On Just War

Although we all should be continuing to pray for a peaceful resolution to the Iraq situation, it seems we should also be preparing for war. How should we respond to a war with Iraq? I’ve come across a couple of websites that are helpful.

Here’s a website on The Just War Theory. It gives a very helpful overview of the topic, including arguments for and against.

It also links to a passage from Aquinas’ Summa, and to a couple of encyclicals Pacem in Terris and Gaudium et Spes.


Kant on Religion and Reason

In a very interesting essay entitled “What is Enlightenment?” (Was ist Aufklarung?), Kant takes pains to stress the necessity for reason’s autonomy. Reason should be free to follow its own ends and searches. While the citizen as citizen is duty bound to obey the ruler, the same citizen as scholar ought to be free to utilize his reason to investigate and criticize the governmental body and processes over which the ruler presides and which he executes. Which is all well and good, and thoroughly within the Kantian divide between pure reason and practical reason.

But most of the essay is taken up with the duties of pastor as pastor and that of pastor as scholar. Kant says a pastor is obliged to recite the creed, and teach it in catechism classes–though with something of a wink by saying, “This is what the church teaches”–but as scholar, the pastor is free to criticize and contradict the creed based on his own researches. The pastor must Sapere aude!, or dare to think for himself.

But one wonders on what basis Kant asserts such claims. First is what clearly appears to be a very dubious division between one’s public and private lives, a division which at least on a surface reading smacks of rank inauthenticity. On the other hand, on what basis can Kant assert that one must feel free to question and criticize, and even disbelieve, religion? On the basis of reason’s own assertions? Isn’t that question-begging? Reason tells me I should feel free to criticize religion on the basis of reason? What privileges reason over faith?

Now, I’ll grant you that Kant may certainly have a more systematic relationship between these two tensions, but having read the first Critique and the Groundwork, I’m not able to put these two tensions together. Not on Kant’s own terms, and definitely not on my own.

A Partial Refutation of the Tradition’s Critics: St Nina Isapostolos and the Hermeneutics of Suspicion

From The Prologue from Ochrid for 14 Jan:


Nina was a relative of St. George the Great Martyr and Juvenal, the Patriarch of Jerusalem. Her parents belonged to the nobility in Cappadocia and since they both were tonsured in the monastic state, Nina was educated under the tutelage of Patriarch Juvenal. Hearing about the people of Georgia, the virgin Nina, from an early age, desired to go to Georgia and to baptize the Georgians. The All-Holy Mother of God appeared to Nina and promised to take her to this land. When our Lord opened the way, the young Nina, indeed, traveled to Georgia where, in a short period of time, she gained the love of the Georgian people. Nina succeeded in baptizing the Georgian Emperor Mirian, his wife Nana and their son Bakar, who, later on, zealously assisted in Nina’s missionary work. During her lifetime, Nina traveled throughout Georgia, mainly to convert the entire nation to the Faith of Christ, exactly at the time of the terrible persecution of the Christians at the hands of Emperor Diocletian. Having rested from her many labors, Nina died in the Lord in the year 335 A.D. Her body is entombed in the Cathedral Church in Mtzkheta. She worked many miracles during her life and after her death.

This is not about women’s ordination, per se, yet note: St Nina was not ordained, but yet is called “Equal-to-the-Apostles.” She could not celebrate the Eucharist, as a priest, yet is held in the same reverence as Constantine the Emperor (also called “Equal-to-the-Apostles”).

Now modern critics of the Tradition would apparently decry the “injustice” that St Nina suffered, in being “denied” ordination. They would presumably focus on how she was “oppressed” and her person “violated” by the limitations placed on her by an all-male, power-wielding cleritocracy.

This is the hermeneutics of suspicion, derived from the so-called “Masters of Suspicion”: Freud, Marx and Nietzsche. This ninetheenth century trio (though Freud mainly practiced in and died in the twentieth century) made it possible for a new “power” class to arise, one granted an apparent expertise to see into and behind the conscious motives of persons. Freud saw most things through the lenses of sex. Marx saw most things through the lenses of economic class struggle. Nietzsche saw most things through the lenses of volitional domination.

