Jean de Climont
© Editions d’Assailly, Paris, 2017 for English version
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 The Mythologies 17
Chapter 2 The Hinduism 21
Chapter 3 The Taoism 26
Chapter 4 The Confucianism 29
Chapter 5 The Buddhism 34
Chapter 6 The Shintoism 47
Chapter 7 The Judaism 48
Chapter 8 The Great Heresies 54
Chapter 9 Islam 99
Chapter 10 The Thomism 127
Chapter 11 The Protestantism 165
Chapter 12 The Positivism 347
Chapter 13 The Marxism 352
Chapter 14 The Progressism 357
Table of Contents 376
Man is characterized by the access of his mind to absolute concepts. The logical approach is itself shared with animals. The donkey makes the connection between the bucket and the water to drink or the oats to eat. But logic takes an absolute nature in man. The search for causality is then projected to infinity. It is to make the universe definitively incomprehensible. Infinity is not accessible. Human reason can not accept this humiliation. A beginning is needed. A Creator and His Creation. I use the word Creator to encompass oriental religions that do not evoke God otherwise. It all begins with a rational necessity.
The following pages are an analysis of the rationalist influence on religions from Upper Antiquity to the present day.
Creation includes causality, but Creation is not a causal act. God is not scientific. Yet apart from the Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism, religions are based on rational visions. The most widespread view is that the Creator would have a scientific knowledge of the Universe he created. He knows everything until the end of time. He knows then which men will be saved and those who will be damned. The firsts will go to Heaven the others in Hell. Men would therefore be predestined to salvation or condemnation. The thought of predestination thus results from the attribution to the Creator of a knowledge, certainly perfect and absolutely general, but of an intellectual nature, of a human nature. This anthropomorphism is the basis of Islam and of the doctrines of Luther and Calvin.
Predestination is an absurdity. It is entirely contrary to the Catholic faith and to the principal oriental religions. It is true that the temptation is great and we shall see that St. Thomas Aquinas himself, within the framework of a rational approach, imposes on the Freewill such a narrow limit that one may wonder what is the elite who would benefit?
Aristotle, the founder of Logic, laid down the fundamental principle of specific causal uniqueness. The difficulty arises from the fact that there is never causal uniqueness in the phenomena that surround us. Aristotle limited his principle to specific phenomena, without specifying what these phenomena are. It is exclusively phenomena involving absolute objects. To a certain extent, objects of geometry belong to this category. The specific causal uniqueness applies in general to objects of geometry. Indeed the objects of geometry, such as the line, the circle, the triangle, do have an absolute nature.
In the fields including multiple relationships, and first in the social domain, the causes are entangled inextricably. But this is also the case in all areas of intellectual activity, including physics. In the experimental world, our reality, a multitude of causes are entangled. The phenomena which are at the limit of our means of measurement appear simple and general. It has thus been imagined that gravitation could be expressed by a totalitarian law, perfectly invariable and absolute, of a purely mathematical simplicity. Since Newton, scientists have embarked on a frantic mathematization of phenomena. This approach has led them to put invariants and absolutes in the experimental world. This world is a world of relationships. Experiment is a relationship. Measurement is a relationship. How can an experiment, how a measure, could be related to absolutes, to invariants? The mathematization of physics has led to the deepest absurdity.
The purely mathematical conception of the physics of our scholars has been taken as the essential argument of the rupture with the past. The positivist vision of an exclusively mathematical physics considers itself as an irreversible progress of the knowledge. Any conception prior to modern mathematical physics would be worthless. All previous knowledge would therefore be without interest, which obviously encompasses not only philosophy, but also religions. They would no longer be useful.
This attitude, allegedly revolutionary, is in fact the almost identical repetition of a very old error. It is false to say that the physics of Aristotle was of a philosophical order and therefore worthless. For the physics of Aristotle rests in reality on geometry. The Universe should, according to Aristotle, be governed by the laws of geometry. He used essentially, in his treatises of physics and astronomy, the spheres, the circles, the lines, and the triangles.
This geometric approach has led him to the idea of center of the world, center of the multiple spheres carrying the orbs of the stars and the planets. Orbs cannot cut themselves without planets and celestial bodies eventually met and thus to disappear. So they have a single and immobile common center, the Earth. It is through this that Aristotle fell into the absolute. The approach of modern mathematical physics went astrey in the same error. Scientists put the absolute in the experimental world. The cause is the same. They claimed to hold the only way of knowing the Universe: mathematics. For Aristotle, it was geometry. The difference is minor. The result is the same. Two huge mistakes.
Thought resumes its rights. Science has nothing to offer in matters of thought, no more than in linguistic matters, as we know from the work of Ferdinand de Saussure. Still less in matters of religion.
In spite of this monstrous failure, it is indeed this immanent need to discover causes, which is at work. And causality arises not only for the origin, the intellectually necessary first cause, but also at each stage. There will always be mysterious phenomena.
Marx's social elucubrations were admired for their scientific appearance. Reasonning “all other things being equal” was considered as scientific. But science, on the contrary, seeks to find out why things are not always equal, why all change irrevocably: everything flows, penta rhei, said Heraclitus.
We are therefore, more often than not, led to deceive ourselves in our search for causes. What can be said of the physicists who claim to have found the primordial particle, the first cause? Against this enormous illusion, mind questions the cause, the very origin of this hypothetical first being. And before ? and how ? But above all, and why?
The present scientists reject with horror the “why,” which they assimilate to metaphysics. It is a world which they not only reject, but of which they absolutely denies any existence. For them there is only one world: the experimental world of their physics. The rest would only be the preoccupation of old bigots and retarded minds.
The problem of the present scientists is a terrible paradox. They put the absolute in the experimental world. For them, Nature is characterized by invariant laws, by constants fixed from the beginning that they pretend to be on the way to discover. This purely mathematical view of the Universe is as paradoxical as that of Pythagoras and Aristotle who had a purely geometrical view. How can we reconcile this world filled with multiple invariants with the evolutionary nature of the Universe?
The Universe is characterized by its evolution, it is an obvious since the oldest times. Now, our scientists affirm that its fundamental properties, gravitation, particles, even atoms, are absolutely determined and invariable forms. At what level does the rupture between evolution and invariance occur? How to reconcile the absolute invariance of the constants and the general evolution of the Universe?
It is not mere errors, the lot of human thought, it is stupidities. The absolute, the invariant, can not be subject to any relation which would alter its value. Mathematics has no physical existence. It is a tool of mind. Thinking the Universe in the exclusive form of equations, however complex they may be, is only a vulgar anthropomorphism. Mathematics exists only in the mind, like the straight line and the circle of geometry. By taking mathematical equations for reality, man assimilates things to his thoughts.
The experimental world is a world of relationships. How could it contain any absolute? It is absolute nonsense if I may say so. The absolute can belong only to the world of the thought, the transcendental world. This world also contains the idea of eternity and the idea of infinity. Hence the mind, which accedes to this universe of absolutes, is always inclined to seek indefinitely the causes of causes. Conversely, the impossibility of reaching infinity leads him to seek an end to causality by the idea of Creation as we have seen.
The ideas of uniqueness and absolute will eventually impose the existence of an unique God or Creator. But the mind also has access to ideas of the good and of the evil.
We will see that the religions which have experienced a certain development on the scale of the Planet are all based on the divine uniqueness and on moral criteria practically identical, essentially the respect of the human life.
There is one major exception, however: Islam. It is the only approach that despises human life and advocates the elimination of non-Muslims and not only polytheists. In his final Surahs, the Quran requires the elimination of all non-Muslims and one of the Hadiths demands the elimination of all Jews before the end of the world: Hadith 1660; according to 'Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him), "the Messenger of Allah (pbAsl) said: The Hour of Judgment will not come before the Muslims fight the Jews and they exterminate them. "
Scientific rationalism has claimed to eliminate all forms of thought which would not be susceptible to a mathematical approach, a supposedly exclusive way of knowing the real, the truth. Truth is also an absolute, transcendental, and therefore an inaccessible concept. It is deeply stupid to imagine we could have access to the total and absolute knowledge of the Universe. The stupidity of this pretension results from the necessity of hypotheses, pompously called postulates. These are the bases of the knowledge of the real world by our scientists. Now, postulates or hypotheses are in no way observations, but bases which the human mind imposes upon itself as being of an evident nature. That's where the rub is hurting. The very basis of the physics of our scientists is perfectly arbitrary, for no one has ever been able to say on what criterion the notion of evidence used by our scientists rests. The whole history of science is the proof that the evidences first admitted are obvious errors a posteriori.
Rationalism is by no means the path to true knowledge, for all knowledge presupposes bases, foundations, hypotheses, postulates, principles, or dogmas. The reason argues on these bases. The only problem that arises then is the value of the bases, the foundations, the hypotheses, the postulates, the principles, the dogmas. The scientist is confronted with the same problem as the philosopher, the sociologist, the economist, the theologian: the value of the bases. In this sense one might go so far as to say that religions have a vocation to a knowledge more certain than all other approaches, for its bases are entirely independent of all possible experiments in the physical world. Historically, it has always happened that such an experiment comes to ruin the most impressive scientific theories.
No such thing can happen to a truth of religious order. These truths always rest on a form of revelation. And this revelation belongs to the metaphysical world. The aspects of this revelation which concern the experimental world can only be images, allegories, parables. This is the case of the Old Testament. There is, however, one exception: Islam also considers that the Quran is a revealed text. But it expresses reality and must therefore be accepted as it is: it is the truth. Islam excludes all personal judgment, whereas, on the contrary, all other religions are a call to reflection, reason, and individual consciousness.
The Quran is largely inspired by the Bible and takes up large extracts from the Creation of the world described by Genesis. But in this case, it is an unassailable truth about the experimental world. The Quran also contains an explanation of the physical world.
The Quran repeats the explanation of Aristotle. The Earth is essentially still: “Is it not He (Allah) who established the Earth as a place of abode, placed rivers through it, assigned to it firm mountains. Ibn Kathir said: “That is to say: motionless, which does not waver or move or tremble with its inhabitants.” And Al Qurtubî said: “that is to say: firm mountains which hold it back and prevent it from moving” (Surah 27-61: The Ants). The Sun and the Moon thus revolve around the motionless Earth: “Allah says: and the sun runs to a lodging assigned to it; such is the determination of the Almighty, the Omniscient” (Surah 36-38: Ya-Sin). And: “Allah said: and he subdued the Sun and the Moon each pursuing His course until a fixed term?” (Surah 31-29: Luqman).
The stars revolve around the Earth and are carried by seven celestial orbs: "He is the One who created for you all that is on earth, then turned to heaven and has completed seven universes. (Surah al-Baqarah), "Allah created the seven heavens arranged in layers wrapping one another" (Surah 71-14: Noah) and "Allah created the seven heavens and as much earths "(Surah 65-12: Divorce). It is the universe of Aristotle that Galileo annihilated by showing that there is no center of the world!
Would Allah be mistaken? Or would Mahomet have had access only to a falsified version of his famous Original Book?
We must also evoke a general characteristic of all religions. The idea of a life after death appears at the dawn of thought. It is an intellectual necessity. The only answer to the existential question. All religions, without exception, therefore envisage a state of paradisiacal perfection. In Hinduism, in particular, an exemplary life gives access to the Absolute Uniqueness after death. Man can therefore escape reincarnation to reach an absolute serenity. Now, this Absolute Uniqueness is the Creator whom the Westerners call God. We can say that after death, man enters God. God is in heaven, and the absolute good is to be in paradise with God, even in God. This meeting with God in paradise is underlying all religions, but there is one exception!
In the Quran, Allah is not in heaven. Allah is above heaven, above paradise. The paradise of the Quran is a place created by Allah to satisfy all the pleasures of man, even the vilest ones like to drink wine unrestrained and copulate without limit, including with virgin girls still in flower and young boys eternally young still beardless. The paradise of pedophiles. The good Muslim resurrected and predestined to be saved goes to paradise. However, the saved can see Allah: on the day of resurrection “there will be resplendent faces that will look upon their Lord” (Sura 75-22 and 23: The Resurrection). Hadiths specify that Allah “overhangs” the resurrected who are dazzled, then Allah disappears, leaving them in paradise. Allah is not in paradise. He looks at the resurrected in paradise as he watched mankind on Earth, but evidently he no longer judges them.
The Muslims, before and after their death, never have a personal relationship with Allah. The personal encounter with God surprises Muslims who convert to Catholicism. And after the death, it is for Christian resuscitated much more than a meeting.
The other problem posed by human thought is also of a rational nature. If this divine world truly exists, it necessarily has a relation with the world, if only through creation. But conversely, man must be able to enter into relation with the divine world. Islam is the only religion that excludes any relation of men to this world. The Muslim, even if he has the chance to be predestined to paradise, has no personal relationship with God, both down here and once in paradise. He can only see from time to time his face hovering above paradise. It is the negation of all transcendence of the mind of man.
The access of the mind to the transcendental concepts opens the divine world to him. In this sense, the absolute disjunction between men and God belongs to the narrowest rationalism. The vision of Islam is a deep materialism. For Islam, man has a brain, but neither mind (spirit) nor soul. What characterizes the human mind is access to transcendence. What characterizes the soul is access to God. Moreover, the Freewill that characterizes the mind does not exist in Islam. Much worse, the Muslim resurrected after his death remains a purely biological being with organs whose function is only freed from the quantity constraints to which they are subjected in this low world.
This is certainly the most disconcerting aspect of Islam. One can even speak of a major inconsistency. This total disjunction between Allah and his creation is totally paradoxical. Islam brings all the hope of man to the satisfaction of bodily needs. It is a purely materialistic hope, completely denying the transcendental nature of the human mind. Unlike all other religions, Islam makes the resuscitated man a beast of pleasures. While all other religions, and in particular Eastern religions, push man after his death to the Absolute, the fulfillment of his transcendental nature, Islam lowers the resuscitated man below the level of the belt! A belly and a sex!
The first texts that relate the beliefs of men are all based upon mythologies. They evoke, most often in poetic form, the first human reflections on Nature. But, the general characteristic is the search for causality. The phenomena of Nature condition our existence. Their understanding is not only imposed by necessity, but above all by an intellectual need rooted in our minds. To some extent, animals record the phenomena. They are then capable of some forecasts. Our mind pushes this capacity to the point of being able to make it an exclusive activity. But, we go far beyond the necessity.
The idea of God allowed, from time immemorial, to fix a beginning by Creation. We know of course Genesis. But poems quite similar are found in Hinduism and all religions. The idea of God, inherent in the mind, is first realized in a world separated from the material world in which we live. The apparent imperfection of the material world does not make it a place worthy of God. In order to intervene in our world, from its creation, or after sometimes, men imagined, most of the time, secondary gods.
In the high Antiquity, men delegated to lower gods the actions necessary for the good progress of the phenomena of the Nature. Today, men speak of the laws of Nature to give themselves a serious, and of course mathematical appearance. Yes of course! We are no longer in the Pythagorean period. We know that the god Hercule maintaining the Earth on his center could not exist in no way.
History will judge whether the laws of our modern physicists are more scientific than the gods! I have chosen: Nature has no laws! Laws exist only through ignorance of causes. The gods palliated the same ignorance.
But, this appeal to the gods as cause of phenomena of the Nature question, since the dawn of the human thought, the problem of the absolute and the uniqueness. Humanity certainly did not wait for Akh-en-Aton to think of divine uniqueness. The necessity of the uniqueness of God is inscribed in the mind of man, like all absolute concepts of thought, and first of all those of geometry as the idea of straight line. But on the moral level too, the mind holds absolute concepts, inaccessible by nature, but well aware. These are essentially the concepts of good and evil. The moral laws, so called natural laws, are the consequence. These laws can not be absolute by themselves because they are the consequence of the concepts of good and evil. They can only be relative. That is why they may differ somewhat according to civilization. These deviations can in no way justify the political idea that natural morality would not exist. They only show that it is not absolute. The mind has only the concept of good. The good itself is inaccessible. It has to be discovered at every moment, in every situation.
Man must judge and he may judge freely, because the criteria of judgment are not given to the mind. The moral criteria of natural law are not self-evident. This is why they are generally accepted on the basis of the authority of a man sufficiently charismatic. The condition of acceptance is that the propositions made are representative of the idea of good, of the concept of good. The misfortune is that judgment can be distorted by interest or by fear. We can bow in front of the power.
In all the mythologies also appear anti-gods. These are the incarnations of evil. This opposition between good and evil, inherent in the human mind, is at the root of the dialectical conceptions of the universe. Since then, the word dialectic has taken on a very specific meaning. It is no longer just a question of qualifying conflicting debates. This was the meaning used since Aristotle. He saw this as an effective means of deepening knowledge. And it is indeed a reality. But since Hegel and then with Marx, the word dialectic specifically refers to a method of philosophical, scientific and social argument that involves some sort of contradictory process between opposing sides. One obviously thinks of the class struggle of Marx, opposing the proletariat to the bourgeoisie. The problem of these approaches is that the supposedly opposite sets are opposed for one aspect only and are similar over all the others. The dialectical vision is therefore only an illusion. Oppositions exist only in the mind. One can only really oppose concepts that have only one determination, such as the concepts of emptiness and fullness, for example.
All Greek mythology is thus a dialectical vision of the kingdom of multiple gods that can act directly on men. I refer the reader to the two masterpieces of Homer, The Iliad and the Odyssey.
Mythologies always include an access of man to the divinities. Man invokes not only the gods to obtain satisfaction in all fields, but from the beginning he endeavored to satisfy the gods first. And he has not imagined other ways than to do what he would like that it would be done for him. This is again a rational and anthropomorphic approach. The gods are supposed to feast. He therefore sacrificed animals to the gods. And to appease their supposed anger, nothing better than human sacrifices, still practiced in the sixteenth century in the Americas.
Since the gods are supposed to have human thoughts, it would be possible to understand them if one knows how to listen to them. This is called Shamanism. Man would have access to the world of gods, at least partially and only by thought. One remains in the rational and therefore anthropomorphic approach since the starting point of reasoning is the attribution of a human nature to the gods, at least in part.
In the same way, animism haunts all mythologies. Here again one attributes to things a human capacity, that of moving oneself. Movement would be in things. To tell the truth, animism is always present. The current physics is impregnated with its photons that move in relation to nothing. They have the motion in themselves. You will never find motion in things themselves. The philosopher Alain did not cease to repeat it. He spoke in the desert: the desert of pitiful pure science.
We see that mythology remains alive in human thought, and especially in science. They will not forgive me this blasphemy.
Within Hinduism, the Brahman is the transcendent Absolute and the ultimate, eternal principle, the tat in Sanskrit: “The Brahman is Truth, the World is illusion. It moves and it does not move, it is far and it is near. He is within everything and he is outside of everything”. " His relations with men are possible only through more personal gods, first the Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu trinity, which correspond respectively to the creative, conservative and destructive action of the transcendent Absolute. These Trinitarian gods incarnate themselves in a multitude of divinities which intervene in all phenomena.
This multiplicity does not affect the divine uniqueness. Even in Hinduism, God is unique. “If, in the Multitude, we persistently pursue the One, it is to return with the blessing and revelation of the One confirming itself in the Multiple”. Hinduism is basically a monotheism. The underlying personal gods may have given the impression of polytheism. The Muslim invaders limited themselves to this appearance. They massacred the Hindus. The memory of the massacre is perpetuated by the name of the famous pass of the Himalayas: the Hindu-kush, literally: the massacre of the Hindus. A genocide, based on an erroneous interpretation of the foundations of Hinduism. Even today, Western intellectuals call Hinduism polytheism. We also want to think that, in times so remote, one could not think according to logic. At that time, Hamiltonians and Alemberians were not known. Perhaps the addition, and would it be even the case?
In fact, the very foundations of thought, and logic at first, are present from the beginning in the human mind. The mind of man has access to an absolute view. Man thinks on the basis of transcendental ideas and a perfect logic. There is no progress possible in the absolute. The absolute is perfection. It does not have any outcome. It was necessary to wait for Aristotle so that the principle of specific causal uniqueness was formulated. It is the foundation of formal logic. This does not mean that in the past, men did not reason logically. Neither can they consider reasoning otherwise in the future. Nevertheless, one has to be aware of this access of the mind to the absolute and this is not without difficulty. This access, however, opens no further possibility, for, once again, the absolute is perfect by nature and can neither be the object of any improvement, nor of any alteration.
Thus divine perfection implies his uniqueness. It is probable that all mythologies, as ancient as they may be, refer to a single God, even only implicitly. Pharaoh Akh-en-Aton is certainly not the first to have had this logical intuition. It will be discovered later that it implies another essential idea: the Sovereign Good; absolute, it excludes any link with evil, in any form whatsoever.
However wars, struggles, carry the idea of opposites. This idea extended to the phenomena of Nature corresponds to the vision of Heraclitus, the dialectical vision. It is the name it has received since Hegel. The dialectical approach is essentially mythological. The dialecticians classify all phenomena by the aspects which oppose one another and make of them categories of opposites. But these phenomena are opposed to each other only for the aspect envisaged by the dialectician. They are similar for a multitude of other aspects. Moreover, these contrary manifestations of phenomena are never at the same level. They are never symmetrical. The discord of Heraclitus already contains the struggle which is supposed to oppose it to concord. Concorde excludes, by its very principle, any idea of struggle. In which field can these two opposites compete? When struggling, the concord is discord! The dialectic is accomplished in the absurd confrontation of the like with itself.
Next to these gods appear therefore anti-gods in some way. They are necessarily inferior beings, like the gods. Hindu mythology mentions several classes of demonic beings such as asura, opposed to devas, celestial spirits.
It is sometimes claimed that Hinduism does not recognize the existence of evil. Yet it is incessantly repeated that man becomes what he accomplishes: the good deeds of an previous existence improve the conditions of life of future existence, while bad actions aggravate them. So it is clear that there are worthy and bad deeds and therefore good and evil. Buddhism is even more explicit on this subject. In all mythologies, the curse results from evil acts.
The problem that arises, therefore, is the existence of a reference system of good and evil. How do we know that an act is good or evil? The Hindu referential is based on pleasure and pain. One can not do to animated beings what one would find disagreeable for oneself. All animated beings are indeed reincarnations of the atman of each being. These are the sanctuaries of the Brahman. They are sacred. Therefore we can not cause them the least pain. Now, pain can know itself only in relation to its own person. It is therefore the reference system of evil. The texts enumerate categories of evils and goods experienced by men. It is a human frame of reference. The “thou shalt not kill” is explicitly present in all mythologies and all religions besides, except Islam which prohibits only to kill Muslims with three exceptions. Yet men kill their enemies without being dismissed from the communities. On the contrary, they are heroes.
