Reason and the Development of the Will

In the very beginnings of sacred scripture we read of the Lord creating.  Each step of creation ended a similar way with the words by describing their goodness.  In Genesis 1:31 God had just finished creating man and commanded them to procreate and exercise dominion over the Earth.  Genesis 1:31 states, “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day” (NRSV).

Humanity was created uniquely different than the rest of creation.  God created humans with the ability to reason, with five senses to help us learn, and free will.  The combination of these work together to help us live in harmony with each other, in harmony with our creator, and assist us finding true happiness.  The intellect we were blessed with helps us rationalize.  Our intellectual knowledge originates in the five senses and internal sensory powers of common sense, estimation, memory, and imagination.

This intellectual knowledge that develops helps us form our will.  The purpose of the will is to direct action and direct the concupiscible and irascible appetites.  The concupiscible appetites are things like love, joy, desire, and sadness.  They work together to help us seek what is good and reject evil.  The irascible are attributes such as hope, courage, despair, and fear.  These attributes assist us in avoiding evils in which we may find compelling.  Together the concupiscible and irascible appetites are known as the sense appetites, and work to help us understand what is good and what is evil.  They help us establish the parameters in which we exercise the freedom which God has given us.  Regarding this freedom Servais Pinckaers writes, “It is the power to engage in excellent actions, actions that are true and good, even though the agent may in fact fail and do evil” (Pinckaers 68).

Looking back on my life I can see how these senses led me in the right direction.  How they allowed me to see what was right, what was the right path, and how I ignored it.  I think of an incident from my childhood in which I wanted a piece of candy at a store and was told no.  I wanted the candy and ate it in the middle of the store without paying.  I knew it was wrong and the senses mentioned above were telling me it was wrong.  However, I ignored them and partook in larceny to have that which I longed for.

This ignoring of what was supposed to be done made matters worse.  This is the effect of sin on the individual.  Every sin wounds the communion that we have with our creator.  Mortal sin goes a step further in that it ruptures the relationship completely.  For something to be a mortal sin it must meet the following three criteria:  It must involve grave matter, the individual must have full knowledge that it is sin, and there must be a deliberate consent to the act.  This is obviously not God’s will, and it is by doing God’s will that we find the happiness that we long for.  This is what James Keenan means when he writes, “Not only does love look for union, it also moves us toward freedom and truth.  Love then makes possible our search for a freedom for greater love and a truth to love rightly” (Ostrowski 27).

 

Works Cited

Ostrowski, Thaddeus ed.  Primary Source Readings in Christian Morality.  Saint Mary’s Press.  Winona, MN:  2008.  Print

Pinckaers, Servais.  Morality:  The Catholic View.  St. Augustine’s Press.  South Bend, IN:  201.  Print.

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Moral Relativism, Moral Code, and Human Freedom

In modern times it has been increasing popular to say that truth may vary by person. One person may say that murder is wrong, while another may say it is wrong depending on the scenario. Though the example given may seem outlandish is denotes a trend of moral relativism among our culture. The power to decide what is truth, and what is right of wrong is the domain of God. In the great encyclical, Veritatis Splendor, Saint Pope John Paul II writes, “Revelation teaches that the power to decide what is good and what is evil does not belong to man, but to God alone” (Veritatis Splendor para 35). The ideas taught within nominalism have manifested themselves twofold within moral relativism. Furthermore, God has revealed through reason and natural law certain moral principles that man is to uphold. Sin undermines this by destroying what God had established, and in a sense, man has become their own god.

Image result for veritatis splendor an moral relativism

As previously stated God has revealed in natural law, and the scriptures the moral code in which man is supposed to act. Concerning morality, or the moral order, natural law helps us discern universal and binding moral principles and precepts. God gave this gift to man to show us how to love him and how to love each other. Natural law implies that there is a moral realism, or a defined moral order that we called to uphold. When we follow natural law, seek to know the truth about God, and seek to do good we echo the words of scripture “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39 NRSV). These appetites worked together to help man have happiness.

