Conservative Colloquium

An Intellectual Forum for All Things Conservative

Theodoret Did Not Deny Transubstantiation

Posted by Tony Listi on February 13, 2013

Some Protestants claim that the early Church father Theodoret denied transubstantiation, citing the following excerpt:

“The mystical emblems of the body and blood of Christ continue in their original essence and form, they are visible and tangible as they were before [the consecration]; but the contemplation of the spirit and of  faith sees in them that which they have become, and they are adored also as that which they are to believers.”  (Theodoret, Dialogue ii, Opera ed. Hal. tom. iv p. 126).

Did Theodoret deny transubstantiation? No. Let’s look at this quote in its proper context (emphases mine):

Theodoret/Orthodoxus— I will however endeavour to point out to you several instances of substances which are mixed without being confounded, and remain unimpaired….

Orthodoxus— Tell me now; the mystic symbols which are offered to God by them who perform priestly rites, of what are they symbols?

Eranistes.— Of the body and blood of the Lord.

Orth.— Of the real body or not?

Eran.— The real.

Orth.— Good. For there must be the archetype of the image. So painters imitate nature and paint the images of visible objects.

Eran.— True.

Orth.— If, then, the divine mysteries are antitypes of the real body, therefore even now the body of the Lord is a body, not changed into nature of Godhead, but filled with divine glory.

Eran.— You have opportunely introduced the subject of the divine mysteries for from it I shall be able to show you the change of the Lord’s body into another nature. Answer now to my questions.

Orth.— I will answer.

Eran.— What do you call the gift which is offered before the priestly invocation?

Orth.— It were wrong to say openly; perhaps some uninitiated are present.

Eran.— Let your answer be put enigmatically.

Orth.— Food of grain of such a sort.

Eran.— And how name we the other symbol?

Orth.— This name too is common, signifying species of drink.

Eran.— And after the consecration how do you name these?

Orth.— Christ’s body and Christ’s blood.

Eran.— And do you believe that you partake of Christ’s body and blood?

Orth.— I do.

Eran.— As, then, the symbols of the Lord’s body and blood are one thing before the priestly invocation, and after the invocation are changed and become another thing; so the Lord’s body after the assumption is changed into the divine substance.

Orth.— You are caught in the net you have woven yourself. For even after the consecration the mystic symbols are not deprived of their own nature; they remain in their former substance figure and form; they are visible and tangible as they were before. But they are regarded as what they have become, and believed so to be, and are worshipped as being what they are believed to be. Compare then the image with the archetype, and you will see the likeness, for the type must be like the reality. For that body preserves its former form, figure, and limitation and in a word the substance of the body; but after the resurrection it has become immortal and superior to corruption; it has become worthy of a seat on the right hand; it is adored by every creature as being called the natural body of the Lord.

Theodoret is not even discussing the Eucharist itself specifically but rather only analogously to the human body of Christ. He is debating a heretic who believes that the risen Jesus was/is no longer human and thus had/has no human body.

If Theodoret does not believe in transubstantiation, then why does he say that the Eucharistic elements “are worshipped (Greek word proskuvnei’n, according to Protestant scholar Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 3, 501-502)”? Compare the Greek word with how it is used in the Bible

Theodoret also uses the language of being, not mere representation: “But they are regarded as what they have become, and believed so to be, and are worshipped as being what they are believed to be.” Yes, earlier on in the dialogue Theodoret refers to the Eucharist as “mystic symbols,” but symbols in the Greek Eastern theology can communicate the real presence of God (cf. icons in the Eastern churches). The Eucharist is a unique mystic symbol in that it embodies or is the Body and Blood of Christ, not merely an abstract representation of it.

Theodoret explains what he means by substance. He uses other words like “figure” and “form” and “visible” and “tangible.” These terms are exactly how a Catholic would refer to the bread and wine after the consecration: the bread and wine are visible and tangible forms of the reality of Jesus Christ’s body and blood.

And why does Theodoret refuse to “say openly” the name of “the gift which is offered before the priestly invocation”? For fear that “some uninitiated are present.” Seems Theodoret is afraid to say “bread” and “wine.” Why? Seems he believes that the “uninitiated” will be led astray by the use of those words. Seems very Catholic to me.

Even the heretics of this time did not deny transubstantiation but wished to use it to promote their Christological heresies.

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Why Euthanasia Is Immoral & Harmful

Posted by Tony Listi on January 31, 2013

Love is neither selfish nor unfair but rather is firmly grounded in the truth and the good. True love has no limits, and our love for one another should have no limits. If “love” were to transgress the truth or the good, it would cease to be love.

What is the truth about human dignity and suffering? What is good for the suffering person? These are the questions that must be answered objectively first before addressing the subjective feelings of the suffering person and others.

