Atheists are always getting us to lose slight of the big picture. They put so many little knit picking arguments like "in Passage X God commands them to kill so and so,and so and so didn't do anything that wrong."
They will present a massive profusion of such passages, most of which (thinking of the OT now) are based upon the fact that people over 2000 years ago looked at things very differently and had different standards of what constituted morality, truth, compassion and brutality. So naturally a great deal ancient world morality will seem very brutal to us.
But the atheists always distract us form the big picture. Every time I try to demonstrate one or two major principles that over sweep the whole field and tie up all the problems into one neat little point that can easily resolved, they just go "Yea? well about here, where x got stoned for blowing his nose?" "what about about where God tells them to wipe out the Pedestriakites and kill even the bacteria on their dinner plates?!! that's bad, God is BAD BAD BAD!!!"
But never will they just face the central point and take it like real thinkers. They want this massive profusion of problematic verses to stand in the way of rally understanding or thinking about Biblical morality; and often much what passes for their problematic verses is misunderstood.
DD presents a lit of what's wrong with Jesus' morality, here's what he does:
(a) doubles up on synoptic passages so he can present them like four different instances, instant multiplicity of examples. Now Jesus dint' say "pluck out your eye" once, but four times! four times as bad!
(b) mostly misunderstood because no attempt is made to watch for figurative language so he sees "i come to bring not peace but a sword" as a literal statement that Jesus likes war! I can't even begin to comment.
But in this thread I want to ask each and everyone of you special, pease do not quote an massive profusion of texts in a vain attempt to show "how bad the bible is." Let's stick to the two central poinkts that I want to get at.Please?
Point 1: OT morality is progressive.
that's right. It doesn't seem so because it is brutal and unfair in many places. But:
(a) still better than surrounding cultures that had infant sacrifice and no ruels for freeing of slaves in jubilee year, no prohibitions against raping slave women, or civil recompense for rape or anything of the kind.
(b) Points to advancements in moral thinking over and above what the others had in terms of; written code, basic rights for slaves, expectation of humane treatment, laws to help the poor, ect.
The point; God told Israel they would be a light to the gentiles, they were. Their example led to better morality on a progressive scale; but it took time of course. Yet the standards did change.
Now of course atheists will argue that this is not indicative of a divine plan. On the other hand it meshes perfectly with my view of inspiration. It's not a memo from God but a collection of writings that are inspired by divine/human encounter.
Moreover, remember the principle of shadow to substance!
the Mosaic law was impossed to show how bad bad could be. It was a measuring stick to demonstrate and clearly define sin. It was not the solution to sin. So it shows how hard it is to live perfectly and how difficult it is to keep a benchmark of righteousness, it's suppossed to be hard and unreasonable; because trying to live a holy life under our own effectors is hard and unreasonable.
But in the NT we find God entering history as a man, and we have a direct example of what to do, just follow Jesus' charter. which leads to point 2.
Point 2: Jesus anticipated the Categorical imperative.
that gives us a logical modern framework in which to play out Christian morality in a deontolgoical fashion.
The imprative of Kant anticipated (and that's where Kant got it) in the golden rules do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
The "as you would hagve them do unto you" clause is what makes it clever, because it is both objective and flexible at the same time.
These two points explain the basis of Biblical morlaity and they make up for all the little picky verses where God appears to be a rotter, because they explain why the context of OT morality is so culturally bound, and demarcate a sense in which OT morality is progressive. It also explains NT as modern, advanced, loigcal and Kantian.
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Atheists are always getting us to lose slight of the big picture. They put so many little knit picking arguments like "in Passage X God commands them to kill so and so,and so and so didn't do anything that wrong."
I saw Salman Rushdie on PBS, having a discussion with Bill Moyers. Rushdie is an atheist, he referred to himself as "total atheist." But, he is one of hte most enlightened people I've ever heard speak about religion. Yet .Rushdie is nothing like the atheists I encounter on the Internet. He actual reads real theologians. He's not negative toward religion, he says nothing to imply religious people are stupid or religion is bad.In fact he seems to think religion is basically a good thing. He says, paraphrasing, if you want to believe that there is some organizing principle to unites and hold together the physics of the university with morality, and call that God, why should I object? Not only does he seem so insightful because is positive toward religion but because his criticisms of are fair minded and not insulting.
One such criticism he made in the interview with Moyers (8/23/06) is that religious people tend to think that one cannot be moral without an overarching absolute source of authority to make morality right. But morality is the seeking to question "is this right? Is this wrong" Ruddie points out that one need to be religious to question that many non religious people find answers and live consistently with their answers.
This is a fair criticism. I have always contended that there are many atheists--I know many-- who have a strong sense of morality and loads of character, even though most Christian might disagree with many of their choices. My criticism, which I think Rushdie's argument does not answer is that even though atheists can be moral, because society is coasting on Christian memories, they do not have a logical grounding for their axioms. Rudhdie's view was refreshing that he questioned relativism saying that it is dangerous to do without a fixed standard. Yet without logical grounding for axioms it is my belief that those Christian memories will fade and society will degenerate into relativism simply because they wont have an adequate basis for adopting a particular standard.
Another of Rushdie's, criticisms, although it applies more to fundamentalism than to all of religious belief, the idea of enshrining some way of life or point in time long past. This is a criticism I can get behind. Even though it speaks to the fundamentalists more than to the main stream, it really speaks to religions that emphasize an ancient sacred text.It seems to marking out a sacred text enshrines a particular moment in time, a culture, a belief system, a way of life, a way of understanding the world, as paradigmatic. The ancient world of the Hebrew, pre temple and first temple really becomes the major paradigm for Christianity because it was the model for Jesus in his adherence to the law.
The difference between the fundamentalist who wants to force the back to some Golden age of orthodoxy, vs the liberal is who is able tom meet a Salman Rushdie half way is not so much in terms of authoritarianism, although that is a manifestation of the real issue. The real issue is one of metaphor. The fundy wants to literalize the metaphor and say "this really is the way it is; God really is a middle eastern Suzerian from the 3d from the late Bronze age." The liberal is able to say "no, this image of the Suzerian points to certain aspects that give us a hint as to what God is like, but there is also a "not like" dimension. Does this metaphor extend to the deity of Christ? the Historical Jesus? The atonement? The Resurrection!?? I'm going to bracket this question and deal with it on another day, but I will deal with it soon. Certainly the difference in literalizing or understanding the metaphorical nature of an image, is the difference between imposing one's will upon others, vs allowing others to choose the their own metaphors. This open attitude that comes from the realization of the metaphorical mandates a secular space for government and market place of ideas.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Well, I think, you know, certainly in India, in the foundation of India the great founding fathers of India, like Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru were absolutely convinced that to secularize India was the only way actually of keeping the various communities safe. But in order to avoid a repetition of the bloodshed of partitioning you had to not allow any religious community to dominate any other. And therefore you had —India was given a secular constitution. Now what's happening I do think in a certain way is that many people perceive failures in secularism. You know, I mean I think if you look at the rise of Islamic radicalism you can say that Iranian — the rule of the Ayatollahs — was created by the failures of the secularist Shah of Iran.
Ah but the secular Shah of Iran did not foster a true democracy. He was put in power by a CIA coup in 1954, he rueld with an iron hand, and the roots of the revolution in Iran in the 1970's were as much a secular and Marxist political student revolution, as much or more so than the Islamic aspects. I had a friend whose father was an eitor of a major Tehran daily at that time. So was fairly well informed about the roots of that revolution. In any case, it is true that the religious wars of Europe (1500-1660) could only be stopped when a secular space was created in which everyone's religious view was safe in their private realm, and everyone was free to participate on equal foot in in the secular public realm. Reformed fundamentalists want to turn back the clock to the Reformation, but they have no idea who much misery and destruction the reformation actually brought about.
Creating a secular space requires the creation of a democratic process. This requires exchange of ideas freely and without criteria of truth imposed from without. The secular space must make room for the artist as social critic:
SALMAN RUSHDIE: But this is the time honored role of the artist to speak truth to power, you know, and if you look at what is happening in the Muslim world some of the writers signing that manifesto are particularly concerned with the oppression of women, which is a very big subject and in the Muslim world. Others are concerned with the oppression of freedoms of speech and assembly. And others are concerned with simple — the creation of kind of overarching world view, which makes it impossible for people to consider the concept of freedom. You know, that's to say it simply not available, for discussion, you know. And one of the awful things about long term mass censorship is that in the end people can lose a sense of what it's like to live in a free world. You know, because it's not--there's nothing automatic about it. It's a thing you have to fight for and preserve.
Ironically, religion can only flourish in this secular space.This is so becasue the artistic urge to "speak truth to power" is really an extension of the prophetic urge. This is what the prophet does. To heed the call of the prophet is to heed the word of the Lord. The artist is not a mockery or a counterfeit of the prophet, but a genuine instinct born of the interface between the religious instinct and human urge to create which is the living out of the Imago dei in which we were created. God is creator, humans made in God's image are creative too. When this urge to create is combined with the desire to truly seek God we have the prophet. In both cases it is the metaphorical aspect that makes criticism and truth possible. When one is trying to impose one's own view upon the world as the truth of God one is merely imposing one metaphorical interpretation as literal truth. When one understands the metaphorical, as only artists can, one is free to explore deeper meanings becasue one is not stuck with an incomplete eternal truth that can't be questioned.
BILL MOYERS: And we always think in this country that persecution will lose, but it doesn't always lose.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: It doesn't-
BILL MOYERS: It sometimes so changes the frame of reference that people who grew up in it, that they no longer have any sense that there's something beyond it.
SALMAN RUSHDIE: Exactly. That is the final victory, you know. That's the final victory of oppression. And I think we need to make sure that that doesn't happen, you know. And I think it's important to speak up. And I think it's very interesting that more and more and more now almost every week you see some new powerful voice being raised, you know. Whether it's Ayaan Hirsi Ali, whether it's Wafa Sultan, whoever it may be. Many of these voices are women. And I've often thought that in the Muslim world the big change may come because Muslim women reject the oppression that they've been subjected to.
While strolling through the scenic byways of the Internet, I came across an article by Austin Cline at atheism.about.com entitled Ten Questions to Ask Christians. I was intrigued. After all, I am a Christian. Mr. Cline opens with a statement:
Sometimes it seems like every Christian with an internet connection thinks that they are have the skills and knowledge to become evangelists to religious skeptics.
