper, Tradition: Concept and Claim (Wilmington: ISI, 2008). 21 ST 2.1.68: on spiritual gifts. 22 ST 220.127.116.11; cf. ST 18.104.22.168: servile fear (of God) decreases as charity increases, for we become more confident in God’s love. However filial fear increases with charity, i.e. the fear a child has of the Father out of the desire to please Him. 23 ST 22.214.171.124. 24 Josef Pieper, Faith, Hope, Love 113. 25 ST 126.96.36.199. 26 See the section on ‘Habituation in Moral Virtue.’ 6 7
Sufficient Conditions for Theological Philosophy
Matt. 6:9–13. All Scripture references are to the New International Version unless otherwise noted. 28 Josef Pieper, Faith, Hope, Love 127. 29 Comp. Theol. 2.3 … ita etiam nos in spem vivam induceret, nobis formam orandi tradens, per quam maxime spes nostra in Deum erigitur. 30 On the ways that Christian belief checks both hubris and false humility, thus enabling individuals to develop the proper self-understanding that facilitates just treatment of others, see Kathryn Tanner’s Politics of God, particularly chapter 5 on ‘Christian Belief and Respect for Others.’ 31 On this approach to prayer, see Herbert McCabe, God, Christ and Us (London: Continuum, 2005), 9. 32 See Rudi te Velde, ‘Thomas Aquinas’ Understanding of Prayer in the Light of the Doctrine of Creation ex nihilo,’ Modern Theology 29:2 (April 2013), 49–61. 33 Eugene Rogers, Thomas Aquinas and Karl Barth: Sacred Doctrine and the Knowledge of God (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1999). Victor Preller, Divine Science and the Science of God: A Reformulation of Thomas Aquinas (Eugene: Wifp and Stock, 1967), chapter 3. Rudi te Velde, Aquinas on God (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006). 34 Mark D. Jordan, Rewritten Theology: Aquinas after His Readers (Oxford: WileyBlackwell, 2005). 35 Frederick Christian Bauerschmidt, Thomas Aquinas: Faith, Reason and Following Christ (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013); Mark Jordan, Rewritten Theology. 36 ST 1.12.1. 37 Timothy McDermott, Existence and Nature of God, Summa Theologiae, vol. 2, Ia.2–11 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 188: the five ways ‘are reasoned ways which open out the prospect of a world caused by God.’ 38 ST 1.12.12. Rudi te Velde, Aquinas on God (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006). 39 ST 188.8.131.52: on understanding. 40 Fergus Kerr, After Aquinas: Versions of Thomism (Oxford: Blackwell, 2009), 58. 41 On non-competitive relationship between God and creatures, see Kathryn Tanner. God and Creation in Christian Theology: Tyranny or Empowerment? Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2005. 42 Lydia Schumacher, ‘Towards the Integration of Religious and Ordinary Experience: In Conversation with Alvin Plantinga, Mark Wynn, and Thomas Aquinas,’ International Journal of Philosophy and Theology, published online June 3, 2015. 43 See Jean Porter, ‘Virtue Ethics and Its Significance for Spirituality: A Survey and Assessment of Recent Work,’ The Way Supplement 88 (1997), 26–35. 44 ST 1.13.1. 45 ST 1.13.2ff. 46 See David Burrell, Analogy and Philosophical Language (New Haven: Yale, 1973). 27
See Nicholas of Cusa, Of Learned Ignorance (Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2007). In The Edge of Words: God and the Habits of Language (London: Bloomsbury, 2014), Rowan Williams gives a powerful account of how our ways of speaking as human beings convey a great deal about God. 49 Mt. 11:30. 50 For a compatible view of religious experience, see Nicholas Lash, Easter in Ordinary: Reflections on Human Experience and the Knowledge of God (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1990), countering the received account of religious experience (as unmediated rather than mediated) offered by William James in The Varieties of Religious Experience (New York: Library of America, 1987). 51 ST 184.108.40.206. 52 As Aquinas writes, prayer ‘inclines the spirit to desire fervently and devoutly what it hopes to obtain. It renders one suitable to receive what they pray for’ (Comp. Theol. 2.2). Sed oratio ad obtinendum a Deo est homini necessaria propter seipsum qui orat, ut scilicet ipsemet suos defectus consideret, et animum suum flectat ad ferventer et pie desiderandum quod orando sperat obtinere: per hoc enim ad recipiendum idoneus redditur. 53 ST 1.26.1. 54 As David Fergusson writes in Faith and Its Critics: A Conversation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 36, 37: ‘the act of faith requires a comprehensive intellectual and practical reshaping of the self,’ such that ‘the truthfulness of a religion is best known in living it.’ 55 Gal. 5:6. 56 ST 220.127.116.11–8. 57 Col. 3:2. 58 This image is taken from Augustine’s letter 140, Addressed to Honoratus (ad 412): The Book on Grace, chapter 26. 59 1 Cor. 13:8–13. 60 1 Cor. 13:13. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 61 ST 2.1.114: on merit. 47 48
Consequences of Theological Philosophy
In the previous chapter, I presented the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love as the sufficient conditions for theological philosophy, which provide an account of the way belief in the God of Christian faith enlivens the sort of pro‑theology philosophy that describes and prescribes a personal commitment to the highest good. Although faith and hope enable engagement in the activity of Christian creedal reasoning through which belief in this God is applied, I argued that Christian love is the evidence of this reasoning and thus the final arbiter of theological philosophy. In this chapter, my intent is to elaborate on the nature of Christian love—or the consequences of theological philosophy—as facilitated by Christian creedal reasoning in faith and hope. The goal in doing so is to demonstrate how the theological virtue of love may maximize our chances of working for the highest good, or ‘bearing things well,’ through the cultivation of the four cardinal moral virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance, which were treated in Chapter 2. As explained in that chapter, prudence is the virtue that reconciles us to the limited nature of our abilities; justice leads us to exercise our abilities for the sake of contributing to the flourishing of others, or the common good; fortitude gives us the strength and perseverance to overcome the challenges involved in doing so; and temperance affords the discipline to channel all our passion or energy to the end of accomplishing the purposes of prudence through justice. In what follows, I will illustrate how these four virtues respectively correspond to and are in fact paradigmatically instanced in the personal, interpersonal, instructive, and persuasive powers, which proceed from Christian love, and which in turn represent the discernible consequences of theological philosophy. In arguing along these lines, I follow Aquinas, who spoke of virtue in terms of the ‘power’ that derives from good character, or the ability to bear things well.1 As I understand it, however, the power in question is made perfect through weakness or sufferings of various sorts, which will be described in more detail below.2 In presenting love for the God of Christian faith as the ultimate guarantor not only of the theological but also the four cardinal virtues, I take additional cues from Aquinas in describing love as the culmination or ‘form’ of all the other virtues.3
After presenting this main line of argument, I will conclude with an analysis of the question whether and how it is possible to exhibit moral or cardinal without theological virtue and theological without moral virtue: that is, whether it is possible to be rational while lacking the Christian theological rationale for rationality, or to be irrational despite possessing the Christian theological virtues. Although both possibilities will be affirmed, I will ultimately conclude in line with earlier contentions that the ideal situation—the ultimate or paradigmatic case of rationality—entails both rationality, that is, intellectual virtue cultivated for the sake of moral virtue, and the rationale for rationality that consists in moral virtue, cultivated for the sake of theological virtue. The Personal Power of Love (Prudence) At the outset of this discussion, it bears demonstrating how love for God optimizes our ability to exhibit prudence, or how it fills us with a sort of personal power accurately to assess our potential and consequently realize it.4 As I have already mentioned, self-actualization is often hindered considerably by the fallen tendency to operate in accordance with a false self-image. This invariably generates a false sense of self-love, or pride, which is either hubristic or excessive or falsely humble and deficient. By entertaining either outlook, human finitude is eschewed, through efforts to surpass it or to denigrate human existence on account of it, respectively. Either way, prideful persons effectively reject God as the source of human meaning and purpose and turn to themselves in this regard instead: they delude themselves when it comes to envisaging their actual status or role in the context of their own self-actualization.5 As suggested already, the falsely humble do this by subjecting themselves to impossibly high standards or expectations, which they cannot reasonably fulfill, and as a result of which they generally deny their own value and purpose. By contrast, hubristic individuals operate on the assumption that they are capable of meeting unrealistic standards and therefore overestimate their value and purpose in ways that lead them to exploit others, in whom they wrongly perceive little or no value or purpose. Although prideful perspectives on the self turn on self-deception and are in that sense inaccurate, they are normally not readily relinquished, because they are essential to maintaining the lifestyle that often seems most comfortable or preferable in the immediate sense: the lifestyle that makes it possible to avoid confronting human finitude.6 Thus, human beings often resist engaging of their own accord in the sort of accurate or prudent self-evaluation that is the necessary precondition of
Consequences of Theological Philosophy
self‑actualization. Though the impetus to make this assessment is unlikely to be self-generated naturally, it is even less likely to be derived exclusively from others, who often have ulterior motives—whether malicious or benign—for trying to persuade persons to neglect the realization of their potential, or to be something they are not. This is all the more true if an individual’s area of potential is not an area in which they might be expected to work, owing for example to certain conventions or social norms. On account of these, unconventional decisions, however prudent, may be discouraged, explicitly or implicitly, through sheer lack of support, or even penalized within a larger social context or community. For this reason, estimating personal abilities or purposes through the lens of cultural norms or the expectations of others may well hinder the discovery to say nothing of the exercise of those abilities. As there seems no foolproof way to come to know—and love—the self through the self itself or through others, an impetus to do this seems necessary, which comes from a personal being who subsists above and beyond the known realm. This being can only be the Triune God as revealed through his Incarnate Son, for reasons set out in Chapter 3.7 The love of this God provides the chief motivation and resource for putting to death a false—excessive or deficient—picture of the self and thereby for acquiring the prudence to engage in self-realization.8 It not only enables but also holds us accountable to assess accurately and utilize fully any potential we may have, to wit, our various intellectual and moral virtues, which are transformed in this context into the gifts of God’s Spirit.9 This accountability is vital, both on account of the ubiquity of human pride and because many attempts to overcome pride meet with considerable disapproval from persons who would prefer that we be what they want us to be for their purposes as opposed to being what we actually are for God’s. Because of our own natural resistance to ‘dying to the self ’ and to the social challenges that may arise in the attempt to do so, approval for our choices must be sought primarily from the one Person who made us and therefore sees who we really are. This again is the Person of the Incarnate Son who reveals that God is personal because he is Tri-Personal. Where human persons tend to judge others by external features, he alone as our maker summons us in an unmitigated way to live in accordance with our actual aptitudes, regardless of how unusual or undesirable they may seem to others.10 Because it is by loving God that we are disposed properly to love ourselves, to believe in and be ourselves, we cannot ultimately take credit for any accomplishments stemming from a proper selflove. Rather, our success must be attributed to God, the love of whom enacts authentic self-love in the first place.
