Monthly Archives: January 2016

Steve Long and the Moral Object

I have been reading Steven Long of late. His account of the moral object seems urgent to consider.

In a moral act, the first thing we must consider is the “what it is” you are doing. The object of the act. Are you murdering or are you feeding someone? Etc.

Those who know, know that this is one very difficult topic.

One of Long’s crucial points, though, is lost on many, including many good Catholics. It is this: That the natural order of cause and effect in the sub-rational world already indicates certain truths about certain possible actions for our choice. This inherent order in certain natural lines of causality cannot be ‘ignored’ when I choose to act. Indeed, to choose intelligently to act requires adverting to these ordered structures. And these ordered structures determine the character of the actions which a rational agent proposes to commit.

Case in point. Say a given doss of pain-killer is known medically certainly to be lethal. Well, then, to choose to administer this doss is to choose death. Period. Of course, the doctor or relative will say to himself, “I only want the pain-killing side of the act. I don’t want the death-dealing side of it.” Ah, but you know that it does deal death. And you are to act intelligently. This is the kind of action the natural course of which necessarily entails death. (Let necessary = medically known sufficiently to cause, except in rarest of cases or miracles.) Then, for any intelligent agent to choose to administer it just is to choose death. One cannot – in GNOSTIC fashion – then claim that one interiorly (spiritually) only desires a certain aspect of this natural (merely material, he claims) act. If  one were to justify the action by saying that one only chooses the act under its desirability, one would be acting in Gnostic fashion. It would be the “intentionalist” fallacy. That my intention can – in the face of a naturally known telelogical order of a certain action – bypass this order and find some other reason for the appetibility of the act. That my intention finds what is appetible and chooses it only thus. This is what Long calls “intentionalism.”

Its effects are absolutely dire, and contrary to Catholic moral tradition. Another example is craniotomy. This is the crushing of a baby’s skull to save the mother’s life when otherwise both will die.

Remember: We must never do evil that good may come. Even if I only kill one little babe to stop WWIII, nonetheless, I would sin evilly in doing so. All good Catholics grant this basic point.

But those who confuse the moral object can’t see straight on craniotomy. How do they tackle it? They do this: They say that the doctor chooses the “reshaping” of the skull. He doesn’t choose the death. Only the reshaping, so it can fit the birth canal so he can save the mother.

Long’s counter: But crushing the skull necessarily entails death. Hence, to choose this action intelligently just is to choose death. And if the object is rational and innocent, then to choose its death is murder. But if you opt for intentionalism, you can wipe away this very serious, long approved condemnation of craniotomy. You can wipe it away with your good intention. Which now comes to supposedly “specify” the act and – voila! – you turn murder into salvation. This really is a vile consequence of a gnosticizing theory.

The order impressed in nature does not enslave us. It gets us going and serves as the partial determination – in some cases crucial determination – of the kinds of actions that are morally good.

Long’s tome on the subject is The Teleological Grammar of the Moral Act. Long is a good friend, a compassionate soul, and a brilliant theologian / philosopher.

I highly recommend this text.


The post is small but the issue massive.

Theology ought to be study of GOD.

However, very often, it ends up being the study of … the study of God. That is, it is simply the study of Augustine’s thought or Aquinas’s thought or Newman’s thought or Balthasar’s thought or O’Collins’s thought or Rahner’s thought, etc.

Now, it is important to study the work of great theologians. In fact, we can’t get off the ground by ourselves, unless one is of some rare species I have not seen.

But this fact SHOULD mean that we must study TRADITION above all. And not with an eye to the ‘opinion of the great theologian qua his / her opinion’. Rather, with an eye to contact with the RES, REALITY. Namely, with an eye to right thought about Uncreated Being and Created beings.

At the hands of modernists, however, we reflect on this or that theology qua the opinion of this or that person. Hence, we foreground the historical context. Then, we highlight the differences among the various approaches. Now we are looking at pupils, at the eyes of theologians and not at what they looked at. In fact, we show ourselves rebels against them. We are betraying them. For they looked at the real. And we are looking at them.

But see what next happens. The differences are pondered with great and serious worry. Worry so deep that we begin to wonder whether there is any truth. Is there any truth out there? Or is it just me and my looking at another’s looking? O the depth of my own blindness, the unsearchable uncertainty of my own mind, unstable and wayward. Nothing is true, no not one thing. All err. Their vision is blindness.

After the confusion sets in, students are ready for the next step. It may be offered by the professor or by the culture at large. “Life is short, death is certain; eat, drink and be merry.”

If there is no point or end, then certainly sex cannot have a point or end. Ergo, sex for sex’s sake. Musing for musing’s sake. Discussing for discussing’s sake. In short, the death of the mind followed by the banality of endlessness.

All this from a theology course? Of course not. Still, this foregrounding of perspective – this perspectivism – is indeed one strongly nailed iron affixing the lid of your coffin to the walls of your death.

Should Any Catholic Praise Luther?

We praise someone who fundamentally deserves praise. No one is without fault, and no one without some merit. But only those are worthy of praise who fundamentally deserve praise, whose pith and marrow is good.

Now, Luther certainly saw some things in the Church as evil that were evil. No one can say that his vision was totally corrupted. But was his vision fundamentally worthy of praise? We must, of course, distinguish contemporary Lutherans from Luther. Here, we are interested in the founder, in the foundation he laid.

What should be the matter upon which we judge this case? Luther’s own texts, of course.

So, in this post, we will cite Luther at length in one of his key contributions. Granted, this key contribution he did not continue explicitly to lay out. However, he never retracted it. In another post, we can lay out the theses he continued explicitly to hold.

In reading the below, ask yourself these questions: Could a saint utter the words below? Could a holy man write the following? Could a true lover of God, one in the state of grace, write the following?

First Thesis of Luther. For Luther, Divine Foreknowledge means that there is No Contingency, and that means that there is No Freedom. This thesis he lays down, so he asserts, to protect God’s foreknowledge so as to protect his promise so as to protect our confidence in salvation by faith alone. Indeed, here we see the connection between this foundation and the explicit teaching of his that endures and which will be treated in a future post. The connection: If future events are contingent, God’s promise is not as trustworthy as we need it to be. Hence, future events are not contingent.

For Luther, there is either grace or freedom (Martin Luther, Bondage of the Will, from Luther’s Works vol. 33, p. 126; hereafter, LW 33:126). There is either freedom or Christ (LW 33:279).