This reference frame presents a major shortcoming. Its nature, exclusively pertaining to human perception, makes it unfit to describe acts that do not belong to immediate pain. The murderous hero transgresses the prohibition, but it is justified in spite of everything. It is therefore that there is another implicit reference, beyond the natural law expressed only by the human reference frame. Beyond that, a criterion is necessary for the one who must kill. The existence of this implicit referential can only be linked to the Sovereign Good and therefore to the existence of God.
The idea of non-violence attached to Hinduism is only a recent attitude, in reaction to the Western power. In reality, it is first and foremost to survive. India has raised considerable troops to stop the ambition of Alexander the Great. It is true that the mere announcement of the lifting of this hundred thousand men was enough to make him turn back. The vases of pure gold thrown into the Indian Ocean did not suffice to render Thetis more favorable to his undertakings. He returned and died in the orgies of Babylon. These Indian soldiers had weapons. They used these weapon against each other without too much respite. All the princes of the multiple states of India regularly waged war. They had a Justice that had the hand as heavy as anywhere else on this Earth. The non-violence of Hinduism is a myth of the twentieth century. And it concerns only the followers of rare extremist sects.
The essential characteristic of Hinduism is the metempsychosis, the reincarnation in animated beings, men or animals, according to its actions during life. But the chain of reincarnations may be interrupted by an exemplary life, conforming to the four stages, the ashramas. The first stage, the Brahmacarya, corresponds to education, with the study of the Vedas, the sacred texts. It is then appropriate for the adult to get rich and to have a descent. This is the Garhastya. Having raised his children, the faithful retires from the world in a retreat, the Vapapththya. The last stage, the Samnyasa, allows him to reach the Moksha, the spiritual liberation which will prevent him from reincarnation and thus opens the doors of the afterlife. The essential thing is to avoid hell which is, for Hinduism, reincarnation and especially reincarnation in animals.
Modern Westerners are totally impervious to the conceptual vision of man. Nothing would differentiate man from animals on the structural level. The mind of man would therefore have no specificity. This is the culmination of the Aristotelian approach taken up by St. Thomas Aquinas. Any thought would come exclusively from perceptions. There is therefore no absolute in thought since perception is essentially a relation. This depressing blindness has led to not seeing an essential aspect of Hinduism. No, man is not condemned to perpetual reincarnation! Its aim must be, on the contrary, to leave it through an exemplary life. The Moksha, the spiritual liberation, allows him to merge after his death into the Brahman, the transcendent Absolute and the ultimate, eternal principle. Rather than eternal, one should rather understand outside time, because time implies renewal. The words are not the same, yet this is the very idea of the paradise of Christianity. After the resurrection, the man when judged worthy goes to heaven where he meets God. Not only does he meet God, but he is a branch.
The Tao is the way. The Chinese believed that universal harmony resulted from the Tao, a kind of will regulating the Universe. "Something confused and mixed up was there. Before the birth of heaven and earth [...] able to be the genesis of the Universe. Its name remains unknown. It's called Tao. (Daode Jing chapter 25). Creation is the way, the Tao in itself. And this path imposes itself beyond the level of stars and beings to human existence itself. If the Tao is creative, he is not a being. It could be today considered as a process. He has the uniqueness, but he does not have Being. Moreover, unlike Hinduism, Taoism knows only one universe. There is no paradise. Eternal life would be accessible on this very Earth. While Westerners sought the philosopher's stone, the Chinese sought the philtre of eternity.
There would be a natural and just way of acting in this world. The State, and every man besides, acting according to this wisdom, will experience prosperity in harmony. Chaos and disaster would be the result of disorderly behavior. “As for holding to fullness, ar better were it to stop in time! Keep on beating and sharpening a sword, And the edge cannot be preserved for long. Fill your house with gold and jade, And it can no longer be guarded. Set store by your riches and honour, And you will only reap a crop of calamities. Here is the Way of Heaven: When you have done your work, retire!”. (Daode Jing chapter 9)
Taoism is an ideal of carefree and ecstatic communion with the cosmic forces, but also of the refusal of social life. Taoism advocates passivity, calm, and a return to Nature. We must let things unfold and surrender to the natural motion. By imitating the fertile passivity of Nature, man can free himself from constraints and his mind can “ride the clouds”. Faced with the injustices, sufferings and inconsistencies of feudal society, as in all periods, the Taoists thought of reaching harmony by returning to the state of nature, without sovereign and without laws to rule the people.
This attitude was reinforced by the successors of the mythical Lao-Tzu. The justification of passivity towards the world would not only result from the impossibility of altering its course, but from the inevitable advent of opposing situations. After a while everything will turn into its opposite. This is the famous thesis of Yin and Yang. The Taoist masters considered any attempt to change the course of events inappropriate. It is therefore useless to act. Aristotle did not go so far, but the very idea of the struggle of opposites is the basis of his dialectical system which lasted more than twenty centuries since it is the very basis of the Hegelian doctrine and its Marxist avatar. The atrocious thesis of evolution by elimination, devised by Darwin, is a direct application of it.
This attitude is not without analogy with Western Stoicism. But the motivations are fundamentally different. The ataraxis aimed at by stoicism and epicureanism is the principle of happiness. It would come from a state of profound tranquility which would flow from a detachment of material preoccupations and the search for the absence of any pain. Stoicism is characterized by the absence of any aim not only for an afterlife, but for any form of eternity of human nature, and even for the soul. There would be only the hope of a more serene or even pleasant life for the Epicureans, but no trace of afterlife expectation. Man would have no other end than the pleasure of a limited carnal life.
Not all men are sensitive to these essentially philosophical approaches. In reaction, the need for action always reappears, but it could find its place, at most, only in the individual himself.
Besides exercises close to yoga, respiratory techniques, dietary rules and frequent sexual practices aimed at strengthening the vital principle and prolonging life, the use of talismans spread in Taoist circles. To repel evil spirits and wild animals, "magic" seals bearing the yin-yang symbol were fixed above the houses. The emperors, for their part, devoted themselves to alchemy by mixing opposite elements. They did not intend to make gold as in the West, but pills of immortality.
Beyond these individual practices, Taoism integrated Shamanism and evolved towards the superstitions that characterize it today, with a more religious aspect in the form of polytheism. The adoration of various gods and goddesses, as well as fairies from Chinese folklore, was incorporated into the practices. Prophets were deified, and orders of monks were founded. They built monasteries and temples.
We find in the cortege of the gods the equivalents of the Greco-Roman gods. I will only mention Menshen, god of gates like Janus who gave his name to gates of French old cities: “les portes jaunes”. Moreover, elements were borrowed from Buddhism, spiritism and, of course, the cult of ancestors.
Although based on the same foundation, the Tao, Confucianism differs profoundly from the vision of Taoism and is even opposed to it.
The three books of Confucius focus on law and morality. However, his precepts are based upon reason and contain some elements that belong to philosophy: “Beings in Nature have a cause and effects” (The Great Learning, © 2016 Robert Eno ). “We receive from Heaven the luminous principles of reason” (id.). Confucianism favors pragmatism and teaches that social order reigns only when all men perform their duties, from the sovereign to the peasant. It codifies all human and social relationships and proposes a pattern of behavior.
The fundamental principle of Confucius is the Li. Without it, we would neither know how to worship properly the spirits of the universe, nor how to establish the reciprocal duties which exist between the king and his ministers, the sovereign and his subjects, the elders and the youth; nor how to distinguish the different degrees of kinship within the family. This is why the wise man has so much consideration for this principle. "
Consequently, the Li is the rule which must guide the man of quality. According to Confucius, everything must be “settled in the family, in the State and in the world”. Only then will we realize the Tao, that we will find the way.
The second principle, the ren, concerns human nature. " Only after affairs have been aligned may one’s understanding be fully extended. Only after one’s understanding is fully extended may one’s intentions be perfectly genuine. Only after one’s intentions are perfectly genuine may one’s mind be balanced. Only after one’s mind is balanced may one’s person be refined. Only after one’s person is refined may one’s household be aligned. Only after one’s household is aligned may one’s state be ordered. Only after one’s state is ordered may the world be set at peace. From the Son of Heaven to the common person, for all alike, refining the person is the root. That roots should be disordered yet branches ordered is not possible. That what should be thickened is thin yet what is thin becomes thick has never yet been so.” (The Great Learning, © 2016 Robert Eno I.B )
This philosophical attitude evolved, like Taoism, towards a religion, first by the cult of the dead. Confucius was deified. The Confucian rites became the state religion. Temples were thus built where sacrifices were regularly offered.
Taoism and Confucianism were two systems of thought based on wisdom and reason. We can say that today they are two religions, even if they come from rather philosophical approaches, leaving aside all forms of afterlife expectation. The experts do not agree on this point. Certain ambiguous texts of Lao-Tzu, Confucius and Mencius may suggest that they were contemplating eternal life, and thus an afterlife expectation, which has become superstition and hope of eternity for man in this world.
The total absence of any eschatological vision in Taoism and Confucianism is, moreover, a common characteristic which joins the form they give to Creation. It is the absence of any evolution.
Taoism and Confucianism refer exclusively to the natural and therefore perpetual order of the world. But the apparent invariability of the motion of the stars and the identity of the reproduction of beings are contradicted by the death of men themselves and the upheavals of states. It was the immense paradox that Taoism thought to have raised by a kind of dialectic of opposites, the opposition of Yang and Yin. Aristotle was confronted with the same paradox and believed that he could also solve it by rules of opposition, a dialectical approach that haunted two millenia later every page of Hegel. And the most astounding in all this is to note the pathetic return to the mythical belief of the physical existence of invariance and of the absolute in the experimental world. The negation of the process no longer concerns the formation of matter, but the existence of its properties, which are supposed to be inherent. One might see this as a step forward, but it is, as well, a return to the most worn-out myths.
Confucianism seeks harmony within society. Taoism seeks individual harmony by leaving civilization and returning to Nature. Although opposed in attitudes towards this world, both bear the hope of a better life here below.
The present adepts of Confucianism, and certainly more of Taoism, aim at eternity. Their search for the eternity of human life leads one to think that it is not really an afterlife, but a pursuit, it is true quite mysterious, of life in this world. The deities only possess Yang. Then, just below, the immortals are the humans who have led their earthly existence into virtue. On the other hand, there are Yin beings, ghosts and demons. Logically if the Yang is eternal, the Yin, its inseparable opposite, should be so too? Spiritual development consists of moving away from the Yin to the Yang, the only way to the unity of being, the Tao. Personal immortality would concern the body that nothing could distinguish from the mind, or even from matter.
Here we meet the problem of the very nature of the Tao and thus the mystery of Creation. It is not an object of thought. In a sense, it's true. If one disregards the abracadabrating pretensions of the calamitous pure mathematical science, it is a mystery that one can only accept. But Western rationalism poses the question, not so much of the nature or process of Creation, but of its cause and consequences. Reason can not stay indefinitely in front of two questions as we shall see.
There is no reference to any eschatology. Confucianism and Taoism are essentially, today, religions of hope as opposed to monotheisms, bearers, first, of afterlife expectation.
This fundamental difference explains the difficulty of reciprocal understanding in such dramatically opposite approaches. If the reading of the Bible meets today a huge success in the Far East, it is primarily for a political reason. How has the Christian approach led to the advent of human rights and the democracy, of which many dream about? They seek the answer in the only truly common point: the Bible. But at the end, the appraoch which marked all their education is the antipodes of the Christian vision. Despite the integration of the worship of many divinities into their practices, the Orientals' approach is essentially personal, and is based on an exclusive form of Freewill. Their divinities are by no means imposed. Their existence is independent of that of humans. The Tao is not a divine imposition, but a path that belongs to the order of the world. To tell the truth, the antinomy is only apparent. It's all about presentation. The search for causality is a natural process for us. We apply it, without thinking, to the Creation as well as to the Parousia. This is not the case for the Orientals. For them, Creation, an integral part of the Tao, generates causality.
One could see a vision similar to that of Jesus of Nazareth: “your thoughts are not my thoughts” on the condition of not literally interpreting these words, but extending them to the very nature of thought. In other words, God is beyond thought itself. He can not be attributed a rational and therefore causal vision. God is not scientific. Creation includes man and his mind. Causality is the way of thinking of the human mind. Causality exists only in Creation and through Creation. We shall see that all heresies are based on scientific, rational, causal reasoning about Creation and about man in particular.
The rationalist view of the Positivists led them to classify religions into categories, as they did for plants. The starting point of the rational approach is classification. Before seeking to understand, the scientists list everything that falls under their hands. This paranoia is accomplished in a systematic categorization. Yet it is a necessity. The illusion is to take these categories for realities. Now, like any work and any human thought, categories are the image of a point of view on Nature. They result from a choice which at first no one thinks questionable. But, in reality, these categories are the reflection of a mentality. For example, Linnaeus categories are based primarily on sexual reproduction. This approach, however, includes non-sexual categories, such as fungi, ferns and Ginkgo biloba. On the other hand, the Paulownia and the Catalpa are trees whose wood is identical. They have the same bearing and the same flowered stems, with the same odor of jasmine, which differ only in color. But, the fruits are very different. They do not belong to the same species. So there are other possible classifications.
This is the eternal problem of the rationalism. It is the problem of the pure science essentially. The reason chains the causes. But it needs inevitably a starting point. Everything is there. The chain may seem undeniable, or at least consolidated by such a number of coincidences that any questioning seems absurd. But the postulates, the basic assumptions, the starting points, can never be proved. They escape reason, and in reality they are always either erroneous or stupid, like putting the absolute in the experimental world.
Positivists and Progressives list Religions There would be religions of the Book as opposed to others. Oriental religions, Buddhism in particular, would not belong to this category. The idea was to give them a rational value thus opposing them to Catholicism. This vision is completely contrary to reality. The Dalai Lama tried to denounce this stupid error. Buddhism is certainly the religion which contains the greatest mass of writings that the pure has to study relentlessly. The Dhammapada, the doctrine of Siddhārta Gautama, the true name of the Buddha, is alone a sum of tens of books, collated towards the end of the second century BC, three centuries after the Buddha's death. It must also be added that the notion of the religion of the Book really applies only to Islam. No other religion takes its own writings for intangible truths, but on the contrary for human works, the basis of personal reflection.
The most striking aspect of these texts, for a Westerner, is the systematic quantification of statements. Buddhism has Three Jewels. He sets forth Four Noble Truths for the three characteristics of existence, its three poisons and its immeasurable Four. Twelve interdependent links link the disciple who must free himself from it to follow the Noble Eightfold Way, respecting the five or ten precepts. Diderot, in his Encyclopaedia, has done no better in the matter.
Progressives are not only wrong about the writings, but of course they have not had the curiosity to open a single Buddhist text. Their rationalism is hard hit and we start very high: “Mind is the forerunner of (all evil) states. Mind is chief; mind-made are they”. (Dhammapada 1. Yamakavagga 1 and 2). Plato spoke of ideas as the basis of all things. Reality is only a copy. It is the same thought. Ideas belong to the mind. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. St. John did not invent these words. It is in the Genesis itself: “God says”. There is, of course, a fundamental difference. In the Genesis, the word is name and is self-sufficient. In St. John, the word is at the same time an act. He called it the Logos, which is much more than words or even than books!
The progressive, imbued with science, and of himself also, takes a smile here: these are outdated thoughts, thoughts of the past. The scientist is about to explain the origin of the Universe. It is only matter and energy. The human brain, the only objective data, would be only an avatar. The Progressist refrains from being materialistic. He accepts all the supposedly fulgurant advances of pure science. But he also believes, of course, in a divine world; another world, without interconnection, a separate world.
Like the scientist, he denies absolutely any form of world of ideas, of the transcendental world. In fact he does not believe in the Logos. Books bear only human thoughts. The idea of Logos, underlying the words “God says”, would be only a human way of expressing the nature of the divine world.
The question that arises then is the nature of the absolute? Pure science puts the absolute and the supposedly invariant laws of Nature in the material reality! How is that possible ? How can a world of relations contain any absolute data? How can a world of relations contain absolutely invariant laws? The experimental world in which we live is a world of relationships. It does not offer these “interstices”, dear to Lucretius, where to place the absolute. It is the enormous incoherence of progressives.
The Buddha is far beyond these stupidities: “The equanimity that arises when — experiencing the inconstancy of those very forms, their change, fading, & cessation — one sees with right discernment as it actually is that all forms” (Salâyatanavibhanga-sutta). It is not only the ancestor of the penta rhei, penta rhei, everything flows, attributed to Heraclitus; it is also Plato's thesis. Equanimity, beyond material forms, is the world of Plato's ideas, the world of simple ideas of Descartes, the world of concepts of pure reason of Kant.
The great preoccupation of the Buddha is the sovereign good. Plato wrote his most beautiful pages about it. There is however a difference in size. Plato regards the Good as an absolute idea and therefore inaccessible to man in this world. Buddha thought that good is already knowable down here. In reality, he does not really define the Good, but proposes to attain happiness now and in the afterlife, by rejecting evil. Evil is the dukkha. “How to escape from this dukkha?” (Nagara-sutta). “Besides, I said, You must know the dukkha; it is necessary to know the reason for its appearance; it is necessary to know its varieties, its consequence, its cessation and the way towards its cessation. Why did I say it? I said it because birth is also dukkha, aging is also dukkha, disease is also dukkha, death is also dukkha, being united to what one does not like is dukkha, being separated from the loved is dukkha, not getting what is wanted is also dukkha. In short, the five aggregates of clinging are dukkha”. (Nibbedikapariyaya-sutta).
The Buddha shows the way to escape this dukkha. “As for the path leading to the cessation of dukkha, it is none other than the noble eight-fold way: right view, right resolve, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right meditative concentration. enerable Mahākotthita, there is yet another way: [If] a learned noble disciple understands dukkha as it really is, understands the arising of dukkha as it really is undertands the cessation of dukkha as it really is and understands the path to the cessation of dukkha as it really is” (Sammāditthi-sutta). It is the path of happiness: “The joy that arises when — experiencing the inconstancy of those very forms, their change, fading, & cessation — one sees with right discernment as it actually is that all forms, past or present, are inconstant, stressful, subject to change: That is called renunciation joy”. (Salayatana-vibhanga-sutta).
The writing, however, has no value by itself. “Come, Kalamas. Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing; nor upon tradition; nor upon rumor; nor upon what is in a scripture; nor upon surmise; nor upon an axiom; nor upon specious reasoning; nor upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over; nor upon another's seeming ability; nor upon the consideration, The monk is our teacher. Kalamas, when you yourselves know”. (kalama-sutta 10). Isaiah had already declared: “He will not judge from appearances, he will not decide according to what he hears” (Isaiah 11: 3). Later, the problem of appearance haunted Greek philosophy from its origins.
Buddhism is not more a religion of the Book than Judaism or Catholicism. The Buddhist writings are by no means irrefutable data, but first of all instruments of reflection. Knowledge of the text is in no way sufficient to achieve happiness. The text gives the path. Happiness itself is the result of acts and thoughts that take place in the given direction. This passage of the kalama-sutta could let believe that the texts of the Buddha would not be a recognized authority. It is not obviously what Boudhha said. He only considers that his sutta, and all his statements, do not have a religious character. He did not think that his path could be taken for a religion. He was opposed to the religious practices of the Brahmins, whom he considered abusive. In particular, he despised the excesses: “Neither going about naked, nor matted locks, nor filth, nor fasting, nor lying on the ground, nor smearing oneself with ashes and dust, nor sitting on the heels (in penance) can purify a mortal who has not overcome doubt. “ (Dhammapada, Dandavagga 141).
It's a matter of words. Religions include attitudes involving afterlife expectatives, as opposed to materialism not only atheistic denying the existence of the very idea of God, but also agnostic. Pure science has eradicated the intermediate category of the so-called idealist agnostics. The latter, like the philosopher Alain, recognized in their minds the access to the absolute, to absolute ideas. In fact, this position is unstable, as they say in physics. In the face of this metaphysical world, the agnostics, like the Ass of Buridan, died without being able to choose between atheistic materialism, raw matter, and the divine world, the afterlife. The metaphysical world opens them a path to the absolute. They can not return to the purely objective view of materialists. But they also do not more want to think that this opening to the absolute is the carrier of eternity.
The path of the Buddha is not exclusively a personal approach as most Westerners think. The definition of the happiness of the Buddha is based on a relationship with the others.
“Here, householders, a noble disciple reflects thus: I am one who wishes to live, who does not wish to die; I desire happiness and am averse to suffering. Since I am one who wishes to live, who does not wish to die; who desires happiness and is averse to suffering; if someone were to take my life, that would not be pleasing and agreeable to me. Now if I were to take the life of another -- of one who wishes to live, who does not wish to die, who desires happiness and is averse to suffering--that would not be pleasing and agreeable to the other either. What is displeasing and disagreeable to me is displeasing and disagreeable to the other too. How can I inflict upon another what is displeasing and disagreeable to me?” (Veludvareyya-sutta). The Buddha continues, with the same logic, that one should not steal, nor lie, nor calumniate, nor commit adultery. “Focus, not on the rudenesses of others, not on what they've done or left undone, but on what you have & haven't done yourself.” (Pupphavagga 50).
Moreover, this attitude extends to our thoughts about others: “It's easy to see the errors of others, but hard to see your ownYou winnow like chaff the errors of others, but conceal your own — like a cheat, an unlucky throw.” (Malavagga 252). The words are almost the same as in the Gospels of St. Matthew (7: 3-5) and St. Luke (6:41): “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye”. But the objective is fundamentally different. For the Buddha, if it is also a question of becoming aware of one's own faults, the only goal is to eliminate the desire that is at the origin of the faults. The notion of forgiveness is non-existent. In the same way, the confession of his faults is not intended for forgiveness, but for the improvement of the struggle against desires. There is moreover no official confessor at the Buddhists. It is only necessary to address one or several fair men.
