Reads, 2010

Not the best year for finishing books. I read too much stuff online. Here are the books I finished in 2010:

The Puritan Dilemma, Edmund Morgan

The Rise of Puritanism, William Haller

Augustine of Hippo, Peter Brown

The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Samuel Pepys

The Death of Adam, Marilynne Robinson

The Bible, ESV {completed}

Rabbit at Rest, John Updike

A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis

Eclipse of the Sun, Michael O’Brien

Is the Reformation Over, Mark Noll, Carolyn Nystrom {completed}

America’s God, Mark Noll {completed}

The Mines of Behemoth, Michael Shea

 

A Theology of Space Travel 1.3

In my last post I mentioned some sources that Bishop John Wilkins used in his argument for an inhabited moon. The first source is Thomas Aquinas, who asks if there can be more than one world.

Whether There Is Only One World?

Objection 1: It would seem that there is not only one world, but many. Because, as Augustine says (QQ. 83, qu. 46), it is unfitting to say that God has created things without a reason. But for the same reason He created one, He could create many, since His power is not limited to the creation of one world; but rather it is infinite, as was shown above (Q. 25, A. 2). Therefore God has produced many worlds.

Obj. 2: Further, nature does what is best and much more does God. But it is better for there to be many worlds than one, because many good things are better than a few. Therefore many worlds have been made by God.

Obj. 3: Further, everything which has a form in matter can be multiplied in number, the species remaining the same, because multiplication in number comes from matter. But the world has a form in matter. Thus as when I say “man” I mean the form, and when I say “this man,” I mean the form in matter; so when we say “world,” the form is signified, and when we say “this world,” the form in the matter is signified. Therefore there is nothing to prevent the existence of many worlds.

On the contrary, It is said (John 1:10): “The world was made by Him,” where the world is named as one, as if only one existed.

I answer that, The very order of things created by God shows the unity of the world. For this world is called one by the unity of order, whereby some things are ordered to others. But whatever things come from God, have relation of order to each other, and to God Himself, as shown above (Q. 11, A. 3; Q. 21, A. 1). Hence it must be that all things should belong to one world. Therefore those only can assert that many worlds exist who do not acknowledge any ordaining wisdom, but rather believe in chance, as Democritus, who said that this world, besides an infinite number of other worlds, was made from a casual concourse of atoms.

Reply Obj. 1: This reason proves that the world is one because all things must be arranged in one order, and to one end. Therefore from the unity of order in things Aristotle infers (Metaph. xii, text 52) the unity of God governing all; and Plato (Tim.), from the unity of the exemplar, proves the unity of the world, as the thing designed.

Reply Obj. 2: No agent intends material plurality as the end forasmuch as material multitude has no certain limit, but of itself tends to infinity, and the infinite is opposed to the notion of end. Now when it is said that many worlds are better than one, this has reference to material order. But the best in this sense is not the intention of the divine agent; forasmuch as for the same reason it might be said that if He had made two worlds, it would be better if He had made three; and so on to infinite.

Reply Obj. 3: The world is composed of the whole of its matter. For it is not possible for there to be another earth than this one, since every earth would naturally be carried to this central one, wherever it was. The same applies to the other bodies which are part of the world.

SUMMA THEOLOGICA, PART I (“Prima Pars”), THIRD ARTICLE [I, Q. 47, Art. 3]

The second source is a letter from Pope Zacharias to Boniface about Bishop Virgilius who apparently thought that there was more than one world. LXIV [80] May 1, 748:

…As to the foolish and sinful doctrine which he teaches: if it should be made clear that he believes there is below this earth another world and other men, and also a sun and a moon, then summon a council, depose him from the office of priest, and cast him out of the Church.

Do Not Know Thyself

Writing on the Wrightsaid email list some time ago, James Jordan said:

And it is spiritually dangerous to speak in such a way as to encourage people to inspect their own hearts. “Know thyself” is Socratic and demonic. We CANNOT know ourselves, and must trust in God to know us. We must accept what He says about us. We can judge ourselves in particular matters, but the heart is hidden from us. Our “heart experiences” are untrustworthy. We must trust God and His Word.