To a small extent, I agree with him. Certainly, there are some Christians who are doing apologetics on the Internet who haven't taken the time to aquire the knowledge needed to be good apologists to Internet skeptics. But then, many of these Internet skeptics who are out there evangelizing for their atheistic belief system have also failed to do their homework beyond acquring a few simplistic objections that they wrongly think end the discussion. Be that as it may, Mr. Cline continues:
I know this isn't literally true, but my email suggests that it almost could be. It might help to have a few questions or points which would get such Christians to stop and reflect on their assumptions, beliefs, and arguments.
Ah, I see the tactic that Mr. Cline is leading to. Come up with a few points or questions that can be given to the otherwise ill-prepared among the atheists to use to try to win points against those in the Christian community who are also ill-prepared. It is kinda' like slipping someone the answers to a test so they don't have to study.
So, what exactly are the questions or points that will rock Christians on their heels allowing the skeptic to be comfortable in the knowledge that she has posed some serious issue to the Christian? Mr. Cline cites another Internet skeptic who has listed ten such questions, but Mr. Cline only provides four on his site -- the four that Mr. Cline apparently thinks are the most interesting or challenging to a Christian. Let's examine them one at a time.
3. Fact or Allegory. The Bible says the Earth is between 6,000 and 8,000 years old, that it was created in 7 days, and that Man is made of dirt and Woman a piece of Man. Most churches today say that this is allegory. What passages of the Bible support it all being just allegory?
To begin with, the Bible doesn't say that the Earth is between 6,000 and 8,000 years old. The Bible does give some genealogies in Genesis which, if you add up the numbers, would put the time of Adam at around that time. However, it doesn't take a lot of work to find that the Bible's genealogies are far from exhaustive in their list of individuals. For example, a comparision of the genealogies listed in Matthew and Luke will show that genealogies are given (just like most things in the Bible) for a purpose, and the names included are directed to that purpose. Thus, most of Christianity understands that the genealogies of the Bible can not be added up to arrive at a year that the earth was created. And if this method isn't used to calculate a date, the Bible is actually silent on the age of the Earth.
The Bible does say that the Earth was created in seven days in Genesis 1. However, I think everyone knows that the word "day" in that chapter is subject to interpretation. There is nothing in the Bible that requires "day" to be interpreted as a 24-hour day, and there are good Biblical reasons to believe it shouldn't be so interpreted. While I believe proper Biblical interpretation would read "day" as "age" (such as the word "day" is used in English when speaking of the "day of the dinosaurs"), I understand that some Christians continue to believe each of the days was a single 24 hour period. I won't quibble over this since they could be right. But I would simply contend point out that one needs to be careful about what the Bible teaches before responding too quickly to this point.
The comment then notes that the Bible teaches that "Man is made of dirt and Woman a piece of Man." No, it teaches that man was made by God from the dust of the ground, not that man is made of dirt. And the woman is not a piece of man, but rather God used a the rib of Adam as the starting point for creating a woman.
Really, if you are going to raise these issues, the skeptic should at least be correct in how they are addressed. But then, the point of this question isn't to really examine or understand Christian belief -- it is to belittle those beliefs by making them appear stupid in order to set up the idea that most Christian churches think that they are allegory. Personally, I don't know that most Christian churches do see them as allegory, but there are certainly some that do. But that leads to the kicker, "What passages of the Bible support it all being just allegory?" While I don't believe they are "just allegory", the answer that any informed Christian in those types of churches should be able to give is that there is an entire field of study known as hermeneutics that deals with Biblical interpretation. Hermeneutics recognizes that the Bible, like all books, is a written communication that uses a mixture of the richness of all human communications such as colloquialisms, poetry, humor, figurative language and ... yes, even allegory.
So, in a nutshell, if I were posed this question I would simply explain that not every Christian agrees with the idea that the verses in question are allegory, but those that do use the tools of Biblical interpretation to arrive at that position. I might even point them to a good book on Biblical hermeneutics such as Biblical Words and Their Meaning by Moisés Silva.
4. Needle’s Eye. Jesus said rich men don’t go to Heaven easily and even implied that it wasn’t possible. Why are so many people with money and property Christian if they are probably going to Hell?
Interestingly, Mr. Cline says that he "particularly like[s]" this question. I find this one particularly interesting because it actually demonstrates how skeptics often try to twist words. Did Jesus say that it wasn't possible for rich people to get to heaven? Of course he didn't, which is why the writer has to say that Jesus "implied" it. But what exactly did Jesus say? The verses in question can be found in all three of the synoptic Gospels, and I randomly chose the Mark version of the account in Mark 10 beginning at verse 17. Jesus does say that it is difficult for a rich man to get into heaven, but the focus of the story is Jesus' concluding remarks. Picking up the account in verse 23:
And Jesus, looking around, said to His disciples, "How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!"
The disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
They were even more astonished and said to Him, "Then who can be saved?"
Looking at them, Jesus said, "With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God."
The point? The rich can enter heaven in the same way as the poor -- through the work of God. See how some of these things resolve themselves by simply reading the text?
9. Turn the other Cheek. Jesus instructs the saved to love and to forgive even deadly insults (Matthew 5:44: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” et cetera). Why do no prominent Christian leaders to follow this?
No prominent Christian leaders follow this? Really? Has the author of this question surveyed all "prominent Christian leaders"? Can the author show me a study that proves this? Or is this question simply an anecdotal overgeneralization based upon the fact that some Christian leaders don't fully live up to the teachings of Jesus on this point?
10. Free will. Freedom to choose is given to man by God. Man has two main choices: 1) accept the Love of God and, upon death, go to paradise for eternity, 2) Refuse God and, upon death, just die, be utterly damned. How is that freedom of choice when it is the same thing as a gun to your head?
Interesting question coming from someone who doesn't believe. I mean, the author apparently doesn't feel like having this so-called gun to his head has compelled him to accept Christ. If people truly lacked free will in the sense used in this question, there would be no skeptics.
I end by repeating what I said earlier: there are some Christians who are doing apologetics on the Internet who haven't taken the time to aquire the knowledge needed to be good apologists to Internet skeptics. But then, many of these Internet skeptics who are out there evangelizing for their atheistic belief system have also failed to do their homework beyond acquring a few simplistic objections that they wrongly think end the discussion. These questions are clear examples of the latter.
On the one hand you tell me that laws of physics are just descriptive and they don't determine anything. On the other hand you say that there is natural world that extends beyond our space/time, presumably to anything physical? So you see the dichotomy of nature/spirit as physical, tangible, visible vs "in" and "un" and "non" versions of these, intangible, invisible, non physical.
But how can it be that "nature" extends all over existence beyond the realm of all we know to all other realms anywhere and yet there are no prescriptive physical laws? It seems to me that to be able say that you would have to have a set of laws that delimit what can happen. Otherwise how can you possibly know there is not a universe in which all existence is immaterial?
Here are some quotes about Big bang cosmology. They are from major physicists and some obscure physicists and the major upshot of them is we have no physics to explain the big bang.
No Physics to explain something from nothing.
John Mather, NASA's principal investigator of the cosmic background radiation's spectral curve with the COBE satellite, stated:
"We have equations that describe the transformation of one thing into another, but we have no equations whatever for creating space and time. And the concept doesn't even make sense, in English. So I don't think we have words or concepts to even think about creating something from nothing. And I certainly don't know of any work that seriously would explain it when it can't even state the concept."[John Mather, interview with Fred Heeren on May 11, 1994, cited in his book Show Me God (1998), Wheeling, IL, Searchlight Publications, p. 119-120.]
That is describing the excepted theory, that the universe seems to pop up from nothing, yet physicists just accept it and assume that its possible even with no physics to explian it. That is a total paradigm shift.
*Multiverse is unscientific metaphysics.
Sten Odenwald, Goddard, Nasa: http://image.gsfc.nasa.gov/poetry/ask/a11215.html
"yes there could be other universes out there, but they would be unobservable no matter how old our universe became...even infinitly old!! So, such universes have no meaning to science because there is no experiment we can perform to detect them."
John Mather, NASA's principal investigator of the cosmic background radiation's spectral curve with the COBE satellite, stated:
"We have equations that describe the transformation of one thing into another, but we have no equations whatever for creating space and time. And the concept doesn't even make sense, in English. So I don't think we have words or concepts to even think about creating something from nothing. And I certainly don't know of any work that seriously would explain it when it can't even state the concept."[John Mather, interview with Fred Heeren on May 11, 1994, cited in his book Show Me God (1998), Wheeling, IL, Searchlight Publications, p. 119-120.]That is describing the excepted theory, that the universe seems to pop up from nothing, yet physicists just accept it and assume that its possible even with no physics to explain it. That is a total paradigm shift. "yes there could be other universes out there, but they would be unobservable no matter how old our universe became...even infinitely old!! So, such universes have no meaning to science because there is no experiment we can perform to detect them."
Some physicists, such as Oldenwald, are aware of this, but that doesn't stop the materialists from continuing the assumption. So if it is religious metaphysics its bad, but if its metaphysics the materialist can use then it's "ok."
First horn of the dilemma
We have no physics to explain the bb and yet you want to argue that we know what it is and how it works and that it is material. dilemma:
several problems connected with this horn:
(1) if physical laws are not prescriptive then you must expalin how everything can be the same over all existence
(2) if psychical laws are not prescriptive
.....(a) beileve in miracles there no barrier to them
.....(b) it could be that some worlds are supernatural. It's only if you have a delimiting set of laws that you can bleary define natural from supernatural (if you go by the degraded concept most of you try to defend)
Second horn of the dilemma
(1) if there is a physics to expalin bb then it's seems physical laws are prescriptive
(2) if there is no physics to explain it then it doesn't operate by natural law we can well think of the bb as supernatural. Or even magic.
The problem with prescriptive laws is where do they rest? How can laws exist prior to the existence of a universe? It seems there would have to be a mind or some sort of repository point for the laws to reside in. A ground of being or something of that nature would be required if physical laws are prescriptive.
(quoting me)"After, I say AFTER the medical guys do their thing and determine that they can't explain it naturalistically."
You're confusing "I can't find it" with "it doesn't exist".
A typical churchie mistake.
He/she is saying that I am confusing the inability to find a naturalistic explanation with the idea that there is none. But the problem with that argument is that to make it one must assert an ideological assumption that there must be one. Thus if a naturalistic assumption is not found, it only means we must keep looking, even if we must keep looking ad infinitum.