However, man wanted to be happy at all costs, and that would eventually mean transgressing moral law. Man wanted freedom, but what man does not understand is that the moral code leads to freedom. Saint Pope John Paul II writes, “God’s law does not reduce, much less do away with human freedom; rather, it protects and promotes that freedom” (Veritatis Splendor para 35). Sin destroys that freedom, and man becomes a slave to sin. Man tried to change morality was, and in the 14th century William Ockham said that universal ideas like truth and love were ideas and not reality . This would eventually give way to moral relativism which says that there is no objective truth. Truth is in the eye of the beholder and can change from one person to another. Through sin, man lost sight of what truth is and what would make him happy. Regarding this Servais Pinckaers writes, “With the advent of nominalism we witness the formation of the first morality obligation: The moral life will henceforth be circumscribed to obligations. The desire for happiness will be systematically set aside” (Pinckaers 72). Truth is not a concept or an abstract idea. Truth is embodied in the person of Jesus Christ.

Works Cited

Pinckaers, Servais. Morality: The Catholic View. St. Augustine’s Press. South Bend, IN: 2001. Print.

Pope John Paul II. Veritatis Splendor. http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_06081993_veritatis-splendor.html. Accessed February 27, 2018.

Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version

Aquinas and Christology

Thomas Aquinas is known as one of the greatest thinkers in the history of the church.  He was a prolific writer, and writings are still widely read today.  When it comes to Christology Aquinas had a lot to say, and his writings on Christology can be read in the third part of his Summa Theologica and his Commentary on Matthew (Lecture Notes).

His view on the incarnation was different because he assumed its necessity was hypothetical.  This does not mean that it was a theory and that it did not happen, but it was only a necessity if it was something that God had planned from the beginning.  Like Anselm and many others before him, Aquinas believed that nothing can coerce God.  In simpler terms, did God only ordain the incarnation as a result of the fall?  Or was the incarnation already put in place because God knew the fall would take place?

Through the fall man became separated from God, but through the incarnation this was remedied.  It was remedied because God sought to unite humanity to himself.  Though dawning a human body was below God, he loved us so much that Christ did it so we may be united with him.  Aquinas delves into two kinds of necessity.  The first necessity in one in which there is no way we can achieve the end.  Thee is nothing, as humans, that we can do to satisfy the due penalty for sin.  This is not possible because original sin has corrupted our very nature.  The second necessity spoken of is that of man being sufficient because of the actions of another.  In this case it is Christ who sustains us.

Aquinas goes on to say much more about the incarnation is section three of the Summa.  He answers the question of whether the incarnation should have happened at the beginning of time, or at the end.  His answer is masterful, but simple at the same time.  He quotes scripture to say that in the fullness of time Christ came to save sinners.  If this happened at the beginning of the world there would have been no sinners as the fall had not taken place.  If it happened at the end of the world then it would have been to late for those sinners scripture says he came to save.

In conclusion Aquinas takes the best of those before him to assist in his Christology.  He is very proud to quote from Augustine, Anselm, John Chrysostom, and many others in support of his position.  His affirmed the necessity of the Hypostatic union and thinks that it is necessary for one to believe.  The unity of man and God was the work of the incarnation.  In the incarnation we find the love and forgiveness of God.  It was the decision of God, long before time began, that the suffering of Christ would be the material element of his love for humanity.

He is Faithful

Lamentations 3:22-33

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,     his mercies never come to an end they are new every morning;     great is your faithfulness. (NRSV)

 

                When I was a child I got in a fight with my best friend.  As most childhood arguments go it was over something trivial.  I was so upset that I took a multi-colored crayon and expressed my feelings about him.  The problem was I didn’t do this on paper, but on the side of my house.  Imagine the shocked look that my parents had when they finally got a glimpse of my masterpiece.

My dad yelled my name, and I courageously barricaded myself in the bathroom hoping to escape the wrath to come.  When I emerged from my hideout I was not met with yelling or a spanking, but with a concern on why I would do such a thing.  I pleaded my case, was told that if I was truly sorry that I would do something about it.  My dad handed me a paintbrush, a can of paint, and told me to go say sorry to my friend.

