Wednesday, March 30, 2022

We Should Forget History

In response to a question based on an article he wrote – noting that nations are built on stories (as they are) – Yuval Noah Harari replies (in part):

As a historian I feel sometimes ashamed or responsible, I don’t know what, about what the knowledge of history is doing to people.  …As a historian, I feel ashamed, that this is what my profession, in some way, is doing.

I think people should be liberated from the past…

In other words, we should forget about history.  The full exchange begins here.  This excerpt is from a discussion with Harari “hosted by TED global curator Bruno Giussani” on the topic of the war in Ukraine.

Now, what on earth am I doing, listening to this?  Well, where can I better find the source of the manufactured reality that we are supposed to believe, the one which people are supposed to spout at cocktail parties – the type of parties to which none of us are invited (let’s call it “cock-‘splainin’”)?  TED plus a speaker at the World Economic Forum.  Tell me, does it get any better (worse) than this – to really understand what the wanna-be in-crowd is supposed to believe?

Harari has demonstrated this “we-should-forget-history” idea by example.  In all of his cock-‘splainin’ about the war in Ukraine, he forget any history of NATO moving East, of NATO making the commitment of incorporating Georgia and Ukraine into the alliance, of Putin’s statement’s regarding this, of the western-fomented color-revolutions, of the cookie monsters visiting the mostly peaceful massacres, of Ukraine bombing its own citizens in the eastern part of the country, of the amassing of Ukrainian troops on the borders of the Donbas, of the president of Ukraine stating clearly he would develop nuclear weapons…oh, I could go on, but you get it.

Frankly, if a historian isn’t going to discuss history, why is he consulted as an expert?

Further, in his cock-‘splainin’, he spent not a word discussing any of the statements made by Putin or Lavrov.  It was all Putin-is-a-madman kind of stuff.  What is a historian who wants to forget history to do with his time?  I know. How about becoming an armchair psychiatrist?  He proceeds to explain that Putin is just…I don’t know, mad…crazy….

There was a lot of focus on Germany – Germany has to step up, lead Europe (now that Brexit and all that).  Of course, the crux of the matter is Germany – everything necessary has been done and must be done to keep Germany and Russia as antagonists.  To understand why, read Halford Mackinder – and keep in mind he gave this lecture in 1904, and, in my opinion, it explains every major war fought since that time.  It isn’t about oil, it isn’t about Zionism, it isn’t about communism, it isn’t about fascism, it isn’t about spreading liberal democracy.  Mackinder explains what it is.

And then, an amazing exchange.  Was the war the result of a failure of diplomacy?  Could a different approach have avoided the war?  To the first part, the answer is yes – clearly war is a failure of diplomacy (which is correct in this case, and I think all cases). 

To the second question Harari replies:

Is it a failure in the sense that a different diplomatic approach, some kind of other proposition would have stopped the war?  I don’t know, but it doesn’t seem like it.

This, of course, must be the answer if you just absolutely know that Putin is mad, crazy, insane.  Keep in mind – this is what people believe, or what they are told they should believe.  It is cock-‘splainin’.

Looking at events of the last few weeks [this video was published on March 2], it doesn’t seem that Putin was really interested in a diplomatic solution.  It seems that he was really interested in the war.

Of course, since the historian tells us to forget history, we need not look back more than a few weeks.  We need not consider the many proposals and statements made by Putin, Lavrov, and others (how about John Mearsheimer and Stephen Cohen, for example?).  We need to forget the Minsk Agreements, to which Ukraine was a party.

Monday, March 28, 2022

When the Angelic Doctor Was More Eastern than Western

 When Aquinas was translated into Greek and introduced in the East, he was beloved.

-          bionic mosquito

There’s one for you – starting off a post by quoting myself!  Well, in response to this line, a friend emailed me an article: Byzantine Thomism and the True Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue: “Breathing with Both Lungs”.  Coincidentally, it was published one day before my referenced post

This article offers some history regarding the Eastern love of Aquinas, and also introduces an institute working to expand this dialogue.