Granted, these are very oversimplistic summarizations; each of these thinkers were more complex than that. Regrettably, however, many of their (post)modern followers are not so nuanced and careful as were their “Masters.” So, for many people, it’s all about “sex,” “money,” or “power.”

Thus, the critics of the Tradition frequently assume that they both are smarter and wiser than the Fathers (and Mothers) of the Church and that they can see through all the rhetoric and know that “it’s all about sex, money and power.” But these assumptions are faulty in two ways: the critics have not demonstrably proven that they are indeed smarter and wiser than the Fathers and Mothers (though they have proven that they disagree with the Fathers and Mothers), and they have not demonstrably shown how their own criticisms are not also “all about sex, money, and power.”

It seems a bit naive and hubristic to me to assume that the Fathers and Mothers could not see through their own “blindspots.” Of course, “blindspots” here means those areas where we think they are wrong. In any case, it hasn’t been demonstrably proven that the Fathers and Mothers couldn’t see what we can now see. It only means we disagree with them.

Rather, the biblical way of handling the Tradition is summed up in a couple of places from Paul: “What I received, I also handed down to you, that on the night our Savior was betrayed, he took bread . . .” (1 Corinthians 11:23) and “hold fast to those things which have been handed down to you” (2 Thessalonians 2:15). In other words, it seems to me that a Christian approaching the Church’s own Tradition must first start from a “hermeneutics of acceptance,” which is to say, to start from the assumption the Church and her Tradition is in line with the Truth, which Christ himself promised, rather than to assume that because the Church’s understandings of the Truth are in conflict with our own age, that it must somehow be wrong.

C S Lewis, “Priestesses in the Church?”

I found Lewis’ insightful essay on the net. You should read the whole thing. You can go to it here.
These two paragraphs are representative:

Now it is surely the case that if all these supposals were ever carried into effect we should be embarked on a different religion. Goddesses have, of course, been worshipped: many religions have had priestesses. But they are religions quite different in character from Christianity. Common sense, disregarding the discomfort, or even the horror, which the idea of turning all our theological language into the feminine gender arouses in most Christians, will ask “Why not? Since God is in fact not a biological being and has no sex, what can it matter whether we say He or She, Father or Mother, Son or Daughter?”

But Christians think that God Himself has taught us how to speak of Him. To say that it does not matter is to say either that all the masculine imagery is not inspired, is merely human in origin, or else that, though inspired, it is quite arbitrary and unessential. And this is surely intolerable: or, if tolerable, it is an argument not in favour of Christian priestesses but against Christianity. It is also surely based on a shallow view of imagery. Without drawing upon religion, we know from our poetical experience that image and apprehension cleave closer together than common sense is here prepared to admit; that a child who has been taught to pray to a Mother in Heaven would have a religious life radically different from that of a Christian child. And as image and apprehension are in an organic unity, so, for a Christian, are human body and human soul.

Thinking About Salvation VII, Part B: On Criteria for Discerning the Church

Like Jeff, I have been thinking about how we can tell where the true Church is–though we cannot say where it is not–and have come to some penultimate conclusions. (Note: I’m currently composing an essay on this and hope to post it prior to the start of the semester on 13 January.)

It seems that the criteria for discerning where the Church is will revolve around two foci: historical continuity with the New Testament Church and doctrinal continuity with the New Testament Church.