The point I’m trying to get across is that we all do something that we regret.  Like this scenario from my childhood we try to hide and pretend that it didn’t happen.  My parents are wonderful people, and they showed me incredible love and patience that day.  It is the same in our relationship with the Lord.  His love and mercy are always available.  He is faithful to forgive us even when we have trouble forgiving ourselves.  Is there anything you have been holding onto?  Pray, and give it to the Lord.  In 1 John 1:9 we read “If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (NRSV).  Let Him love you and forgive you for everything you have ever done.

 

True Freedom

It has been a little while since the last blog entry.  My wife and I had the opportunity to go on a well deserved family vacation out of state.  With that being said, in the United States we celebrate out birthday as a nation.  So to my fellow Americans have a safe and happy 4th of July.

There are many definitions for freedom, but on of them is “the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved (Merriam-Webster.com/freedom).”  Many are walking around saying that they are free, but are they truly free?  I submit to you that without Christ they are not truly free.  It is popular in our society for many to say “This is a free country.  I can do what I want.”  True…but you are also free to suffer the consequences of such actions.  If one is not living in Christ, and living in sin then the said consequence is death.  Romans 6:23 states, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (ESV).”

We all have sinned, and that consequence is that our physical bodies will die.  That is a reality, and there is nothing we can do to change that.  It will happen.  There is much more to live than the physical, and the reality is that sin would not be so appealing if the wages were paid immediately.  What will happen when we die?  Our physical bodies are decomposing, but what about our soul?  Without Christ will spend eternity away from him.  As a result our sin has still enslaved us long after we sop breathing.  Romans 5:8 states, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Christ died for our sin and it is a free gift if we believe.  Romans 10:9 also states, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is LORD,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

This is a short post compared to ones I normally write.  Though it is short it is my prayer that you see that true freedom is found only in Christ.  It is through Christ that we have salvation and the forgiveness for anything wrong we have ever done.  As a result we are no longer slaves to out sinful nature.  We will still sin, but we have an advocate.  1 John 2:1-2 states, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”

God bless you all, and remember that true freedom is found only in Christ.

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Thank you Jesus!

What did Jesus do to save us?  The importance of this question is one that has a real possibility to be understated.  It is a question that has been asked for all of church history, and theologians have debated it for centuries.  The reason is because it is the eternal question with eternal significance.  The nature of the question lies within the very nature of the Gospel itself.  Within the scope of this paper we briefly look at how Gregory the Great, Anselm, and Albrecht Ritschl answered the question.  In addition a look into how John Calvin modified Anselm’s theory will be discussed, and a look at the Moral Influence theory of atonement looked at along with it must be rejected.

Gregory the Great was the last of the Latin doctors of the church and was the first Pope to use the phrase “Servant of the servants of God[1].”  He believed Augustine was the greatest church father and he applied the soteriology of Augustine in a synergistic nature[2].  Synergism coordinates the human will and divine grace as both being factors in conversion[3].  This played heavily into how Gregory answered the question presented.  To get the grace needed one had to be crucified with Christ.  This meant having an attitude of extreme repentance, doing penance, self-denial (of most if not all bodily pleasures), partake in the sacraments of the church, and do works of love[4].  He also started to formalize the medieval doctrine of purgatory.  In his view Jesus died on the cross for the sins of man.  Faith was needed, but man had to constantly show that he was in a state of penance.  According to Scholar Roger Olson, “His theology had the effect-perhaps unintended-of destroying any sense of assurance or security about salvation for most medieval Christians[5].”

A few centuries later Anselm asked “Cur Deus Homo?  i.e. Why did God become man[6].”  Anselm saw the atonement in a way different then the popular Ransom theory.  Anselm believed that, for the atonement to be sufficient, then Christ had to be human and divine[7].  In regards to this theory Paul Enns writes, “God chose to resolve the matter (of sin) through satisfaction by the gift of his son[8].”  Since the honor of God was restored through the sacrifice of Christ sinners reap the reward of forgiveness of sins through faith.