More generally: “He who injures another is no contemplative. He who mistreats another, no monk.” (Buddhavagga 183). It is not a question of an eremitic solitude. “Monk, don't on account of your precepts & practices, great erudition, concentration attainments, secluded dwelling, or the thought, I touch the renunciate ease that run-of-the-mill people don't know: ever let yourself get complacent when the ending of effluents is still unattained." (Dhammattavagga). It is not a question of withdrawing completely from the world, but of knowing how to take time to withdraw into oneself in order to reflect on the Doctrine of the Buddha and thus be able to put it into practice, the only true goal. “But whoever puts aside both merit & evil and, living the chaste life, judiciously goes through the world: he's called a monk." (Dhammattavagga 266).
Contrary to the approach of Stoicism, the Buddhist seeks happiness. It is by no means the pleasure of the senses, always unsatisfied. But, on the contrary, the renunciation of all forms of desire. The Buddhist does not propose to remake the world to bring him happiness. He is well aware of reality and of his own nature: “What laughter, why joy, when constantly aflame? Enveloped in darkness, don't you look for a lamp?” And “Worn out is this body, a nest of diseases, dissolving. This putrid conglomeration is bound to break up, for life is hemmed in with death. “ (Jaravagga).
As for the misery of the world, the Buddha 's answer is generosity: “Those who don't praise giving are fools. The enlightened express their approval for giving and so find ease in the world beyond.” (Lokavagga 177), and again “Conquer anger with lack of anger; bad, with good; stinginess, with a gift; a liar, with truth.” (Khodhavagga 223).
On the personal level, the goal of the Buddhist is to attain non-being, nirvana. Not only does he seek true happiness on this earth by the liberation of the spirit, by the “annihilation of desires”, but also happiness in the other world. Buddhist evil is assimilated to dissatisfaction, which Heidegger, in his quest for existential temporality, will call “concern”: “Death, fault and moral conscience are co-originally in one. They have for common root the care” (Being and time, © 1986, Gallimard, p.436).
Care is opposed to serenity, to happiness. It must be eliminated. The Doctrine gives the way to follow, the maggavagga, the path. “Of paths, the eightfold is best: right view, right resolve, right speech, right conduct, right livehood, right effort, right minfulness and right meditation” (Maggavagga and Nibbedïkapariyâya-sutta). Care is a source of anxiety. It concerns not only all the events of material existence, but also feelings, thoughts and consciousness.
We must see in birth, old age, sickness and death the necessities that must be accepted without amenity, a form of asceticism a little like the Stoics will propose it. One can not really speak of fatalism, as it will be the case in Islam. Indeed, the Buddha proposes a remedy: nirvana. But terrestrial happiness is no less contrary to true serenity than misfortune: “To sacrifice what is essential to the slavery of pleasure is to go before the regrets of not having acted correctly. Don't ever — regardless — be conjoined with what's dear or undear. It's painful not to see what's dear or to see what's not. So don't make anything dear, for it's dreadful to be far from what's dear. No bonds are found for those for whom there's neither dear nor undear.” (Piyavagga). St. Francis Xavier, who has long resided in the Far East, will repeat this argument: “as numerous as can be the obstacles raised by the enemy to the perseverance in the virtue and in the perfection, we run more danger in the middle of the world and by not placing our trust in God as we cross big adversities, than by enduring the afflictions that the Enemy arouses“.
Even the most natural feelings must be repressed because “From what's dear is born grief, from what's dear is born fear.” (Piyavagga) by the fear of seeing him suffer or, worse, die: “That's the way it is, householder. That's the way it is — for sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair are born from one who is dear, come springing from one who is dear.” (Piyajâtika-sutta).
“He grows disenchanted with the intellect, disenchanted with ideas, disenchanted with consciousness at the intellect, disenchanted with contact at the intellect. And whatever there is that arises in dependence on contact at the intellect, experienced as pleasure, pain or neither-pleasure-nor-pain: He grows disenchanted with that too. Disenchanted, he becomes dispassionate. Through dispassion, he is fully released. With full release, there is the knowledge, 'Fully released.' He discerns that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.”. (Adittapariyaya-Sutta).
Similarly, to wonder about the finite or infinite nature of the universe and the limited or eternal nature of existence is a cause of concern because it is insoluble by our minds. The Buddha refuses to ask the question. This does not in any way mean that it rejects any form of eternity. He merely asserts that it is sterile to seek to know. We shall see what happens to our death, until then it is a preoccupation not only sterile, but harmful as a concern. Moreover, his vision of the hereafter carries a form of eternity through the definitive absence of reincarnation for the nobles, the righteous.
The refusal to consider the eternity and the infinity of the universe is expressed in a long process that leads to the suppression of all desire for thought. The first stage is a negation of perception: “Further, Ananda, the monk — not attending to the perception of earth, not attending to the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of space — attends to the singleness based on the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness. His mind takes pleasure, finds satisfaction, settles, & indulges in its perception of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness.
"He discerns that 'Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of earth are not present. Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of space are not present. There is only this modicum of disturbance: the singleness based on the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness. He discerns that This way of perception is empty of the perception of earth. This way of perception is empty of the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of space. There is only this non-emptiness: the singleness based on the perception of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness. hus he regards it as empty of whatever is not there. Whatever remains, he discerns as present: There is this. And so this, his entry into emptiness, accords with actuality, is undistorted in meaning, & pure.” (Cula-Sunnata-sutta). The infinite, like eternity, is evacuated from perception, then from thought and consciousness at last.
This neutral attitude, this emptiness, characterizes “the middle path”: “There are these two extremes that are not to be indulged in by one who has gone forth. Which two? That which is devoted to sensual pleasure with reference to sensual objects: base, vulgar, common, ignoble, unprofitable; and that which is devoted to self-affliction: painful, ignoble, unprofitable. Avoiding both of these extremes, the middle way realized by the Tathagata — producing vision, producing knowledge — leads to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding.“ (Dhamma- Cakkappavattana-Sutta).
But this attitude towards the mind also leads to disinterest in any philosophical, artistic, historical, biological, chemical or mechanical preoccupation. Any form of intellectual speculation must be avoided. This explains the immense present interest of the intellectuals of the Far East for the Bible. Why do Westerners constantly innovate, invent, discover? One can think of finding a reason, not in an ethnic question, but in what they are in common, the common heritage of the Christian West: the Bible.
One can question the coherence of Buddhism. Indeed, the search for the “Middle Path” can not be reconciled with the extreme position of the Buddha in the search for the liberation of spirit, emptiness, nirvana or non-being. The sublime Way is not for the purpose of acquiring material advantages, respect, and popularity. It is not intended to obtain mastery of the senses, nor mental concentration, nor knowledge based on correct vision, but this sublime Way aims at the unshakable release of thought. It is the heart, it is the total end. These last words of this conclusion drawn from the Indriya-bhavana-sutta can not express a middle way!
The Buddha does not legislate. It does not impose any obligation. It only shows that desires are harmful to happiness, not only during this life, but for the afterlive. Thus, it does not prohibit alcohol, but warns of the dangers of intoxicating drinks: “Who is drunk, poor, destitute, still thirsty whilst drinking, frequents the bars, sinks in debt as a stone in water, swiftly brings disrepute to his family.” (Sigalovada-sutta). In the same way, he pronounces for monogamy and advocates a perfect equality of man and woman: “harmony between woman and her husband. Husband and wife have the same morality, even wisdom .... They will be seen together in the future life” (Sigalovada-sutta). Besides, all men are equal in front of wisdom: “Not by birth is one an outcast; not by birth is one a brahman. By deed one becomes an outcast, by deed one becomes an brahman.”(Vasala-sutta 27).
The hope of a better life here below, through the application of the Buddha's Doctrine, accompanies the hope of a happy afterlife. But this afterlife has no opposite. There is no hell for the Buddhists. From a logical point of view, this vision is quite satisfactory, for logic is opposed to considering that the sovereign good, absolute by its very nature, may be bound in any way to a contrary. It would thus have a relation, admittedly, of opposition, but entirely contradictory to the thought of the absolute, opposed to any form of relation. The dialectical opposition of opposites, just like Manichean visions, is completely opposite to the Buddhism.
The unconscious who refuses to follow the path of the Buddha does not go into a kind of Gehenna, but, much worse, he is reincarnated, he is reborn for a new life, to confront the dukkha again. The horror for the pure, the wise, who does everything to get rid of it.
To avoid falling into the desire for the happiness of the afterlife, another dukkha, the Buddha does not want to go beyond an hypothesis. To the question: “Master Gotama, we have such desires, such wishes, such hopes: May we dwell in a home crowded with children! May we enjoy Kāsi sandalwood! May we wear garlands, scents and make-up! May we enjoy gold and silver [using jewelry and money]! When the body breaks up, after death, may we be reborn in a good destination, in a heavenly world. As we have such desires, such wishes, such hopes, may master Gotamateach us the Dharma in such a way that we might dwell in a home crowded with children, that we might enjoy Kāsi sandalwood,we might wear garlands, scents and make-up,that we might enjoy gold and silver [using jewelry and money], that when the body breaks up, after death, may we be reborn in good destination, in a heavenly world” (Veludvareyya -sutta), he replies: ” If there is a world after death, if there is the fruit of actions rightly & wrongly done, then this is the basis by which, with the break-up of the body, after death, I will reappear in a good destination, the heavenly world.'” (kalama-sutta).
On the contrary, he who refuses to follow the correct path is doomed to reincarnation in this world: “Through the round of many births I roamed without reward, without rest, seeking the house-builder. Painful is birth again & again.” (Jaravagga). Indeed: “Loosened & oiled are the joys of a person. People, bound by enticement, looking for ease: to birth & aging they go.” (Tanhavagga 341). Besides: “Riches ruin the man weak in discernment, but not those who seek the beyond. Through craving for riches the man weak in discernment ruins himself as he would others.” (Tanhavagga 355). As we have seen, it is not absolutely: generosity can save somehow. In his Letter, St. James leaves less hope: “Listen to me, you rich people! Weep, mourn, for misfortune awaits you” (Jn 5: 1).
The search for the elimination of care leads the Buddhists to no longer ask the question of the absolute, of uniqueness, of God at last. But this exclusive preoccupation with abstraction from the cares of the world is accompanied by a desire to do good to avoid reincarnation. The only real goal is to reach wisdom to join the afterlife. And without reincarnation this afterlife is eternity. The desire to avoid the care to think of humanly insoluble questions such as the existence of the uniqueness, the existence of God, can not avoid believing in it, since it is synonymous with eternal life in the afterlife. Implicitly Buddhists thus adhere to the notion of Creator which the Brahmins have inherited from Hinduism. Besides, Siddhārta Gautama, the Buddha, was a Brahman.
It should be noted, while speaking of him, that temples and statues are not places of invocation of the Buddha, but only commemorative signs.
Shintoism is a religion peculiar to Japan. However, it does not imply any collective salvation of the Japanese, as Judaism for the Jews. Moreover, in Upper Antiquity, each state, even each city, had its gods, superior to the others, of course. One might say that each community had its own religion, but there was never any question of exclusive collective salvation.
Shintoism is practiced in Japan in conjunction with Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism. Moreover, religious unification dates back to the origins of the imperial family. His gods became prominent, without eliminating the multiple local gods.
The Japanese are very superstitious and go to the Shintoist temple to obtain some success as to pass an examination. On the other hand, the rite of the deaths of the Buddhism attracts them and they going to be married in Christian churches. They often adhere to several religions simultaneously.
Shintoism includes a multitude of gods. Even the introduction of Buddhism in Japan does not seem to have brought the rational vision of the divine uniqueness which characterize all other religions. It is a mythological religion.
Of all religions, Judaism is the only one which, in its strict sense, concerns only one people, the descendants of Abraham. It is from Abraham that Judaism asserts itself as an absolute monotheism. This did not prevent the Jews from worshiping other gods at times. The most famous cases are the golden calf, during the Exodus, Baal and Astarte during the conquest of Canaan, and the various gods worshiped by Solomon at the end of his life.
This uniqueness has the consequence that Judaism has no mythology. The epics of the gods of Homer are replaced by the history of the Jewish people and its God since the creation of the world.
This monotheism has sometimes been qualified: “Who is like you, among the gods, YHWH ...” (Ex 15:11) declared Moses. This is not the case, for Moses refers here to the gods of other nations. Moreover, the superiority of the God of Israel over all the gods of other peoples is the leitmotiv of the Torah. This superiority has gradually been transformed into an exclusivity. Isaiah denies the existence of the other gods: “Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me”. (Isa. XLIII. 10-12). And Zechariah goes even further: “And YHWH shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one YHWH, and his name one.” (XIV. 19). This raises the question of the national nature of the God of Israel. Orthodox Jews reject the possibility of the conversion of foreigners to Judaism. Salvation would thus be strictly reserved for the Jews.
The God of Israel gave it its civil and religious laws. He intervenes all moment in the life of his people. He designates kings and supports them in their wars, but can stand still when the king or the people do not do according to his will.
In the same way, the God of Israel intervenes in the life of men by punishing them if they do not respect his Law. He swamps them with benefactions should they obey. So leprosy is the punishment of a sin. The born blind is inevitably a sinner since his birth. And reciprocally, wealth is the proof of divine favor. But obviously, the true reward is in the afterlife. Judaism is thus both a religion of hope, on this Earth, and of afterlife expectation, in the hereafter. And God leaves to men a total freedom of action. Of course, there is punishment, but it is proof that man is free. He may even deny his God.
“In the Hereafter, Olam Haba, we find only the fruits of his efforts and his labor in this world, Olam Hazeh, consecrated to serve the Lord with all his heart, with all his soul, and of all his means; the heavenly reward of his earthly good deeds being the only wealth that one carries with him, and whose placement is the only one whose guarantor is sure and eternally solvent. The reward assured will be the resurrection of the dead who will live an eternal Life”. (Daâth Tébounoth" Chapter 3, paragraph 40, annotation No. 79 of Rav Mordechai Chriqui).
There are two main interpretations of the Hereafter, Olam Haba. In its primary sense, it is the immediate beyond, at the moment of death. But it is also interpreted as the afterlife of 6000 years of the Talmud (Sanhedrin 94a): 2000 years before the donation of the Torah, 2000 years of Torah until the destruction of the second Temple, then the 2000 years of Messianic times, what leads us to the end of the world in 2240 AD. But all interpretations are possible from the symbolic value of the text to the postponement because of the sins of Israel.
The resurrection is also the object of a multitude of interpretations, from the negation by the Sadducees to the hypothesis of Maimonides of a new death of the resuscitated who will reborn in spirit. The consensus is on the immorality of the soul.
These interpretations caused divisions since the earliest times. Religious parties have undoubtedly always existed rather freely, although they have been known only since the time of the Hasmonean monarchy.
Accused of persistent polytheism (II R-XVII), the Samaritans were repulsed by the exiles of Babylon returning to Jerusalem to build the Second Temple, in the 6th century BCE. They built their temple on the site of Shechem.
The Sadducees, members of the high clergy and of the aristocracy, guarantors of the purity of the text and the idea of free choice between good and evil, did not believe in resurrection. They disappear after the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 AD.
The Pharisees were adept of the most rigorous ritual purity. They believed in the resurrection of the flesh and in the action of providence through man. They showed the same attachment to the oral tradition as to the Scriptures. This pushed the synagogue to become a focus of interpretation of the Law and was at the origin of Rabbinism, then of the Talmud.
Rabbinism has resumed the Pharisaic requirement of holiness and reflection of the piety of the scribes, which is expressed through the study, the interpretation and the practice of the Torah. The Rabbi, a Doctor of the Law and judge at his hours, substitutes himself for the priest and the prayer to the sacrifices.
Stemming from the radical groups fighting the Roman power with arms in hand during the first Judeo-Roman war, the Zealots took the head of the army at Massada shortly after the fall of the Temple. Preferring to die rather than surrender, the last of them commit suicide with their families.
The Essenes as for them live a monastic life and follow strict rules for the collective distribution of goods. Numerous archaeological and textual evidence suggest that the site of Qumràn sheltered an Essenian settlement. After the destruction of the Temple, they joined the Pharisaic community, contributing to the birth of rabbinical Judaism.
The Karaites refuse the Oral Law and its comments. They appeared in the eighth century of our era in Babylon, then important place of Islam.
Judaism has been confronted, like all religions, with the vicissitudes of our world. Persecutions, invasions, and wars, however, provoked less debates than the advent of modernism and liberalism. Each movement, as it should, had its reactions. There were splits and condemnations, as it occured from the beginning against the blasphemers and the heretics. Uriel Acosta, and above all the famous philosopher Baruch Spinoza, were punished with forty lashes of their words, considered as heretical, both in Amsterdam.
The profound political upheavals, which marked Europe, have regularly led to the exclusion of minorities or their conversion. In Islamic countries, the capitation of non-Muslims and the prohibition of access to administrative posts prompted many Jews to convert to Islam. In Europe, several massacres and expulsions forced Jews to convert to Catholicism. This was the case in Spain with Isabella the Catholic in 1492. But some converted Jews hid to practice their religion, not without interference with the imposed Christian education.
After the massacres by the Cossacks in 1648, the Jewish population of Central Europe experienced a religious outburst with the Sabbateans who follow the false Messiah Sabbatai Tzvi. This messianic outburst, born from despair, ended in confusion, even in conversion to Islam.
Soon after, Hasidism took over. It advocated a form of pietism, based on the use of parables with dancing and singing, more accessible to the common people than the learned teaching of the rabbinate.
By reaction, the Orthodox, the Mitnagdim, militated for the scholarly study of traditional texts. They regarded Hasidism as a false messianism and even denounced it to the tsarist authorities.
But the intrusion of the modern world at the beginning of the nineteenth century raised the question of the adaptation of beliefs to the new visions of the world, essentially to the Liberalism and the Positivism. From the beginning of the nineteenth century, Liberalism was rejected by some rabbis who declared themselves orthodox: “The new is forbidden by the Torah”. They will form separate communities of strict observance.
In the second half of the century, the neo-Orthodox current began to consider an adaptation to the modern world. This movement still exists today and have resulted in an active presence in the world. The studies, the languages, the cultures, the lifestyles and even the ways of thinking of the host countries are integrated as far as possible into the religious practices. In practice, the respective roles of men, women, children and adults are adapted to the rules of civil society. In the 20th century, this movement will not follow the Zionist vision. The advent of the Messiah is interpreted as adherence to a continuous social progress. Neither the actual return to Zion nor the reconstruction of the Temple are necessary.
The Orthodox refused these arrangements and maintained their traditions with all possible rigor. This Massorti movement, or traditional, is particularly powerful in the United States.
The Great Heresies
Plato gave priority to reason on experiment. A fortiori, for the Greek philosophers, reason prevails over beliefs. St. Paul experienced it in Athens. Aristotle also considered that reason prevails. But the drama is that in his system, knowledge can come only from perceptions, and therefore from experiment. True founder of logic, his doctrine is nevertheless a circle denounced by the great jurist Cicero. Human intelligence, by reason, is judgment. Yet, in the system of Aristotle, the judge elaborates the criteria of judgment. Who is the judge? The human mind. These criteria result from the perceptions to be judged. This is the reason that establishes the criteria of judgment. Then the reason judges the facts. Finally, it is the reason that judges his own perceptions on the basis of his own criteria of judgment. One should not be surprised that a jurist as famous as Cicero has risen strongly against this total confusion of roles in the system of Aristotle. Cicero is one of the few minds to have defended Plato's system. It will be followed by St. Augustine before St. Thomas Aquinas came to cover with a leaden cope the system of ideas, the platonic metaphysics.
Reason necessarily must have criteria independent of perceptions. They are the transcendental concepts accessed by the mind. These absolute concepts allow independent judgment. They are given to us, as is natural law. We thus have the idea of God, linked to eternity, uniqueness and infinity.
The primacy of reason results in the negation of certain facts reported by the Old and New Testaments. This is the foundation of almost all heresies up to Protestantism and beyond. Most heresies have a rational basis.
Those which concern only practices, and the sacraments in particular, are a result from the interpretation of the texts. One no longer seek to render facts conformable to the reason. These heresies recognize the mysterious nature of these facts. But, as it is about revelation, the texts must be taken literally. This is a perfectly logical reasoning. It is also a form of rationalism. It is one of the pillars of Islam. But there is the crucial problem of understanding texts. Islam rejects all interpretation. In contrast, Protestantism in principle leaves everyone free to interpret the Bible.
Even before the end of the first century of our era, great minds posed the problem of the relation of reason to faith. From the beginning then, aspects of faith have been put to the test of reason. The heresies intermingle. However, they follow roughly a chronology that follows the elaboration of dogmas.
We shall thus traverse successively the heresies which bear on the divine nature of Jesus of Nazareth, on God and the Trinity, on the Virgin Mary, on the rites and the sacraments.
The Gnostics, although of earlier origin, were placed afterwards. They fundamentally represent the intellectualist position of Nominalism, which is rather a philosophical than a religious heresy. Protestantism comes under the same approach. Some essential aspects, such as predestination and its consequence, the negation of the Freewill, are also criticized on the philosophical level. However, Protestantism is the subject of a separate chapter that will make the transition with Progressism. Intellectualism is, in fact, its fondamental aspect.
The purifying heresies are also present throughout history. They have been grouped at the end of this chapter with the Millenarians whose practices are close with different motives.
THE DIVINE NATURE OF JESUS OF NAZARETH
Docetism abolishes the scandal of the Cross. The cross was the most vile torture. The last torture mentioned by Cicero in the scale of horror. It is rationally impossible for God to be crucified. Moreover, God can not be of human flesh. Jesus came to Earth only under a visible appearance for the eyes of men. His sufferings, his death are only apparent and not effective.
The appellation dates only from the second century, but the Docetian doctrine had already been criticized by St. Ignatius of Antioch (37-107). Docetism subsisted only some times in Arabia and the neighboring regions. One can trace them in the Quran as we shall see.
Marcionism is a form of Docetism, a word derived from docere, to appear. Jesus is the son of God only in an analogical sense. Christ is God, Jesus is a man. Passion and crucifixion are only visions.
Marcion (85-160), born in Sinope in Asia Minor, saw an abyss between the God of the Old Testament, bloodthirsty and tyrannical, and the God of love of the New Testament, breaking with Jewish tradition. It should be pointed out that he proposed a correction of the Our Father, of which we speak again today, since we no longer translate: esipherein by inducere, induire, but by let enter into temptation.
For the Marcionists, it is not conceivable, from the point of view of Greek rationalism, that God created the Devil. The world itself, with its horrors, can not have been created by God. Jesus is the son of God only in an analogical sense. Christ is God, Jesus is a man. Passion and crucifixion are only visions. Eternal life is promised only to those who have worshiped the good God. Like the Sadducees, they reject the resurrection of bodies. God, moreover, is only spirit and can not be incarnated. Eternal life does not concern the body, but the spirit.
