Theology


I am a traditionalist Roman Catholic Christian, endorsing Thomism with classical theism (as opposed to theistic personalism / neotheism), neo-Aristotelian essentialism and hylemorphism as metaphysics, and natural law theory as ethics:

 

God is the metaphysically ultimate, greatest possible "being" (which no greater can be conceived), uncreated and uncaused, necessarily existing, timeless (eternal), changeless (immutable and impassible), immaterial, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent (not in the sense of being spatially extended), omnibenevolent (Goodness itself),  endowed with freedom of the will, and worthy of worship. God is pure actuality (actus purus) without any potentiality or accidents (except for accidental Cambridge properties), and he is not a species of any genus, thus not A being among beings but subsistent Being itself (his essence is existence). God is triune (Trinity), but not composed of parts or different attributes (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 created human beings with a rational soul and free will, who freely decided to turn against God and became the ancestors of all humans, who inherited the inclination to sin. The second person of the Trinity (Logos) became flesh in Jesus Christ and dwelt among us. Jesus is fully God and fully man (hypostatic union), which means that he is one person with two natures and two wills (dyothelitism). Jesus died a sacrificial death as satisfaction and ransom for our sins, and was bodily resurrected (not reanimated) by God as vindication of his claims to divinity. Humans can freely decide to refuse or accept Jesus' atonement, which fulfills the perfect justness of God, and accept divine forgiveness, which fulfills the perfect grace of God. To those, who refuse this gift and reject God, 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 accept through faith in Jesus Christ alone, are invited into an everlasting fellowship with God (heaven) and will enjoy an infinite Good ("beatific vision"). I agree with N.T. Wright that the good news of the Gospels includes the message that Christianity is not about the temporally disembodied life immediately after death, but about the embodied eternal "life after life after death", when Christ brings an end to (mundane) history with the general resurrection, final judgement, and the New Heavens and New Earth. Christianity is not only about individual redemption, but about God's plan for the redemption of all of creation, in which we participate.

 

God's necessary existence is best established by Aristotelian-Thomist metaphysics and classical theism, which is why I am somewhat skeptical of Anselmian "perfect being theology" 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.

 

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.

 

Contrary to a common objection, the doctrine of the Trinity is not incoherent, as it does not say that God is one person and three persons. It rather is to be understood as God is one "what" (one nature or essence) and three "whos" (three divine persons: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost), which clearly involves no logical contradiction and also does not contradict monotheism. Apart from scriptural justification, Richard Swinburne provided a philosophical justification for the superiority of a trinitarian over a unitarian God, which aligns well with the Church fathers understanding of the three persons as lover (Father), beloved (Son), and their shared bond of love (Holy Spirit). The three divine persons do not have three different centers of consciousness and no different will, but represent subsisting relations within God. However, the second person of the Trinity, since having assumed a second human nature, indeed does have two distinct centers of consciousness and will (divine and human), because these belong to the nature and not to the person. Since both natures a united in hypostatic union in one divine person, the Blessed Virgin Mary did not give birth to the human nature of Christ but to his divine person, and likewise it was not Christ's human nature that died on the cross but the divine person. Only persons, not natures, can be born and can die. Therefore, Mary indeed is the Mother of God and it was God, who died for us on the cross.

 

Concerning the relation of God to abstract objects I subscribe to scholastic realism (divine conceptualism) in combination with the notion of non-propositional knowledge that is required by divine simplicity.

 

In terms of eschatology I embrace orthodox (partial) preterism and amillennialism, and reject dispensationalism and unbiblical doctrines like the rapture, as well as heretical full preterism.

 

Concerning the problem of hell, I sympathize with the "partial annihilationism" of C.S. Lewis, Peter Kreeft, and N.T. Wright, as well as with C.S. Lewis' argument in favor of purgatory in terms of a requirement for cleansing, also because I think that forgiveness of sins provided by Jesus does not imply the suspension of just finite punishment, which would contradict God's infinite justness.

 

I consider the affirmation of genuine free will as crucial for divine creation, theodicy (free will defense), and moral accountability of humans. I think the only coherent view of God's foreknowledge and divine and human free will is found in (Bañezian) Thomism. The alternative of Molinism (e.g., endorsed by William Lane Craig)  conflicts with divine simplicity and aseity, because a part of divine knowledge would depend on human choices and thus on creation. I strongly reject Calvinism and any other branches of Christian theism (e.g., Lutheran monergism) that imply double predestination and/or determinism with compatibilist free will. Contrary to some critics, Thomism avoids these implications, because divine primary causality does not compete with the secondary causality of creatures.

