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Over the last two posts (see here and here), we have tried to explain the genesis for the Cultural War that we are presently living through. We have also tried to explain how the Cultural rot that we see in the secular sub-set of the Visibilium Omnium, such as the German governments fanatical promotion of Critical Theory euphemistically termed “liberal democracy”, is part and parcel of the general rot. In the Ecclesiastical space we also observe this same PROCESS.
This Theological rot primarily emanates from the various speeches, newspaper interviews, musings at the Domus Sanctae Marthae and off-the cuff remarks generated by the bishop of Rome, i.e. the magisterium of Francis. The end of this above described decomposition PROCESS can be observed in the recent Maltese bishops’ guidelines on Francis document “Joy of Sex” or as it is official called titled: Amoris Laetitia. Aside, supposedly, there was a problem with the translation. (see here)
Staying “high level” as they say, what is interesting to observe in the current Cultural War is the various segments of society that are gravitating to the same diagnosis of the problem and to the same prescription as to the proper treatment going forward. On this blog lately, we have been focusing on a couple of individuals from the secular side of the Visibilium Ominium, namely Stefan Molyneux and Dr. Duke Pesta. (see here and here and here).
Today, we transition over to the ecclesiastical side. Below is a reposted interview given by Fr. Thomas Joseph White, O.P. after the publication of his new book Wisdom in the Face of Modernity: A Study in Thomistic Natural Theology.
For those who have ventured over to our Why Thomism? page, you would have been introduced to Fr. White’s work. On this page, a link is provided to a short introduction to Thomism titled Thomism for the New Evangelization.
Concluding, what is of interest to note is the wide spectrum of individuals who are essentially transmitting the same message. These individuals include people such as self described “atheists” like Stefan Molyneux (in reality a small “c” catholic in the good sense of that term) to self described Christians such as Dr. Duke Pesta to formal Catholics like Dominican Friars such as Fr. Thomas Joseph White.
Their message in turn, is that for Western Civilization to survive, we as a Civilization must return to the tenants of Aristotelian philosophy in general and specifically to the Scholastic Rationalism that was founded and developed by the Dominicans such as St. Thomas Aquinas.
Below I am republishing the interview that appeared on the website of Ave Maria University. Original can be found here.
Ave Maria University’s academic press, Sapientia, recently released the second edition of Fr. Thomas Joseph White’s book, Wisdom in the Face of Modernity: A Study in Thomistic Natural Theology. Below, Fr. White shares some insights into what Wisdom in the Face of Modernity is about, how his idea for the work developed, and what readers can gain from the book.
Q. What is Wisdom in the Face of Modernity about?
Fr. White: The book is about our natural capacity to come to know that God exists, by way of philosophical argument and inference, as distinct from knowing God by way of supernatural faith in divine revelation.
Many philosophers and theologians alike think that it is impossible to make reasonable conclusive arguments for the existence of God. Sometimes they appeal in this respect to the critical arguments of Immanuel Kant from his Critique of Pure Reason, where he argues that all forms of argument for the existence of God are rationally inconclusive, illusions of “transcendental reason.” Wisdom in the Face of Modernity argues that Kant’s criticism does not in fact work against Aquinas’ arguments for the existence of God.
“…it is inevitable that we make use of some form of philosophical reflection when we speak about God, even within Christian theology. It is important not to do so naively or in an ill-formed manner, because in this case, a poor philosophical understanding of things will in turn have negative consequences for theology.”
The goal of my book is to examine the metaphysical foundations for the arguments of Aquinas. That is to say, how does Thomas Aquinas’ study of being, of what exists, as we encounter it in the world, allow him to construct viable arguments for the existence of a transcendent first cause of all things, a Creator, He whom we call “God”? One aim of this book is to show that the arguments for the existence of God and the consideration of “divine attributes” that they lead to are important also for Christian theology. Christian theology is grounded in faith and in the principles of supernatural revelation given to us in the person of Jesus Christ, and the apostolic teaching. But grace presupposes nature and makes use of our native human resources for thinking about God. Consequently, it is inevitable that we make use of some form of philosophical reflection when we speak about God, even within Christian theology. It is important not to do so naively or in an ill-formed manner, because in this case, a poor philosophical understanding of things will in turn have negative consequences for theology.
“Divine revelation and philosophical reflection are not at enmity with one another, but can coexist in a profound harmony and concord of mutual influence upon one another, just as grace heals and elevates our human nature.”
Aquinas’ metaphysical philosophy is a proven human instrument that aids us in our cooperation with divine revelation. His is a “Christian philosophy” which has been purified by a longstanding cooperation with the grace of God and theological tradition, even as his metaphysical arguments depend upon premises and conclusions of natural reason as such. Divine revelation and philosophical reflection are not at enmity with one another, but can coexist in a profound harmony and concord of mutual influence upon one another, just as grace heals and elevates our human nature.
Q. Who is Wisdom in the Face of Modernity’s intended audience and what will they gain from reading it?
Fr. White: This book is written primarily for graduate students and colleagues in philosophy and theology, but it is accessible to anyone who has a deep interest in the thought of Thomas Aquinas or who is engaged in the study of modern philosophy and theology.
Q. What motivated you to write and publish Wisdom in the Face of Modernity?
Fr. White: This book stems from a long-term interest in the questions of the rationality of Christian belief and the harmony of faith and reason. In many ways the book represents an attempt to spell out my own response to the alternative visions of these matters that one finds in theologians such as Karl Barth and Hans Urs von Balthasar, who each hold distinctive and differing conceptions of the relationship of philosophy to theology. I say this with great respect for these figures. Often in thinking out over time why we do not hold to the position of another person (someone like Kant or Barth) we are showing that we take their viewpoint seriously and wish to discern with care how we would respond to their arguments.
Q. Could you share one revelatory moment during the writing process?
Fr. White: My early initiation to Aquinas’ metaphysics taught me that his understanding of the metaphysical structure of reality is of lasting value and remarkable insight. To see that his arguments for the existence of God were not built on conjecture or willfulness but on a well-founded analysis of reality changed my sense of the significance of philosophy and the greatness of the Thomistic intellectual tradition.
Q. For readers interested in becoming better acquainted with Thomas Aquinas’ thought, where should they turn?
Fr. White: Excellent introductions to Aquinas’ thought exist in English—works by people like Steve Brock and Edward Feser. The Penguin edition of the Selected Writings of Aquinas edited by Ralph McInerny provides a great introduction to his writings that is clear and accessible.
Fr. Thomas Joseph White, O.P., is Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception at the Dominican House of Studies (Washington, D.C.). His research interests include Thomistic metaphysics and Christology, as well as Roman Catholic-Reformed ecumenical dialogue. Rev. White has authored, edited and co-edited several books, and he is also co-editor of the theological journal Nova et Vetera (English edition). Wisdom in the Face of Modernity is available for purchase from Sapientia Press