The suffering person, like all persons, has human dignity. Suffering does not take away that dignity (nothing can). That dignity commands reverence and love for the suffering person, even if that person himself or herself does not understand and embrace that dignity. What is good for the suffering person is love. The suffering person needs love. Loving a person requires recognizing the dignity of that person and showing the person due reverence because of that dignity rather than violating it.

If people recognized and revered their own dignity, they would not want others to kill them merely because they are suffering.

It is not loving to kill someone merely because they suffer; it is loving to comfort, console, and ease their pain and suffering. The dignity of the human person requires us to refrain from killing others except in self-defense. To “remove their suffering” by killing them, removing them from the world, is a violation of their human dignity, whether they want to be killed or not. The dignity of the human person has a higher value than the absence of suffering. Just because someone wants others to violate his or her own dignity does not make that violation any less of a violation; it is still wrong and harmful.

It is much more loving and compasionate to serve and comfort those who suffer rather than to kill them. Killing is merely easier (in a material sense) for those who do not suffer in certain ways (yet); loving another person is harder (in a material sense). In this sense, euthanasia is a kind of cruel sloth and laziness. But killing an innocent human being should be hard psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually for the decent and upright person. The suffering person should not want to impose this guilt on others, whether intentionally or not.

Life is always worth living because of love. If we stopped killing people who suffer and started loving and comforting them, many of them would no longer want to be killed. Love gives life purpose, despite suffering. Love gives purpose to suffering. And we all suffer in common ways and in our own individual ways. No one is immune from suffering.

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Understanding Why God Commanded Killing of Midianite Women & Children

Posted by Tony Listi on December 4, 2012

They warred against Midian, as the LORD commanded Moses, and slew every male…. Moses said to them, “Have you let all the women live? Behold, these [women] caused the people of Israel, by the counsel of Balaam, to act treacherously against the LORD in the matter of Peor, and so the plague came among the congregation of the
LORD. Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man by lying with him. But all the young girls who have
not known man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves. (Numbers 31:7, 15-18, RSV)

If God exists and is the source, author, and creator of human life, then the relationship between God and man is not on the same moral level as relationships among human beings. God is then well within His rights to take away human life, put those lives under a bond of marriage or servitude, and command others to do these things on His behalf. God can no more “murder” a human being than a human being can “murder” a clay pot. If one takes the premise of God’s existence seriously, then these accusations against God are really absurd. If one doesn’t take it seriously, then that’s a whole other discussion.

The case of the Midianites in Numbers 31 is a special historical case of God exercising such rights, not a promulgation of general law and morality for relationships among human beings. God gave the Israelites a special command with regard to the Midianites and gave the Israelites the 5th commandment “Thou shalt not murder” as a precept of general morality for human beings.

Why did God give this special command to the Israelites against the Midianites (and other similar peoples)? God judged the Midianites for their idolatry, sexual immorality, opposition to Israel, and dire threat to Israel’s culture and messianic mission (read chapters 22 and 25 of Numbers). He gave the Midianites the death penalty and commanded the Israelites to execute that penalty (“Arm men from among you for the war, that they may go against Midian, to execute the LORD’s vengeance on Midian.” Num 31:3). If we can assume these things in the mind of God, we can understand better how God was right to do and command what He did.

God gives no such special commands in our day and time.

***

And as for the captive Midianite virgins, God apparently permitted the Israelites to take them as wives or servants, but both wives and servants had particular rights under Mosaic law, including prohibitions against mistreatment  (Ex 21:26-27, Dt 23:15-16, Dt 21:10-14). Numbers 31 does not describe God establishing any moral precepts regarding marriage, sex, or servitude. Strictly speaking though, as one can read, Numbers does not say that the Midianite virgins were forced into marriage. Most of them were almost certainly too young for marriage anyway (pre-pubescent).

It’s important to understand that there’s a difference between command and permission. Just because God permitted or allowed certain things under Moses (e.g. divorce, polygamy, servitude, arranged marriages) does not mean that He commanded or approved of those things in themselves or intended for those permissions or allowances to last forever, for all times and people. (“[Jesus] said to them, ‘For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you….'” Mt 19:8-9)

The Israelites were a rough, barbaric, and stiff-necked people (as were all other ancient peoples of that time). They were little children in civilizational terms and could not handle the fullness of moral truth at that time with regard to human dignity and sexuality. God gave laws and allowances that met the Israelites where they were civilizationally as a people at that time. With the coming of Jesus, God fulfills the law and commands the fullness of truth, as well as giving us the grace to obey and live it out and to receive mercy when we disobey it. (Of course, considering how few are the people who actually accept and cooperate with this grace to live out this fullness, we cannot necessarily say that modern people today are more civilized. Modern barbarism cloaks itself in “civility” and “compassion.”)