The problem is event the materialists have given up on the concept of a naturalistic cause for every effect. The Metaphysicians of modern cosmology, I mean people like Hawking who are the avaunt guard of materialistic thought, have abandoned the idea that the universe needs a cause. They use QM particles apparent lack of a cause (which is not even the case) to argue for a universe that doesn't need a cause. If the entire universe needs no cause why should we assume that miracles need causes?
Like a two edged sword it cuts both ways:
(1) One could argue that the lack of a physical cause means one need not search for one and thus the inability to find it means there is none and thus this is a miracle.
(2) the assumption could be made that if there is no reason to always insist upon a cause then the lack of a cause does not imply divine action, but merely a "strange happenstance" that has no rational explanation and requires none.
This is last explanation there is never any reason to attribute anything to a miracle. In this instance there could be a resurrection of Jesus from the dead and it would not necessarily be a miracle, but just a "wired deal."
"O look dear, that Nazareth boy is rising from the dead again, isn't that strange?"
The problem for materialists is this is not materialism. It's boarder on magic, but the leaving behind of rational law like statements of material cause and effect that govern all happenings in the universe, is not materialism it is moving away from materialism.
I have a feeling that the anonymous commentator is the old fashioned kind of materlist who assumes there is a naturalistic cause that we just cant' detect. Don't look now but that's faith. It is true there is an epistemological gap. There will always be such a gap. So we are in the realm of probability when we deal with miracles. Even standing in front of the risen Christ we are still dealing in terms of probability. But that should not be an argument in favor of the materialist. They cannot say "that's only probability" since their whole philosophy is founded upon probabilistic methods, such as inductive reasoning.
If after applying every conceivable medical test and using the state of the art examinations (which the Lourdes committee does) we cannot find a naturalistic explanation, this does not necessarily mean the case is declared a miracle. At that point it is handed on the the the religious examiners, the churchmen who will begin a doctrinal examination. That's important because miracles are contextual.
Miracles are not just any unexplained happenstance, they are specifically contextual events that occur in relation to religious belief and that draw up more deeply into further levels of belief. Since it's all probability anyway the assumption that lack of explanation means the case is less likely to be explained naturalistically, the religious context must be examined. If that checks out it is only logical to assume divine context for the event since that is the only avenue of explanation left.
While Anon wants to continue assuming there is always a naturalistic cause that's far from the case. That is a statement of faith in the materialism of the past. Even modern materialists have given up that dogma.
Miracles are probabilistic and contextual. There is always an epistemic gap that cannot be bridged between knowledge of causes and assumptions about the likelihood of causes. To assume that there must always be a naturalistic cause is to assume that there cannot be a God or that God cannot intervene in the world. Either way that is an ideological assumption, it is not logic, it is not proven, it is merely an assertion of faith, the bygone faith of materialism.
The Universe and Our Bodies
No, this is not a Discovery Channel special. In my series of “Is Richard Carrier Wrong ....” posts I have focused on his arguments in support of the theory that Paul believed in a two-body “resurrection” of Jesus -- and by implication, Christians. Although this post is somewhat tangential, it fits the series. The subject is the end of the world, or rather how Paul envisioned the end times. This is relevant to his views on the resurrection because in Romans 8 Paul compares what happens to the universe to what happens to our bodies. In verses 19-21, Paul discusses the universes' desire to be free of corruption and its liberation from bondage:
The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
Then Paul proceeds to compare the “redemption of our bodies” to the liberation of the universe from bondage. From verses 22 and 23:
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
Paul describes a renewal of the universe (it is liberated, not annihilated; it is brought into glory, not replaced by a glorious universe) and the renewal of our bodies (as a redemption comparable to the liberation of the universe). Indeed, Paul again clearly states that the resurrection of the bodies of Christians involves the renewal of our old bodies rather than their complete obliteration.
Paul's Meaning Defined by Later Writers
Dr. Carrier makes other arguments that I will address in a later post, but the one that concerns me now is his claim that Paul could not have believed in the renewal of the universe because other Christians believed in its obliteration.
In a footnote that is found by reference to another footnote, Dr. Carrier argues as follows:
So there can be no doubt that the earliest Christians believed the present world would be annihilated and replaced with a new one, just as graphically described in 2 Peter 3:3-13, and clearly assumed in 1 John 2:15-17 and Heb. 12:26-39, 13:14. Paul must have shared this belief (why would he differ so radically from his peers), as he appears to have done.....
Carrier, The Empty Tomb, page 211 n. 160.
Dr. Carrier later mentions some other Pauline verses, but similarly insists they must be read “in light of” 2 Peter and Jude. This brings me to my first point: Carrier’s insistence that Paul must have meant what other, later Christian writers meant.
Setting aside Hebrews for the moment, on what basis does Dr. Carrier conclude that 2 Peter and 1 John represent the beliefs of the "earliest Christians"? Does the competent historian assume that every Christian agreed with every other Christian writer on every matter of doctrine? Indeed, today's Christians disagree about few things more strenuously and dramatically than the "end times." There are Premillenialists, Postmillenialists, and Amillenialists. Even within these broad categories with very different ideas about how the "end times" will unfold there is more diversity. There are Pretribulationists and Postribs. There are even Midtribs. Yet all of these differences rely on the same scripture and very often even use the same or similar terms. I may have reasons, as a Christian, to seek what agreement in early Christian writers I can find. But on what basis does Dr. Carrier assume complete unanimity on this particular doctrine?
Further, the majority of commentators, especially those with Dr. Carrier’s liberal leanings, would place 2 Peter and 1 John (as well as Jude) at the end of the first century or beginning of the second. Hebrews too is usually placed in the second half of the first century. Are these the "earliest Christians" to which Dr. Carrier refers? On what basis does Dr. Carrier rule out any development in Christian thought? I do not say that these ideas must have developed, but it seems to me that a reasonable historian would not assume that such development was impossible. So why does Dr. Carrier?
Let us turn this around for a minute. How would Dr. Carrier react if a Christian apologist simply insisted that Paul’s comments about the resurrection must be understood in light of the Gospel’s affirmations of bodily resurrection? After all, the Gospels are temporally closer in time to Paul’s letters than it is likely Dr. Carrier believes 2 Peter, 1 John, and Jude relate to Paul’s letters. So why would Paul differ so radically from his peers? As I am sure Dr. Carrier would argue, a reasonable historian must keep open the possibility that there were differences between different Christian writers, especially over different time periods. This is not to say that we should neglect the writings of other Christian writers when trying to understand Paul, but if two different writers seem to be articulating different ideas, we should at least be open to the possibility that they are not saying the same thing.
Lack of Ambiguity
If we focus on Paul’s discussion of creation, there seems to be little ambiguity about his view of the universe and its continuity with the next age. Paul writes about creation eagerly waiting for the end. What will happen at the end? Will the universe be completely annihilated and have no continuity with what is to come? No. The universe in fact will be “liberated from its bondage and brought into the glorious freedom of the Children of God.” Rom. 8:21. There is nothing in the text or the context that suggests that Paul equated being liberating and brought into glory to being completely vaporized and replaced by something else.
Further, the idea of restoration of creation at the “end times” was not a foreign concept to ancient Jewish writers. God made creation good, but it has suffered along with humanity since the fall. The new age, the end times, will usher in the removal of that curse and the liberation of creation from it. As stated by the Hermenia commentary on Romans, “The curse thus remains provisional, awaiting the dawn of a new age when nature will be restored to its original beauty and glory.” Romans: A Commentary, page 514. For example, Jubilees, dating from the second century B.C, discusses a time when “the heavens and the earth shall be renewed.” 1.29. 4 Ezra, dating to the early second century A.D., refers to the messiah coming to “deliver his creation.” 13:26.
Similarly, other early Christian writers communicated a belief in continuity between the present age and the one to come, though with an important transformation. For example, in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus states, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Matt. 5:5. In Acts, Peter states at the Temple, “Therefore repent and turn back, that your sins may be wiped out so that season of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and He may send Jesus who has been appointed Messiah for you. Heaven must welcome Him until the times of the restoration of all things, which God spoke about by the mouth of His holy prophets from the beginning.” Acts 3:19-20. According to Anthony A. Hoekema, “The expression ‘the restoration of all things’ suggests that the return of Christ will be followed by the restoration of all of God’s creation to its original perfection -- thus pointing to the new earth.” The Bible and the Future, page 282.
From this perspective, the complete elimination of creation would mean God’s will is frustrated. Its transformation and restoration is God’s victory. Paul’s articulation of the liberation of creation fits in better with the former rather than the latter.
As time permits, I hope to discuss the primary verses Dr. Carrier relies on for his end of the world analysis, including 2 Peter, Hebrews, and 1 John, as well as other verses in Paul's letters.
Governor Sarah Palin is, by news accounts, an evangelical Christian. To many in the media, this makes here somewhat akin to a martian in cultural understanding. Many in the media look at her religious views with suspicion and misunderstanding. It as if they cannot rise above their cultural prejudices to look fairly at what -- in their view -- is an exotic oddity of a throwback belief system.
Exhibit A the first interview of Gov. Palin since she became the VP Nominee for the Republican Party. The interview was taken by Charlie Gibson of ABC News. Various left wing blogs have been posting pieces claiming that Gov. Palin believes we are in a Holy War against Islam and that she said in church that sending troops to Iraq is part of God's plan. This is not a matter of small consequence to the Governor personally, as her son deployed to Iraq last week. I think this is obvious fair game for an interview and Gibson asked her about it:
GIBSON: You said recently, in your old church, "Our national leaders are sending U.S. soldiers on a task that is from God." Are we fighting a holy war?
PALIN: You know, I don't know if that was my exact quote.
GIBSON: Exact words.
PALIN: But the reference there is a repeat of Abraham Lincoln's words when he said -- first, he suggested never presume to know what God's will is, and I would never presume to know God's will or to speak God's words.
But what Abraham Lincoln had said, and that's a repeat in my comments, was let us not pray that God is on our side in a war or any other time, but let us pray that we are on God's side.
That's what that comment was all about, Charlie. And I do believe, though, that this war against extreme Islamic terrorists is the right thing. It's an unfortunate thing, because war is hell and I hate war, and, Charlie, today is the day that I send my first born, my son, my teenage son overseas with his Stryker brigade, 4,000 other wonderful American men and women, to fight for our country, for democracy, for our freedoms.
Charlie, those are freedoms that too many of us just take for granted. I hate war and I want to see war ended. We end war when we see victory, and we do see victory in sight in Iraq.
GIBSON: I take your point about Lincoln's words, but you went on and said, "There is a plan and it is God's plan."