 

Traditionalism

My commitment to traditionalist Catholicism implies that I am an advocate of traditional Catholic values and rites, and reject the tide of modernism that is culminating in leftist liberal movements like "We are Church". However, I strongly reject Sedevactantism, and I do not reject Vatican II, because one cannot pick and choose, which Church councils to accept and which to reject, only because one personally does not like certain decisions. The Church is not a democracy and I accept that. I instead advocate an interpretation of Vatican II that is as close to traditional Catholicism as possible, including a return to the Tridentine (Latin) Mass. I consider it as intolerable that most priests in the West no longer encourage people to go to confession. I also consider it as very unfortunate error that most Catholic thinkers and apologists have nowadays embraced Theistic Evolution, obviously in the delusional hope that a total surrender to secular science could stop the collapse of the Church in the West and portray religion as more rationally acceptable to modern secular society. The example of Europe shows that this surrender had the opposite effect and even accelerated the decline of Church attendance. I am strongly convinced that only a steadfast traditionalist Catholic Church has a chance to stop this decline and present an attractive alternative to the shallowness, arbitrariness, and relativism of modern society.

 

What about miracles?

Based on an anti-supernaturalist bias, it has become a modern fad among liberal Christians to doubt or even deny most of the reports about miraculous events in the Bible, and to transform Christianity into a kind of New Age feel-good spirituality with Jesus as illuminated teacher. However, if there is an omnipotent God, who created the universe from nothing, all other miracles are mere child's play. I reject ontological naturalism and endorse supernaturalism. Therefore, I have no reason to doubt Biblical miracles, provided they are reported as historical events and not in the context of fables, poetry, or other genres that are clearly not meant to be taken literally.

 

Interpretation of Genesis 1-11:

I consider a literal reading of Genesis 1-11 as true history as most natural and most convincing exegesis of scripture, and theologically as only view that is fully coherent with the rest of scripture and with Christian core doctrines. I also tend to agree with the argument that the infallible word of God and special revelation in scripture always trumps the fallible word of humans and general revelation in cursed (fallen) nature; but on the other hand we often only have fallible interpretations of God's word.

 

However, it is undeniable that substantial scientific evidence from various disciplines seems to contradict the young earth paradigm of Biblical Creation. Even though I gravitate towards the latter view, I am still somewhat undecided and exploring this issue. Generally, I am open to all approaches that affirm creation, from guided evolution, to progressive old earth creationism, to versions of Biblical young earth creation. If Biblical Creation should be literally true, the conflicting empirical scientific evidence could be explained away with the fact that we live in a fallen world that is ruled by the great deceiver and prince of this world.

 

Whatever the correct view may be, I am convinced that divine creation of the universe ex nihilo, a literal Adam and Eve as first human pair, and a literal Fall of man are indispensable core doctrines that cannot be denied by any true Christian, just like the deity of Christ and his bodily resurrection from the dead.

 

What about Natural Science and Secular History?

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).

 

What about Biblical inerrancy?

The divine inspiration of scripture is strongly corroborated by the historical evidence for the resurrection and by fulfilled prophecy (e.g., Isaiah 7:14 and Isaiah 53Psalms 22Daniel 9). I believe in the inerrancy of scripture, but of course accept that our modern Bible may contain copyist errors. Also in every case the particulars of ancient language and historical context, the intended audience and theological message, and especially the literary genre (history, biography, allegory, parable, or fable) must be considered for a proper interpretation of scripture.

 

I reject Sola Scriptura as incoherent doctrines that imply a fallible canon of infallible books (as admitted by R.C. Sproul). I also reject Sola Fide and the other of the '5 Solas' of Protestantism.

 

What is my approach to apologetics?

I reject fideism and generally consider a classical (evidential) approach to apologetics as essential in todays secular world that is more and more hostile to supernaturalism, theism, and religion, and therefore requires good evidence to convince unbelievers and doubters. However, I also greatly sympathize with the purely philosophical approach of Thomism (Aquinas' Five ways) that is independent of any empirical findings, as well as with Presuppositional Apologetics, which emphasizes that without assuming the truth of the Bible we would not even have a rational basis to reason in the first place.

Jesus clipart, public domain