How contrary is this to most of what passes for even “Christian” thinking today? We have accepted the “know thyself” formula as if it is the key to enlightenment, when in fact the Bible tells us:

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

 

A Theology of Space Travel 1.2

In the 17th century, a Bishop of the Church of England named John Wilkins wrote a book with the wordy title: A Discovery of a New World, or, A Discourse Tending to prove, that tis Probable there may be another Habitable World in the Moon.

Yes, some people back then thought that the moon was habitable, and even inhabited. This probably led to the early Mormon prophecies of preaching the restored Gospel on the Moon or the Sun. Wilkins advocated the position of an inhabited moon. In the process he listed some possible objections from the Scripture and Tradition of the Church, as follows:

But the position (say some) is directly against Scripture, for
I. Moses tells us of one World, and his History of the Creation had been very Imperfect, if God had made another.
2. Saint John speaking of Gods works, says, he made the World in the singular Number, and therefore there is but one: tis the argument of Aquinas, and he thinks that none will oppose it, but such who with Democritus esteem some blind Chance, and not any wise Providence to be the Framer of all things.
3. The Opinion of more Worlds has in Ancient times been accounted a Heresy, and Baronius affirms, that for this very reason Virgilius was cast out of his Bishopric, and Excommunicated from the Church.
4. A Fourth Argument there is urged by Aquinas; if there be more Worlds than one, then they must either be of the same, or of a divers Nature; but they are not of the same kind; for this were needless, and would argue an improvidence, since one would have no more perfection than the other; not of divers kinds, for then one of them could not be called the World or Universe, since it did not contain Universal perfection. I have cited this Argument because it is so much stood upon by Julius Caesar la Galla, one that has purposely wrote a Treatise against this Opinion which I now deliver;

He refutes these objections as follows:

Unto the two first it may be answered, that the Negative Authority of Scripture, is not prevalent in those things which are not the Fundamentals of Religion.
[…]

But you’ll reply, though it do not necessarily conclude, yet tis probable, if there had been another world, we should have had some notice of it in Scripture.
I answer, tis as probable that the Scripture should have informed us of the Planets, they being very remarkable parts of the Creation; and yet neither Moses, nor Job, nor the Psalms, (the places most frequent in Astronomical Observations) nor any other Scripture mention any of them, but the Sun and Moon. Because the difference betwixt them and the other Stars, was known only to those who were Learned Men, and had skill in Astronomy.

His main point related to Scripture is that silence does not prove something doesn’t exist.

[…] the silence of Scripture, concerning any other World, is not Sufficient Argument to prove that there is none.

He also notes a Jesuit argument that the authority of the Church Fathers does not apply in this case, because they did not address the subject:

Mersennus a late Jesuit, proposing the question, whether or no the opinion of more Worlds than one, be Heretical and against the Faith? He answers it Negatively, because it does not Contradict any express place of Scripture, or Determination of the Church. And though (saith he) it seems to be a rash opinion, as being against the consent of the Fathers; yet, if this controversy be chiefly philosophical, then their authorities are not of such weight. Unto this it may be added, that the consent of the Fathers is prevalent only in such points as were first controverted amongst them, and then generally decided one way, and not in such other particulars as never fell under their examination and dispute.

Bishop Wilkins seems to essentially say that if Scripture and the Fathers have not authoritatively address the subject, it is fair game. I will provide a couple of sources that Wilkins referred to in my next post.