(Regarding Pharaoh), Luther writes: “If there had been any flexibility or freedom of choice in Pharaoh, which could have turned either way, God would not have been able so certainly to predict his hardening. Since, however, the Giver of the promise is one who can neither be mistaken nor tell a lie, it was necessarily and most certainly bound to come about that Pharaoh should be hardened; which would not be the case unless the hardening were entirely beyond the capacity of man and within the power of God alone” (LW 33:183).


If God foreknew that Judas would be a traitor, Judas necessarily became a traitor, and it was not in the power of Judas or ay creature to do differently or to change his will, though he did what he did willingly and not under compulsion, but that act of will was a work of God, which he set in motion by his omnipotence, like everything else” (LW 33:185).



It is not in our power to change, much less to resist, his will, which wants us hardened and by which we are forced to be hardened, whether we like it or not” (LW 33:187).


“I admit that the question is difficult, and indeed impossible, if you wish to maintain at the same time both God’s foreknowledge and man’s freedom. What could be more difficult, nay more impossible, than to insist that contradictories or contraries are not opposed, or to find a number that was at the same time both ten and nine?…. Paul is thus putting a check on the ungodly, who are offended by this very plain speaking when they gather from it that the divine will is fulfilled by necessity on our part, and that very definitely nothing of freedom or free choice remains for them, but everything depends on the will of God alone…. Not that any injustice is done to us, since God owes us nothing, has received nothing from us, and has promised us nothing but what suits his will and pleasure” (LW 33:188).


“God’s foreknowledge and omnipotence are diametrically opposed to our free choice” (LW 33:189).


“Here, then, is something fundamentally necessary and salutary for a Christian, to know that God foreknows nothing contingently, but that he foresees and purposes and does all things by his immutable, eternal, and infallible will. Here is a thunderbolt by which free choice is completely prostrated and shattered…” (Bondage [LW 33:37]).

Luther presents as his evidence that God is unchanging. So, he concludes, is God’s will. So far, so good. But from these he deduces that therefore, nothing is contingent. Again,

“From this it follows irrefutably that everything we do, everything that happens, even if it seems to us to happen mutably and contingently, happens in fact nonetheless necessarily and immutably, if you have regard to the will of God” (Bondage [LW 33:37f]).

What have real saints said about this thesis? Well, St. Thomas More labelled Luther’s thesis on absolute determination to be:


AMEN to St. Thomas More. How can we contradict St. Thomas More here? Should we, out of human respect and errant versions of ecumenism, lose our theological heads, not in service of martyrdom, but rather in praise of such execrable doctrine? 

Let us continue the citations.

For Luther, the thesis of absolute determinism is necessary in order to Protect Faith’s Certainty. No faith is possible unless one already “knows” that because God wills all things, nothing is contingent (LW 33:42).

“For if you doubt or disdain to know that God foreknows all things, not contingently, but necessarily and immutably, how can you believe his promises and place a sure trust and reliance on them? For when he promises anything, you ought to be certain that he knows and is able and willing to perform what he promises; otherwise, you will regard him as neither truthful nor faithful, and that is impiety and a denial of the Most High God. But how will you be certain and sure unless you know that he knows and wills and will do what he promises, certainly, infallibly, immutably, and necessarily?” (Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will, LW 33:42)

Now, this reason for humility is utterly false, since it contradicts Catholic Dogma. But St. Bernard said that giving false reasons for humility is in fact pride. Hence, Luther also takes one of the steps of pride in contending that this thesis Benefits Humility.

Luther recognizes that the notion of absolute determinism seems to make God utterly evil and perverse. Instead, then, of rejecting it as blasphemous and fideistic, he embraces it as lifting up Faith and Revelation, since it is so contrary to all reason:

“This is the highest degree of faith, to believe him merciful when he saves so few and damns so many, and to believe him righteous when by his own will he makes us necessarily damnable, so that he seems, according to Erasmus, to delight in the torments of the wretched and to be worthy of hatred rather than of love” (LW 33:62f).

Luther’s own words are the evidence. This is the testimony of his own mouth. Let the honest and decent reader judge the case.

Before the bar of every rational and decent person, does Luther not convict himself of utter inhumanity?

Before the bar of all that is reasonable in moral exhortation – from parental to educational to civil and criminal, does he not convict himself of a crime against all law? Is he, therefore, anarchical?

Before the bar of Catholic Dogma, supreme criterion on earth of what we know is and is not part of and/or in harmony with the Deposit of Faith, does he not convict himself of heresy?

Before the God whom we ought to honor, to whom we ought to ascribe only what is good and true and fitting, does he not convict himself of great blasphemies, greater even than the Gnostics who first attempted to ruin the Church? For the Gnostics distinguished two gods, one good and one evil. Does not Luther add to the evil by subtracting from the number of Gods, folding that Evil, which all right reason and right faith and common decency vomit out as execrable, into the one God?

Indeed, DOES NOT ALL OF MODERN THOUGHT — which, incidentally, is not entirely corrupt, though it is by and large no friend of Christ — REJECT SUCH VILE THOUGHT? If we, then, accept what is good and decent in Modernity – as it rebels against fideism and voluntaristic notions of God and absurd notions of justification and divine predetermination and the destruction of all legitimate autonomy of man – must we not therefore reject this foundational thesis of Luther? Finally, does this predetermination to evil harmonize with the errant notion of a mercy shorn of justice, so popular these days?

Balthasar’s Delirious Hope that All be Saved

Hans Urs von Balthasar’s work has been gaining steady influence in the Church. Whoever reads his work must be impressed by his erudition and the vast sweep of his vision. And indeed he has many insights and has pioneered a way of doing theology that ought to be taken up in many of its respects, the criticisms here notwithstanding.

However, his work smacks of contradiction to the faith of the Church on a number of key points. And in other matters he has been wildly reckless. One topic on which he has been both utterly reckless and also – by any sober estimation – at odds with elements of the faith of the Church is on his hope that all may be saved.

I must summarize his argument and position here. The presentation could of course be developed more fully – but then again, so could the criticisms to follow.

Balthasar argues, to begin, that since we may hope – regarding each person – that he may be saved, we may hope that all persons may be saved. The argument seems logical (unless you have studied logic): If I may hope for each man that he can be saved, I may hope that the whole lot of men can be saved.

