Catholic Theology


I am a traditionalist Catholic, embracing classical theism (vs neotheism or theistic personalism), Thomist metaphysics, natural law theory as ethics, and covenantal theology with a canonical patristic interpretation of scripture.

 

Classical Theism:

I embrace classical theism as endorsed by Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Avicenna, Maimonides and Aquinas etc.

 

God is the metaphysically ultimate ground of all being, uncreated and uncaused, necessarily existing (metaphysical not logical necessity), timeless (eternal), changeless (immutable and impassible), immaterial, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent (not in the sense of being spatially extended or limited by space), omnibenevolent (Goodness itself), endowed with freedom of the will, and worthy of worship. God is pure actuality (actus purus) without any passive potency (but infinite active potency or power) or any accidents (except for accidental Cambridge properties). God is not a species of any genus, thus not A being among other beings but is subsistent Being itself (his essence is existence). God is one and is not composed of parts or different attributes in any way (divine simplicity). God is the first cause and unmoved mover, not depending on anything outside of himself (aseity), who created out of nothing (creatio ex nihilo) everything that exists apart from himself, and sustains it in being from moment to moment (creatio continua). God does not lack or need anything and therefore creates solely for the benefit of the beings created by him.

 

God's necessary existence is best established by Aristotelian-Thomist metaphysics and classical theism, which is why I am skeptical of Anselmian "perfect being theology" (God as greatest possible "being", which no greater can be conceived) and the Ontological Argument, because they are based on an anthropomorphic concept of God and an incorrect view of the relation between actuality and modality. God's necessary existence implies that he cannot fail to exist, he cannot not exist. Therefore, God does not need an explanation outside of his own nature. Also God does not need a cause, because he was not created and did not begin to exist. Therefore, the common but naive objection "Who created God?" by Richard Dawkins and his internet infidel followership completely fails. If God would have a cause he would not be ultimate and thus not be God. God is by definition the uncaused first cause. Also God is by definition eternal and therefore never came into being. Asking how God came to be is to fail to understand who God is.

 

Omnipotence does not imply the ability to do the logical impossible. Thus, God cannot commit suicide, God cannot create a squared circle, he cannot create a stone he cannot lift, he cannot make 2+2=5 true, and he cannot act against his nature, e.g. sin or lie. There are also other things God cannot do: he cannot ride a bycicle, he cannot learn something new of forget something, and he cannot feel qualia because these are spatiotemporal according to Thomist metaphysics. Thus, being pure intellect he cannot see the beauty of a sunset and enjoy a wonderful symphony, or feel sorrow and pain. Another reason why the incarnation makes so much more sense than for example the sterile classical theism of Islam.

 

God and abstract objects:

Concerning the relation of God to abstract objects I subscribe to scholastic realism (divine conceptualism) in combination with the notion of unified non-propositional knowledge that is required by divine simplicity. God knows the truth values of all propositions in one simple act of knowing that is not distinct from his will and power. He is the first cause of everything and thus knows everything because he knows himself.

 

Divine providence vs free will:

I consider genuine free will as crucial foundation for a satisfying theodicy (free will defense) and for human moral accountability. I think that the only coherent metaphysical explanation for God's foreknowledge and human free will is found in (Bañezian) Thomism. God is like the author of a story about free agents and does not compete with their agency as part of the story, just like the author of a crime novel is not responsible for the evil choices of his villain. God foreknows and foreordains all free choices, but this does neither imply determinism (because the choices are not determined by prior conditions of the universe) nor fatalism (because the choices matter and make a difference).

 

I reject Molinism (e.g., endorsed by William Lane Craig), which not only violates divine sovereignty, but indeed conflicts with divine simplicity and aseity, because a part of divine knowledge would depend on human choices and thus on creation. I also reject the deterministic double predestination of Reformed Theology (Calvinism), which claims that God predestined people to hell, and most other points of TULIP as abhorrent heresies.

 

God is free in the sense of not being restricted or determined by anything outside of himself, not even by his own nature, because he strictly speaking does not have a nature since he is not composed of essence and existence but his essence is existence.

 

Trinitarianism and Christology:

Even most Christians do not understand the concept and metaphysics of the Trinity and the Incarnation.

 

The doctrine of the Trinity does neither contradict monotheism nor divine simplicity. God is one in nature, essence, and substance (one what), but is three in persons (three whos). He is not three Gods!

