Divinity and Humanity: Incomparable by Nature?

Hume


A belief in God or religion has often been used to advance scholarly arguments that attempt to discredit the notion of a human-like God. For example, David Hume’s Dialogues is a simulated conversation between philosophers who use reason in an attempt to gain a greater understanding about the nature of God. One character, Philo, affirms his belief in god as “the original cause of the universe,” treating his existence as “unquestionable and self-evident,” but he challenges his friend Demea for using analogical reasoning to ascribe human characteristics and traits to God (Hume, 44). Philo argues that God is “infinitely superior to our limited view and comprehension;” therefore, it would be unfair to attempt to describe God’s nature as having a “likeness to the perfections of a human creature” (Hume, 44). Since “we have no experience of divine attributes and operations,” even traits such as “wisdom, thought, design, and knowledge” – traits that are considered virtuous among men – are inappropriate to describe God’s nature since they are concepts that only operate within the scope of human understanding (Hume, 45).

Another character, Cleanthes, objects to Philo’s claim and explains how his observations of the world around them – as “one great machine subdivided into lesser machines” – lead him to believe that nature’s complexity is indeed indicative of an intelligent designer, who he likens to a craftsman (Hume, 45). Philo responds in turn by pointing out that Cleanthes’ argument is flawed for its use of “weak analogies,” because he is drawing comparisons between the universe as a whole and certain parts of the universe; for example, it is reasonable to conclude that a house has an architect behind it, but when a house is compared to the universe the dissimilitude between both cases will “diminish proportionally the evidence” (Hume, 46).

However, Philo continues to take issue with the idea of anthropomorphizing God, and he states that doing so will “renounce all claim to infinity in any of the attributes of the deity” (Hume, 68). He explains that the mind of God should not have the likeness of a human mind, when our minds are possessed of limited understanding. Moreover, Philo points out that it becomes impossible to assert that God created the world perfectly; in short, if God’s work bears a likeness to “human art and contrivance,” then it is unreasonable to believe that he is “free from every error, mistake, or incoherence in his undertakings” (Hume, 68-9). Lastly, Philo debunks the analogical argument by arguing that it leaves open the possibility of polytheism, since multiple gods can be responsible for creating the universe in the same sense that it can take several people to build a house – thereby further “limiting the attributes of each” deity (Hume, 70).

Later on, these philosophers decide to confront the ‘problem of evil,’ or why a monotheistic god would allow moral disorder and a miserable world to exist when it is assumed that he has “infinite power, infinite wisdom, and infinite goodness” (Hume, 103). Philo expounds on the futility of proving these assumptions, given the requirement: “you must prove these pure, unmixed, and uncontrollable attributes from the present mixed and confused phenomena, and from these alone” (Hume, 103). Ultimately, Philo is asserting that if God’s attributes cannot be inferred from nature with certainty, then there can be no conclusive way to establish the nature of God; hence, the analogical argument is a failure.

Written By: Eddie Morles

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Maintaining Focus

Cherry Blossoms


With the spring season underway and elation all around, it’s easy for us to lose focus of many things that are central to our lives. Beautiful weather, endless festivals, and ecstatic reunions—the perfect recipe for a grand time. All of these great things ought to be enjoyed to the fullest, but it is worth noting that there are other, more easily-forgotten things we must hold onto in the face of it all.

I like to think that a good, chivalrous man lives a well-balanced life: professionally, socially, physically, and spiritually. In order to maintain that balance, we must dedicate an equal amount of time to shaping each aspect of our lives. How frequently would you say you exercise each day? For many of us it may be anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes. Now could you say that you spend an equal amount of your day meditating or in prayer? For most of us, probably not. That doesn’t seem like a well-balanced life if you ask me.

My point is, we must always aim to allocate our time wisely and remain focused on what is most important to us. Doing so is hard enough every other time of year, but the springtime can be particularly difficult with finals just around the corner. So step back, take a look at your priorities and realize what it is you desire and what kind of man you want to be. If you aren’t on the right track, then readjust and pinpoint your focus to mold your life the way you truly want it.