PALIN: I believe that there is a plan for this world and that plan for this world is for good. I believe that there is great hope and great potential for every country to be able to live and be protected with inalienable rights that I believe are God-given, Charlie, and I believe that those are the rights to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
That, in my world view, is a grand -- the grand plan.
GIBSON: But then are you sending your son on a task that is from God?
PALIN: I don't know if the task is from God, Charlie. What I know is that my son has made a decision. I am so proud of his independent and strong decision he has made, what he decided to do and serving for the right reasons and serving something greater than himself and not choosing a real easy path where he could be more comfortable and certainly safer.
Gibson casts Gov. Palin's comments in terms that conjure up the Crusades, with a Holy War against Muslims by a predominantly Christian nation. Gov. Palin's response is reasonable and one I think most Christians can relate to: We are not sure what God's plan is, but we sure hope what we do fits into it. The problem is, as Gibson quotes the Governor -- insisting these are her "Exact words" -- Palin did not seem to qualify her comment in that way when she spoke to her church. So is she clarifying or altering her position in the interview? Neither. As it turns out, Gov. Palin was correct and Gibson had in fact failed to quote her accurately.
Here is what Gov. Palin really said to her church:
Pray for our military men and women who are striving to do what is right. Also, for this country, that our leaders, our national leaders, are sending [U.S. soldiers] out on a task that is from God,” she exhorted the congregants. “That’s what we have to make sure that we’re praying for, that there is a plan and that that plan is God’s plan."
Gov. Palin is asking the congregation to "pray" that "out national leaders, are sending [U.S. soldiers] out on a task that is from God." This fits exactly with her comments in the interview. She is not baldy asserting that this is God's plan, but that we should pray that we are on the right side here. She reiterates this in the last sentence, saying the congregation should "make sure" that they are praying that the plan to send troops is part of God's plan.
In other words, Gov. Palin's comments reveal a great deal of humility. She thinks this is right. She thinks we should be doing this. She is proud that her son has enlisted. But even so, she is not willing to claim this is God's plan. In fact, this is our nation's plan. She hopes it is part of God's plan. She hopes it fits into His will, but she does not know whether it does or not.
Gov. Palin is also correct in her allusion to a comment by Abraham Lincoln: “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”
I like Charlie Gibson and do not think he meant to misrepresent Gov. Palin's real words. (Other commentators disagree). But it is telling, if I am correct about his intentions, that Gibson could read the same text I read and miss the distinction between declaring that what one does is God's will and praying that what one does is God's will. If you are a Christian, then there is such a thing as God's will and that is something we should all strive to enact. I actually believe God gives us choices and that not every choice is one that may or may not reflect "God's will," but that is a more intricate theological question. The fact remains that we all believe God does want to accomplish certain things among the nations and in our own lives.
However, to claim that one is certain about God's will for the nations is a far cry from praying that what a nation does is God's will. The latter reflects a far greater humility about being able to determine what God's will is in a given set of circumstances. But as Christians we have a responsibility try to be in accord with God's will. So where does that leave us?
I think Gov. Palin threads the needle nicely on this one (though this does not mean, of course, that she is right policy wise). Christians cannot act as if God has no will or no plan, but they should not claim to know all of its specifics. As an atheist commentator put it, "I'm an atheist, but I'm not so old or out of touch that I don't know that Palin was doing what Christians often do: praying that what the country was doing was God's will. It's not strange for a Christian to hope that what you want to do or think is right is indeed God's will. . . ."
Christians of good will can come down on different sides of such questions, but if they do so with some humility -- as Gov. Palin has -- then we can retain a measure of unity and respect towards one another.
The medieval Christian doctrine of the supernatural has long been misconstrued as a dualistic denigration of nature, opposed to scientific thinking. The concept of supernature, however, is not a dualism in the sense of dinigrading nature or of pitting against each other the "alien" relams of spirit and matter. The Christian ontology of the supernatural bound together the realm of nature and the realm of Grace, immanent and transcendent, in a unity of creative wisdom and purpose, which gave theological significance to the natural world. While the doctrine of supernature was at times understood in a dualistic fashion, ultimately, the unity it offered played a positive role in the development of scientific thinking, because it made nature meaningful to the medieval mind. Its dissolution came, not because supernatural thinking opposed scientific thinking, but because culture came to value nature in a different manner, and the old valuation no longer served the purpose of scientific thinking. An understanding of the notion of supernature is essential to an understanding of the attitudes in Western culture toward nature, and to an understanding of the cultural transition to science as an epistemic authority.
The ontology of supernature assumes that the natural participates in the supernatural in an ordered relation of means and immediate ends, with reference to their ultimate ends. The supernatural is the ground and end of the natural; the realm of nature and the realm of Grace are bound up in a harmonious relation. The Ptolemaic system explained the physical lay-out of the universe, supernature explained its theological relation to God. The great chain of being separated the ranking of creatures in relation to creator. The supernatural ontology is, therefore, sperate from but related to cosmologies. This ontology stands behind most forms of pre-reformation theology, and it implies an exaltation of nature, rather than denigration. This talk of two realms seems to imply a dualism, yet, it is not a metaphysical dualism, not a dualism of opposition, but as Fairweather points out, "the essential structure of the Christian faith has a real two-sidedness about it, which may at first lead the unwary into dualism, and then to resolve [it]...[into] an exclusive emphasis on one or the other severed elements of a complete Christianity...such a dissolution is inevitable once we lose our awareness of that ordered relation of the human and the divine, the immanent and the transcendent, which the Gospel assumes." Yet, it is this "two-sidedness" which leads unwary historians of into dualism.
In his famous 1967 article, "The Roots of Our Ecological Crisis," Lynn White argued that the Christian belief of the Imago Dei created "a dualism of man and nature;" "man shares in God's transcendence of nature." This notion replaced pagan animism, it removed the "sacred" from the natural world, and with it, inhibitions against exploiting nature. Moreover, by the 12th century, nature became a source of revelation through natural theology. In the Latin West, where action prevailed over contemplation, natural theology ceased to be the decoding of natural symbols of the divine and became instead an attempt to understand God through decerning the operation of creation. Western technology flourished, surpassing even that of Islamic culture (although they still led in theoretical pursuits). Thus, White argues, medieval theology did allow science to grow, but at the ultimate expense of the environment.
The insights of feminist scholarship, however, suggest an even more subtle argument for the denigration of nature. Feminist theologian, Rosemary Radford Ruther, argued that there is an identification between the female and nature, the male and transcendence. Women have been disvalued historically through the association between female sexuality and the "baseness" of nature. Londa Schiebinger, calls attention to the fact that the Judeo-Christian cosmology placed women in a subordinate position. Gender was more fundamental than biological sex, and it was a cosmological principle, "...Men and women were carefully placed in the great chain of being--their positions were defined relative to plants, animals, and God." The subordination of women was predicated upon their position in nature. "Male" and "Female represented dualistic cosmological principles penetrating all of nature, principles of which sexual organs were only one aspect. One might suspect that the place of women on the great chain of being is indicative of the true status of nature itself in Christian ontology; an overt denigration of women indicates a covert denigration of nature.
Moreover, the very fact of the medieval cosmos, and the great chain itself, because of the relation of earth to heaven, might be taken as an indication that nature was denigrated. Historians and classicists have tended to assume that the Ptolemaic system was designed so as to give humanity a position of honor and centrality. As Lovejoy points out, however, earth was the closest thing to hell, which was at the center of the cosmos. On the other hand, as Author O. Lovejoy himself admits, it was the fact that earth was the staging ground for the drama of salvation that gave it significance. Everything derived its value from its relation to the eternal. Nature was not disvalued, but re-valued, in its relation to God. It is this distinction that often leads historians to understand Christian medieval ontology as a denigration of nature. White assumes that transcendence must imply denigration of the thing transcended. Transcendence, however, does not mean that God fled the world; God is both immanent and transcendent, in creation and beyond it. Fairweather argues that the most profound symbol of this relation is the incarnation, the transcendent in the immanent, the spirit in flesh.
It cannot be denied that women were assigned an unjust and denigrating position in the cosmos, based upon the ignorance, pride, and self-interest of the dominate male hierarchy. Ruther makes an elegant argument, the associations between denigrated nature and the female gender (the great mother), and the triumphant sky father (the transcendent God of the Christians) fit so neatly, it is hard to reject. On the other hand, the medieval Christian relation to nature was very complex. In late antiquity, for example, St. Augustine is said by Scheibinger to have ascribed to women an inferior nature and lesser reason. Yet, her comments do not represent Augustine's true positions. He tried to correct abuses against women through a doctrine of spiritual equality, he argued that they possessed equal reason to that of men, and he said nothing about inferior natures. Most Christian mystics believed in some sort of illumination of the transcendent through the natural world. Natural creatures were seen as vessels, or mirrors of the divine; "God in all creatures and all creatures in God."
What these arguments really demonstrate, however, is a very complex situation. It is an oversimplification to say that Christian belief in transcendence resulted in the abhorrence and exploitation of nature. A combination of cultural and economic forces produced certain attitudes toward nature which are often read as denigration if one is not careful to understand the relation of value. Historians tend to read back into transcendence their own assumptions of alienation created by the enlightenment, Karl Marx, and Jackob Burkhart's view of Renaissance autonomy. There was a sense of medieval alienation from nature. In German culture, fear of the forest, fear of the unknown, created a certain sense of danger in the natural world. There were anti-naturalistic assumptions surviving from gnosticism and the Manicheans, which asserted themselves in groups such as the Cathori. The bias of Latin culture for action over contemplation created economic forces which took on a life of their own, and laid claim to nature as a thing to control.
David Lindberg draws upon Max Weber's theory of modernization in order to explain the way in which economic forces drove religious attitudes. After the fall of the Roman empire, the center of power and population shifted to the north, where Gaul and the Rhineland had already become the industrial base of the late empire. A less developed culture was struggling to come to terms with a civilization which had ceased to function and had to be re-created. Daily life under such conditions was hard, labor saving devices were much more important than theoretical insights. Technological applications, such as the heavy plow, the harness, wind and water power probably have more to do with conquest of nature than do metaphysical speculations. The supernatural ontology did not denigrate nature, but it did allow for trends which eventually issued in both science and capitalism. The supernatural ontology grew along with these developments, and plays a part in the rise of science. In order to fully understand this argument, however, it will be necessary to take an historical view, to trace the major themes as they unfold side by side, beginning with the Church's early self-identity and relation to nature.