 

The three divine persons of the Trinity also do not represent three different centers of consciousness and will. This orthodox doctrine is called dyotheletism, contrary to the heretic view of monotheletism, which is again championed by some evangelical apologists like William Lane Craig. From the viewpoint of scholastic metaphysics a center of consciousness and will does not pertain to a person but to a nature. It is only congruent in us humans, because we happen to be one person with a single nature. God is three persons with one nature, and thus has a single will and consciousness (everthing else would be Tritheism).

 

The divine persons are only analogous to human persons (they are not species of the genus "person"), and rather represent subsistent relations within the Godhead. They do not represent parts of the Godhead, so that each divine person would be 1/3 of God. Each person is fully God.

 

The number of three and only three persons is not only a revealed mystery, but could also be established with philosophical arguments that are based on perfect being theology and the great-making property of love. These imply that God is lover (Father), beloved (Son) and the bond of love (Holy Spirit) between the two as suggested by John Duns Scotus, Richard Swinburne, and the Catholic doctrine of filioque.

 

The second person of the Trinity assumed a human nature, so that it represents a single person with two natures (and thus two substances) in hypostatic union (fully divine and fully human). Since consciousness and will are faculties of the nature (or substance) and not of the person, Jesus' human nature has a distinct and separate center of consciousness and will from the divine nature (dyotheletism). His divine person is the owner of two minds. Consequently, the Son is one divine person with two natures and thus two centers of consciousness and will. That is why Jesus could pray to God without talking to himself, or could be omniscient as God but ignorant about the time of the second coming in his human nature. Also Jesus was certainly unaware of microbiology, quantum physics, Mayan history, or the best Chess strategies. However, does his possible ignorance of certain truths also imply that he could err in his doctrinal teaching? Several passages in the New Testament seem to suggest that Jesus and his disciples expected his return and the end of the world not to be events in the far future but about to happen in the lifetime of the apostles, which it apparently did not. However, if he taught false doctrines this would raise difficult issues, as one might then ask: What else was Jesus mistaken about? Can we trust his teachings at all? A slippery slope indeed! There can be no doubt that Jesus, just like the NT authors and the Church, was supernaturally protected from doctrinal error. Therefore, in my view the adequate solution to this conundrum is a more careful interpretation of the concerning NT verses (e.g., see this helpful essay by Mark Shea). Thus, Jesus‘ teachings were inerrant and true, even if in his mortal body he might personally have been ignorant or confused about their full meaning.

 

Since only persons and not natures are born and do die, the Blessed Virgin Mary gave birth (but not existence) to a divine person in his human nature and thus indeed is the Mother of God (Theotokos). She did of course neither bring the divine nature nor the divine person into existence. Likewise, it was not Jesus' human nature that died on the cross, but God himself (the second person of the Trinity), who died IN (not as) his human nature, but did not die in his divine nature. Since the divine person of the Son always exists in his divine nature, he was never separated from the Father as many Protestants claim, but it was only his human soul (substantial form of a human) that was separated from the body at Jesus‘ death and descended into Hades (CCC 633).

 

Justification and Sanctification:

I reject the Protestant doctrine of justification by faith alone (sola fide), unless faith is properly understood as not only including a "belief that" and "belief in " (trust) but also "obedience to". Justification is not a instantaneous act of forensic imputation of alien righteousness (nothing that is not really righteous could be allowed in the presence of a perfectly holy God), followed by a different process of sanctification, but is a lifelong process of infusion of real righteousness that begins with baptism and goes on till the last breath (and beyond in purgatory). Justification and sanctification cannot be separated.

 

I am critical of the modern fundamentalist Protestant claim that you have to „invite Jesus into your heart and have a personal relationship with Jesus as your personal savior“ as these notions are not only unbiblical but indeed unknown in Christendom prior to the 19th century (esp. Charles Fuller). Jesus never says anything like that and instead emphasized the need for trust in God and obedience to God. Likewise, Jesus never suggested that salvation can be gained by praying a single honest „sinner‘s prayer“ once in your life.

 

Atonement:

I reject the relatively modern Protestant "penal substitution theory" of the atonement as an repugnant false doctrine. God the Father definitely did not pour out his wrath on Jesus, who was without sin and perfectly righteous. I instead subscribe to the satisfaction theory of atonement, according to which Christ paid a dept that he did not owe, because we owe a dept that we cannot pay.

