Christianity and the Supernatural part 2

Mathias Joseph Scheeben


The Supernatural was something very different than it is now. This is important because that original meaning, which Christian spiritually was predicated upon, is empirically provable and and can be shown to be real by simple scientific means. We have to understand the original concept, there are two thinkers who tried to restore the concept to it’s original form and we need to listen to what they tried to say. The first one was Matthias Joseph Scheeben (born, 1 March, 1835; died at Cologne, 21 July, 1888.) His major work was Nature and Grace. [17] Scheeben was a mystic who contemplated and studied divine grace and hypostatic union. He was also a greatly accomplished academic and was a fine scholar of scholastic theology. He studied at the Gregorian University at Rome and taught dogmatic theology at the Episcopal seminary


at Cologne. Scheeben was the chief defender of the faith against rationalism in the nineteenth century. The generation after his death ( in Cologne in 1888) regarded him as one of the greatest minds of Catholic thought in his day. He left three major works: Nature and Grace (1861), The Mysteries of Christianity (1865), and the massive yet unfinished Handbook of Catholic Dogmatics. Among his major accomplishnents were defense of Vatican I's defense of infallibility, defense of religious freedom against Bismark's attempt to control the Catholic Church.
His books were repeatedly republished in Germany up into the 1960s and translated into other European languages, including English (the Dogmatics, alas, only in highly truncated form). Since the Second Vatican Council, though, he has mostly been neglected by theological teachers and students who have wrongly imagined the nineteenth-century Catholic tradition to be a period of anti-modern darkness….The Catholic world of a hundred or more years ago was quite right, I think, to see the Cologne seminary professor as perhaps the finest modern Catholic dogmatic theologian. His writings not only yield rare insight into the mysteries of Christian faith, they draw the attentive reader ever more deeply into the mysteries themselves. Scheeben is more important now than he has ever been. He can teach a theological generation that has sold its inestimable birthright how to restore and renew dogmatic theology.[18
The other thinker is Eugene R. Fairweather (2 November 1920-) an Anglican scholar and translator of Church fathers from Ottowa. MA in Philosophy form University of Toronto (1943) Ordained priest in 1944 and became tutor at Trinity college Toronto same year. He studied theology at Union theological seminary and earned his Th.D. in 1949. He had an honorary doctorate from McGill University. At the time he wrote his article “Christianity and the Supernatural” he was editor of the Canadian Journal of Theology and professor of dogmatic theology and ethics at Trinity College, Toronto.[19]Fairweather quotes Scheeben and bases part of his view upon Scheeben’s.



Fairweather’s view of the supernatural is contrary to the notion of two opposing realms, or a dualism. He uses the phrase “two-sidedness,” there is a “two-sidedness” about reality but it’s not a real dualism. The Supernatural is that which is above the natural in a certain sense but it is also working in the natural. There are supernatural effects in the natural realm that make up part of human life. Essentially we can say that “the supernatural” (supernature) is an ontology. Fiarweather doesn’t use that term but that’s essentially what he’s describing. Ontology is a philosophical description of reality. Supernature describes reality in that it is the ground and end of the natural. What that means is unpacked by Fairweather : an ordered relation of means to immediate ends with respect to their final ends. “The Essential structure of the Christian faith has a real two-sidedness about it, which may at first lead the unwary into a dualism and then encourage the attempt to resolve the dualism by an exclusive emphasis upon one or the other [side] of the severed element of complete Christianity.”[20] He explains the ordered relation several times through paring off opposites or supposed opposites: human/divine; immanent/transcendent; realm of Grace/realm of nature. All of these he refers to as “ordered relations.”[21] If this was Derrida we would call them binary oppositions. In calling them “ordered” he is surely saying one is ‘above’ the other in some sense. They are not necessarily oppositions because that’s his whole point, not a true dualism.