Many Catholics are unaware of the rich tradition of ‘Byzantine Thomism’ that budded in the two centuries prior to the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, and was critical to the successful, though short-lived, Union of Florence, healing the schism between East and West, in 1439.

Byzantine Thomism was characterized by a fruitful cross-pollination of St Thomas’ thought with the Greek Fathers….

I am guessing many Orthodox are also unaware of this – perhaps like keeping the crazy uncle hidden upstairs when guests come over.  As for Protestants, as I have written before, Luther was critical of Thomas and his Scholasticism without really having read or understood much of his work.

After the sacking of Constantinople by the Crusaders in 1204, “mendicant orders and the friars would…play a predominant role in the religious life of Latin Christians in the East.”  The author of this piece recognizes the sacking as “a great crime,” nevertheless he sees in it that through it “God may be affecting the good of reconciliation of East and West….” 

We have such examples in the Bible, so I really don’t want to dive into this point any further.  I only raise it for the history – how Aquinas was introduced in the East.  The first Dominicans came to Constantinople in 1232.  Even after the Byzantine recapture of Constantinople, the Catholic community in the city flourished.  It was through this community – specifically the Dominicans – that Aquinas came to be known.

The man responsible for the translation of both the Summa contra gentiles and the Summa theologica from Latin into Greek was the noble-born Byzantine scholar Demetrios Kydones in the 1350s, who remarked that St Thomas knew Plato and Aristotle better than the Greeks themselves.

Demetrios would become Imperial Prime Minister under three emperors.  He was a strong advocate for re-union with the Latin Church. Of course, this movement for reunion was also propelled by political considerations for the defense of Christendom against the Ottoman Muslims.

The Byzantines were also particularly impressed by the apologetic skills of Aquinas, which they put in the service of their own disputes with Mohammedanism.

Aquinas would reach a standing in the East that he would not achieve in the West until the late nineteenth century. 


Paradoxically, St Thomas Aquinas’ high reputation in Byzantium coincided with a low point in his reputation in Latin Christendom, partly because of the tragic rivalry between the different religious orders.

I am reminded of a lecture given by Fr. Michael Butler, an Orthodox priest, who better understood, and better advocated for, Thomistic natural law than most Catholic priests.  I reviewed his lecture here.


The Dialogos Institute is a theological institute founded in 2015 to help remedy this disaster by recovering the patristic heritage of the Church in the spirit of faithful Latin and Byzantine Thomism.

This Institute is mentioned several times in the article.  From the Institute’s website:

The Dialogos Institute is particularly devoted to the reintegration of the Byzantine and Latin traditions in theology, liturgy and spirituality. This is a delicate task in which it is important to preserve the distinction between the two traditions while allowing today’s faithful to drink deep from both streams in their purity.

The Dialogos Institute is a Romano-Byzantine theological institute devoted to the study of the patristic heritage in the spirit of Latin and Byzantine Thomism.

Returning to the sources of the faith through the Socratic method of disputation, the members of the Dialogos Institute seek to contribute to the renewal of Catholic Theology and Philosophy and an authentically Christian social order through fidelity to the united witness of the holy Fathers.

Sounds like worthwhile work to me.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

We All Have One Enemy…

 …and that's President Snow!

Katniss Everdeen

I bet if I asked for comments on where and why “the other” Christian tradition or denomination has erred in doctrine or theology, I would receive a thousand comments (I am NOT asking).  I am sure I could come up with a few dozen of my own, regarding just about every tradition or denomination (no, I am not going to do that either).

The more I have come to understand the whats and whys of the doctrinal disagreements, the more I have come to conclude that many of these (certainly not all) are just looking at different angles of the same picture, or emphasizing different aspects of the concept.  We have four Gospels for a reason, each with slightly different (or very different) points of emphasis, etc., and we have not denounced three of the four Gospel writers as heretics.