 

However, I am convinced that the other patristic interpretations of the atonement (recapitulation theory, ransom theory, Christus Victor theory), as well as René Girard's scapegoat theory, also represent parts of the full truth of this complex issue. The recapitulation theory correctly emphasizes that Jesus is the second Adam, who reconciled man with God through an self-sacrificial act of perfect love and obedience. The Christ Victor theory highlights Christ's victory over the forces of evil and death.

 

I agree with N.T. Wright's "new perspective on Paul" that Paul does not teach imputed righteousness and substitutionary atonement in his epistles. These modern notions are Protestant eisegesis read into the ancient text.

 

Eschatology:

God specially creates the soul of every human being as moral agent with rational faculties and free will (in the image of God). Man has an inclination to sin and a sinful desire to become his own God and/or to pursue and whorship created goods rather than the Creator. To those sinners, who refuse to repent and who reject God in favor of their own autonomy, God will say "thy will be done" and they will spend eternity separated from God (hell) as the source of all Good and Being, while those who repent from sin and have a loving faith in God, are invited into an everlasting fellowship with God (heaven), where they will enjoy an infinite Good ("beatific vision").

 

I subscribe to a patristic covenantal interpretation of scripture and Biblical prophecy, with partial preterism and amillenialism. Alternatively, I consider historic premillenialism, but reject unbiblical modern doctrines like dispensationalism, millenarianism, and the rapture as promoted by Protestant trivia like "Late Great Planet Earth" and the "Left Behind" series.

 

I agree with N.T. Wright that the afterlife is not about the temporally disembodied life immediately after death, but about the embodied eternal "life after life after death" when Jesus returns and brings an end to mundane history with the general resurrection, final judgement, and the renovation and redemption of all of creation in the New Heaven and New Earth.

 

I reject the modern liberal heresies of universalism and annihilationism (conditional immortality), and affirm the reality and eternal nature of heaven and hell, as well as the reality of the Devil and other fallen angels (demonic forces). However, I consider a version of semi-annihiIationism, as proposed by C.S. Lewis and Peter Kreeft, where souls are destroyed into mere „remains“ that no longer qualify as beings worthy of pity. I also affirm purgatory as well-supported scripturally and philosophically, as a state of cleansing (compare C.S. Lewis), because nothing unrighteous can be allowed in the presence of a perfect God, and as a place of temporal punishment of finite sins that is required by God's infinite justness, even though the eternal consequences of sin are forgiven by God's infinite mercy and grace for those who freely come to love God, repent from sin, and accept his undeserved grace through Jesus' atoning self-sacrifice.

 

Religion vs Natural Science and Secular History:

I am convinced that religion and science are not conflicting but complementary disciplines. I concur with St. Augustine's famous dictum that God authored two books that cannot contradict each other: the book of scripture (special revelation of God's word) and the book of nature (which is not the same as general revelation, which rather refers to our inborn knowledge of God and his moral law that is written on our hearts).

 

I agree with methodological naturalism only in experimental science (studying how the world works), but deny naturalism and allow for supernaturalist explanations in historical science (how things came to be), where we should follow the evidence wherever it leads (compare my blog post on The Lamoureux-Delusion).

 

Biblical exegesis and hermeneutics:

Jesus founded a Church not a book, and he commanded his disciples to teach the good news, not to write scripture. Therefore, Christianity is not, nor has it ever been, a religion of the book. I affirm prima scriptura but reject the crucial Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura as incoherent, because it is itself unbiblical and contradicted by scripture's teaching of the importance of tradition. It also suffers from the fatal problem of the canon, because there is no divinely inspired table of contents in the Bible, so that Protestantism has a fallible canon of infallible books (as admitted by the famous reformed theologian R.C. Sproul). Also, in the first decades and centuries of early Christianity there simply was no Bible. Finally, sola scriptura represented a practical impossibility in the first 1500 years of Christianity without widespread literacy and without printing press.

 

The fact that the numerous different denominations of Protestantism disagree on many key issues also refutes the Protestant doctrine of the perspecuity of scripture. God would not have left his Church without an infallible guide to proper interpretation of his word.

