For Thanksgiving, I was invited to the home of Tom and Kit Greerty, along with several other DSPT students. Tom is an attorney and former college football player (for Oregon State!) who is taking some classes at the DSPT, and who is one of the friendliest fellows you're likely to meet. As such, he and his wife like to invite students to their home who don't have elsewhere to go on holidays. There were about 10 or so of us students, as well as members of Tom and Kit's family. We chatted theology and philosophy by the fireside while a student in jazz guitar strummed for us. We enjoyed a delicious meal and sparkling conversation. And we partook in an epic, back-and-forth game of Trivial Pursuit that ended in defeat for my team (though, in our defense, they got WAY easier questions than we did... luck of the draw). I am quite thankful to my gracious hosts for their hospitality.
The Thanksgiving break was a good opportunity to get some work done on a few impending projects. There are only about three weeks left in the semester, and a few papers will have to be written before that time. It's going to be a bit of a marathon, but I think I've been sufficiently ahead of the game for things to get done without my losing my sanity. Hopefully.
I cannot go without being mentioned that my beloved Fighting Irish are 12-0, and await a date with destiny in the national championship game against whatever team emerges from the SEC title game. To those who consider SEC football teams automatically superior to any other foe, I will say only this: don't sleep on Notre Dame. 12 other teams made that mistake this year.
In class this week...
Intro to New Testament: Last week's class reminded me of a favorite quip of mine. We were discussing the Gospel of Mark and its features, one of which is the "Messianic Secret." This refers to all of those instances where someone, be it a blind man who is healed or a demon who is expelled, proclaims that Jesus is the Messiah, but Jesus orders them not to tell anyone. Why would he do this? It seems that Mark's Gospel is set up such that it culminates at the crucifixion with the centurion's confession, "Truly this was the Son of God"--you can't really know Jesus as the Messiah until you see him crucified. But anyway, to the joke: keep this repetition of Jesus ordering that he not be identified as the Messiah in mind. "So many Catholics are so private about their faith that it seems they think the most important of Jesus' commandments was: 'Go and tell no one.'" That's funny!
Aristotelian Logic: This story is actually from a few weeks ago, and has nothing to do with logic, but the story was told during logic class, so I'm going with it: our teacher told of a priest he knew who happened to have taught Pope John Paul II when the pontiff was a seminary student. After the pope's election, he was in a procession and spotted his old professor, shouting, "My teacher!" The priest then quipped, "Remember, Holy Father, that no student is above his master." Ha!
Philosophy of Nature: Work continues apace on my research project regarding ancient and medieval theories on "intellectual substances"/angels as the movers of the celestial spheres. I think most people would be surprised if they were told this was a perfectly straightforward scientific theory that had only been falsified once additional data was found, no different than the physical theories of Kepler, Copernicus, or Newton. Given what they knew about motion, Aristotle and Aquinas reasoned to certain conclusions. Perfectly scientific. Now, people might read that idea and laugh; physicists at one time also laughed at the idea that the universe had a beginning. Physicists in the 20th century. They thought it so obvious that, of course, the universe was eternal. Yeah. The point is, even if something sounds silly to you with the knowledge you have now, it doesn't mean it wasn't reasonable at a different time with the knowledge they had then.
Ancient Philosophy: One of the best things I've gained from this class is a greater knowledge of the sorts of philosophical ideas and categories that early Christian theologians used to help sort out some of the questions that arose about the Trinity, the nature(s) of Christ, etc. There are many examples of the Church Fathers taking a bit of "pagan" philosophy and saying, "Actually, that expresses rather well what we're trying to get it; let's just tweak it here and there, and it can work." Case in point: we read Plotinus' account of the nature of the One or the Good, which then generates the universal Intellect and the universal Soul, calling them three "hypostases." So, basically, the Neo-Platonist movement taught that the ultimate reality, the One, was really three. Sound familiar? As Fr. Ludwig put it: "These terms have a long history ahead of them in the Christian tradition." Fascinating.