A variant of docetism is of particular importance by the apocryphal Gospels it has left. The Judaist could not admit that Jesus was crucified. Jesus would have asked Judas to replace him, and Judas would have replaced him on the cross. Various versions explain how Jesus was abducted at this time, one of which has been copied in the Quran. It may be pointed out in passing that the Copts consider Pontius Pilate as a saint. He would have repented. This is hardly probable, for he continued to treat the Jews with such violence that he was accused of provoking revolts and summoned to Rome in 36 or 37. There he did escape his trial, and certainly to the condemnation to death, only thanks to the death of Tiberius. But, do we ever know? Who judges?
Two opposite answers were subsequently made to the problem raised by docetism. The first is the negation of its divine nature during its presence on Earth, the second is the negation of its human nature.
The first answer is, in fact, antecedent to docetism. It spread in the Judeo-Christian environment of the first century. The Ebionites did not admit the divine nature of Jesus, nor indeed the virginity of Mary, which was accepted by Mahomet. They preserved Essene practices and practiced baptism by immersion. Precursors of the “pure ones”, heretics of the Cathar type, they had very strict moral rules and were vegetarians. Their beliefs were based on a summary of the Gospel according to St. Matthew. Naturally, they did not accept the letters of St. Paul. They subsisted in Iran and Arabia until the middle of the ninth century.
In this same Judeo-Christian environment, the Mandaeans thought that Jesus was a false prophet. They venerated St. John the Baptist. They relied on an interpretation of a passage in the Old Testament relative to Malachi. The advertised messenger would actually be the advertiser himself: Malachi.
A lapse of the persecution of Marcus Aurelius denies the divine nature of Jesus of Nazareth. Theodotus the banker, a disciple of Theodotus of Byzantium, denied Jesus in order to escape martyrdom. He was condemned in 195 for this heretical position. Was it really his conviction or a way to avoid martyrdom? It seems that he had disciples, the Theodotos, which would justify the condemnation.
The Carpocratians were pure Platonists of Alexandria in the first century. They saw in Jesus only a sage like Thales, Plato and Aristotle whom they venerated. But above all, they took up Metempsychosis, the justification of the doctrine of Plato. It was in fact the Plato’s answer to the consciousness by the human mind of the ideas of the transcendental world, confused here with the divine world. The world was the work of inferior angels, instead of the gods of Plato. The soul had to free itself from Creation. Through a series of transmigrations it could recover the heaven. It is a christianization of the philosophical doctrine of Plato.
Later, in the 3rd century, the Artemonians also denied the divine nature of Jesus on a rational argument. Artemmon's reasoning was based on the birth of Jesus. He had a beginning, therefore he is not God, eternity in himself. Artemon was condemned at Antioch in 216. But Bérylle bishop of Bosra in 240 took up a similar thesis. He denied the existence of Jesus before his birth. He received a divine nature only when God abode in him.
The other answer is the opposite. It was the human nature of Christ that was rejected. Christ could only be God. And there can be only one God.
The Noetians went even further. Noët of Smyrna lived in the third century. Jesus Christ was no different from the Father, for there is but one person in God. If there were three people, there would be three Gods. This reasoning of human logic was taken up by Mahomet. The Noetians were condemned by the Council of Alexandria in 261. It was also the position of those who were called Monarchists or Modalists, denying the double nature of the Christ. The divinity itself became incarnate in the Christ, who is none other than the Father become flesh. This vision also questionned the nature of the Trinity. We will come to it.
Praxeas maintained that it was the father who descended on Earth and suffered passion. The partisans of this thesis have been called, for this reason, Patripassians. The same God is both the Father and the Son, that is to say, the hidden God and the God manifested in the world. Praxeas died a martyr under Marcus Aurelius (121-180).
The Apollinarians, named after the bishop of Laodicea around 362, asserted that the divine nature of the Christ, the incarnate Word, sublimated the human nature. Man consists of a soul and a body. The soul of Christ is the Word, which has, therefore, only a divine nature. This thesis was condemned by the Roman synods of 375 and 377, then to the Council of Constantinople in 381.
Paul of Samosate, bishop of Antioch around 260, had proposed a variant. Jesus was first a man, but he was adopted by God. However, this adoption assumed a unity of substance and therefore Jesus made only one person with the Father. This doctrine received the name of Adoptionism. It was taken up again in the eighth century by the bishops Felix d'Urgel and Eliphand of Toledo. Jesus would only be the adopted son of God. This doctrine was condemned at the synod of Ratisbon, and by several councils.
Cyrille (376, 444), bishop of Alexandria, recognized only one nature in Jesus Christ, hence the name Monophysites given to the followers of this approach. The divine nature has definitely absorbed the human nature. But then the question of docetism arises: can God suffer? This doctrine was condemned at the Council of Chalcedon in 451. The Jacobites, disciples of Jacques Baradea (500-578), took up the Monophysite theses which still subsist in the Syrian and Coptic churches. In reality, the position of the Coptic Church is that Christ has a divine, but with an incarnate nature. The divine appropriates the human dimension. An agreement between the primate Chenouda III of Alexandria and Pope Paul VI put an end to the theological dispute.
The Monophysite heresy was the occasion of terrible pitched battles in the oriental part of the Empire of Constantinople. The Church of Antioch was one of the most active centers on the intellectual level with that of Alexandria. The fighting between these two centers depended in part on the meaning given to the words. Theodore of Mopsueste speaks of conjunction rather than union of the two human and divine natures of the Christ. Cyril of Alexandria is the most exclusive “if somebody in the unique Christ divides the hypostases after the union by a simple conjunction of dignity, authority or power and not by a link according to the hypostatic union: he is anathema.”
Initially, the heresy of Nestorius concerned the nature of the maternity of the Virgin. Theotokos, mother of God, or Christotokos, mother of Christ. By taking sides for this second designation, the Nestorians questioned the nature of Jesus. He had two natures emotional and unemotional, but one person cumulating the essence of the perfect man and the perfect God. Nestorius died in 451 when he went to the Council of Ephesus in 451! The position of Nestorius was linked to that of the Catholicos of the Syriac church, anterior of two centuries. This church had separated from Constantinople after the revision of the Council of Seleucia in 424. It extended to China and counted more faithful than the Christendom of Rome and Constantinople. It welcomed the Nestorians. After the polemics led by Emperor Justinian, against the advice of Pope Vigil, Nestorianism was interpreted as a heresy which led the condemnation of the school of Antioch in 553 at the second council of Constantinople. As a result, the Syriac church was condemned. It was eventually rehabilitated in 1994 by an agreement between Pope John Paul II and the Catholicos Mar Dikha IV.
For the Eutychians, too, the Christ has only one divine nature which has absorbed human nature as from the Incarnation. The monophysite Eutyches (378-454) took up the theses of Apollinaris and was condemned by the Council of Chalcedon in 451. But his disciples maintained their positions and then divided themselves. The Phtartolaters or Corruptibles admitting that Jesus could have had a body similar to ours, therefore mortal, and a kind of soul like us for his divine nature. On the other hand, the Aphthalodocetes or Incorruptibles think that Jesus came to Earth in the form of a kind of ghost, taking up the Docetist theses. Finally, other disciples approached Arianism: Christ did not have the divine omniscience. They were condemned by all the others!
For the atheists and agnostics, the position of the Council of Chalcedon on the uniqueness of the three divine persons is a challenge to reason. This is true enough, but the problem is that Jesus of Nazareth is, from the beginning, a challenge for the reason and for the scholars, as he himself has stated.
Another debate ensued with Monothelism. If the Christ has two natures, it was proposed that he have but one will: a full submission to the Father. In the same way, man, while submitting to the will of God, may also doubt. In the seventh century, Constant II and Heraclius I attempted to convert the Monophysites by this approach, but monothelism was condemned by the Council of Constantinople in 680.
Another interpretation is only known by a passage from St. Augustine. The Metangismonites used a metaphor: The Son is in the Father as a vase in another vase. Augustine, who points out this heresy, did not know Greek. This is a translation problem. The Gospel according to St. John specifies in Greek that the Son is "turned towards the Father"; what was translated into Latin by "with the Father" while ignoring the motional aspect of the Greek text. It was from this nuance that the Metangismonites derived the idea of transferring, which gave them their name.
Another rational argument rests on the eternal nature of God. Therefore Jesus was incorruptible, impassive and not mortal from the moment of his conception. In the sixth century, the Incorruptibles denied the humanity of Jesus. And therefore his resurrection!
Manichaeism is one of the best-known heresies. St. Augustine acknowledged having adhered to it. But it was only in its philosophical aspect. This is another problem of which I will only say a few words. It is the dialectical vision in the present sense of this word. The thesis of the contrary motions of Aristotle, extended from the Nature to the Divine: the struggle of Good and Evil. It was also, almost two millennia later, the absurd Marxist vision: the struggle of the proletarian against the bourgeois, the good against the bad. There is, however, a nuance. Marx imagined an end. The elimination of the bourgeois, the bad. And after ? The proletarian who subsists is of an absolute nature. His victory is final, absolute! For the Marxists, the victory of the proletariat is the end of history. For them, history is only a class struggle. If the world is a class struggle, what becomes the world if only the proletarian class permanently subsists? No more struggle, no more world! The Manichaeans escape this stupidity, the end is the end of the world. There will be no earthly paradise, the great Marxist illusion.
Manichaeism had had several antecedents. The theses of Antitactes, at the beginning of the second century, are part of a dialectical vision taken up by the Manicheans. God, creator of the world, is good, but a very wicked god produced an imperfect work. This was Plato's idea of a delegation of creation. This wicked god would have spread the evil and would deceive men by showing them the good for the evil. The laws themselves would be based on bad principles. We must therefore do the opposite of what they impose.
On the theological level, Manicheism was supposed to fulfill the prophecies of Jesus of Nazareth. The paraclete is Manes (216-277). He fulfills the prophecies by bringing the 22 chapters of his Gospel, revealed and therefore the only true one. Manes was a native of Babylon. This is not very far from Arabia. Mohammed will say practically the same thing, except that he left a special place for Jesus of Nazareth, not only as a prophet, but by his kidnapping living in Heaven. Mahomet did not enjoy such divine favor. He is still in his tomb at Medina.
Manes included in his religion certain aspects of Eastern religions, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism. Besides, it is the Zoroaster hierarches, seeing themselves questioned, that killed him as heretic! In Manichaeism we find reincarnation, but in the Buddhist sense and not in the sense of Platonic metempsychosis, of a philosophical nature.
But the place of Christianity remains essential. The Manicheans celebrated the crucifixion of Jesus together with the anniversaries of the life of Manes. They practiced the public confession of sins, once a year at the end of fasting and private, every Sunday, before the Holy Spirit who forgives. They respect a fast of one month before the Throne Day, the empty throne of Manès, at the same time as Easter, and four daily prayers. To do better, Mahomet went on to five.
Manichaeism spread to Egypt and then to North Africa. Diocletian severely condemned it. It was political in the context of the struggle against the Persians. Manichaeism was proscribed by Justinian in 527. Eliminated by the Muslims, the followers took refuge in the Far East and spread to China. We ignore the fate reserved by the Maoist communists for the last followers who existed even, in 1930, in Guangzhou.
A Manichaean sect, the Paulicians, appeared in the 7th century. They preached an inner spirituality through reading and meditation by refusing the ecclesiastical ceremonial. The Paulicians went into exile to Bulgaria in 850.
Before that, there were adepts of Manichaeism in Gaul, in the eighth century, at Bagnols-sur-Cèze, inspired also by the metempsychosis of Plato: the immortal soul is in exile in the body. Then in Bulgaria, in the twelfth century, the Bogomiles.
The Priscillianists, disciples of Priscillian, executed in Treves in 385. They added to Manicheism astral beliefs determining the destiny of the soul.
Arianism is best known for its political consequences. The Germans pushed westward by the Huns had been converted to Arianism.
Arius (256-336) took up the logical objections of Sabellius: the Father is God alone, from the beginning of time. The Son was created at the time of creation and became the second creator. Arianism does not dispute the Trinity, but the consubstantiality and equality of the Father and the Son. Arianism is subordinationism. This question raised great debates, which were settled at the Council of Constantinople, between similar substance homoiousios (homoiousios) and of the same substance homoousios (homoousios), which was retained. The Arianist heresy disappeared in 587 when Racarede, king of the Visigoths of Spain, converted to Catholicism.
Rationalism having finally accepted the divine fact in the Christ, man too, one may well think that the scholars would find a new field of conflict. It must first be observed that reason can not be opposed to the divine fact. All reasoning rests on premises. The value of a reasoning is entirely and absolutely conditioned by the value of the premise. It is, of course, the case of scientific theories, in which the great difficulty is to determine precisely the totality of the premise. Most parts of the premise are so obvious that they are naturally excluded from any risk of error. And it is through them that misfortune ordinarily happens.
In theological matter, reason must also rely on premises. It is the dogmas progressively elaborated over the centuries. The existence of dogmas is by no means a negation of rationalism, for there is no rationalism without premise. These are the postulates of pure science, for example. The human mind develops its reasonings by logic on the basis of premise always laid down a priori. This does not mean arbitrarily, but on the basis of an review of texts, for religions, or on the basis of principles in the scientific field. For its part, experiment is never the proof of anything. It is carried out within a defined theoretical intellectual framework and is interpreted within this framework. It will never prove anything. At the same time, the text never delivers certainties. The first problem is that of translation. It evolves according to the improvement of the knowledge of History, customs and languages. It is therefore simply absurd to imagine that anyone may interpret the texts on his own initiative. In the same way, it is absurd to think that rationalism, and science first, would have access to only a part of truth by the mere fact of its conformity to the experiment.
To close this category of heresies, I will jest on the Eonians. Hearing to pronounce “eon” in the passage “eum qui venturus est judicare vivos & mortuos”, a certain Eon de l'Estoile thought that “eum” was him. There are still crowd of illuminated people. They are as frequent in religion as in the sciences where there is not a month without some crazy hypothesis emerges on the Internet, which claims to demonstrate the postulates of Pure science or on the contrary to reduce them to nothingness. But what is troubling is that Eon de l'Estoile had disciples. Did he gather crowds always on the lookout for the sensational, the provocative, as we still see today? This is the cause of the success of television unscrupulous presenters. In any case, the Eonians were condemned by the Council of Reims in 1148, at the same time as the ambiguous propositions of Gilbert de la Porée on the divine nature, or divinitas, which would not be God, but the form by which he is God, just as humanity is not the man but the form by which it is a man. Here we recognize a purely Aristotelian debate and a terminology that announces Thomism. The subject was very esoteric, it took several days of discussions in the Tau Room to state a clear judgment. Gilbert de la Porée had no disciple and he remained bishop of Poitiers, after having willingly renounced his initiatives and forgiven his zealous denouncers.
THE NATURE OF GOD AND TRINITY
Three divine persons intervene in the Gospels: the Father, God who speaks during the Transfiguration, the Son, who expresses himself openly for three years and the Holy Spirit, Dove or tongues of fire. But there can be only one God. The positions on the mystery of the Holy Trinity have provoked not only passionate debates, but also fierce brawls. Different words, or the same words interpreted differently, fueled the struggle to end in the Great Schism, whose real reason was actually more political than the faithfuls believed at the time. The reasons mentioned were inaccessible to ordinary mortals.
Heresies on the nature of Jesus of Nazareth and his place in the Trinity have just been examined. It is now the case of the Father and the Holy Spirit.
In the second century, the Hermogenians affirmed the pre-existence of matter on the activity of God. There is no creation, but only organization. Several theses opposed. For some disciples of Hermogenes, the original matter was the earth element of Aristotle, for others, the Aquatics, it was the water, for Genesis does not explicitly mention the creation of the water. On the other hand, the world is evil, but evil can not be attributed to God. That is why they are connected to the Gnostics.
For the Sabellians, in the middle of the third century, the three persons of the Trinity are only manifestations of the same principle. Sabellius, bishop of Ptolemais, believed that the monarchy of God belonged to only one person taking three different forms: the Father creator and testator of the law; the Son the messenger incarnate, and the Spirit spreading his light upon the apostles. This type of heresy has been called Modalism. It was condemned at the Council of Rome in 262.
In the fourth century, Macedonius, bishop of Constantinople, apparently rejected the divinity of the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, this position succeeded quite naturally to the negation of the divine nature of Jesus of Nazareth. Rather than talking about Macedonians, it was proposed to talk about the Pneumatomacs. The Holy Spirit is a power that figures the divine energy, but is not God. St. Basil the Great, Bishop of Caesarea, and St. Gregory of Nazianzus have endeavored to refute the Pneumatomacs on the basis of the Gospels and the Acts and Letters. They emphasized that the uniqueness of the divine essence ensures the uniqueness of God. This was the basis of the article of the Credo concerning the Holy Spirit, of the Council of Constantinople, in 381.
The Agnoetes represent a trend that dates back to the 4th century, in the Arianist environment. Jesus of Nazareth would not have had the same knowledge of the past, the present and the future as God. This position is based on several passages in the Gospels. For example: “But about that day or the hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone”. Theophronius of Cappadocia, a disciple of the Arian Eunomius of Cyzicus, about 370, went farther. If it is true that God knows the past, the present and the future, he does not know them in the same way and his knowledge of the past may change. God could acquire new knowledge. This position is against to God's idea of omniscience.
The negation of the omniscience of God is exactly the same kind of rationalism as to attribute to him omniscience. It is to want to bring God into our frame of thought. Science is a human affair. The idea of universal knowledge is only an extension of our thoughts. Attributing to God a scientific knowledge of the universe is an anthropomorphism.
The case of the Orthodox is separate. A small minority of Orthodox and Catholics still know what the filioque debate was. In reality, if it was not exactly a political affair, it was at least a problem of supremacy in the Church. The patriarchate did not admit the spiritual and moral domination and the ecumenical claim of Rome. It was only a schism that was concretized in 1054, after several vicissitudes.
The memory of a small sect is preserved, the Apocharites, of the 260s, who made the human soul part of the divine nature. They would have taken up Manichean positions.
The end of time and the nature of eternal life with God have not attracted the interest of the scholars. There was no heresy about the resurrection and paradise outside of Islam. On the one hand, the Quran of Mohammed does not place God in paradise. The resuscitated man does not go up to find God, but only to perceive him from time to time. On the other hand, paradise is similar to the terrestrial world. Mahomet gives a multitude of descriptions of paradise, watered by rivers, which is really understandable for shepherds of the desert. The Paradise of the Muslims is invaded by flowers and all kinds of delicious fruits. The predestined faithful will be able to sit on seats and not on the ground like the shepherds of the desert. He will sleep in a high, western bed, more comfortable than a carpet under a tent. And he will not sleep alone: he will have young virgins and boys eternally young, created especially for his delight if he counts among the believers predestined for eternal salvation, but thus condemned for eternity to pedophilia.
Apart from Islam, there are no eschatological heresies. One can point out only some varied visions of hell. The most amiable is to dispense the unfortunate sinners from eternal suffering by allowing them to disappear at their death. The soul dies for the villain! Pope Benedict XVI considered this possibility as not really Catholic.
THE NATURE OF THE MARY VIRGIN
We met in heresies on the nature of Jesus of Nazareth some positions on Mary his mother. This was a secondary aspect of these heresies. We must now mention the heresies which concern only the Virgin Mary, although the relationship with the rationalist vision is practically non-existent.
We find the two extremes, the refusal of all peculiarities and, on the contrary, the divinization.
The Collyridians of Arabia, in the 4th and 5th centuries, practiced an exaggerated cult to the Virgin Mary and women held sacerdotal offices. Moreover, the Virgin Mary was included in the Trinity.
For the Antimarianites, like Bonose, Bishop of Sardique, at the end of the fourth century, Mary did not remain virgin. This was also the case with Jovianists. Jovinian, a Roman of the fourth century, was a monk defrocked by reaction against conventual austerity. He also refused Mary's virginity and celibacy. Salvation could be obtained by respecting the vows of baptism, living honestly in marriage, and feeding soberly as much as by celibacy, mortifications, macerations and fasting. He was condemned to the Council of Milan in 390.
RITES AND SACRAMENTS
The aim here is to bring out the relationship between faith and reason. Rites and sacraments are not always connected with human logic, yet this aspect is set forth here to give at the same time an overview of heresies.
Most heresies have specific practices. One thinks in particular of the Manicheism with its 12 apostles, each at the head of six bishops. I do not come back to it, because it is a secondary aspect in these cases. The heresies exhibited here are essentially known by deviations in the rites and sacraments.
The Nicolaitans are rather a sect than a heresy. It is the oldest. It is mentioned by St John in the Apocalypse. They practiced the cult of Balaam. Thinking of freeing themselves from the laws, they practiced debauchery. This is why their name was given in the 4th century to the partisans of the marriage of the priests.
It is the same with the Nazarenes who followed both the precepts of the Jewish law while recognizing in Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah at the same time man and God, therefore perfectly orthodox on this point. They were persecuted by the Romans as by the Jews.
For the Ascites (2nd century), the converts were like bottles filled with a new wine. So they danced around a symbolic bottle. In default of wine, the empty bottle was considered filled with the breath of the Spirit.
At the same time, the Artotyrites communed by eating bread, which is not remarkable, but also cheese, hence their name. They had a pastoral motivation. Cain, the peasant, must reconcile himself with Abel, the shepherd. Nowadays, our leftists also prefer the peasant, a worker. One wonders why high level young scholars went to keep sheep in the sixties?
The Agonyclites await the Apocalypse standing up. It would be superstitious to pray on his knees; this position was forbidden by the Council of Nicaea in 325, but only on Sundays. This was old times, even though there are today rarely prie Dieu in churches, not even at all in the most recent ones. There must still be agonycll prelates.
The Muslims have their Whirling Dervishes, the Christians in the seventh century had the Helicites, glorifying God by singing and by turning round and round in dances.
“My burden is light”. This word of the Christ is often interpreted as a critique of the many Hebrew laws. The Mitzvot imposes 613 rules and the Jews do not recognize any derogation. By reaction, the Hematites eat the meat not bled. Yet the prohibition had been retained by St. James with other more justifiable prohibitions: “to abstain from the defilement of idols, from immorality, from stifled animals and from blood”.
