Friday, January 21, 2011

Blog

I'll be using this blog to get my thoughts down and keep track of everything that I'm working on. I hope to ask some questions, generate discussion, and maybe find some answers from people who are more knowledgeable than I. If you think you have an answer please do tell!

10 comments:

Brian said...

I am just as much a novice as you, Alfredo. I take that back. I am much more of a novice than you. Let me ask you this:

Do you still think of yourself as a seeker? Or have you reached a point where you are pretty sure of your beliefs, but you are still getting your ducks in a row, so to speak?

awatkins69 said...

Hey there Brian. That's a good question. I think I'm sort of in between the two options. I'm quite committed to my Christian beliefs.

Even within that system though there are so many competing philosophical positions that it's hard to get a clear answer just based on Christian commitments; however, I'm sympathetic to a broadly Aristotelian view of things.

So with that said, I think in almost every area that I've thought about I'm still a seeker, though again I have this general sympathy for something like Aristotle's worldview.

How about you?

Brian said...

I am a computer science major. That means my adventures into apologetics, biblical history, philosophy, Scripture, theology, etc. have all been without formal guidance or training. Needless to say, I have my ups and my downs, and I still have so many questions about the truth of Catholicism. So I guess I am a seeker, but with a comfortable Catholic slant.

Have you done a lot of research into Scripture and all that?

awatkins69 said...

Philosophy and computer science interact quite a bit; computer science and *mathematics* are part and parcel!

Well, I'm a traditional Catholic, i.e. I tend to follow the liturgical and canonical norms from immediately before the Second Vatican Council. So I'm definitely quite orthodox. I've studied Holy Scripture quite a bit and I read from my Bible every day. In fact, the last couple of years before I really got into my school work I mostly studied theology and Scripture. I even tried to master Greek but I've just not had the time (I should probably get back into that). I must admit though that I've gotten a little rusty on the Catholic dogma.

If you haven't already, I highly recommend that you study the early Church Fathers. There's no doubt in my mind that the historical case based on the Church Fathers and early Christian writings is decidedly in favor of Catholicism. Also, although St. Thomas Aquinas is not the only doctor of the Church, his writings are chocked full of Scripture. He seems to have known the whole Bible and many many quotes of the Fathers by heart. You can find his thoughts on Scripture in the Summa and most of his commentaries on the New Testament are available online. Also, the Council of Trent and Roman Catechism promulgated after it are both very good resources when it comes to almost any major aspect of Catholic dogma. I'm somewhat skeptical of the new Catechism, but it's also quite comprehensive and full of references to various texts from both Scripture and Tradition. Finally, I think there are philosophical arguments in favor of Catholicism.

Brian said...

I think I may have thrown you off about mentioning Scripture. You probably thought that I was implying that Catholicism is unbiblical. Definitely not. I know enough to know that it is either Catholicism or nothing.

What I was thinking about was how elements of Scripture can conflict with natural history. I am speaking, of course, about Genesis. Take for instance the state of Original Holiness or Original Justice before the Fall. As I understand this state, man is in perfect harmony with nature, and there is no death for either animal or man. Take a look at Wisdom 1:13-14 which clearly states this.

Obviously, this conflicts with natural history. Currently, i am studying this to see all the angles. Have you come across this?

awatkins69 said...

Oh I see. Yes, I've come across issues like this. For instance, I was a little worried about the Church's teaching on Adam and Eve and the findings of evolution and genetics, though I no longer think there is a problem.

But your problem seems to be animal death. To be honest, I can't claim to have a complete answer. However, here are some thoughts which may or may not be useful to you.

I do think there was both animal and plant death before the fall. As you say, this is attested to by natural science, and most Catholic philosophers and theologians (Aquinas for example) think that animals are by nature non-subsistent. I've even read some private revelations which say that Adam and Eve would have experienced a biological death but would have been taken afterward to an eternal paradise (but that's not official in any way; neither is it contrary to Church teaching). Also, when God says "surely you will die" he may mean by this a full spiritual death as well as losing all of the privileges which they were graced with in a state of original justice. In fact, the warning not to eat from the tree specifically says "*for in what day soever thou shalt eat of it*, thou shalt die the death." On that day they did not experience a physical death; however, that same day they *did* experience a spiritual death, making that interpretation more plausible.

Now, for one, if we want to interpret Wisdom 1:13-14 in the most literal sense, then we should say that even plants did not die before the fall; but this is clearly false. I think that an interpretation along those lines is somewhat implausible anyway. For one, the word used in the Greek Septuagint is "thanatos" which typically is more extensive than just biological death. Secondly, given the context, Solomon is talking about human virtue; it seems strange that he'd be talking all about human virtue, then talk about creation for half a sentence, then talk about human virtue again. I think in this context Solomon is talking about man. When he says "God does not pleasure in the destruction of the living" by "the living" here he is referring to the just people who follow God's laws. It's like in Psalms 27 and 116 where they use the phrase "land of the living". Also, when he says that "there is not a destructive drug among them nor any domain of the nether world on earth" he is saying that man is only hurt by these things because of his sinfulness.

Finally, I think there are verses which show that animal death is a natural part of God's order. Psalm 104 (103 in Douay Rheims/Vulgate) for instance, especially verses 19-28, talks about how lions go and search for their prey *from God* and *God* gives them their meat. This seems to indicate that it's not true that God doesn't intend animal death as part of his creation, and it restricts the way we can interpret the Fall.

That was quite long! I'm not sure if any of that is helpful or not, but I hope you find answers to your satisfaction. You might find these resources useful. I'm not sure if you're using the NAB, but that's a notoriously horrible translation:

http://haydock1859.tripod.com/id1149.html
http://www.ellopos.net/elpenor/greek-texts/septuagint/chapter.asp?book=29

Brian said...

Thanks for the help. I wish I could respond substantially, but, to be honest, my grasp of Scripture is still so poor that I am afraid I would not know where to begin. I will definitely continue researching this topic, though. Perhaps we can talk about it more some time?

Private revelation, eh? I am fascinated by the miraculous history of the Church. Many of the credible claims of private revelation have edified me in times of doubt, and I think a lot of good would come out of a thorough research of them. Today's materialism shuts people off spiritually from God, and I think the Church's miraculous history is just what some people need to get their spiritual desire for God rekindled. I would love to share with you what I have found in my research if you have have the time.

awatkins69 said...

Private revelations are very interesting and you're right, I think they give us a more direct insight into spiritual matters. However, we should always take the Church to be the final authority, even if private revelations and miracles seem more direct and personal. "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

You're always welcome to e-mail me.

Brian said...

Here is an unrelated question:

How could you agree to the SAA doctrinal statement? Isn't the Catholic position that the word of God consists of more than just the Bible but also Sacred Tradition?

awatkins69 said...

They've worded it in such a way that it's acceptable for a Catholic. We do believe that only Holy Writ is the inerrant Word of God. However, this doesn't mean that I affirm Scripture is the only part of Divine Revelation. It's consistent to say that the Bible is the only Word of God and that Tradition is a part of Divine Revelation.