Supernature is working in nature. It’s not breaking in unwelcome but is drawing the workings of nature to a higher level. Fairweather describes it as the “ground and end of nature.” In other words it is the basis upon which nature comes to be and the goal toward which nature moves. Now it’s true that science removes the teleological from nature it doesn’t see it as moving toward a goal but that’s because it can’t consider anything beyond its own domain. Science is supposed to be empirical consideration of the natural realm and is practitioners often profess disdain for the metaphysical while inso doing keep a running commentary on metaphysics. Of course modern science become a form of metaphysics by infusing itself with philosophical assumptions and then declaring there is nothing beyond the natural/material realm. That is to say, when it is dominated by secularist ideology that is the direction in which science is cast. Be that as it may, theologically we can take a broader view and we see a goal oriented aspect to the natural. Supernatural effects draw the natural toward supernature. That is to say human nature responds to the calling of God in elevating humans to a higher level of consciousness. There is another example of the ground and end of nature. Fairweather doesn’t give this example, but I think it applies. This is Martin Luther King’s statement about the “arch of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice.” Nothing in nature bends toward justice, if by “nature” we mean rocks and trees but there is more to the natural realm than just those aspects that science studies. Humans are part of the realm of the natural and it is part of our social world that we understand concepts of justice. Due to our own purposive nature we bend the arch of the moral universe toward justice. 



Long before Dionysius spoke of huper hamousios “From an early period the concept of 'that which is above nature’ had been seized upon by Christian Theologians as an appropriate means of stating the core of the gospel...” [22] Origen...[185-254] tells how God raises man above human nature…and makes him change into a better and divine nature.”[23] John Chrysostom (347-407) speaks of humans having received grace “health beauty honor and dignities far exceeding our nature.”[24] That view has persisted even in modern times. “In the West the most concise expression of the idea is to be found in the Leonine prayer ‘grant us to be partakers of his divinity who deigned to become partakers of our humanity.’”[25] “In these and a multitude of patristic texts the essential point is just this, that God, who is essentially supernatural perfects with a perfection beyond creaturely comprehension. Nevertheless, supernature elevates human creatures to a true participation in divine life an indwelling of God in man and man in God.”[26] The important point here is that human nature is being raised to the higher level of divine. We can see this manifests itself through the experience commonly known as “mystical.” That I will take up shortly, First, let’s turn to Scheeben to document further the nature of the supernatural. Supernatural is the power of God to raise us to this higher level.


The Trace of God, by Joseph Hinman, on Amazon. The 200 studies in this book prove that Mystical experience is real, this article just proved that the original concept of SN is mystical experiemce. Therefore, SN is real.




PART 3





Sources

[17] Matthias Joseph Scheeben, Nature and Grace, Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2009 (paperback) originally unpublished 1856.

[18]  Bruce D. Marshall. “Renewing Dogmatic theology: Mathias Joseph Scheeben Teaches Us the Virtues Theologians Need.” First Things. May 2012. On line version:http://www.firstthings.com/article/2012/04/renewing-dogmatic-theology accessed 11/8/2013
Bruce D. Marshall is professor of Christian doctrine at Perkins School of Theology.(c) 2012 Institute of Religion and Public Life
[19] Editor’s introduction to Eugene R. Fairweather, “Christianity and the Supernatural,” op.cit.

[20] Ibid, Fairweather,.237.

[21]Ibid.

[22] Ibid.

[23 ]Fairweather, ibid (239).

[24] ibid

[25] Fairweather quoting Leonine prayer, ibid.

[26] Ibid
Here Fairweather seemsto contradict Saler who says there is no term in the writings of the so called “church fathers” that could be translated as “supernatural” until Cyril and Dionysius, here Fairweather says the Patristic texts God is suernatural. He is back reading the term based up the concept. The term isn't really used by his pre Crylian examples.

Comments

Joe Hinman said…
It was a mistake to describe my view of SN as Naturalistic, that is misreading since it suggests that I am collapsible the realm of Grace into the realm of nature.

I could not describe SN as raising human nature to a higher level if i did not think there was a higher level.The realm of Grace is higher than the realm of nature onto logically,what i meant was that God's SN power is at work among the natural things of the world.
im-skeptical said…
that original meaning, which Christian spiritually was predicated upon, is empirically provable and and can be shown to be real by simple scientific means.

Now it’s true that science removes the teleological from nature it doesn’t see it as moving toward a goal but that’s because it can’t consider anything beyond its own domain. Science is supposed to be empirical consideration of the natural realm and is practitioners often profess disdain for the metaphysical ...

- Those two statements are contradictory. Which is it, Joe? Science can prove the "supernatural", or it can't. Only in your warped logic can you have it both ways.
Joe Hinman said…
Those two statements are contradictory. Which is it, Joe? Science can prove the "supernatural", or it can't. Only in your warped logic can you have it both ways.