Further, on some of the more difficult items (the Trinity, a precise description of the nature of Christ, etc.), well, who are we fooling?

If God were small enough to be understood, He would not be big enough to be worshipped.

-          Evelyn Underhill

I recall someone once telling me that maybe the items that are not made clear in Scripture are things that perhaps we are not meant to understand.  We have enough trouble with the things that are made clear in Scripture….

Then, I have come to learn that there are Eastern Rite Churches under the pope, and there are Western Rite Orthodox Churches.  Go figure. 

Add to this the reality that in this world – certainly in the West – we are all Protestants; we each make a call about the church we attend, the form of worship that best suits us, etc.  We aren’t in pre-Reformation Europe, or in the Byzantine Empire, or in the post-conversion Russian Empire.

And then we have the first recorded sermon in the book of Acts, chapter 2, delivered by St. Peter.  Do you know what is in it?  The Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Do you know what’s not in it?  Pretty much everything that has divided Christians since.  Yet very few have had the success of Peter: 3,000 were added to their number that day.

In Acts chapter 13, the Apostle Paul had a similar message and he also didn’t get into any of the issues that divide Christians today.  This message was so well received that on the next Sabbath almost the whole city of Antioch “gathered to hear the word of the Lord.”  And this was before there was a written “word of the Lord!”

So…I came across a wonderful discussion between Austin Suggs and Fr. Patrick Cardine, a Western Rite Orthodox priest.  The relevant part begins here, in a section entitled Learning to Despise the West.  Fr. Patrick has written that he learned to despise the West at the same time he was learning to love the faith of the Orthodox Church.  This wasn’t happenstance.  He was taught to scorn by the same ones teaching him to love.  Yeah, a bit shocking when it is put that way, I know.

Where does this come from?  Fr. Patrick replies:

It’s not an abstract theory that is causing it; it’s a very concrete thing.  The apologetic materials that have been produced are laced with an anti-Western sentiment.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Nature, According to our Purpose

Based on my comment to a recent Paul VanderKlay video. 

This “meaning crisis” conversation will eventually come to a natural law ethic, or it will never resolve.

I have been making this point for quite some time now.  I am thinking that I really have to develop the why and how of it.  It seems so clear to me, but I don’t know that I have figured out how to explain it succinctly…if it can be.  I will settle for figuring out how to explain it over a series of posts.  Consider this one the start of that endeavor.  I take that back.  I have been “starting” for several years now.  Now it is time to get down to spelling it out.

In many ways, Jordan Peterson got this conversation rolling – certainly on the popular level.  How many people have said “I like the ‘clean up your room’ Jordan Peterson and the ‘take on responsibility’ Jordan Peterson and the ‘what kind of man would a woman want to marry’ Jordan Peterson.  But I don’t like the ‘Bill C-16 [compelled preferred pronoun speech]’ Jordan Peterson or the ‘political’ Jordan Peterson.”

As if any of this can be separated.  First of all, since everything is now political…well, how can you separate gender pronouns from anything else Peterson says?  Next, and far more important: Peterson has been pointing to the meaning crisis, especially evident in Western men, but evident throughout Western society. 

Peterson didn’t introduce the phrase “meaning crisis” (I think John Vervaeke might have), but he certainly captured and described it.  If gender confusion can’t be understood in the context of the meaning crisis, then there is no such thing as a meaning crisis.

I have, in the past, compelled Paul VanderKlay to address natural law, dedicating a complete video to an email I sent to him.  Since then (and even before then), on and off, I have made comments regarding the necessity of this ethic if any sanity is to return to the West and to the individuals residing in it.

Recently he has started commenting more along these lines – albeit (at least to me), somewhat confusingly.  For example, in his adult Sunday school class, he has begun teaching on Romans 1.  Now, go and read Romans 1, beginning with verse 18.  Tell me, can you read this passage without a) coming face to face with the idea of natural law, and b) finding a direct application to a topic that is tearing the Western Church (of most denominations) apart?