The Interpersonal Power of Love (Justice) The personal power or proper self-love acquired through the love of God further enacts the possibility of demonstrating proper love for others and thus of acquiring a certain power or aptitude for engaging in just interpersonal relationships.11 At a preliminary level, it does this by reconciling us to our personal limitations, thus enabling us to identify where we should and should not extend ourselves in order to maximize the good we can accomplish on behalf of others. By contrast to the love of God, which reaches out to all humanity, the capacity of human beings to demonstrate love is finite. For this reason, the human ability to love is compromised if attempts are made to do so in a divine manner or to the divine extent.12 By making it possible to observe an order of priority in love, proper self-love, instilled by love for God, allows for focusing efforts to love where it is fitting to do so for the sake of making the most of an individual ability to demonstrate love.13 When it comes to the actual realization of this ability, the love of God predisposes persons to be just in the truest sense of the term by exercising aptitudes on behalf of others without any reference to questions of personal gain. That is to say, the love of God teaches us to love others as we love ourselves, namely, in terms of who they really are as opposed to who we might like them to be for our own purposes.14 The love of God empowers us along these lines because the belief that he is all that is required for our thriving checks the human tendency to stake hopes for happiness and fulfillment on other people. It thereby prevents us from treating others in ways that are ordered towards satisfying a personal ‘need to be needed’ or towards fulfilling the desire for an individual identity, interests, or allegiances to be reinforced through the alignment of others to them. In summary, the love of God liberates us to live and let others live in accordance with the interests and abilities appropriate to themselves, especially where these differ from our own. Since the love of God enables and motivates persons to help others acquire an accurate picture of themselves and to live freely in accordance with it, the love demonstrated for others in these ways might ultimately be described in terms of an attempt to help them love God.15 Though there may be cases in which it would be appropriate explicitly to help others love God—to testify to the faith that motivates love—such efforts are often counter-productive and should be undertaken in the cautious ways I will describe later in this chapter in the section on the persuasive power of love. In most cases, the most effective way to induct others into the love of God will be indirect. Through the exercise of our ordinary intellectual and moral virtues, for example, we may find ways to offer others help or healing, theoretical
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or practical, and thereby to liberate them for the purposes of self-actualization. In this latter respect, we may ultimately, albeit indirectly, encourage them to overcome the chief hindrance to the love of God, namely, vice or sin.16 As indicated in Chapter 2, this encouragement is most effectively delivered in the form of attempts to create the space or opportunities others need to realize their potential, without regard for any personal sacrifices that may have to be made or challenges that may be encountered in the process. Among these, a lack of appreciation or outright resistance may come from the very individuals for whom efforts are made to create space for selfactualization. After all, this activity entails liberation from the vice of pride, in which personal identities and indeed whole societies are so often deeply rooted, and which is often not therefore very readily abandoned.17 Because loving others means evacuating the space they need to come into their own, on their own, however, any success they experience in this regard is ultimately not a credit to those who enable it. Rather, it is attributable to the implicit or unwitting love for God those aided exhibit when they learn how properly to love themselves—and ultimately to love God, the love of whom makes it possible to give them space in the first place. The Instructive Power of Love (Fortitude) In the discussion thus far, I have gestured towards some ways in which the love of God affords the fortitude to bear challenges that might naturally be difficult to bear. These challenges include the sort of ‘death to self ’ involved in relinquishing pride; the opposition or lack of support that may accompany attempts to realize personal potential as distinct from preconceived social roles; and the lack of appreciation or even resistance that is sometimes met in the course of efforts to aid others to flourish.18 In confronting and overcoming such challenges, what is exhibited is the instructive power of love, that is, the power to demonstrate that the seemingly thankless tasks performed out of love for God nevertheless foster the thriving of those that undertake them in some fairly obvious and significant ways. In addition to these rather ordinary challenges related to the fulfillment of a personal commitment to the highest—and common—good, there are a number of other more extreme challenges, indeed sufferings, that the love of God makes it possible to bear and consequently instruct others how to bear, in ways to be discussed in this section.19 The difficulties I have in mind include those that result from personal sin; experiences with various forms of suffering,
such as sickness (physical or mental), natural disasters, and death. Finally, there is suffering that results from testifying to the love of God. The first type of suffering, caused by sin, might not seem at first glance like a form of suffering, since the very idea of suffering generally implies afflictions imposed by external forces. Still, sin can be described as a type of self-inflicted suffering, not least because the failure to bear the other forms of suffering well can considerably exacerbate them. However pleasant sin may seem when it is committed, the reality is that it enslaves individuals to various fixations and aversions that wreak havoc in their lives. Where there is sufficient fortitude to confront sin, however, there are two ways in which it can become a resource for instructing others and even for self-instruction concerning the redemptive power of love for God. The first and most extreme way concerns cases in which sin tendencies have become so serious as to bring individuals to the brink of emotional or physical—to say nothing of spiritual—self-destruction. When our lives are torn apart by self-inflicted sufferings, we may be moved in a way that would not have been possible otherwise to realize that committing sin is not worth the immediate pleasure that it affords. We may become open to the truth that the love of God as opposed to the objects of sinful desire is the real source of our happiness. In the wake of such a radical conversion experience, our lives become instructive with regard to the power the love for God possesses when it comes to changing us completely for the better. While it would be counter-productive to pursue a sinful course in life for the sake of reaching this place of total repentance, those that eventually do so can be grateful for the role a previous journey played in bringing them to receive God’s forgiveness and a whole new way of life.20 This forgiveness is what enables us to forgive ourselves in the sense of refusing to allow past decisions and actions to continue to influence our decisions and thereby separate us from God.21 Once this forgiveness has a fully restorative effect, it provides the instructive power to help others out of situations similar to those we may have experienced in the past. Admittedly, however, many experiences with sin and its renunciation are not as radical as the type of experience described above. Rather, individuals may struggle in an ongoing way with sins that are less life-threatening but nonetheless inimical to personal thriving and to the thriving of others. Undoubtedly, all persons have their own tendencies towards vice, which are bound to endure over the whole course of life, insofar as they invert the aptitudes or virtues, which represent the defining features of individual human existence. To lead a life of Christian love is not necessarily to be completely or immediately freed of these tendencies but to recognize besetting sins, and to
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recognize them as problematic. It is to acknowledge a deficiency when it comes to applying love for God and to recognize the menace we might pose to our community as a result of this deficiency, avoiding situations in which we might cause others harm. Whereas those that altogether lack love for God might not be aware of or troubled by the threat they pose to others—let alone the offense they commit against God—those who love God distinguish themselves not so much by their perfection as by their willingness to recognize and make allowances for their faults. In this light, hypocrisy amongst Christian believers is blasphemous because it turns on the denial of the one truth that it defines Christians to profess, namely, the truth about our sinful nature and our need for Christ’s redemption. Only by admitting our sinfulness do we position ourselves to counteract it in the way I described in the previous chapter and thus to take advantage of Christ’s atoning work on our behalf.22 Though we are seemingly unsuited to help others struggling with our same sins so long as we still struggle with them ourselves, we nevertheless acquire an instructive power in the course of the struggle that simply consists in our willingness to confess that we offend God, to say nothing of our own dignity and that of others by sinning, and in our commitment to battling against and restraining our sinful nature.23 The question of sin or self-inflicted sufferings aside, I turn to consider a second set of sufferings, which make life especially difficult for human beings. These sufferings include sicknesses, significant losses, disasters, and ultimately death, particularly tragic or untimely death. Such sufferings are utterly meaningless in that they accomplish no positive purpose but leave human lives more or less in ruin. Though they cannot be considered intrinsic goods for that reason, I wish to show in what follows that love for God makes it possible to bring some good from these ostensible evils, if it is allowed to do so.24 For example, a significant personal loss, whether first or secondhand, such as the loss of a loved one, may expose self-inflicted sufferings, or sins, which result from deficient love for God and correspondingly excessive love for the objects of which misfortune deprives us. Where these losses are navigated in a certain attitude, consequently, they may compel us to turn fully to the one we cannot lose, namely, God.25 Through this discovery of God as the ultimate object of desire, it may be possible to find, in the loss of things we formerly regarded as essential to our thriving, an exceptionally significant cause to cling to him, and in doing so, paradoxically, to gain more of the ultimate object of desire.26 Because suffering raises awareness of the most significant matters in life, it may further compel us to cultivate the personal and interpersonal powers of love described above in ways we might not have done otherwise. So long as