He further contends that this hope is not contradicted by any teaching of revelation or the Magisterium, for, he contends, the Magisterium has never declared that anyone is in hell, much less pronounced on any individual.

Of course, the ready critic will immediately bring up a terrible text such as Matthew 25 – where the sheep go off to eternal life and the goats are sent into the fires of hell. Balthasar has a quick response (Dare We Hope, 21ff; Theo-Drama V, 316ff). First, he allies himself with a favorite theological antagonist of his – Karl Rahner. Rahner found a way to “demythologize” such plain texts by way of Heideggerian existentials. (Too bad for the chaps who can’t read Being and Time – they wear themselves out to no purpose. Poor Francis Xavier. Perhaps he could have enjoyed some espresso on the beach.) Back to Balthasar – who, after all, did chastise Rahner, and quite rightly, for his undue optimism and the mechanical automatism of the supernatural existential. [For a more scholarly analysis of Rahner’s existential, see this article.] Yes, back to Balthasar. He calls on Rahner’s “demythologizing” or rather “de-apocalypticizing”, according to which texts such as Mt 25 are not at all predictive. The texts are not “advanced reports,” they cynically maintain. The texts are only warnings.

Second, Balthasar counters texts such as Mt 25 with texts such as 1 Tim 2:3f which indicate God’s will that all be saved. Thus, there are, he observes, two sets of texts. Balthasar then takes shelter behind some historical critical work. (Once again, since the conclusion favors him on this occasion, he makes friends with those whom he often elsewhere lambasts.) That work, Balthasar contends, suggests that the two sets of texts cluster in two different phases of the Christian self-understanding. The harsh set of texts (Mt 25) clusters around the pre-Easter message of Jesus. The texts regarding God’s universal mercy cluster around the post-Easter Jesus. Hence, Balthasar contends, the harsh set does not adequately represent the scope of hope we may place in Christ’s redeeming act. But the second set does.

At this point, the facile critic denounces Balthasar as a “universalist”. That is like Anakin charging the Sith when too young. Balthasar is not so foolish – at least on this point. Or, at least not on this score! For other lines of his thought do entail universalism, despite his pleas that he is no universalist. (He pleas, that is, that he is unsure of the outcome, which hangs in the balance.) Here, Balthasar simply contends that the two sets of texts cannot be gathered into a higher “system” of unity. Thus, we are left to submit ourselves to the two sets, recognizing that we are all “under judgment”. We cannot know the outcome of our own lives, let alone that of any other person. But we know we are threatened with judgment and promised mercy. How will we live in response? Thus, Balthasar says that he is not pronouncing any certain outcome. Rather, he is holding out the “hope” that all might be saved at last.

We ought, next, take a look at what he understands to be the mechanism of salvation. For Balthasar, that mechanism is this: Jesus Christ takes on our sins. Not just our punishment for sin but our waywardness, our very sins. Balthasar tries to walk as far with Luther and Calvin – with Barth! – as he thinks he can. To be sure, he does part with Luther, who claimed that Christ became sin itself. However, Balthasar mirrors Luther in a number of respects in this regard. He holds with Barth and Calvin, and seemingly Luther, that Jesus experienced damnation on our behalf. The manifold agony on the Cross was apparently not enough, though our Lord said it was enough. No, our Lord had to suffer damnation on top of what he said was enough. Be that as it may, Christ accomplishes our redemption by “removing” our sin from us and “letting it be” by itself. How can “sin” be “removed” from a man and “let be”? What is sin, such that it can be removed? Balthasar submits, sin is “a reality” (Dare We Hope, 137; Mysterium Paschale, 173; Theo-Drama V, 314). Balthasar thereby collides with the traditional notion of sin as a privation of a due good in human action, as this privation regards what is owed to God. Not enough for Balthasar. Rather, for him, sin is a reality! I.e., a really existing thing? Well, it must be, since, Balthasar alleges, Christ removes this reality from the sinner and “lets it be” by itself. What remains from the sinner from whom sin has been dislodged is saved. If there is any ounce of good will in you, then you will be saved. If you love puppies in New York, and rescue them from harsh masters, you have something non-malicious about you. Clearly, he who loves puppies, or daffodils, in New York, must not be perfectly malicious. The only way that you the sinner can be damned is if you identify yourself with that horrific, malicious sin that is the pure “Non Serviam”. (And even then…, but stay tuned.) Only if you identify yourself with that shrieking horror of sin can you be damned. (I am reminded of Munch’s The Scream.) And if you do not manage this act of total identification with your absolute “no”, then you will be saved. (Poor St. Monica, worrying herself for nothing about the eternal loss of Augustine. Surely he had some affection for his lover? And for Adeodatus? What tenderness Augustine already had. Monica could have saved those copious tears.)

And what is hell, for Balthasar? It is just that “sin itself, existing in its own, the pure ‘Non Serviam.’” Pure Evil, as it were, released by Christ’s redeeming act.

In his many horned (ten horned?) approach to this issue, Balthasar also examines what it means for hell to be without end. He allows himself to contradict himself – in the same text. For at one point he says that we must admit that hell is eternal. But at another point considers the idea that its eternity is one of intensity and not necessarily one of duration. The pain seems like it shall be without end but it may actually come to an end. Is this to liken hell to Purgatory? Seems so: TD V, 314. It is unlikely, he adds, that anyone will forever choose to be isolated from Christ’s redeeming act. After all, Christ went down to the damned, he says (Theological Explorations IV, 421f, 462f; DWH 26, 178; Wainrwright, Cambridge Companion, 124). And Christ cannot allow the damned sinner to remain forever unrepentant (TD V, 277, 284, 303f, 307, 311-13). At some point, the (damned) sinner will crack open, capitulate. If this happens, his past hell shall have been of infinite intensity, but not of infinite duration (See TD V, 298-314).

Finally, Balthasar examines the infinite love of God. If God infinitely loves man, then what would He do were man not to repent? What would God do? His love would have been thwarted, frustrated, in vain. Can God allow this? Would God allow this? Away with the thought, cries Balthasar. With these lines of thought, Balthasar retracts his earlier avowal that the outcome is not certain.