God was right to make these allowances for Israel for a time, just as a parent is right to make certain allowances for children until it’s time for them to grow up. “[W]hen the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways” (1 Cor 13:10-11).

Posted in Christian Apologetics, Moral Philosophy, Religion and Theology, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments »

Popes Acknowledge Economic Fallibility & Independence of Economics

Posted by Tony Listi on November 1, 2012

The Catholic Church has always said that, though politics and economics should have moral goals, prudence is necessary to ensure those goals are actually met. The Church cannot infallibly demand certain economic-political policies be put in place.

The Church has always said there is a lawful diversity of opinion on economic-political matters:

“If I were to pronounce on any single matter of a prevailing economic problem, I should be interfering with the freedom of men to work out their own affairs. Certain cases must be solved in the domain of facts, case by case as they occur…. Men must realize in deeds those things, the principles of which have been placed beyond dispute….These things one must leave to the solution of time and experience.” -Pope Leo XIII

“It goes without saying that part of the responsibility of pastors is to give careful consideration to current events in order to discern the new requirements of evangelization. However, such an analysis is not meant to pass definitive judgments, since this does not fall per se within the Magisterium’s specific domain…. The Church has no models to present; models that are real and truly effective can only arise within the framework of different historical situations, through the efforts of all those who responsibly confront concrete problems in all their social, economic, political and cultural aspects, as these interact with one another. For such a task the Church offers her social teaching as an indispensable and ideal orientation….” -Pope John Paul II, Centesimus Annus

“Indeed ‘the Church holds that it is unlawful for her to mix without cause in these temporal concerns;’ however, she can in no wise renounce the duty God entrusted to her to interpose her authority, not of course in matters of technique for which she is neither suitably equipped nor endowed by office….” -Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno

“[E]conomics and moral science employs each its own principles in its own sphere….” -Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno

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Augustine on Suffering in Purgatory

Posted by Tony Listi on October 15, 2012

I shall emphasize those places where Augustine specifically indicates temporary suffering for Christian believers after death:

“[T]hough she [the Church] prays even for the wicked so long as they live, she yet does not even in this world pray for the unbelieving and godless who are dead. For some of the dead, indeed, the prayer of the Church or of pious individuals is heard; but it is for THOSE WHO, HAVING BEEN REGENERATED BY CHRIST, did not spend their life so wickedly that they can be judged unworthy of such compassion, nor so well that they can be considered to have no need of it. As also, AFTER THE RESURRECTION, there will be some of the DEAD to whom, after they have endured the PAINS proper to the spirits of the DEAD, mercy shall be accorded, and acquittal from the punishment of the eternal fire. For were there not some whose sins, though not remitted in this life, shall be remitted in that which is to come, it could not be truly said, “They shall not be forgiven, neither in this world, neither in that which is to come’ (Mt 12:32).” City of God, 21:24 (A.D. 426).

“For one who cultivates this field interiorly and gains his bread, albeit with toil, can suffer this toil up to the end of his life, but after this life he need not suffer. The man who perhaps has not cultivated the land and has allowed it to be overrun with brambles has in this life the curse of his land on all his works, and AFTER THIS LIFE he will have either PURGATORIAL FIRE or eternal punishment. Thus NO ONE escapes this sentence [curse of toil and suffering], but we should act so that we feel its punishment only in this life.” Genesis Defended Against the Manicheans, 2, 20, 30

“The prophet Malachi…predicts the last judgment, saying, ‘Behold, He comes, says the Lord Almighty; and who shall abide the day of His entrance? . . . for I am the Lord your God, and I change not.” From these words it more evidently appears that SOME SHALL IN THE LAST JUDGMENT SUFFER SOME KIND OF PURGATORIAL PUNISHMENTS; for what else can be understood by the word, ‘Who shall abide the day of His entrance, or who shall be able to look upon Him? For He enters as a moulder’s fire, and as the herb of fullers: and He shall sit fusing and purifying as if over gold and silver: and He shall purify the sons of Levi, and pour them out like gold and silver?’ Similarly Isaiah says, ‘The Lord shall wash the filthiness of the sons and daughters of Zion, and shall cleanse away the blood from their midst, by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning’ (Isaiah 4:4). Unless perhaps we should say that they are cleansed from filthiness and in a manner clarified, when the wicked are separated from them by penal judgment, so that the elimination and damnation of the one party is the purgation of the others, because they shall henceforth live free from the contamination of such men. But when he says, ‘And he shall purify the sons of Levi, and pour them out like gold and silver, and they shall offer to the Lord sacrifices in righteousness; and the sacrifices of Judah and Jerusalem shall be pleasing to the Lord,; he declares that those who shall be purified shall then please the Lord with sacrifices of righteousness, and consequently they themselves shall be PURIFIED FROM THEIR OWN UNRIGHTEOUSNESS which made them displeasing to God. Now they themselves, when they have been purified, shall be sacrifices of complete and perfect righteousness; for what more acceptable offering can such persons make to God than themselves? But this question of purgatorial punishments we must defer to another time, to give it a more adequate treatment. By the sons of Levi and Judah and Jerusalem we ought to understand THE CHURCH herself, gathered not from the Hebrews only, but from other nations as well; nor such a Church as she now is, when ‘if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us’ (1 John 1:8), but as she shall then be, PURGED BY THE LAST JUDGMENT as a threshing-floor by a winnowing wind, and those of her members who need it being CLEANSED BY FIRE….” City of God, 20:25, “Of Malachi’s Prophecy, in Which He Speaks of the Last Judgment, and of a Cleansing Which Some are to Undergo by Purifying Punishments” (A.D. 426)

