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Shadows of Divine Things

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Location: Texas, United States

This site is devoted to theological and philosophical investigations of the spiritual meanings of life, current events, music, spiritual growth, nature, and learning to be attuned to listening to the 'language of God.' The name of this blog comes from one of Jonathan Edwards's journals which he called 'Shadows of Divine Things,' and later renamed 'Images of Divine Things.' As a Christian I am continously on a spiritual journey to grow more into the image of Christ, to understand what it means to be crucified with Christ. To seek the truths of the Christian Faith is of upmost importance, and to know that any truths that are found outside of Christianity are present there because they ultimately point to God. I have an M.A. in theology and apologetics and I completed one year of graduate studies in Philosophy at Marquette University.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Johannes Calvinus (A Brief Bio)

With the exception of Martin Luther, of all the Reformers both past and present none, in my estimation, have had the impact on Protestantism than John Calvin. Calvin was born at Noyon in Picardy, France, July 10th 1509, and died at Geneva, May 27th 1564. Calvin was born into a French middle class family. His father practiced both civil and canon law and expected his son to do the same. Therefore, John Calvin was educated to this end, the practice of law.

Unlike Martin Luther, Calvin never made vows (monastic or otherwise) to the Roman Catholic Church. Instead, Calvin focused his entire formative years being educated in law and humanities. In fact, there is no historical evidence that Calvin’s family had any direct ties to the Roman Catholic Church other than through legal notary between Gerard Calvin (John’s Father) and the cathedral chapter in Noyon. While it is probable that Calvin’s family attended Mass, to what regularity is not known.

Somewhere between the time Calvin was being taught classical languages and perusing his B.A. in liberal arts, Calvin developed a love for theology. Many historians believe this interest in theology began when Calvin spent five years at Montaigu studying philosophy. Apparently, Calvin’s father had a change of heart for his son and withdrew John from Paris and quickly enrolled him into Orleans to study civil law. From Orleans, Calvin transferred to Bourges, where he finished his studies in law. However, around 1531 Calvin’s father became ill, so Calvin immediately went back home only to find that his father and brother had both been excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church. Calvin’s father died May 26, 1531 and Calvin’s brother Charles persuaded, with great difficulty, the cathedral chapter to allow Gerard (Calvin’s father) to be buried in consecrated ground.

After the death of Calvin’s father, several things occurred. First, Calvin was no longer obligated to study law. He therefore quickly dropped his study of law and pursued humanist studies with an emphasis in classical languages. These studies would ultimately lead Calvin to a greater interest in philosophy and theology. Second, due to the trouble Calvin’s father and his brother had with the Roman Catholic Church, it is perhaps thought that this may have embittered John against the Church, and upon his conversion to Christianity he quickly embraced the growing tenets of the Reformation and made it his task to write to that end. I believe this second point is speculative at best since there is no indication in Calvin’s writings where he mentions or even hints any trouble or bitterness toward the Church in Rome due to the situation with his Father and brother (unless I am merely overlooking it).

Eventually Calvin focused his attention on theological issues and in 1536 he completed and published his masterpiece titled Christanae Religions Iinstitutio (Institutes of the Christian Religion). While Calvin went on to write many other works, none were ever as popular nor had such a massive impact on Protestant theology as the Institutes.

Though Calvin was French, born and raised, in history he is known as the Reformer from Geneva. The interesting thing about his being "from" Geneva is the fact that the first time he ever visited was to see a friend, lu Tillet. Calvin intended to stay in Geneva only one evening until William Farel, the man who led the Reformation in Geneva found out Calvin was visiting. Apparently, as the story is told by Calvin himself, Farel marched over to where Calvin was staying and announced to Calvin that he could not leave Geneva, the city and the Protestant Church was in dire need of him. Calvin details the whole story in an autobiographical fragment found in one of his commentaries. Of course, Calvin stayed in Geneva to aid in the Reformation there, and the rest is history.

[Stay tuned, there will be more posts on Calvin’s writings and his theology]

Thursday, December 29, 2005

One of My Favorite Hymns

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessèd Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore Thee,
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,
Who was, and is, and evermore shall be.

Holy, holy, holy! though the darkness hide Thee,
Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see;
Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,
Perfect in power, in love, and purity.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All Thy works shall praise Thy Name, in earth, and sky, and sea;
Holy, holy, holy; merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessèd Trinity!

"Re­gi­nald He­ber","h/e/b/heber_r" [pictured above]
Re­gi­nald He­ber, 1826. Heber wrote this hymn for Trin­i­ty Sun­day while he was Vi­car of Hod­net, Shrop­shire, Eng­land.

Music: “Nicaea,”
"John B. Dykes","d/y/dykes_jb"
John B. Dykes, in Hymns An­cient and Mo­dern, 1861

The above hymn is one of my all time favorite hymns mainly because it is so rich in theological content and the focus of the hymn is entirely on God. You can view the informaton about this hymn (some of which I have provided in this post) and actually listen to the hymn in a midi format at The Cyber Hymnal web site.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Is God the Cause or Creator of Evil? (Part Two)

Augustine, in so many words, called evil a privation. What Augustine meant by this was that evil was not a substance, like dirt, metal or wood. I cannot go into my back yard and dip into a bucket and grab a handful of evil. So the question then is what is it? And Augustine’s answer would be, evil is actually the absence of a thing.

For instance, cold and darkness are privations. One cannot contain a jar full of "cold.". Likewise, darkness is not something you keep in a box (although it might be dark in a box if the all the lids are closed). These things, cold and darkness are the absence of hot and light. Evil, in an ontological sense is the same. It is the absence of a thing (i.e. the absence of goodness).

To declare that since God is the creator of everything, and evil is a part of everything, thus God created evil, is a belief which was held by the Manichees, and Augustine emphatically denied this belief. His counter argument would look something like this:

God created everything.
However, evil is not a thing (it is the absence of a thing).
Therefore, God did not create evil.

I think Augustine has as best as he could as a limited creature delineated the ontology of evil in a most proper and correct fashion. There is a strong sense of mystery in the issues surrounding evil, and the problem of evil (theodicy). To attribute that God, who is perfectly good in His essence and being, is the author or creator of evil, I believe, is to simply misunderstand not only the ontology of evil, but also the nature and essence of God.