sufferings do not debilitate us with respect to this purpose, they may become precisely those factors on account of which we become attuned to our spiritual gifts and passionate about employing them to relieve the sufferings of others or implicitly help them love God.27 In short, the sufferings that would seem to offend our humanity in different ways may actually render us more human and thus humane. Of course, our success in these respects is entirely contingent upon whether we are receptive to the lessons suffering may have to teach us. When we blame God, ourselves, or others for our pain or the pain of those we love, harboring anger and bitterness about our circumstances, there is no way to transform that pain into a source of life for others.28 Furthermore, our sufferings are exacerbated by these means, because we add to the sufferings themselves the sin or selfinflicted suffering whereby we exhibit an excessive love for the things misfortune takes from us. Although it would be a mistake to construe suffering itself as anything but a privation of the good or evil, it is certainly good to turn at the impetus of sufferings from sin to God and thus to realize our true selves and our potential to serve others. By making this turn, our lives become instructive as to the power the love of God gives us to bear well or bring good from circumstances that are in no sense good. In doing exactly this, in fact, we participate in the sufferings of Christ, who enabled human beings by his passion to overcome self-inflicted suffering by turning to God out of love for him above all else. As I noted in the previous chapter, Christ further laid the foundation through his passion for the eschatological redemption from suffering of all beings. Perhaps for this reason, Aquinas writes that our life in Christ consists of ‘conformity to his passion.’29 While conformity to Christ’s passion is clearly achieved and his sufferings ‘filled out’ through preparedness physically to die or at least to lose through sufferings a significant aspect of life, I would argue that it may also occur in the other ways I have mentioned above.30 These pertain to the acquisition of the personal and interpersonal powers of love, and efforts to overcome sin or self-inflicted suffering. Though such activities are not normally regarded as instances of participation in Christ’s suffering, since they do not involve direct testimony to his name, or even suffering in the strict sense of the term, they can be construed nonetheless as cases of conforming to Christ’s passion. For we accomplish by means of them what Christ aimed to accomplish when he suffered for us, namely, the defeat of sin and ultimately suffering, to the extent this is presently possible, through the exercise of intellectual and moral virtue. In the case of the personal power of love, for instance, we participate in the Lord’s sufferings by dying to our false, sinful selves, thus becoming a ‘living
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sacrifice.’31 In the example of the interpersonal power of love, we empty ourselves of any self-serving motivations for serving others and focus entirely on employing our abilities in ways that meet their needs. When overcoming sin, we battle significant or ongoing sin tendencies that would prevent us from acquiring the personal and interpersonal powers of love. While we suffer in these cases with and for Christ at varying degrees of intensity, which correspond to the extent to which the sufferings faced are caused by ourselves or by circumstances beyond our control, as in the cases of sickness, disaster, and death, we nonetheless undergo trials with the expressed intent of participating in the work he initiated through his passion. The last and most extreme instance of suffering for Christ pertains to the persecution and even martyrdom we may undergo as a direct result of explicitly confessing Christ as Lord—or witnessing to his work to free humanity from sin.32 Arguably, religious persecution and ultimately martyrdom represent paradigmatic instances of suffering for Christ because they render completely explicit the effort that is exerted through the other forms of suffering for Christ, to wit, the effort to abandon any love which might exceed love for God. Though participation in any of these forms of suffering for Christ might not seem desirable in the eyes of the world, which are often repulsed at the sight of suffering, it turns out on this account to be the source of a ‘life that is truly life,’33 that is, a life that is free from the misery of sin and is therefore characterized by diverse efforts to relieve the sufferings of others in ways that anticipate the eschatological redemption of all things. By participating in this life in the present, we engage already in the resurrected life, which will bring an end to sin and all forms of suffering and induct us into a state of pure joy. Ironically, this is a joy we frequently experience now, through the mediation of all the various forms of suffering that compel us in different ways to derive our sense of pleasure from engaging in the one and only activity that is ultimately consistent with our happiness, namely, the love of God above all else.34 The Persuasive Power of Love (Temperance) This brings us to a discussion of the persuasive power of love. According to my argument, this power derives from the personal, interpersonal, and above all, the instructive powers of love, which make it possible to face challenges of varying degrees not with embittered resignation, but, remarkably, with pleasure, and joy.35 This joy is generally incomprehensible outside the context of genuine Christian faith. For where happiness is derived primarily from temporal things,
sufferings and losses cannot help but be regarded as the irredeemable evils that in some sense they are. Apart from faith, nothing more—indeed, nothing good—can be made of circumstances that could never be considered good, let alone justified, even in the context of faith. Although it may be natural to question the value of sufferings for the acquisition of the personal and interpersonal powers of love, I have tried to demonstrate that the apparent losses they inflict upon us can become gains when they are received in the right attitude. By forfeiting a false self-love, and relinquishing any right to the appreciation or recognition of others, for example, we may come to the realization that we need nothing more for our thriving or happiness than to love God. We may learn to align our desires for happiness with the only true and perpetual source thereof. In this sense, the sufferings that strip us of various loves that prevent us from perceiving God as the ultimate object of desire may fill us with temperance in the truest sense of the term, which consists in an ability to recognize and pursue all and only what is needed for our thriving. When we operate along these lines, all the acts we commit out of love for God in turn allow us to realize and receive the love he first and foremost has for us.36 After all, the love of God—ours for him—is strictly speaking the love of God—his for us. This is a love we have been given to give, and it is in the loss the things of this world that we might value more than him that we frequently achieve the optimal position from which to give and be given it. Thus, there is an ironic sense in which more intense or prolonged sufferings that tend to leave us more or less bereft give us greater opportunities to gain more of the one thing that is most objectively desirable, namely, the experience of being loved by God.37 Though sufferings of any kind should not be invited or prized for that reason, they may be received as a gift when they arrive. For the less there is any earthly advantage involved in living for the love of God, the more certain we can be that we operate purely out of love for him; and the more pure our love for God, the more fully we in turn receive his love, which is the only thing worth having in this life.38 Hence, the proverb holds true which states that if we delight ourselves in the Lord, he will give us the desire of our heart, which is simply to love and be loved by God.39 As these observations confirm, the power of love to persuade others of the profound importance and legitimacy of belief in God derives from the fact that those that love God seem to have what they want most and what they need for their thriving—including the personal, interpersonal, and instructive powers described above—notwithstanding the many challenges they face. On account of this love, they are able to bear all things well or maintain the personal
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orientation towards the highest good that is convertible with rationality. As shown above, bearing things well actually turns out to be a matter of exhibiting love—for God primarily, and for the self and others secondarily. Since the love exercised in these ways emerges as the optimal site for sustaining rationality, it is not only the final arbiter of theological philosophy, but above all, the final proof for the rationality of faith.40 Indeed, the whole of the argument of the book thus far has been ordered towards supporting the conclusion that the life of Christian love, delineated above, that is, the spiritual life of the church discussed in Chapter 5, is the paradigmatic instance of the life of moral—and intellectual—virtue in which rationality consists, and which faith explains, such that the life of faith expressed in love is the truest and most persuasive evidence of the reality of the Triune, Incarnate God.41 Because this life of love for God often involves efforts to bring good, in specific, the good of loving God, out of suffering, Christian love might be said to provide not only the proof for faith’s rationality, but also a defense of sorts for the goodness of God in the face of evil. By contrast to many contemporary interventions concerning the so-called ‘problem of evil,’ however, the present account does not offer a theodicy that justifies evil or explains it away. If anything, the account I have been developing points up the inexplicable and unwarranted nature of evil and suffering—the fact that it has no proper purpose or cause and is strictly speaking meaningless and destructive.42 In this connection, the present account does not seek to defend the goodness of God in the face of evil. For God as I described him earlier is in no way associable with evil, since he is the cause or explanation of all and only what is good. On this basis, it has been argued that the problem of evil, at least in its post-Enlightenment form, was not a problem for Aquinas and other proponents of his doctrine of God.43 The very conception of God and evil as a privation of the good that a thinker like Aquinas promotes does not even give rise to the problem of evil in its common formulation, which inquires how a good God could allow or even cause a world full of suffering and evil. As noted above, the experiences of suffering and evil we inevitably undergo can be exacerbated by a tendency to sin, that is, to exhibit an excessive love for the things misfortune takes from us—to say nothing of the things good fortune bestows upon us. Although it may not be possible to evade such afflictions in this life, it is possible on some level to overcome the problem of evil, not by pronouncing evils good or explaining them away, but simply by refusing to allow them to undermine our knowledge of God’s love for us, our love for him, and our assurance that all things ultimately work together for good in his inscrutable will.
