Monthly Archives: January 2010

Response to Mary’s Immaculate Conception

Reader Scottie has forwarded me this response he received via email from one Pope Michael, no affiliation with the original monks emailed.  We are pleased to receive critique and feedback on our posts here.  It is a bit late now, and the points raised in this response require deeper evaluation.  For now, I will simply post it here.  Please feel free to comment on this or the original post.

Dear Scottie,

This one is interesting.  First of all, four people were born without Original Sin.  Jesus, being God did not have Original Sin, obviously.  Secondly, the Blessed Virgin Mary was conceived without original Sin as a special privilege from God.  However, she did have to cooperate with these graces, and objectively speaking could have sinned.  What if she had said no to the Angel at the Annunciation?  Mary cooperated most perfectly with Almighty God in her salvation.  She simply got a benefit most of us do not have, which God may do.  Two others were born without Original Sin.  Saint John the Baptist was purified at the time of the Visitation, and thus born without Original Sin.  For this reason we celebrate the Birthdays of Jesus, Mary and John the Baptist and no other Birthdays in the Church.  I believe the Prophet Jeremias was also sanctified in this manner.
We all must cooperate with God in our salvation, because God will not save us without our cooperation.  This would deny free will, as the Calvinists apparently do.  I wish I had a copy of the special I saw on the History Channel about two years ago on how Protestant thought has influenced the modern world.  Calvin’s doctrine of justification had some surprising results.  He taught that we were either saved or not no matter what we do.  One group, and I forget the name, that spun off from this sinned like mad, because it simply does not matter under Calvinism.  This reaction is logical and dangerous and proves the falsehood of the the Calvinistic proposition of justification.  Remember also that Adam and Eve were not conceived in sin, but they sinned anyway, so being free from Original Sin is not a guarantee of salvation.
Yes it is well written, but it is what they do not say.
I hope this helps.

Pope Michael

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The Argument from Contingency

It just occurred to me that earlier, after Sarah did not adequately respond to Brett’s objection to my Cosmological Argument, that I got too caught up in correcting Sarah to answer Brett.  Effectively, neither of us stood up to his objection, and I will admit, I misunderstood it.

Until now!

Brett wrote:

“If the universe never had a cause for its existence, if it never began to exist, but it exists now, then it is infinite. Given infinite time, every possibility is allowed to be actualized, including the possibility for everything to cease to exist. ”

Please explain how that same argument doesn’t apply to the “eternal cause” of the universe.”

Now, Sarah replied to this objection in a non-sensical way, and I got too caught up in all the non-sense to actually read Brett’s words for myself. The answer to his objection lies in God’s being the necessary being. This is a feature of both Plantinga’s Modal Ontological Argument, and more relevantly the Argument from Contingency.  Dr. Peter Kreeft, of Boston College, sums up the Contingency Argument here:

Why must there be a first cause? Because if there isn’t, then the whole universe is unexplained, and we have violated our Principle of Sufficient Reason for everything. If there is no first cause, each particular thing in the universe is explained in the short run, or proximately, by some other thing, but nothing is explained in the long run, or ultimately, and the universe as a whole is not explained. Everyone and everything says in turn, “Don’t look to me for the final explanation. I’m just an instrument. Something else caused me.” If that’s all there is, then we have an endless passing of the buck. God is the one who says, “The buck stops here.”If there is no first cause, then the universe is like a great chain with many links; each link is held up by the link above it, but the whole chain is held up by nothing. If there is no first cause, then the universe is like a railroad train moving without an engine. Each car’s motion is explained proximately by the motion of the car in front of it: the caboose moves because the boxcar pulls it, the boxcar moves because the cattle car pulls it, et cetera. But there is no engine to pull the first car and the whole train. That would be impossible, of course. But that is what the universe is like if there is no first cause: impossible.Here is one more analogy. Suppose I tell you there is a book that explains everything you want explained. You want that book very much. You ask me whether I have it. I say no, I have to get it from my wife. Does she have it? No, she has to get it from a neighbor. Does he have it? No, he has to get it from his teacher, who has to get it. . . et cetera, etcetera, ad infinitum. No one actually has the book. In that case, you will never get it. However long or short the chain of book borrowers may be, you will get the book only if someone actually has it and does not have to borrow it. Well, existence is like that book. Existence is handed down the chain of causes, from cause to effect. If there is no first cause, no being who is eternal and self-sufficient, no being who has existence by his own nature and does not have to borrow it from someone else, then the gift of existence can never be passed down the chain to others, and no one will ever get it. But we did get it. We exist. We got the gift of existence from our causes, down the chain, and so did every actual being in the universe, from atoms to archangels. Therefore there must be a first cause of existence, a God.

 

If there is no independent being, then the whole chain of dependent beings is dependent on nothing and could not exist. 

