Category Archives: In Depth Articles

Science & Faith

science-and-faith-fania-simon copy(Recently published online at Homiletic & Pastoral Review)

One of the most vexing issues facing ministers in the Church is the raging debate in our media and schools over evolution, and its implications for those of us who believe that God created “the heavens and the earth.” At the heart of this vexation lies a fundamental issue: The nature of sacred doctrine and how it relates to the disciplines of science. There probably isn’t a better thinker to turn to for this issue than St. Thomas Aquinas.  At the very beginning of his Summa Theologiae, he lays the foundation for the study of sacred doctrine and its relationship to the rest of the sciences. We will begin with a careful look at Aquinas’ starting point and then see how it might be applied to some scientific platforms which have seemed to conflict with sacred doctrine. Continue reading

My Religion Is Better Than Your Religion, Part 1

tridentine_mass_elevation_2One of the major characteristics of just about every religion is the belief that your particular religion is the Truth, the Way, the Enlightened Path. This doesn’t stop at the boundaries of the different religions… it continues within specific religions and continues to drill down to the individual: I am the only one who understands what it means to be a (insert your faith/church here). Continue reading

Natural Disasters and Faith in God

tectonics-pangea-animationTo place the current natural disasters in perspective, it might help to recall that the Earth is approximately 4.6 billion years old. The vast majority of this time has seen cataclysmic changes in geology that make the current natural disasters we have experienced seem like a baby’s hiccup. Not to sound callous or unmoved by recent events, especially the horrific developments in Japan after their earthquake and tsunami… but what I hope to do is provide some perspective on natural events like this and thereby hopefully provide some sense of comfort as we all face them. I say “comfort” because natural disasters like the current one in Japan leaves a lot of us believers wondering why God, a loving God that cares about us, allows such things to happen. Continue reading

Do you have a soul?

GraveSoulWhether or not you eat soul food or whether or not you listen to soul music, you probably find it quite offensive or disturbing to hear someone suggest to you that you don’t really have a soul. The first response among most people, whether they are religious or not, is one of amazement that someone would even suggest this. Among some people who are atheists, such as John Horgan, a science journalist who writes for Scientific American, the suggestion that they might not have free will, which has historically been understood as a power of the soul, is just as offensive.

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The Realism of John Duns Scotus in the Philosophy of Charles Peirce

Shapiro-PeirceI. Introduction

This paper will explore the realism of John Duns Scotus as it relates to the philosophy of Charles Sanders Peirce. Peirce credited his particular brand of realism to Scotus, and it is the opinion of many Peirce scholars that understanding the realism of Peirce goes quite a long way in unlocking the philosophy of Peirce. The following text relies upon the work of John F. Boler, Charles Peirce and Scholastic Realism, (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1963)

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Tao and the Divine Simplicity

sch_g_tao1-300x263NOTE: This paper was written quite some time ago so please keep that in mind as you read this.  I plan on revisiting this topic many times and hope to improve on my reflections.

I. Introduction

This paper will be a summarization of THE WISDOM OF LAOTSE (translated, edited and with an introduction and notes by Lin Yutang), and a comparison of the major elements of Tao with Christian themes generally and, specifically, with St. Thomas Aquinas’ doctrine of the divine simplicity of God. Continue reading

The Naked Now…

I’ve just finished attending a study group at Grace Cathedral for Richard Rohr’s latest book, The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See.  I was struck by something he said within it… actually struck by many things, but the one thing I want to talk about today is on page 166-167 where he says,

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The Monkey Business of Religion – Part 1

shockedAs I argued in my article The Church and the Cosmological Revolution, the opposition by the Catholic Church to Galileo and the cosmological revolution in general, was due to a pastoral concern.  To summarize my argument, the news that the Earth was NOT the center of the universe shattered the common understanding of how everything was put together.  In that understanding, the new vision of the sun at the center of the universe and Earth as one body among many that circled the sun was tantamount to saying that there was no God.  The church leaders knew very well that such a radical change in world views would leave the vast majority of believers without a framework for understanding who God was and where we stood in relation to God.  They may not have articulated it quite this way, but they understood the threat.  It would take a very long time for theologians to articulate an understanding of God within this new vision… and in fact, to this day the struggle to do so continues.  It’s not only the Catholic Church nor even Christianity that struggles with the new vision… many religions are still going through the same struggle. The modern day version of this struggle is being played out in the so-called “Intelligent Design” debate.

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The Transcendental Method of Bernard Lonergan

Lonergan-02I. Introduction

Fr. Bernard J.F. Lonergan, S.J. was a member of the Thomistic school, a tradition which contains a variety of interpretations of the philosophy and theology of St. Thomas Aquinas. Fr. Lonergan is situated within the Thomistic tradition that is known as the Louvain tradition, which began at the University of Louvain’s Higher Institute of Philosophy which was founded in 1889 at the request of Pope Leo XIII. The thrust of this school was “…to engage in vital dialogue with post-Kantian philosophical currents then active, and to confront the traditional philosophy with the findings of modern science.” 1 The members of this school saw their task as being the epistemological justification of metaphysics and the preservation of the faith in the face of the Kantian critique of knowledge which had left the human mind unable to claim any knowledge of “reality as such” in the realm of speculation.

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The Church and the Cosmological Revolution

cosmologyIn order to understand why the cosmological revolution in early modern Europe was first met with resistance by the Catholic Church we can take a closer look at the most famous example of this resistance: the confrontation with Galileo over the heliocentric view of the universe.  To place it all into context, recall that the accepted view of the world and the cosmos at that time was of an orderly hierarchy of sorts, where the earth sat at the middle of it all.  As one ascended into the heavens one encountered perfect spheres within which the heavenly bodies were embedded.  God was located beyond the outermost sphere.  This realm where God was located was a realm of pure perfection and as you descended from this realm you became further removed from perfection, until the lowest realm, the material realm, was reached. That is where we were located on Earth.

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