 

In agreement with Catholic tradition I endorse a patristic covenantal interpretation of scripture, in which the Old Testament is read in the light of the New Testament (Christocentric), with a strong emphasis on typology and different layers of meaning (four senses of scripture or quadriga) as already done by Jesus (Matthew 12:39-40 and 42, Luke 24:27, John 2:19, 3:14-15 and 6:49-51), Paul (Romans 5:14, Galatians 4:24, Colossians 2:16-17, 1 Corinthinans 10:4) and the apostles (e.g., 1 Peter 3:20-21, John 1:14, Hebrews 8:5 and 10:1) as well as many of the early Church Fathers from Origen to Aquinas. As St. Augustine famously said: "The New Testament is concealed in the Old, and the Old Testament is revealed in the New". There are two basic senses of scripture related to the human and divine dual authorship of scripture: the literal (historical) sense and the spiritual sense, which is founded on the literal sense. The literal sense teaches what happened, but is not to be understood as simple historical truth but in terms of the actual meaning intended by the human authors, and of course considering the literary genre. The grammatical-historical method, and with some reservation the historical-critical method (without embracing the mythopoetical invention of an ancient Israel), are useful but restricted to this purpose of recovering the literal sense and original intent of the human authors. The spiritual sense includes three different layers of meaning intended by the divine author:

  • The allegorical (typological) sense: teaches what you should believe. 
  • The tropological (moral) sense: teaches what you should do. 
  • The anagogical (eschatological/salvational) sense: teaches what you should aim. 

Overall, I rather agree with the Alexandrian school (e.g., Philo and Origen, as well Gregory of Nyssa) of allegorical Old Testament interpretation than the more literal interpretation of the Antiochian school. There is a very rich deeper spiritual meaning beyond the plain reading of the text, and literalistic readings by Protestant fundamentalists and atheist fundamentalists alike always tend to get it wrong and totally miss the point. This might even include the New Testament, in which some stories could rather be rabbinic haggadah, midrash and pesher, and thus not to be (mis)understood as real history (e.g., Jesus's testing in the desert, Herod's slaughter of the innocents and the flight to Egypt, etc). On the other hand is must be recognized that patristic interpretation always considered the literal meaning as essential grounding for the spiritual senses of scripture, and thus not as dispensable.

 

Interpretation of Genesis 1-11:

I recognize that Genesis 1-11 does not represent ancient Hebrew poetry but the unique literary genre of prose narrative, and that the Hebrew word 'yom' is used in the sense of a 24h-day in Genesis 1. I also recognize that many important Christian doctrines are rooted in Genesis. This could suggest that the natural reading of Genesis 1-11 as literal history should be the preferred interpretation.

 

Apart from the insurmountable scientific problems of a Young Earth interpretation of Genesis and the failure of Flood Geology, several problems within scripture preclude such a literalistic interpretation anyway: the undeniable fact that Genesis 1 describes a typical Ancient Near East geocentric flat-earth cosmology with a disk-shaped Earth and a solid sky-dome (compare Paul Seely, John Walton, Peter Enns, Michael Heiser, and the "Sargon Geography"); the unresolvable contradictions between the order of creation accounts in Genesis 1 and 2, or between the number of birds on Noah’s ark in Genesis 6:20 (one pair) and Genesis 7:3 (7 pairs); the problem of the function of the tree of life if there was no death before the Fall; and obvious allegorical elements (e.g., God walking in the Garden of Eden, and a tree of knowledge).

 

I also reject concordist interpretations that anachronistically try to read the results of modern science (e.g., Big Bang inflationary cosmology and Darwinian evolution) into the ancient text of Genesis 1.

 

Therefore, I support a non-literal and non-concordist interpretation of Genesis 1 in terms of the framework hypothesis and the temple inauguration view (sensu John Walton and N.T. Wright).

 

According to Catholic doctrine the issue of human polygenism vs monogenism is not a matter where the individual believer is free to choose the former option (see: Pope Pius XII 1950. Encyclical Humani Generis: 37). Many supporters of Theistic Evolution appeal to the above mentioned possibility first suggested by Alexander (1964) and refined by Kemp (2011) that God may have infused a rational soul into a selected first pair of true humans within a population of ancient biological Homo sapiens, which (just like Original Sin) then spread and became fixed in the population by common descent from this first pair of genuine „theological humans” even though these initially interbred with conspecific „biological humans” without rational souls. Even Thomistic scientists and philosophers like Edward Feser (2014) support this view and consider it as compatible with Aristotelian-Thomistic hylomorphic metaphysics. However, Chaberek (2017) has convincingly demonstrated that such a view is not compatible with Thomism at all, since the infusion of a rational soul would involve a supernatural and saltational substantial change towards a new metaphysical species, which he calls special transformism. Therefore, such a special transformism is rather to be considered as special case of special creation than a case of evolution by common descent.