The Church, in the first three centuries of the era, forged its identity in opposition to gnosticism. In so doing, it also forged its understanding of the relationship between God and the natural world. The "gnostic" were not a unified movement, but most of them held in common a Persian style dualism, (a stark contrast between spirit and matter, represented as the forces of light and dark, good and evil) and an abhorrence of the material world. For most gnosticis, the flesh was evil, as was all matter. Humans were divine sparks of light trapped in evil flesh, only the secret knowledge which would return them tot he other world had any value in this life. In struggling to define itself apart from gnosticism's "tragic myth," the emerging orthodoxy, Irenaeus of Lyons in particular, (mid second century, C.E.) proclaimed that God's creation was "a single world full of the glory of the God who created it and to whose providence all its history is subject. The world of matter and time is not alien to man." As the Church made more explicit its views on the relation between God, humanity, and the natural world, the analogical ontology was formulated as the action of Grace upon human nature. External nature was not disvalued, but valued in its relation to supernature as its ground and end. Where the Greeks developed an emphasis upon the transcendence of God, and God's gracious approach to creatures, the Latins thought more along the lines of moral valuations.
Thus, for Augustine, a product of Latin culture in North Africa (late 3d early 4th centuries) grace is divinely bestowed power of action, the effect of God upon the will. The relation of immanence to transcendence is, for Augustine, the relation of a scale of values; temporal and eternal. Eternal values represent that which we are to love, temporal values are that which we use. This does not mean, however, that because the temporal order of the natural world consists of things we use, less perfect than the eternal, that it is unimportant, or of no value. This scale of values, hierarchical though it may be, is not a dichotomy of denigration.
It would be ridiculous, on the other hand, to regard the defects of beasts, trees and other mutable and mortal things which lack intelligence, sense, or life, as deserving condemnation. Such defects do indeed effect the decay of their nature, which is liable to dissolution; but these creatures have received their mode of being by the will of their creator, whose purpose is that they should bring to perfection the beauty of the lower parts of the universe by their alternation and succession in the passage of the seasons; and this is a beauty in its own kind, finding its place among the constituent parts of this world. Not that such things of earth were meant to be comparable with heavenly realities. Yet the fact that those other realities are of higher value does not mean that these lower creatures should have been excluded from the whole scheme of things.
Moreover, for Augustine, no existence is contrary to God, therefore, mater is not contrary to spirit. Enmity with God did not arise out of nature, but of will. "Augustine insisted that sin is situated not in the body, but in the will. This was a point of extraordinary importance, because it helped to liberate Christendom from the [gnostic] notion that the soul is contaminated by its contact with the body--and therefore that matter and flesh must be inherently evil."
Nor was Augustine opposed to study of the natural world, provided the study bare some relation to the scale of ultimate values. Augustine used references to the scientific learning of his day throughout his writings, mainly to illustrate his theological concepts. In the final analysis, he placed less value on knowing physical causes, than on knowing eternal values, but he did not obstruct learning. He even developed a conception of natural laws of cause and effect. Augustine's causality allowed for things to change according to their divinely bestowed natures, "God governs his creation `from the summit of the whole causal nexus.'" This is a description of the analogical ontology, the relation of natural law to the higher law of supernature. St. Augustine does not denigrate nature, nor does its place on the temporal value scale mean that an understanding of nature is to be condemned. Rather, nature is given theological value in relation to the higher scale.
Augustine's scale of values, plus Pseudo-Dionysius' hierarchies of being combined with the great chain of being to form the basis of the Medieval synthesis. The natural world was valued in its relation to supernature, and contemplated as a symbol of the transcendent (fire symbolized the soul's longing to rise to God, for example). The world was the fallen world of sin, a proposition which leads some historians to see dualism at work. Nevertheless, it was not a metaphysical dualism. The world was not sinful because it was alien to the spirit, but fallen from grace through human will. Moreover, it still stood in relation to and derived valuation from its ontological relation to the divine. An elaborate sacramental system grew out of the need and desire to "have a society which is guided by the present reality of transcendent divine character." Boethius (d. 524), Cassiodorus (d. 580), and Bede (672-735) laid down the principle of nature as a consistent system obeying a verifiable set of laws, and understandable through reason. Lindberg argues that this view of nature as "meaningful order revealing God's purpose" enabled the re-emergence of science. This "meaningful order" was embodied in the supernatural ontology. At this point, there was also in influx of pagan magic, to which the Church closed its eyes. Science, in the "dark ages," consisted of some Aristotle, Pleny, Boethius, Cassiodorus, and a few classical mannuels and encyclopedic works.
In the early medieval period (the "dark ages") there does seem to have been a dualistic attitude toward nature, with transcendence of the spirit over matter outweighing an interest in nature. Nevertheless, this dualism is not necessarily linked to the supernatural ontology per se, but could easily be the remnants of gnostic influeces. Moreover, the church, under influence Bede, sought to preserve knowledge of the natural world. From the 5th to the 10th Christianity enabled the survival of ancient learning, through preservation of the "quadrivium," in monastic life (arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music, sometimes with medicine added). The earliest known presentation of the quadrivium was the work of Isidore of Seville (d. 636). "In the seventh century an efflorescence of scholarly activity took place in the British isles, and Isidore's encyclopedic efforts were complemented with those of Bede (d. 735)...the scientific activities of Bede's age formed part of a widespread missionary program. The spearheads of the program were the monasteries." Nevertheless, the monasteries were passive recorders of learning, not active students of science. The culture outside the monasteries was basically oral, but a true revival of the liberal arts came in the Carolingian Renaissance, in the eighth century. Most of the Carolingian contributions to science amounted to copying texts, but the Hortulus of Theodulph of Orleans made original contributions to the study of botany. Moreover, John the Scot, the most celebrated thinker of the age, advanced the notion of "man" as the microcosm of the universe. This notion placed humanity in a position of antinomy, between nature and God, but it also served to create a relation of dialectical connection between the two. It was a reflection of the ontological relation between God and nature. The Carolingian period deteriorated into a century and a half of administrative chaos and confusion.
By the 10th century, economic forces combined with religious attitudes to create a new set of values, altering the human relationship to nature and the divine. Economic forces, such as the growth of cities, freed rural populations from agricultural life and created an artisan class. Gerbert of Aurillac (Rheims 972), helped to popularize the astrolabe, and algerism (arabic numerals) thus making a real contribution to trade, which was increasing dramatically. "There emerged a new set of values which--for better or worse--regarded the transformation of this world as sufficient for salvation in the next." As Lindberg documents, From the 10th to the 12th centuries, a new movement spread through Europe: the combination of monastic life and efficient economic production, the Cistercians being the most notable example. This prodo-capitalism brought with it exploitive attitudes toward nature, not because the ontology of supernature led to a juxtopossion of spirit and matter, but because the imperatives of economic production created the need to contorl nature. As White points out, however, these same force also brought with them an interest in understanding nature.
The seeds of Renaissance were planted in the 10th century, they came to full flower in the 12th century, and with them, a vital upsurge of interest in nature. The 12th century saw some very complex developments, because it brought not only a Renaissance, economic expansion and the rise of scientific study, but also a religious reformation. The movement included reform of Church corruption, as well as a mystical sense of the divine. Schiebinger makes the point that monastic institutions afforded women a measure of power, education, and scientific study. She mentions Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179), who was "the most notable medieval woman author on medicine, natural history, and cosmology." She was also one of the most notable mystics of the middle ages; a major leader of the reform movement. Hildegard, through her studies of the natural world, transformed static Greek science into mystical symbolism.
The most strightfarward example of mystical nature symbolism is, as White says, the ant was a lesson to the lazy, fire symbolized the spirit's desire to rise toward God, "the view of natuare is artistic rather than scientific." A more complex form of nature sybolism is dealt with by William Inge, the entire last chapter of his famous Bampton lectures was entitled "nature-mysticism and symbolism." The host in holy communian, and the sacraments in general, become symbols of the divine. In the same way, all of nature becomes such a symbol. Fairweather argues that the most powerful example of the harmony of nature and supernature is the incarnation itself; the transcendent in the immanent, divinity in humanity, logos in flesh. In Hildegard's vision of the creation of the world, animals, fire, planets and stars symbolise human nature in harmony with the divine. She saw animal heads appear around a human figure and rays of light from the seven planets illuminated them. The meaning was explained to her in another vision as follows, as she states:
On this world God has sourrounded and strengthened humans beings with all these things and steeped with very great power so that all creation supports the human race in all things. All nature ought to be at the service of human beings, so that they can work with nature since, in fact, human beings can neither live nor survive without it.
A host of German woman, contemporaries of Hildegard, deserve mention: among them, Mechtild of Magdeburg, Gertrude the great of Helfta, and Gertrude of Heckborn. All of these figures used nature symbolism to illumine understanding of the divine. The German mystics, far from denigrating nature, were so enchanted by it that they are often charged with pantheism; Meister Eckhart being one of the primary examples of this type of mystic. In the southern mediterranean, St. Francis brought in a new understanding of the relation to nature. Francis put nature on equal terms with humanity, "he opened up nature with respect to its ground of being, which is the same as with man." Contrary to the popular image, however, St. Francis was not a "nature mystic," that title fits Eckhart much better. Francis did not divinize nature, nor did he romanticize it. Instead, he democratized it, putting animals, trees, the stars, and the planets on the same level as humanity (his hym to "brother sun, sister moon"); all creatures beloved of God. There is a story for example, probabbly myth, which illustrates Francis attitude toward animals. A hunter was about to kill a wolf which had become a killer. Francis stood in the way and said, "don't harm brother wolf." On the other hand, he did preach to animals, on the assumption that as creatures of God they loved God and enjoyed hearing the Gospel. He also began an active engagement with life in the world, rather than contemplation in the monastery. His new order, along with their female counterparts, the Poor Clares, began a medieval poverty movement which threatened to reform the whole Church. For this reason, and because he did change the attitude toward nature, Tillich calls him "the true father [parent we could say] of the Renaissance."
The entire relationship of humans to nature was being re-thought, not to the exclusion of the divine, but based on and related to the divine in a different way. Through the works of John the Scot, the word "universitas" came into more common parlance, meaning, that nature was seen as a whole (a universe, a united diversity--a uninted and harmonious whole made up of many smaller parts). Theologians, artists, poets, and other thinkers "reflected that they were themselves caught up within the framework of nature, were themselves also bits of this cosmos they were ready to master." Nature came to be valued, not merely as a symbol of the spiritual, but in its own right (as with St. Francis). God had always been present in the world, but now God infused nature with divine being. "To conceive the world as one whole is already to perceive its profound structure--a world of forms transcending the medley of visible and sense-perceptible phenomena. The whole penetrates each of its parts; it is one universe; God conceived it as a unique living being, and its intelligible model is itself a whole."
