Stuff You Should Read

1. My friend Joseph has a really great new post, written in the dialectic style of Thomas Aquinas. He asks “Should one read the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas?”

  1. It might seem that one should not put a work by Thomas Aquinas on one’s Fundamentals list. For many philosophers might be considered more fundamental than Thomas, for example, Descartes, Kant, or Hegel. For Bertrand Russell writes, “I cannot, therefore, feel that he deserves to be put on a level with the best philosophers either of Greece or of modern times. (Simmons)

Okay, before you freak out, remember how Thomas always structures his arguments in the Summa.

Go read the whole thing here. It’s awesome: “‘Questions on God’: Why?” at Ironical Coincidings

NOAH2. I haven’t seen the new Noah movie, but this guy has and he wrote a really fascinating article about it: “Sympathy for the Devil” by Dr. Brian Mattson.

Okay, for the most part this movie seems to be controversial because it doesn’t strictly “follow the Bible”… which seems a rather naive thing to complain about. The story of Noah has been told by (an amazing!) number of cultures with a lot of different variations throughout history.

Anyway, Mattson argues that people are getting all wired up about the wrong thing. They are actually missing the underlying philosophy that informs the movie: Gnosticism. (Which, by the way, nearly tore the Church apart in the 2nd century. It’s the heresy that never dies.) I love it when people write about Gnosticism and really see it’s pervasive influence in modern society, because I reassures me that there are people who aren’t fooled by it. If you don’t know what Gnosticism is, you should definitely go read this article.

A taste:

Except that when Gnostics speak about “The Creator” they are not talking about God. Oh, here in an affluent world living off the fruits of Christendom the term “Creator” generally denotes the true and living God. But here’s a little “Gnosticism 101” for you: the Creator of the material world is an ignorant, arrogant, jealous, exclusive, violent, low-level, bastard son of a low level deity. He’s responsible for creating the “unspiritual” world of flesh and matter, and he himself is so ignorant of the spiritual world he fancies himself the “only God” and demands absolute obedience. They generally call him “Yahweh.” (Mattson, “Sympathy for the Devil”)

3. Okay, contra #2, here’s a really good reply to Mattson’s argument. Since I haven’t seen the movie myself, I am not sure what side I’m on– but you can read and decide for yourself.

“Is Darren Aronofsky’s Noah Gnostic?” at I’ve Seen That Movie Too

A taste:

So while I am convinced that Kabbalistic texts and ideas had some influence on Noah, I am considerably less convinced of the Mattson’s central thesis, which is that a specifically Gnostic ideology undergirds Aronofsky’s Noah. Mattson makes a significant error in conflating Kabbalah—Jewish mysticism—and Gnosticism, which are separate belief structures and have divergent attitudes towards creation. The Demiurge of Gnosticism, the evil deity who creates the world, is not a central tenet of Kabbalistic belief, and so Kabbalah does not view creation as intrinsically evil, even if it understands that it is broken.

Although I agree it is unwise to “conflate” philosophies/religions, I think it’s pretty clear that Kabbalah is a (devoted) child of Gnosticism. The fact that the Demiurge “is not a central tenet” of Kabbalah seems more due to the fact that Kabbalah (especially in it’s modern manifestations) is not very interested in God or the gods period. It’s more of a self-improvement, self-enlightenment belief system than anything else, which is probably why the atheist Aronofsky seems so favorably disposed toward it in the first place.

4. April Fools Day is always fun at the University of Dallas, especially with our yearly University News April Fools Edition.

So good, although maybe only people who went to small Catholic liberal arts colleges will appreciate it.

And people who watch “The Bachelor.”

“UD to Host New Television Spinoff of ‘The Bachelor'” by Krista Shaw

When approached about their decision to bring “Ring by Spring” to UD, TV producers stated that they were drawn by UD’s unnaturally high marriage rate.

President Keefe -Photo by Rebecca Rosen

“With 32 engaged couples in the senior class alone, we can see that the environment encourages true love as much as we do,” said one producer. “We were also impressed by the scenery UD offers. The new bridge over Madonna Pond could be the location of a beautiful first date, and the Cap Bar patio, overlooking Carpenter, is an especially romantic site.”

SO GOOD.

5. Cardinal Sean O’Malley, leader of my home Archdiocese of Boston, recently celebrated a very beautiful Mass on the U. S. / Mexico border.

I think the actions of the USCCB really reflect the heart of Christ here.

Please go look at the beautiful pictures and read more about it over at America’s Voice. Immigration is a complex issue, and I do not mean to oversimplify it.

But really.

Exodus 22:21 “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.”

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2 Comments

Filed under Catholicism, Christ, Religion

2 responses to “Stuff You Should Read

  1. Thanks for the link! And the links. Very interesting. I haven’t seen Noah yet but I want to.

    At this point, I’m not convinced by the “the movie is Gnostic” argument, though I’ll keep an eye out. Almost all of the evidence the first linked article cites are circumstantial at best. The most convincing is the fact that Aronofsky’s prelapsarian Adam and Eve glow–but does that prove it’s nonmaterial? Isn’t the resurrected body luminous?

    Though Wikipedia isn’t the most authoritative source, it has a lot to say about whether Kabbalah is dualistic in a Gnostic sense or not:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kabbalah#Dualistic_cosmology
    It’s worth remembering that St Paul also talks often about the flesh and the letter killing but the spirit bringing life.

    Incidentally, I tend to think Aronofsky’s interest in Kabbalah is more honest than–well, definitely more honest than Madonna’s. Partly because he does identify himself as an atheist. If he were less committed to finding the truth, and cared only about self-esteem, he would be more vague about what he believed. He’s definitely wrong about a lot of things, but it’s nice to have a serious filmmaker for whom serious means *spiritually* serious not serious in a “look I’m socially progressive” sense.

  2. Chris Wolfe

    In re. the immigration issue, I’m still reflecting on all the things that were said during the radio show taped at UD on the subject with Michael Sandel. Some of the best points were made at the end of the show, but the whole thing is enjoyable to listen to (especially when you recognize voices like that of Dr. Frank and Dr. Crider):
    [audio src="http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/radio4/r4sandel/r4sandel_20121023-0930c.mp3" /]

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