 

Thus, in agreement with Catholic doctrine I affirm a literal Adam and Eve as first humans specially created by God by infusing a rational soul in a chosen pair within an ancient Homo sapiens population, who thereby became moral agents in the image of God. This first human pair was endowed with preternatural gifts and placed in a special environment (Garden of Eden). Original sin caused the four wounds of the Fall:

  • Original Sin (lack of sanctifying grace, and thus lack of righteousness, causing spiritual death) 
  • Ignorance (lack of infused knowledge) 
  • Concupiscence (passions no longer integrated under reason, inclination to sin) 
  • Mortality and sickness (loss of immortality, the body no longer strengthened, because further access to the "Tree of Life" was denied). 

Concerning animal death and suffering before the Fall of man, I prefer an explanation with the prior fall of angels.

 

Concerning the other events in Genesis 1-11 (and most of the Old Testament) I see two very different viable options:

1.) The events are all historical but written in poetical language and not to be read like modern newspaper reports, and they do not represent a world history but the local history of God`s chosen people: This could mean that the long lifespans of the patriarchs have to be interpreted in numerological symbolical ways, that the Noachian Flood was a local event that affected all theological humans but not all biological humans (and the saved animals on the Ark were only domestic animals and sacrificial animals), that the Tower of Babel was an event in the history of ANE nations and languages only, and that the Exodus was much smaller in scale due to a translation error,  etc. Some undeniable Anachronisms (see below) could be explained with later revisions of the original Mosaic texts.

2.) Alternatively, one could consider that these events rather refer to a local mythopoetical pseudohistory of God's chosen people than to the global history of planet Earth. They seem to be rooted in Babylonian and other ancient Near East (ANE) motives that could have been adapted for a Jewish etiological history when the OT was written by different authors during the Babylonian exile and the Persian (and maybe even Hellenistic) post-exillic period. This is suggested by the numerous Babylonian motives in Genesis 1-11 (Panbabylonism): cosmology in Genesis 1 similar to older Babylonian creation myths like Enuma Elish (as well as other ANE motives like the ancient Egyptian creation accounts of Memphis and Hermopolis); 7 day week with the 7th day as a holy day "unsuitable" for prohibited activities; the name Sabbath for the highest festival day of the month; creation of man from clay in the Enki story of the Enuma Elish; river names Euphrates and Tigris locate Eden in Mesopotamia; close similarities of Sumerian kings list with the 8 Biblical patriarchs between Adam and Noah; similarities of Genesis 2-9 with Atrahasis epic; Flood story parallel to Gilgamesh epic including an Ark and Utnapishtim (= Sumerian Ziusudra) as Noah; Tower of Babel similarity to Entemenanki ziggurat in Babylon, and confusion of languages similar to Sumerian Enmerkar epic; similarity of the Table of Nations to the "Sargon Geography"; Abraham coming from Ur in Mesopotamia; parallels of Moses to Sargon of Akkad; Mosaic law similar to Codex Hammurabi; Babylonian exile parallels in the banishing from Eden to the east, and the Exodus account; Persian daric coins anachronistically reported from time of King David; striking parallels between Persian Zoroastrianism and ancient Judaism; and many more parallels like this. This fits well with numerous clear anachronisms in the Old Testament like Abraham's use of domesticated camels, the mentioning of the cities Ur of the Chaldeans and Ramesse (possibly Tanis), the mentioning of the Philistines and Arameans or Beershebaor a millenium before their existence, and the use of the title Pharao for Egyptian kings prior to the 21st dynasty. Thus, one could reject Mosaic authorship and historicity for much of the pre-exilic or at least pre-Davidic OT (which could be why no extra-biblical evidence exists for any person of the Bible prior to David), and even think that there are reasonable arguments in favor of Lemche's "Biblical minimalism" concerning the OT, which agrees with secular archaeological findings (see Finkelstein & Silbermann 2001) for the doubtful history of ancient Israel and a post-exilic origin of strictly monotheistic Judaism, as well as critical textual analysis of the Pentateuch (modern versions of the documentary hypothesis).

 

I sympathize with Peter Enns' incarnational view of scripture as fully human and fully divine, and think that this aligns very well with traditional Catholic exegesis according to the literal and spiritual senses of scripture (see above). This view could also help to solve apparent Bible problems like divinely commanded  atrocities in OT, if these never happened but have to be interpreted spiritually.