Written By: Michael John Poorten

Finding God in the Sophomore Slump

“An authentic life is the most personal form of worship. Everyday life has become my prayer.” – Sarah Ban Breathnach


We often hear that we should try to find God in all things, especially at a school deeply influenced by its Jesuit heritage and Ignatian spirituality. As someone who has attended a Jesuit school for high school and college, this is definitely something that I have taken to heart in my own spiritual life. Yet this year, often referred to as the “sophomore slump,” has provided many challenges to my own schedule, stress, and thus inevitably my faith.  It is too easy, after only a year at Georgetown, to get bogged down in the daily struggle, a juggling act even, as I attempt to balance my studies with my friends, my clubs with my internships, and my dreams with my jobs. When I get up in the morning and go to sleep at night, I often find myself preoccupied with my own vanity or the long list of ever-looming deadlines. Rather than seeking out God in these times of stress and chaos, I have often sought to only focus on myself and the worries of the moment. These two identities, my ego and God, are not mutually exclusive, and yet I act like I have to check off all the boxes and repeat my daily schedule while not giving myself enough time to actually reflect on what I am doing and how I am feeling. It’s one of the many bittersweet things about this school, I often find time to talk about God and the Jesuits, but I often forget to talk to God myself.

I have attempted to solve this problem by seeking out novelty in my life. It was so easy, during freshman year, to just “experience” college and engage in discussions about “higher things,” but how quickly that has changed. Everything was new and exciting, and each class and experience became a lifelong memory. Freshman year has become a source of unparalleled nostalgia, while sophomore year seems to have simply “been.” Don’t get me wrong, I have had a great year. I have held leadership in clubs, seen my grades improve, and found many new friends. I find myself wondering how I have changed in the past 8 months, and I think that I have changed more on my Resume than I have as a person. While I do not think that I have gone wrong in the last year in any of my trajectories, I just feel like I have spent more time updating my calendar and less time finding God. In other words this year has been defined by many wonderful verses, but without a common refrain to unite them into one cohesive whole.

Rather than just completing each task as if part of unending cycle, I have continued to study and work while keeping my eyes open to the world around me. I consider Healy Hall to be a very tangible manifestation of this process. The first time that I visited campus and looked up at Healy, a feeling of warmth and joy came over me. It encompassed all the incredible things about Georgetown and all the hard work that I had put into my application in order to be accepted here. In less than a year, it had become simply a long stretch of broken bricks separating the library from by bedroom in Copley. How can you not look up at the clock tower and not suddenly become aware of the importance of this school and your four years here? For me this reflects a greater yearning in my spiritual life to be steadfastly grateful for all the people and things that have made me who I am. How can I look around and not see God in those people that I love most? The answer is that I simply cannot, the two are just too intertwined in my mind. I still get that same chill when I look at Healy, and I hope that I can find something similar in my daily interactions with my friends and family. These little things, a smile from a friend or a kind comment from a teacher, are the daily affirmations that make my days worth living. God is made manifest to me in these little moments of love and kindness, but it is up to me to look around and be truly present to those around me.

Written By: Jared Ison


Striving For Perfection

Inspired by Dominic’s Lecture before the 7th Spring 2015 Board Meeting.


Although we never like to admit it, we all know we aren’t perfect. This is inherent of our human nature due to original sin. Although it’s evident that we cannot reach ultimate perfection, it should not hinder us from striving towards it. The reason why we must constantly seek to better ourselves is because we are often oblivious of the direct and indirect effects of our imperfections.

When we stand before a fellow sinner how could we sacrifice our spiritual and moral pride by condemning him, knowing that we too are sinners? Hypocrites — that’s what that would be. There have been many moments in our lives where we could have done better, but were satisfied with our current imperfect status, and refrained from taking action. When an opportunity to bring ourselves a step closer to perfection presents itself, we must seize it. Never let it pass you by. It is the accumulation of all the times we have passed by these opportunities that shepherds our brothers and sisters towards sin and evil doings.