Alright – so much for the summary. There are some positive aspects to his thought. For one, unlike the optimists who follow Rahner, he takes hell as a threat rather seriously. Second, he encourages the Christian to enter into redemptive suffering as much and as deeply as possible for others. (This is the single greatest point in his reflections – and one worth taking home. We are called as Christians to pray for one another, to intercede for one another, to take on suffering that grace may fall from heaven on a hardened sinner. Personal holiness and concern for neighbor – for every neighbor – go hand in hand. This call is evident in Balthasar’s work, and it is one good reason that good people find his theology attractive. However, it should be noted that this good encouragement is not something that requires one to hold Balthasar’s thesis. Rather, it is separable and already taught by the Tradition. Indeed, Catherine of Sienna, rightly fearing many going to hell, begs God imploringly for the soul of a man sentenced to death. And she won!) Third, he states that God predestines no one to go to hell. This is a truism, but in some contexts (Calvinism) it is important to remind people of this.


But on so many issues regarding his “hope,” Balthasar is misleading, in error, and reckless. First, the fact is that any unrepented mortal sin entails of its nature eternal damnation. We are not damned only for sheer malice. We are not damned only for identifying ourselves with a “no” as necessary condition. If someone simply wants to have one romping time in fornication, and forgets about John the Baptist, and dies, one has merited eternal damnation in hell. In rejecting optimistic fundamental option theories, John Paul II rejected (wittingly or no) Balthasar’s notion of the necessary condition for damnation (see Veritatis splendor, art. 68; Note: this teaching belongs to the entire tradition).

Second, the Rahnerian reduction of the texts regarding the future, like Rahner’s reduction of the texts regarding the origins of the human race, are a species of modernism. Compare Rahner’s reading of the future and the past as solely a reflection on present religious experience (i.e., that of the sacred writer) with the holy teaching of Pope St. Pius X in Pascendi, a text well worth re-reading. We might add: These texts are “minatory” (i.e. warnings) because they are predictive. Just read the Epistle of Jude. The men of Sodom serve as a warning presently by undergoing torment of eternal punishment.

What of those universalist texts? The tradition – from Damascene to Aquinas to the 1950’s – read these texts according to the distinction between God’s will antecedently considered and consequently considered. We can consider what God wills to man as object of his love – salvation. We can consider what God wills to man as having responded or not responded to his love – salvation or damnation. The distinction is no doubt subtle, but it does not play fast and loose with either set of texts. Rather, it recognizes that God wills that all be saved and supplies the grace sufficient to realize this outcome, and it recognizes that not all will in fact avail themselves of this grace. There are many Catholic views on predestination, but these basics are accepted by all. Peer into the matter more deeply, and one discovers that the Magisterium accepts that God reprobates some: He permits some to fall. (Some is a logical category, meaning there are some – not necessarily, and probably not, few – that God permits to fall.)

Third, sin is not “a reality” as Balthasar makes out. It is not a “thing” that can “exist by itself as a pure negation”. That is simply nonsense. Take any sinful action and examine it: You will find that it has positive physical aspects (a knife, blood, a hand, etc.) but that it lacks due order (the man was innocent, the one who killed was not appointed by lawful authority, simply speaking we like blood inside the veins and not outside them etc.). It is the lack of due order or reference to a due end that constitutes the evil.

Also note that God creates all things or he does not. To say he does not is false, heretical, and blasphemous. But if evil is an “existing thing,” then God creates it. And this is abhorrent. Ergo, evil is not a thing, even an accidental thing, that exists.

Finally, we simply note that what exists, insofar as it exists, is good.

If Balthasar was speaking “phenomenologically,” why did he stress that sin is a reality? It’s kind of like his saying that God changes but doesn’t change, that he is in time but not in time. Which is it? (How long will you hobble on one leg, and then the other? You cannot serve two masters. Metaphor is not proper analogy. Let your yes be yes. Anything more….)

And as for the related claim that Jesus took on our sins themselves – not simply the punishment due to them – here we have Balthasar coming very close to supporting, if not outright supporting, the notion of penal substitution. Perhaps Balthasar avoids claiming the Christ truly became guilty, thus freeing himself from Luther’s blasphemy on this matter. But his assertion that Christ takes on damnation itself cannot square with the truth of hell. Hell is a place of sinful alienation, a place of aversion from the divine good. But Christ cannot become averse to the divine good. (On this topic, see Thomas Joseph White, “Jesus’ Cry on the Cross and His Beatific Vision” Nova et Vetera 5 (2007): 573-581.) The Catholic view regarding Christ’s act is that it was atonement, a vicarious act of satisfaction. By his loving obedience, Christ offered the Father a satisfaction sufficient for the forgiveness of infinitely many persons. Thus, he died for all. However, one must receive the fruit of this redemption by being justified in order to benefit from it.

Fourth, Balthasar’s logical inference is invalid. We cannot put more in the conclusion than is present in the premises. We cannot argue from a particular statement (each man) to a universal statement (all men). It is true that every man in Dallas has a chance of going to the season opener next Fall. But not all can go. The stadium has limited seating! Thus, Balthasar’s logic is flawed. But someone will object that God’s stadium has unlimited seating. How true! But the logic was flawed nonetheless. That is the precise point being made here. The earlier point about the God’s will considered antecedently and consequently addresses this issue of the stadium: God permits some to fall.

But what of the fact that the Magisterium has not declared any particular human person to be in hell? The Magisterium has no business making such a declaration. Yet, ignorance regarding specific individuals is not tantamount to ignorance regarding hell’s population.

So, what of the alleged fact that the Magisterium has not declared whether or not “anyone” is in hell? This fact is fiction. The Church teaches that demons are in hell. And demons are persons too! All of Balthasar’s fretting about what God is going to do if a single person is recalcitrant and won’t go to heaven should be applied to his relation to these demons also. For the fact is, they are damned. Nor does the Church pray for them. Her prayer is opposed to them, casts them out of our lives and down into hell. Nor should anyone pray for them. It would be contrary to God’s will, a sign of a deeply mistaken mind or of a rebellious will. Truth says, “Let the dead bury their dead.” A fortiori the spiritually double dead – the demonic agents.