So I wrote the following comment:

Really tough to avoid natural law - both at a high level (it is known by all men) and for specific applications (like that thing you are not allowed to preach on in Canada) - when one is reading Romans 1....

Read the passage in Romans if it isn’t clear to you what I am talking about.  And read this if you aren’t familiar with the Canadian law.  In any case, PVK replied:

Is same sex attraction "natural"?" I think "natural law" without a very careful definition falls apart.

Which confused me to no end.  My reply:

Your reply confuses me, as the Apostle Paul says precisely the opposite. 

Natural law can only make sense in the context of understand the purpose of the thing:

As to this specific application of natural law, beside the words of Paul (and other places in Scripture), once one accepts that man is made for a purpose and that each part of man (and woman) is also made for a purpose, the careful definition is clear.  What is the purpose of the thing?  In this case, anatomy and physiology make clear the purpose.

Either I didn’t understand PVK’s reply, or he really doesn’t understand anything about natural law or the source for the ethic.  I just hope I never have to get more graphic or detailed….

I continue:

Or, we can be like Sam Harris - there is no purpose in anything.  There either is purpose in the world and all that is in it, or there isn't.  I don't think we are free to pick and choose - some things have purpose and others don't.  Talk about a random and chaotic world.  But, then again, this is what modernity is trying to do. 

And post-modernity has completed the task – stripping purpose from everything.

Hence, the meaning crisis.  Hence, why this discussion must, if it is to bear any fruit, sooner or later find its way to a natural law ethic.

Which is still all background to my most recent comment at his site, and background for this post.  In my most recent comment, I am responding to and building on something PVK said, where he described the ancient view of “natural.”  He said something like: “from the Greek, it means nature as in plant growth.”  Which should make things abundantly clear…but I worked to spell it out:

An acorn grows into an oak – this is natural, according to its purpose.  The meaning of “natural” means this if it to mean anything. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Age Does Not Equal Maturity


Two recent videos on the topic of Russia and Ukraine.  One at Pints with Aquinas between Matt Fradd and Fr Jason Charron.  The second at Gospel Simplicity between Austin Suggs and Fr John Strickland.

From Pints with Aquinas: Responding to Archbishop Viganò & What's Going on in Ukraine w/ Fr Jason Charron

Fr Charron has ties to Ukraine, and Fradd just visited there in the wake of the war.

I made it through about ten minutes of this two-hour plus video.  It was a lot of ranting, all sympathetic to the Ukrainian story.  Also, while not commenting on any of the details in the Vigano letter, certain that it wasn’t authored by Vigano.  Also, just because the media has lied to us about covid and everything else, doesn’t mean we should not believe them this time.

I am sure I am oversimplifying or overstating.  And perhaps things calmed down after the first ten minutes.  But reading the comments, a good portion had similar reactions.  My comment:

Ten minutes in.  This rant is too much.

If you intend to discuss issues involving international relations, get someone unemotional about and knowledgeable on the topic - preferably someone who can rationally present a view other than the CNN-style "Russia bad, everyone else good."

And this was the real mess of the video.  Was it a discussion of empathy, or was it an examination of international relations?  All of the emotion of people connected to one side of the situation – I get it.  But then at the same time acting as if they can rationally address the complexity of the situation, the points in Vigano’s letter, etc. 

Continuing my comment:

In the meantime, one can feel tremendous sorrow for the people of Ukraine at this time.  Too bad the same wasn't felt for the thousands killed by Ukrainian shelling in the Donbass over the last eight years.

And if you are going to have an international relations discussion on the topic, at least bring to the fore the actual statements by Putin, Lavrov, even Vigano, and address these one by one.

Now to Gospel Simplicity: Orthodox Priest and Russian Historian Explains the Historical Background to the War in Ukraine.  The priest is Fr Strickland, and regular readers know that I am in the middle of reviewing his third in an anticipated four-part series on the history of Christendom – East and West.  What I have found regarding Fr Strickland through his writing is that he is able to remain reasonably dispassionate about a topic for which it is easy to fall hard on one side or the other – he is, after all, an Orthodox priest.