The great Roman persecutions were the occasion of denials, the Lapsis. In the 3rd century, Novatian, antipope, opposed their reintegration into the Church, despite the decision of Pope Corneille. This was also the case in the 4th century under the reign of Julian the Apostate, which followed a great extension of Christendom. The Circoncellions, a kind of Donatists, rejected any pardon for the Lapsis.
In these cases one can not, in general, speak of heresies. These are sometimes complex conflicts between the pope and certain bishops. But, for Donatism, the problem of Lapsis is compounded by a more theological question. During the persecution of Diocletian, bishops agreed to hand over the holy books to the Authorities. It occured even some cases of denunciation. Not only did the Donatists refuse the reinstatement of the wrongdoers, but they also considered that the sacraments, and baptism in particular, given by relapsed priests were worthless. The minister's unworthiness would have led to the invalidity of the ministry. The value of the sacraments would have depended on the moral state of the minister, but also on the internal dispositions of the recipient. It would be necessary to rebaptize the faithful in case of serious sin or unworthiness of the priest. St. Augustine firmly opposed these fundamentalist theses. No one would have been holy enough to ensure the validity of the sacraments. Their sanctity results from the holiness of the Christ. The Council of Carthage in 411 blames the Donatists, and the Edict of 412 aggravated the penalties. Donatization lasted until the conquest of Africa by the Byzantines in 535. Justinian then forbade the Donatist cult.
The problem of baptism went back in another way with Pelagism, but it is not its essential aspect. On the basis of passages from the Letters of St. Paul, St. Augustine had taken a position in favor of predestination. The consequence is a deep limitation of Freewill. He vigorously opposed Pelagius (350-420), who maintained that man is free to make his salvation and that there is no Original Sin that can prevent it.
Luther and Calvin relied essentially on the passages of St. Paul and St. Augustine relating to predestination. Pushed to the extreme, as they did, it is certainly excessive. In reality, the object of St. Paul and of St. Augustine was not to deny human freedom, but to rest it on grace, without which salvation is impossible.
The essential argument of Luther and Calvin is rational in nature. God knows everything from all eternity. He therefore knows, in advance, the destiny of every man who is henceforth predetermined. This reasoning, of a compelling logic, rests on a hidden postulate which makes it absolutely worthless. This postulate is the idea that God would have a knowledge of the world, which he created, of a scientific nature, to say the thing squarely. Now, science is the knowledge of the world by man and his reason. God does not have our thoughts. He has, so to speak, a knowledge which does not belong to any aspect of human knowledge. The thesis of the predestination of Luther and Calvin is a profoundly heretical anthropomorphism: “My thoughts are not your thoughts”. God does not have a human mind.
A similar reasoning would be to say that God being omniscient knew not only in advance, so to speak, the world he created, but also knew all the possibilities imaginable. If we were limited to the imaginable possibilities of our existence in this world, the already drastic reduction of possibilities, then God would know everything that could have happened to us, from our birth to our death with an immense multitude of possible intermediaries. Thus God chose the possible to be achieved? Could he change the course of our existence over time? Here we see the progress of a human thought in search of causality. And this progress occurs in time, a concept of which God has no need or use, as Sertiganges judiciously remarks in his analysis of the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas.
The position of Pelagius is at the other extreme. Man would have such complete liberty that recourse to grace would not be necessary. Original Sin could in no way hinder this freedom. Baptism would not have the purpose of erasing Original Sin. Thus, newborns would not have to be baptized since they are sinless. According to the absence of newborn sins, the soul would pre-exist at conception. Coelestius proposed for newborns what has been called limbo. The Council of Carthage condemned these theses and excommunicated Coelestius. After many vicissitudes, the limbo was abandoned by the Second Vatican Council, in favor of an appeal to the mercy of God, on the basis, in particular, of Jesus' tenderness towards children.
St. Augustine's intransigence focused the conflict on Freewill. He liked to repeat: “da quod jubes, and jube quod vis”: Lord, give what you command, and command what you will. For St. Gregory, it was the annihilation of Freewill without which faith has no value. This attitude, pushed to the extreme, kills the human freedom.
Because of the importance of the condemnation of Pelagism, drafted by an envoy of St. Augustine, we must here cite the condemned theses:
“The grace and help of God consists in giving Freewill in the knowledge of the divine law and the Christian doctrine. Divine grace is attributed to us according to our merits. Victory comes from Freewill and not from the help of God. Free will would not exist if there was need of the help of God, each has in his will the power to do or not to do one thing. Forgiveness is granted to repentants, not by virtue of the grace and mercy of God, but according to merit and effort when by their penance they have become worthy of forgiveness”. On this basis, the Council of Carthage, in 418, condemned Pelagianism, but Pelagius agreed to renounce his theses and was acquitted.
The terms of this condemnation provoked strong reactions. Theodore of Mopsueste, Nestorian as we have seen, broadens the debate. Imagining that God condemned all men for the sole sin of Adam and Eve, would be unworthy of a wise and righteous God. But it was especially in Gaul and North Africa that the doctrine of St. Augustine met a very strong opposition. The invasions succeeded each other, and the misfortunes of the war made the very idea of Augustine predestination really unacceptable. The abbot and monks of the abbey of Saint-Victor in Marseilles, Julien the bishop of Esculanum, and the abbot and monks of Hadrumet adopted a more nuanced vision than St. Augustine. Man is free to avoid sin, but he needs grace to persevere. This position was called semi-Pegialanism.
The Council of Ephesus, in 431, condemned the Pelagians, who explicitly claimed Pelagius. The Gauls reacted to the Council of Arles in 470, and to the Synod of Lyons in 474, giving reason to the semi-Pelagians. But, finally, the Synod of Orange, in 529, condemned Semi- Pelagianism.
Pelagianism is a rational approach. The gap in positions is sometimes seen as a difference between western and eastern approaches. This position is difficult to sustain, for the most implacable opponent of Pelagianism was a Latin: St. Augustine.
On the other hand, it is true that Pelagianism tries to reconcile the irreconcilable. Predestination is totally contrary to the idea of Freewill.
If one takes things at their beginning, one can say, no doubt, that the idea of predestination is inherent in the Letters of St. Paul. That would be the Christian doctrine. Misogyny is also a heavy feature of his Letters. Yet, with the exception of the woman's submission to her husband, which was still mentioned at marriage ceremonies someyears ago, the other misogynist texts of St Paul are never read or commented on. One is entitled to wonder about other aspects, such as predestination. It is also surprising that, in contradiction with the Love God of all the Gospels, St. Paul often stayed with the avenging God of the Old Testament. Besides, is this a real contradiction? The saying “spare the rod and spoil the child” is out of age, and the verb “punish” is banished today.
“Love your neighbor as yourself” and “Love your enemies”. Yet can it be said that Christ loved the scribes and the Pharisees? Was he fond of the merchants of the Temple? He certainly forgave them. Understand and forgive, certainly! As for bowing before atheists or even agnostics, bowing before men whose first aim is to destroy Christendom, it is perhaps something else. Can we doubt, too, that those men will be damned? Certainly, we can see God, sometimes, as in the Old Testament, as St. Paul. But this feeling can not be pushed to the absolute. The same applies to predestination, which would then completely eliminate Freewill.
Pelagianism has remained an underlying problem to this day. The situation, already complex, has been further obscured by the statements of the Nominalists. We can not say that St. Thomas Aquinas clarified things very much: “It is natural for us to follow an end, and consequently it is not the effect of Freewill”. We shall see that he has introduced an elitist view of Freewill by the revelation reserved for the elit. Sertillanges tried to save Thomism, in difficulty on this point in particular. The immense development of his argument ends only with more questions.
By Augustine reaction, anti-Pelagianism was a fundamental characteristic of the Protestantism of Luther and Calvin, who relied heavily on the Letters of St. Paul and the writings of St. Augustine.
No one, apart from Islam, still believes in predestination, even among the Protestants. This change comes from the emergence of the notion of “spirit”, initially specific to the Latin world, since there is no really equivalent word in English. The mind is not excaltly an equivalent. At the same time, the meaning of the word soul has changed. From a motional nature, from the Latin: animated “anima” it has passed to a purely theological meaning. It has become completely absurd to talk about the soul of animals. The body belongs to science, the spirit of philosophy and the soul of theology. This is another image of the Trinity: man is truly in the image of God. The position on the Freewill must be modified accordingly.
From the point of view of science, of the knowledge of the experimental world in which our bodies is living, Freewill has no meaning. Science is the search for causality. This is the very opposite of the idea of Freewill. If causality is necessarily limited by our knowledge of this world, which is itself limited, it does not mean that science can wander out of causality. On the other hand, to imagine a primary cause is to leap into the theological world; is to appeal to the idea of Creation ex nihilo and therefore to God, whatever the word used instead by those who do not support metaphysics, such as the Freemasons who still sometimes speak of the Great Architect of Voltaire
From the point of view of the mind, Freewill is a possibility, if only because we can think of being free. But, our acts belong to the world of experiment, the world of science. From this point of view, all our actions have an end, a practical goal conditioned by our existence, and we fall back on the statement of St. Thomas Aquinas. The mind has access to the marvelous idea of freedom, but it could not at all realize it. What is, incidentally, the impression that one has when one evokes the fate.
If we find back the position of St. Thomas Aquinas, it is not as to the object of Freewill that he limits to the application of eternal laws, but by its theological nature. Moreover, it is inconceivable that the gift of Freewill be reserved for elected officials, as he affirms. Free will is a gift of God to all men. And it is exercised not only in the realm of pure morality, nor even in the world of the mind, but also in life, in the very midst of the experimental world, which is a mystery as unfathomable as the resurrection , and yet a reality more certain than that enunciated by the mad theories of the pure science of the moderns.
Although the pastoral constitution on the Church in the world of that time, “Gaudium et Spes”, of the Second Vatican Council, remained to the Thomistic view of man, body and soul, the title 17 Greatness of Freedom, poses that “true freedom is in man a privileged sign of the divine image. For God wanted to leave him to his own counsel so that he could search for his Creator of his own accord and, by freely adhering to him, end thus in a blessed fullness ... It is only by the help of The divine grace that human freedom, wounded by sin, can be ordered to God in an effective and integral way”. Pope Benedict XVI saw in this text a certain tendency towards semi-Pelagianism in the sense that grace acts in a somewhat delayed manner.
Now, Freewill is already, in itself, a gift of divine grace, and this gift is a precondition for Freewill. It is none the less a mystery. Hence it may be thought that salvation through grace is not contradictory to salvation by works, insofar as contradiction belongs to human thought. The two propositions would be exclusive, from a human point of view, if they were pushed to the absolute. But if Freewill is a mystery, what could add the human reasoning?
All the heresies relating to the Eucharist have been grouped under the name of Sacramentaires. This was the case with the Petrobrusiens, disciples of Pierre de Bruys, in the twelfth century. Not only did they criticize the way of life of the clergy, which recurred over the centuries, but refused the baptism of little children and, more seriously, denied the real presence in the Eucharist where they saw only a commemorative sign. God being everywhere, they had no place of worship.
More generally, the Tropists had a symbolic reading of the Holy Scriptures. Most tropists do not accept the real presence. The Church has been accused of tropism in its interpretations of the Old Testament. On an essential point, as a counter-example, the Jews interpreted in the same way all that concerns the expectation of the Messiah, since they affirmed that he was to be born in Bethlehem. Far from being symbolic, the interpretation of the Scriptures by the Church is on the contrary realistic. Of course, for an atheist or an agnostic, who perhaps accept the historical Jesus of Nazareth, but absolutely rejects his divine nature, the reading of the Scriptures by the Church can only be symbolic.
Finally, we must mention the Iconoclasts in the eighth century. This is the opposite trend to the tropics. The iconoclasts take passages from the Gospel to the letter. It is written in several passages of the Old Testament “Thou shalt not make thee a graven image, nor any likeness of that which is in the heavens above, and that which is upon the earth below, ... Thou will not make thee idols”. After some memorable disputes, in the empire of Constantinople, the Council of Nicaea II in 787 put an end to the crisis and condemned the Iconoclasts by providing precise vocabulary. The word adoration is proskunein, adoration of honor, for images and latreuein for God alone.
It is said that human imagination is boundless. It's a bit excessive. The number of heresies is limited and the few theses proposed are found more or less in all. This is obviously the case with the Gnostics. Especially widespread in the second century, they existed long before and were known only by the writings of their opponents, which we know fairly biased today, because we found, in 1945, at Nag Hammadi gnostics original texts.
The interest of this heresy is its essentially intellectual, rationalist character, although quite paradoxically, Gnosticism, granting freedom of thought, led to irrationality and mysticism. But it is a contradiction only in appearance. By trying to explain Creation, to take but one example, men, scientists at least, propose explanations and, therefore, apply causation. It is absurd, since it is a question here of considering the first cause. They consequently construct the most insane and the most distorted theories, so that the common impression of mortals admires them and covers them with glory, if not of gold.
The most well-known aspect of Gnosis is related to evil. Creation is bad, for it is the work of a bad demiurge. We find the subaltern gods of Plato. But instead of copying the perfection of the pleroma, the intelligible Platonic world which contains the archetypes of reality, the ideas, the evil demiurge destroyed the initiatory perfection of the archetypes.
One might think that the only fact of thinking that the world is bad is a first heresy. But, more deeply, it is absurd to confound misfortune and evil. This is the whole object of the Book of Job. Genesis is seen more as a symbol of ever-present truth, so it is better to rely on the New Testament to refute this despairing human vision.
“Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Luke 13, 1-9). Jesus of Nazareth refutes without ambiguity the thought that earthly misfortunes may result from evil. In another passage, He states the true origin of evil, totally disconnected from earthly misfortunes: “But what comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and that is what defiles man. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false testimonies, calumnies. (St. Matthew 15: 18-20).
Evil is in man, it is relative to the salvation of the soul. There is no evil for the animate or inanimate objects of this world.
One can not think that catastrophes, such as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic explosions, which can cause multiple victims, are related to evil. These catastrophes are inscribed from the Creation. Volcanoes, above all, are the direct consequences of gravity. The world is not an absolute system. A perfect world is an absurd myth. Everything is flow and movement, which implies change and therefore disappearance of one form for another. It is the meaning of death. It is evidently not glad to die. And everything we know about this Earth must disappear.
God created a real world and therefore necessarily imperfect in the eyes of men. And this imperfection extends to men themselves. Their first concern is to seek perfection and the absolute in all things, where they will never find them. But it is precisely by his access to perfection and to the absolute, by his mind, that man can judge the world, and not remain indifferent to the world, like the mineral, the vegetable, and the animal. And finally, should we not admire the Creation of a world, which we consider imperfect, but from which we are drawn with an access of thought to perfection. Perfection is before us and not in our physical existence.
We may be shocked that we can go even further. “When you hear of wars and rumors of war, be ye not trouble; for such things must needs be”. (St. Mark, 13-7). Evil is not in human acts themselves like war. It is well known that the soldier who kills the enemy is by no means a criminal. Evil is in man. But of course, it translates into acts, most often. The chief swollen with pride, who launches his armies at war, who causes the murder of innocent people, even children, carries the evil in himself and he sends back on those who obey him for their own sake. But as this evil causes huge misfortunes, it is customary to attribute it to acts and not to souls.
The despairing vision of the Gnostics on the world is, in reality, intended for diverting man from the world to seek elsewhere his salvation. This attitude can lead to rejecting the world. This is what I called the purifying heresies: the search for perfection, for purity. They are not unrelated to Gnosticism. For Luther and Calvin, it is the man, the human nature, which is essentially evil. One can see in their doctrine a limitation of gnosticism to men. But, man was created good, like the world of Genesis.
The Gnosticist view is opposed to any idea of science in the sense that if man can find his salvation in knowledge, it is only through self-knowledge. The world is irreducibly vitiated and its knowledge could only lead to nothingness. This aspect is, moreover, at the origin of the name of this heresy. Gnosis is knowledge, here all inner, but purely intellectual and therefore elitist in nature. Man was created against the world and superior to the demiurge creator of the world. Only asceticism allows one to escape from matter and reach the pleroma or fullness, the way of heaven.
There is a strong influence of the Platonic philosophy in the theses of two great Gnostics: Valentin and Basil (both about 150). Plato's ideas are called "aeons," perfect beings of the pleroma, of the intelligible world.
The Christ intervenes in the form of two persons. The one ideal emanation of God, the aeon of God, and the other man of a “similar flesh”, therefore different. We find the docetic vision. It is not the Christ who dies on the cross. It is his material person who dies. For others like Basilides, it is Simon of Cyrene who was crucified. For some sects, the aeon of God sends Zoroaster, then the Christ to save those who have kept the light.
Aeons are male. There must be feminine beings, the pneuma-zoe, breath of life in some way. In combination with the aeons, they form the syzygies.
Like all elitist and esoteric sects, the Gnostics had initiatory rites mixed with Christian rites, magic, and astrology. Elitism was translated into a classification of men. The pneuma, endowed with spirit and innate perfection, were predestined to salvation. The psychics, still at the level of the soul, considered as the motor of motion, could still ascend by knowledge. Finally, the hyliques, linked to the level of matter, of gross existence, were destined for nothingness.
The Gnostics were expelled from the Church by the Council of Nicaea in 325.
Gnosticism had many variants so that we can not in a few lines give a detailed list of them. We can mention the best known.
From the first century, Cerinthe of Antioch, contemporary of St. John, would have issued millenarian, Gnostic and docetic theses. Jesus is a man in whom Christ, the son of God, would have descended at the baptism to the cross, but before his death.
In the second century, the Basilidians resumed the gnostic categories of men: hylic, psychic and pneumatic. But, they also seem to have resumed the metempsychosis of Plato. They have a rather curious reasoning about God: God is not, for nothing can be said of it. There is nothing in action, but everything in power. Jesus is only an ideal being, who could not be crucified. This is a docetic vision.
At the same time, the Cainites divinized Cain, son of a divine aeon, while Abel was son of another aeon. Judas was also rehabilitated. He would have known the mystery of the creation of men and would have delivered the Christ to his enemies to render service to humanity. Christ would have liked to reconcile men with the demiurge. His death was to bring salvation into the world, so Judas had done a good deed by rending him over.
The Gnostic Valentine of Egypt, in the second century, mixed the classical theses of Gnostism, largely derived from the philosophy of Plato, to ancient Egyptian traditions. Like all the others, his doctrine seeks at first a logical consistency, and then drifts into the myth. God is the first absolute and transcendent principle. It is invisible and incomprehensible. Yet his actions are quite human: He unites with Thought and engenders the fifteen pairs of aeons of the pleroma. The last of the aeons, Sophia, having defied God, was rejected and his creations were corrupted. Valentin also takes up the metempsychosis of Plato.
The Encratites, also in the second century, added rigorous continence and asceticism to the Gnostic and docist beliefs; they did not eat meat, had no relationship with women and, of course, did not marry. More anecdotal is the fact that they used water instead of wine for the Eucharist.
For Corbase, a disciple of Valentine, the whole truth resides in the Greek alphabet, alpha and omega. This identity of the sign with the thing was the doctrine of Cratylus, exposed by Plato.
In the same vein, the Alogians support the thesis of the Logos of Plato, which the Gnostics assimilate to the pleroma, perfect world of the archetypes, against the biblical vision which retains only the idea of words. Naming means knowing, it will be the Nominalistic approach.
Origen (185-215) attempted a unification of Platonism and Christianity. It has been regarded as gnostic by the idea that matter is marked by degradation and that man has lost the contemplation of eternal essences, the ideas of the pleroma. He opened the way to monophysism by subordinating the Son to the Father. Although Origen condemned reincarnation, his ideas on the pre-existence of the soul, already present in the paternal seed, were not unrelated to Plato's metempsychosis. He imagined a renewal of the world, with an end, however, in which all faults would be forgiven and fallen angels recalled to heaven.
Again in the second century, the Ophites took up the idea of evil creation by a demiurge like all Gnostics, but they had certain peculiarities as to worship not only Cain and all those whom the Bible presents as evil, but also the Serpent that tried Adam and Eve, hence their name: the serpent in Greek.
The Euchite heresy is later. Their name comes from the exclusive practice of prayer, “euchè” in Greek, to obtain salvation. It appeared about 360 in Édesse. They have been given several names, such as Messalians. The sacraments seemed useless. Even the cross was worthless since the essential is the resurrection. They recited only one prayer, the Our Father, to drive away the demon descended into them at their birth according to Gnostic beliefs. The pneuma or perfect practiced asceticism as total as possible. They had nothing and begged. One can wonder about an influence of Buddhism.
Finally, the Borborites, a sect of the eleventh century, took up the Gnostic theses of creation by a demiurge. But as this creation was evil, they made it hell. The curious point is that they were smearing their face to hide it. Since man was created in the image of God, he must hide his face since one can not see the face of God without dying at once. One always finds the rational approach based on doubtful premises.
The Gnostics had enemies, not only in the Church which condemned them, but also in sects proposing opposite heresies. This was the case with the Gnosimaques. The second part of their name comes from the Greek fight, mache, word often used today. Knowledge is useless. God asks for good works and not for science. “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children” (St. Matthew 11: 25-30).
To tell the truth, the Gnostics also condemned knowledge, but knowledge of the world, scientific knowledge. Were they opposed to any form of exegesis like the Gnosimaques? This is rather doubtful since the Gnostics studied Gospels and apocryphal letters and had even written some of them. In this sense, there would be a clear contrast between the two heresies.
Nominalism is a philosophical doctrine that tries to reconcile the two great Platonic and Aristotelian approaches by taking a little of both. The world is the copy of archetypes which constitute the essence of things, like the ideas of Plato, but the essence reaches the mind through perceptions and not by a vision of the mind over ideas. Universals base the thing (ante rem) whereas for the Nominalists as for Aristotle ideas are in perceptions (in re or post rem). Yet the Nominalists retain an aspect of Plato's philosophy. They put in mind names that correspond to ideas, but without content: flatus vocis.
This position has consequences on faith. According to one of the great nominalists, Abelard (1079-1142), “One can not believe what one does not understand”. We can not receive punishment for the sin of Adam to which we have not had any share.
Some late nominalists added rational theses, but based on a doubtful premise. The Isochrists believed that the apostles and saints would be equal to Christ in their resurrection.