In short, we may find relief from suffering by refusing to let it lead us into sin and by thereby allowing it to draw us closer to God. Though we are unlikely to discover any final explanation for our sufferings through this experience, we may well find something of the comfort and indeed personal companionship that we need to endure them and—to the extent it is in our power—to overcome them.44 By the same token, we may find resources for communicating to others about the sense in which God can be found good in the midst of the most excruciating trials. So construed, the problem of evil is not again a problem for God’s goodness. It is a question of whether or not the knowledge of his ultimate goodness is adhered to out of an overriding love for him, even in the presence of phenomena that exceed and offend the powers of human comprehension. As such, the problem of evil, like the problem of determining how to deal appropriately with the good things of this life, consists not in our circumstances but in the way we respond to them—accomplishing through them the good of loving God and receiving his love, or the evil of valuing other things more highly than him. In that sense, the problem of evil might be better defined as a problem of the evil, or those still subject to the problem of sin that leads us to bear circumstances badly, whether they are good or evil. On these grounds, it might be concluded that those who most deserve our pity are not necessarily those who suffer, assuming they suffer under the influence of the love of God, but those who have never been forced by sufferings to identify where their happiness truly lies or have refused the opportunity to learn this lesson from the sufferings they have actually undergone. If the defense of faith’s rationality as well as God’s goodness is best provided by the life of Christian love, then it remains to say a word about the sense in which a verbal or written testimony of the sort to which many theologians and philosophers of religion make recourse, as opposed to merely lived testimony, might be needed to supplement the life of Christian faith. As Chapter 3 argued, it actually belongs to rationality not only to exhibit the intellectual and moral substance of rationality but also to provide a theological rationale for rationality, at least when rationality is understood in the most robust way. That is not to say that the capacity to account for rationality serves as an adequate substitute for rationality. But it is to acknowledge that it may prove difficult to ensure the intentional and non-accidental nature of rationality, apart from such an account, which is therefore essential to perpetuating rationality in the long term. All things considered, then, the theistic proof and theodicy the Christian life affords would seemingly be depleted of their power in the absence of an articulate explanation or defense of Christian love. As this
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suggests, there is an important place in the Christian intellectual tradition for arguments regarding the sense in which it is rational to believe in God or to affirm his goodness. My own tendency to locate the force of these arguments in the Christian life as opposed to the explanation alone does however call for a reconfiguration of what the explanation should involve and the level of priority it should be given when it comes to defending faith in God and his goodness. In the present context, I cannot speculate at length as to how traditional areas of inquiry and lines of argument related to the defense of the Christian faith might be recast or reprioritized in light of the primacy attributed on this showing to the pro-active life of faith, though I have already offered some suggestions along these lines. All the same, I would affirm—as I have been trying to do throughout the previous chapters—that our testimony should consist primarily in the attestation of belief in the Triune God the Incarnate Son has revealed, and in our own efforts to bring this belief to bear in our lives. In testifying to the rationality of our faith, in other words, our primary points of reference consist in our very lives and the articles of faith that inform them. What we must give to others by way of Christian witness is simply all that we have already been given to give through the work or revelation of the Son. Although this testimony might admittedly be enhanced by a fuller understanding of this revelation, its implications, its relation to other Christian doctrines, and to various historical, philosophical, and scientific questions, among others, the significance of which I by no means wish to downplay, there appears to be no reason why an ordinary believer, relatively unschooled in all these questions and their answers, should not feel fully equipped to testify to the faith. As noted above, the main resources required for this purpose do not consist in formal training in Christian apologetics but the confidence to take ownership of the tools Christ has already provided for bearing witness to his name through his revelation and the gift of our own lives, which are extensions of his revelation and indeed his life if they are perceived as such in faith. Ironically, the witness of the most humble believer who exhibits this confidence can carry far more weight and influence than that of one with extensive training in theology and apologetics whose life as yet exhibits little or none of the powers of Christian love. Once again, consequently, pride of place is given to the Christian life when it comes to Christian witness, while theoretical accounts and arguments are deemed appropriate primarily for articulating the nature of that life and facilitating it. On this understanding, any rationale for faith does or should not assume an essentially defensive stance, as in the case of so many contemporary apologetic accounts. Rather, it should delineate an offensive strategy for demonstrating the
sense in which faith is rational, which is precisely what this book taken together with its prequel have endeavored to do. By thus assuming faith’s rationality, as opposed to giving credence to doubts about it, such an account ultimately provides a basis for construing the life of faith, operating through the personal, interpersonal, and instructive powers of love, as the proof for faith’s rationality. The question of the substance of our testimony aside, I would argue with regard to its timing that it is appropriate to give a verbal ‘answer for the hope that is in us,’45 only when asked to testify about our motives for acting or when we would be remiss to fail to do so. This contention is consistent with my argument at the end of Chapter 5 concerning the importance of engaging in ‘inter-creedal reasoning’ from the standpoint of friendship. In cases where it is consistent with authentic friendship to speak about our faith, the act of speaking itself becomes the act of Christian love, precisely because the speech act is what is most needed in the moment by those we find ourselves called upon to help realize their goals. Though there are cases in which explicitly explaining to others how they may strive by God’s grace to love God is our best recourse to helping them do so, I would re-iterate my earlier claim that considerable discernment and sensitivity to the needs, interests, and emotional or mental state of our interlocutors is essential to identifying these cases. Since actions tend to speak louder than words, and words unsupported or contradicted by actions cannot help but put others off to a verbal witness, the most powerful way to testify to our faith in normal circumstances is simply to live in line with our faith in all the ordinary activities of our lives.46 As Francis of Assisi famously instructed, we should ‘preach the gospel at all times, and use words only if necessary.’ Moral and Theological Virtue The argument of this chapter may be rehearsed briefly by affirming that the life of authentic Christian love is the optimal site for the cultivation of the four cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance, which respectively correspond to the personal, inter-personal, instructive, and persuasive powers of love. This argument gives rise to the question whether it is possible on the one hand to possess moral virtue, which logically presupposes intellectual virtue, without Christian theological virtue, and to exhibit theological without moral virtue, on the other. Though my discussion below will affirm that both types of virtue may exist independently, I will also offer some reasons why it might prove difficult in practice to maintain the two forms of virtue in their full integrity, apart from
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a mutually complementary relationship between them. By arguing along these lines, I aim to establish that the ideal situation—the ultimate or paradigmatic case of rationality—entails the unity of moral and theological virtue. In Chapter 3, readers may recall that I already answered affirmatively the question whether moral virtue, which ideally presupposes intellectual virtue, may exist in the absence of theological virtue.47 Nevertheless, I noted there that a theological rationale or explanation for moral virtue is seemingly needed in order to ensure its authenticity or intentionality and thus our ability to continue acting morally or rationally in the long term. On the grounds that a theological rationale for rationality seems essential to the full definition of rationality itself, I concluded that the Christian faith which provides this rationale and the other Christian theological virtues that enable us to operate in accordance with it may well be required to sustain moral virtue in the most robust sense, that is, moral virtue which is not accidentally but deliberately exhibited. This brings us to the question whether there can be theological without moral virtue, that is, whether it is possible to orientate our lives towards God in faith, hope, and love, without recourse or reference to our moral and intellectual lives. As in the case above, the obvious initial answer to this question is affirmative: it is possible to separate the ordinary from the spiritual along these lines. In other words, it is open to us when directing our lives towards God effectively to bypass our abilities and aspects of our existence that render us individuals.48 While it is therefore possible in principle to treat our spiritual lives as though they could be led alongside or even in place of our ordinary lives, there is reason nonetheless to doubt whether the theological virtues can be cultivated in an authentic way under these circumstances. After all, the faith we place in Christ at once requires that we assent to the fact that he made us to proclaim the glory of God. By acknowledging this, we implicitly recognize our intellectual and moral virtues as our spiritual gifts or abilities for operating in line with the Spirit that glorifies God.49 Thus, it seems doubtful that the neglect of those virtues would leave us with any meaningful means for manifesting faith and hope through love. Since the whole purpose of spiritual gifts is to express Christian love, however, the failure to employ those gifts seemingly bespeaks a failure to exercise faith, hope, and above all, love. In that sense, it is evidently difficult to lead an authentic spiritual life without reference to an ordinary life, which is lived to the full when the three theological virtues—and especially love—are regarded as the mobilizing forces behind efforts to cultivate the four cardinal moral and intellectual virtues.50 This contention is confirmed when the many potentially problematic consequences of bifurcating moral and intellectual virtue are taken into