A new relation between nature and God led to the realization of nature's beauty in its own right, and to scientific curiosity. The study of nature was not divorced from the spiritual, however, but the two were inter-related. The search for natural causes began in many monasteries: at Tours, Orleans, Paris, but most notably at Chartres and Saint-Victor. There was a reaction against the search for natural causes, not out of denigration of nature, but on the grounds that God is the final cause of all things, one need not seek further. William of Conches denied that the search for causes detracted from the Glory of God, the search for natural causes was the great work of the believer. He charged his opponents with "placing more reliance on their monkish garb than on their wisdom." The major proponents of the new outlook at Chartres were William of Conches, Adelard of Bath, Bernard Silvester, Hermann of Carinthia, John of Salisbury, and most notable, Gilbert of Poitiers.
These men wrote scientific treatises, they defended a naturalistic outlook which placed natural order interest in the natural order above the miraculous, but, they did so from within a framework of faith. Adelard distinguished between the creative acts of God, and the autonomous forces of nature, while Andrew of Saint-Victor argued that before recourse to miracles, one must seek out natural explanations. Hugh of Saint-Victor argued for a historicizing exegesis which declined allegorizing, thus moving interpretation out of the realm of nature as symbol, and into the realm of naturalism and history. This was not, however, the autonomous machine of a latter age. These theologians still operated under the categories of Greek metaphysics, nature was still infused with essence, and each aspect of the chain of being stood in relation to its next highest component, and was drawn toward the divine through supernature, which held it all together as whole in God.
Curiosity about nature shifted, from wonder at the amazing (such as comets), to curiosity about regular order. The word "Nature" was spelled with a capital "N," and nature was personified and presented in a sophisticated and literary fashion. Alan of Lille wrote The Complaint of Nature, in which nature is personified as the goddess. Nevertheless, "to exalt these powers of Nature was not at all to detract proudly form the omnipotence of God,...and Alan's Nature was herself made to proclaim this fact: `His working is one, whereas mine is many; his work stands of itself, whereas mine fails from within...and in order that you may recognize that my power is powerless in contrast to the divine power, know that my effect is defective and my energy cheap.'"
With so much attention upon nature, and humanity's place in it, an old idea re-emerged in new form. The theme of "man as the microcosm" of the universe was re-introduced (taken from the Timaeus by John the Scot in an earlier age). It was echoed in 1125 with the Elucidarium of Honorius of Autun. From that time on it had a wide diffusion through European monastic centers. William of Saint-Thierry based his physics on it, and it spread through Cistercian centers, taken up by a new generation after 1150. Hildegard of Bingen used the physics of William of Saint-Thierry in the construction of her theological symbolism. The scholastics also drew upon the Hermetic corpus as a source of the macrocosm/microcosm theme, which became so important latter in Renaissance alchemy, and humanism, and as a direct result of its revival in the monasteries. The concept of the macrocosm in the microcosm was part and parcel of the supernatural ontology. It was a picture of the harmonious relation between immanent and transcendent, nature and supernature. On the other hand, it was a new picture of these relationships. Humanity is placed in an antinomy, humanity is both an image of the world and an image of God. The tension is found between nature, which operates as God's ordered creation, and the radical distinction between God and creation.
These ontological developments set up developments in the next century which would not only create the most sophisticated and elaborate expression of supernatural ontology, but at the same time, would sow the seeds of its own negation. Renaissance autonomy and humanism flow directly out of the ontological formations in the 12th and thirteenth centuries. The revival of Aristotle, due in large part to the conquest of Moorish Spain, would not only feed scientific knowledge, but submerge the ontological influence of the Timaeus as well. The major proponents were Albert the Great, Bonaventure, Thomas Aquinas, and in French vernacular literature, such as that of Jean de Meun. Of course, the greatest of these was Aquinas. Due to a complex situation, the attempt to prove the existence of God, and to prove the Trinity through reason, had become a major issue by the 13th century. This attempt flowed directly out of the theme of humanity as microcosm. It is also related to theorizing about the limits of reason and course of scientific study.
If human nature still bore some trace of the Imago, human reason must be capable of decerning God. "Conversely, only if the state of nature were now devoid of the superadded gift of grace, could one contend, on Christian grounds, that certain mysteries of the faith...were beyond the reach of nature and of reason." This controversy was predicated upon the Augustinian notion of the relation between nature and grace. Before moving on to try and demonstrate the proofs for God (which are of no concern here), Aquinas first worked out a position on theological method. It was the development of that position which begins the autonomous life of reason and nature apart from grace. He argued that in other sciences argument from authority was the weakest. Not so in theology, however, because one is arguing from divine revelation. Thus, Aquinas' position was not based on empistemological concerns, which he side-stepped, but on doctrines of creation and redemption, on the relation between nature and grace (that is to say, reason is given though nature, revelation through grace). Aquinas was not separating nature and grace, but explicating their relation to one another. "Grace does not abolish nature, but completes it." Ultimately, for Aquinas, reason and faith will agree on final points of truth.
Aquinas bound together knowledge of truth on different levels, through the relation of nature to grace. In so doing, he developed a position of autonomy, but not one of alienation. Nature is capable of certain effects, unaided by grace. But, grace completes nature and raises it to the level of the divine through supernature. Through reason one could conclude that there was a creator, but only through revelation could one know the Trinity. Human reason could know some things unaided, but it was not capable of knowing all things. This completion of nature means that human nature can be exalted, energized supernaturally, and sanctified (the eastern orthodox concept is called 'deification'). It is only through grace that humans are able to know what God is, but that God is can be gleaned from sense experience of the works of nature.
Perhaps the greatest literary expression of Aquinas' views on the relation of nature and grace, are found almost a half century latter, in Dante. Even though literary scholars have long held that "`the Thomism of Dante is an exploded myth,'" Dante is clearly at home in the world of medieval Latin theology, and places into Virgil's mouth words which evoke Aquinas' distinction between that which can be revealed by nature, and revelation by grace. "So far as reason plead can I instruct thee; beyond that point, wait for Beatrice; for faith I here need." Only so far as reason is concerned can nature enlighten Dante, for matters of faith, the divine is required. Although, since the question was in regard to the nature of love, this answer tells us as more about Dante's notions of romantic love (a divine matter) than it does about Thomistic epistemology. Nevertheless, Virgil's answer is an interesting counterpoint to the rather unintelligible experiment Beatrice works out for Dante in order to demonstrate to him the nature of the moon.
While rising from Purgitory, toward the heaven of the moon, Dante wonders how they can enter the pearl-like substance. It is a mystery, "like the union of divine and human nature in Christ." Dante than asks how it is that the moon, a perfect heavenly body, has spots. Beatrice answers that the distribution of the intelligence which governs each body varies in different places. She then gives him an experiment to perform which confirms this revelation. The important point is that here knowledge is coming from both faith and reason (revelation and experiment). Since this is an occasion in which sense data will suffice, experiment will confirm what faith has already taught. Beatrice praises experiment as the fountainhead of the arts, "From this objection may experiment deliver thee, if thou its virtue try, (Source where from stream the arts that you invent)." (Paradiso, Canto II. 4-6. Thus, Dante forms the perfect bridge between medieval and early modern, he forms perhaps the greatest literary expression of the medieval cosmos just before the transition into a scientifically defined universe. The Comedy also represents one of the last great artistic expressions of the valuation of nature in relation to the divine, the exaltation of grace over nature.
The dissolution of the unity began in the middle of the twelfth century, when a dispute arose over the independence of science from classical learning and tradition. This dispute set science on the road to mathematical precision, and to the view that the universe must be viewed as a dynamic system, no longer described in traditional ways. But, with the rise of Renaissance humanism, the exaltation of nature over grace begins. A comparison between Dante and Pico Dela Mirandola demonstrates how far the change had gone. Dante's Virgil is willing to remain silent in matters pertaining to revelation. The Comedy is a perfect description of the medieval cosmos, complete with the ontological relation of nature and grace. Human nature is exalted by grace, but human aspiration is in line with divine will. Thus, when Dante asks if those trapped in the heaven of the moon don't long for a higher state, he is told, "brother, the virtue of love hath pacified our will; we long for what we have alone, nor any craving stirs in us beside. If we desired to reach a loftier zone, our longings would be all out of accord with His will..."(Par. Canto III. 70-74). With Pico's oration "On the Dignity of Man," however, the notions of the Microcosm and Macrocosm are extended to their logical humanistic conclusions. These themes emerged out of the ontology of supernature, but with Pico, "there is nothing to be seen more wonderful than man." All the choice is with humanity. "He [God] took man, a creature of indeterminate nature...and addressed him thus,...`thou constrained by no limits, in accord with thine own free will, in whose hand we have placed thee, shall ordain for thyself the limits of thy nature.'" In the medieval ontology, humanity is fallen in will, but a spark of the Imago still resides in human nature, which bestows rational reason and spiritual love, and thus, grace can exalt and perfect human nature. With Pico's Renaissance humanism, humanity is set no limits, can choose for itself to rise to the heavens or sink to the earth. Humanity determines its own nature.
This exaltation of nature over grace grew until, almost four centuries latter, a new valuation of nature emerges, independent of grace. The old relation of nature and grace was rejected, identified too closely with scholasticism. The Reformation, while preserving the relationship between God and the world (immanence and transcendence, God's grace present in the world) Luther removed the centerpiece form the system. For Luther, humanity was not "God-capable." A whole new relationship between nature and grace was forged, one based on sheer volunterism and equivocity (the unlikeness of creature and creator). Equivocity, for Luther, is based primarily upon the doctrine of the fall. He assumed that the act of sin had completely destroyed the image of God in which humanity was originally created. By the 16th century a new feeling for nature was forming. People wanted to own the world they had discovered, to feel comfortable in their new relationship with nature. Humanism marked a total rejection of scholasticism, the relation of nature and Grace was almost reversed. Thus, Fontenelle's Marquise, when asked "did you not have a more grandiose conception of the universe?" replies, "well, I hold it in much higher regard...now that I know its like a watch..." There was a trend toward the diestic view of a God "out there." The older view Fontenelle describes as "...a false notion of mystery wrapped in obscurity. They only admire nature because they believe she's a kind of magic."