“…will any man say this time of faith can be placed on an equal footing with that consummation when they who offer sacrifices in righteousness shall be PURIFIED BY THE FIRE OF THE LAST JUDGMENT? And consequently, since it must be believed that AFTER SUCH A CLEANSING THE RIGHTEOUS SHALL RETAIN NO SIN, assuredly that time, so far as regards its freedom from sin, can be compared to no other period, unless to that during which our first parents lived in paradise in the most innocent happiness before their transgression…. For the animals selected as victims under the old law were required to be immaculate, and free from all blemish whatever, and symbolized holy men free from all sin, the only instance of which character was found in Christ. As, therefore, AFTER THE JUDGMENT THOSE WHO ARE WORTHY OF SUCH PURIFICATION SHALL BE PURIFIED EVEN BY FIRE, and shall be rendered thoroughly sinless, and shall offer themselves to God in righteousness, and be indeed victims immaculate and free from all blemish whatever…. Then, with reference to those who are worthy not of cleansing but of damnation….” City of God, 20:26 (A.D. 426)

“But TEMPORARY PUNISHMENTS are suffered by some in this life only, by others AFTER DEATH, by others both now and then; but all of them before that last and strictest judgment. But of those who suffer TEMPORARY PUNISHMENTS AFTER DEATH, all are not doomed to those everlasting pains which are to follow that judgment; for to some, as we have already said, what is not remitted in this world is remitted in the next, that is, they are not punished with the eternal punishment of the world to come.” City of God, 21:13 (A.D. 426)

“We shall then ascertain who it is who can be saved by fire (1 Cor 3:15), if we first discover what it is to have Christ for a foundation…. Whoever, then, has Christ in his heart, so that no earthly or temporal things— not even those that are legitimate and allowed— are preferred to Him, has Christ as a foundation. But if these things be preferred, then even though a man seem to have faith in Christ, yet Christ is not the foundation to that man; and much more if he, in contempt of wholesome precepts, seek forbidden gratifications, is he clearly convicted of putting Christ not first but last, since he has despised Him as his ruler, and has preferred to fulfill his own wicked lusts, in contempt of Christ’s commands and allowances….. For so long as he does not prefer such an affection or pleasure to Christ, CHRIST IS HIS FOUNDATION, though on it he builds wood, hay, stubble; and therefore he shall be saved as by fire. For the FIRE OF AFFLICTION shall burn such luxurious pleasures and earthly loves, though they be not damnable, because enjoyed in lawful wedlock. And of this fire the fuel is BEREAVEMENT, and all those CALAMITIES which consume these joys. Consequently the superstructure will be LOSS to him who has built it, for he shall not retain it, but shall be AGONIZED BY THE LOSS of those things in the enjoyment of which he found pleasure. But by this fire he shall be saved through virtue of the foundation, because even if a persecutor demanded whether he would retain Christ or these things, he would prefer Christ…. But some of them it [fire at last judgment] so proves that it does not burn and consume the structure which is found to have been built by them on Christ as the foundation; while others of them it proves in another fashion, so as to burn what they have built up, and thus cause them to SUFFER LOSS, WHILE THEY THEMSELVES ARE SAVED because they have retained Christ, who was laid as their sure foundation, and have loved Him above all. But if they are saved, then certainly they shall stand at the right hand, and shall with the rest hear the sentence, ‘Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you;’ and not at the left hand, where those shall be who shall not be saved, and shall therefore hear the doom, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire.'” City of God, 21:26, “What It is to Have Christ for a Foundation, and Who They are to Whom Salvation as by Fire is Promised,” (A.D. 426)

