Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Dr. Prejean on the radio

My wife and I often listen to Dr. Laura, since she is one of the few people left on the radio who refuses to capitulate to the modern nonsense regarding the role of women and the family. This morning, Dr. Laura mentioned someone on the Today Show who legitimized the feeling of some women that they were "wasting their education" by staying home to mother their kids. Like Dr. Laura, my better half was having none of that! She fired off an email to Dr. Laura pointing out that it was foolish for educated women to fall into the trap of running around on a hamster wheel for eight hours a day in lieu of parenting. She noted that she had used her Ph.D. to create opportunities to work without leaving home by taking positions as an online professor, and she also observed that she had married a good man who provided for the family so that she could be flexible in the employment she took.

Dr. Laura liked the email so much that she made it the "Email of the Day" and read it on the air. Props to the missus for articulating a valuable lesson well enough to reach an audience of millions, and thanks for making me the good guy in the story! There are a lot of accomplishments of which one might be proud, but in my experience, nothing is better than the family saying "Ya done good!"


Anonymous said...

My family and I used to listen to Dr. Laura all the time when I was little. We stopped listening not of our own will, but because the local radio stations stopped carrying her show. And of course, she lost so many radio stations because the Left tarred and feathered her good name into oblivion.

Anonymous said...

Dr Prejean

I have come across you on several blogs. I have seen you have commented on the entire Divine Essence/Energy dogma that the Eastern Orthodox have. TO be honest I am totally confused on this issue and was wondering if you have on your blog or know a place where
(1)It spells out what this is
(2)Is it in opposition to Catholic Theology

I am encountering more Orthodox on the and as an Convert to the faith I have had little interaction with them in the past.

When I try to delve into this with them all I get is not very productive because it seems that its point is to bash the Western Church. This is not my area of study but as a Catholic I ma trying to incorporate more thought and Spirtuality from the Eastern Church into my life. I ma just trying to find valid info and a place to start looking. In this case a sort of Distinction btween Essence and Engery for Dummies. I ma not sure I am getting the basic Vocab right at this point.

Have a Happy Easter Season

CrimsonCatholic said...

Thanks for stopping by, JH! I usually go by "Mr. Prejean" (the wife has the Ph.D., not me), but you can feel free to call me Jonathan.

There isn't a quick and easy summary to this particular issue, unfortunately. But I can tell you what the concern is generally. The worry in Greek philosophy is that you can't know God in Himself without becoming God, because to know something is to know it truly, and since God sums of everything, if you knew God truly, then you would know everything as God, meaning that you would actually BE God. So they said that we have to distinguish what God is in Himself from what God shows to us. What He is in Himself, we will call the "essence," and what He manifests to us, we will call the "energies." Because we know God only by the act of revealing Himself to us, there is always a subject to the act, meaning that the encounter is always personal (with the Persons of the Trinity).

In the West, we agree that we know God only by His manifestation to us, so that we only know Him personally. But our concept of "knowledge" is not such that knowing God means that one knows God as He knows Himself. We also hold that one can be really united with God's activity through grace-enhanced natural activity. There are some very complicated metaphysical reasons why that is the case, and that's where this whole thing gets dicey, but in the end, the West's position is basically that you don't need to imagine that you need these things called "energies" in order for God to be known to us. It's not that we deny what the Orthodox are affirming about either union with God or knowledge of God; we are just saying that you don't have to explain it in terms of "essence" and "energies" in order to achieve the same result (i.e., we really know God and are united to God without becoming God). The problem is that a lot of heretics in the East said the same thing WITHOUT the West's metaphysical explanation, so Eastern Christians are understandably a little hesistant to accept statements that sound like what the heretics say. The real work is in convincing them that our position doesn't carry all the baggage that these heretics do.

The lessons I would take away are:
1. We don't actually believe what the heretics said, so you don't have anything to worry about; and
2. Explaining why that is the case requires a much deeper study of Western theology, and if an Orthodox interlocutor is really looking for an explanation, rather than simply attacking you for rhetorical effect, then they should be willing to dig into the matter.

If you want to know what some of the Saints have written on this process of coming to know God, I HIGHLY recommend St. Bonaventure's The Journey of the Mind to God (often called by the Latin Itinerarium). There are many good works by the mystics like St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila, but Bonaventure wrote this one specifically as an explanation to students, and I think it really gets across how we come to know God better in stages.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Prejean,

Thank you for your interaction with my comment over on William's site.

I have no arguments to make in defense of that in my comment which you refuted and clarified. (I suppose my objection to Dr. Liccione was unfair given that he denied that guilt was *'at the heart'* of the Western understanding of Original Sin, which I would not have claimed, although as a Catholic adhering to the Tridentine decree I must accept some dimension of 'guilt,'even if only analogical, as proper to an orthodox understanding of the doctrine.) Only a question remains, and one which I have been desiring for some time to explore; what is the nature of the 'guilt' of Original Sin, as the Tridentine Fathers put it, which is only 'analogically' so? I understand generally that the Angelic Doctor and his disciples speak of Original Sin primarily in terms of privation, but would like to sound this out, and read the pertinent passages. What of St. Thomas or of his authoritative disciples ought I to read in order better to grasp this conception of Original Sin?

Also, as I think this question is tangent to that above, what is your opinion on the Thomistic position on Limbo?

