GOD and REASON
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Baptism lays upon the Catholic Christian the “ex professo” commitment to bearing witness to the fullness of divine revelation. This is in fact one of the main reasons why his Christianity is called “Catholic” (=“universal”) in the first place. But the Catholic Christian also knows that man’s unconditional Yes to God’s whole Word presupposes man’s capacity for the whole of reality; he knows that (Catholic) faith presupposes reason, “zeal for thy house,” the eros of the intelligence. Catholic witness to revelation also includes witness to reason—or else it is no longer Catholic.
It seems virtually impossible to overemphasize the Church’s “investment” in reason, especially at a time when reason’s academic guardians often explain it away complacently either as an epiphenomenon of the brain or as a mask of power. In each of their different ways, the five articles that the Winter, 2005 issue of Communio gathers under the title God and Reason argue against fashionable calls for “disinvestment” in reason.
In doing so, they also set the stage for the bioethical debate that occupies the bulk of the other half of the present issue, on which more in a moment.
In “Rationality and Faith in God,” Robert Spaemann shows that, whatever we make of the enterprise of proving God’s existence, God and reason stand or fall together.
Similarly, D. C. Schindler’s “‘Wie kommt der Mensch in die Philosophie?’: Heidegger, Hegel, and the Stakes of Onto-Theo-Logy” argues that philosophical reason’s effort to speak of God is not necessarily presumption or idolatry, but can express the deepest reverential humility: the kind that refuses any limit on God’s free self-disclosure, even the limit of its own modesty.
David L. Schindler, in “Truth, Freedom, and Relativism in Western Democracies: Benedict XVI’s Contributions to Without Roots,” then describes why reason—according to the new Pope—is integral to the political order, providing a critique of liberalism that overcomes it, not by force, but by witness to freedom as the truth of love.
The last two articles round out our discussion by underscoring how the promise of eternal life enhances reason’s grasp of the ultimate character of things.
Thus, in “Restoration of Sonship. Reflections on Time and Eternity,” Antonio López shows how the revelation that eternity is triune gift deepens pagan philosophy’s (Plotinus’, to be exact) intuition that eternity does not negate time, but fulfills it.
Similarly, Denis Farkasfalvy, in “The Eucharistic Presence: A Study in Biblical Theology,” argues that the foundation of Christian eschatological hope, Jesus’ bodily Resurrection, is also the key to the ontology of the Eucharist as a trans-substantiation. The discussion of God and reason thus closes with a reminder that the Bible bears ontological meaning and that ontology can be biblical.
Just as the Catholic Christian is committed “ex professo” to defending reason, he is also committed “ex professo” to defending nature. In particular, he is called on to protect the fundamental distinction between the natural and the artificial, the born and the made, especially as this pertains to the beginnings of human life. If we return once again to the theme of Biotechnology and Morality: The Altered Nuclear Transfer Proposal. Part V (Part IV appears online at www.communio-icr.com), it is because the ANT-OAR proposal raises a constellation of subtle issues that go to the heart of this distinction, and of the question regarding our ability to manipulate and control human life in its origins.
In “ANT-OAR: Is Its Underlying Philosophy of Biology Sound?” José Granados argues that OAR repeats the problem critics first detected in the original ANT proposal: it may alter the process of early human development, but it does not thereby alter its starting-point, which is the same as the coming-into-being of a new human individual.
Next follow two critiques of Communio’s editorial position on ANT-OAR. Stuart W. Swetland and William L. Saunders, responding to David L. Schindler in their “Joint Statement on the Oocyte Assisted Reprogramming (OAR) Proposal: A Response to Criticisms,” argue that, by preventing the new entity from reaching a zygotic epigenetic state, OAR also prevents it from ever having been a human being in the first place.
E. Christian Brugger offers a similar response to Schindler in “ANT-OAR: A Morally Acceptable Means of Deriving Pluripotent Stem Cells. A Reply to Criticisms”: Schindler, Brugger claims, fails to understand the relation between zygotic epigenetics and human identity and runs afoul of the Aristotelian-Thomistic understanding of the relation between form and matter in the constitution of an organism (substance).
Emphasizing the temporal and ontological difference between the beginning and the end of the epigenetic reprogramming process, and providing a different reading of Aristotle, Adrian J. Walker, in the two articles that follow, responds both to Brugger, “Reasonable Doubts. A Reply to E. Christian Brugger” and to an article by Edward J. Furton that appeared last year in the National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly: “Who are the Real Aristotelians? A Reply to Edward J. Furton.”
David L. Schindler, in “Agere sequitur esse: What Does It Mean? A Reply to Father Austriaco,” shows that Austriaco (like other OAR proponents) filters his claim about the relation between the zygotic epigenetic state and human identity through a misreading of the agere sequitur esse principle that actually turns it upside down. Schindler then outlines his own understanding of the Thomistic notion of an organism as this pertains to the ANT-OAR proposal.
Notes and Comments appropriately closes the issue with two selections that have to do with the flesh, which, as Tertullian famously put it, is what our salvation hinges on.
Gintautas Vaitoska, in “On the Relationship Between Contraception and Hardness of Heart,” shows how contraceptive sex destroys the tender intimacy at the heart of erotic love between man and woman.
In “Christmas Martyria: The Octave of the Word Made Flesh,” Michael Heintz highlights the recurrence of the martyrdom theme in the Octave of Christmas and so the connection between martyrdom and the Incarnation that the liturgy wishes to place before us for our contemplation.
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