consideration. While it exceeds the scope of this project to enumerate all of these problems, I would mention a few of them in order to convey a sense of what is at stake in the unity of moral and theological virtue. In the first place, a tendency to separate the ordinary from the Christian life—to regard religious experience as unmediated rather than mediated through normal experiences—depletes faith’s power to check the sin tendency in the ordinary context, where it primarily operates. As a result, proponents of Christianity may end up endorsing a picture of the faith, which gives license to be both in the world and of it—to be indistinct from the world not only in terms of activities undertaken but also as regards the way in which those activities are undertaken.51 On the basis of this picture, leading a life that is inconsistent with Christian love becomes virtually unavoidable, which raises the question whether the faith that necessarily underlies this love actually exists in this instance. Another problematic consequence of cordoning the spiritual off from the ordinary is that this can lead to perceiving ordinary vocations as inferior to spiritual ones. This subordination of the ordinary tends to force would-be serious Christians to choose between the false alternatives of merely secular and truly Christian vocations, involving the pursuit of formal theological studies or ministries, which are in many traditions still the exclusive prerogative of men. This decision is forced even upon those who would be far more productive contributors to the good of humanity—and the spread of the gospel—if they pursued secular vocations under the influence of faith. As stated in Chapter 5, such vocations might be regarded as the preferred means of permeating a lost world with Christian love, particularly in the present, increasingly secular, age. The irony and tragedy of what seems like a tendency to give priority to specifically Christian vocations, consequently, is that this may lead to the withdrawal of Christians from institutions, or fields of work and inquiry, in which the ministry of Christian love is most urgently needed. In a misguided attempt to advance the Christian faith, therefore, Christian believers may undermine it by abandoning the main and most effective territory for testifying to the truth of Christianity. Indeed, the tendency of some Christians to be ‘so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good’ exacerbates the segregation of the sacred from the secular that not only undercuts Christianity’s influence in the world but also adds to the world’s sense of Christianity’s irrelevance to the world’s real concerns. Whereas a lack of theological perspective can prevent us from fulfilling our responsibility to exercise our humanity—to be moral beings—it emerges here that a failure to embrace our humanity can lead to evading our responsibility
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to give our utmost to the glory of God in the world where he has placed us to do precisely this. It can prevent us from seeing that participation in churchsanctioned rituals and programs, theological courses of study, and other direct forms of Christian life and ministry are not an end in themselves but means to the end and facilitators of the true Christian practice and ministry that takes place as Christians permeate the world in very ordinary ways that become extraordinary on account of the love that characterizes Christian work. So long as regular and Christian lives are held in separation, these observations suggest, it is possible to avoid the hard work involved in either area of human existence. For the separation of the ordinary from the spiritual allows us to justify neglecting our duty to subject our ordinary lives to the authority of Christ, and to renege on our responsibility to communicate the good news about Christ by ways and means that the world can access and understand. It allows us to be human beings and Christians in name or form without the relevant substance. Of course, acquiring this substance whether morally or theologically can be very hard work indeed—work that is not always met with appreciation or support, at least outside the body of Christ. For this reason, it is obviously easier to default to a conception of the Christian community as a sort of colony or sect, and to conceive of the Christian life as though it transpires in a vacuum, without reference to interactions with and involvement in fallen human societies and institutional structures. Where an outward-reaching orientation has the power to unite diverse Christians in striving towards one shared goal, such an inward focus on Christian practices and projects as ends in themselves rather than means to the end of spreading the gospel transforms these practices and projects into matters of private interest stemming from pride, which inevitably give rise to controversies and divisions in the church.52 However they may arise, I have shown that such unhealthy preoccupations with various theological and ecclesial interests paradoxically lead to the betrayal of the life of love that most fundamentally characterizes the church and unites its members, undermining the credibility of Christian faith in the very attempt to advance particular forms of it. Although this life of love can and must entail the pursuit of theological studies and ministries that facilitate the life of the church in the case of some, I have indicated that it is most powerfully undertaken by most in a far more ordinary fashion. That is not to imply that those who lack intellectual or practical abilities of one sort or another cannot live Christian much less moral lives. As noted previously, individuals can never be held responsible to bear
aptitudes they simply do not possess. The call of Christ does not require that we become something other than but rather exactly what we are as individual human beings. It summons us to make the most of what the Son himself has given us to give as we disperse ourselves as members of his body through all the sectors and institutions of the world. While it is in principle possible to bypass these aptitudes in cultivating an orientation towards God, or theological virtue, I would reiterate that this approach may prove problematic in that it can produce individuals who are either so much like the world as to appear indistinct from it, or so different from it as to be irrelevant in it. On another level, a life in which our humanity and spirituality are exercised in isolation is arguably a less gratifying life to lead. Whereas moral without theological and theological without moral virtue leave much to be desired in terms of the use of our capacities and our overall character, the simultaneous and convertible cultivation of our moral and spiritual lives transforms everything we do into a site for knowing God and making him known, such that the discovery of God is conversely deepened and accelerated both for ourselves and for others, who observe the incorporation of our whole being into our being in Christ. Endnotes ST 18.104.22.168; Aquinas himself echoes Augustine’s discussion on this score in De moribus ecclesiae Catholicae, especially chapters 11 and 12. 2 2 Cor. 12.9: ‘But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.’ 3 ST 2.1.65; cf. 22.214.171.124. See Michael Sherwin, By Knowledge and By Love: Charity and Knowledge in the Moral Theology of Thomas Aquinas (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 2005), especially chapters 5–6. 4 ST 126.96.36.199. 5 Matt Jenson, The Gravity of Sin (London: T & T Clark, 2007). 6 Mt. 5:3; cf. ST 2.1.69. See Gregg A. Ten Elshof, I Told Me So: Self-Deception and the Christian Life (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009). 7 As Aquinas affirms in Comp. Theol. 2.9: ‘the best object for which the soul’s activity can strive does not belong to the soul, since the soul understands that there is something better than itself. And so the final blessedness of human beings cannot consist of the activity whereby the soul focuses on itself.’ Cum autem perfectio animae in propria operatione eius consistat, consequens est ut ultima perfectio eius attendatur 1
Consequences of Theological Philosophy
secundum optimam eius operationem, quae quidem est secundum optimum obiectum, nam operationes secundum obiecta specificantur. Non autem anima est optimum in quod sua operatio tendere potest. 8 Mt. 5:3: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ 9 1 Cor. 12; ST 2.1.68. On this, see Andrew Pinsent, The Second-Person Perspective in Aquinas’ Ethics: Virtues and Gifts (London: Routledge, 2012). 10 1 Sam. 16:7: ‘The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’ 11 Mt. 5:6, 9: ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.’ 12 ST 2.2.26. 13 Josef Pieper, Faith, Hope, Love 200: love has to be selective, focused on certain objects. Here, I am following Aquinas’ discussion of the proper order of our loves towards God, self, neighbor, and the body, respectively (ST 188.8.131.52). The discussion is a gloss on Christ’s command to love God first and love our neighbors as ourselves (Mt. 22:37; Lk. 10:27). See also the discussion of ‘rightly ordered loves,’ in De doctrina Christiana, book 1, where Augustine affirms that we should love God alone for his own sake (propter se) and all other things for God’s sake (propter aliud). As for Aquinas, this formula for Augustine is precisely what enables us to love others as ends in their own right and thus in non-instrumental ways that conduce to their own flourishing. Thus, I disagree with modern scholars who think Augustine’s discussion of rightly ordered loves devalues human relationships. See, for example, Werner Jeanrond, A Theology of Love (London: Continuum, 2010), 45–65. 14 ST 184.108.40.206; 220.127.116.11. On this, see Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together (New York: Harper and Row, 1954). 15 Soren Kierkegaard, Works of Love, George Pattison (ed.) (Harper Perennial, 2009), 119: ‘For the Christian view means this: truly to love another person is with every sacrifice to help the other person love God.’ 16 An excellent theological account of how this can work out in practice can be found in Kathryn Tanner’s The Politics of God: Christian Theologies and Social Justice (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992), particularly chapter 6 on ‘Christian Belief and Respect for Difference’ and chapter 7 on ‘Christian Belief and Activism.’ 17 Soren Kierkegaard, Works of Love 117: ‘everyone as an individual before he relates himself in love to a beloved, to a friend, to lovers, to contemporaries, must first relate himself to God and the God demand.’ On page 124, Kierkegaard goes on to say: ‘the God relationship is the mark whereby love towards men is recognized as genuine love. As soon as a love relationship does not lead me to God, and as soon as I in a love relationship do not lead another person to God, this love, even if it were the most blissful and joyous attachment … nevertheless is not true love. The world can never get through
its head that God in this way not only becomes the third party in every relationship of love but essentially becomes the only loved object.’ 18 Mt. 5:11–12: ‘Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.’ 19 2 Cor. 1:3–5: ‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.’ 20 Rom. 6:1–2: ‘What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?’ 21 See the section on justice in Chapter 2 for a more detailed discussion of forgiveness. For more on what it means to forgive the self, others, and receive God’s forgiveness, see Lydia Schumacher, ‘Forgetting and Forgiving: An Augustinian Perspective,’ in Forgetting and Forgiving: At the Margins of Soteriology (Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2015). 22 1 Pet. 4:1–12: ‘Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.’ 23 On this, see Jean Porter, ‘Virtue and Sin: The Connection of the Virtues and the Case of the Flawed Saint,’ Journal of Religion (1995), 521–39. 24 Rom. 8:28: ‘In all things God works together with those who love him to bring about what is good.’ 25 Phil. 3:8: ‘I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.’ Cf. Rom. 8:35–9: ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ 26 Mt. 5:4: ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.’ Cf. Phil. 3:10: ‘I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.’ 27 Mt. 5:7: ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.’ See also, Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer (London: Darton, Longman, and Todd, 1994). 28 Mt. 5:5: ‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.’