 

I affirm the inerrancy of scripture for the spiritual sense intended by the divine author (matters of faith, morals, and salvation), but do not necessarily subscribe to inerrancy for the literal sense intended by the human authors (the latter might even include mistakes by Jesus in his human nature). The Bible is not a textbook for science and history. I agree with Galileo Galilei that the Bible does not teach how the heavens go, but how to go to heaven. I therefore have no problem with acknowledging certain errors in the New Testament like the confused names of high priests in Mark 2:26 (compared to 1 Samuel 21) or the well-known Theudas problem and other examples listed by critics like Bart Ehrman. Likewise doubts concerning the sole authorship of some NT epistles would not pose a severe problem for Catholic theology, as long as they are not deliberate late forgeries but are at least co-authored by the apostle they are attributed to.

 

Divine inspiration of the Bible is suggested by the intricate pattern of typological correspondences between NT and OT, fulfilled messianic prophecy (e.g., Isaiah 7:14 and 53, Psalms 22, Daniel 9), as well as historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The historical reliability of the Gospel reports is supported by undesigned coincidences, Church history, and Biblical archaeology.

 

The two major senses of scripture (literal vs spiritual/typological) also explain the differences in interpretation of certain passages between Jewish and Christian scholars, e.g. the interpretation of the suffering servant in Isaiah as Israel rather than Jesus. Catholicism generally solves such problems elegantly and convincingly with a „both ... and“ approach instead of „either ... or“.

 

Apologetics:

I embrace a classical (evidential) approach to apologetics, which I consider as essential in todays secular world that is more and more hostile to supernaturalism, theism, and religion, and therefore requires good evidence and rational arguments to convince unbelievers and doubters, as powerfully confirmed by my own conversion history. I also strongly sympathize with the purely philosophical approach of Thomism (Aquinas' Five ways), which is independent of any empirical data. I even find some valuable truth in the approach of presuppositional apologetics, because without God and a Biblical world view there would be no coherent foundation for moral obligations or laws of logic and thus no firm base for any civil and rational discourse.

 

Why I am a Catholic:

Because only the Catholic Church is the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church founded by Christ himself in 33 AD, while all other Christian denominations ultimately are nothing but man-made relihions invented at least 1500 years later. The Catholic faith and core doctrines of Catholicism are firmly based in scripture (e.g., Matthew 16:18-19, John 6:35-66, and Revelation 12:1-6), as well as in early Church history documented by the Church fathers. As John Henry Newman famously said "To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant". It simply does not make sense that Christendom got it wrong for 1500 years until some European reformers finally "discovered" what Jesus and the Bible really meant, which would make Jesus and the apostles look like very incompetent teachers. Also the highly sophisticated Catholic philosophy, theology, and interpretation of scripture (four senses) makes much more sense to me than typical Protestant doctrines like theistic personalism, imputed alien righteousness, penal substitution theory of atonement, sola scriptura and sola fide, literalistic reading of scripture (causing problems like justifying divinely commanded genocide in the OT, or denial of the scientifically established age of the Earth), or dubious teachings like "once saved always saved" with a simple sinners prayer. It is deeply assuring when you realize how close modern Catholic liturgy is to the ancient traditions of the early Christians in the first three centuries after the Cross, which makes one feel safely at home in the oldest institution of the world, which is following rites that go back 2000 years right to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

 

Catholic Traditionalism:

I sympathize with moderate strands of Catholic traditionalism (e.g. FSSP, but not FSSPX), who reject heretical sedevacantism and accept all of the 21 Catholic Church's ecumenical councils (incl. Vatican II), all Roman Pontiffs, and both forms of the Roman Rite. I would welcome a more common and more frequent offer of the traditional Tridentine Mass (Latin Rite) as extraordinary alternative to the modern ordinary form of the Roman Rite. I fear that in the wake of Vatican II there were flawed interpretations of this council in terms of liberal modernism. To stop the exodus from the Church we do not need a further modernist surrender of the Church to the zeitgeist, but a firm defense of traditional Catholic doctrines and values as alternative to the emptiness of modern secular culture, as well as a large scale New Evangelization with good Catholic apologetics.

 

The Blessed Virgin Mary (Mariology):

Like all Catholics I do neither worship Mary nor pray to her, but ask her for intercessory prayer on my behalf. I believe in her immaculate conception, perpetual virginity, sinlessness, and bodily assumption. I am not ashamed to say that I venerate the Blessed Virgin Mary as our Spiritual Mother, who is the New Eve, New Ark of the Covenant, Queen Mother (Gebirah), Queen of Heaven, Mother of God (Theotokos), Mother of the Church, Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix of all Graces, Helper and Advocate. She is the daughter of the Father, mother of the Son, and spouse of the Holy Spirit. This does not deny at all that Christ is ultimately the only Creator, Redeemer, Savior, and one Mediator between God and men (Timothy 2:5), who communicates his power by way of participation (see here).