While I was not the anonymous poster who asked about EED, I also appreciate your response. Right now I am mentally digesting a question concerning the place and understanding of the Beatific Vision within the Thomist/Palamite metaphysical frameworks respectively, but for now my only coherent questions regard 1) the identity of the "Eastern heretics" whose faulty metaphysics sunder their conception from ours, and 2) your understanding of Grace with respect to its being either create or uncreate. (I'm sorry if you have already addressed this at length elsewhere on your site; I have not had the time to exhaust all the fascinating material I find herein.)

Again, thank you.

Christos Anesti!

CrimsonCatholic said...

Thanks for your comments!

With regard to original sin in St. Thomas and its pertinence to punishment, I must necessarily defer to my betters. Dr. Liccione gives as good a description as I have seen anywhere, including a citation of St. Thomas's De Malo and an extensive discussion of why he differed from Augustine, upon which I cannot really improve.

Right now I am mentally digesting a question concerning the place and understanding of the Beatific Vision within the Thomist/Palamite metaphysical frameworks respectively...

Join the club! This is a major protect, which first of all involves a careful and close reading of the Thomist framework, then an effort to convince other Catholics that one's Thomist framework is the correct one (or at least an acceptable one), then an attempt to explain Palamas in that framework, and then (and perhaps most difficult) the effort to convince Easterners that one's reading of Palamas is correct! I consider myself to have tentatively taken a position on the first step, with highly questionable success in the second (in which one also has to contend with Orthodox Christians who have their own opinion on what Thomas actually said). All contributions and criticism are welcome.

but for now my only coherent questions regard 1) the identity of the "Eastern heretics" whose faulty metaphysics sunder their conception from ours,...

My suspicion is that they might not have existed as a matter of fact. You see this more than occasionally in the Councils, where the Council condemns even ideas that people have interpreted others as having, even those based on a misinterpretation of the opponent's position. Because the belief is in some sense being debated as if it were held ex hypothesi, it gets condemned as if it were held by someone, even if it later turns out that no actual person actually held it. That seems to be what happened with some of the more extreme propositions on justification condemned at Trent, which appear to be untraceable to any actual Protestant belief. Since the relevant matter of faith and morals is the teaching, not whether anyone actually held it, that doesn't seem particularly objectionable. It's sort of like the Fathers using the phoenix as an example of resurrection in nature. The point itself is sound (that nature points to the possibility of resurrection), even if the particular example selected as no real referent.

2) your understanding of Grace with respect to its being either create or uncreate.

Please see this thread from the Envoy forums, which I think you'll find interesting. The short answer is that I consider it to be the real effect in a created entity of a particular relationship/union with the uncreated. It's not right to call it "uncreated," because we don't actually become identical with God (despite being united to the Father through Christ in the Holy Spirit), but "created" simply means that it is a state of existence for the created thing, not that it is some separate thing that is created to which the person is united. The union is with the uncreated, which produces a real change in the state of the created entity that is united to the uncreated.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Prejean,

How does ADS affect one's understanding of the intercommunion/interpenetration between Christ's two natures? Was Christ's humanity energized/empowered/deified by the divine essence?

Anonymous said...

The union is with the uncreated, which produces a real change in the state of the created entity that is united to the uncreated.

Damn, Prejean, can you get any deeper? ;^)

Please, please post more often (in particular, insight of this type and quality), for goodness sake!


CrimsonCatholic said...

How does ADS affect one's understanding of the intercommunion/interpenetration between Christ's two natures?

It doesn't. If created human beings can experience real union with the divine, then a fortiori Christ's personal identity with the divine produces real union. My point is that there is a difference between mode of union and acts of union. Christ's mode of union is personal (viz., by being the self-same person as the Word of God), which is infinitely closer than the union we experience. Since we are really distinguished from God by hypostasis, our mode of union is appropriate to a created thing, meaning that, while real, it is not identity. To put it another way, as a union inhering in finite and mutable beings, even a real union with God is finite and mutable, meaning that it requires constant synergistic action to solidify and maintain it.

But if that limited union involves real contact between the human and the divine (albeit limited), then Christ's personal union must certainly be greater. Indeed, it is superior, because while our union, being located in a created hypostasis, partakes of act and potency (so the state be solidified and maintained by synergistic act), Christ's is permanent and inseparable, so that all acts ARE synergistic. Christ doesn't depend on becoming for His existence, but we do.

The fixity of the Saints and the damned comes from the transition from the (relative) variability of ordinary temporal bodies to spiritual aionic bodies. That is why the fallen angels never repent (although they lack bodies, being composites only with potency with respect to their spiritual activity). In aionic time, whatever one decides, one decides in fixity. When the bodies are reuinted with souls in the last judgment, they are perfectly united with the acts of the soul. Christ, however, need not deal with any of that. When He had a temporal body, He didn't have to worry about mutability (because all His acts were synergistic; every time he acted, it always reflected the union). Now that He has a spiritual body, sinful acts are not even a possibility.

To put it simply, if one concedes that union is really possible with an absolutely simple God (which can also explain the Trinity in terms of relative identity, but I'll leave that aside for the moment), then perichoresis isn't a problem in Christ or in deification of created human persons.

CrimsonCatholic said...

Wish I could take credit, but that is straight out of Trent, which was straight out of St. Thomas. It's just plain vanilla Catholic dogma.

Anonymous said...

I gathered that, but what a way to present it though!

The fact of the matter is that I just wished due attention was given it more frequently, as you have in your writings/on your blog.

God bless you in all you do, JP!
(and, as mentioned, please do it more often than not!)