[This post, of course, is not intended to respond to evil as it relates to human nature, or the ultimate issues of theodicy (if God is good why is there evil?) Rather, my aim was to answer the question (and I did so in a very brief fashion), Did God create or cause evil? The interesting thing about my previous post (part one), regarding the recent discussions I have had, came home to roost again tonight. Someone just this very evening asked me what my opinion was regarding this very question - I find it quite interesting that this question has continued to be brought up so often recently]

Is God the Cause or Creator of Evil? (Part One)

Lately, for whatever strange reason, I have been involved in several lengthy discussions with various people about the issue of God and evil. Now, when I say lately I mean in the last year or so. The root of most of these discussions grows out of someone actually declaring or implying that God in fact is the author/creator of evil. That being the case, I have, in my own meager way, tried to help the person/s gain a better understanding of the issue so they can either respond to the individuals who are making the claim, or to help clear up any confusion that might be in their thinking.

Before I move into my brief discussion here of the issue, let me state that I am not an expert on this issue. Moreover, there has been so much material written on this one issue over the years that I am not trying to add to any of the material out there, as if I have something new to say about the issue. My aim here is to merely bring forth, in as simplistic a way as possible, the issue at hand and how I usually respond. If you have any remarks or comments feel free to make your ‘complaints or praises’ in the comments.

To the question, Is God the cause or creator of evil, my simple answer is. . . NO!
As Christians we believe and confess that God is the creator of everything, either primarily (meaning directly) or secondarily (meaning indirectly). In the creation account, God in fact is described as creating the heavens and the earth (the entire universe and everything in it). However, most fail to take into account that after God created He declared what he had created good. So according to the Genesis account, everything God created is good. Well, obviously this begs the question, whence then comes evil?

(Nota Bene: the question, “Whence then comes evil?” seems to spark a whole host of other questions such as “If humans were created good then why do we sin?” etc. This is not a post about the human condition. I have actually touched on that issue a little in my two part post titled Are People Basically Good? You can see both parts here and here. I want to maintain focus on the single question, “Did God create evil?”)

My first response to the question, ‘where does evil come from’ lies in the ontology of evil itself. And with regard to the ontology of evil, I believe Saint Augustine has provided the most thorough and precise answer of all the thinkers I have read on the issue.

In his treatise De libero arbitrio voluntatis Augustine, in startling detail, discusses the issue of evil as it relates to God (whether God created it) and as it relates to humans (why are we guilty of it and why do we perform evil acts). The treatise is actually written in dialogue. Augustine is carrying on a conversation with Evodius regarding the issues and questions surrounding evil. In this treatise Augustine’s main thrust is to demonstrate that God did not create evil, nor did God cause men to perform evil acts.

I believe Augustine has the most satisfying answer to the ‘problem of evil.’ Therefore, in an upcoming post (for reasons of space) I will provide my response, which is predominately based on Augustine’s treatise De libero arbitrio voluntatis, to the question did God create or cause evil.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Quote of the Week

"There is thus no inconsistency between creation and salvation; for the One Father has employed the same Agent for both works, effecting the salvation of the world through the same Word Who made it in the beginning."

-- Saint Athanasius

We're BAAAACK!!!!

We made it back from Minnesota ok! It was a great trip and we needed to get out of Texas for a while. While we were there we got to meet Marc Heinrich of Purgatorio at the Christmas Eve service at Bethlehem Baptist Church (John Piper's Church).

We also got to go to Stillwater, which meant that I got to shop at both Loome Books locations. Here are the gold nuggets I found in their stores:

1) Hans Urs Von Balthasar, "The Office of Peter and the Structure of the Church"

2) Hans Kung, "Justification: The Doctrine of Karl Barth and a Catholic Reflection"

3) John Henry Cardinal Newman, "Select Treatises of St. Athanasius in Contraversy with the Arians" (2 vols)

4) Jaroslav Pelikan, "The Mystery of Continuity: Time and History, Memory and Eternity in the Thought of Saint Augustine"

5) Anri Morimoto, "Jonathan Edwards and the Catholic Vision of Salvation"

6) Ralph McInerny, "Boethius and Aquinas"

7) Joseph Owens, "Towards a Christian Philosophy"

8) Bernard Lohse, "Martin Luther's Theology: Its Historical and Systematic Development"

Also, in the bookstore at John Piper's church I found these two books:

Besides book shop (I did in fact do other things besides bookshop), we saw family and had a wonderful Christmas. So all in all it was a great trip (and a great book buying trip).

Now, back to blogging . . . be patient because I am about to type up my thoughts on an issue that is very controversial and post it (I don't want to let the cat out of the bag). This issue has been in certain discussions I have had with several people (as well as family members) recently and I at least wanted to get some thoughts (of course not exhaustive thoughts) in a post (or perhaps two).

Following that, I have intended to do a series on John Calvin's Theology from a more historical perspective (using only Calvin's works) and lay out a few smaller posts which will be summations of Calvin's thoughts on certain issues (this will certainly not be exhaustive either). So please be patient as I play "catch up."

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas

And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins. (Matt. 1:21 NASB)
Behold the Virgin shall be with Child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His Name Immanuel, which translated means, "God with us." (Matt. 1:23 NASB)
I wish everyone a blessed Christmas. May the mercy of God and the Love of Christ be with you this Christmas season.

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Headed Out!

We are headed to the 'tundra' (Minnesota) for Christmas, so my blogspot will be a little slower than usual. I will try and check in from my sister's house once we arrive. We are actually flying out tomorrow and we hear the tempature up there as been a nice cozy -5 on average. YEEEHAAA!!

We will actually be spending Christmas Eve and Christmas morning at Bethlehem Baptist Church, where John Piper is the Pastor. My sister is a member of his church.

And, we will also be traveling to Stillwater, just east of Minneapolis to go to Loome Books (see the link in my side bar). This is one of the best bookstores in the U.S.

I hope everyone has a blessed Christmas, and if you travel may God watch over you.

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Gatherings

Every other Friday or Saturday (which ever works best in all our schedules) I meet with two friends to eat, drink, smoke cigars or pipes, and discuss various theological and philosophical things, or books we are currently reading. These meetings have become a regular occurence over the last three or four months, and have sparked some very lively discussions.

The two friends I meet with are Clint and David. David actually has his own blogspot (though he has been a bit lax in posting lately) and Clint is a biologist (and bio-chemist as well). Clint also has a fanstatic collection of rare and antiquarian theology books, some of which he buys and then he actually restores/rebinds them in very nice leather bindings. He has a room set up in his house with all the binding tools and such to restore the books. He's quite good at it.

Here are some pics from our last meeting.

This is the whole 'gang.' As you are looking at the pic, Clint is on the far left, I'm in the middle and David is at the right.

This is Clint, pipe in hand, looking austere. He is looking at me in this pic that way because of some theological ideas I mentioned at our last gathering that kept him up all night thinking. I think he worries about me ; ) - and probably rightly so!