Newton and Boyle, having totally rejected scholasticism, in the last quarter of the 17th century, nevertheless maintain an ordered relation between God and the universe. Newton's sensorium of God, which explained "action at a distance" involved in gravity (his private explanation) was taken directly from the work of 14th century scholastics (Thomas Bradwardine and Nichole Oresme) who identified God with space itself. "Despite the virtuosi's sustained and vigorous denounciation of scholastic philosophy, they heavily upon the medieval heritage in their use of teleology...they combined the mechanical view of nature with the medieval conception that nature is the product of divine goodness." Newton and Boyle were at pains to explain God's activity in a mechanical universe, but, as Brooke says, "for latter generations less tolerant of paradox, less tolerant of things above reason, less tolerant of a realm of grace above a realm of nature, a clockwork universe demanded nothing more than an original clockmaker." D'Alembert said that one could understad the existence of God though natural reason, but he went on to say that scholastic ontology was superstition. Nature was valued in its own right, but as a separate piece of machinery, divorced from divine valuations and grace. For Newton and Boyle, grace was not so much completing nature, as it was propping up their cosmologies. In a sense, nature was completing grace.
The supernatural ontology ceased to be important to scientific explanation, not only because it ceased to inform the scientific method, but also because cultural values had as much to do with the process as did scientific method. Scientists could have continued to understand the God-world relationship as an important completion of scientific understanding (as indeed they did until well into the 18th century). But, the cultural value of autonomy changed the way in which "higher" explanations were connected to the causal world. Rather than the immanent God who worked through supernature, dietic thinkers, and philosophes in the enlightenment, came to value the for itself apart from God, and to view God as the absent God who wound up the universe and left it to run on its own.
When historians of science, such as Grant, Lindberg, and White, argue that Christian belief helped to spur the development of science in the middle ages, their accounts of those developments are incomplete as long as they ignore the supernatural ontology. White attributes the interest in science to developments in natural theology, but an understanding in natural theology is incomplete as long as it ignores the supernatural ontology upon which the whole foundation of natural theology was built. The 12th century developments above describe the rise of natural theology. Moreover, White explains the interest in natural theology merely as an attempt to "understand God's mind by examining his creation. Clearly, there is much more to the rise of natural theology. It was not only attempt at understanding God through creation (that attempt was made in using nature as a symbol of the divine). There was an actual value of nature which went into the process. The conception of nature as a whole, the notion of the Universitas, had given rise to an appreciation of nature in its own right. That was made possible by the value bestowed upon nature through its intimate connection to the divine, the harmony between immanent and transcendent. Grant argues that harmony between science and theology existed in the 12th century because theologians were trained in both natural philosophy and natural theology. True enough, but there must have been a reason why they were so trained. Grant suggests that the reason is because, being trained in both, they knew how to relate the two disciplines. On the other hand, there must be more to it than mere lack of professional jealousy. Why were they trained in both? Because, they saw both as an inter-related whole. Nature was valued "in its own right," but not as an autonomous piece of clock-work which with no relation to grace. They understood the valuation of nature as an extension of grace, nature was valued in its own right because it was the creation of a God who was immanent, as well as transcendent, and who gave nature theological significance.
Bibliogrophy and End Notes_________________________________________
Augustine. The City of God. translated Henry Bettenson. Penguin Books, 1972. This edition 1984.
Bingen, Hildegard von. Hildegard of Bingen's Book of Divine Works: With Letters and Songs. ed. Matthew Fox. Sante Fe, New Mexico: Bear and Company inc. 1987.
Brooke, John Hedley. Science And Religion: Some Historical Perspectives. The cambridge history of Sciences Series. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
Charlton, D. G. New Images of The Natural: A Study In European Cultural History, 1750-1800. The Gifford Lectures, London: Cambridge University Press, 1884.
Chenu, Marie-Dominique. Nature, Man, Society in The Twelfth Century. Wehic Press, 1979.
D'Alembert, Preliminary Discourse to the Encyclopedia of Diderot. Trans. Richard Swab. The library of liberal arts series, Bobbs Merrill company, 1963.
Dante. The Divine Comedy. Trans. Lawrence Binyon, ed. Paolo Miano, New York: Viking Press, 1947.
Fairweather, Eugene R. "Christianity and The Supernatural," in New Theology Number One. Martin E. Marty and Dan G. Peerman, ed., New York: The Macmillian Company, 1964.
Fontenelle, Bernard le Bovier. On The Plurality Of Worlds. trans. H. A. Hargraves. Berkeley: University of California press, 1990.
Grant, Edward. "Science and Theology in The Middle Ages," in God and Nature: Historical Essays ON The Encounter Between Christianity and Science. ed. David Lindberg and Ronald L. Numbers., Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986.
Inge, William Ralph. Christian Mysticism. the famous Bampton Lectures, Oxford, 1899, New York: Meredian, Living Age Books, 1956, second printing, 1960.
L Ladurie, LeRoy. "Introduction," Montaillou: Promised Land of Error. trans. Barbara Bray, New York: George Braziller, Inc. 1978 (American pub. date, originally 1975).
Lindberg, David "Science and The Early Church," in Lindberg, Op. Cit. . Science In the Middle Ages. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978.
Lovejoy, Arthor O. The Great Chain of Being: The History of An Idea. The William James lecture 1833, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1934. This edition 13th printing 1976.
Lloyd, Genevieve. The Man of Reason: "Male" and "Female" in Western Philosophy. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984.
Marcus, R. A. Christianity In The Roman World. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1974.
Pelikan, Jaroslav. The Christian Tradition: A History of The Development of Doctrine. The Growth of Medieval Theology (600-1300). Vol. III. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978.
Ruther, Rosemary Radord. Sexism in God-Talk: Toward a Feminist Theology. Boston: Beacon Press, 1983.
Scheeben, Mathias Joseph. Nature And Grace. trans. Cyril Vollert, ST. Louis:Herder Book Company, 1954 (originally 1856).
Schiebenger, Londa. The Mind Has No Sex? Women in The Origins of Modern Science. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989.
Tanner, Kathryn. God and Creation In Christian Theology: Tyranny or Empowerment. Basil Blackwell, 1988.
Tillich, Paul. A History of Christian Thought. ed. Carl Bratten. New York: Simmon and Schuster, 1968.
Westfall, Richard. Science and Religion in Seventeenth Century England.
Ann Arbor paperbacks: University of Michigan Press, 1973 (originally, 1958).
Willey, Basil. The Seventeenth Century Background: STudies in The Thought of The Age In Relation to Poetry and Religion. London: Chatto and Windus, 1934, seventh impression, 1957.
White, Lynn. "The Roots of Our Ecological Crisis," in Machina Ex Deo: Essays in The Dynamism of Western Culture. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1968.
1 The term "supernature" simply refers to the concept of the supernatural. But, that concept is much changed in modern parlance. The term first originated with Pseudo-Dionysius around 500 CE. In modern terms it refers to anything wired, or beyond the normal course of cause and effect; the occult, psychic powers, and so on. In scholastic terminology, however, it is two things: the realm of the transcendent (or God's presence beyond the created order), or the power to God to alter the natural and bestow grace. Miracles, for example, are "supernatural effects." To say that supernature is the ground and end of nature is simply to say that God is the origin of the nature, and whatever goal or purpose is fulfilled in creation, it is fulfilled to the extent that it moves toward God's purpose. This could be a moral goal, it doesn't have to be a physical effect, because "nature" includes human nature (and primarily human nature in scholasticism). Supernature is the higher law, rooted in God's will and grace (power). see Fairweather and Scheeben.
2 Eugene R. Fairweather, "Christianity and the Supernatural," in New Theology N0. 1. Martin E. Marty and Dean G. Peerman, ed. (New York: The Macmillian Company, 1964), 237.
These are Fairweathers terms; the analogical ontology, which is juxtaposed to the "equivocal" and "univocal" views. The equivocal representing the reformed and neo-orthodox theology, the univocal representing enlightenment based liberal theology. Admittedly, Fairweather's schema is too Thomistic to be accurate, but his terms are handy descriptions of concepts which take a long time to lay out, so I use them. He speaks of the harmonious relation of immanence and transcendence as "analogical" on the assumption that religious language is merely analogy. Since the transcendent is beyond word, thought, or image, the most we can ever hope for is an analogical relation, or pure mystical experience. Of course, there is nothing to guarantee the accuracy of the analogy. But, in contrast to the other two views, the idea is that rather than losing the supernatural in the natural (which includes the materialist view as well as most liberal theology) and rather than losing the relation of nature to grace through sheer volunterism (which the reformers substituted for creative purpose in their notions of soverginty), what for Fairweather is the "correct" view, maintains some relation between creature and creator, even if we can only know that relation through analogy.
3 Fairweather, 245-253.
Fairweather traces the notion of supernatural from the early days of the Church to modern times, in summary fashion. He emphasizes the Greek, Augustine, Aquinas, the Reformers, and Paul Tillich. He argues specifically against the denigration theory.
4 Fairweather, p. 237.
5 White, 86.
6 Ibid., 88.
7 Rosemary Radford Ruther. Sexism in God-Talk: Toward A Feminist Theology. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1983), 54.
Ruther argues that in religious thinking of the West the association is always between the female, the earth, nature, and the mother goddess, the male associated with the sky, heaven, transcendence, and the sky father. Thus, transcendence is the longing of the male ego to survive, and is rooted in the warrior culture and its tendency to force young boys, when coming of age, to flee the "world of women" and join the men.
9 Schiebinger, 162.
10 Lovejoy, 103.
12 Fairweather, 327.
13 Schiebinger, 1969.
"Augustine had asserted that both sexes, having been created in the image of God, posses a rational soul (though woman's rationality was of a lesser degree). While woman might be inferior to man by nature, she was his equal by grace: in the afterlife souls have no sex..." She footnotes Eleanor Mclaughlin "equality of souls, inequality of sexes" in Religion and Sexism, Images of Women in The Jewish and Christian Traditions. ed. Rosemary Ruther. New York: 1974, 218. On the other hand, see Genevieve Lloyd. The Man of Reason: "Male" and "Female" in Western Philosophy. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984. 29. Lloyd argues that Augustine was stuck with the baggage of Genesis, and was forced to explain woman's difference in creation in terms of subordination, but he tried to explain it in such a way as to correct the denigration of women. "His own interpretation of the sexual symbolism of Genesis is clearly supposed to defend woman against what he perceived as the misogynism of earlier exegesis...Augustine attempted to articulate sexual equity with respect to reason, while yet finding interpretive content for the Genesis account subordination of woman to man...what woman is as a rational spirit [not necessarily after life] must be distinguished from what she symbolizes in her bodily difference from man." What she symbolizes is human reason diverting toward the practical, Lloyd argues, not the lack of reason, or less reason. While this answer is unworthy of a thinker of Augustine's stature, he could hardly have picked up a better one at Woodstock.