One of the most uplifting, tear-jerking stories I’ve ever heard deals with a juvenile boy who seized an opportunity to become a better person — and his initial action was as simple as extending a helping hand and a warm smile. Many who read this might be familiar with the story, it goes something like this:


One day, when I was a freshman in high school, I saw a kid from my class was walking home from school. His name was Kyle. It looked like he was carrying all of his books. I thought to myself, “Why would anyone bring home all his books on a Friday? He must really be a nerd.” I had quite a weekend planned (parties and a football game with my friend tomorrow afternoon), so I shrugged my shoulders and went on. As I was walking, I saw a bunch of kids running toward him. They ran at him, knocking all his books out of his arms and tripping him so he landed in the dirt. His glasses went flying, and I saw them land in the grass about ten feet from him. He looked up and I saw this terrible sadness in his eyes. My heart went out to him. So, I jogged over to him and as he crawled around looking for his glasses, and I saw a tear in his eye. 

As I handed him his glasses, I said, “Those guys are jerks. They really should get lives.” He looked at me and said, “Hey thanks!” There was a big smile on his face. It was one of those smiles that showed real gratitude. 

I helped him pick up his books, and asked him where he lived. As it turned out, he lived near me, so I asked him why I had never seen him before. He said he had gone to private school before now. I would have never hung out with a private school kid before. 

We talked all the way home, and I carried his books. He turned out to be a pretty cool kid. I asked him if he wanted to play football on Saturday with me and my friends. He said yes. We hung all weekend and the more I got to know Kyle, the more I liked him. And my friends thought the same of him. 

Monday morning came, and there was Kyle with the huge stack of books again. I stopped him and said, “Damn boy, you are gonna really build some serious muscles with this pile of books everyday!” He just laughed and handed me half the books. Over the next four years, Kyle and I became best friends. When we were seniors, began to think about college. Kyle decided on Georgetown, and I was going to Duke. I knew that we would always be friends, that the smiles would never be a problem. He was going to be a doctor, and I was going for business on a football scholarship. Kyle was valedictorian of our class. 

I teased him all the time about being a nerd. He had to prepare a speech for graduation. I was so glad it wasn’t me having to get up there and speak. Graduation day, I saw Kyle. 

He looked great. He was one of those guys that really found himself during high school. He filled out and actually looked good in glasses. He had more dates than me and all the girls loved him! Boy, sometimes I was jealous. 

Today was one of those days. I could see that he was nervous about his speech. So, I smacked him on the back and said, “Hey, big guy, you’ll be great!” He looked at me with one of those looks (the really grateful one) and smiled. “Thanks,” he said. 

As he started his speech, he cleared his throat, and began. “Graduation is a time to thank those who helped you make it through those tough years. Your parents, your teachers, your siblings, maybe a coach … but mostly your friends. I am here to tell all of you that being a friend to someone is the best gift you can give them. I am going to tell you a story.” I just looked at my friend with disbelief as he told the story of the first day we met. He had planned to kill himself over the weekend. He talked of how he had cleaned out his locker so his Mom wouldn’t have to do it later and was carrying his stuff home. He looked hard at me and gave me a little smile. “Thankfully, I was saved. My friend saved me from doing the unspeakable.” I heard the gasp go through the crowd as this handsome, popular boy told us all about his weakest moment. 

I saw his Mom and dad looking at me and smiling that same grateful smile.
Written By: Michael John Poorten

Person of Interest: A Pro-Life Mission

person of interest


Recently at one of our weekly Spiritual Discussion dinners, the topic of the missionary work of St. Patrick diverted into remarking on the influential role television and other popular forms of media have on people today in promoting a certain message, as well as the general lack of morality found in them across the board. How often are movies and TV shows today judged based upon excitement so often portrayed through violence and sex? And no, I’m not just talking about Game of Thrones (which I will defend to the last). We struggled to find a TV show that gives proper gravitas to teachings that the Catholic Church would promote. However, among shows such as Breaking Bad, The Blacklist, The Walking Dead, and Blue Mountain State, there is indeed a show that’s main focus, woven through all the thrill of an action and crime drama, and with a particular emphasis on the importance of life, is morality.