Friday, March 11, 2022

A Hodge-Podge of Random Thoughts

Lots going on, lots on my mind.  As they say, here is a data dump.

Truly Non-Player Characters

In video games, [non-player character (NPC)] usually means a character controlled by the computer (instead of a player) that has a predetermined set of behaviors that potentially will impact gameplay, but will not necessarily be the product of true artificial intelligence.

It is truly amazing how quickly everyone’s attention went from all covid all the time to Russia, Russia, Russia, Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine.  A month ago, I was already overwhelmingly impressed at the level of propaganda mind-control that could be exercised over the mass of humanity.  But then, to see how quickly this mass could be directed toward a new enemy – from an almost harmless virus to Putin.  It is stunning.

In true NPC manner, they have “a predetermined set of behaviors that potentially will impact gameplay.”

Speaking of an Almost Harmless Virus

Wasn’t it just a few weeks ago that this covid situation was so dangerous that truckers were required to be jabbed in order to cross a border, that companies were demanding employees to be jabbed, that colleges were requiring students to be jabbed?  That Trudeau enacted a war measure?

Now…no masks, no jab talk, nothing.  I know, it is only a brief respite and that there are a few holdouts of covidian true believers. 

Unfortunately, some version of it will return, and the masses will once again lap it up.

The Solutions Seem So Simple

-          All Trudeau had to do regarding truckers was to remove the mandates.

-          All the West had to do regarding Ukraine was ensure it wasn’t a threat to Russia.

-          All Biden had to do regarding Keystone was to allow it to proceed.

-          All Germany had to do was authorize the opening of Nord-Stream II.

Let’s Not Forget the Peaceful Riots

Oh, to go back to the halcyon days of the summer of 2020, when – even in the face of a devastating pandemic – the bravest among us defied the authorities and decided to gather maskless in large numbers….

As is proper in a well-functioning democracy, they were left free to peacefully riot.  How else would the government understand the will of the people?  After all, cancelling opinions contrary to the mainstream is no way to ensure that all voices are heard.

And then we had the street ice-hockey terrorists in Ottawa.  As opposed to the peaceful riots from eighteen months earlier, these people had to audacity to honk their horns and bring bouncy castles for the kids.

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

The First Schism


The Council of Chalcedon was the fourth ecumenical council of the Christian church, convoked by Emperor Marcian. The council convened in Chalcedon, Bithynia (modern day Kadıköy, Turkey) from 8 October to 1 November 451.

The council, attended by 520 bishops or their representatives, was the largest and best-documented of the first seven ecumenical councils.

The principal purpose of the council was to re-assert the doctrine of the Council of Ephesus against the heresy derivative of Eutyches and Nestorius. Such heresies attempted to dismantle and separate Christ's divine nature from his humanity (Nestorianism) and further, to limit Christ as solely divine in nature (Monophysitism).

One nature or two?  If two, how was the relationship of the two natures to be understood?  The question of one nature or two was settled.  The precise language of how it was settled resulted in the first schism:

This disagreement would later inform the separation of the Oriental Orthodox Churches from the rest of Christianity, and led to the Council being regarded as "Chalcedon, the Ominous".

The topic interests me for several reasons.  The primary reason is that the divisions of the Church (and this being the first formal division) have been a stumbling block on many levels; for the purposes of this blog, this includes the level of liberty.

I have written of this disagreement before, concluding that I can’t figure out a hairs’ worth of difference in the Christological statements of the Chalcedonian as opposed to non-Chalcedonian Churches.  Obviously, there is a difference.  But my confusion may have some merit, and foundation….

From the channel Reason & Theology, a conversation with Dr. Richard Price.  First, who is Richard Price?

Richard Price is Professor Emeritus of the History of Christianity, Heythrop College and Honorary Research Fellow, Royal Holloway, University of London.