 

Am I a Religious Fundamentalist?

Yes, but in our modern culture the term „religious fundamentalist“ is often grossly misunderstood as a radical person that might be a dangerous to society, just like an ISIS terrorist. However, in reality a fundamentalist Christian is rather a synonym of a true Christian, who really believes in the core doctrines of his religion like divine inspiration of the Bible, the divinity of Christ, the atonement of our sin by Christ‘s death on the cross, NT miracles like the virgin birth and the bodily resurrection, the second coming of Christ, and heaven and hell. All so-called Christians, who do not subscribe to these essential beliefs cannot be considered as true Christians in any meaningful way. Therefore, I happily self-identify as a fundamentalist Christian.

 

No Sex and no Death in the New Heaven and New Earth?

Concerning this popular but notoriously difficult question I hold a very heterodox position (but certainly not heretic, since not conflicting with any dogmas of the Church): I am convinced that the usual understanding of an everlasting life in glorified bodies does not make sense: Why should there be gendered male and female bodies in the new creation but without sex? What will our glorified bodies do with our glorified genitals? Could there be a Heaven without the cute smile of babies and the laughter of children? Why would there be Trees of Life in Heaven if there is no death? Could there exist eternally incorruptible spatiotemporal bodies if Thomist metaphysics is true?

 

I definitely believe that indeed all suffering, sin, and evil will be absent from future creation, based on divine protective intervention (and our ultimate free consent that he shall overrule our free will, so that there can never be a new Fall), but I am also strongly convinced that it will be an embodied spatiotemporal life with birth, death, working, eating, sex, and children. Of course there will be no new souls coming into being, as the time of soul making is now, not in the world to come. However, an eternal life could be an endless cycle of rebirth in your own body, with each life being a long and happy life free of any pain and suffering, a fearless and joyful death (without "sting" because we would know for sure that it is just a harmless transition) into a new cycle, where you can again enjoy to become the child in your parents arms, the lover of your spouse, and the parent playing with your children, or live a totally different life with other people. This view also elegantly solves the question what age persons will have in Heaven, who died as infants or even foetuses. There will also be limited memory in Heaven (because we will remain finite created beings), so that nothing we do, even if we did it million times before, will ever become boring, even though we will always remember our earthly life and identity (sans the painful memories). We will experience awe and joy of all kinds over and over again, and nothing that is good and desirable in this world will be absent in the world to come, only free of sinful distortion. Of course we will always enjoy the shared communion with God in the Beatific Vision, but a redeemed New Heaven and New Earth with new glorified bodies would not make sense without real bodily lives in which we are doing bodily things. The view that there will be some kind of sex in Heaven is also endorsed by Catholic theologian Peter Kreeft, even though he speculates that it could rather be a spiritual kind of improved sex, which in my view makes not sufficient sense of our glorified bodies and the implications of Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body.  Also a permanent "ecosystem" of a peaceful redeemed creation would be impossible without growth and decay of some kind, but even if there should be death of plants and animals, just like that of humans, this would not imply any ceasing of existence of sentient beings, but just endless recycling that could well be established by God in a way that excludes suffering and loss.

 

The common counter argument that Matthew 22:30 implies the absence of sex in heaven is mistaken, as this passage only makes clear that the institution of permanent monogamous marriage between one man and one woman with its special rules and purposes was designed for this world and not for eternity. Also it is possible that Jesus only referred to Heaven in the sense of the intermediate disembodied state and not to the final destination of our afterlife on the recreated Earth. There was sex in the Garden Eden before the Fall and there will be sex in the new Eden, because God called it good and will not abolish any good thing he created, but only abolish the distortions by the Fall.

 

Is there any scriptural basis for such a heterodox view? Indeed there is: Isaiah 11:6-9 and 65:17-25 make very clear that there will be long and happy lives, fearless and painless deaths, and babies in the world to come. Of course these passages can also be (and have usually been) interpreted differently, but they can also be interpreted as supporting my view. They are at least often recognized as posing a problem for the view that there is no death in Heaven.

 

What about Protestantism?