14 Evelyn Underhill. Mysticism. (New York: Meridian books, 1955) originally published 1911. 206.
15 Lindberg, Science in Middle Ages, 42.
16 Ladurie, viii. 17 Lindberg draws upon Weber at this point, to explain the economic developments and religious attitudes toward those developments in the 10th through 12th centuries. Science In The Middle Ages, 29-42. Unfortunately, Lindberg does not explain exactly what those theories are, or how they really explain the developments. He simply says that economic forces drove religious attitudes. Fortunately, I used to be a sociology major. Weber was one of my favorites. In The Spirit of Capitalism and the Protestant Work Ethic he says that the protestant reformation prepared the ground for capitalism by instilling an ethical base thorough religious attitudes. The same set of sensibilities required to be a good Calvinist, were also those required to be a good capitalist. His theory was also wider, and he applied it to many periods of history. Lindberg seems to be arguing that religious attitudes and economic developments were mutually reinforcing and laid the groundwork for the rise of medieval science in the 12th century.
18 Ibid., 25.
19 Ibid., 23.
20 Ibid., 27.
21 R. A. Markus. Christianity In The Roman World. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1974), 60.
22 Fairweather, 247
23 Fairweather, 248
24 ST. Augustine, The City of God. Trans. Henry Bettenson, Penguin Classics (London: Penguin Books Ltd., 1972/84) Book XII, Chapter 4.4, p. 475.
25 Ibid., 473-4.
26 David C. Lindberg, God and Nature: Historical Essays on The Encounter Between Christianity and Science. ed. David C. Lindberg and Ronald Numbers, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986), 31.
27 Lindberg, 35.
Augustine didn't really make any contributions to the development of science, but Lindberg numbers him among the "early church practitioners" of science. Augustine did apply scientific thinking on occasion. He used the example of twins to counter astrology; both babies are born under the same sign, at the same time, but one is often weaker and meets a different fate than the other.M
28 Lindberg, 37.
29 Arthor O. Lovejoy. The Great Chain of Being. The William James Lectures, 1933,(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1934), 67.
30 Grant, 50-51.
31 D.G. Charlton. New Images Of The Natural In France: A Study in European Cultural History, 1750-1800. The Gifford Lectures (New York, London: Cambridge University Press, 1984),35.
32 Paul Tillich. A History of Christian Thought. ed. Carl E. Braaten, (Simon and Schuster: Touchstone, 1967), 154.
33 Lindberg, Science in The Middle Ages. 42 35 Ibid.
Lindberg includes as magic, of course, the supernatural and the sacraments. From an anthropological view this is quite correct, but his inclusion of miracles is conceptually wrong. Miracles and magic are not the same thing, not simply because Christian belief (the Bible for example) condemns one and condones the other, but because they stem from two different concepts. Magic seems to be based on the ultimate premise that some force built into nature can be controlled by the user. For example, with the Hermetic corpus, there is a certain design which the ancients knew of that allows for the control of nature in a certain way. Miracles, on the other hand, or "supernatural effects" as Scheeben calls them, are not the result of the user's control, but of God's will. Moreover, they are not brought into play by some hidden design within nature, but by the orchestration of supernature; that is, they are the laws of nature obeying a higher law which is evoked at God's choosing. From an anthropological view this may be hair splitting, but from within the inner logic of a theological tradition it makes a large difference. Be that as it may, Lindberg's basic point still stands, by allowing the infusion of pagan magic, which is obvious in some respects, if not in the sacraments, Christianity allowed a combination of traditions which emerged as science in the Renaissance.
36 Edward Grant, "Science and Theology IN the Middle Ages." in Lindberg, God And Nature. 49.
37 In his famous lectures, the Bampton lectures (Oxford, 1899) on Christian mysticism, William Ralph Inge speaks of "medieval dualism" of spirit over matter. This is in contradiction to Fairweather, Tanner, and others. Nevertheless, even though the lectures were given at the turn of the century, Inge has been considered the major authority on Christian mysticism thoughout most of the 20th century. Inge does go on, however, to state that the view of the more developed mystics was toward the notion of harmony and unity. Christian Mysticism, 263. He also states, "all nature [for Christian mysticism] (and there are few more pernicious errors than that which seperates man from nature) is the language in which God expresses his thoughts," 250. Inge has long been one of my favorites, so I feel in all honesty I must admitt that this compromises my argument. But, I still think there is an idea here, so I have tried to qualify my argument (I'm tweeking it). After all, who wants to be an ideologue?
38 Lauderie shows that the Manachiean influences in France fed into the Cathari dualism, which did disvalue the natural world. Like some forms of gnosticism from the early centuries, this did not always take the form of asceticism, it sometimes meant licence to sin (we are trapped in matter anayway, so why avoid sex?). The Cathori had two levels of believer, (as did the Manachieans) the "perfects," or elites, abstaned, the ordinary people (peasants mostly) did not abstaine, but indulged at an almost alarming level.
39 Ibid., 34.
40 Ibid., 35.
41 Chenu, 29.
42 Lindberg, Science in The Middle Ages, 37.
44 Ibid., 30.
45 Schiebinger, 13.
46 Underhill, 458.
47 M.D. Chenu. Nature, Man, and Society in The Twelfth Century: Essays on New Theological Perspectives in The Latin West. ed. and trans. Jerome Taylor and Lester K. Little, (Chicago, London: University of Chicago Press, 1957). 35.
48 White, 88
49 Inge, 250.
50 Fairwether, 237.
51 Hilegard of Beingen's Book of Divine Works: With Letters And Songs. ed. Matthew Fox, Santa Fe, New Mexico: Bear and company Inc. 1987, 26.
52 Mary Jeremme Finnegan. The Women of Helfta: Scholars and Mystics. (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1991).
53 Tillich, 144.
54 Tillich, 181-82.
55 Lawrence Cunningham. ed. Brother Francis. Huntington, Indiana: OSV, 1972. Cunningham argues that ST. Francis did not idealize or romanticize nature..the "nature mystic" image is fallacy. St. Francis was more of a democratic than a romantic, that is, he accepted all of God's creatures on an equal basis, but he did not divinize nature.
56 get it
57 Tillich, 181-82.
58 M.D. Chenu. Man, Nature, and Society In The Twelfth Century: Essays On New Theological Perspectives In The Latin West. ed. trans. Jerome Taylor and Lester K. Little, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957, 1968 edition), 4-6.
59 Chenu, 6.
60 Ibid., 9-10.
See also Grant, 51. Grant gives the same developments of Platonic philosophy leading the search for natural causes, lists the same names, but with less development, he even includes another part of this same larger quotation from William of Conche.
62 Lindberg, Science in The Middle Ages, 41-42.
63 Chenu, 16-17.
64 Chenu, 28.
65 Chenu, 18.
66 in Chenu, 19.
I thought I would quote the expression of such a modern concern, cheap energy. 67 Chenu, 29.
70 Chinu, 32-33.
71 Ibid., 33.
I could as easily footnote Lindberg's Science In The Middle Ages, and Grant, as both go hand in hand with Chenu on almost every point, concerning the developments at Chartres, but their accounts are much more general.
72 Chenu, 32.
73 Jarslov Pelikan. The Christian Tradition, a Development of The History of Doctrine: The Growth of Medieval Theology, (600-1300). Vol. III. (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1978), 284-85.
75 Aquinas in Pelikan, Ibid.
77 Pelikan, 289.
78 This is an antiquated designation, I realize. The fashion is to speak in terms of early modern, and to include the 12th century as a "renaissance" in its own right. While I can see the value in that, I can't go along with it when speaking of Dante. In agreement with Peter Burke, I view the Renaissance as a literary movement rather than a time period, but Dante is a literary figure.
79 Ibid., 291.
80 Purgatorio. XVIII. 46-48.
81 C.H. Grandent. Notes on Paradiso, The Divine Comedy, ed. Palo Milano, trans. L..Binyon. Canto II. (New York: The Viking Press, 1947), 371.
82 The experiment doesn't make much sense. It involves three mirrors, one placed further away from the other two, and a light which can be seen in all the mirrors. The light is supposed to shine as brightly in the third mirror, proving that the spots on the moon are not the result of rarity and density...I think. Be that as it may, the point is not what is proven (I don't think anything is proven) but the fact that Dante used experiment at all, even if only theoretically.
83 Pelikan, 291.
84 Lindberg, Science in The Middle Ages, 43.
85 Pico Dela Mirandola, "Oration on The Dignity of Man," in The Renaissance Philosophy of Man. Anthology, ed. Ernest Cassierer, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1948), 223.
86 Ibid. 225.
87 see Fairweather. 237.
Katherine Tanner argues that the real difference in Reformation and scholastic ontology was a problem of language. She argues that the relation of nature and grace is inherent in all Christian assumptions about the God-world relationship, but this relation gets distorted through language which is designed to convey one aspect of the system or another, and the other aspects are forgotten. Luther emphasized the need of the creature for grace, Aquinas emphasized the ability of the creature to rise to the level of grace (the operation of the Imago). My response is, all doctrinal disputes are disputes over language, all "errors" and "heresy" are linguistic problems. 88 Basil Willey, The Seventeenth Century Background
89 Fontenelle, ON The Plurality of Worlds, 12.
This attitude marks what Fairweather calls the "univocal" side of the equation. There is only one voice, everything is pulled down into nature. In the 15th century disputes over foundationalism, the Catholic anti-foundationalists, because their position disvalued reason as a counter to Protestant foundations, took the opposite view. As with Montaigne, they took the equivocal side. That is, grace over nature. They supported Catholic tradition, but changed the content so that the harmonious relation which valued the world through supernature no longer valued the world. It is my contention that this feeling was transposed and read back by historians as the medieval attitude of Christian supernaturalism to nature. see Lovejoy, 103.
91 Grant, 57.
92 Richard Westfall, 51.
93 Brooke, 144.
94 D'Alembert, 14, 25.
95 Grant, 69.
96 White, 88.
97 Grant, 69.