He also is Fr. Price.  Heythorp College was affiliated with the Catholic Church – was, because as of 2018 it is permanently closed.  As will be mentioned by him later, he identifies as a Chalcedonian.

He has written on Church history and especially on several of the early Councils.  As I have previously noted, he translated The Acts of the Council of Chalcedon, translating using both the Greek and Latin.  It is fair to say he is quite an expert on this topic – hence his views on this Council and the split should be taken seriously.

Much of the conversation is inside baseball – you have to know many details not only of Chalcedon but also other Church councils (I don’t).  Here I will focus on the controversy – the factors behind the split of the Oriental Orthodox from the then unified Church.

Dr. Price is asked: Why did Chalcedon receive such a bad reception in the East in the later part of the fifth century?  Keep in mind, “East” here does not only refer to the Oriental Orthodox Churches.

Price starts at the end:

Constantinople II (553) was concerned to reaffirm Chalcedon, but to give it a much more strongly Cyrillian interpretation. 

This was about 100 years after Chalcedon.  As you can imagine, with so much water under the bridge, mending fences grows more difficult – and Price will point to this issue shortly.

He then provides some background:

I don’t think the Chalcedonian definition did an entirely satisfactory job. 

He will get no disagreement from me.

Monday, March 7, 2022

Apocalypse Then


A third of Christendom, it was estimated, had perished of the plague.

Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World, by Tom Holland

We are now in the aftermath of this catastrophe.  It was not the only shock to Christendom, but it certainly also cannot be assumed to be separate from the other shocks.

The Byzantines, having finally freed themselves from the blow of the Crusaders in 1261, were facing the new threat of the Ottoman Turks.  Constantinople was in sight; even the defenses of Hungary were already probed.

And then there was the papal schism.  After a council of bishops declared both rival popes deposed in 1409 and then crowning a new candidate of their own, they ended up with not two popes, but three.  Scandal built upon scandal.  Instead of holding the keys to the kingdom, was the papacy, instead, an agent of hell?

John Wycliffe would denounce both factions in the schism as demonic, and stated that the papacy was lacking in divine foundation.  But it was in Prague where the most explosive reaction would be felt.  The resentment of wealth – especially the wealth of the monasteries; the reforms of Gregory VII, instead of redeeming the Church, sent it on a path of corruption; the papacy seduced by the power of earthly glory.

Only Antichrist could have wrought such a fateful, such a hellish abomination.  And so it was, in the streets of Prague, that is had become a common thing to paint the pope as the beast foretold by Saint John….

Jan Hus would serve as the lightning rod for this movement.  He attracted not only the peasants, but the Czech noblemen as well (being freed from the divided authority made possible by the Church was desired by many such nobles).  In 1414, in the imperial city of Constance, the heresy of Prague’s most celebrated preacher would be put on trial.

Hus would travel to Constance under safe conduct guaranteed by emperor-elect Sigismund.  Arriving on 3 November, he would be placed under arrest three weeks later then burned at the stake with his ashes dumped in the Rhine River.

These events did not calm the storm of the Hussite subversion.  In the wake of the execution, denunciations in Prague of the pope as Antichrist only increased, and were made openly.  Sigismund was not immune to denunciation – due to his treachery regarding the lack of safe conduct.

As an aside, I have read elsewhere the claim (excuse?) that the safe conduct was technically only offered for the journey to Constance – one-way.  Why Hus would have then taken the journey is difficult to fathom.

In 1419, conservatives attempted a crackdown in Prague.  It backfired.  Hussites stormed city hall, flinging their opponents out of its windows.  They seized control of churches throughout the city.  Through this, the Taborites, under the leadership of Jan Žižka, would launch a surprise attack on Sigismund, who was attempting to besiege Prague to submission.  Sigismund was forced to withdraw.  By 1424, all of Bohemia was brought under Žižka’s rule.