But what about human persons? Well, on this point, there are some considerations that may well yield the conclusion that Balthasar overreached in claiming that revelation and the Magisterium have never asserted that human persons are in hell. Exegesis is of course fraught with contention. However, we could point to Jude, as I indicated above:

“Now I desire to remind you, though you were once for all fully informed, that he who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels that did not keep their own position but left their proper dwelling have been kept by him in eternal chains in the nether gloom until the judgment of the great day; just as Sodom and Gomor’rah and the surrounding cities, which likewise acted immorally and indulged in unnatural lust, serve as an example (πρόκεινται δει̃γμα) by undergoing a punishment (πυρὸς αι̉ωνίου δίκην ύπέχουσαι) of eternal fire.”

The men of Sodom are serving as an example, undergoing punishment of hell.

Again, there is the frequently cited text regarding Judas: better had he not been born. As Ralph Martin asks, in his excellent book Will Many Be Saved?, how can the text be true unless Judas is damned?

But let us move on to the Magisterium. Consider this text:

“Omnipotent God wishes all men without exception to be saved [1 Tim 2:4] although not all will be saved. However, that certain ones are saved, is the gift of the one who saves; that certain ones perish, however, is the deserved punishment of those who perish” (Quiersy Council, A.D. 853, see DS 623).

Again, consider this text:

“But although Christ died for all, yet not all receive the benefit of His death, but those only to whom the merit of his passion is communicated” (Trent, VI, chap. 3; DS 1523). See also D # 717b.

Again, consider this text, happily relevant again in the new English Translation of the Novus Ordo:

“The additional words for you and for many are taken, some from Matthew, some from Luke, but were joined together by the Catholic church under the guidance of the Spirit of God. They serve to declare the fruit and advantage of His Passion. For if we look to its value, we must confess that the Redeemer shed His blood for the salvation of all; but if we look to the fruit which mankind have received from it, we shall easily find that it pertains not unto all, but to many of the human race. When therefore (our Lord) said: For you, he meant either those who were present, or those chosen from among the Jewish people , such as were, with the exception of Judas, the disciples with whom He was speaking. When He added, And for many, He wished to be understood to mean the remainder of the elect from among the Jews or Gentiles. With reason, therefore, were the words for all not used, as in this place the fruits of the Passion are alone spoken of, and to the elect only did His Passion bring the fruit of salvation.” Catechism of the Council of Trent, Section on the Eucharist

The glorious 1962 Missal of the Holy, Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman Church — always teaching us — also has this prayer, relevant for the fate of Judas:

Collect for Good Friday Office (Also said on Maundy Thursday, as Collect at the Mass):

“O God, from whom Judas received the punishment of his guilt, and the thief the reward of his confession: grant unto us the full fruit of Thy clemency; that even as in His Passion our Lord Jesus Christ gave to each retribution according to his merits, so having cleared away our former guilt, He may bestow on us the grace of his Resurrection, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.”

Consider this as well: The following is a proposition of Zanini de Solcia which was rejected by Pius II in 1459: “That all Christians are to be saved”. D – only found in old edition # 717b.

These texts appear – on all counts – to indicate that there will be a twofold division of mankind, the saved and the damned. And, as Ralph Martin contends, the constant Tradition understands the Scriptures and these creedal formulations to indicate a twofold outcome, and one in which the damned will be many in number.

As for Balthasar’s hope that God’s love will undercut the ability of the sinner to persevere in sin (TD V, 284), the Magisterium in the person of Clement XI rejects the following proposition of Paschasius Quesnel:

“When God wishes to save a soul, at whatever time and at whatever place, the undoubted effect follows the Will of God”. And “When God wishes to save a soul and touches it with the interior hand of His grace, no human will resists him” (DS 2412f). We could add Trent’s condemnation of irresistible grace as well. (But of course, Balthasar will contend that the grace is resistible, just that it won’t be resisted, that it is practically impossible for it to be resisted, that Christ will wait until the rebel gets tired of rebellion, etc.

On these issues, see Thomas Joseph White, “Von Balthasar and Journet on the Universal Possibility of Salvation and the Twofold Will of God,” Nova et Vetera 4 [2006]: 633-666.)

Finally, I add a proposition condemned by Bl. Pius IX: “Good hope at least is to be entertained of the eternal salvation of all those who are not at all in the true Church of Christ” (Condemned proposition #17).

We could add, in this regard, that the unspeakably vast majority of saints, indeed the chorus is practically unanimous, concur with these statements. That Origen seems to have gone astray on this issue is a different matter. He wrote before the Church taught. And he took some subtle positions – he debated with himself. Gregory of Nyssa is one of the few who explicitly held the hope that all men might eventually convert to God. But Augustine, Thomas, Bonaventure, Catherine, Teresa, Damascene, Chrysostom, Anselm, Don Bosco, et alia, all considered that hell will be packed with human beings.

And what about the children at Fatima?

Or what about this momentous quote from St. Faustina:

“These are the tortures suffered by all the damned together, but that is not the end of the sufferings. There are special tortures destined for particular souls. These are the torments of the senses. Each soul undergoes terrible and indescribable sufferings, related to the manner in which it has sinned. There are caverns and pits of torture where one form of agony differs from another. I would have died at the very sight of these tortures if the omnipotence of God had not supported me. Let the sinner know that he will be tortured throughout eternity, in those senses which he made use of to sin. I am writing this at the command of God, so that no soul may find an excuse by saying there is no hell, or that nobody has ever been there, and so no one can say what it is like. What I have written is but a pale shadow of the things I saw. But I noticed one thing: that most of the souls there are those who disbelieved that there is a hell. How terribly souls suffer there! Consequently, I pray even more fervently for the conversion of sinners” (Diary of St. Faustina, 741)?

Fifth, Balthasar paints a false notion of hell’s infinite duration. Essentially, he morphs its infinity of duration into an infinity of intensity. Thereby, he hopes to release some who are already in hell. This is like converting it into Purgatory. In some texts, he seems to want to unchain the demons too. But as I have stated, hell is already populated with demons, and these are damned forever. I conclude with Canon 9 of II Constantinople: “If anyone says or thinks that the punishment of demons and of impious men is only temporary, and will one day have an end, and that a restoration will take place of demons and of impious men, let him be anathema.”

Fundamentalism of the Sources: Problems with Some Practices of Source Criticism – Part 10

Also, just consider the following. Gen 1 is ascribed to the “Priestly” author and Gen 2-3 are ascribed to the “Yahwist.” The authors’ names are rooted in the characteristics of the texts inferred to be written by diverse authors, as stated in a previous post. For the Yahwist is called such because he calls God Yahweh. But if this mode of procedure dominates in me, I may have a strange approach to Satan’s words. For Satan says to Eve, “….”.