“Nor can it be denied that the souls of the dead are benefited by the piety of their living friends, who offer the sacrifice of the Mediator, or give alms in the church on their behalf. But these services are of advantage only to those who during their lives have earned such merit, that services of this kind can help them. For there is a manner of life which is neither so good as not to require these services after death, nor so bad that such services are of no avail after death; there is, on the other hand, a kind of life so good as not to require them; and again, one so bad that when life is over they render no help. Therefore, it is in this life that all the merit or demerit is acquired, which can either RELIEVE OR AGGRAVATE A MAN’S SUFFERINGS AFER THIS LIFE. No one, then, need hope that after he is dead he shall obtain merit with God which he has neglected to secure here. And accordingly it is plain that the services which the church celebrates for the dead are in no way opposed to the apostle’s words: ‘For we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he has done, whether it be good or bad;’ for the merit which renders such services as I speak of profitable to a man, is earned while he lives in the body. It is not to every one that these services are profitable. And why are they not profitable to all, except because of the different kinds of lives that men lead in the body? When, then, sacrifices either of the altar or of alms are offered on behalf of all the baptized dead, they are thank-offerings for the very good, they are propitiatory offerings for the not very bad, and in the case of the very bad, even though they do not assist the dead, they are a species of consolation to the living. And where they are profitable, their benefit consists either in obtaining a full remission of sins, or at least in making the condemnation more tolerable.” Enchiridion Ch. 110

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Women, Sexual Pleasure, and Contraception

Posted by Tony Listi on August 27, 2012

Conservatives seem to be ignoring or dismissing the fundamental and apparently somewhat persuasive “pleasure argument” made by sexual egoists to women about sex and contraception.

The egoists tell women that vanity, independence from men, and sensual pleasure and self-indulgence are the sources of happiness rather than love, sexual joy, commitment, and lifelong marriage to a truly loving husband at their service. Therefore, they celebrate and worship contraception, which “empowers” women to get a lot more sex and a lot more physical sexual pleasure than ever before without the “burdens” of  men, marriage, and/or children. The egoists want women to have the same qualities as the worst kind of lustful men.

Conservatives often seem to assume that women don’t fall for this, assuming that women are less attracted to sexual self-indulgence than men. But many women, including many young liberal and libertarian women, have accepted that logic and those values. Increased pornography use among women is also indicative of this problem.

At the very extreme, some conservatives seem to forget that women can get just as much physical and emotional pleasure from sexual activity as men, if not more so.

The image of very lustful and vain women is indeed very repulsive to the conservative mind (as is lustful and prideful men), but it’s an image of reality in a great many women and needs to be recognized and confronted. (Though of course, it is more important to recognize and confront it in men, who typically initiate sexual behavior.)

So today, conservatives unfortunately have to re-establish the fundamentals, especially those about happiness. They have to argue the case that love brings real, lasting happiness and is better than use, than mere self-indulgence in vanity and pleasure. We should not assume that women today understand this truth better than men and embrace it more often and more strongly than men.

As a whole, women’s values and demands regarding sex have changed over time. Many women are not demanding marriage, commitment, and love anymore; they are satisfied with vanity, pleasure, and independence and reject commitment and responsibility.

If one wants to be harsh and cynical, one could say that women’s values (like men’s) haven’t changed at all,  that women (in their fallen nature) have always desired vanity, pleasure, and independence rather than commitment and responsibility, and that contraception has merely lowered the personal cost to women of pursuing those egoist values. Before contraception, the costs were just too high. A woman may have wanted to indulge in sexual pleasure and vanity (in or outside of marriage), but she knew the consequences were more children and the sacrifices necessary to care for them.

Contraception in itself, like all technology, is not the source of hedonistic, self-centered values. It merely allows people to act on pre-existing values or tendencies (good and bad) at a lower cost.

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Brain Neuroscience and Philosophy Suggest Existence of Soul

Posted by Tony Listi on August 2, 2012

(This borrows arguments and facts from Dinesh D’Souza’s book Life After Death.)

Neuroscientists study the physical brain, but they also want to understand the non-physical mind. Yet thoughts cannot be collected, weighed, measured, sniffed, or even observed, at least not directly and clearly. They try to reduce the mind to merely physical cause-and-effect relationships. But is it even possible to do so?

Neuroscience has shown that brain states and mental experiences are correlated and that in many cases that certain mental states are dependent on certain brain states, but it HAS NOT shown that brain states cause mental states.

The famous American philosopher William James correctly thought of the brain not as a causal device but as a gateway, receiver, or transmission vehicle for the mind.

As an analogy, consider a radio and music. If the radio breaks and one can’t hear the music anymore, does that prove that the radio causes the music? Of course not. The music/radio waves are actually distinct from and have an independent existence from the physical radio itself. The radio merely channels and manifests the music/radio waves that already exist all around us.

