Aquinas on Tyrannical Government

St. Thomas Aquinas, II-II, Question 42:

Tyrannical governance is unjust, since it is ordered to the private good of the ruler, not to the common good, as the Philosopher makes clear in the Politics and the Ethics. And so disturbances of such governance does not have the character or rebellion, except, perhaps, in cases where the tyrant’s governance is so inordinately disturbed that the subject people suffer greater harm from the resulting disturbance than from the tyrant’s governance. Rather, tyrants, who by seeking greater domination incite discontent and rebellion in the people subject to them, are the rebels. For governance is tyrannical when ordered to the ruler’s own good to the detriment of the people.

Life Speeds By

Seneca’s first Epistle discusses using time, and how we waste it:

Greetings from Seneca to his friend Lucilius.

CONTINUE to act thus, my dear Lucilius – set yourself free for your own sake; gather and save your time, which till lately has been forced from you, or filched away, or has merely slipped from your hands. Make yourself believe the truth of my words, – that certain moments are torn from us, that some are gently removed, and that others glide beyond our reach. The most disgraceful kind of loss, however, is that due to carelessness. Furthermore, if you will pay close heed to the problem, you will find that the largest portion of our life passes while we are doing ill, a goodly share while we are doing nothing, and the whole while we are doing that which is not to the purpose. What man can you show me who places any value on his time, who reckons the worth of each day, who understands that he is dying daily? For we are mistaken when we look forward to death; the major portion of death has already passed, Whatever years be behind us are in death’s hands.

Therefore, Lucilius, do as you write me that you are doing: hold every hour in your grasp. Lay hold of to-day’s task, and you will not need to depend so much upon to-morrow’s. While we are postponing, life speeds by. Nothing, Lucilius, is ours, except time. We were entrusted by nature with the ownership of this single thing, so fleeting and slippery that anyone who will can oust us from possession. What fools these mortals be! They allow the cheapest and most useless things, which can easily be replaced, to be charged in the reckoning, after they have acquired them; but they never regard themselves as in debt when they have received some of that precious commodity, – time! And yet time is the one loan which even a grateful recipient cannot repay.

You may desire to know how I, who preach to you so freely, am practising. I confess frankly: my expense account balances, as you would expect from one who is free-handed but careful. I cannot boast that I waste nothing, but I can at least tell you what I am wasting, and the cause and manner of the loss; I can give you the reasons why I am a poor man. My situation, however, is the same as that of many who are reduced to slender means through no fault of their own: every one forgives them, but no one comes to their rescue.

What is the state of things, then? It is this: I do not regard a man as poor, if the little which remains is enough for him. I advise you, however, to keep what is really yours; and you cannot begin too early. For, as our ancestors believed, it is too late to spare when you reach the dregs of the cask./a Of that which remains at the bottom, the amount is slight, and the quality is vile. Farewell


Leithart describes scholasticism as follows:

On the surface, scholasticism was a systematic way of organizing theology and a method for resolving apparent contradictions in the tradition. Medieval theologians inherited a rich and varied tradition but one that was not always internally consistent. When Augustine says X, and Ambrose says Y, and the Bible says Z, what are we to do? Is this a contradiction, or are they speaking of different things or of the same thing in different ways? Add Aristotle into the mix, and you have most of the sources for scholastic theology. Scholasticism was also an attempt to harmonize faith and reason, an effort to demonstrate that the truths of Christian faith did not contradict logic and reason.

Plantinga is an Anglican

It was pointed out elsewhere that Theodore (not Cornelius as I mistakenly said earlier) Plantinga is now an Anglican. Witness:

The Canterbury Trail

Some of the reformationals, reacting against these developments began to cast a longing eye at the Canterbury Trail, as Robert Webber has called it. But when they departed for Eastern Orthodox or Roman Catholic or Anglican churches (called Episcopalian in the USA), they were not taking a step that can be hailed as reformational in the classic sense. Of course there are also reformationals who simply started out as Anglicans and were never enticed into joining a Reformed church, such as Craig Bartholomew.

