Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Plunder of Nature: Outside and Inside the Household

THE CONCEPT OF NATURE HAS BEEN DESPOILED by the barbarians of thought who styled themselves the enlightened ones. They have destroyed the outside structures, much like they burned churches and shattered their stained glass windows. They pillaged the interior, melted down the holy vessels, and spent what was valuable. What they left after their intellectual vandalism was a concept of nature in shambles. Ruins of nature, built by an unknown and unknowable architect who cared no longer for his structure. Ruins of nature, without the hearth of a spiritual soul or the smell of incense. Ruins of nature which no longer served a purpose, and end, for the altars of the natural temple of the Holy Spirit had been rent in twain. The human "nature" these men left to the world, was not the human "nature" that the men before them had known. These--we may count Hume, and Kant, and Comte, and Austin, and Bentham among them--left about as much of nature standing as the French Revolution left of the great monastery of Cluny, or the Revolutionists' children in the Old World left of the Coventry Cathedral in England or their children in the New World left of Urakami Cathedral in Nagasaki, Japan. After these dismantlers, these inconoclasts of nature got done, what was missing? In a word, the theonomic principle of nature.

Urakami Cathedral after the Atom Bomb

But one may also identify what they left and what they substituted:
  • They of deistic (Tindal) or pantheistic (Spinoza) persuasions severed nature from God, and saw nature as a "separate jurisdiction from divine authority and governance," no longer tied to any theistic account.

  • Secular theories of progress and of morality, mainly utilitarian (Beccaria, Mill, Bentham), without regard to God or revelation were promoted.

  • A reductive, materialistic and mechanical and non-teleological view of nature (Bacon), one that could be studied, and in fact could only legitimately be studied, by empirical methods alone (Locke).

  • A rejection of any metaphysical thought, in both speculative and moral thinking, including any suggestion that God might be known through nature (analogia entis) or that any objective morality could be known through nature (analogia boni).
The problem of nature-in-shambles that confronted de Lubac cannot be placed entirely at the feet of secularist thought, though without doubt, especially if the intention of removing the theonomic in nature is considered, the lion's share belongs there. The problem, at least in Long's view, contains an ecclesiastical component. He sees the problem as a being the "convergent implication of [both] secular and Molinist thought." Long, 43.

The reference, of course, is to the Spanish Renaissance Jesuit theologian Luis de Molina (1535-1600). Long blames Molina for the current trend among Catholic theologians to "view free human action as standing outside divine governance and causality," an idea which, of course, is "incompatible with the understanding of nature as a theonomic principle." Long, 37. This is hardly what Molina--a commentator of St. Thomas Aquinas, part of the religious corps of of St. Ignatius, and loyal Catholic--would have intended. So how, in Long's view, did this come about?

Luis de Molina

At heart, the problem stems from Molina's emphasis on human liberty,* and his particular effort at reconciling this broad libertarian view of human liberty, on the one hand, with the concepts of God's providence, foreknowledge, predestination, and grace, on the other.

Now, the problem of reconciling human freedom, on the one hand,and God's providence and foreknowledge and the efficaciousness of grace, on the other, is, to put it mildly, knotty. And to outline both the Thomist view and the Molinist view on the matter and contrast them would, to do the matter justice, take a book in itself. This is hardly a matter to be handled in a blog posting.

But we shall try, beginning with our next post.

*In Molina's Concordia liberi arbitrii cum gratiae donis, divina praescientia, providentia, praedestinatione et reprobatione. The controversy caused by the publication of this work resulted in Pope Clement VIII institute a special board of inquiry called the Congregatio de Auxilia, which met at least 181 times. The commission eventually drew up a list of propositions and in 1607 prepared a bull to condemn 42 propositions of the work. However, the bull was never published, as the Pope at that time, Paul V, decided to postpone the condemnation, and, in fact allowed the opinions of Molinism and Thomism to be held. In any event, despite surviving condemnation, the Jesuit order got the picture of the general disfavor toward Molinism and the General of the Jesuits at the time Acquaviva decreed in 1613 that the Jesuits should teach the Congruism of the Jesuit Francisco Suarez and refrain from teaching Molinist theories. In the late 1800s, the theories of Molina enjoyed revival. See generally Hastings, Selbie, Gray, eds., Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, Vol. 8 (s.v. "Molinism")

1 comment:

  1. This is an excellent post! Please continue, because this post starts the unveiling on how the Natural Law got discombobulated from the Doric Greek/Ciceronian meaning! Yes, on how "human liberty" as taught by the one side of the Jesuits mangled or was a fellow traveller to the materialist/atomist Enlightenment. I look forward to an in-depth study here! Thank you for this analysis. I will certainly use what I learned in this post in my book!!! Thank you.