William of Occam (1300-1347) deprives reality of all that is not individualised. He takes up a form of gnosticism by attributing a total independence of the secular to the spiritual and the faith with regard to knowledge. One might find it curious that men who based a religious doctrine, that they want rational, on the basis of their reading of the Scriptures, came to reject the knowledge they have used. In fact, Occam's separation concerns science and faith. Knowledge of the Scriptures and their study is really necessary, but knowledge of the world brings nothing to the faith and certainly not a proof of the existence of God that comes from revelation through grace. And no more, of course, science can not provide any evidence that God would not exist.
The revelation is addressed to “the little ones”, and not to the scholars or the great ones of this world. It is hitting strongly the Aristotelianism of St. Thomas Aquinas below the belt!
The call to asceticism and purity was the foundation of the Buddhist approach, then of the Greek Stoics. Epictetus summarizes it by the statement: “Sustine and abstinence,” endure and abstain. He also has a Hebrew origin with the sect of the Essenes. It is, quite naturally, omnipresent in Christendom since its inception.
This attitude is often linked to a millenarian vision that justifies asceticism in view of the coming end of the world. In the 2nd century, a first form of this heresy was adopted by the Chileastes, from the Greek χιλιας, thousand. They believed in the reign of a thousand years of the Messiah. It was based on an interpretation of the Apocalypse of St. John: “And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season. And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years. And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,” (Rev. 20, 1-7).
This opinion is attributed to Papias, bishop of Hieropolis, who is believed to have been a disciple of the holy Evangelist. She was embraced by St. Justin martyr, St. Irenaeus, Tertullian, Victorinus, Lactantius, Nepos, and many others.
This heresy was never condemned formally, but St. Augustine proposed a symbolic explanation of the Apocalypse which was accepted by Rome and put an end to the debates. Millenarianism is periodically taken up by illuminators who always amuse the gallery. There were 183 ads from the end of the world. The one related to the change of cycle of the Mayan calendar, on December 21, 2012. It seems that it did not occur. That would have been noticed. Sir Isaac Newton planned the end of the world for 2060. Einstein did not risk a prognosis, nor did he believe that God could play the dice. As for the near future, the death of Benedict XVI, the 112th Pope, is expected with immense anxiety. It should coincide with the end of the world according to the prophecy of St Malachy.
Among the Purists, we may quote the disciples of Severus, a disciple of Tatian the Syrian in the second century. These are the Gnostic Encratites we have already met. Meat, wine and women are bad for the body.
Montanus lived in Phrygia, a region of modern Turkey, at the end of the second century. It seems that he was victim of the persecutions of Marcus Aurelius, before 180. First a priest in a Roman temple, probably a temple of Cybele, judging by the role of women in his sect. He converted to Christianity. But he maintained a certain taste for divination and mystical trances. He thought he was the representative of the Paraclete of the Gospel of St. John. This led him to consider the Paraclete as one of the persons of the Holy Trinity. Moreover, the first textual evocation of the Trinity is found in the Treatise on the Modesty of Tertullian (about 208), a famous Montanist. The Bishop of Rome, Eleutherius, refused to condemn the Montanists. He found no contradiction with the nascent dogma.
The Montanists called for extreme moral rigor, even going so far as to promote martyrdom, associated with absolute ecstasy, justified by the imminence of the parousia. It is therefore a vision that has been called millenarian, by extension to all the heresies that imagine an very next end of the world. On the other hand, they were fundamentally opposed to the Pauline misogyny: “Women are silent in assembly and remain submissive” (1 Corinthians 14:34). Men and women are equal, and not only in paradise as St. Paul writes also, and therefore nothing would oppose the exercise of liturgical functions by women. St. Epiphanes (310-403) utterly rejected these theses: “women, a weak race of mediocre intelligence” (Panarion 79, 6 1). St. Thomas Aquinas will go much farther by asserting that “a female is deficient and unintentionally caused. For the active power of the semen always seeks to produce a thing completely like itself, something male. So if a female is produced, this must be because the semen is weak or because the material [provided by the female parent] is unsuitable,” (Summa Theologiae, 1, 92, art 1, rep.o.1).
We shall find in Luther and Calvin the Montanist negation of every hierarchy in the Church, and with the same objective, the refusal of the utility of mediation between men and God.
The successor of Eleutherius in Rome, Zephirin, condemned Montanism in 203 on the advice of Eusebius of Caesarea and St. Irenaeus of Lyons. It was obviously not for their ideas about the Trinity.
Another branch of Encratites, the Apotactics, considered all possessors as reprobates. This thesis, which is rare in history, refers to the text of St. Luke: “But alas for you who have wealth, for you have been comforted now! (Luke 6, 17.20-26). This will be the great leitmotiv of the progressives. Fortunately, there is Zacchaeus! The Apotactics applied to the letter the passage from the Gospel of St. Mark: “One thing you lack, he said. Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Mk 10: 17-22). They renounced all earthly goods.
This position will be found again in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries with the Apostolics. They wanted to imitate the Apostles: “Leaving everything, they followed him” (Luke 5: 1-11). If the Apotactics were only the object of the popular ridicule, the Apostolics were harshly treated and even eliminated. This appellation includes a multitude of sects such as the Albigeois, the Vaudois and the Carthares.
An extreme version was adopted by Gherardo Segarelli of Parma. To a rigorous asceticism of its disciples, they added also unorthodox practices and beliefs about sin. A perfect man would not be judged according to his actions. These Apostolics were condemned and sent to the pyre around 1300.
The destiny of Joachim, a Cistercian monk and abbot of Fiore (1132-1202), is rather surprising since he was beatified during his trial for heresy. The Joachimites were millenarian, not strictly speaking of an end of the world in the year 1000, but because they thought that the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, was to come imminently. Humanity had to know three states, which perhaps inspired the positivist naiveties of Auguste Comte. It was first the reign of the Father, the age of the Old Testament. The Law was revealed to men governed by patriarchs. The reign of the Son follows him. It was the age of grace and of the doctrine represented by the Clerics. This age, which was to end without delay, was to give way to the age of the mind by mystical knowledge. Men were to live only according to the mystical spirit, like the monks. Rites and sacraments are no longer necessary. The commentators speak only of the mind, but it would then be a rational world: it will be Comte's position. For the Joachimists, this is the mystical world, as the state of the man who represents this era: the monk, while for Comte it will be the scientist.
Joachimism was condemned by councils at Lateran 1215 and Arles 1260. These were councils not listed among the ecumenical councils.
The Letters of St. Paul were widely used by Calvin and Luther to justify their propositions. But long before that, passages had been used to apply practices that were condemned. Thus St. Paul wrote: “Without shedding of blood is no remission” (Heb 9-22). The Flagellants thus beat themselves in public. They were also millenarians: the anger of God is going to fall on a corrupt world. They were condemned by the Council of Constance in 1418.
The Beguine movement developed throughout Europe from the beginning of the 12th century. It has survived to the present day in the South of the Netherlands and in Belgium. The last nun of this congregation died in 2013. The Flemish Beguines were able to subsist, unlike the others, because they ceased to lead a wandering life and grouped themselves from 1230 in hierarchized communities, the famous beguinages, and adopted approved statutes by the bishops.
Like the Frérots or Begards, the excessive disciples of St Francis of Assisi, the Beguines, without being millenarian, applied strict rules of detachment and poverty. But they derived from libertarian ideas, considering that once filled by the Holy Spirit, they escaped sin, being freed from moral constraints. Poverty would also have rendered the sacraments useless.
The movement, as it spread in western and central Europe, gave rise to suspicions of heresy and aroused the reservations of the Church, leading to the prohibition, at the Lateran Council of 1215, which also forbids any new monastic congregation. The Beguines had no choice but to enter into an order recognized as among the Cistercians or the Franciscans, except in South Flanders where they avoided these excesses.
The name Beguin was taken up very recently by faithful wishing to gather periodically to pray together.
The Cathars, on the other hand, were not only condemned, they were persecuted and exterminated. That name was given to them at the time of their conviction. They were called "good men," "good ladies," or "good Christians," and their contemporary enemies called them the Albigensian heretics.
This movement of pures, καθαρός, began throughout Europe around the year Mil. The contemporaries saw in it a resurgence of all the preceding heresies, from Gnosticism, Origenism to Manichaeism.
But this resurgence is by no means a subsistence. The upheavals of the great invasions had passed. The traces of these old heresies had disappeared. Catharism results only from a rereading of the Bible in a new framework. The scholars have shown that the Cathars did not use the specific vocabulary of the Gnostics or the Manichaeans. The reality is that heresies are like computer viruses. The number of strings that can cause problems in microprocessors is limited. Once listed, viruses can be eradicated. Similarly, the themes of heresies are limited. They are always found in different forms, which sometimes hides them. This is particularly the case of Progressism. But, to take the example of computers, there are ways other than viruses to disrupt microprocessors: Trojan horses, for example. That is what the Progressives are doing. They have hidden theses that intrude into minds unconsciously and come not only to ruin the faith, but even the thought itself.
The Cathars had the same vision of the world as the Gnostics. An evil demiurge has created an evil world, unless they have taken up the idea of St. Augustine: “Major eorum, which peccaverunt, fui terrestri ordini predatus” The fallen angels have defiled the world. The only way out is the end of this world devoted to misfortune and evil.
It is thus advisable to distance itself from the world to be saved.. We have seen this same tendency among the Buddhists: the world is dukkha. We must flee the dukkha. The general answer to these profoundly pessimistic attitudes, to this rejection of the world and of life itself, is the recourse to asceticism. We find in all the heresies which follow a reaction against the luxury of the great men of the Church. Criticisms on this subject are recurrent, even among ecclesiastics, monks, priests, and even bishops, who did not enter into any form of heresy. Curiously, this was not the main problem Luther attacked. He attacked the sumptuous expenses incurred to build St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, while monks were starving in their monasteries.
By a coincidence, which is certainly not neutral, the demon appeared at the same time in the decoration of the churches. If the Catholic ritual, with psalms and prayers, was generally preserved by the Cathars, the songs were proscribed. But they had only one sacrament: the consola mentum which took place at the same time of baptism, ordination and extreme unction. They obviously had no sacrament of marriage, since the perfect Cathars forbade the union of the flesh. They practiced strict fasting and did not eat meat or dairy products.
In opposition to the Church, and one really enters into the subject of this book, the Cathars had a rationalist view of the Gospels. They did not believe in miracles. To give them meaning, they built an immense symbolic fresco of the Gospels of St. John and St. Luke, the only ones they recognized. Thus, the multiplication of the loaves would represent the distribution of speech. The Resurrection is only spiritual. It is the liberation of voluptuousness which maintains in death in this world to be reborn pure. It is a kind of recourse to Platonic metempsychosis.
The Council of Toulouse, in 1119, condemned these deviants. The council of the Lateran of 1139 confirmed the condemnation. But in front of the extension of heresy in Languedoc, where important persons, including ecclesiastics, followed these deviants, two other councils raised the level of condemnation at Tours in 1163 and at Saint-Felix-de-Lauragais in 1167. The Church first tried to stop heresy by preaching and entrusted to the Cistercians in the twelfth century, then, in the thirteenth century, to the mendicant orders, the Franciscans and the new order of the Dominicans, to fight the heresy. It was a failure.
Pope Innocent III launched a first crusade in 1208 against the Albigeois or Cathars who was finally entrusted to the orders of Simon IV de Montfort.
At the same time, the Inquisition was created in 1231 to convince the Cathars to return to the Catholic faith. They had practically disappeared in 1250. The last perfect, Guilhem Belibaste was imprisoned and tried in Carcassonne, he was condemned to the stake by the inquisitor Jean de Beaune. It was at Villerouge-Termenès that the last “Good Man” completed his last journey by fire (1322).
If the Vaudois heresy has also ended in blood, its nature differs markedly from the Cathars. This heresy has nothing to do with Gnosis. Besides, the Vaudois strongly opposed the perfect Cathars.
Pierre Valdes, a wealthy Lyonnais merchant, took the step that the rich man of the Gospel of St. Mark had refused to consider. He renounced all his possessions and then lived in poverty. His attitude was first accepted by Rome, but ultimately condemned to the Council of Verona in 1184, essentially for violating the prohibition of preaching reserved for the priests. But his disciples criticized the ecclesiastical way of life without restraint. One thing leading to another, they came to resume the Donatist theses of the invalidity of the sacraments not delivered by pure ministers. At the same time, they adopted Pelagianism in particular with regard to baptism. They were excommunicated by the Council of Lateran IV in 1215. They took refuge in the valleys of the Italian Alps and partly massacred during the 1488 crusade. The survivors went to France in the Luberon. The names of their villages, Vaugines, Mérindol, Cabrières, Gordes, Goult and Lacoste, were made famous by the massacre ordered by Francis I in 1545.
The Council of Trent had reaffirmed in the sixth session, in 1547, the place of Freewill, without however pronouncing its relationship with grace. The debates therefore only developed. The Augustinus of Jansenius (1585-1638), bishop of Ypres, had a great repercussion, except in France, then in full civil war against the Protestants supported by the English. But Richelieu having brought home peace, the quarrel went in France under the aegis of a formidable orator, the great Arnauld, and of a sharp pen, Blaise Pascal.
The exclusive intervention of Grace to obtain salvation is reaffirmed in the great Augustinian tradition, in opposition to Freewill. This thesis joins one aspect of Calvinism. The difficulty for the Church comes from its initiator: St. Augustine, whom it is nevertheless difficult to condemn. The Spanish Jesuit Luis de Molina introduced the idea of concord of Freewill with the gifts of grace. Pascal spoke of compromise instead of Jesuitical conciliation.
Jansenism is contradictory: in opposition to humanism, it takes up a very backward theology. It denies man any personal influence over his destiny. The Augustinus affirms “Jesus is not dead for the salvation of all men,” one of the five propositions condemned by Pope Innocent X in 1653. The debate went from its debuts on the political level. Richelieu allied himself with the Protestant powers against the Catholic Austria and the Holy Roman Empire at the beginning of the Thirty Years' War. This policy, which was to lead to the hegemony of France under Louis XIV, shocked the devout party and the Jansenists. The contradiction lies mainly in the fact that the Parliaments support the Jansenists not so much on the Augustinian positions than on their tendency to Gallicanism. The independence of the Church in France from the papacy seemed to them rather close to the independence with which they dreamed towards the royal power.
The Quiettist movement is more recent. Here again one finds an escape of the world by the search for the calm and the mystic blossoming. Abbot Miguel de Molinos (1628-1696) encouraged his disciples to practice contemplation in prayer. But heresy is rather in the consequences. Their introspection led them to reject any sense of penitence and contrition. Holiness in this world is a state of perfection “in which the desire for reward and the fear of sorrows no longer exist”. It is always surprising to find so often the Buddhist attitude of the escape of the dukkha. Fenelon and even the future Pope Innocent XI were attracted by this mysticism, but Bossuet in sermons, who remained famous, was pitiless and heresy was formally condemned in 1687 by the bull Coelestis Pastor.
The dogmas enacted by the Popes Pius IX and Pius XII in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries provoked schisms. The dogmas of pontifical infallibility, the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption were not accepted by opponents, now grouped in the Old Catholic Church, also known as Church of Utrecht.
In a very different way, some passages of the Second Vatican Council were rejected by Monsignor Lefebvre and the Integrists. These are essentially the articles on religious freedom, Dignitatis humanæ. “The declaration of this Vatican Council on the right of man to religious freedom has its foundation in the dignity of the person, whose exigencies have come to be are fully known to human reason through centuries of experience. What is more, this doctrine of freedom has roots in divine revelation, and for this reason Christians are bound to respect it all the more conscientiously.” (Dignitatis humanæ 9)
And more profoundly, the refusal of the Integrists concerns the Dogmatic Constitution on the Lumen Gentium: “But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims: these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day. Nor is God remote from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, since he gives to all men life and breath and all things (cf. Acts 17:25-28), and since the Savior wills everyone to be saved (cf. 1 Tim. 2:4). Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience—those too may attain eternal salvation.” (Lumen Gentium 33).
One can understand in these texts that all religions are good and, in the end, that Catholicism is one among other religions that would ultimately render any apostolate and even any differentiation in Society impossible. Since this is one of the fundamental aspects of progressive heresy, we shall come back to this.
Contrary to an accepted idea, the maintenance of the mass of St. Pius V is a very incidental cause. In reality, the problem lies more in the liturgy on the translation of the texts used, sometimes so questionable that this translation is being recast. The Progressives had inserted their social ideals everywhere.
Islam was born in a region of the Middle East still deeply marked by ancient forms of polytheism and shamanism. This isolated region of the Arabian peninsula was mainly populated by nomadic tribes. There were, however, some small fortified towns according to the necessity of the time. We naturally think of Medina and Mecca.
The more urbanized regions, located in the north of the Arabian desert, had been christianized from the first century. But they were the refuge of many heretics who have just been evoked. Mohammed reacted against these heresies, especially against the sects of the Collyridians and Maryamiya or Marianists. He opposed the divinization of the Virgin Mary. Islam is thus a sort of syncretism of heathen, Jewish, Christian, Manichean and Gnostic elements.
The Quran of Mohammed takes its historical and semantic source in the Bible as it has been masterly demonstrated by the remarkable study of Bruno Bonnet-Eymard in his essay “From Islamophobia to Islamology”. Yet the Quran presents in historical matter interpretations entirely contrary to the testimonies of the prophets, but especially to the narratives of the evangelists as regards the New Testament. Historical facts are most often transformed and even imagined. Solomon speaks with the ants and Jesus is neither dead nor resurected, but speaks in the cradle and gives life to clay birds.
Much worse, the Quran is in total contradiction with the Bible on the theological level, essentially with regard to the New Testament, but also with regard to the Old Testament. The revelation of divine unity to Abraham is supplanted by revelation to Adam from the beginning. For Muslims, the first monotheist in history is Adam. In passing, it may be remarked that the Church has long been teaching that Genesis is a symbol, for Adam never existed. The appearance of man on Earth is a long and complex phenomenon. Since the Quran is of direct divine inspiration, it can only state truths and therefore, for Muslims, Adam necessarily existed, like Noah and the Flood.
The Quran is divided into suras, derived from the Hebrew šîrâh, “canticle”, which Deuteronomy puts in the mouth of Moses. Sura I is a prayer to the God whose name, 'ilâh is the transcription of the Aramaic ‘èlâh preceded by the definite article 'al: 'al-'lâh, become by contraction 'allâh: “the God”. In Hebrew 'eloh, in the plural 'elohim, a biblical name banished by the rabbinical tradition during the first four centuries of our era, as too trinitarian! But it is found in the Quran (III, 26; V, 114). Moreover, Bonnet-Eymard found the meaning of the three mysterious letters A.L.M. Of Sura II, of which no one had yet pierced the meaning. Familiars of rabbinic literature immediately recognize the abbreviation of an expression in Psalm 68, verse 21: “Our God is a God of deliverances”, el lemôssâ’ôt. A is the initial of Allah, L, of the preposition for, and M the initial of môsâ'ôt, greetings, deliverances, in the plural to emphasize the wealth of God's unique salvific plan through history, whose Quran pretends to be precisely the ultimate expression.
The Quran of Mohammed is also a reaction against the Byzantine battles between the many Christian heresies that emerged from the fifth century. But instead of a strengthening of the Christian faith in the sense of the great Councils, Mahomet refuted the divine nature of Jesus of Nazareth. He plunged into the most radical heresy.
Mohammed essentially summed up the Old Testament in his Quran, and in particular he took up many expressions of the psalms as the breath of life. He also borrowed many more or less explicit references to the New Testament.
Jesus of Nazareth is added to the rank of prophets and Mahomet has even made him the greatest of the prophets. The paradox is that Mahomet does not take up practically any of his teachings. For Mohammed, Jesus of Nazareth is a prophet who would have said nothing, with the exception of the announcement of the coming of Mohammed, totally absent from the words of Christ. Mohammed accuses the Christians of having concealed this announcement: “Our Messenger making clear to you much of what you used to conceal of the Scripture and overlooking much.d” (Al-Ma'idah, The Table Spread, V, 16). Besides, it is the same with the other prophets. None of their announcements of the Messiah, of the Savior, is recognized by Mohammed. So what is the use of the prophets? Now, Mohammed considers himself a prophet! What is his prophecy? What did he announce? Christ announced that he would come back at the end of time. Mohammed made no announcement. Oh yes ! Perhaps: the end of the world! It was not a truly new prophecy.
Mohammed's recurrent criticism of Jews and Christians is that they hid parts of the Scriptures and made falsifications. He alone would have had access to the truthful version. One wonders why the Jews and the Christians would have falsified minute details and hidden precisely what concerns Mohammed himself? The famous account of the sale of Joseph by his brothers, fully taken up by Muhammad in Sura Yusuf (Joseph) XII, presents notable differences with the Bible, which do not respond to any identifiable motivation. As an example, in this Surah, Joseph is taken by his brothers to feed the sheep of their father, whereas it is Jacob who sends him to join them in Genesis. One could thus multiply the examples. One may wonder who is the falsifier and be astonished at the futility of falsification. But there is much more serious. Indeed, Mohammed takes up the story of the creation of man. The parallelism with the biblical account is evident, but Mahomet has suppressed all allusion to the Original Sin. The promise and the expectation of a Savior are thus eliminated. Who is the falsifier? Who has withdrawn from the Scriptures what he did not like, if not Mohammed?
The position of Mahomet poses a problem of elementary logic. How can the Scriptures, the Old Testament and the Gospels, are considered by the Quran itself as a fundamental divine revelation, if the texts themselves are incomplete, erroneous or even falsified? Mohammed got out of this impasse thinking that he had the revelation not only of the Quran, but of the ideal Scriptures, somehow misinterpreted by the Jews and Christians. The problem then arises from internal logic: he is the one and only witness to the truth of which he claims to testify. This testimony can not stand in the name of the Quran: there must always be at least two witnesses, male of course! This had been the case during the rewriting of the Quran on the orders of the Caliph Abu Bakr, at least two written certificates were required for each verse to be transcribed, issued by two still living witnesses who heard Muhammad himself.