Similarly, music CDs require CD players, but the players don’t cause the music. Software requires hardware, but the hardware doesn’t cause the software’s programs. A fine paintbrush is needed to paint a fine painting, but the paintbrush doesn’t cause the painting but the artist using the paintbrush.

The question materialist atheists have to answer is this: “How do material objects, such as neurons with their associated apparatus of axons and dendrites, cause immaterial outcomes such as sensations, emotions, and ideas?… How can we be confident that the brain is a manufacturing plant for the mind and not merely a gateway or transmission belt?”

If minds are shadows/epiphenomenons that don’t do anything, why do we have minds? It is unlikely evolution would provide mental functions if they were irrelevant.

And if the mind is just an illusion with no existence, then the very thought, idea, and truth of “the mind is just an illusion with no existence” doesn’t exist either. It’s self-contradictory.

The notion that the mind is the brain (Daniel Dennett) doesn’t work either. Mental states are private, known only to the person; brains are not private and can be known by an outside observer. Mental states cannot be spatially located; brain states can. Mental states are about something and intentionally refer to something external to themselves; this is not the case with brain states. A person is infallible concerning their mental state, about their own thoughts; a person cannot be infallible concerning their brain state. A person cannot be mistaken about what they themselves experience mentally; a person can be mistaken about their own brain state, which a neuroscientist may know more about through technology and observation. Moreover, if two different people have the same mental state, that does NOT mean they have the same brain state. Human brains are wired differently from individual to individual.

The mind is not what it makes a person do either. One can remove actions or cease to act and the mental experience still be there. Mental experiences can exist apart from any behavior and perhaps from any physical manifestation.

Philosophers like Thomas Nagel (click here for more info) and Frank Jackson have soundly argued that even a full understanding of brain physiology will never reveal mental states, that mental states can never be reduced to purely physical terms.

The mind is not the output of a computer either. We cannot build computers that do what the mind does and experiences. Of course, the notion of the mind as a computer doesn’t preclude the notion of life after death since one might download and upload the mind. Moreover, a computer merely manipulates symbols; it isn’t really conscious of what it is doing like the human mind. Computers can do syntax but not semantics; they can follow rules but can’t discern meaning. No computer, however complex, will ever be able to think and be conscious.

Neuroscience has only shown its own inherent limitations and blindspots. Science is limited to the study of material things that are objective and publicly observable. The “scientific” argument against the soul (mind/consciousness) collapses because the soul is not material or objective. Neuroscience thus makes life after death a plausible notion, though perhaps not persuasive and credible on its own.

Neuroscience has also shown that mental activity actually reconstitutes and reprograms the neurons in our brain. The mind, the person, the human will, shapes and forms the physical brain.

Physician Jeffrey Schwartz treats OCD patients and developed what he calls “cognitive therapy.” This therapy involves patients learning to refocus their minds away from their compulsions and toward other thoughts and actions. Not only has the therapy been successful in many cases, but it has shown that a person can willfully rewire and bring order to their own previously disordered brains. The mind is controlling the matter, not the other way around!

The placebo and nocebo effects also demonstrate how the mind changes the body, including the brain.

The concept of neuroplasticity is a relatively new term to describe how the mind can change the physical arrangements in the brain. Psychiatrist Norman Doige has employed this concept and a therapy similar to Dr. Schwartz’s to successfully treat a variety of mental disabilities.

If the mind is independent enough to create changes in the body, especially the brain, it seems reasonable to suppose the mind can survive the dissolution of the body, including specifically the brain.

Dr. Schwartz and physicist Henry Stapp are using discoveries in quantum physics to explain these mysterious/miraculous phenomena/treatments. They believe that consciousness operates at the quantum level to create a physical force. They believe the patients can, through trained volition/consciousness, fix and rearrange the position of subatomic particles and thus transform the physical reality within the brain.

Consciousness is perhaps the most perplexing and mysterious subject in science, and yet it is the most obvious and self-evident thing to the ordinary person. Human consciousness has no physical explanation yet we can see its physical consequences in medicine. Consciousness has no good evolutionary explanation either.

Consciousness must exist. If consciousness doesn’t really exist, than we can’t be conscious of the fact that consciousness doesn’t exist. To deny consciousness is self-contradictory.

Philosopher David Chalmers argues we should accept consciousness as an irreducible element of reality, just like matter and energy in physics.

Quantum uncertainty creates rational/scientific room for free will.

“Thus a strict materialism refutes itself for the reason given long ago by Professor Haldane: ‘If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motion of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true…and hence no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.” -C.S. Lewis, Miracles

If we presume morality, we must presume free will too. And free will is inherently spiritual and supernatural by definition (i.e. not a result of physical cause and effect). Free will and atheistic materialism are incompatible. Thus morality and atheistic materialism are incompatible.