I think that historically the Reformation was caused by undeniable nuisances and undesirable developments in the Catholic Church of that time. I am personally grateful for the valuable work of countless dedicated Protestants for the Kingdom of God. I often use Protestant resources for apologetics and Bible study, and highly appreciate very much of Protestant evangelical apologetics and learned a lot from evangelical apologists, which greatly helped in my personal journey to embrace the Christian Faith. I have many Protestant friends and consider them as honest and devout Christians, who will almost certainly go to Heaven. I agree with the teaching of the Catholic Church after Vatican II, that Protestants are separated sisters and brethren in Christ and may attain eternal salvation (just like other non-Catholics and even non-believers) if they are honestly seeking God or truth, trying their best in doing God's will by following their conscience and doing the good, and do not know the Church through no fault of their own and thus are innocently ignorant of the truth of the Catholic faith (CCC 847-848), which in my view includes being honestly unconvinced by arguments in favor of Catholic doctrines.

 

Some open questions about metaphysics and theology that still trouble me:

  • Does the hylemorphic concept of substantial form and substantial change really make sense, when it implies that during metabolism molecules constantly cease to exist and become merely virtually existent in the substance of the body (e.g., O2 molecules during respiration, or food molecules during digestion)? At which point of digestion do molecules in the feces stop being virtual parts of the body and regain status as independent substances? At which point in the continuous process of dying does the body substantial change into a corpse? What about conjoined twins (like the "two-headed girls" Abigail and Brittany Hensel), or blood donation, or organ transplants including the extreme (hypothetical) case of a successful head transplant?
  • Classical theism implies a privation theory of evil. But the privation theory makes no sense of severe pain clearly being a positively existing intrinsic evil and not just an absence of good (see here and here).
  • Does apophatic theology really make sense? (https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2018/03/20/thomas-aquinas-eleonore-stump-and-and-the-maverick-philosopher-is-god-a-being-among-beings/)
  • Is the A-theory of time with temporal flux and genuine becoming a coherent concept?
  • Is there even a coherent formulation what libertarian free will (even for God) would have to be if it exists, and is it compatible with the principle of sufficient reason (how does agent causation circumvent Inwagen's rollback argument without appeal to mystery)?
  • Doesn‘t the Principle of Sufficient Reason refute libertarian free will even for God, and thus imply necessitarianism?
  • How can even an omnipotent God create what he has NOT himself (i.e. potentiality, time, space, matter, and qualia), especially since according to Thomistic metaphysics the effects have to virtually exist in their efficient cause and thus would have to virtually pre-exist in God as the primary cause (but in God there are no distinctions, not even virtual ones)? [Answer: Everything that exists only exists because of its participation in God, who has these things in a supereminent way.]
  • Can a necessary being really cause a contingent world and have knowledge about contingent facts, or does necessary existence (together with divine simplicity) imply modal collapse? [Answer: Alexander Pruss recently convinced me that the solution lies in probabilistic causation and a propensity view rather than a frequency view of probability.]
  • Is the timeless and simple God of the Thomist philosophers, as pure intellect without qualia, really compatible with the personal God of the Bible [Answer: yes, see Eleonore Stump)?]
  • If as thought experiment someone has never experienced pain, but would know intellectually that the proposition "pain feels very bad" is true, learn something new when he actually experiences pain for the first time himself? If yes, this experience would count as knowledge, which raises the question "how can God be omniscient without this knowledge of actually feeling pain or the qualia red?". This raise further disturbing questions like „how about feelings like shame or guilt?“. [Possible answers: According to Edward Feser divine omniscience only implies intellectual knowledge, while the incarnation allowed for „how it feels like“ knowledge. Furthermore, God knows how qualia feel like for created beings in a supereminent way.]
  • What does it even really mean that a simple God is the standard of Good or rather the Good itself?
  • Where are Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary now, given that they are bodily assumed into Heaven?
  • If the Church is Jesus‘ mystical body, why did he allow the Church to fall into disarray at times (e.g., during the selling of indulgences under Tetzel before the Reformation, or during the recent abuse scandal)? [Possible answer: The Church is made of sinners and will not be Christ‘s spotless bride in this fallen world. The Holy Spirit only grants infallibility (under certain conditions) but not inpeccability.]
  • How do I make peace with the common hypocrisy in the current modernist Church, were priests distribute the Eucharist to the whole congregation without any reminder of prior confession of grave sins?
  • And most of all: How can I overcome my overly intellectual approach to Christianity and develop a more personal relationship with God, our Lord Jesus Christ, and our Mother the Blessed Virgin Mary.