One of the problems of the Quran results from its internal contradictions. The same subject is treated in various suras, in different, and sometimes contradictory, aspects. This is why it is necessary to know the principle of the abrogated-abrogated (al-nasikh wal-mansoukh): the later verses cancel the oldest verses, when they contradict themselves: some 235 verses would thus be abrogated. The verses that preach tolerance in the Meccan period are thus, to a large extent, abrogated by the verses that preach violence and intolerance, as the verses revealed in Medina. This rule was enacted in the eleventh century (400 years of the Hegira) to put an end to the multiple interpretations of the text. It concerns the internal contradictions of the Quran and the hadith, but in principle, the hadith can not modify the Quran. This rule appears in the Quran itself: “And when We substitute a verse in place of a verse - and Allah is most knowing of what He sends down - they say, You, [O Muhammad], are but an inventor [of lies]. But most of them do not know”. (An-Nahl, the Bee, XVI, 101), and “We do not abrogate a verse or cause it to be forgotten except that We bring forth [one] better than it or similar to it. Do you not know that Allah is over all things competent?” (Al-Baqarah, La vache, II, 106). But this rule does not apply in any way to the older texts recognized by the Quran as Genesis, Pentateuch and even the Gospels: "And We sent, following in their footsteps, Jesus, the son of Mary, confirming that which came before him in the Torah; and We gave him the Gospel, in which was guidance and light and confirming that which preceded it of the Torah as guidance and instruction for the righteous.” (Al-Ma’idah, The table Spread, V, 50). This verse is not abrogated by any later.
The most well-known abrogations concern Jews and Christians. Mahomet gives the Pentateuch and the Gospel a pre-eminent place. The first result was a certain tolerance: “And indeed, among the People of the Scripture are those who believe in Allah and what was revealed to you and what was revealed to them, [being] humbly submissive to Allah. They do not exchange the verses of Allah for a small price. Those will have their reward with their Lord. Indeed, Allah is swift in account.” (Ali ‘Imran, family of Imran, III, 199). But this sura is abrogated by Sura An-Nisa (The women) IV, 151. The Jews and Christians do not recognize Mohammed as a prophet and thus: “Those are the disbelievers, truly. And We have prepared for the disbelievers a humiliating punishment.” And further on: “So for their breaking of the covenant We cursed them and made their hearts hard. They distort words from their [proper] usages and have forgotten a portion of that of which they were reminded.” (Al-Ma’idah, The table Spread V. 13). Finally: “The Jews say, Ezra is the son of Allah; and the Christians say, the Messiah is the son of Allah." That is their statement from their mouths; they imitate the saying of those who disbelieved [before them]. May Allah destroy them; how are they deluded?” (At-Tawbah, The Repentance, IX, 30).
The Muslim exegetes say that the evolution of the prescriptions of the Quran does not mean that Allah could have erred, but only that he adapts them over time as the doctor adapts the drugs to the evolution of the disease. This is a strange justification! Changing medicines, and radically like the changes of the Quran, reveals rather a profound misdiagnosis!
The Quran explicitly condemns the idea of the Divine Trinity: “And do not say, Three; desist - it is better for you.” (An-Nisa-The women, IV, 171), but above all the human form of trinity retained by the sects of which we have spoken, including the Virgin assimilated to the goddess Venus whom it was maintained in an environment still attached to the Greco-Roman beliefs.
The heresy of Docetism was the one that most influenced the Quran. As we have seen, this heresy denied the human nature of Jesus of Nazareth. Mahomet resumed the thesis and replaced Jesus by somebody else on the Cross, but on the contrary denying the divine nature of Jesus: " And [for] their saying, "Indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah ." And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] was made to resemble him to them. And indeed, those who differ over it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it except the following of assumption. And they did not kill him, for certain.” (An-Nisa-The women IV, 157). Yet .” Sura Ali ‘Imran, family of Imran, III, 48 states that “when Allah said, O Jesus, indeed I will take you and raise you to Myself and purify you from those who disbelieve and make those who follow you [in submission to Allah alone] superior to those who disbelieve until the Day of Resurrection”. All Islamic interpretations agree on this point.
One of the Islamic interpretations is that angels saved Jesus by a skylight and took him to heaven: “And God cast the likeness of Jesus upon one of his disciples by the name of Serges. The latter had apparently, at the request of Jesus who had promised him a place at his side in Paradise, accepted to take his resemblance and sacrifice himself for him. So Serges was captured, believing it was Jesus. Some say Judas was captured and crucified, Allah knows best.”
In chapter 216, an anonymous text called of Barnabas, explains how Judas replaced Jesus: “Judas first burst into the room from which Jesus was taken and where the eleven slept. Then the admirable God acted admirably: Judas became so like Jesus by his language and face that we believed it was Jesus ... The soldiers seized Judas and bound him not without mockery, for he denied Truth that he was Jesus”. This text, probably from the eleventh century, is of Muslim origin and, moreover, it cites, by name, Mahomet.
The Quran places Jesus of Nazareth among the greatest prophets. In particular: “ And We made the son of Mary and his mother a sign » ( Al-Mu’minun-The Belevers, XXIII-50). The Quran states that not only: “We gave Jesus son of Mary the clear miracles, and We strengthened him with the Holy Spirit.” (Al-Baqarah, La Vache, II, 253), but also: “Rather, God raised him up to Himself. God is Mighty and Wise” (An-Nisa-The women IV, 157). Mohammed himself has not benefited from any of these immense graces. He would have relieved an eye pain from his son-in-law Ali, but no miracle appears in the Quran or was reported by his disciples. Moreover, he died and was buried at the very place of his death in Mecca. It should be noted in passing that Mohammed mentions the miracles of Jesus of Nazareth, such as giving life to a clay bird (Ali 'Imran, Family of Imran, III, 49), which are reported by heretical apocryphal Gospels condemned from the beginning by the Councils.
Moreover, there is nowhere in the Gospels, or in the Acts of the Apostles, or in the Letters, or in the apocryphal texts, any reference to an announcement by Jesus of Nazareth of the coming of another prophet after him. Such an announcement is also absent in all the apocryphal Gospels with the exception of the Gospel of Barnabas. Now this apocrypha is largely posterior to the others. The Gospel of Barnabas preserves the practice of circumcision abandoned by Christians since the time of the Apostles. The first mention of the Gospel of Barnabas dates from the seventh century. It is therefore anterior. It is believed that the authors of the versions of which copies are very largely posterior evidently have been inspired by an older text. These copies would be taken from a text attributed to Muslims. It is used by Muslims to justify what Muhammad claims in his Quran: “And when Jesus son of Mary said, O Children of Israel, I am God’s Messenger to you, confirming what preceded me of the Torah, and announcing good news of a messenger who will come after me, whose name is Ahmad.”(As-Saf-The Rank, LXI, 6). Jesus of Nazareth announced his return at the end of time. Mohammed (Ahmed) did not pretend to be the Christ of return at the end of time. The Universe still exists! Jesus of Nazareth announced, on the contrary, the coming of false prophets. One can say in front of the extent of the invasions, the massacres, the Islamist horrors, that Mahomet is the greatest of the false prophets.
Curiously, the Quran takes a rationalist position on the divine nature of Christ. It comes up against the divine nature of Christ, yet proclaimed by the prophets whose value Mahomet admits. His conviction is that this nature was invented by the disciples of the Christ. It pushes logic to the absolute: there can be only one God. He finally refuses the mystery of the uniqueness of God, the Son and the Holy Spirit. In this respect, the Quran is therefore a form of rationalistic heresy. We shall see to what extent the Catholic religion is irremediably incompatible with rationalism and therefore with Islam. The position of Mahomet is more open than that of the Greek philosophers of the Areopagus met by St. Paul, for he admits the miracles and the resurrection of bodies.
The Arabs were at first rather conciliatory with the Jews and the Christians. In particular, during the capture of Edessa in 640, they left to the Christians their churches and, first of all, the Hagia Sophia basilica which was later on razed by the Turks.
The Muslim Arabs despised profoundly the atheists, the deepest of the infidels. They massacred mercilessly, without restraint or mercy, the Buddhists of India. The Buddhists prostrated themselves before images and stone gods. They are the worst enemies of Islam. Did not the Prophet write, “You shall not worship idols of stone?” No later sura makes the slightest allusion to any commiseration towards atheists. Consequently: “When you encounter those who disbelieve, strike at their necks. Then, when you have routed them, bind them firmly. Then, either release them by grace, or by ransom, until war lays down its burdens.” (Muhammad, Mahammad, XLVII, 4). That is why the Arabs, when they invaded India, never felt guilty of killing so many Buddhists. On the contrary, it was an obligation, a sacred duty. The massacres perpetrated by the Arabs in India are unparalleled in World History. More dramatic than the Holocaust of the Jews by the Nazis, or the massacre of the Armenians by the Turks in the twentieth century. From the most beautiful and prosperous city of India there remained only a few smoking ruins. One of these ferocious conquerors was Babour, an illustrious man for his massacres. Babour did not conceal that his ultimate goal was the destruction or total slavery of the inhabitants of India which he called the “Hindus”. The Hindu Kush perpetuates the memory of this genocide since these words literally mean “massacre of the Hindus”. The Bahmani sultans, who ruled in Central India, set a quota of 100,000 “Hindus” a year and seem to have held it. But in 1399, the famous Tamerlane did better, he killed 100,000 “Hindus” in a single day, a record. Buddhism, moreover, disappeared from India, its country of origin, after this frightful hecatomb.
Islamist reactions are always based on literal and violent interpretations of the Quran. Thus, the abrogating-abrogated rule (al-nasikh wal-mansoukh) obliges them to kill Christians: “They disbelieve those who say, God is the Christ, the son of Mary.” (Al-Ma’idah, The Table Spread, V, 17) and “When you encounter those who disbelieve, strike at their necks.” (Muhammad, Mahammad, XLVII, 4). It seems, however, that the least violent Islamists can show indulgence towards Christians since they have recently released hostages first threatened with death, seeing them praying.
Violence is inscribed in the very history of Islam. Mohammed himself spent his life fighting the infidel Arabs with sabers in his hand. His successors have never ceased spreading the influence of Islam by arms. But it is economically absurd to massacre the inhabitants of the beaten people. Instead of killing them, the Arabs taxed the Christians and the Jews and withdrew them from all public functions, leaving them free to worship, but also often enslaved them, especially in black Africa. Until the 20th century.
It is true that they did not seek to convert by violence. They did not massacre the Hindus to convert them, but because they worshiped statues and did not consider them accessible to Islam. They did not invade the Maghreb and Spain with the intention of convert the Christians by force. It was the social and fiscal constraints imposed on non-Muslims that gradually led them to convert to integrate into political and economic life. The unbelievers, the kafir, and the Trinitarian associators who live in Muslim countries must apply the law of Islam. They are not forced to convert, but they have to pay the djizia, the capitation of the dhimmis, and respect many social rules: not to carry a weapon, not to ride a horse, not to build new places of worship, not to raise their voices during ceremonies or not to resemble Muslims in their clothing.
The fact is that the Christians have practically disappeared from the countries occupied by the Arabs and the Turks, themselves, moreover, historically much more violent. In passing, it must be remembered that the Arabs and the Turks were invaders. They have always represented but a very small part of the population of the countries they have submitted. Thus the immense majority of the inhabitants of North Africa are by no means Arabs, but descendants of the Berber populations of origin, with an important contribution from Western Europe. The Arabs, like the Jews, are Semites whose origin is the subject of heated debates. Nevertheless, their white origin, generally accepted, is clearly more marked than among the Berbers.
But the most distressing is the extreme violence that Muslims have done and always show to their fellow believers that they think heretics. As soon as Muhammad died, Islam broke out into a multitude of sects. This is the irremediable consequence of the absence of any religious authority. This Islamic syndrome had the same consequences one millennium after Mohammed for the Protestants, divided from the start. Calvin met heretics of his own doctrine during his lifetime and made Michel Servetus burn; he was his most furious enemy.
The violence of the struggles between Muslims is by no means in proportion to the importance of the differences in the interpretation of the texts. There was practically no respite between the massacres, except perhaps after the invasion of the Sunni Seljuk Turks, which was the occasion of dreadful slaughters of Shiite Muslims in the eleventh century. Peace reigned for some time by terror. The reverse occurred when the Shiite Ottoman Turks invaded the Middle East and Egypt two centuries later. The survivors hid while waiting for better days ... which never arrived.
Muslims reject this same violence on the Christians by quoting a passage from the Gospel: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (St Matthew 10:34). The emperors and kings of Occident and of Constantinople invaded more than once territories of infidels with the intention of bringing them to the Christian faith. Charlemagne thus defeated the Saxons. Did Jesus of Nazareth speak of this use of the sword? It is enough to read the lines that follow to understand without ambiguity that this sword is that of the enemies of the Christian faith. And the History comes to prove this by the countless martyrs massacred since the Romans until our days, and precisely in the Muslim countries where Christians are delivered without defense to the crimes of the Islamists. The sword evoked by the Christ is the one which gets up against his disciples. The Christians met and still meet a deep opposition and even the hatred. Moreover, multiple heresies made them fight between them, sometimes with violence.
Although the Gospel of Jesus of Nazareth is described by Mohammed as a “torch of faith” the Muslim believer is by no means bound to apply its commandments. The commandments of the Gospel are annulled and replaced by those of the Quran which devotes 53 verses to them in 18 Suras. With the exception of the purely religious commandments such as the fasting of Ramadan, the five daily prayers, almsgiving and the pilgrimage to Mecca, the commandments of the Quran concern only acts of civil life. The essential commandments are very close to the Decalogue of the Pentateuch. The multiple prohibitions of the Quran are an almost complete return to the Jewish prohibitions given in the Old Testament, supplemented by the Mishnah and the Talmud. The Quran therefore contains a real Civil Code. The characteristic of this Muslim civil law is to differentiate the men from the women, since their childhood and education, to death and successions through marriage and divorce:: “Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, as God has given some of them an advantage over others, and because they spend out of their wealth. The good women are obedient, guarding what God would have them guard. As for those from whom you fear disloyalty, admonish them, and abandon them in their beds, then strike them. But if they obey you, seek no way against them.” (An-Nisa, The Women, Sura IV-38). The inferiority of women is reflected, in particular by a lower value of their testimony, in lower inheritance rights. A divorced woman is entitled to nothing besides the dowry received from her parents and of which she retains the property to live.
The punishments applied to the sins, which consist of failure to respect the code, are also specified by the Koran which is thus also a Penal code. Even the blasphemy is a matter of the civil. It also includes some rules which are a draft of Trade Code.
We can quote an example of a curious prohibition that is not formally in the Old Testament. Quran Sura V forbids wine: “O you who believe! Intoxicants [wine in most translations], gambling, idolatry, and divination are abominations of Satan’s doing. Avoid them, so that you may prosper.” (Al-Ma’idah, The table Spread V, 90). How, then, can one find oneself drunk, as stated in Sura IV, 43: “O you who believe! Do not approach the prayer while you are drunk, so that you know what you say;” This is undoubtedly one of the numerous cases of repealed Sura. Wine is the drink of paradise and there, it does not make drunk! (‘Abasa, He Frowed, LXXXIII, 25 and many others too).
Of course, the law of love of Jesus of Nazareth is not taken up by the Quran! Love your enemies is completely irrational. The eighth commandment of the Catholic Church: “put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander”, results from the law of love of the neighbor. In this form in the Old Testament, which is limited to false testimony, there is no particular case of falsehood: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour”. It is the same as in the Quran.
Moreover, for Islam the notion of purity, linked to sin, is similar to that of the Pharisees, in total opposition to the Gospel: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person”. (St. Mark 7: 14-23). For Islam, there are only breaches of Quranic laws. It is necessary to wash physically before the prayers and during the pilgrimage to Mecca. The breaches are punished by sanctions, physical in some cases, such as stoning or the section of the hands, but do not concern the eternal salvation that is totally acquired to the predestined: Allah wanted it. This is what has led many Muslim sects to fatalism so widespread that it is often considered a characteristic of Islam.
The mercy of Allah, Al-Rahman Al-Rahim, The Most Merciful, The Most Merciful, is a leitmotiv of the Quran. Mercy is first of all the tenderness which living beings, men or camels, must feel towards one another; “He who is strong has pity on him who is weak, he helps him and protects him from his evil.” A hadith adds: “The example of believers in their friendship, mutual compassion and sympathy is like the body, if one of its members suffers, the whole body will suffer also while awake and feverish”.
Mercy seems to oppose predestination and fatalism, since Allah could forgive! However, the mercy of Allah, even though it concerns all the beings of his creation, ultimately addresses only predestined believers, only accepted in paradise. This mercy is therefore fundamentally opposed to the divine mercy of Christianity, which aims exclusively for eternal salvation, access to paradise. The God of the Christians has but one desire: to receive in heaven all men who accept to be converted. On the contrary, Allah rejects from birth all those whom he did not predestinate in Paradise, first the infidels.
If believers are judged on their acts, if the jihadist who is killed to be martyred and go to heaven, certainly acts according to his own will, it is by no means Freewill. Ambiguity is only apparent. “While Allah created you and that which you do?” (As-Saffat, Those who set the Ranks, XXXVII-96). Free will does not exist in Islam, since the human act responds to the plan of Allah conceived before any origin. As always in the Quran, there are contradictory suras. “But if Allah had willed, He would have united them upon guidance.” (Al-An'am, The Cattle, VI-35) and “And if we had willed, We could have given every soul its guidance”. (As-Sajdah, The Prostration, XXXII-13). It seems that thus the path is not imposed, but at first it is only the path to paradise. Then they are abrogated by the later suras: “Already the word has come into effect upon most of them, so they do not believe.” (Ya-Sin, Ya Sin, XXXVI-6) and “For indeed, Allah sends astray whom He wills and guides whom He wills.” (Fatir, Originator XXXV, 8).
These clarifications lead us to questions: what is the hope and what is the expectation for afterlife of the good Muslim? Mahomet announces the end of the world after distant signs, intermediate signs and near or major signs. Everything must disappear.
“Cursed is man; how disbelieving is he. From what substance did He create him? From a sperm-drop He created him and destined for him; then He eased the way for him; then He causes his death and provides a grave for him. Then when He wills, He will resurrect him.” ('Abasa, He Frowned, LXXX, 17-22). In Islamic vocabulary, the term Quiyamah refers to the end of the world, which will take place when the Angel Isrâfil, obeying the order of Allah, will blow in the Trumpet. This will produce a terrible sound, which will make the entire Creation tremble. ” O mankind, fear your Lord. Indeed, the convulsion of the [final] Hour is a terrible thing. On the Day you see it every nursing mother will be distracted from that [child] she was nursing, and every pregnant woman will abort her pregnancy, and you will see the people [appearing] intoxicated while they are not intoxicated; but the punishment of Allah is severe.” (Al-Haj, The Pilgrimage, XXII, 1-2). “Everyone upon the earth will perish, And there will remain the Face of your Lord, Owner of Majesty and Honor.” (Ar-Rahman, The Beneficent, LV, 26-27).
Humanity as a whole therefore has no hope. The man himself remains awaiting the fateful moment which, moreover, will doubtless not concern him. In this expectation, however, man can “Those - their reward is forgiveness from their Lord and gardens beneath which rivers flow [in Paradise], wherein they will abide eternally; and excellent is the reward of the [righteous] workers.” (Ali 'Imran, Family of Imran, III, 139). Yet “And what is the life of this world except the enjoyment of delusion.” (Ali 'Imran, Family of Imran, III, 182) and the life of man is determined by the divine will. “Say, "I possess not for myself any harm or benefit except what Allah should will.” (Yunus, Jonah, X, 50). Yet, “Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” (Ar-Ra'd, The Thunder, XIII, 1&). But how can they change of their own Freewill if “And [for] every person We have imposed his fate upon his neck” (Al-Isra, The Night Journey, XVII, 14)? It is the most brutal negation of any form of Freewill.
Not only hope of anything on this earth is thus a meaningless word for a Muslim, but the good Muslim does not even have the hope of improving his lot on this Earth. It is a brutal fatalism. Moreover, Freewill is in complete contradiction with the status of women in Islam.
“Your wives are a place of sowing of seed for you, so come to your place of cultivation however you wish and put forth [righteousness] for yourselves.” (Al-Baqarah, The Cow, II, 223), and of course: “Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in [the husband's] absence what Allah would have them guard. But those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance - [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them.” (An-Nisa, The Women, IV, 38). The inferiority of the woman is reflected in the legal articles of the Quran. The Quran makes the testimony of man equal to that of two women. Moreover, the majority of Muslim jurists argue that the testimony of the woman is not admissible in the case of major crimes and in cases involving the law of retaliation. At the same time, Muslim women can only inherit half the share of men. Finally, women have little chance of escaping Hell: Hadith 45 of the Faith and Pillars of Islam chapter: “From Abd-Allah ibn` Umar (may Allah be pleased with both) , The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: O women who are here assembled, give alms and solicit more frequently the forgiveness of Allah, for I have seen that you will form the majority of the people of the Hell. A wise woman among the assistants exclaimed: And why this, O Messenger of Allah? It is, he replied, that you multiply your curses, and that you are ungrateful to your spouses, and I have not seen among the beings who are weak in intelligence and religion, who, better than any of you, lose the mind to a reasonable man. In what, replied she, O Messenger of Allah, is the defect of our intellect and of our religion? The testimony of the woman is equal to only half of that of a man ... this is due to the defect of intelligence, replied the Prophet, and then, when they have their menses, women cease to pray and to fast for nights, and that is the fault of their religion.”
The issue of the right of women to education is a more delicate subject. The Quran, of course, speaks only of education to the knowledge of the Quran. It is an obligation for both boys and girls. But concluding from this obligation that the Quran and the Hadiths encourage the general education of girls is truly a semantic escalation. Logically, since it is not a Quranic obligation, the education of girls, except knowledge of the Quran, is a decision of men: “Your wives are a place of sowing of seed for you, so come to your place of cultivation however you wish and put forth [righteousness] for yourselves.” It is from this fundamental principle of the Quran that results the Islamist excesses of the twenty-first century.
However, the worst condition in the Muslim world was, a short time ago, that of the slaves. There would be moreover slaves in certain particularly backward Muslim countries. Yet the Quran does not stipulate any rule against slaves. On the contrary, Sura 24-33 The Light, urges the owners to free their slaves. It is nevertheless true that slaves are beings inferior to women in the Quran.
But, the reality of the Muslim world has been far more atrocious than the texts may revealed. The most accurate estimates give a number of black slaves from Africa kidnapped by Arab Muslims much higher than kidnappings by Europeans. Now, blacks have not only survived largely to transfers to the Americas, but have multiplied. In Muslim countries, they have completely disappeared. Having been unable to procreate, they were eliminated as soon as they could no longer serve their masters. This drama does not however result from the Quran.