This is me looking at Clint's photo album of a trip he and his wife took to Italy. Can you see the jealousy written all over my face!

This is David with his newly 'buzzed' head. He's driving home a point in this pic. I think the haircut is actually helping him think more clearly now! ; )

This is the three of us after the discussions are over. See how wonderful theological discussions can be . . . The Theological Hounds


My blog is worth $46,856.82.
How much is your blog worth?

Can you really put a dollar figure on ideas, thoughts, and blog stuff? Hmmmm. . . . who cares, at this price I'm willing to sell . . . any takers?

Quote of the Week

"There is a principle which is a buffer against any information, which is proof against all argument and which does not fail to keep every human being in constant ignorance. This principle is to condemn before researching."

-- Herbert Spencer

Sunday, December 18, 2005

New Web Ring

I have created a new Web Ring for Christian blog sites and web sites.
Click "JOIN!" below if you wish to join or would simply like to read the details of the web ring.

The only criteria to join is that you embrace and adhere to the two most essential Creeds of the Christian Church - The Apostle's Creed and the Nicene Creed.

If you have questions please feel free to e-mail me (you can find my e-mail in my profile) or post them in the comments section of this post.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Confession of Faith II

Below is another Creed of Christianity. Once again, across the board, if anyone calls themselves a Christian this Creed is an essential part of what they believe. However, there is one sentence which is an exception for certain Protestants, do you know which sentence this is?

"Christian what do you belive . . .

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen."

Friday, December 16, 2005

Confession of Faith

Below is an essential Creed of Christianity. Across the board, if anyone calls themselves a Christian this Creed is an essential part of what they believe.

"Christians, what do you believe . . .

I believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilot, was crucified, dead, and buried;
He descended into hell.
The third day He rose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated on the right hand of God the Father almighty;
from there He will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

They Trifle With God

I am utterly disheartened with this.

My only response to what they are doing is the words of John Calvin . . .

"The chief end of life is to acknowledge and worship God . . . It is not in the power of men to form modes of worship they please . . . They trifle with God like children with their puppets . . . for they are perpetually contriving new modes of worship."

and the words of St. Paul . . .

"Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord."

(I am curious what others out there think about this, please feel free to comment and let me know what you think)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A Few Featured Blog Spots

I wanted to provide my blog readers with a short list and description of some of my favorite and/or most frequented blogspots out there in ‘blogland.’

For the lighter side of blogging I recommend two sites:

Brainpoo (Chris Tilling’s blog): This blog is both entertaining and informative. One the one hand Chris will post articles about “the humping praying mantis” while on the other hand he can give a short exegesis on Thessalonians 1:3; and everything else in between. Plus he’s a Chess buff, and I would love to play him in Chess one day (consider that a challenge Chris, albeit you would probably wipe the floor with me).

Another very entertaining blogspot is Purgatorio (Marc Heinrich’s blog): This blog is just down right funny. Marc posts assorted pics where everyone is asked to supply various captions (and many of the responses are quite funny), he posts comparative pics of various people, these posts are called “Separated at Birth,” and what I like to call various “montages” or series of pics that describe various things (you have to go to his blog and see these to understand). Marc has a great sense of humor.

For the more serious side I recommend these two blogs:

Novum Testamentum (Brandon Wason’s blog): This is a blog that is devoted to New Testament Studies and Cognate fields. Brandon reviews various academic books, writes articles on languages, and on Biblical Texts (e.g. “Did Paul Write Hebrews?”), and has other various articles which are quite informative.

I have saved the best for last, Faith and Theology (Ben Myers’s blog): This is my favorite blog on the internet simply because I love theology so much. Ben’s site is devoted to theology and theological works, especially those of Karl Barth. If you ever go to Ben’s blog, make sure you go into the archives section and read his previous articles. I have spent hours perusing through the previous posts and have found them very informative and thought provoking (go see them for yourself).

Along with these featured blogs be sure to check my ‘sidebar’ for some other links to various different web sites and blog spots.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A Roman Catholic Response to My Series Regarding Tradition

A good friend of mine, who I went to seminary with, has posted a response to my series titled "A Protestant View of Tradtion." His name is Jeremiah and he actually converted to Roman Catholicism after he graduated from SES (which is not indicative of what is being taught at SES). Perhaps he will create a post detailing his move from Protestantism to Roman Catholicism (hint, hint).

He has been very charitable in his response and so I wanted to post a link here for anyone who might be interested in seeing a Roman Catholic view of Tradtion in light of my series at this blog.
His blog spot is The Restoration of Unity and you will find his responses there.

Do You Obesses About Calvinism?

25 warning signs that you might be obsessing about Calvinism:

Marc Heinrich over at Purgatorio has posted the funniest "montage" I have ever seen on his blog. He regularly posts these types of "montages" about various things, but this one is by far the funniest.

However, I must warn you that if you do not have a sense of humor do not look at it! (especially if you cannot laugh at yourself - a well rounded sense of humor is needed)

Quote of the Week

Lord make me an instrument of your peace,
where there is hatred let me sow love,
where there is injury, pardon,
where there is doubt, faith,
where there is despair, hope,
where there is darkness, light,
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. -- Saint Francis of Assisi

A Protestant View of Tradition, Part Three: Conclusion (Some Final Thoughts)

While I am clearly Reformed Protestant, I, nonetheless, too often see Protestants of every persuasion or various denominations either dismiss tradition or ignore it altogether. I believe this can be detrimental to the overall theology and thought of Christians, since to ignore such a rich 2000 year history is to ignore some essential Christian theologies. I confirm that tradition is authoritative. However, something can be authoritative and not be infallible. Do I think that tradition usurps the authority of the Bible? By no means! Do I think tradition should always be weighed in light of Scriptures? Most definitely! But more importantly, tradition should never be ignored.

A problem I see in contemporary Protestantism is the various divisions between the Protestant sects/denominations and their insistence on doctrinal issues which are based solely on the Word of God (the Bible). For example, Baptists practice a certain ‘type’ of baptism which is quite different from Presbyterians both in mode and in theological content. Yet both claim to be based solely on the Bible. Thus, the difference causes disunity amongst them and because of this they do not worship together. And this often times occurs under the umbrella of ‘Reformed” to one degree or the other.