Consequences of Theological Philosophy
Comp. Theol. 1.244: Signanter autem loco corporis in Hebraeo Joatham dicitur secundum Hieronymum, quod cadaver significat ad commemorandum Christi passionem, per quam Christus et potestatem iudiciariam promeruit, et homines conformati passioni eius ad societatem gloriae illius assumuntur. 30 Gal. 2:20: ‘I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.’ Lk. 9:23–4: ‘Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.”’ Rom. 6:11: ‘In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.’ 31 Rom. 12:1: ‘Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.’ 32 Mt. 5:10: ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.’ Candida Moss, The Other Christs: Imitating Jesus in Ancient Christian Ideologies of Martyrdom (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012). See also Moss’ Ancient Christian Martyrdom: Diverse Practices, Theologies, and Traditions (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012). 33 1 Tim. 6:19. 34 In this connection, my account resonates significantly with that of Eleonore Stump. In her article on ‘The Problem of Evil,’ in Analytic Theology: New Essays in the Philosophy of Theology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 264, she writes that, ‘The book (of Job) concludes with the lengthiest face-to-face discourse between God and a human being anywhere in the biblical texts. One way to read the book, then, is to see it as recommending second-person experience as a solution to the problem of evil. On this way of understanding the book, knowledge of a person is also an efficacious way to satisfy the desire to know generated by reflection on suffering.’ There is also some synergy with the account of Marilyn McCord Adams in her article ‘Horrors in Theological Context,’ Scottish Journal of Theology 55:4 (2002), 468–78. In this context, the author eschews explanations of suffering and argues that, ‘the only way for horrors to be defeated is for them to be integrated into the horror participant’s relationship with God’ (471). Although I suspect our accounts may diverge on a number of fundamental issues, they seem to converge on this score. See also Marilyn McCord Adams in Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2000). Rom. 8:18: ‘I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.’ 1 Pet. 4:13: ‘But rejoice inasmuch as you 29
participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.’ 35 Rom. 5:3–5: ‘Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.’ 2 Cor. 4:17–18: ‘For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.’ Jas. 1:2–4: ‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.’ 36 1 Jn. 4:19. 37 Kierkegaard, ‘Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing,’ in Kierkegaard’s Writings: Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits 15 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009). 38 Mt: 5:8: ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.’ 39 Ps. 37:4: ‘Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.’ 40 Kierkegaard argues similarly in Kierkegaard’s Writings: Practice in Christianity 20 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991). 41 See Stanley Hauerwas, With the Grain of the Universe: The Church’s Witness and Natural Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013). Although some theologians such as Hauerwas have argued along similar lines in recent years, they seem to have reached this conclusion apart from an effort to construct a foundation for it—denying in some cases that such a foundation is even necessary. For this reason, the conclusion can come across as a fideistic one that does not in fact establish faith’s rationality. 42 On this score, see Karen Kilby, ‘Evil and the Limits of Theodicy,’ New Blackfriars 84:983 ( Jan. 2003), 13–29. There, Kilby writes on p. 24: ‘Christians believe God is working salvation and trust that ultimately God will bring good out of all conceivable evils, but this does not make these evils goods, nor render their presence explicable, nor allow us to understand how they can take place in the good creation of a loving and faithful God. Sometimes of course we can already see, and must look for, good coming out of evil—suffering can bring growth, sin is an occasion to turn back to God’s forgiveness with trust, dependence, and gratitude. But we cannot turn these things into explanations, in part because suffering can also, through no fault of the sufferer, bring about degradation and corruption, and sin can build on itself and perpetuate itself. When we see good coming from evil, we can see this as the beginning of the hoped for work of God, but not the beginning of any kind of explanation.’
Consequences of Theological Philosophy
Brian Davies, Thomas Aquinas on God and Evil (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), esp. 113–14. Herbert McCabe, God and Evil in the Theology of St Thomas Aquinas (London: Continuum, 2010). Karen Kilby, ‘Evil and the Limits of Theodicy.’ David B. Burrell, Deconstructing Theodicy (Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2008). 44 This argument is again consistent in some respects with that of Eleonore Stump in her article on ‘The Problem of Evil’ in Analytic Theology, the argument of which is developed much more extensively in her Wandering in Darkness: Narrative and the Problem of Suffering (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010). 45 1 Peter 3:15; ST 18.104.22.168–2. 46 1 Jn. 3:18: ‘Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.’ 47 ST 22.214.171.124. 48 Cf. Augustine De ordine II.9 on the ways of ‘authority’ and ‘reason’: the former does not embrace the intellectual virtues, where the latter does. 49 See Kathryn Tanner’s chapter on ‘The Working of the Spirit,’ in Christ the Key (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010). Here she notes the problems with separating the spiritual from the ordinary life and persuasively defends the idea that ‘the Spirit works through the whole of ordinary human operations’ (274). 50 As G.E.M. Anscombe argued, much of modern Christian ethics has been reduced to divine command theory, which generally lacks the substance provided by virtue ethics. See her landmark essay ‘Modern Moral Philosophy,’ Philosophy 33, No. 124 ( January 1958). Jennifer Herdt makes a similar argument in Putting on Virtue: The Legacy of the Splendid Vices (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008). 51 Rom. 12:2: ‘Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.’ 52 Phil. 2:21: ‘For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus.’ 43
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Towards a Trinitarian Philosophy
In this final chapter, I will summarize the main points of my argument about ‘theological philosophy.’ Subsequently, I will explain how this project clears the ground for and anticipates the development of a ‘Trinitarian philosophy’ that affirms the practical as well as the theoretical dimension of systematic theology. A Review of the Argument As noted in the Introduction, the argument of Theological Philosophy builds on that of another work, entitled Rationality as Virtue: Towards a Theological Philosophy. In that book, I argued that the purpose of philosophy, at least a pro-theology philosophy, is ultimately to describe and prescribe a personal commitment to the highest good, or moral virtue, in which rationality ultimately consists. I bolstered this contention through a three-stage argument pertaining to the three main sub-disciplines of philosophy, namely, ontology, the theory of knowledge, and ethics. With regard to ontology, I suggested that all things are subject to development: they become what they are. Human beings undergo development through the exercise of rationality or the pursuit of knowledge. In light of this, I treated various elements that facilitate knowledge: the tools of logic, language, and inductive and deductive reasoning. On these grounds, I showed how human knowledge—the means through which human beings exercise rationality and thus human nature—undergoes development in the three stages of expectant, fulfilled, and informed faith. In order to demonstrate that knowledge, defined in terms of three stages of development, may be rendered compatible with human rationality or objectivity, I appealed to a faculty, namely, the will, which motivates the intellect when it comes to keeping pace with changes in circumstance that call for corresponding adjustments in opinion. The work of the will or intellectual appetite itself turns on that of another faculty, that is, the sense appetite, which produces passions or indicators of the value perceived in empirical realities. So long as the will prioritizes the pursuit of truth over all other considerations, the passions promote the effort to maintain the intellect’s contact with reality. When the pursuit of truth is reduced to the
promotion of a particular ideology or agenda, however, the passions—or, better, ‘dis-passions’—may compel the will to fabricate, modify, or deny the truth to that end. For the purpose of preventing the perversion of the pursuit of truth along these lines, I argued that the intellectual virtues of prudence (corresponding to the intellect), justice (pertaining to will), and fortitude and temperance (relating to the passions) are required to counteract any tendency to conflate the truth with ideas about which we are particularly passionate. Though the four intellectual virtues do not allow for the possibility of formulating ideas that hold true for all persons at all places and times—and thus for satisfying a common modern standard of objectivity or rationality—they do rectify the intellect, will, and passions for the purpose of pursuing truth in an ongoing way, and thus in the only way possible in the human condition. As such, they represent the arbiters of human rationality. Since the pursuit of human knowledge is ultimately ordered towards facilitating the realization of human potential and the enablement of others to do the same, I further argued that the ultimate purpose of cultivating intellectual virtue is to develop the moral virtues through which human beings ‘become themselves.’ On this basis, I submitted that moral virtue, ideally presupposing intellectual virtue, paradigmatically instantiates rationality. Nevertheless, I went on to show how the passions may prove even more susceptible in the moral than in the intellectual context to confuse us with regard to our proper end. While this end involves the pursuit of truth in the intellectual sphere, it concerns the actualization of human potential in the realm of the moral. When this end and its entailments are obscured by the passions, they give birth to the seven capital vices of pride, greed, envy, wrath, apathy, lust, and gluttony, which can appear in both excessive and deficient forms. These vices not only thwart the realization of personal potential; they actualize the worst possible version of the self. Because it is so easy to overlook the fact that self-actualization is the source of human flourishing, and to live in a manner that undermines it, it is necessary to be informed about the nature of our end, namely, self-actualization, and that in which it consists, which I describe in terms of the activity of ‘bearing things well.’ Once we become aware in principle that our whole purpose is simply to bear our resources, circumstances, relationships, and challenges well, we achieve the position from which to cultivate the four moral virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance, which appoint means to accomplishing this end. After elaborating on the way these virtues collectively operate to support a personal orientation towards the highest good of ‘bearing things well,’ I illustrated how they provide an important, even essential, framework
Towards a Trinitarian Philosophy
for intellectual virtue. By these means, I provided further support for my contention that rationality in the full sense of the term consists not merely in intellectual virtue but rather in intellectual for moral virtue—or the pursuit and use of knowledge to the end of self-actualization. When it is recognized as such, self-actualization at once entails a journey of self-discovery, which renders us even more fit for the purpose of self-actualization. In the present work on ‘theological philosophy’ proper, I have sought to demonstrate that belief in God—even the simple, Triune, Incarnate God of Christian faith—is needed to explain the very possibility of maintaining rationality as I previously defined it in terms of a personal commitment to the highest good, or moral virtue. This explanation becomes important on account of the human tendency to reduce the highest good to more limited goods or private interests, thus replacing efforts to utilize individual gifts and resources in ways that are compatible with personal and communal thriving with attempts to exploit others to the end of accomplishing a personal agenda, thereby undermining rather than supporting human rationality. For the sake of establishing a principle whereby this failure to bear life well can be avoided, I claimed, it is necessary to posit the reality of a single ultimate good that cannot be reduced to or conflated with any finite good: one that is transcendent, even divine. The utterly transcendent nature of this good is most effectively upheld by the doctrine of divine simplicity. On the grounds that the involvement of three Persons enacts the ability of this divine being actually to know and communicate itself as such, and thus to prove worthy of the name ‘God,’ I further affirmed that the one God is best described as Triune: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Since the knowledge of the unknowable God is contingent upon his revelation of himself as Triune, moreover, I contended that the Incarnation of the Son of God, who expressed the Spirit of God to the Father’s glory, provides the fully delineated account of the transcendent that is essential to elaborating the conditions for the possibility of operating in accordance with the highest good. Provided that belief in the Triune, Incarnate God explains the possibility of rationality, and a rationale for rationality is part of the essence of rationality, fully defined, there is a sense in which belief in the Christian God both accounts for and enacts human rationality. That is not to say that the capacity to account for rationality is a substitute for rationality or moral virtue. However, it is to suggest that the ability both to be rational and to explain how to be rational represents the paradigm case of human rationality. In offering this explanation as to how the person of Christ enables reasoning under the light of faith in the Triune God, or engagement in what
I call ‘Christian creedal reasoning,’ with a view to the highest good, I laid a foundation for the argument that efforts to uphold the highest good, sustained by Christian creedal reasoning, are strictly speaking an expression of faith in the Triune, Incarnate God, at least if they are understood as such. In this connection, I went on to discuss some further articles of Christian faith, to do with creation, the fall, redemption, and the church, thereby elaborating more fully what is involved in the rational life that turns on Christian creedal reasoning. By these means, I provided additional support for my contention that the moral—and intellectual—life that is sustained and motivated by belief in God is the substance of life in God. Subsequently, I treated the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and love, through which our ordinary moral—including intellectual—lives are drawn under the auspices of belief in God. While faith and hope are responsible for overseeing Christian creedal reasoning, or the process of reasoning in light of faith in God, love is the final arbiter and proof of their success in terms of rendering an ordinary life convertible with a life of faith in God. Thus, I went on to detail the nature of this life of Christian love, showing how such a life provides the optimal site for the cultivation of the moral life, more specifically, the four cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. By these means, I contended that faith may be rendered rational, not because the articles or object of faith can be rendered intelligible on the terms of human knowledge, but because it provides human beings with the ideal resources for thinking and acting rationally—or lovingly—in the context of human experience. On this basis, I concluded that the ultimate ‘proof ’ for the rationality of faith consists in the life of Christian love. Since exhibiting love—and the cardinal virtues—in a world full of natural and moral evils takes a willingness to bear suffering for the sake of moral virtue, I further argued that the proof for faith’s rationality that is provided through the demonstration of love at once supplies the only account of God’s goodness available to us in the face of suffering and evil. Since the love of God makes it possible to bring the ultimate good of bearing things well—or being rational—out of circumstances that are in no sense intrinsically good, the question whether faith is rational may be overturned in favor of the question whether it is possible to explain and even exercise rationality without appealing to the Christian faith. The burden of proof is thereby shifted off those who believe and on to those who doubt, who must now show how it is possible to check the self-destructive albeit natural human tendency to exchange greater for lesser goods, aside from the conceptual resources afforded by belief in the transcendent, especially as it is construed by Christianity.