Posted in Religion and Theology, Science and Religion, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments »

God’s Grace Precedes Human Will But Is Not Irresistible

Posted by Tony Listi on June 3, 2012

Despite the misunderstandings and caricatures by Protestantism, Catholicism is quite clear that man cannot become righteous and justified apart from God. God’s grace must be at work at the beginning, middle, and end of the process of salvation.

How many Protestants have ever taken the time to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church to actually know with certainty what the Catholic Church teaches?

The following are excerpts from the Catechism explaining Catholic doctrines on the relationship among justification, grace, free will, and merit. Italicized emphases are mine.

1989 The first work of the grace of the Holy Spirit is conversion, effecting justification in accordance with Jesus’ proclamation at the beginning of the Gospel: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, thus accepting forgiveness and righteousness from on high.

God’s grace ALWAYS comes first and precedes human will in the process of salvation, in conversion. That is what the Catholic Church teaches and has always taught. Unfortunately, some Calvinists have taken this truth of God’s grace and perverted it, saying that God’s grace is “irresistible” and overpowers human will.

1993 Justification establishes cooperation between God’s grace and man’s freedom. On man’s part it is expressed by the assent of faith to the Word of God, which invites him to conversion, and in the cooperation of charity with the prompting of the Holy Spirit who precedes and preserves his assent:

When God touches man’s heart through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, man himself is not inactive while receiving that inspiration, since he could reject it; and yet, without God’s grace, he cannot by his own free will move himself toward justice in God’s sight. (Council of Trent)

Grace, along with the justification it effects, is not something we deserve or can earn but something freely and generously given by God.

1996 Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.

1998 This vocation to eternal life is supernatural. It depends entirely on God’s gratuitous initiative, for he alone can reveal and give himself. It surpasses the power of human intellect and will, as that of every other creature.

Even the reception of grace by human will must first be prepared by divine grace.

2001 The preparation of man for the reception of grace is already a work of grace. This latter is needed to arouse and sustain our collaboration in justification through faith, and in sanctification through charity. God brings to completion in us what he has begun, “since he who completes his work by cooperating with our will began by working so that we might will it” (St. Augustine, De gratia et libero arbitrio, 17: PL 44, 901):

Indeed we also work, but we are only collaborating with God who works, for his mercy has gone before us. It has gone before us so that we may be healed, and follows us so that once healed, we may be given life; it goes before us so that we may be called, and follows us so that we may be glorified; it goes before us so that we may live devoutly, and follows us so that we may always live with God: for without him we can do nothing. (St. Augustine, De natura et gratia, 31: PL 44, 264.)

Not only does grace allow for cooperation with human will, but grace also demands and obliges man to freely and willfully respond to and cooperate with grace.

2002 God’s free initiative demands man’s free response, for God has created man in his image by conferring on him, along with freedom, the power to know him and love him. The soul only enters freely into the communion of love. God immediately touches and directly moves the heart of man. He has placed in man a longing for truth and goodness that only he can satisfy. The promises of “eternal life” respond, beyond all hope, to this desire….

Any merit of man originates first with the grace of God. But some men and women receive more grace and/or choose to cooperate more fully with that grace.

2007 With regard to God, there is no strict right to any merit on the part of man. Between God and us there is an immeasurable inequality, for we have received everything from him, our Creator.

2008 The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace. the fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man’s free acting through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful. Man’s merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit.

2010 Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life….

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Pornography vs. The Nude in Art: The Catholic-Christian Perspective

Posted by Tony Listi on December 9, 2011

Many colleges and universities offer art classes which necessarily involve the viewing of the nude male or female human body. There are two extreme and wrong-headed responses or approaches to this kind of situation:

  1. It is always and absolutely wrong to look at the naked human body merely for artistic reproduction or training. It is also always and absolutely wrong to publicly display such artistic reproductions of the nude body. Anybody who engages in such things is engaging in the deadly sin of lust.
  2. Looking at the naked human body, whether in person or through art, is no big deal and shouldn’t be taken seriously at all. Anybody who wants limits upon or has any concerns about the morality of looking at the naked human body are prudes who hate the human body or don’t sufficiently value its beauty and dignity.

The correct, prudent, and temperant approach is the Catholic Christian approach outlined by Blessed Pope John Paul II (JP2) in his Theology of the Body. Artistic representation of nude forms is a very complex issue because it combines very objective truths with very subjective experiences.

Let’s look at JP2’s own words: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in American Culture, Art and Creativity, Catholicism, Moral Philosophy, Religion and Theology, Sex, The Papacy, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments »

Children and Their Rights Unjustly Absent from Same-Sex “Marriage” Debate

Posted by Tony Listi on November 21, 2011

I’m getting really tired of seeing debates over same-sex “marriage” (SSM) that ignore, dismiss, or downplay children and their rights and that talk about marriage as if it were primarily an adult-centered civil institution. It is so sad that leftists, most libertarians, and many so-called “conservatives” treat children this way. The real debate over marriage as a public, civil institution should not be about adults but about children and children’s rights.