I am not saying that tradition would necessarily solve these issues and differences. However, I cannot help but think that these differences and issues end the way they do, in part, because of a lack of consideration to Church tradition. In the end, Protestants and Catholics do have distinctively sharp differences, some of which I think are warranted. However, a dismissal of tradition merely because it is “Roman Catholic” or because one seems to think that consideration of tradition means that we must place it above Scriptures is, at best, erroneous thinking. We as Protestants can learn much from the rich tradition of Christendom, and still always weigh it in light of the Scriptures.

(I would love to hear your responses to this series and get everybody's feedback. Please feel free to comment, but please do so with respect.)

Monday, December 12, 2005

UUUGGGGHHH!!!!!!!! . . . . . . It’s Sad Day here at the Vick Household

That’s right . . . sad . . . since I turn 40 today. I never thought I’d see the day that I would be moving right on into middle age. Oh well . . .

My brother-in-law has “graciously” provided me with a new reading list that he says I might find interesting now that I’m 40:

1) Christianity for the Aged

2) You Can’t Get to Heaven on a Senior Discount

3) The Purpose Driven Old Man

4) Serving God on the Other Side of the Hill

5) The Man in the Mirror is Really Your Grandpa

6) Finishing Strong (Without Hip Replacement)

7) Christian Tae Bo for Senior Adults

8) The Prayer of Methuselah

9) Samson’ Receding Hairline

Everyone have a pleasant day in ‘Blogland’ while I’m over here contemplating my mortality!

Friday, December 09, 2005

What's Your Theological Worldview?

You scored as Reformed Evangelical. You are a Reformed Evangelical. You take the Bible very seriously because it is God's Word. You most likely hold to TULIP and are sceptical about the possibilities of universal atonement or resistible grace. The most important thing the Church can do is make sure people hear how they can go to heaven when they die.

Reformed Evangelical


Neo orthodox


Roman Catholic


Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan






Classical Liberal


Modern Liberal




What's your theological worldview?
created with QuizFarm.com

OK! The above test is in serious need of qualification!

Some of the questions were ambiguous using words such as 'only' and 'always' and other similiar words in certain questions which I could have answered in the middle.

For instance, some of the questions were:

"The best way to understand the Bible is to take it literally" (this is not necessarily the best way to understand the Bible becasue often times the Bible uses metaphor, analogies, parables, and other linguistic features.)

"Preaching the word is more important than worship" (the problem here is the two are interwoven, we worship through the Word and through the Sacraments)

These are a few examples, but overall the test was fun. Try it out!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Probatur ex Scriptura aut Probatur ex Traditione: A Protestant View of Tradition, Part Two

In continuing my response to Congar’s work The Meaning of Tradition, I would now like to touch on the latter two elements or features which Congar declares Tradition encompasses; namely, issues or doctrines which are not explicitly taught in Scripture; this ties in with ‘Unwritten apostolic traditions,’ and the role of the Magisterium in preserving the content of the deposit.

At the end of chapter three Congar summarizes Tradition by declaring, “Tradition signifies, then, the Catholic spirit together with the living manner in which the whole apostolic deposit, whose subject is the Church, is transmitted.” This is clearly a summation of Congar’s overall view of Tradition, but is very telling and important for Protestants to grasp. Congar teaches that all the essential elements or features of Tradition are norms for the Church to in fact be the Church. This means Catholics begin with the reality in which Christianity is presented in history from Christ to the present day and how this reality is manifested in and through the Church is the underlining factor of the overall deposit presented to the Church by the apostles. Therefore, Scripture and Tradition are of equal authority. Congar confirms this when he declares, “And its real significance, to which the continuity of tradition bears witness, is that no article of the Church’s belief is held on the authority of Scripture independently of tradition, and none on the authority of tradition independently of Scripture.” (p.43)

Granted, Congar’s remarks reflect a classic Catholic view of Scripture and tradition working together; there is reason, as Protestants, to be a bit cautious about this assertion. The reason for caution can be clearly seen historically in that the Roman Catholic Church, time and again, has placed Tradition over and against Scriptures repeatedly when deciding certain seemingly important issues not delineated in Scripture (e.g. Purgatory, Immaculate Conception of Mary, infallibility of the Pope/Magisterium, etc.) Congar confirms this notion when he declares, “Scripture and tradition do not have the same function; tradition envelops and transcends Scripture. It is more complete and could be self-sufficient.” (p. 101, emphasis mine) This statement certainly seems to contradict Congar’s previous assertion that tradition and Scripture cannot have independent authority from or over each other. I think the Catholic Church has much to answer for here, as most Protestants would perhaps agree.

Albeit, I concede (as a Protestant) more often than not Protestants either treat tradition like a cafeteria buffet simply picking here and there what they will ‘accept,’ or ignore in tradition altogether simply because it is ‘Roman Catholic’ and thus taboo. I think both of these actions are wrongheaded and need ‘reform’ themselves (this is something I will detail a little better in my third post).

Now, pertaining to Congar’s last feature of tradition, which is closely connected to the third feature, I would like to state that this feature is perhaps the most controversial of all the features mentioned. Regarding the role of the Magisterium in guarding the content of the deposit Congar declares, “If tradition or the Magisterium claimed to teach something contradicting the holy Scriptures, it would certainly be false, and the faithful ought to reject it.” (p. 100) [Note Bene; This quote is actually taken, by Congar, from Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologica] Now, all the Protestants reading this have just perked up and I can hear them making their protests about all the things they think the Magisterium has claimed which contradict the Scriptures. And this is why I think this feature is the most controversial.

The above claim made by Congar is certainly problematic with issues that are not contained in the Scriptures. However, Congar explains this problem (for the Protestant) by declaring, “When the pastoral Magisterium presents its testimony thus in the form of a ‘definition’ or of dogmatic ‘canons’ when it promulgates a ‘dogma’, it endows a simple revealed truth, to which it bears witness, with legal value, binding for the whole Church. It does this by exercising the authority that it has received to ‘feed’ God’s People, by teaching and governing it.” (p.67)

This statement in and of itself causes some of the greatest contention between Catholics and Protestants across the board. For most of the Protestant population Scripture possesses in and of itself, without the need of addition or aid, the power or authority (or qualities) that lead one to saving faith.

In contemporary ‘reformed’ circles this is the issue of Sola Scriptura. However, I would go so far as to say that recently (within the last century or so) this issue has been bifurcated from the genuine Classical Reformed view. Certainly the Reformers in the 15th century (i.e. Luther and Calvin) agreed to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura but never out of the context of the Church, and never at the expense of losing tradition altogether (please be patient and do not jump to hasty conclusion here, I will detail my thinking on this in my third post).

However, according to the Roman Catholic Church the Magisterium has a special grace which corresponds to the mission it was entrusted with; namely deciding issues that it thinks that the body of believers is incapable of deciding in a unanimous and clear fashion. But how is this relevant for those issues which are agreed upon universally whether one is Roman Catholic or Protestant? I’m assuming that Congar would answer this question by declaring that those councils within Church history and tradition united in their common belief on these issues and therefore established certain creeds and dogmas pertaining to these issues.

However, I do think that Congar’s view of the Magisterium (which seems to be the typical Roman Catholic view) tends to be one of the greatest points of contentions between Protestants and Roman Catholics (along with the issue of Justification).

The bottom line of these features of Congar seem to be reduced, in one sense or the other between Protestants and Catholics, as those doctrines (including Scripture and Tradition) espoused by either camp are perhaps done so by being Probatur ex Scriptura aut Probatur ex Traditione (proved from Scripture or proved from Tradition). While Congar seems to try and make Scripture and Tradition equal features in the deposit of the apostles (in terms of their authority), it is quite evident based on Congar’s other statements and Church History itself that this is clearly not the case. Too often Roman Catholics make Tradition more authoritative than Scripture. And for this reason, among others I remain Protestant.

(This post is not intended to be exhaustive in its delineations of Congar's book or regarding the issues of Tradition and Scripture. I do value my readers opinions, so please feel free to comment, I want to hear what each of you has to say about these issues [but please do so with respect to each other], that is one reason why I have a blog)

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Quod Ubique, Quod Semper, Quod ad Omnibus: A Protestant View of Tradition, Part One

In a previous post titled A Protestant View of Tradition (Introduction) I described my background and experience (so to speak) with the issue of Tradition in light of my Protestant upbringing. I ended this post with these questions; what are we as Protestants to think about Church tradition? What are we to think about holding fast to the traditions of the apostles? What, in fact, does this mean? And can Roman Catholics and Protestants ever see eye to eye on this issue? I hope to tackle a few of these and other questions in this and several upcoming posts.

I have just recently finished reading Yves Congar’s book The Meaning of Tradition. So the focus of this post, continuing the issue of Tradition, will be my response to Congar’s work (of course these responses will in no way be exhaustive). Let me begin by saying that I would recommend this book to any Protestant who was interested in learning about the Roman Catholic (RC) view of Tradition. I have been told by Catholics that Congar’s work (this shorter version) is a standard text on Tradition. So if you are interested, I have provided a link to the book at Amazon at the end of this post.

According to Congar Tradition encompasses several important elements or features:

1) The economy of God [Congar notes, “In ecclesiastical terminology ‘economy’ is the name for the series of acts planned by God for the salvation of mankind. F.p. 10] which is the deposit (or Gospel), The Church, Tradition, sacraments, etc.

2) Unwritten apostolic traditions (simply put this is the spoken Word, the Gospel, certain doctrines expounded in councils and creeds, and other mysteries of the Church).

3) Issues or doctrines which are not explicitly taught in Scripture; this ties in with ‘Unwritten apostolic traditions.’

4) The Role of the Magisterium in preserving the content of the deposit.

This first post will be devoted to the first two on the list above, followed by a second post dealing with the latter two, and a third post with final responses to Congar’s ideas and theology.

Congar declares that the economy of God is simply the series of acts planned by God for the salvation of mankind. This includes the Gospel itself, the Scriptures, the Church herself, Tradition, and the Sacraments. As we saw in my earlier post, ‘holding fast to the traditions of the apostles’ (as Paul declared in 2 Thess. 2:15) would certainly entail the deposit of the Gospel, the Sacraments of the Church, the spoken and written Word (i.e. the Scriptures), and of course these are the things Paul is calling Traditions. This of course is something that all Protestants would have no contention about (granted they actually adhere to what the Reformers/Protestants taught regarding these things).

We, as Protestants know that saving faith is not found outside the context of the Church (the body of believers), but is presented within the context of the Church via the Gospel message (delivered by a member of the body written or spoken, see Acts 8:26-36 and Romans 10:13-18), and demonstrated to us time and again through the sacraments. This is classic Reformed theology. So it is certainly not at this point that Protestants should ‘protest.’

We see Calvin mirror the above assertions in his Institutes when he declares, “As our present design is to treat of the visible church, we may learn from the title mother, how useful and even necessary it is for us to know her; since there is no other way of entrance into life [salvation], unless we are conceived by her, born of her, nourished at her breast, and continually preserved under her care and government till we are divested of this mortal flesh and ‘become like the angels.’” [John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. John Allen (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1959), p.416]

With respect to “unwritten apostolic traditions” there seems to be no contention as far as the Gospel is concerned. It should be pointed out here that the Roman Catholic Church’s assertion that the Church preceded the written Word of the New Testament is in fact correct. This, however, is not a threat to Protestants as some seem to think it is, or seem to make it. Historically speaking the Church was established via the spoken word through Christ first, and then through Christ’s apostles to those who heard their spoken words. This is the very thing Paul is getting at in 2 Thess. 2:15 when he declares that these traditions of the apostles are both spoken and written. So Protestants should not be alarmed when Roman Catholics declare that the Church preceded the written word of the New Testament. This certainly does not thwart the authority of the Scriptures. If anything, it confirms its authority.

However, it is with these other unwritten “apostolic traditions” that Protestant do, perhaps, have reason to ‘protest.’ These would be the issues that were not actually explicit in the Scriptures. Issues such as the Immaculate Conception of Mary, the infallibility of the Pope (or Magisterium), etc., are all issues which gain, I think, warranted protest. Albeit, within these unwritten “apostolic traditions” there contain a handful of doctrines which are perhaps touched on in Scripture but not as explicitly as they were delineated in Tradition at certain councils and through certain creeds; issues such as The Trinity, The deity of Christ, especially the canon of Scripture itself, etc. These are perhaps the doctrines that fell into the rule Quod Ubique, Quod Semper, Quod ad Omnibus (“We must believe what has been believed everywhere, always, and by everyone”) of St. Vincent. With these issues, Protestants can certainly agree with Roman Catholics and call them essential doctrines of Christianity. Even Congar declares that these issues are essential in that they are supported by Scripture, and not merely Tradition. It is here where we see both a unity and yet a division (depending upon the issue) amongst Catholics and Protestants.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Quote of the Week

"Sin is the dare of God's justice, the rape of His mercy, the jeer of His patience, the slight of His power, and the contempt of His love."

-- John Bunyan (1628-1688)

Sunday, December 04, 2005

So . . . What's Your Family Doing for the Holidays?

Friday, December 02, 2005

Just a note about my posts on Kant’s “Kingdom of God.”

There have been many theologians and philosophers (many who were Christian) whom I have read in the past who espoused that Kant was perhaps an atheist. This was due in large part to Kant’s work The Critique of Pure Reason; especially in this work where Kant attempts to demonstrate why the current arguments for God’s existence (those which were prevalent during his day) were at best untenable.

This reading of Kant, the reading if his Critique of Pure Reason, in the absence of his other works, leads these thinkers to what I have heard called a neo-Kantian view of Kant. This view, I believe, is an erroneous view of Kant’s thinking. Kant actually bridges the gap between the noumena and the phenomena through the practical and the moral (Kant has actually formulated an alternative to the traditional arguments for God’s existence in his work The One Possible Basis for a Demonstration for the Existence of God). A more thorough reading of Kant’s works fleshes this out. This being the case, to think Kant was an atheist, or even agnostic is, at best, a faulty view.

While I do not agree entirely with Kant’s assessment of his “Kingdom of God,” I think, at least, that it communicates that Kant was attempting to incorporate his Christian Protestant Pietistic roots into his moral and religious philosophy. Moreover, the posts below certainly demonstrate that Kant held to a certain semi-Pelagian view of human nature, and here I part ways with his thinking since I am decidedly a Calvinist. However, I posted these parts here to at least demonstrate an aspect of Kant that way too many readers of Kant overlook. I hope you enjoy them.

Duty, Means, and Ends: The Kantian Kingdom of God, Part One

Below is the first part of a paper I wrote when I was studying philosophy at Marquette. I have changed the format (i.e. the footnotes have been placed in brackets/parenthesis at the end of each posting, sometimes in the middle, don't let this throw you off the flow), and certain words have been changed to fit a 'blog' setting instead a formal 'class work' setting. I will post these in parts as the entire paper was too long to post as one unit. I have tweaked the time of each post so all three parts flow in sequential order.

It would seem that the last place one would search for a treatise regarding certain theological issues would be in the works of Immanuel Kant. But perhaps we should not come to such hasty conclusions about Kant’s ability to discuss such matters. What is more, this series, while not its main intent, may in fact flesh out that perhaps Kant was a closet theologian; if not a theologian proper, then at least a philosopher of theological issues. This may often escape the casual reader of Kant since much of the focus, prima facie, seems to revolve around Kant’s Critiques (The Critique of Pure Reason, The Critique of Practical Reason, and The Critique of Judgment. Usually the casual reader will spend the most time reviewing The Critique of Pure Reason since this is, more or less, Kant’s most popular work).

However, Kant had much to say regarding philosophical theological issues. In fact, Kant’s Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone (Henceforth referred to as Religion. It is important to point out at this point that when Kant refers to reason in the context of theology, this reason is a practical reason. And in the context of Religion this reason is a moral obligation on a practical level and is thus not theoretical theology for Kant) is a treatise regarding not only moral and political issues, but religious (theological) and philosophical issues as well.

The intent of this series of posts is to glean, from Kant’s Religion, a better understanding of one of the more prominent themes which stem not only from Kant’s view of morality but from his investigation of religion from a philosophical vantage point; namely, the kingdom of God. In fact, the focus of these posts will be narrowed to the third book of Religion which is aptly titled “The Victory of the Good over the Evil Principle and the Founding of the Kingdom of God.” In this chapter Kant is preoccupied with the notion that the formation of this kingdom is a result of achieving the highest moral good in a community of individuals who have this same goal in mind in their struggle for moral perfection.

However, Kant also believes there is a higher moral Being on whom this community of individuals must rely in order to achieve a unity for a common end. There are certain beliefs and practices which work as means to helping this community achieve this common end, and a certain moral duty which is necessarily enveloped in this social quest for moral perfection. Thus, this article will attempt to delineate the duty, means and ends for the Kantian kingdom of God.

Duty, Means, and Ends: The Kantian Kingdom of God, Part Two

Duty, Means, and Ends
Kant believed that the underlying nature of humans is good, albeit there is an evil principle at work which hampers humans from reaching their highest moral potential. Kant believed that every human goes through this struggle since the fall of our parents (Adam and Eve). In the third chapter of Religion Kant characterizes this struggle as such:

"The combat which every morally well-disposed man must sustain in this life, under the leadership of the good principle, against the attacks of the evil principle, can procure him, however much he exerts himself, no greater advantage than freedom from the sovereignty of evil. To become free, “to be freed from bondage under the law of sin, to live for righteousness” [Romans 6:18] —this is the highest prize he can win."

(Immanuel Kant, Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone, translated by Theodore M. Greene and Hoyt H. Hudson (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1960), bk 3, 85.)

From this struggle comes religion via human culture, according to Kant. In other words, humans know the good which they ought to do but find it impossible to perform this good. This is due in part to a weakness of the will. The operative point in the previous comment is the idea that ‘humans know the good.’ Because humans know the good which they ought to do, there is a moral obligation, or duty to do the good. However, a problem arises in that people are incapable of doing this good on their own.

(It is important to note that Kant does not believe that humans have the capacity to reach the highest good on their own. The fact of radical evil keeps mankind from attaining this highest moral good and Kant believed that intervention from the highest moral Being was necessary. See Stephen Palmquist’s article “The Kingdom of God is at Hand! (Did Kant Really Say that?)” History of Philosophy Quarterly 11, 4 (October 1994), and Elizabeth C. Galbraith’s article “Kant and Richard Schaeffler’s Catholic Theology of Hope,” Philosophy and Theology 9, 4 (date unknown), 333-50.)

Thus, Kant proposes two elements which are needed in order for man to fulfill his moral duty. These two elements are an ethical commonwealth under divine legislation and a supreme or highest moral Being.

(See Religion, bk 3, div. 1, sec. 2 & 7.)

As we examine these two elements in greater detail, Kant’s concept of duty[1], means, and ends should also be examined. Of course in the context of the Kantian kingdom of God, these three concepts help to establish this kingdom. According to Kant, “the good principle, which resides in each man, is continually attacked by the evil which is found in him and also in everyone else.”[2] Furthermore, this evil is a result of mankind’s departure from unity with one another. In other words, despite the good that underlies each human nature, men lack a principle which unites them. Thus, men corrupt each other.

([1]The concept of duty in Kantian philosophy could occupy an entire paper since it involves so much. For the purposes of this research, I will narrow Kant’s notion of duty to his concept of the Kingdom of God. While it is important to point out that it is incumbent upon readers of Kant’s philosophy of religion to gain a good grasp on what Kant means by duty in order to understand Kant’s moral, political, and religious philosophies, it is beyond the scope and length of this paper to discuss Kant’s idea of duty in such exhaustive detail. Therefore, it is assumed that when here duty is applied to Kant’s Kingdom of God, the reader will understand the nuances due to an overall understanding of duty in Kant’s philosophy. See Kant’s Lectures of Ethics, Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, Critique of Practical Reason, and Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone. Also see Howard Caygill’s A Kant Dictionary (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1995), under the insert Duty.)

([2]Kant, Religion, bk. 3, div.1, sec. 2, 88.)

From this fact, Kant declares that there is a duty, not of each individual man toward one another but “of the human race toward itself,”[3] to bring back this unity which is needed to gain the highest good. This is confirmed by Kant when he declares, “For the species of rational beings is objectively, in the idea of reason, destined for a social goal, namely, the promotion of the highest as a social good.”[4] Here Kant speaks, morally, politically, as well and religiously. While it seems that Kant is speaking mainly in terms of a political theory (which in fact he is), Kant is also, nonetheless, speaking in moral and religious terms. This is so because this effort to leave what Kant calls the ethical state of nature is in fact a religious and moral act on the part of man to become apart of the ethical commonwealth. And this ethical commonwealth is what Kant calls the visible church.[5] Kant means by a visible church, “the actual union of men into a whole which harmonizes with that ideal.”[6]

([3]Ibid., 89.
[5]It is interesting to note that the concept of an invisible and visible church is a Calvinistic notion from none other than the great reformer John Calvin. Of course, it is more than likely that Kant gets this idea from his Pietistic roots.
[6]Kant, Religion, bk. 3, div.1, sec. 4, 92. (Emphasis in the original). )

But what is “that ideal?” By ideal Kant seems to mean the ethical commonwealth which is under divine moral obligation as an actuality. In other words, when the moral union of men is finally satisfied in the ethical commonwealth which is under divine moral obligation, this creates the ideal rule or state. The invisible church is the “mere idea of the union of all the righteous under direct and moral divine world-government, an idea serving as the archetype of what is to be established by men.”[7] Here Kant is delegating duty, in the kingdom of God, as the moral obligation to become a part of the ethical commonwealth which is under divine moral rule. Every man, being rational, is without excuse to become apart of this ideal. Thus, as a duty, it is incumbent upon men to practice their moral obligations in order to unite and thwart the principle of evil which has separated them.

([7]Ibid. (Emphasis added).)

Furthermore, Kant believed the ethical commonwealth is realized via human organization through the formation of a church, but this formation of a church does not resemble current political constitutions (i.e. monarchical, aristocratic, nor democratic).[8] Rather “The Constitution of every Church Originates always in some Historical (Revealed) Faith which we can call Ecclesiastical Faith; and this is best founded on a Holy Scripture.”[9] Perhaps here more than anywhere else Kant demonstrates his Protestant Pietistic roots. For example, Kant delineates that this ecclesiastical faith in association with pure religious faith[10] is a means “of public union of men for its promotion,”[11] and is not “provided for adequately through tradition, but only through scripture.”[12] In other words, Kant asserts that through tradition (i.e. pure religious faith) as a means, ecclesiastical faith (i.e. the ethical commonwealth) can be realized only if it is established through scripture. Thus, Kant affirms that pure religious faith is the means by which the ethical commonwealth is realized.
Moreover, Kant believed and taught that people should be treated as ends in themselves and not as means to an end. This is an important part of Kant’s overall moral and religious philosophy, since Kant affirms that it is this ‘use’ of people by other people as means that has contributed to the separation of men. For Kant, unity is necessary for the ethical commonwealth to come to fruition. Thus, people are ends and not means[13] in this ethical commonwealth and when we, as a group of people, realize that people are ends, unity will be easier to achieve. Stephen Palmquist in his article The Kingdom of God is at Hand! (Did Kant Really Say That?) comments on this by declaring, “The realm of ends is simply the term appropriate to the practical standpoint for the ideal which, viewed from the judicial (religious) standpoint, is properly called the kingdom of God.”[14]

[8]See Religion bk. 3, div. 1, sec. 4.
[9]Kant, Religion, bk. 3, div. 1, sec. 5; 94.
[10]By ‘pure religious faith’ Kant means the traditional buildings, temples, churches, and those thing associated with the church such as priests, divines, and the ordinances performed in and through these things.
[11]Kant, Religion, bk. 3, div. 1, sec. 5; 97.
[12]Ibid. (Emphasis in the original). It should be noted here that when Kant refers to Scripture he is not speaking in terms of dogma or doctrine. Rather Kant views Scripture in moral terms. In other words, the Scriptures are a moral example which all ought to follow.
[13]This stems from Kant’s second formulation of the categorical imperative which is found in Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals, translated by Lewis White Beck (Indianapolis: The Liberal Arts Press, 1959).
[14]Stephen Palmquist, “The Kingdom of God is at Hand!” (Did Kant Really Say That?),” History of Philosophy Quarterly: 11, 4 (October 1994), 426.

Duty, Means, and Ends: The Kantian Kingdom of God, Part Three

The Kantian Kingdom of God

The recognition of all duties as divine commands is, for Kant, the coming of the kingdom of God. Stephen Palmquist comments on Kant’s ‘coming of the kingdom of God’ by declaring, “God’s gracious gift of his kingdom on earth is manifested in us as the recognition of the centrality of our moral nature in our religious life.”[15] As was noted earlier, Kant believed that humans know the good which they ought to do. However, even though humans know the good which they ought to do they find it impossible to perform this good. While the impossibility to do this good does not thwart the moral obligation of every person to strive to do the good, it certainly raises several interesting question.

If it is impossible for humans to do the good, yet it is necessary that humans continue to strive to do the good and are morally obligated in this effort, does this not seemed to be a wasted effort? In other words, it seems odd that humans ought to do what Kant declares is impossible. Regarding this ‘problem’, Kant does not lack an explanation as to how this impossibility is overcome. In fact, his answer to this apparent problem plays an important role in the coming of God’s kingdom.

