Advent and the Silence of God

*Note: this post contains spoilers for the book/movie “Silence”.

Last week, I finished Shusaku Endo’s  highly acclaimed 1966 novel “Silence”, the long expected movie of which is being released next month (see the trailer here). The book was fantastic–beautifully written, hauntingly profound, and deeply thought provoking. I’m not going to discuss too much of the actual plot here, since I highly recommend reading/seeing it for yourself. Rather I want to consider perhaps the central thematic point of the story: the silence of God (thus the book’s title).

Throughout the novel, as the characters experience extreme hardships, difficulties, and suffering, often times as a direct result of their Christian faith, they are left to wonder: where is God? Where is the God in whom they have placed their trust and hope? Where is the God for whom they are currently offering their lives, having given up everything for the sake of the Gospel? Where is the God who all their lives they have been told is loving, who is supposed to care for His people, who has commanded prayer and promised to answer? Where is this God?

But they are met only with silence. Continue reading

The Most Noble Science: Reading Aquinas: Summa Theologiae I, Q. 1, Art. 5

This is the third post in a series reading through sections of Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae. In the first we read through the Prologue and the first article of the first Question of the first Part, discussing the relationship between reason and divine revelation. In the second we read the second through the fourth articles of the same Question, considering divine revelation as a type of “science” or scientia, in the classical sense.

In this post we will begin with Article 5: Continue reading

The Person of Jesus Part 7: The Life of Jesus

So far in this series, we have examined Jesus’s impact on the world, introduced the academic field of historical Jesus work, shown that the existence of Jesus of Nazareth is so firmly established in history that virtually all scholars accept it, examined the various criteria and methods which historians use in determining historicity, and looked briefly at the nature of the gospels as sources. To remind, the purpose of this series since its beginning was the look at the identity of Jesus, not necessarily the historicity of all the events in his life or the reliability of the gospels, etc. We have very briefly touched on these things (having to leave out much) in order to set up and provide a foundation for our ultimate turn to questions of identity. In this post, we will look at several events from the life of Jesus and try to determine their historicity. Continue reading

Theology as Science: Reading Aquinas: Summa Theologiae I, Q. 1, Art. 2-4

In the first post in this series, we read through the Prologue and the first article of St. Thomas Aquinas’s magnificent Summa Theologiae, focusing on the relationship between and divine revelation. This post will focus on the relationship between theology and science.

In Part I, the second article of Question 1 begins:

“Whether Sacred Doctrine Is a Science?

Objection 1: It seems that sacred doctrine is not a science. For every science proceeds from self-evident principles. But sacred doctrine proceeds from articles of faith which are not self-evident, since their truth is not admitted by all: “For all men have not faith” (2 Thess. 3:2). Therefore sacred doctrine is not a science” (ST I, Q. 1, Art. 2) [1].

“Science” here is translated from scientia, meaning a “branch of knowledge” [2], used in the classical sense as opposed to the modern, limited sense referring only to the technical definition. The objection here is that science, by its very definition, “proceeds from self-evident principles”, meaning that it is based upon “premises the truth of which can be recognized by us while using the rational faculties with which we are endowed” [3]. In other words, as we saw from Article 1, reason alone will never take us to some of the doctrinal truths contained within Christian theology. Left to our own devices, even the most brilliant of human intellectuals never would have discovered that there is a triune God or some other of “the hidden things” of God [4]. These things had to be revealed to us directly by God in order for us to know them. But that is not science. Science, in the sense being used here, going back to Aristotle’s own description, starts from what is firmly held to be true via the senses and reasons to underlying causes/principles that explain those facts. But sacra doctrina does not start from what is known to be true via the senses, so it cannot be a science. Continue reading

The Person of Jesus Part 5: Sources and Historical Method

In the previous post in this series, we examined the historical evidence pertaining to the existence of the person Jesus of Nazareth, concluding that the hypothesis that Jesus existed is most definitely the best explanation of all the relevant data and coming to understand why the overwhelmingly vast majority of scholars all agree that Jesus existed. But just knowing that some person Jesus of Nazareth existed doesn’t tell us very much about him, who he was, what he did, why he’s important, etc. To discover these things requires further inquiry, which we will now begin to undertake. Continue reading

Reason and Divine Revelation: Reading Aquinas: Summa Theologiae Prologue and I, Q. 1, Art. 1

st-thomas-aquinas1(Carlo Crivelli (circa 1435–circa 1495) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons).

Being now three posts in to my “Reading Aristotle” series (see here, here, and here), I thought it time to begin a similar series on Aristotle’s great medieval champion, St. Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas is perhaps one of the greatest theologians, philosophers, thinkers, and just human beings in general in all of history. He and his writings, and the system of thought which arose from them, have had an immense impact on my own life and thought. He received ridicule while he was alive, being often taunted as “the dumb ox”, and he continues to receive criticism and ridicule up until today. But for those who take the time to study him, understand him, and learn from him, he is an unsurpassable treasure, a glimpse at what human beings can really be and accomplish.

In this post, we will begin to look at St. Thomas’s theological masterpiece, the Summa Theologiae. Continue reading

The Person of Jesus Part 3: The Historical Jesus

It’s been almost a month since my last post in this series on the person of Jesus. In the Introduction, we looked at the importance of history in general and argued that Jesus is the most significant human who has ever lived. In Part 1, we looked specifically at what impact the mere idea of Jesus has had on history. In Part 2, we looked at Lewis’ and Tolkien’s conception of the Gospel as a “true myth,” and then we laid out a list of questions to act as a framework/guide for our examination of this history altering man. In this post, we will take a look at the academic scholarship that has been done in the area.

In academic circles, this field of inquiry into the life of Jesus is known as “historical Jesus studies,” and it is Continue reading