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Not For Everyone


A video discussion between Austin Suggs, a student at the Moody Bible Institute, and Fr. Anthony Mourad of the Coptic Orthodox Church.  Good for a Sunday. 

Suggs, for such a young man and having grown up in a seeker-type church (fog machines, etc.), has a tremendous knowledge of the Christian traditions and history.  And because he is a young man, he doesn’t carry the baggage of “everyone else is a heretic,” as he is able to have heartfelt discussions with Christians of all traditions and denominations.

To set the playing field, the Coptic Church is one of the handful of Orthodox Churches that parted ways after the Council of Chalcedon with what was until then a unified, Universal and Orthodox Church.  This discussion, about one hour long, explores the split behind Chalcedon, the hope for a unification again of the Orthodox Churches, what the Coptic Church can teach the broader Christian community, and many other topics.

I will only note one statement, by Fr. Anthony, a statement which touches on the Chalcedonian split:

Every single liturgy before the distribution of the Holy Eucharist, the priest, in front of the entire congregants, all those who are there to participate in the Mysteries, says the following prayer:

Amen, amen, amen; I believe, I believe, I believe.  And I confess to the last breath that this is the lifegiving flesh that your only begotten Son our Lord, God, and Savior the Lord Jesus Christ, took from Our Lady, the Lady of us all, the Holy Theotokos, St. Mary.

He made it one with His divinity, without mingling, without confusion, and without alteration.  He confessed a good confession before Pontius Pilate.  He gave it up for us upon the Holy wood of the Cross of His own will for us all.  Truly I believe that His Divinity parted not from His humanity for a single moment nor a twinkling of an eye.  It was given to us for salvation and remission of sins, and eternal life for those who partake of Him.

I believe, I believe, I believe that this is true.  Amen.

This prayer is said every single divine liturgy.  When you hear that, there is absolutely no room for the accusation of the Coptic Church’s Monophysitism. 

From this discussion, I have come away with the following resources:

·         An English translation, taken from both the Greek and Latin, of The Acts of the Council of Chalcedon (the book is too expensive; a google books preview is here).

·         A video discussion on the Council, with the author of the aforementioned book, Dr. Richard Price (which I have yet to watch, but will).

·         The Council of Chalcedon Re-Examined, by V.C. Samuel (which I will purchase).

·         A YouTube channel, Coptic Orthodox Answers (to which I will now pay some attention).

Friday, March 4, 2022

The Eastern Church, Aquinas, and Morality


Matt Fradd, of Pints with Aquinas, had a conversation with Dr. Matthew Minerd.  From Minerd’s profile page:

We all have many identities, arranged in a kind of hierarchy. For my part, I am a Ruthenian Catholic, raised Roman Catholic in a mixed American-Slavic and Appalachian cultural context in Southwestern PA, a husband and father, a seminary professor, a translator.

Professor of Philosophy and Moral Theology, Byzantine Catholic Seminary of Ss. Cyril and Methodius

The Byzantine Catholics are an Eastern Church under the authority of the pope.  To make a long story short – and such things are, to put it simply, complicated: at the time of the schism in 1054, this was an Eastern Orthodox Church.  Several hundred years later, in the mid-seventeenth century, about five dozen clergy from this tradition were accepted into the Catholic Church.  They continue to utilize the Byzantine rite.

A few of the questions raised and answers offered in this discussion are worth exploring.

Why no Aquinas in the East?

Minerd, despite belonging to a church within the Eastern tradition, has a love for Thomas Aquinas.  Fradd asks: why does the East have such a problem with Aquinas?

There are two things: first, a fundamentally different idea of what theology is.  The West tends to use the word theology to refer to something like theological science – an academic theology.  It has much to do with the reception of Aristotle in the thirteenth century – a huge sea-change, from a monastic idea to this scholastic model.

While there is also some of this in the East, it is not nearly as pronounced.  In the East, the coin of the realm is mystical theology.  Minerd sees this as an outgrowth of the university culture in the West – the West has become wealthy and urbanized by this point.