Towards a Trinitarian Philosophy
Towards a Trinitarian Philosophy Theological Philosophy culminates in the argument that belief in the Triune God, revealed at the Incarnation, fully enacts the possibility of moral, including intellectual, virtue, such that the life of virtue comes to represent the substance of life in God. In thus identifying the doctrine of the Trinity as the arbiter of human rationality, I have noted, theological philosophy overturns the question whether it is rational to believe in the Triune God of Christian faith and goes so far as to establish human rationality as the locus of human participation in the life of the Triune God. It posits that the life of human and all beings properly consists in joining in the God-glorifying life of the Trinity. By these means, theological philosophy lays the groundwork for a further effort to define the respects in which the life of the Triune God provides the grounds and goal of life for human and indeed all beings, which participate in appropriate albeit diverse ways in the pattern of life that characterizes and is made possible by the Trinity. That is to say, it sets the stage for an explanation of human and all life that is as true as possible to the nature and conditions of created existence, an explanation that is nonetheless inaccessible short of a ground-clearing exercise like the one involved in theological philosophy. In a manner similar to theological philosophy, the Trinitarian philosophy I have in mind presupposes the sort of pro-theology philosophy that was developed in Rationality as Virtue. Though theological points of reference are not necessary for the articulation of this philosophy, they are essential for indicating the source and end of the natural—and especially, the human life—that pro‑theology philosophy describes and prescribes. As the present work has sought to demonstrate, theology alone can delineate the transcendent conditions for natural phenomena; and as I hope to demonstrate further in future, the doctrine of the Trinity affords the resources to do this in the most specific of terms. As noted above, Trinitarian philosophy is predicated and elaborates on the assumption that all beings, particularly human beings, are patterned after and participate in the life of the Triune God. The main among numerous possible reasons for explaining realities in Trinitarian terms is that human beings have heightened chances of actually being what they are as images of the Trinity—rather than some deficient or defunct version of themselves—if they are able to explain the nature and conditions of their being, that is, if they have recourse to the sort of explanation that Trinitarian philosophy will seek to provide. Similar to theological philosophy, Trinitarian philosophy treats theology as a means of explaining and enacting ordinary life. Thus, it overcomes the bifurcation of the spiritual and the ordinary—or at least the deficient emphasis
on their integration—that characterizes some modern systematic theological thinking. The distinctive approach to systematic theologizing it entails will become evident through efforts to illustrate that Christian doctrines like the Trinity, which help us understand matters unchanging about the structure of the divine and all beings, do not merely represent speculative or theoretical observations. Additionally, they serve a practical purpose, which is to describe and prescribe a functional and fulfilling creaturely life that is modeled after the life of the Triune God. When it comes to delineating the nature and possibility of creaturely participation in this life, other theological doctrines—to do with creation, sin, redemption, ecclesiology, eschatology, and so on—perform a variety of functions. Taken together with the key doctrines of Trinity and Incarnation, whereby the Trinity is revealed to humankind, they dynamically enable human rationality—or the human intellectual and moral life—which is in turn the locus of the Christian life itself. Thus, they render theology relevant not only for the Christian believer but also for all those who seek to grapple with the purpose and conditions of natural life. In the course of the present work, I have gestured towards the Trinitarian structure of all things, which exhibit essence, existence, and life; and of human knowledge and life, which are facilitated by the intellect, will, and passions. By these means, I have aimed already to suggest that philosophical accounts of reality—or ontologies—as well as theories of knowledge and morality can and perhaps ought to be construed in Trinitarian terms, that is, as modes of participation in the life of the Triune God. This suggestion waits to be explored at greater length. In the way of a brief introduction, however, some preliminary remarks can be made regarding the sense in which the doctrine of the Trinity elucidates the pattern or purpose of distinctively human life. According to the argument of Chapter 3, it is possible to affirm or explain the ability of the one God to communicate himself as highest good only if it is possible to affirm or explain that he knows and names or expresses himself as such a good, that he wants to be the highest good, and acts accordingly. As I showed in that chapter, this affirmation or explanation can be provided, seemingly exclusively, through appeals to the doctrine of the Trinity and especially through a discussion of the procession of the Son from the Father by way of intellect and the procession of the Spirit from both the Father and the Son by way of will. Through a description of God’s Triune nature alone, consequently, it can be shown that there is no disconnection between who God is, what he thinks he is, what he calls himself, what he wants to be, and what he does.
Towards a Trinitarian Philosophy
Although it is no challenge for God to exhibit the unity of being, knowledge, word, will, and action described above, it is a considerable challenge for human beings to achieve such unity, in virtue of human finitude—and the need to undergo development—not to mention human sinfulness. When it comes to self-knowledge, for instance, we are not only prone to the process of self‑discovery as a result of which we cannot know ourselves fully at any given moment, but also to the prideful tendency to over or underestimate our abilities. To overcome pride and thus learn to participate in the life of the Triune God as human beings, therefore, it seems necessary to cultivate a correct—neither excessive nor deficient—understanding of our abilities, which are at once our limitations; to cultivate a desire to be who we are as opposed to something more, less, or other than this; and to present ourselves to the world and live therein accordingly. As noted above, obtaining such unity of being, knowledge, desire, word, and action is a tensed process for time-bound creatures. However, it is by engaging in this process through the ordinary operations of the human intellect, will, language, and life, that we are formed after the image of God and come to reflect that image with increasing clarity and consistency. Although reflecting the divine image or participating in the divine life is a matter of all such human operations, it stands to reason that the will is key when it comes to achieving the unity of essence and existence—what we could be and what we are—whereby we imitate the divine in any respect whatever. The desire to be nothing more or less than God made us to be—to accept our finitude and even feebleness—seems to be the precondition of imitating him in respect of the other operations as well. After all, we cannot know and name ourselves accurately and act accordingly while we are still battling, explicitly or implicitly, the actualities or exigencies of an individual existence. The failure of the will at stake here ineluctably generates a failure of the intellect in terms of self‑knowledge; it is the reason why some individuals undertake activities for which they are not particularly well suited; why others leave their potential unrealized; why still others spend much of their time wondering what they should be doing with their lives or second-guessing their decisions on this score. As I expect to show in developing a Trinitarian philosophy, our failures in these respects—our sins—frequently have detrimental consequences for other living beings and indeed for the whole planet. Thus, the process of achieving self-knowledge and self-actualization as I understand it is not undertaken in isolation; it is intrinsically social and may have a wider impact within our world. Thus, our first priority must be to overcome the effects of sin by regaining a fundamental desire for self-actualization—a proper love or appreciation for the
persons God made us to be. That desire positions us to progress on a journey of achieving the unity of essence or nature, self-knowledge, will, language, and action, which characterizes the simple God in a supreme manner. Although the attainment of such unity represents the apex of divine imitation, full participation in a subjective sense is arguably possible at every stage in the process of achieving this state, insofar as we know and want to be and act like ourselves as much as we possibly can at that stage in the tensed process of self-discovery. When we come by these means to a place in life where there is no bifurcation between who we are, who we know ourselves to be, who we want to be, how we speak about ourselves and all matters with others, and how we act, however, we participate in an objective sense as fully as possible in the life of the Triune God. While we are still in the process of realizing our potential along these lines, it is of course possible to see God only indirectly, by perceiving the difference belief in him makes to our way of evaluating ourselves and our world. Yet it is by coming to a point of personal maturity that we become able to see the divine being that is the very definition of this state: who is ‘pure act.’ For the condition of possibility of gazing upon a Being who always completely is what he is, is to reach a state of complete self-awareness, self-acceptance, and self-actualization that is made possible by and reflects the condition of Christ.