OBJECTION: It nowhere says “Satan”! It says only “serpent”. Who are you to say that it is Satan? After all, the New Jerome Biblical Commentary (NJBC) even states that the ur-source for Gen 2-3 used the ‘serpent’ as the bad guy in order to indicate the possible reason why we humans seem to have a native fear of snakes. Wow! Really guys? What a profound reading of the text. I didn’t realize the text was all about serpent-phobia. Cool.

To the contrary. Such a reading ranks up there with the Tabloids in the Grocery store. So much for deep meaning. I bet if they all went to work on the classical epic Gilgamesh they’d manage to turn that profound piece of literature into the trash heap of a praise for the lotus leaf. What nonsense! Instead of proving themselves wise as “etiological inferrers” they prove themselves clueless to the depths of mystery in their own breast! I refute the utter banality thusly with this kick in the pants.

But back to the Satan. I assert that this is Satan because Almighty God does. How so? He gave us the lexicon in Rev 12, which identifies all these: Satan, Ancient Serpent, Dragon, Deceiver, Devil, and yes Accuser (‘who accuses them day and night…’). Do I need to add a major premise from Vatican II to be convincing? All that the human author asserts the Holy Spirit asserts. Thus spoke Dei verbum.

So, then, back to Satan. The serpent speaks of God not with the word “Yahweh Elohim” but simply with “Elohim.” And, notably, Eve does the same.

How shall we approach this lofty text? If we let source critical concerns dominate, we may well be running around trying to do damage control. “This is the Yahwist. Or is it? Yada yada.” But none of us would be listening. Let us listen, then. Why does the Devil say “God” only? Why does Eve do this also? Could alienation be part of the story?

The point – at this point – is not to say that the findings of the Mosaic source critics are false. I’ll let real bible scholars discuss that. (Such as the important critic Cassuto; check also this one.) The point is to examine the guts of the enterprise, as it is very frequently practiced and taught, and show up the logical status of the inferences and evidence. To point out the definite errors that some make, contrary to the faith of the Church, and lastly to warn about the distortive influence a domination of source critical questions brings to the experience of reading.

Lastly, on this note: There is one scientific item of major note for all practices of source criticism. It is this. There is not yet, to my knowledge, even one piece of manuscript evidence for any single source critical claim, with the possible exception of the important texts that lack the Logion at the end of Mark. But None for the Books of Moses. None for Psalm 51. None for Isaiah. None for Matthew and Mark and Luke (the so-called Q and special Mt and special Lk). Etc. This indeed raises a significant question mark regarding the stability of the quaking reed inferred. Not that it crushes the bruised read. But it does cast its shadow, this lack of light.

There are, I think, much healthier first principles one ought to establish. There are sound guidelines long proven in the tradition.

And one of the chief of these is the division of the literal sense into the proper and improper. And that division regards: words, phrases / sentences, and even whole units or books. E.g., a psalm is definitely a literary device of note. And there are various kinds of psalm. Yes, yes, yes.

At the same time, the Church’s major rule is wise: Because we are not a fabulous religion but a true one, because our God acts historically and really and not mythically, each passage ought to be read in the proper literal sense unless there is manifest reason not to do so. One clear example of manifest reason is God walking. It is philosophically demonstrated and also a truth of faith that God is purely spiritual and incorporeal. Ergo, he has no legs.

Sometimes, the ‘manifest’ reason is not a demonstrated fact but an opinion so widely held and so nearly universally considered true, while not being manifestly opposed to the faith, that it can be taken as true – hypothetically – and thus serve as principle of interpretation. Example. That the sun stays still relative to the earth seems to have the whole world behind it. Ergo, let’s take it as true. (Let us also note that it is not verified demonstratively in the strong sense of that word.) If it is true, then the passages about the sun staying still should be read as in the improper literal sense, reflecting the truth of the way things appear. Nothing wrong about this. After all, you still say, “At sunrise, I shall fish.” We speak in this mode. It is fine. It is just improper, if indeed the earth is not the center. While bracketing this as hypothetical may make one a laughing stock in a certain generation, it is nonetheless a true bracket if we examine the status of the knowledge. Thus, if we have a longer audience in mind (say, 500 years hence), we more prudently bracket the matter. It is not a reflection of suspicion. It is a sign of the very status of the knowledge, just as almost all claims in contemporary particle physics have the status of hypotheses being verified.

So then, one goes to work, utilizing such founding reasons as ways to approach the mystery of the text. All the while, the text is believed rightly to be inspired and inerrant. One is seeking the meaning as a disciple, not as its pedagogue.

Fundamentalism of the Sources: Problems with Some Practices of Source Criticism – Part 9

Next, we can consider the distortions in readings that occur on account of many practices of Source Criticism.

It often happens, in a college or even high school course on the Bible, that the very first thing broached in a reading of Genesis or Exodus or Isaiah or the “Deuteronomic Histories” or Mark or Matthew or Revelation, is the issue of source criticism. It is as it were the way in which one expounds the first principle of interpretation. The lens that dominates all the rest.

Once the initial, and indeed interesting, observation of the sets of characteristics that seem at first blush to be neatly paired is beaten into the students, then much of the subsequent labor is in service of following out these observations, sniffing around for similar findings. In short, the whole text is put through the meat-grinding process established by the source critic. Often, exceptions are either explained away or else result in qualifying the exceptional text as in fact authored by the author who has been defined as bearing those marks. Example given last post: If a text that is pro-Temple is found in “First Isaiah,” then it is quite often thrown into “Second Isaiah.”

What I want to reflect on at this juncture is the domination of the field of questions by source critical inquiry. Again, let’s state the a priori and nearly totally banal truth: It is not necessarily the case that source criticism is illegitimate. Perhaps it has its use. Why? The principle is this: The legitimate use of human reason is an aid to theological work. But some exegetical insights borne of human inquiry are legitimate uses of human reason. Indeed, the ‘source’ question is one such. Ergo. I accept the banal truism. Nor do I rule out the possible instantiation of meaningful practices.