Person of Interest began in 2011, and I only started the show due to Michael Emerson’s (LOST) presence, but I was quickly hooked. The basic premise is this: a billionaire (Finch) has created a Machine that scans all cameras in New York City, and provides him with potential threats involving everyday citizens. Together, he and an ex-military operative (Reese) investigate the potential targets, deemed “Irrelevant” by the government, and determine whether they are perpetrator or victim, setting out to prevent crimes before they occur. Each episode has a brilliant combination of exciting action sequences, dramatic plots full of twists, and an air of mystery as the viewer works to solve the puzzle alongside the characters.

One of, if not the, major rules that Finch and Reese play by is that they work to save lives, and will not kill one person in order to save another. Regardless of a villain’s crime, nothing they have done justifies death in the eyes of the two protagonists. Even risking their own security and protection from a competitive private machine, Reese and Finch refuse to kill one week’s person of interest. The drama of that particular episode climaxes in the debate between the two, with Reese advocating that taking this one life will protect millions, but Finch retorting that he is merely a greedy Senator investing in a company, and reminds Reese that their purpose always is and has been to save people – they will not turn into murderers, even at the Machine’s behest.

Flashbacks within the series further emphasize Finch’s painstaking efforts to teach the Machine morality, demanding that it not place greater value on himself, despite being its creator. He plays chess against it, reminding it that people’s lives are not a game and that all are equal. In the present, the Machine is shown to be calculating various options (over 800,000) to get the protagonists out of a near-impossible situation, ultimately selecting the one with the greatest chance of survival for all. The episode is a fascinating feat of both creative storytelling and emphasizing the value of all lives that Finch has programmed into the Machine.

The show presently remains in my mind after the most recent episode as well, in which Finch plans to install a Trojan horse to dismantle the enemy machine through a woman’s program, but learns from another associate (Root) that by doing so, he will ultimately be traced down and killed through his personal connection to her. Thus, Root plans to poison the woman, as Finch will never back down from his plan, and because his life is far more valuable than hers. After a dramatic and fruitless plea to Root not to follow through with the plan, Finch resorts to drinking the poison himself, reiterating that all lives are equal, and that he will not be responsible for her death in order to preserve his own; if he is already dead, there is no reason to kill her.

The character development of the show follows a tremendous growth in understanding the value of life among all four of the current protagonists. Finch originally attempts revenge for the death of a friend, but ultimately shows mercy when the Machine labels him a threat to his own stated purpose. Reese, serving as a military operative with many undercover acts under his belt, finds new meaning when hired by Finch. Killing is no longer his method; however, it certainly doesn’t stop him from shooting enemies in the kneecap, for which he certainly becomes recognized. Shaw, another operative who joins their cause, comes begrudgingly to understand the lifesaving mission of Reese and Finch, also electing not to kill that one Senator, where she once might have without a second though. Finally, Root appears initially as a villain, kidnapping Finch and killing others mercilessly, before she is ultimately captured by Reese and Shaw and joins their fight. In the end, she comes to value life as well, and sees her companions as friends that she would, self-admittedly, do anything for. Despite coming from dark backgrounds where death is trivialized, these four transcend their earlier lifestyles and become strong proponents of saving lives.

No television program is perfect, just as no person is perfect. Person of Interest does indeed show death, and it certainly shows its fair share of illegal and immoral actions, among protagonists and antagonists alike. However, the fact that this show successfully centers on the question of life, and the morality that drives its main characters through any circumstance, is a remarkable achievement in modern society. Person of Interest is indeed a crime drama, but underneath that setting for its plot is a staunchly pro-life message, that is not compromised or altered to fit the needs of the characters. The value of lives worth saving (that is to say: all of them) that begins the mission of the show remains to this day through all the characters’ tribulations; we, too, must be steadfast in adhering to the morality of the Church, no matter what life throws at us.

Perhaps it is no coincidence, therefore, that Person of Interest’s Reese is played by Jim Caviezel, who portrays none other than Jesus Christ himself in The Passion of the Christ?

Written By: Richie DeMarco

Our Greatest Inheritance: How Vatican II Shaped the Modern Church

We are often told that we live in a post-Vatican II Church and many of us are familiar with the “idea” of the Council, but what do these things actually mean?  We cannot be swayed to simply accept what we have “heard” about the Council, it is our duty as practical Catholics to delve into the proceedings and actually understand the decisions made at the Council. Over the course of four periods from 1962-1965 with over 2,000 bishops and cardinals in attendance, the Second Vatican Council helped the Church to more properly minister to her faithful in a new age. Through this short post, I hope that I can convey some of the most important details that I have learned from my Vatican II class with Father John O’Malley, S.J.

