Sunday, April 30, 2006

Karl Holl and Stanley Grenz quotes:

Holl (from "The Reconstruction of Moratlity")--

(p. 94) "Luther – unlike Kant, and in express opposition to Aristotle – did not think the highest goal is attained where rational deliberation makes the correct choice among various possibilities of action. Action is truly moral, truly free, only when the good has become so instinctive that the only thought that presents itself is the correct one and this is at once implemented."


Grenz (from "The Moral Quest")--

(p. 137) "The great philosophers believed that at least to some extent the human moral problem was due to ignorance; evil is an error in judgement. Consequently the antidote to evil is knowledge, for correct knowledge leads to correct action or virtuous conduct...Beneath the surface of this understanding of the ethical task is a presupposition that forms the guiding dictum of enlightened humanism in every age, namely, that if people obtain knowledge of the right they can and will do the right.

"Augustine was too heavily influenced by the Bible to adhere slavishly to this principle. He came to see that the human moral problem is not merely ignorance. We do not only lack the knowledge of what is right, we also lack the ability to do what the law commands. And as a result, we cannot do what we know we ought to do. In fact, humans can knowingly and freely choose what is evil. We have the uncanny knack of knowing what we ought to do, even anticipating the unwholesome consequences of an evil act, and yet choosing to engage in conduct we clearly perceive will be to our detriment and to the detriment of others."

--These quotes perfectly describe the lay of the land! JZ


mattie said...

Good stuff, John. I wonder if there might be room for ecumenical dialogue between Catholic/Orthodox and Protestants on that idea of "non-freedom." I just read "Incarnate Love: Essays in Orthodox Ethics" by Vigen Guroian for my Moral Theology class and this Holl quote made me think of something Guroian wrote:

"An Eastern Orthodox ethic values virtue highly, but not rationalistically so. The virtuous person is not Aristotle’s spoudaios, in whom right reason alone reigns supreme. Such a person is, rather, the new Adam, the theantropic being in whom divine love is incarnated and creature is reunited with creator." (p. 13)

I know Luther didn't advocate a sort of deification, but I wonder if his idea of the will being bound to Christ might be more similar to sanctification via theosis... I know there are questions of agency, but in either approach there is an emphasis on surrendering in faith to a formation of character, not a move towards holiness as a choice to be made, but holiness as something that makes us.

Jeff Dean said...

Hey Mattie,

Most of the Catholic or Orthodox commentary on Luther that I've encountered (well, the stuff that takes him seriously, anyway), says he can't really be understood apart from a conception of theosis.

The question is, how do we define the "holiness" or the "divinity" into which Christians united to Christ by faith are drawn?

Alister McGrath and Gerhard Forde have consistantly argued that Luther's "Theology of the Cross" means that God is so radically distinct and "Other" to this world that suffering and pain are the only places where is his made known.

The feminist critique of that position is that it empowers oppression by arguing oppressors or those who suffer oppression are honoring God.

The post-modern critique (of which you and I are so found) argues that attempting to run head-long into suffering because you think that is the right thing to do is ultimately just another attempt at reaching glory.

Its being a victim, being broken and abandoned--suffering that we experience but cannot engender for ourselves--wherein we are united to the crucified Christ.

von Balthasar, who takes Luther and Barth very seriously, writes of this in his Theo-Drama, where he claims that the Catholic Church is correct to assert that God dwells in the beauty of Holiness, but he argues that beauty is most beautifully displayed in the horror of the cross--not for its own sake, but for the manner in which it subverts the wordly conception of beauty.

We are indeed being joined to Christ and drawn into the life of God, but, in the world, this means only crucifixion and death.

mike burton said...

Hey Jeff,

As far as this goes:

"The question is, how do we define the "holiness" or the "divinity" into which Christians united to Christ by faith are drawn?"

I think "holiness" in terms of "we" is simply "being set apart".

I think at some point, "holy" and "righteous" became synonyms. Of couse if we view them as such, which they aren't, we're getting caught up in a bit of a confusion of language. Perhaps our disagreements don't run as deep as they appear.

I can be holy as a Christian and still lack the righteousness required to stand blameless before God. Even further, I can concievably become more holy as I trek along my Christian journey.

Righteousness, however, is something of which I am comletely short.

Thus, the righteousness God requires comes through Christ.

Maybe I'm wrong about the "holy/righteous" thing.

Any thoughts?


mattie said...

Mike -

I'm inrigued by your distinction... I don't know Greek or Hebrew (I get to start that journey this fall... uck). The OED says that "holy" is "in Christian use, Free from all contamination of sin and evil, morally and spiritually perfect and unsullied, possessing the infinite moral perfection which Christianity attributes to the Divine character" whereas righteous is "guiltless, sinless; conforming to the standard of the divine or the moral law; acting rightly or justly." Sounds pretty similar to me, of course, a scriptural trace of the terms in original language may very well back you up. The major difference, as I think you may be pointing out is that we can talk about degrees of holiness but not degrees of righteousness. I think that is a promising distinction; in other words, sanctification (in this life) occurs, making us holier, but never righteous. That I can reconcile with the scriptural record and the position of the Catholic church. That might also address the "purgatory" question brought up in a different thread (in that there is a need for the scripturally accurate "fire" of purgation, be it instant or persisting, that we must pass through to attain *righteousness* regardless of our *holiness* before entering the presence of the holy and righteous one, God). Just speculation.

Jeff - I just checked out some of von Balthazar's books from the library a few days ago, so I'll definately check that out. Are there specific RC/EO theologians you know of who use the theosis idea to address Luther? I'd love to read that!

As to your other points, I understand the centrality of the cross to Christian theology, regardless of denomination. Nevertheless, the incarnation, life, and resurrection of Christ cannot simply be relegated to afterthoughts in understanding the salvific role of Christ. If Christ was simply crucified, we would not worship him. It is because he was raised that we know he is God. Many, many in the history of the world have been executed by the state for making messianic or authoritative claims; no others have overcome that death sentence. So, while we are joined to Christ in his suffering (and the importance of that ought not be obscured) we are also joined to Christ when we are able to love those who are victims as well. We are joined to Christ when we are able to share the gospel. We are joined to Christ when we experience forgiveness for making another (or ourselves) a victim. I think there is a "subversion" of "the world-ly" in this, but it is risky to turn that into an alienation from the whole of creation, for all are being redeemed, not just those who are obviously victims. Christ called a tax collector as an apostle, after all, who was a victimizer more than a victim...