But what is of chief interest in the actual world is not empty truism but reality, actually practices. As a matter of fact, if we dig into the origins of source criticism, we find almost nothing but venomous asps. Of course, now and a rare again you find a (foolish) priest contributing to source criticism, out of a foolish and monolithic apologetic desire to prop up ‘Tradition’ against the Protestant focus on Scripture alone. (E.g. Fr. Richard Simon from the 18th century.) But such foolishness it is not wise to emulate. When you ally yourself with the enemy of an enemy, which former is also your enemy, you not seldom drink poison. Remember Ahaz. (This is a warning to all those who presently ally themselves with anti-classical-liberal postmodern fideists. Make such your ally, you will likely be bitten by the foul serpent, if you haven’t already need to look upon the Wisdom of the bronze one.)

We should return to the origins of source criticism. Perhaps anon. Meanwhile, read J. Morrow and Scott Hahn et alia on this. (Is Hahn a mere ‘popularizer’? Is he an academic joke? He is often dismissed in ‘academic’ circles as just this. Well, let’s set the record straight. The man’s mind is quite voracious. His erudition is second to not many. I submit that he has in all likelihood read more, and with greater comprehension, than most of his critics. But let’s point out also that he has a large tome at Yale Press. How many boast that?)

Meanwhile and more importantly: Think of how distorted one’s reading is when source criticism is the first and enduring guide into the Sacred Text. How lamentable. Why not read the text as the whole that it is presently? Who ever thought to do so? The fathers and the medieval doctors.

Fundamentalism of the Sources: Problems with Some Practices of Source Criticism – Part 8

At long last, I must justify the title: Fundamentalism of the Sources. Why this title? In short, because the critic practicing in the manner stated previously reads each source as a fundamentalist would read the bible as a whole.

How does a fundamentalist read the bible as a whole. Well, there are many facets to such a reading, and different kinds of fundamentalism. One thing that shows up frequently, however, is failure to grasp the mode of discourse in the text. Nowadays people say that someone is in error because they are “literalists”. The word is ill chosen, but it gets the job done sometimes. But the Tradition has a better way of diagnosing the problem.

The Tradition distinguishes holds (1) that the literal sense is always true – because God is the primary author, but that (2) the literal sense sometimes works in a (a) proper way and sometimes in an (b) improper way. In short, the Tradition distinguishes the proper literal sense from the improper literal sense.

The basis of the distinction is this: Is the term (or locution) being employed in the full sense of the term; that is, is there no noteworthy literary device? Or is the term (or locution) not being employed in the full sense of the term; that is, is there a noteworthy literary device? If there is a noteworthy literary device, if the term or locution is not employed in its full sense, then the literal sense is improper. If there is no noteworthy literary device, the literal sense is proper.

Example: If I say, “He walked across the street,” the sentence is in the proper literal sense. If the ship captain says, “All hands on deck,” he uses “hands” in an improper sense. He means all persons who are able bodied. Here the definition of “hand” does not convey what the captain really means but only part of what he means. He is using “synecdoche,” whereby the part stands for the whole. Hyperbole is similar: “I bet you a million dollars that….” Well, not really a million. Maybe ten cents.

Now, Scripture has many locutions and terms in the improper literal sense. Not all. But not none. Indeed, not a few.

Example. “God walked in the garden in the cool of the day” (Gen 3). Well, the definition of walk refers to legs, but God has no legs. Ergo, God cannot, properly speaking, walk. But he can accompany. He can be present with. Thus, in a beautiful, but poetic (or improper) manner of discourse, Scripture expresses God’s intimacy with Adam. The author is not asserting by implication that God has legs. He is not an idiot. He is inspired by God; his mind is loftier than ours, more than likely. As elevated, it most certainly is loftier than ours. We bow before the loftiness of Scripture. We do not drive a German Tank over it. We take our shoes off when we read Scripture. We do not sully its pristine snow, its gorgeous flowers with our boots. In this reverent mode, we know always to read Scripture in the loftiest possible way. Thus, when it attributes walking to God, we do not crawl along the dirt as the accursed serpent, finding the lowest meaning and attributing to the human author some anthropomorphic idea. Far be it from us to do so. Rather, we allow Scripture to give us wings, so that we may see here the most marvelous description of God’s tender mercy, accompanying the sinner. (And of course, not just saying to the sinner, “That’s ok. Hey, there is no law anyway. Why don’t we all just go to heaven?” No. He asks a gentle, but very searching question: “Where are you?”)

So, how do some practices of Source Criticism fall into fundamentalism?

Well, they attribute characteristics XYZ to one author, and ABC to another. Further, they see these characteristics as in contradiction. One author portrays God as “earthy and walking”, while the author portrays him as “lofty and transcendent”. One author says “one pair, not seven” while the other says “seven pairs, not one”. What the critic is doing in each case is reading the text as though no literary device is being employed. When he says “walking” he means something darn well close to walking. At the least, he means something non-compossible with “saying ‘Let it be’.” Thus read, this text contradicts that text. Further, the non-compossibility of both assertions is the leverage for the inference that there are two authors.

In short, and cutting through all the camouflage and subtlety that really is there in this or that practice, I am submitting that some practices (a logical “some,” standing in fact for many) of Source Criticism are based on fundamentalist readings of the so-called primary sources, which fundamentalist readings fail to take stock of the nuance of the actual text itself and indeed even at times posit error in the originary source. In short, the ur-sources are read as though written by sloppy thinkers. “Some thought there was some ‘vault’ in the heavens, like a saucer!” [Audience responds: Ha ha ha! Man I’m glad for Galileo and Steve Jobs!]

Then, after the inference is drawn and the ur-texts are taken as Gospel truth, all the exceptions observed – for life indeed is messy, especially in the Bible – must be account for and accounts are offered.

For instance, the first inference for Isaiah is that Isaiah the First runs from 1-39. But upon inspection, there are too many things in Isa 1-39 that contradict the anti-temple views of the supposed Isaiah. Thus, the critics say that these pro-temple passages belong to Isaiah the Second. (I know the proper lingo, Second Isaiah. I am adding a touch of irony here.) After these passages are shuffled to Second Isaiah, then the inference has more consistency.

The reasoning in the cleanup job looks circular.

But more things follow. The Redaction Critic comes and posits all his theories on the basis of the upshot of the state of the question according to Source Critics. The Dating is also dependent in some not insignificant measure on Source Criticism. Also, the interpretation hangs in the balance.