A Theology of Space Travel 1.1

There is nothing new under the sun. I thought that perhaps my speculations about space and other worlds would be new, but I am already finding evidence that this topic has been much thought of from of old. Here is Melancthon saying that there cannot be inhabitants on other planets:

We know God is a citizen of this world with us, custodian and server of this world, ruling the motion of the heavens, guiding the constellations, making this earth fruitful, and indeed watching over us; we do not contrive to have him in another world, and to watch over other men also…the Son of God is One; our master Jesus Christ was born, died and resurrected in this world. Nor does He manifest Himself elsewhere, nor elsewhere has He died or resurrected. Therefore, it must not be imagined that there are many worlds, because it must not be imagined that Christ died and was resurrected more often, nor must it be thought that in any other world without the knowledge of the Son of God, that men would be restored to eternal life.
[Initia doctrinae physicae] quoted in Steven J. Dick, Plurality of Worlds, p. 89

The uniqueness of the incarnation here on earth is a central concern of many who say that there cannot be humans on other planets.

 

Mormons as Evangelical Dopplegangers

I’ve thought for some time that the LDS church is something of a mirror image of the evangelical movement. This video convinces me even more:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aup9M5HZawI]

If evangelicals think that tearful testimonies about the love of God are monopolized by them, they had better think again. I think the Mormons have it pretty down pat now.

A Theology of Space Travel

Is Earth our only home? As a Christian, what should we think about space travel, colonizing planets, and transforming the universe? Could other life be out there? One of my long-term goals is to think through these issues a bit from a Christian standpoint. Some of my foundational assumptions are (not in order of priority):

[1] Postmillenialism

[2] Creation

[3] Human uniqueness

[4] Endurance of the Earth

[5] Inspiration of Scripture

Postmillenialism means that we may be here for 200,000 years more before the return of Christ. James Jordan addresses this a bit in his essay, “An Antidote for Yuppie Postmillenialism.”, He writes:

…does the Bible anywhere say that planet earth is our only project? If God has given us the ability to travel to other planets, perhaps they also are to be developed and glorified as part of his universal plan – all before Christ returns. This could take hundreds of thousands of years. (One reason I enjoy the marvellous science fiction stories of Cordwainer Smith, a devout Christian, is because they communicate a feel for such a universal development and glorification.)

So I hope to dig into this from time to time, both in private and on this blog.

Virginia is Rich

The latest data from the Census Bureau shows that Virginia has the three most wealthy counties in the nation. Maryland has another couple in the top tier. All of these counties are in the suburban DC area. Why is this? Because the seat of the Federal government is here. We suck up tax money from the rest of the nation and distribute it in the souk that is the DC area. And Federal workers make what seems like outrageous amounts of money because housing in close to DC costs a fortune. So those salaries aren’t what they seem, and the ever-rising federal wages contribute to the outrageous cost of living in the area – a vicious circle. Here is an example of single family homes from Falls Church plucked at random from the Washington Post.

My suggestion? Distribute all of the Federal agencies throughout the backwater cities of America like Topeka, Omaha, etc. and break the power of the Federal center.

Losing Old Church Buildings

I’m hearing that the court case against the Virginia CANA churches may not go well. Truro, Falls Church and others may be forced to leave their historic buildings. I’ve never been a fan of the “defend the property” strategy, but this is still very sad news. Turning these buildings over to heretics is akin to the North African Church falling to Islam a long time ago.

With that said, it occurred to me today that one reason that it is such a blow to lose these venerable buildings is because there is so little chance of replacing them in our lifetime. Our theology of architecture is so impoverished, and the buildings that we typically build as Protestant churches are generally so awful, that losing these old buildings is a great tragedy.

Most new church buildings are ephemeral, not durable. They are ugly, functional, “multi-purpose” facilities where people worship in the gym. There is generally no art, no stained glass windows and nothing that would really differentiate these buildings from the prison-like school buildings that we build today. On the other hand, places like Truro have a simple elegance and exude a sense of tranquility and “churchiness” that is lacking in most modern Protestant facilities. It seems that Catholics have kept their senses and are producing some great buildings even today. I live down the street from one and I’ve seen many others, such as the gorgeous Holy Apostles in Meridian, Idaho.

So if we are going to continue to think that buildings don’t matter or that we need to build the cheapest, ugliest thing we can get away with and call it good, then losing the old places like Truro (and the many, many United Methodist parishes in Virginia that are gorgeous and given over to heresy) is a very sad event indeed.