Occasional Thoughts and Links of Interest

Category: Atheism

Henri de Lubac, the Bitter Fruit of Old Atheism, and Christian Humanism

Unknown-2Henri de Lubac lived and worked during some of the most violent and confused years in modern European history. In addition to the losses caused by the several wars that ravaged Europe, the violent events of the early twentieth century led to an acute emotional and intellectual anxiety for many citizens of the continent. The First World War, in particular, brought European confidence in unending technological and moral progress to a halt.[i] In 1922, the French poet Paul Valéry wrote,

The Storm is over, and yet we are still uneasy . . . anxious . . . as though it were just now going to break. Nearly all human affairs are still in a state of terrible uncertainty. We ponder on what is gone, we are almost ruined by what has been ruined; we do not know what is to come, and have some reason to fear it. We hope vaguely, but dread precisely; our fears are infinitely clearer than our hopes; we recognize that pleasurable living and abundance are behind us, but confusion and doubt are in us and with us.[ii]

Although war and atrocity are not recent inventions, there was something distinctive, and even surprising, about the violence witnessed during the European wars of the past century. On the one hand, people were surprised by the scale of those wars. Modern technology, which held such promise in agriculture, communications, medicine, travel, and more, also enabled the production of much deadlier weapons than previous eras had known, and the millions of soldiers and civilians killed during the first half of the twentieth century were unprecedented.[iii] On the other hand, the World Wars were shocking because they “contrast[ed] with the expectations, at least in Europe, with which the twentieth century began,” expectations of unrestrained social progress.[iv] Those expectations were inspired, in large part, by a philosophical revolution that took place during the nineteenth century.

For My Atheist Friends – Nominalism, Atheism, Modern Christian Confusion

deus_non_est_aluminum_license_plateA great change occurred in the late medieval era that had the effect of domesticating God, at least in the minds of some. Whereas God was understood to be transcendent and incomprehensible, but still knowable through participation, the domesticated God of modern deism, atheism, and christian fundamentalism is merely one being among others, though of greater power and proportion. Brad Gregory describes this philosophical change, which resides at the core of so much philosophical trouble.

According to Aquinas, God in metaphysical terms was, incomprehensibly, esse-not a being but the sheer act of to-be, in which all creatures participated insofar as they existed and through which all creation was mysteriously sustained. In Occamist nominalism, by contrast, insofar as God existed, “God” had to denote some thing, some discrete, real entity, an ens-however much that entity differs from everything else, a difference Occam highlighted by emphasizing the absolute sovereignty of God’s power (potentia Dei absoluta) and the inscrutability of God’s will within the dependable order of creation and salvation he had in fact established.30 When combined with an either-or categorical distinction between natural and supernatural plus nominalism’s heuristic principle of parsimony known retrospectively as Occam’s razor-the idea that explanations of natural phenomena “ought not to multiply entities beyond necessity”-the intellectual pieces were in place, at least in principle, for the domestication of God’s transcendence and the extrusion of his presence from the natural world.31

On the not so “New” Atheism

imagesIn recent years, atheist critics of religion have worked hard to get their message out. Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and a host of others have published popular books attacking theistic belief, and they’ve done a nice job promoting their work via television interviews, public debates, lecture tours, and the like. Generally speaking, the arguments of the “New Atheists,” as they are often called, are not so new at all. Indeed, anyone who encounters the thinkers mentioned above after having read deeply in nineteenth and twentieth century atheist thought will see many of the old arguments represented, often as though for the first time, and typically with less sophistication.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén


Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Subscribe to the monthly Newsletter of CSLI-NEO and stay up to date on coming events, get book recommendations and articles, stories about our Fellows, and more. 

You have Successfully Subscribed!