From Anselm and Gregory the Great we now turn to 19th century liberal Protestant theology.  One of the leaders in this brand of theology was an individual by the name of Albrecht Ritschl.  He said to separate Christianity from science and separated it into two basic truth claims.  The claims in question are judgment of fact and judgment of value[9].  According to Ritschl Christ saved us by giving us the Kingdom of God on Earth.  This is done by humanity uniting themselves in love without a teaching about Heaven, Hell, or the afterlife.  In essence Christianity, according to Ritschl, is reduced to a system of moralism[10].  His system could be summed up by saying that the sacrifice of Christ changed men’s moral attitudes and caused them to accept God’s rule in their lives[11].

As previously discussed, in Anselm we find the Satisfaction theory of atonement.  Since man sinned then a sacrifice had to be made by a human, but the whole human race is tainted by sin.  The only acceptable sacrifice was Christ who was fully God and fully man.  Through Christ honor was restored to God.  The Protestant reformer John Calvin looked to modify Anselm’s theory.  John Calvin, in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, put forth the Penal Substitution theory of atonement.  This development stated that Christ died in our place, and he was punished where we should have been punished.  In regards to this John Calvin writes, “clothed with his righteousness, we can bravely surmount all the insults of the world: and as he replenishes us liberally with his gifts, so we can in our turn bring forth fruit unto his glory[12].”

What did Jesus do to save us?  Three individuals were looked at, and three theories were briefly discussed.  In regards to the theories of atonement touched on it is clear that evangelicals must reject the moral influence theory.  The theory is inadequate to describe the atoning work of the savior.  In regards to this the Franklin Johnson states, “The theory makes the death of Christ predominantly scenic, spectacular, an effort to display the love of God rather than an offering to God in its nature necessary for the salvation of man[13].”  In this theory Christ dies not to free man from the penalty of sin, but to bring about a new system of morality.  There is nothing about repentance, God’s holiness, God’s Justice, or God’s mercy in this theory.  The atonement and salvation are not a moral exercise because a proper confession comes before salvation[14].  Christ died for the sins of man, not to be a martyr for a morally superior society, though that should be a result of true conversion.

I now leave you with a few passages from scripture that help answer this question.

John 10:11- “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

Galatians 3:13-“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.”

Isaiah 53:4-6- “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray;     we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

1 Peter 3:18- “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.”

2 Corinthians 5:21- “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

1 Peter 2:24- “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”

Jesus died for our sins and his finished work on the cross is perfect.  When we trust him by faith we are clothe in his righteous robe.  Thank you Jesus for this awesome gift that I do not deserve.

 

[1] Erwin Fahlbrusch et al, ed., Encyclopedia of Christianity, vol. 2, (Boston, MA: William B Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003), 471.

[2] Roger E. Olson, The Story of Christian Theology (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1999), 287.

[3] Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol. 3, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1910), 786.

[4] Roger E. Olson, The Story of Christian Theology (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1999), 288.

[5] Ibid, 289.

[6] Fred Sanders and Klaus Issler, eds., Jesus in Trinitarian Perspective (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2007), 157.

[7] Roger E. Olson, The Story of Christian Theology (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1999), 323.

[8] Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014), 334.

[9] Roger E. Olson, The Story of Christian Theology (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1999), 548.

[10] Ibid, 548.

[11] J.D. Douglas and Philip Comfort, eds., Who’s Who in Church History (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale Publishers, 1992), 574.

[12] “Institutes of the Christian Religion,” Calvin College, accessed June 24, 2016, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.iv.xvi.html.

[13] Franklin Johnson, The Fundamentals, ed. R.A. Torrey and A.C. Dixon, vol. 3, (Los Angeles, CA: Bible Institute Of Los Angeles, 1917), 68.

[14] Malcolm B Yarnell, The Formation of Christian Doctrine (Nashville, TN: B&h Academic, 2007), 191.

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