Not a contradiction, the effects of the experience are measurable they are part of the natural realm because they happen in the natural realm so they can be measured as effects. They pertain to the transcendence but they effect the natural. the SN is the power of God to lift us to the higher level of consciousness and thus SN happens in the natural..
im-skeptical said…
They pertain to the transcendence but they effect the natural.

- Whatever affects the natural world is subject to scientific investigation. But that is still contradicted by what you say: "... that’s because it [science] can’t consider anything beyond its own domain." So which is it. Joe? Can science investigate this or not? How about a straight answer for once?
Joe Hinman said…
im-skeptical said...
They pertain to the transcendence but they effect the natural.

- Whatever affects the natural world is subject to scientific investigation. But that is still contradicted by what you say: "... that’s because it [science] can’t consider anything beyond its own domain." So which is it. Joe? Can science investigate this or not? How about a straight answer for once?

it can investigate the effects because they are in it's domain,I already established that,that's not a contradiction.

the argument connecting it to God is philosophical not scientific that's philosophy is a valid form of knowledge,
im-skeptical said…
it can investigate the effects because they are in it's domain,I already established that,that's not a contradiction.

- You are blissfully unaware that everything science investigates is by virtue of the effects it has on the world.


the argument connecting it to God is philosophical not scientific that's philosophy is a valid form of knowledge

- Bullshit. If something has an effect that is observable, its existence can be inferred. That's what science does. This is not a philosophical argument. It only becomes philosophical when it can't be inferred, and then you need some bullshit philosophical argument to justify your belief that is not supported by evidence.
Jason Pratt said…
Okay, I've finally got the time and mental oomph to get to the second article. (Frantic busy season at work.)

Meta: {{It was a mistake to describe my view of SN as Naturalistic, that is misreading since it suggests that I am collapsible the realm of Grace into the realm of nature.}}

Well, you're talking about a supposed but actually unreal distinction here between "the realm of Grace" and "the realm of Nature". This and a number of other statements in your article do not actually reassure me.

Meta: {{I could not describe SN as raising human nature to a higher level if i did not think there was a higher level.}}

Naturalistic theists talk about that sort of thing all the time without involving an ontological distinction between Nature and God. As far as they're talking about people realizing experientially that they themselves are fully God along with everything else in reality, they can even talk about raising humanity to a higher ontological level.

The problem comes from what you're denying, in logical connection and contrast to what you're affirming; and from how you contrast that denial with what Christians believe about the Supernatural (which you say we're wrong about, while also creating straw man figures about what we believe so you can make us out to be true dualists.)

Skep kind of has a point in his critique (above in these comments), too, although he isn't putting it very eptly. Normally I would say I know what you mean; but with all the other things you're denying and complaining about in these two articles I don't really know what you even mean anymore.

But I know it looks very, very, very, very much like modern ultra-liberal rejection of bullshit miracles, sometimes by scholars otherwise professing themselves to be Christian (in some way), in favor of a more-or-less pantheistic experiential raising of consciousness by our divine selves trying to wake us to our own divinity, while trying to claim that this is what Christians originally believed in (not in those bullshit miracles).

We'll have to talk about this in the back-channel. But I didn't sign up for that, and I don't support it.

JRP
Joe Hinman said…
Well, you're talking about a supposed but actually unreal distinction here between "the realm of Grace" and "the realm of Nature". This and a number of other statements in your article do not actually reassure me.

It's the distinction the Catholic theologians make.you may disagree with it you can't say it's not orthodox, I fail to see how your naming it as unreal males it so,
Joe Hinman said…
But I know it looks very, very, very, very much like modern ultra-liberal rejection of bullshit miracles, sometimes by scholars otherwise professing themselves to be Christian (in some way), in favor of a more-or-less pantheistic experiential raising of consciousness by our divine selves trying to wake us to our own divinity, while trying to claim that this is what Christians originally believed in (not in those bullshit miracles).

then why do I have pages defending miracles both Doxa and bobsleighs a priori* I have argued for miracles a hell of a lot more than you have. Where were you when I was defending mistrals again 30 atheists at a time all by self?

HERE

where were you a couple of weeks ago when I argued miracles against Skeptic,on this very blog,?

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