Reformationals eyeing the Canterbury Trail could appeal to Abraham Kuyper for a degree of understanding, for in his book on worship Kuyper had written that the “English church” was much more developed in liturgical respects (liturgisch veel fijner ontwikkeld). And there was nothing particularly original about the decision of some of the reformationals to choose the Canterbury Trail; they could hardly congratulate themselves for being on the cutting edge. Rather, what they were doing was going back; in other words, they were embracing worship practices and sacramental emphases and forms of church governance which had been rejected by their ecclesiastical forefathers in centuries past.

It was as though the middle had fallen away. Many people had grown to love the “low-church” tendency that was more and more taking over the Reformed and Presbyterian churches. Gordon Spykman (1926-93) observed that while Lutherans were toning down their sacramental emphasis by thinking more like Calvinists, the Calvinists were moving away from their traditional position and beginning to sound more and more like the Zwinglians, who had advanced the “memorial feast” view of the eucharist during the early days of the Reformation. But a minority abhorred these developments and began to yearn for sacrament and liturgy and tradition. Some discovered the celebrated Anglican Book of Common Prayer and were drawn into the Anglican communion, while others remained closet Anglicans.

I was among those who were drawn to the Book of Common Prayer: early in the new millennium I turned Anglican. The aftermath of the worship wars within the Christian Reformed denomination were a major factor in my decision, as was the coldness toward the 1944 problem and toward the many Canadian Reformed people living among us that I had experienced especially during my days of ecumenical endeavor in the early 1990s (see my remarks above). There was, in addition, a third, very personal factor in my decision, which I will not discuss here.


Averroes on Aristotle

Islam fell completely under the sway of Aristotelian and neo-Platonic thought. Listen to the incredible praise that Averroes had for Aristotle:

I consider that that man (Aristotle) was a rule and exemplar which nature devised to show the final perfection of man…the teaching of Aristotle is the supreme truth, because his mind was the final expression of the human mind. Wherefore it has been well said that he was created and given to us by divine providence that we might know all there is to be known. Let us praise God, who set this man apart from all others in perfection, and made him approach very near to the highest dignity humanity can attain.

Translating Aristotle

David Knowles writes:

Thus the introduction of the whole canon of Aristotle to the West was a process continuing over a hundred years…the ethical and political and literary treatises presented Europe with a philosopher who regarded human life from a purely naturalistic, this-world point of view. Taken as a whole the translations of Aristotle gave Western thinkers, for the first time, matter on which to construct a full and mature system, but the atmosphere, the presuppositions of this great body of thought were not medieval and Christian, but ancient Greek and non-religious, not to say rationalistic in character.

The ongoing use of Aristotle in Christendom coupled with the loss of many of his works led to a situation where their rediscovery upset the apple cart of systematic theology. The fascination with and recovery of ancient Greek and Roman culture was one impetus away from the Church and towards secularism. Something to think about for proponents of Classical education.

Life is Vapor – Rejoice!

Commenting on Ecclesiastes in general, Peter Leithart writes:

…the exhortation to joy, feasting and productive labor is inferred from the fact that life is vaporous and short. Joy is not a contradiction to the reality of a vaporous world; joy is the “fitting” response to a vaporous world. This is neither Stoic resignation nor Epicurean hedonism. Epicurean “joy” is a desperate whistling past the graveyard, a hedonism haunted by the realization that the world is under no one’s control. Epicurean joy is finally tragic joy. Solomonic joy is a hedonism that arises from the confidence that the world is always under Yaweh’s control. Solomon is saying that the world itself teaches us that it is not under our control, but Solomon adds the implication that the world is under God’s control. Instead of chafing at our finitude and yearning to be as gods, Solomon counsels that we rejoice in our limits and in all the vaporous life that we are given.

– Deep Comedy

Van Til and Plantiga

This is a helpful comparison of the two men and their philosophical approach. I wish it also discussed Wolterstorff. A highlight:

In a similar vein, both have argued that the Christian philosopher ought not to ply his trade from a position of pretended autonomy or neutrality, as if that were a prerequisite of participation in the broad philosophical community. On the contrary, Christian philosophy should be conducted (unashamedly) within the bounds of, and building upon, Christian doctrinal/doxastic commitments. On this point see Van Til, passim, and Plantinga, esp. ‘Advice to Christian Philosophers’.