 

In more abstract philosophical language, the proof goes this way. Every being that exists either exists by itself, by its own essence or nature, or it does not exist by itself. If it exists by its own essence, then it exists necessarily and eternally, and explains itself. It cannot not exist, as a triangle cannot not have three sides. If, on the other hand, a being exists but not by its own essence, then it needs a cause, a reason outside itself for its existence. Because it does not explain itself, something else must explain it. Beings whose essence does not contain the reason for their existence, beings that need causes, are called contingent, or dependent, beings. A being whose essence is to exist is called a necessary being. The universe contains only contingent beings. God would be the only necessary being—if God existed. Does he? Does a necessary being exist? Here is the proof that it does. Dependent beings cannot cause themselves. They are dependent on their causes. If there is no independent being, then the whole chain of dependent beings is dependent on nothing and could not exist. But they do exist. Therefore there is an independent being. His line of argument leads one to see that, if anything exists at all, there must exist some thing for which non-existence is impossible.  This is called a necessary being, and in both the Contingency Argument and the Modal Ontological Argument, this being is called God.

So the possibility of not existing that I applied to the universe in my original post on the Cosmological Argument does not necessarily apply here for the reason that it only applies to contingent things.  More importantly, and more certainly, my quote that Brett used only applies to material things.  A computer has the possibility of not existing precisely because it can be smashed or burned or taken apart or recycled into soda cans.  All of these things destroy the computer not in the sense that its atoms go out of existence, but in the sense that its computer-ness is taken away, producing something which is not a computer.  The same thing goes for all material things, like trees, Democrats, and razorblades, etc…

Brett, I hope that answers your objection

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A Critique: “Same-Sex Relationships as Self-Centered: Deconstructing the Argument” by William Lindsey

This morning, I read an article by William Lindsey at The Open Tabernacle titled, “Same-Sex Relationships as Self-Centered: Deconstructing the Argument“.  While I found the conclusion and purpose of the argument(s) therein to be appealing (indeed, I more or less agree with his views on the moralityof homosexual relations), I could not help but notice two ways it could be better.

First of all, Lindsey interprets a quote by then Cardinal Ratzinger in a way which I found dubious.  By dubious, I mean scarcely supported elsewhere in the article, and “not what I would have said”.  Cardinal Ratzinger wrote:

This does not mean that homosexual persons are not often generous and giving of themselves; but when they engage in homosexual activity they confirm within themselves a disordered sexual inclination which is essentially self-indulgent. – Cardinal Ratzinger

Now, Lindsey interprets this quote of Cardinal Ratzinger’s as saying that homosexual couples do not contribute to society, unlike heterosexual couples, which can produce offspring.  Therefore, homosexual relations can be said to be “selfish”.  To support his interpretation, Lindsey presents a quote from Archbishop Victor Sanchez Espinoza of Puebla, Mexico, who “used this rhetoric of gay self-indulgence to critique Mexico City’s new gay marriage law”:

…the union between persons of the same sex is only of interest to the couple and does not provide this fundamental contribution to society. – Archbishop Sanchez Espinoza

My concern is with whether the Archbishop intended this statement as a reference to “self-indulgence”, in the theological style of the Church, or to selfishness, as a more political appeal.  I might be tempted to see the two as essentially different, and this is a potential threat to Lindsey’s reasoning.  Lindsey makes the leap from homosexual inclinations to homosexual relations without considering the possibility that Cardinal Ratzinger could make an important distinction here.  The Cardinal describes homosexual inclinations as being essentially self-indulgent.  Yet, an inclination cannot be sensibly described as selfish! It may seem, then, that Cardinal Ratzinger is not saying that homosexual relations do not contribute to society (that is the business of politics, and not theology), but rather, that homosexual inclinations are self-indulgent; which is to say, that an inclination to engage in sexual activity with one’s own sex can be construed as a desire to engage in sexual acts with an image of one’s self.  That is what I might say the Cardinal means by a “self-indulgent” inclination.

Furthermore, Archbishop Espinoza’s reference to contribution to society (which is the primary referential basis for Lindsey’s premise that “self-indulgence” refers to selfishness, which is the penalty of being a couple incapable of reproducing) , in light of my potential interpretation of Ratzinger’s words as a reader, becomes much more political than theological.  If the Archbishop was speaking of theology, I might ask, why did he base his obection to gay marriage (a political issue) on his concern for “contributing to society” (a political concern)?

Mr. Lindsey, what I recommend for you to do in light of this potential objection is to shore up your defenses before you get blasted by an opponent who actually believes homosexuality is “disordered”.  As for me, I mean only to help you fortify it by offering you this critique.   What you need to do is not offer a justification for your interpretation of Ratzinger’s quote on a grammatical basis (such as mine), as this is no time for a scripture-style exegesis.  After all, Ratzinger is still alive!  Without a doubt, there exists somewhere on the internet an explanation of Ratzinger’s views on the nature of homosexual inclinations and what he means by “self-indulgence”.  Find it, and if it agrees with your interpretation, reproduce it alongside Espinoza’s quote.  That will render this counter-argument of yours irrefutable, as Ratzinger’s view really will be wrong.  If it does not agree with your interpretation, then you are confusing this argument for another.  Ratzinger would not be speaking to homosexuals not being able to reproduce or contribute to society in this case, but rather, he would be making a similar philosophical case to the one made by Catholics against masturbation. (Ex. Peter Kreeft) In that case, your article would not apply to the argument used by Ratzinger, but to a different argument made by Archbishop Espinoza to protest Mexican gay-marriage legislation.