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Index absolute significance (of God) 4, 18–19, 65, 74, 83, 110, 125, 148–9, 150, 153 analogy 74 analytic theology 5 ‘anonymous Christianity’ 136 apologetics 1–2, 153, 175 apophatic theology, see theology, apophatic ascension 117–18, 124, 128 atone(ment) 119–22 theory, see devil’s ransom; moral exemplarism; satisfaction attributes, divine 81, 85–6, 154, 156
confession, see repentance consciousness 69, 100, 104–5 consent 32, 147 consequences of theological philosophy 163–85 continence 49–50 convention 31–2, 40, 130, 165 creation 96–101 ex nihilo 85, 97 creedal reasoning 18, 89, passim 95–141, 143, 147, 163, 190 criteria for virtue 52–3, 67 cross 121–2, 158
‘bear things well’ 15–16, 19–20, 27–8, 30, 36–8, 42–6, 49–53, 55, 57, 66–8, 83, 100, 121, 124, 144, 163, 170, 172–3, 188, 190 ‘Being Itself ’ 73
death 45, 102–5, 165, 167–9 of Christ 117–22 despair 148 devil’s ransom (atonement theory) 120–21 disability 41, 43 dis-passions 10, 13, 42, 46, 83–4, 119, 188 doctrine 18–20, 65, 95–6, 131, 192
capital vices 145, 188 cardinal virtues 10, 12, 14, 16, 20, 27, 41, 53–4, 65, 143, 159, 163–4, 176–7, 190 cataphatic theology, see theology, cataphatic Chalcedon, Council of 81–2 Christological heresies 81–2 church 125–32 classical theism 70 cognitive science of religion 101 common good 14, 33, 39–41, 47, 57, 66, 88, 163, 167 communication of attributes/idioms 85–6 communitarianism 130–31, 134 community 129–31, 179
ecumenical reasoning 132–5 embodiment/embodied 7, 10, 12, 47, 53, 73, 83–4, 86, 87, 97, 123, 125, 147 eternal life 123, 125, 148, 159 ethics, Christian 2, 6, 20 evil 70, 103–6, 169–70, 172–4 evolution 98, 101, 103–6, 119, 121–2 exclusivism 136 faith: expectant, fulfilled, informed 9, 29, 84, 107, 124, 131, 187 fall 101–7
false humility 13, 28, 29, 100, 144, 150, 161 fideism 3–4 filioque 76, 79, 94 five ways (of Aquinas) 151–5 flourishing, human 1, 148, 155, 164, 195 forgiveness 38, 168 formal 17, 68, 74, 79, 87, 100, 124, 126, 145 fortitude 41–5, 167–71 freedom 30, 32, 35–6, 47, 107, 121, 123–4, 144, 157
immutability, divine 70, 73, 86 impassibility, divine 70, 73, 85, 97 Incarnation 80–89 inclusivism 135–6 individualism 130–31, 134 infinite being 68, 71–3, 137 intellectual virtue, see virtue, intellectual intentional(ity) 51–2, 67, 174, 177 inter-creedal reasoning 135–7
good common, see common good highest, see highest good temporal 68, 124, 133, 144, 153, 155 grace 81, 107, 146, 155–6 grammar 18, 20, 32, 55, 57, 59, 147 gratification delayed 178 instant 130, 146, 150, 171, 178, 186, 195 greed 153–4
knowledge of God direct 17, 74, 85, 87–8, 123, 152, 154 indirect 19, 85, 100, 154, 158, 166, 194 ‘known unknown’ 74, 80, 152
habit/habituation 3, 19–20, 105–6, 121, 146, 163, 166, 196–202 happiness 148–52, 164, 167–8, 182, 186 imperfect 192 perfect 192–3, 199 highest good 13–19, 21, 27–8, 31, 33, 40, 47–8, 53–4, 56, 65–70, 72–4, 76, 79, 83, 87–9, 95, 97, 99, 100–101, 105–8, 122, 124, 126, 133, 137, 14–15, 148, 151–2, 159, 163, 167, 173, 187–90, 192 hope 147–58 hubris 28, 49, 100, 144, 150, 161, 164 hypostatic union 81, 85, 93 idol 18, 72, 91, 108, 133, 146, 155 image (of God) 75, 82–3, 88, 107, 111, 124–5, 127, 133–4, 144, 147, 191, 193
‘learned ignorance’ 155, 162 love 58–9, 163–80 martyr(dom) 118, 171 maturity 33, 45, 103, 105, 123, 156, 194 monotheism 72, 76, 80, 101, 108, 135–6 moral argument for God’s existence 1 moral exemplarism (atonement theory) 120–22 mysticism 69 natural theology 3, 5–6, 151–3 necessary conditions for theological philosophy 65–94 negative theology, see theology, negative Nicaea, Council of 81 notions (Trinity) 78–80 onto-theology 68, 71 ordinary life 19, 57, 89, 129, 133, 143, 154, 158, 177–9, 190–91 origins (Trinity) 78–80 panentheism 68, 70 pantheism 68–70
Index participation 7, 12, 20, 41, 74, 83, 95–9, 125, 136, 138, 148, 150, 170–71, 179, 191–4 passions 10–13, 41–2, 45–6, 49–50, 83–4, 104, 118–19, 187–8 pedagogy/pedagogical 4, 151 persons (Trinity) 75–80 philosophy, pro-theology, see pro-theology philosophy pluralism 136, 141 polytheism 69 positive theology, see theology, positive power of love instructive 167–71 interpersonal 166–7 personal 164–5 persuasive 171–6 practical syllogism 49, 148, 150 prayer 149, 150, 157 pre-conditions for theological philosophy 27–64 pride 13, 16, 28, 35–6, 66–7, 88, 100, 126, 144–5, 164, 167, 179, 188, 193 privation (of the good) 105–6, 170, 173 processions (Trinity) 175–6 proof, theistic 34–5, 152, 174 pro-passions 84 pro-theology philosophy 7–16, 20–21, 65, 163, 187, 191 prudence 27–33 rational animal 7, 12, 46, 83, 86, 97–8 rationale for rationality 2, 16, 18, 20, 54, 56, 65, 67–8, 74–5, 87, 136–7, 143, 164, 174–5, 177, 189 rationalism 3 Rationality as Virtue 6–7, 12, 29, 42, 187 redemption 117–24 Reformed Epistemology 4 relations mixed 85 Trinity 76–8
relationship (for prudence, utility, or pleasure) 35–40 ‘religionless Christianity’ 127 repentance 128, 145, 150, 168 resurrection 117–24 revelation 74–5, 80–81, 87–8, 96, 101, 107–8, 111, 124–5, 143, 151–2, 175, 189 salvation 120, 136, 148 satisfaction (atonement theory) 120–22 science/scientia 7, 12, 27, 53–6, 99 Scripture 107–10, 125–6 secular 72, 127–9, 133, 187 self-actualization 12–13, 15–16, 27, 29–30, 32, 36, 40, 46, 50, 53–5, 144–5, 164–7, 188–9, 193–4 self-communication, divine 65, 80, 95, 147, 189, 192 self-deception/delusion 164 self-discovery 15, 32, 107, 189, 193–4 self-knowledge 17, 33, 76, 193–4 self-promotion/self-preservation 45, 47, 128, 146 simplicity, divine 16, 72, 74, 78–9, 86–7, 95, 99, 101, 135, 137, 189 sin 20, 83–4, 96, 101–7, 117–23, 128, 145–6, 150, 167–71, 173–4, 192–3 mortal 145, 150 original 103–5 venial 145, 150 sophia, see wisdom soul 46, 72, 81, 83–4, 102–4, 120 spiritual/spirituality 21, 69, 87, 89, 97–8, 102, 104, 108–12, 120, 125–30, 133–4, 137, 146, 154, 170, 173, 177–80, 191 subsistent relations 177–8 suffering 20, 40–41, 45 divine 70, 86 sufficient conditions for theological philosophy 143–62
Summa Theologiae 91, 151 systematic theology 2, 7, 187, 192 temperance 45–7 theodicy 103, 173–4 theological virtues passim 143–85 theology apophatic 17 cataphatic 17, 152 negative 17, 153 positive 17, 152 transcendent (being) 68–75 Trinitarian philosophy 187–94 Trinity 75–80
vice 13, 42–3, 48–9, 144–5, 167–8, 188 virtue criteria for 52–3, 67 epistemology 10 ethics 52 intellectual 7, 10–11, 14–15, 53–7, 104–5, 122, 125, 154, 164, 170, 173, 176–7, 188–9 moral passim 163–85 unity of, see unity of the virtues vision of God 85, 123–4, 157 vocation 39–40, 52–6, 128–9, 133, 178
unity of God 16, 75–6, 78–9, 81, 99, 193–4 of the virtues 15, 52, 177–8 univocal/univocity 72, 154
will 9–12, 16–17, 50, 88, 191 divine 76–9, 84–7, 194 wisdom 7, 12, 27, 54, 56, 99, 154, 156