One of the most important and easily overlooked aspects of Vatican II is the language and style of its written decrees. It is only at Vatican II that we begin to see the Church using words like “dialogue,” “partnership,” and “charism” in its official declarations. Rather than discuss and publish its decisions as castigations and defenses against heresy, Vatican II utilized more “pastoral” language to “invite and persuade” the faithful to accept the veracity of the Church. Vatican II also provided the global Church with a cohesive spirit of hope and progress, despite intermittent sessions and ongoing debates. In other words, the Council provided posterity with a clear mandate of purpose, although sometimes misconstrued by posterity.

One of the most well-known and tangible effects of the Council is the use of the vernacular in the Mass, and even this change cannot be understood properly without the larger context of the Council. The words of the Mass themselves, especially the Scriptural readings, were elevated to a higher standing within the celebration, now deemed integral parts of the “Liturgy of the Word” in order that the faithful be “actively engaged” in the Mass. In order to promote this meaningful engagement, the Council documents state that “in some rites the vernacular has proved very useful for the people,” and thereby allowed regional episcopal conferences to integrate vernacular more readily. The documents suggest that these conferences might integrate the vernacular only in certain parts of the Mass like the readings and some prayers, while the Eucharistic Prayer would be left in the Latin; this was later also adapted to the vernacular in the spirit of this decree’s far-reaching “dynamism.” The Church deeply respected Latin as the language of the Church as it was used during the Council’s own proceedings, but this decision again reflects a deeper desire to effectively minister and evangelize to all Catholics.

While those far removed from Vatican II can make the mistake of viewing the Council as one unilateral event, a more nuanced approach shows that it was drastically shaped and directed by the personalities and actions of those in attendance. The Church felt threatened by cultural and ideological upheaval, and it lacked a unified voice or purpose to lead the faithful into this new global modernity. The significance and novelty of the Council cannot be overstated and as Catholics shaped by the Second Vatican Council, I hope this post will inspire you to learn more about the Council and underscore the important shifts that occurred at the Council. While the decrees and decisions of the Council have been cited to support or criticize trends both in and out of the Church, each of you can live out the Council each day by simply engaging in the faith community better fit to serve your needs on your path to salvation.

Written By: Jared Ison

The Importance of Mary in Our Spiritual Lives

annunciation


Looking back on my days as a high school student, I am grateful that I attended a Marist school because that experience taught me the importance of Mary in my spiritual life. Saint Marcellin Champagnat, the founder of the Marist Order, served as an ideal guide because his teachings provided me with invaluable insight about how to live a lifestyle devoted to Mary. The Marists understood that praying to Mary is the most effective way to reach Jesus because she is the Mother of God. Just as Jesus Christ lived inside of Mary, we must pray to Mary so that Jesus can come and live inside of us as well.

In addition, Mary protects us and guides us as the Good Mother. When we ask for her help, we are as children who seek her comfort. Since she raised Jesus during his childhood, she knows all too well about the turbulent emotions we feel as God’s children on a daily basis. With a mother’s understanding, she helps us cast away our fears and doubts because she is taking care of us by interceding on our behalf. Just as she shed tears at the suffering of Jesus on the Cross, Mary is pained by the hardships we face in our lives. Mary would lovingly grant refuge to anyone who is willing to open their heart to her.

Lastly, we must strive to mirror Mary’s spiritual life because she is the perfect disciple. Mary understands the spiritual qualities that are necessary for a deeper relationship with God: humility, simplicity, and modesty. When Mary was first called to be the Mother of Jesus, she did not understand her role in God’s plan, and yet she said: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” If we are ever in doubt over what God has in store for us, we should keep in mind that Mary felt the exact same way and answer His call to serve. Always remember to pray to Mary, and let us all strive to live lives of humility, simplicity, and modesty as she once did.

Written By: Eddie Morles