I recall something from Jonathan Pageau, citing an Orthodox deacon, who said something along the lines of: Catholics view the elements as real; Protestants view the elements as a symbol.  The Orthodox view the elements as real because they are a symbol.

It is clear that, on the whole, the Orthodox Church is more comfortable with mystery than is the Catholic Church (to say nothing of most Protestant denominations).

If you ever read the later scholastics, it is so technical.  This can only exist in a high-level society.

Continuing, and after saying, under his breath: “you’re going to get me in trouble”:

There is a kind of insecurity [in the Eastern Church] that you are going to get swallowed up if you start talking in a Western way.  So, you have to push against Aquinas totally, or against scholasticism totally.

There is a fear of getting lost in scholastic precision, although, in his view, this is not at all a problem regarding Aquinas so much as it is a problem with later scholastics. 

What neither of them mention – and this has been true of most people who I see engaged in this discussion – is the move to nominalism in the scholastics that came after Thomas.  This continues to strike me as having a profound impact, but I am wondering if I am the only one who believes this…which maybe means I am wrong.  But I don’t think so – many non-Catholics certainly have noted this as a significant change.

He made an interesting point – that the Eastern Church sees the Western Church as doing little more than “let’s look at what Aquinas has said.”  I say interesting, because it brings to mind my recent post of Fr. Michael Butler, an Orthodox priest, speaking of the lost history of natural law in the Eastern patristics.

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Jordan Peterson Interviews a Warmonger


Jordan Peterson decided to get educated on the situation in Ukraine.

I reached out to some of my contacts who have some intellectual credibility and political expertise to find out who could be contacted to provide an update for everyone, me included, on the unfolding situation in Russia and Ukraine and Dr. Frederick Kagan’s name popped up instantly.

I made it through about 15 minutes of this garbage.  I could have heard the same thing in about two minutes on CNN.  If the guest’s last name hasn’t provided a clue as to why, let me fill you in.

Frederick Kagan is Robert’s brother.  Robert is Victoria Nuland’s husband.  Frederick is married to Kimberly, president of the Institute for the Study of War.  Donald is the father of Frederick and Robert; the two of them wrote a book together: While America Sleeps: Self-Delusion, Military Weakness, and the Threat to Peace Today (2000).  I’d say, fortuitous timing on the book.

Frederick, Robert, and Donald were all signatories to the Project for the New American Century.

As to the fifteen minutes I heard?  Russia bad, Ukraine good; Russia bad, America good; Russia bad, NATO good.  Oh…and Putin bad, Putin bad, Putin bad.

Peterson, meanwhile, asked some of the most ignorant questions – which meant he was ripe for being fed bullshit.  But the one question that got me to quit watching was when he asked Kagan if the Russian Orthodox Church is under the authority of the pope.

While the discussion was horrendous, as you can imagine and for the few minutes I watched it, the comment section was encouraging – a clear majority (maybe overwhelming majority) pillorying Peterson and Kagan.  Some examples:

·         This interview was garbage from beginning to end.

·         NATO is not only a defensive alliance, it bombed Yugoslavia with no attacks from it on NATO members

·         I miss Prof Cohen.  And listening to this guy, who seems to be a typical Putin-hater, reminded me

·         Kagan is way off base. No mention of the Nazi brigades, no mention of bloated militarization of Ukraine, the illegal Maidan coup, etc. Everything is Putin, Putin, Putin. Donbas is mostly Russian speaking and they are a cancelled abused people. Kagan should take his academic ego and crawl back under his know it all rock. Bad choice JP! You can do better!

·         Kagan's failure to mention Ukraine's state sponsored neonazi forces shows his hand. I don't trust or believe him.

·         Frederick Kagan is schilling for the Neocons.

There were several suggestions that Peterson speak to John Mearsheimer.  This, instead of providing almost two hours of free air time to CNN and Fox News, would at least offer an alternative view.


With Peterson, it always seems to be one step forward, two steps back.