How should we interpret the juxtaposition of Gen 1 and 2? Especially if they are held as contradictory? Well, perhaps they are contradictory on the surface, but the author just meant to intend something very basic and banal. Worse, perhaps the authors indeed contradicted and thus teach us nothing, but invite us to think for ourselves. Or perhaps the juxtaposition just shows us that there were rival Jewish bodies of thought, and that no one nowadays should be dogmatic. (Note: That is how the alleged real contradictions in the views of the monarchy are read: As warring factions of schools of thought. Then the Critic tells his students, perhaps even without words dis-evangelizing them: “Come to me, all you who now are confused. I will seduce you the more. Welcome to the Machine of Post Modernity.”) More frequently, the same message as the previous is more softly presented in this fashion: “Each source is like a theological text. It purports to explain the transcendent mysteries in words. But the mysteries are lofty. The words, lowly. Just as he tried his best, so we try our best. Everyone has his model for God. You can come up with one too.”

Fundamentalism of the Sources: Problems with Some Practices of Source Criticism – Part 7

Ah! In the ComBox, John has been raising the persistent question regarding “Dictation Theory.” In prepping for a class (soon to take place) on revelation, I had occasion to re-read Leo XIII, of most happy memory. His immortal Providentissimus Deus is must read.

And Lo and Behold! He chastises me for my choice of words. Now, I did define “Dictation Theory” as “Without the freedom – i.e. intellectual creativity etc. – of the human, secondary author.” So ubiquitous are the tentacles of modernism that no one questions the criticism of Dictation Theory. No one except John in the ComBox. Well, a thank you to John.

Leo – and indeed the First Vatican Council – stress the primacy of God’s authorship so much that they indeed drill home the notion that the Holy Spirit intimately, and to the very depths of conception and expression, guides the process of writing. Not as a Deistic First Cause. But as Pure Act, author of all, supernaturally acting here to produce the Divine Scriptures.

I let Leo correct the previous post then. Not my definition. But rather the flippant use of terminology that in fact is approved by the greatest authority on earth. I retain the point that the overriding of freedom is a false conception. (Except for certain passages, such as divine oracles. And these do not override freedom; but they do seem to come as pre-formed, one might say.)

Thus Spake Leo:

For all the books which the Church receives as sacred and canonical, are written wholly and entirely, with all their parts, at the dictation of the Holy Ghost; and so far is it from being possible that any error can co-exist with inspiration, that inspiration not only is essentially incompatible with error, but excludes and rejects it as absolutely and necessarily as it is impossible that God Himself, the supreme Truth, can utter that which is not true. This is the ancient and unchanging faith of the Church, solemnly defined in the Councils of Florence and of Trent, and finally confirmed and more expressly formulated by the Council of the Vatican. These are the words of the last: “The Books of the Old and New Testament, whole and entire, with all their parts, as enumerated in the decree of the same Council (Trent) and in the ancient Latin Vulgate, are to be received as sacred and canonical. And the Church holds them as sacred and canonical, not because, having been composed by human industry, they were afterwards approved by her authority; nor only because they contain revelation without error; but because, having been written under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, they have God for their author.”(57) Hence, because the Holy Ghost employed men as His instruments, we cannot therefore say that it was these inspired instruments who, perchance, have fallen into error, and not the primary author. For, by supernatural power, He so moved and impelled them to write-He was so present to them-that the things which He ordered, and those only, they, first, rightly understood, then willed faithfully to write down, and finally expressed in apt words and with infallible truth. Otherwise, it could not be said that He was the Author of the entire Scripture. Such has always been the persuasion of the Fathers. “Therefore,” says St. Augustine, “since they wrote the things which He showed and uttered to them, it cannot be pretended that He is not the writer; for His members executed what their Head dictated.”(58) And St. Gregory the Great thus pronounces: “Most superfluous it is to inquire who wrote these things-we loyally believe the Holy Ghost to be the Author of the book. He wrote it Who dictated it for writing; He wrote it Who inspired its execution. “(59)

What is the Authentic Catholic Teaching on Love and True Dialogue?

Love is willing the good for one’s neighbor. But Jesus Christ is the only way to Salvation. Hence, the Catholic knows that true love demands that we will each neighbor to encounter Jesus Christ. This is fully done in the Catholic Church, with the whole truth and all the Sacraments. Hence, the Catholic knows that true love demands that we will each neighbor to enter the Catholic Church.

The means by which we put ourselves in the service of God’s call that this happen must differ in each case. In all cases, charity, prudence, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit must rule. Yet, in no case is this not the end one should intend. (In all cases, this is the end one should intend.)

These truths cannot be overruled by anyone, even by a pope. 

We find these truths beautifully stated in the Prayer of a pope who remained true to this vision, Pope Pius XI. His Prayer of Consecration calls on Jesus to bring the whole world into the Catholic Church. This intention is, incidentally, also echoed in Lumen Gentium, chap. 2.

Most sweet Jesus,
Redeemer of the human race,
look down upon us,
humbly prostrate before Thine altar.

We are Thine and Thine we wish to be;
but to be more surely united with Thee,
behold each one of us freely consecrates himself today
to Thy Most Sacred Heart.

Many, indeed, have never known Thee;
many, too, despising Thy precepts,
have rejected Thee.

Have mercy on them all,
most merciful Jesus,
and draw them to Thy Sacred Heart.

Be Thou King, O Lord,
not only of the faithful who have never forsaken Thee,
but also of the prodigal children who have abandoned Thee,
grant that they may quickly return to their Father’s house,
lest they die of wretchedness and hunger.

Be Thou King of those who are deceived by erroneous opinions,
or whom discord keeps aloof
and call them back to the harbour of truth and unity of faith,
so that soon there may be but one flock and one shepherd.

Be Thou King of all those who even now sit in the shadow of idolatry or Islam,
and refuse not Thou to bring them into the light of Thy kingdom.
Look, finally, with eyes of pity upon the children of that race,
which was for so long a time Thy chosen people;
and let Thy Blood, which was once invoked upon them in vengeance,
now descend upon them also in a cleansing flood of redemption and eternal life.

Grant, O Lord,
to Thy Church,
assurance of freedom and immunity from harm;
give peace and order to all nations,
and make the earth resound
from pole to pole with one cry:
Praise to the Divine Heart
that wrought our salvation:
to it be glory
and honour forever.