The essential public purpose of marriage is to attach mothers and fathers to their children and to each other for the sake of their children and their children’s rights. Marriage as a civil institution is about children; the law should recognize it as children-centered institution. Children and their rights are the reason why marriage is a public, civil institution (not merely a religious institution) and why it should have special legal status.

While not every marriage can or does bear fruit in the procreation of children, every child has a mother and father, and the well being of that child depends significantly upon the relationship between his or her mother and father, which marriage, as a civil and social institution, is designed to strengthen and stabilize.

The law should recognize these basic facts of biology, social science, and human nature and should protect the child’s rights by protecting marriage. Legal protection of marriage is necessary because children are unable to defend and protect their own rights, and the violation of those rights and consequent harm and damage done is extremely difficult to remedy satisfactorily after the fact.

SSM tries to change marriage from a children-centered civil institution to an adult-centered civil institution, necessarily perverting and destroying the essential public purpose of marriage and harming children, who depend upon marriage for their well being.

Many people often say that same-sex “marriage” (SSM) does “no harm to anyone.” While it might have little to no direct and immediate effect on adults and current marriages, SSM would certainlydirectly, and immediately harm future children by:

  1. Undermining, if not removing entirely, the children-centered nature of civil marriage, which children depend upon for their well being,
  2. Turn children into commodities to be manufactured and possessed that unrelated adults have a “right” to have, separating children from at least one parent as a matter of routine procedure,
  3. Empowering the state to routinely and arbitrarily assign parentage and custody of children without any regard for biology or genetics.

Marriage should not be about self-centered adults who want recognition and approval from the State for their private relationships which serve no public purpose. As a civil institution, marriage is not about the “happiness” or “rights” of adults but the happiness and rights of children. 

SSM strips away the essential public purpose of marriage (children and their rights) and leaves only the inessential private purposes of marriage. Under the new definition(s) of “marriage,” a whole host of private relationships having nothing to do with the procreation and proper raising of children could be considered a “marriage.” By the time the logic of these new definitions reaches its full implications, there will be nothing left of marriage except an absurd and dangerous government registry of roomates and friendships.

A relationship based on homosexual affection or behavior is no more deserving of legal recognition and approval than a relationship based on the activities of living together, golf, chess, dancing, or studying. Homosexual behavior, living together, golfing, playing chess, dancing, and studying are all private behaviors that serve no essential public purpose. If these individuals want to formalize their private relationship and create reciprocal rights and responsibilities amongst themselves, they are free to do that under the law using contracts. But of course, no private individual or corporation outside of that contractual relationship should be forced by government to recognize that contractual relationship and to perform some specific action because of the existence of that contractual relationship.

But marriage, a relationship based on procreating children and securing their positive rights, deserves special legal status that transcends contract law because it serves the very essential public purpose of procreating children and securing their positive rights. Marriage is more than a contract because it intends to create and care for an entirely new human being, an entirely new third party to the “contract” who has special positive rights that depend upon the marriage relationship itself to be secured.

Perhaps some people will argue that SSM and the creation and proper raising of children can go together…. But SSM inherently promotes and encourages the outrageous, immoral, and harmful notion that children are commodities or things which adults have a “right” to have, regardless of whether they are the biological parents of the children or not. On the contrary, children should be loved into existence and are persons with a positive right to a relationship with both biological parents, to know and be known by both biological parents.

Creating a child with the intention of preventing the child from having a relationship with one or both of his or her biological parents is cruel and unjust to the child. Artificial reproduction technology merely makes this injustice and cruelty more possible and likely than before. SSM thus tries to change marriage into an institution that separates children from at least one of their parents as a matter of routine procedure.

Most dangerously, SSM would lead to changes in parentage laws entailing the empowering of the State to assign the parentage of children to adults based on inherently arbitrary criteria rather than on biology. Currently, unless scientific testing shows otherwise, family law assumes that the father of a child is the husband of the mother of the child (i.e. presumption of paternity), if the mother is married. But by changing the legal definition of marriage from one man and one woman, the State is empowered to ignore human nature and biology and arbitarily assign children to the custody certain adults. Such changes create legal precedent for the State having complete and arbitrary control over children and to whom they belong. If you think this sounds far-fetched, it has already happened in Washington State.

This blog post draws heavily from the Ruth Institute’s pamphlet “77 Non-Religious Reasons to Support Man/Woman Marriage.” Click here to get your copy!

Posted in American Culture, Government and Politics, Marriage, Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Science and Politics, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »