12.31.2008

The question you asked really goes back to the remark of the pope, that the major task of modern thought is to separate eschatology from science and politics as themselves claims to solve all of man's this-worldly problems and destiny. The "modern project," as Strauss critically called it, is really a form of inner-worldly eschatology that corrupts the real temporal meaning of this world.

So-called modern philosophy wants to argue that religion did not solve man's problems, so it would suggest by its own methods that transcendent issues that did originally arise from religion could be solved by modern secular means. The figure of Francis Bacon is prominent here. We should divert all our efforts to improving man's "estate." Added to this is an almost all-prevailing Rousseauism that insists that "structures" are the problem, not the souls of actually free men, as both Plato and Scripture told us. The fact is that no matter what the technology, the soul problem remains the same in every generation, in every regime. No reformation of the structure, of family, economy, or state will "cure" this inner problem, and if it could, it would simply mean that we are not free. The problem is not "medical" or psychological, but moral and metaphysical.

You mentioned "soft atheism" or "soft belief" as related to atheism. Actually, I think Nietzsche is right here. He was scandalized not because God did not exist, but because believers, who were supposed to act as if he did, did not so act. His disbelief is closer to scandal than to philosophy. But the other side of Nietzsche is a passion for the "what would it be like if it were true?" His famous aphorism, "The Last Christian died on the Cross," is nothing less than the plea of a utopian who is searching for ultimate being. He just cannot recognize it if its followers do not. Nietzsche can even be looked on as someone who wanted himself to be God, or at least to have His power to form all things anew. Nietzsche never really rejected "the last Christian."

Christianity, on the other hand, did not want to make men to be "like gods." It was content to leave them as finite and fallible men, but ones who needed hope, the possibility of repentance, and some source besides themselves on which to place their confidence. I think at bottom that Nietzsche, who is often considered to be at the bottom of modern atheism, is really at the bottom, as Walsh says, of the participation in being that violently reacted to the pseudo-metaphysics of modernity's philosophers, who, to go back to my comment on Aristotle, did think that politics was the highest science, and thus an eschatology.
-Fr. Schall

12.29.2008

America is a mission country

The New York Times tells the story of a recent influx of priests from Africa, Asia and Latin America. They come to fill the vocational void in American dioceases.

The lead paragraphs do a great job explaining why there is a shortage of priests in America:
OAK GROVE, Ky. — The Rev. Chrispin Oneko, hanging up his vestments after leading one of his first Sunday Masses at his new American parish, was feeling content until he discovered several small notes left by his parishioners.

The notes, all anonymous, conveyed the same message: Father, please make your homilies shorter. One said that even five minutes was too long for a mother with children.

12.26.2008

an analogy for thinking about Christmas

St. Augustine explains a little about what Christians mean when they celebrate Christmas:
"'The word was made flesh and lived among us' [John 1:14] When we speak, the word which we hold in our mind becomes a sound in order that what we have in our mind may pass through ears of flesh into the listener's mind: this is called speech. Our thought, however, is not converted into the same sound, but remains intact in its own home, suffering no diminution from its change as it takes on the form of a word in order to make its way into the ears. In the same way the Word of God became flesh in order to live in us but was unchanged."

12.25.2008

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

12.21.2008

12.20.2008

Advent

What is the best way to show that you are free? Do something you do not have to do.

This is much like God, for whom all of Creation is something he did not have to do.

12.12.2008

RIP Cardinal Dulles

From Whispers in the Loggia via National Review Online:
Word from New York brings the sad news that Avery Dulles SJ -- the celebrated convert, teacher, prolific author, first American theologian and US Jesuit elevated to the College of Cardinals, dean of American theologians and a giant of the age -- passed to his reward overnight.

Having suffered the ravages of a post-polio syndrome in recent years, the Navy vet and scion of a Washington dynasty was 90.

More as it comes in... may his brilliant soul rest in peace.

SVILUPPO: At 9.30, a statement from the Jesuits' New York province formally announced Dulles' passing; the cardinal died at 6.30 this morning in his room at the Jesuit infirmary at Fordham University.

Funeral arrangements are to be announced shortly, and later today will see the release of the customary telegram of condolence from the Pope, whose respect for Dulles was especially significant.

12.08.2008

a reckless and unedited attempt at philosophizing about the media, Obama, and secular hope

With the prospect of the Obama administration on their minds, the media is abuzz with newfound hope. A new president has come to save the people from too many years of an oppressive and seemingly indifferent Republican president. We must understand that the media has spent these past years observing and cataloguing the all too many inadequacies, frustrations, tragedies, disappointments and pains of human life – so many of which seem to be caused by George Bush. Secular humanists all, they no longer have the stomach for such suffering. This man, this great man, surely will be able to alleviate our great burden. His Harvard education, finest in the world, will enable him to plan the plan to save all plans. If there are people losing jobs, they will find new jobs when Obama invests in infrastructure. The media already has the news story; haven’t you seen it? Criticism may come from “skeptics,” but the media is quick to point out this is not just “infrastructure”: it is the right kind of infrastructure, the infrastructure this country needs. This is infrastructure that will create jobs now, to save us from having to suffer from the consequences of George Bush very much at all. This is the politics of hope, and the media cannot get enough. They know that every interesting news story is a crisis. And for every crisis, there is a plan. There is a solution. Obama will give us deus ex machina, god out the machine. What is the machine? It is nothing but the coercive power of government. After all, this is the only way Obama can implement his plans. His power as a politician is power to control the government, not to control minds and hearts. The god here is security. Near the beginning of the Enlightenment, Thomas Hobbes gave us this new summum bonum, which could also be called freedom from the fear of violent death. It has come to mean freedom from all material suffering, freedom from having to live a life rightly ordered. We think we should have freedom to do whatever we want (as long as we’re not hurting anybody!) without any consequences. The media doesn’t see that this is what they want, but I insist that it if they were honest with themselves, they would admit it. The media wants Utopia, they want Heaven on Earth, and they want our politicians to usher it in. They should realize how dangerous a project theirs has proven to be.

12.05.2008

RJN on Walter McDougall on American Character

An interesting thought on American character:
Walter McDougall’s recent monumental history of America—in Freedom Just Around the Corner and Throes of Democracy—proposes that, of all the ways of describing the American character, the most apt term is “hustler.” He hastens to add that the term has both complimentary and pejorative meanings. With respect to the religion business, the pejorative seems somewhat more pronounced.
McDougall is an excellent historian from the University of Pennsylvania. His other book, "Promised Land, Crusader State," is perhaps the best summary of American foreign policy there is.