The second point that I want to make is that your article focuses too much on material benefits that homosexual couples provide for society.  You mention the ability to adopt, take care of elderly parents, etc, and from this you conclude that homosexual couples are not worthless as Espinoza claims, but actually of incalculable value to creation.  This is not a very Catholic thing to say, because it only describes what homosexual unions are good for, as opposed to whether they are good in their own right.  That is, it defends only the extrinsic value of homosexual unions, as opposed to their intrinsic value.  That would be a much more important concept to discuss.

Indeed, this is what I recommend.  Your rebuttal of Espinoza’s argument should not take the form of your listing the material benefits of homosexual unions.  Instead, you should center your rebuttal of Espinoza around the idea that he is not considering the intrisic value of homosexual unions; only their extrinsic value.  After all, heterosexual unions between infertile individuals have exactly the same extrinsic value as homosexual unions, and it would be wise of you to ask why he does not condemn them alongside homosexual unions, as his argument that you quote applies just as easily to them!  You should mention that the real matter at stake is the intrinsic value of love in certain unions between heterosexuals, infertile people, and homosexuals; that is, how they are good in their own right, rather than merely good for.

I hope you do not take my critique as a mark of disagreement with your theology.  As I mentioned before, since I agree with you in saying that homosexuality is not necessarily sinful, we are in the same boat. Consequently, I am only looking after you, that’s all.

Under the Mercy,

-Payton Alexander

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Mary’s Immaculate Conception?

This is a letter I’ve written to Most Holy Family Monastery, a sede vacantist group who’s tracts on the popes and protestantism are really fascinating.  However, in reading their tract on Mary, I had to respond to it.  I hope to receive a reply from them- if I do, I will post it.

Dear Brothers,

My biggest stumbling block in accepting Roman Catholicism has always been Marian doctrine, but in light of your other tracts addressing Protestantism, I was very much looking forward to reading your tract on her.  However, it has left me with even bigger doubts than I had to begin with, particularly regarding her immaculate conception.

In the tract, you state “God saved Mary by preventing her from contracting original sin. Suppose that a man falls into a deep hole in the forest, but is pulled out by his friend. It is true to say that the friend saved the man. Now suppose a man sees a woman walking toward the deep hole, and catches her just before she falls in. He stops her from falling into the hole in the first place, so that she doesn’t get injured or dirty at all. Did he save the woman? Certainly he did. He saved her in a greater way, by preventing her from falling into the hole and suffering any of the harmful consequences.”  Now, when I first read this passage, I accepted it.  “Well, I guess that makes sense.”  But upon reflection, it really didn’t, because it completely cheapens Christ’s redemptive death!

It has been established from the Garden of Eden that “the wages of sin are death.”  God performed the first sin sacrifice when He clothed Adam and Eve in animal skins.  The entire Old Testament is based on the concept that People Cannot Save Themselves; even when God tells them what needs to be done, they forget, or don’t care, or don’t do it right, etc.  God does not preserve His prophets, or even David, whom He loved.  Each of them screws up, and then has to make an atonement for it.  There are entire books of the New Testament dedicated to explaining that without Christ dying for us, we die.  It is a scriptural fact that Sin has to be equaled out for with Death.

Therefore, how would Mary get out of sin if Jesus did not die for her?  Mary was born of Adam (Luke 3 is nearly always cited as Mary’s geneology; some say that it is Joseph’s actual geneological line, whereas Matt 1 is his legal line, but regardless, it is common sense that Mary (a human) was born of 2 other humans, who were descended from the first 2 humans.)  She would then be expected to be born under Adam’s curse like every one else.  Now, if you maintain that Jesus’ death reached back and retroactively saved her, then what was the point of all of those animal sacrifices?  Why didn’t God save all of His chosen people, rather than letting them get smote over and over ad nauseum for not keeping up on their sacrifices?  Under that logic, no one should have been born under original sin, if Jesus’ death was able to wipe it away before they were even concieved.  The thought of this makes me sick, because it changes God from selflessly giving Himself to resolve the metaphysical quandry that has prevented Him from being with His creations, to God randomly deciding that He was tired of dead goats, preserving one backwater Judean girl, knocking her up, trashing her and her fiancees reputations, then murdering their offspring (which is actually Him) for no good reason at all because He clearly could’ve saved anyone He wanted to at any time.  This basically validates all of those stupid “If God really was omnibenevolent and omnipotent no one would ever go to hell!” arguments, because it means that rather than original sin being an insurmountable gap between us and God, it becomes something that can be crossed at any time, with no action at all on the saved persons part, based entirely upon the whim of God.

What are we, Calvinists?

Sarah

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