Doctrinal Continuity

This, to me, seems the most easily ascertainable, insofar as what criteria we should have. In actuality, there is only one criterium here: the living Tradition of the Church. But that Tradition is expressed authoritatively in three ways. First, Scripture. Though I do subscribe to the notion that Scripture arose out of the Tradition, nonetheless, it is the God-breathed quality of the Scripture which gives it an authority by which other aspects of the Tradition can be measured. Secondly, in conformity to “the apostles’ doctrine,” are the Ecumenical Councils of the Church. Though I used to believe that the Councils were often contrary to Scripture, that was a belief based on huge ignorance. I have since come to understand the “seamless” consistency of the Councils with the Scripture. The Councils make plain, particularly in light of specific heresies, what is the Gospel message of the Scriptures. Though there are only seven Ecumenical Councils, which “ended” due to the historical contingencies of the Schism, they are the common heritage of all Christians (including us Protestants), and if we would claim ourselves in communion with the New Testament Church, it makes sense that we must espouse the dogmatic decrees of the Councils. Thirdly, and finally, the Liturgy of the Church is our other doctrinal compass. By Liturgy I mean, just as is the case with the Councils, the inherited Liturgy of the Church. Since the Schism there has developed a great divergence in the liturgies of the various church groups. To the degree that these liturgies represent, in part, the unified tradition (while admitting some local variations) of the Liturgy, they may share in the dogmatic formation of our theology. (Some of the current liturgies in ECUSA, and other church groups, however, are heretical and dangerous.)

Historical Continuity

With regard to historical continuity, once again, there is one criterium, the Living Church as constituted by the Eucharist. Now as has been clearly shown since Ignatius of Antioch this Eucharistic constitution has two modes: apostolic genealogy and Eucharistic fellowship. By apostolic geneaology, I primarily mean those churches who can trace historical descent from the apostles. Either a church was founded by the apostles or by their representatives, and continued within the descent from the apostles through further valid charismatically appointed leaders. This tracing is seen in the tradition of apostolic succession. However, apostolic succession, as understood in tactile, or juridical terms, is more than just tracing parentage. Apostolic succession is a charism that demands not only the incarnated manifestation of Christ’s ministry in the ordination and consecration of Church leaders, but demands fidelity to the deposit of the faith, dogmatic and canonical.

But valid ordinations and consecrations and adherence to dogma is not complete without Eucharist communion. Schism is different from heresy in that schism arises either from an imbalance in dogmatic faith, or in moral failures of leadership (failure in maintaining philia). One may pass the “test” of knowledge of the faith, but unless one lives it consistently, one’s Eucharistic fellowship will be impaired. This criterium alone, of course, cannot determine the true Church, since communion among the churches has been impaired since the Schism. But it is to say, that once one has determined where the true Church is, if one is not in communion with it, one cannot claim to be that Church.

It seems to me then that one can utilize these criteria, as a whole, and come to some understanding of where the Church is. However, I should strongly and emphatically state that no one can use this to determine where the Church isn’t. God’s grace is bigger than us all. We do well to pursue it wholeheartedly.

The Circumcision of Our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ, and the Feast Day of St Basil

“And when eight days had passed, before His circumcision, His name was then called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb. And when the days for their purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, ‘Every firstborn male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord’), and to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, ‘A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.'” (Luke 2:21-24 NASB)

“When they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth. The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.” (Luke 2:39-40 NASB)

Thou Who art by nature God, didst without change take human form,
O most compassionate Lord,
and in fulfilling the Law of Thine own will didst receive circumcision in the flesh,
to banish hades and roll away the veil of our passions.
Glory to Thy goodness; glory to Thy compassion;
glory to Thy condescension , O Word

Thou Who sittest with the Father
on a fiery throne in the heights
wast pleased to be born of a Virgin through the Divine Spirit on earth.
Wherefore Thou was circumcised as a man on the eighth day.
Glory to Thine all-gracious will; glory to Thy providence;
glory to Thy condescension, O only Lover of mankind.

In undergoing circumcision
the Lord of all has circumcised the sins of mortal men.
On this day He gives salvation to the world.
And the Hierarch Basil, the Creator’s lightbearer
and Christ’s mystic, rejoices in the highest.

“For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you [the Church] have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having cancelled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:9-14 NASB)