Enveloped in his answer to the incapacity of mankind to achieve the highest moral good, Kant has delineated a notion of hope. Of course, as we have seen, humanity is essentially in pursuit of a social goal, namely the highest moral good, which is a social good for Kant. Thus, for an individual to attempt to pursue this goal in isolation is not only wrongheaded but is also contrary to the purpose for which Kant thinks this goal is intended, namely to direct the duty of mankind toward itself as a species. As a social unit, people are no longer means but ends, since that which is unified never progresses by rule or effort of the one but of the many. Sidney Axinn describes this idea of Kant like this,

"The human species is seen as pursuing an essentially social goal. To be absorbed in one’s individual moral perfection is to miss the idea of the highest moral good. This idea, the conception of a universal republic based on laws of virtue, “is an idea completely distinguished from all moral laws (which concern what we know to lie in our own power), since it involves working toward a whole regarding which we do not whether, as such, it lies in our power or not” (p. 89). Therefore, Kant insists that this duty is distinguished from all others in several ways. As he has already said, it is the human duty of species toward itself. It is also a duty to work toward something which we know we ought to work toward but for whose success we must rely on powers outside our own. Therefore, hope plays a significant role.[16]"

Thus, as Axinn pointed out, unity of the species is necessary but does not get mankind to the ultimate highest moral good. An outside force or aid is needed. Kant, in Religion, calls this outside aid the highest moral Being, or God. Hope, in one sense, is the aid or help of this highest Being in order for mankind, as a species, to bring about the kingdom of God. This is characterized by Kant as such:

"For the species of rational beings is objectively, in the idea of reason, destined for a social goal, namely, the promotion of the highest as a social good. But because the highest good cannot be achieved merely by the exertions of the single individual toward his own moral perfection, but requires rather a union of such individuals into a whole toward the same goal—into a system of well-disposed men, in which and through whose unity alone the highest moral good can come to pass—the idea of such a whole, as a universal republic based on laws of virtue, is an idea completely distinguished from all moral laws (which concern what we know to lie in our own power); since it involves working toward a whole regarding which we do not know whether, as such, it lies in our power or not. Hence this duty is distinguished from all others both in kind and in principle. We can already foresee that this duty will require the presupposition of another idea, namely, that of a higher moral Being through whose universal dispensation the forces of separate individuals, insufficient in themselves, are united for a common end.[17]"

Above, Kant points out several key factors involved in the coming of the kingdom of God. The first of these key factors is the social unity of mankind in an effort to gain the highest moral good, and the second is the assistance of a highest moral Being. Regarding the latter element, Elizabeth Cameron Galbraith comments, “This higher moral Being is ‘one who knows the heart,’ and brings about that ‘each receives whatever his actions are worth.’ This is because a perfect ethical commonwealth, or Kingdom of God, would require more moral wisdom than humankind at present possesses.”[18]

Enveloped in this need for the highest moral Being’s assistance is not only hope but grace as well. While Kant does not come right out and use the term grace, except in one specific place,[19] it is evident in his description. Moreover, Kant describes this assistance from the highest moral being as ‘saving faith.’ Along with this saving faith comes a “gradual transition of ecclesiastical faith to the universal religion of reason, and so to a (divine) ethical state on earth.”[20] Thus, the coming of the kingdom of God is this gradual transition from “ecclesiastical faith to the exclusive sovereignty of pure religious faith.”[21] So what does Kant mean by ‘saving faith?’

Kant declares,

"Saving faith involves two elements, upon which hope of salvation is conditioned, the one having reference to what man himself cannot accomplish, namely, undoing lawfully (before a divine judge) actions which he has performed, the other to what he himself can and ought to do, that is, leading a new life comfortable to his duty. The first is the faith in an atonement (reparation for his debt, redemption, reconciliation with God); the second, the faith that we can become well-pleasing to God through a good course of life in the future. Both conditions constitute but one faith and necessarily belong together.[22]"

Of course, for Kant, ecclesiastical faith starts with the belief in atonement. But this is merely the vehicle for pure religious faith. This is achieved when “the maxim of action, which is religious faith (being practical) is the condition, must take the lead, and the maxim of knowledge, or theoretical faith, must merely bring about the strengthening and consummation of the maxim of action.”[23] Though Palmquist is examining this process from a political philosophical standpoint he is, nonetheless, helpful in describing this process as such: “The ultimate end of this entire process will come about when there is no longer any distinction between the empirical manifestations of religious and political systems and the pure moral reasons to which they conform.”[24]

When this transition occurs the distinction between clergy and laity will disappear, equality will arise from true freedom (without anarchy) since each person will obey the law that is prescribed. Moreover, regard for this law will stem from a World-Ruler who is revealed through reason and this will unite all under one common government into one state.[25] In other words, once the ecclesiastical faith transitions to the universal religion of reason and a divine ethical state is established on earth as a public foothold, we have good reason, according to Kant, to declare that the kingdom of God is at hand.[26]

[16]Sidney Axinn, The Logic of Hope: Extensions of Kant’s View of Religion (Atlanta, Georgia: Rodopi, 1994), 99. Axinn quotes from Religion translated by Greene and Hudson (La Salle, Illinois: Open Court Publishers, 1934). Emphasis in the original.
[17]Kant, Religion, bk. 3, div. 1, sec. 2, 89.
[18]Elizabeth Cameron Galbraith, Kant and Theology: Was Kant a Closet Theologian? (San Francisco: International Scholars Publication, 1996), 61.
[19]Refer to Religion, bk. 3, div. 1, sec. 7, 109. Here Kant calls the “faith in good life conduct, as being effected through the higher agency, would be reckoned to him as grace.”
[20]Kant, Religion, bk. 3, div. 1, sec. 7, 113.
[21]Ibid., 105.
[22]Ibid., 106.
[23]Ibid., 109. (Emphasis in the original).
[24]Palmquist, 434.
[25]Kant, Religion, bk. 3, div. 1, sec. 7, 112.
[26]Ibid., 113.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The Da Vinci Code

Over at my other Blog Spot, What's Behind It? to which I contribute with two other friends, I have been posting a series responding to certain claims made byDan Brown in his novel The Da Vinci Code.

Go check it out when you have a chance.

A Children's Book Recommendation

Recently my wife and I gave a copy of John MacArthur's book titled "I Believe in Jesus: Leading Your Child to Christ" to my wife's sister and husband. They have four children (one just recently born the week of Thanksgiving) and this book is a wonderful book for children to gain a better understanding of Christianity.

I actually did not know MacArthur had published this book until my wife and I recently went to hear him speak again here in the Dallas area. There was a ministry (not actually 'Grace to You' which is MacArthur's ministry) that had a book table set up and this book was on it. So my wife bought a copy.

The book is great for children since it is easy to read (naturally so since it was written for children) and is filled with wonderful illustrations/drawings. The book is geared to help the parents actually lead their children to a better understanding and saving knowledge of Christ. If you have children and would like to actually have a good solid theological book that is especially written to reach children, then I recommend this work to you. I have provided a link below for you to see the book and purchase it if you like.