It may seem surprising that the Muslim world may have been interested in medicine. Why going against sickness if it is God who wanted it? This concern, linked to the hope of a better human life, is nevertheless totally absent in Mahomet and even entirely contrary to its principles. There seems to be a distinction between three periods in history. The first period is the Arab invasion of countries under Greco-Latin influence. The Greeks had social systems, and hospitals in particular, highly developed. They were taken over and extended by the Romans. These were public places of accommodation, such as the Prytanée or Asklepieions, temples of Asclepios, as well as Roman military infirmaries. The Arabs neither destroyed these establishments nor prohibit the practice of medicine which continued to develop until the ninth century.
The second period was marked by the violent invasions of Muslim Turks from the Far East, beginning in the ninth century. They had previously ruined China. The invasion of the Seljuk Turks was accompanied by an unprecedented Islamic reaction. They burned in particular the 500,000 volumes of the library of Alexandria. Fortunately, under the instigation of Cassiodorus, in 536 a library had been created in Rome, but Byzantine war obliged him to transplant his library to his monastery at Vivarium, in his domain of Squillace, in Calabria, Extreme south of Italy. As a true visionary, he foresaw the role that would be devolved to the monasteries during the following centuries, as vectors of intellectual continuity. He also understood that it was necessary to translate the ancient Greeks into exegesis, philosophy and science, in order to transmit them. This library was spared the invasion of the Lombards and transferred to the Lateran in Rome. This is the way were saved the big texts of the philosophers and the Greek doctors whose older manuscripts were burnt by the Turkish Islamists in Alexandria. By the fourth century, Chalcidius had translated Plato's Timaeus into Latin, and his translation was copied unceasingly until the sixteenth century. St. Augustine used the Latin translation of Plato by Victorinius, the famous rhetorician in Rome of the fourth century. Roman Senator Boethius (Rome 480-Pavia 524) also translated the works of Plato and Aristotle in Latin. He lived a century before Mohammed. We must also mention St. Isidore of Seville (560-636), who published a compendium of the theses of all the Greek philosophers. He necessarily had in hand the texts he had summarized, and in particular the works of Boethius.
The heirs of Voltaire, mainly Freemasons in France, are the principal artisans and defenders of the thesis of the Muslim origin of the knowledge of Greek philosophy in the West. It is only to support the Voltairians that, very recently, Imams have been heard to support this thesis thinking to justify Islam in the eyes of Westerners. Islam is totally hermetic to philosophy. Sultans and other caliphs never deprived themselves of the execution of the influential philosophers who might have led to a drift of Islam.
The drama of the Turkish invasion marked the end of all intellectual activity in Muslim countries and of medicine in particular. It was not until the nineteenth century that the arrival of the Westerners allowed the inhabitants of Muslim countries to have access to medicine and therefore a certain hope of living better for the present time. This third period ends at the beginning of the 21st century with the murderous radicalization of the Islamists. An indirect form of hope had a very short life.
As a compensation for the absence of hope in this world, Mahomet exposes, with troubling insistence, the hope of man in the Hereafter. Paradise is described in nearly 300 verses of 36 Surahs of the Quran 114.
The first evident remark is the total absence of Allah in the paradise described by the Quran. There is a complete break with the Bible. And much more with the Gospel. The hope of the Christian is to ascend to Heaven not only to see God but to participate in his very existence: in his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul has the audacity to write to them: “You are the Body of Christ”.
The Quran says at the beginning: “And that which is with Allah is best for the righteous.” (Ali 'Imran, Family of Imram, III-198). Biblical influence is evident, but this passage is abrogated by the later suras. To tell the truth, there is a contradiction only on the meaning given to “with”. Allah is in fact above paradise. And he shows himself to the predestined who have had access to paradise: "[Some] faces, that Day, will be radiant, Looking at their Lord." (Al-Qiyamah -The Resurrection, LXXV-22 and 23). For more information, let us consider the Hadith. We learn that in heaven there are hours reserved for prayer, as on earth. The resuscitated One addresses Allah. But, like the Muslim prayer on Earth, it is not a personal meeting with Allah. The Muslim prayer is the recitation of Quranic texts without any personal thought. The Muslim prayer is only a humanized form of the prayer wheel of the Tibetan Buddhists.
Other Hadhits specify the frequency of the appearances of the face of Allah above the paradise according to the level of the saved. For all are not equal in paradise. There are different degrees. The Sahih Al Bukhari and Muslim recorded in the Hadith of Ibn 'Umar: “The highest [among them] is the one who regards the Most High twice a day.”
But, in paradise, the good Muslim will spend most of his time, eternity, accomplishing his most human fantasies and first of all those of sex and belly. The paradise of Islam is a den of lust with binge drinking and sex play parties, essentially pedophiles, in an idyllic environment worthy of the biggest palaces of our world.
Paradise is promised “And those who have believed and done righteous deeds." (Al-'Ankabu, The Spider, XXIX-58). All these verses evoke a garden with rivers flowing through it. It was obviously the dream for desert nomads. But apart from the forgiveness of sins, evoked only once in Surah Al-Hadid-The Iron, (LVII-17), the delights of Eden are of a very human nature and they seem destined only to the men to whom are promised in the eternal dwelling, watered gardens (Ali 'Imran, Family of Imran, III-13 for example), in the midst of gold-decorated seats, ewers filled with exquisite wines, high beds, virgins of paradise created by a creation (Al-Waqi'ah, The Inevitable, LVI-12-39), a paradise for pedophiles, or the chosen servants of Allah: “will have a provision determined - Fruits; and they will be honoured in gardens of pleasure On thrones facing one another. There will be circulated among them a cup [of wine] from a flowing spring, white and delicious to the drinkers; no bad effect is there in it, nor from it will they be intoxicated. And with them will be women limiting [their] glances, with large, [beautiful] eyes, As if they were [delicate] eggs, well-protected.“ (As-Saffat, Those who set the Ranks, XXXVII-39 to 49). Other suras promise positions more comfortable than the seats: “They will be reclining therein on adorned couches. They will not see therein any [burning] sun or [freezing] cold.” (Al-Insan, The Man, LXXVI-12-22). The paradise of Mahomet has air conditioning. They will clothe luxurious garments: “They will be adorned therein with bracelets of gold and will wear green garments of fine silk and brocade” (Al-Kahf, The Cave, XVIII-30). And finally, they can drink wine to satiety (Al-Mujadila, The Pleading Woman, LVIII-25).
One would think that at least their wives could have access to paradise: “Indeed the companions of Paradise, that Day, will be amused in [joyful] occupation - They and their spouses - in shade, reclining on adorned couches. In company with their wives, they will rest in the shade, leaning on seats.” (Ya-Sin-Ya Sin, XXXVI-55-56). But they must quickly be disillusioned. They are not their wives of this world. A few suras later on the reality is revealed to them: “Thus. And We will marry them to fair women with large, [beautiful] eyes.“ (Ad-Dukhan, The Smoke, XLIV-54), these are the “Indeed, We have produced the women of Paradise in a [new] creation And made them virgins,” (Al-Waqi'ah, The Inevitable, LVI-36-37), “And full breasted” (An-Naba, The Tidings, LXXVIII-31) who have already been promised them as we have seen. Montaigne called them bitches. To this enticing prospect for the obsessed sex, is added the horror of pedophilia. Are these virgins majors? And all these young boys: “There will circulate among them young boys made eternal” (Al-Waqi'ah, The Inevitable, LVI-17)? Beardless teenagers? Is it only the paradise of homosexuals? Or the paradise of pedophiles?
Quranic passages are heretical in nature with respect to the very principles outlined by Muhammad. These are the passages relating to the fallen angel. “God tells him The time is granted to you.” (Al-Hijr, The Rocky Tract, XV-38). It is God's answer to Eblis, the fallen angel, who asked Him for a respite until the resurrection of men, the end of the world, to " [Iblees] said, My Lord, because You have put me in error, I will surely make [disobedience] attractive to them on earth, and I will mislead them all. (Al-Hijr, The Rocky Tract, XV-39). Later, Allah limits this evil power to those who follow Eblis and go astray. This episode is repeated several times later, in particular by sura Sad- The Letter (XXXVIII-81).
It is profoundly heretical, even with regard to the Quran, to attribute to God a thought, a decision, an act contrary to good. It is even, from the philosophical point of view, pure absurdity. It is well, however, what Mohammed did when he wrote that Allah authorized Eblis to do evil! He also wrote in several Surahs (in particular: XXX-36, XXXIV-35, XLII-10): that God sometimes “distributes with full hands”, but sometimes “measures the gift”. But he also withdraws food according to his will (XXXIX-53) and moreover “He gives provisions to whom He wills” (Ash-Shuraa, The Consultation, XLII-19 and 26). The earthly misfortunes of men come in “punishment for the works of men” (Ar-Rum, The Romans, XXX-40). God would thus be responsible for the misfortunes of men on this earth and death first: “then will cause you to die,” (XXX-40) and “We took retribution” (XXX-46), for “Is not Allah Exalted in Might and Owner of Retribution?” (Az-Zumar, The Troops, XXXIX-38). Mohammed acknowledges, however, that God can not “Allah would not have wronged them [act iniquitously]” (Al-'Ankabut, The Spider, XXIX-39). To avenge of the infidels at their death is justice, but in their lifetime?
The identity of the earthly city and the city of God in the Quran is measured by the purely human and terrestrial nature of the benefits of paradise. Water, “eternally young boys” and virgins at will, is the leitmotif of Muhammad. This identity of nature is translated by the assimilation of misfortune to evil. Misfortune is linked to the earthly world, whereas evil is relative to salvation after death. It is the total denial of the Gospel message. It is not just some erroneous deletions or interpretations. The confusion of misfortune and evil requires an entire annihilation of the Gospels. God wants the good of man in the Hereafter, but he can not in any way bestow this good by the misfortune of man on Earth. Of course, Mohammed advises “be patient over what befalls you.” (Luqman, Luqman, XXXI-16). But how could God be considered responsible for these earthly evils, the misfortunes of man? How could he only want to “render whom He wills barren?” (Ash-Shuraa, The Consultation, XXXXII-49). How could God " But when a precise surah is revealed and fighting is mentioned therein" (Muhammad, Muhammad, XXXXVII-22)? And “to Allah belong the soldiers of the heavens and the earth” (Al-Fath, The Victory, XLVIII-4 and 7).
If God is good and merciful, as Muhammad always affirms, then he is absolutely so, for nothing relative or limited can be attributed to him.
From the time of Muhammad's death, Islam was divided into a multitude of sects that have never ceased to kill each other, even today. The most important schism is Shiism, which represents only 15% of Muslims. There is no institutional authority in Sunnism fixing the orthodoxy and the Quran has a divine character while the Shiites take it for a human work that their Imams can explain it to the people. As for Wahhabism, which is limited to Saudi Arabia, it is a Puritan Sunnism. The Wahhabis take the Quran and authentic hadiths in the literal sense. Although they are a small minority, they consider all other Muslims to be heretics.
Most surprising is that Islam has a peaceful reputation in the West. This attitude is actually recent. It dates essentially from the Enlightenment. One remains confused before the judgment of Voltaire (Essay on the manners and the spirit of nations chapter VII): Islam is “indulgent and tolerant” whereas Christianity is “the most intolerant and the most barbaric of all the religions”. It is still today the credo of the progressives and the foundation of the Masonic vision.
If the judgment of Montaigne is rather laconic, Pascal has been infinitely deeper. The Freemasons should meditate on Pascal's thoughts antidote to Voltaire: “It is not by the obscurities in the writings of Mohammed, and which they may pretend have a mystic sense, that I would wish him to be judged, but by its plain statements, as his account of paradise, and such like. Even in these things he is ridiculous. Now, it is not so with the Holy Scriptures. They also have their obscurities; but then there are many clear and lucid satements, and many prophecies in direct terms which have been accomplished. The cases then are not parallel. We must not put on an equal footing, books which only resemble each other in the existence of obscurities, and not in those brilliancies, which substantiate their own divine origine, by which they are accompanied.” (Thoughts on Religion, and Other Subjects by Blaise Pascal, by Rev. Adward Craig, Baynes, Edinburgh 1825 p.132) and the sequel Difference between Jesus Christ and Mohammed. “Any man may do what Mohammed did; for he wrought no miracles, he fulfilled no previous prophecy. No man can do what Jesus did. Mohammed established his system by killing others; Jesus-Christ by exposing his disciples to death; Mohammed by forbidding to read; Jesus by enjoining it. In fact, so opposite were their plans, that, according to human calculation, Mohammed took the way to succeed-Jesus Christ certainly took the way of failure. And instead arguing, that because Mohammed succeeded, Christianity must have failed, if it had not been supported by an energy purely divine.” (Pascal thoughts, p 131 and 132)
The emulators of Voltaire extended his judgment to the economic and artistic aspects. The reality is that the Arabs have invaded countries of high and ancient culture, Persia, Mesopotamia and Egypt. They have benefited from their knowledge and skills for a century or two depending on the region. Then everything collapsed, essentially in the field of thought. As early as the tenth century, everything was frozen in terms of philosophy, which was henceforth prohibited, and in matters of law and even theology. But it was the same with the arts. The architecture has remained rudimentary, using mainly the wood including for the cupolas of the mosques. Only the decoration has remained a little alive for the princes eager to surround themselves with the appearances of luxury.
Economically, the Roman roads were immediately abandoned: camels and dromedaries replacing the Roman carts can not walk on stone slabs. The baths survived until their destruction in the incessant wars between the Islamist sects. They have never been rebuilt. Only the Roman letter post service was maintained for the exclusive needs of the armies in permanent struggle.
They wanted to see a sign of civilization in the development of cities in the regions progressively under Arabs occupation. The reality is less brilliant. A popular interpretation of a sura has pushed the Arabs back into the cities, leaving the Christians and slaves to cultivate the land. The sentence: “Woe to the one who pushes the plow” is not more explicit than: “And whoever desires the harvest of this world - We give him thereof, but there is not for him in the Hereafter any share.” (Ash-Shuraa, The Consultation, XLII-20). It is almost a copy and paste of the passage of the Bible: “How can the ploughman become wise, whose sole ambition is to wield the goad, driving his oxen, engrossed in their work?” (Ecclesiastic -Siracide 38- 25). A passage from St Luke could be interpreted in this sense: “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9-62). But it is exactly the opposite. He who puts his hand to the plow is the image of the man who wants to follow Christ. He must do it without regret!
The propensity of the Arabs to deal only with trade corresponds both to this rejection of agricultural activities and to the fatalism which characterizes the popular Islamic vision, much more than their nomadic origin, as has been said. Fatalism is not really a dogma of Islam, but a somewhat abusive interpretation of predestination. This popular fatalism favors the least effort: why to give effort because everything is fixed in advance by Allah?
Very exactly as Thomism will be, the Quran is full of Aristotle's theses. Of course, the Sun revolves around the motionless Earth: “Is He [not best] who made the earth a stable ground and placed within it rivers and made for it firmly set mountains and placed between the two seas a barrier?” (An-Naml, The Ant, XXVII-61). What is confirmed by hadiths: “Ibn Kathir said: that is, immobile, which neither wavereth nor stirs nor trembles with its inhabitants. And Al Qurtubi said, That is, That is to say: firm mountains which hold it back and prevent it from moving”. Many suras confirm the immobility of the Earth and the rotation of the Sun and the Moon around the Earth, each on its orb: “And it is He who created the night and the day and the sun and the moon; all [heavenly bodies] in an orbit are swimming.“ (Al-Anbya, The Prophets, XXI-33).
The Quran integrates the cosmological theory of Aristotle. The Earth is the center of the world and is surrounded by the seven orbs or heavens that carry the Sun and the Planets: “[His being above all creation], and made them seven heavens.” (Al-baqarah, The Cow, II-29), “Do you not consider how Allah has created seven heavens in layers.” (Nuh, Noah, LXXI-15) and “It is Allah who has created seven heavens and of the earth, the like of them.” (At-Talaq,The Divorce,LXV-12).
It is not an unfortunate coincidence, because in the biological domain, Mahommet also takes back Aristote's theories, just like St. Thomas d'Aquin. The sperm of the man is the only source of the reproduction of man: “Cursed is man; how disbelieving is he. From what substance did He create him? From a sperm-drop He created him and destined for him; then He eased the way for him.” ('Abasa, He Frowned, LXXX, 17-22).
It is finally necessary to evoke the problem of taqiya, which makes practically illusory any dialogue between Christians and Muslims. The taqiya is the article of Quranic law which allows the Muslim to hide his faith when the situation requires it. The Muslim feigns not to risk being convinced. As soon as he feels he is taken on his religion, he takes refuge in simulation, the taqiya. The Quran contains two passages that justify taqiya. “Whoever disbelieves in Allah after his belief... except for one who is forced [to renounce his religion] while his heart is secure in faith. But those who [willingly] open their breasts to disbelief, upon them is wrath from Allah , and for them is a great punishment.” ( An-Nahl, The Bee, XVI-106). Taqiya is thus authorized in cases of external coercion, whatever the form: persecution, threat to life, lack of religious freedom.
“Let not believers take disbelievers as allies rather than believers. And whoever [of you] does that has nothing with Allah , except when taking precaution against them in prudence. And Allah warns you of Himself, and to Allah is the [final] destination.” (Ali 'Imran, Family of Imran, III-28 & 29). A Muslim may therefore abjure his beliefs externally, publicly profess another religion or not apply the religious and legislative requirements of Islam if he considers himself in a position of constraint to justify such an attitude. It is obviously the most absolute opposite of the Christian position: “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the Gospel will save it.” (Mk 8:35).
On the other hand, the Muslim who abjure Islam to convert to another religion or go to atheism is liable to the death penalty. “He who changes his religion, kill him” (Hadith, Sahih Bukhari, vol. 9, book 84, number 57, reported by Ibn Abbas) and “The blood of a Muslim, Other than Allah and that I am His Prophet, can only be shed in three conditions: in the case of murder, for a married person who engages in sex illegally and for a person who is away from Islam and leaves the Muslims.” (Hadith, Sahih Bukhari, vol. 9, book 83, number 17, reported by Abdullah).
St. Thomas Aquinas has taken up practically all the positions of Aristotle in the field of physics as well as of biology and of philosophy. Although this is outside the scope of this chapter, it should be remembered that, like Mahomet in his Quran, St. Thomas Aquinas claimed that the Earth is the center of the universe. However, Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), unlike Mahomet (570 - 632), places the stars on an eighth orb: “Heaven is divided into eight orbs: the orb of the fixed stars and the seven Orbs of the planets. Earth is in heaven what the center is in the circle. Around a center, there can be several circles, so there can be several heavens” (Summa Theological Q. LXVIII of the work of the second day). Abu al-Farabi (870-950), Avicenna (980-1037) and Averroes (1126-1198) took entirely the Aristotle's thesis (100-170), like Alhasen (965- 1039) and Maimonides (1135-1204).
St. Augustine (354-430) and Rabanus Maurus (780-856) did not yield to the geometrization of the universe, the anthropomorphic vision, typically Aristotelian.
St. Thomas Aquinas interprets more than he quotes a passage from the Ethics to Nicomacheus of Aristotle relative to the Freewill: “According to what a being is, such is his end. It is not in our power to be in such and such a way, but it is to Nature that we owe what we are. It is therefore natural for us to follow an end, and consequently it is not the effect of Freewill.” St. Thomas Aquinas opposes this position of Aristotle singularly reduced. The Nicomachean Ethics (III, 7) is not as categorical as the quotation of St. Thomas Aquinas: That “the sight which every man has of his end” is “due in part to himself,” or That “the end being given by Nature, man performs his acts voluntarily”, “it is in our power to be intrinsically virtuous or vicious”.
It may thus be understood that St. Thomas Aquinas took a position, partly contrary to the thesis he attributes to Aristotle, in his great Sum, to question LXXXIII. Reference should be made to question XCIII. The problem arises only in relation to eternal laws which do not fall under natural laws, human laws and the laws of the Bible. These explicit laws, written for the most part, are ethical and leave no room for Freewill. St. Thomas Aquinas introduces Freewill by the revelation of these eternal laws. Unfortunately, question XXIII teaches us that revelation would not be given to all, even predestined. It limits the morality to ethics for common mortals. We would have access by ourselves only to the good listed as such or, by opposition, to the evil prohibited by the writings. Where would be the freedom? Certainly, not the freedom to go first against the writings. Freedom to go beyond the writings? I wrote “first”, because we know of cases where freedom imposes to go against the writings. There are unjust laws; the retalation first, still applied in many countries. To claim compensation, should we not first ensure that we do not bear any share of responsibility in the fault? From the legal standpoint, lawyers and judges will try to unravel the facts. They will decide between the respective wrongs. This is not there the question. I speak of liberty, Freewill and therefore of morality and not just of ethics. Conscience is lawyer, judge and party alike. We must judge in conscience. One can give oneself a good conscience with regard to ethics, that is to say with respect to the others. One can not deceive oneself, in conscience, with regard to Morality. And there, I doubt very much that there are cases in which we may think that we have no real responsibility for the evil that we think is done to us. Oh ! Of course, a responsibility that is not at stake in the context of ethics, of the laws.
Morality is also to ethics what Charity is to solidarity. I am speaking of the solidarity imposed by the laws, laws of indisputable necessity undoubtedly. But no one would think that these texts are sufficient for ever. We are drawn to more equality, more protection of the weak and the oppressed. Morality and Charity are part of this beyond, this horizon always before us, and which moves as far as we advance. Philosophical systems based on experiment and perceptions conceal this horizon by the mist of their postulates, as entrenched armies hid behind curtains of smoke. St. Thomas Aquinas fills this gap in his system with elitist revelation.
Father Sertillanges tried to save the Freewill of the very negative view of Thomism by an endless development. I will come back to this, but first, we must go through the philosophical vision of St. Thomas Aquinas. His philosophical system conditions his theological system, characterized by a deep dogmatism. The complexity of a theory is the most obvious sign of error. Aristotle's philosophical theory is as convoluted as his physics. Ptolemy came to make his physics even more complex. Similarly, St. Thomas Aquinas has rendered his philosophy inextricable.
On few occasions, in the Gospels, Jesus of Nazareth prays to his Father. There is, of course, the episode of the Garden of Olives and the moments that preceded his death on the Cross. But also this passage: “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.” (St. Matthew 11:25).
We can doubt that rational and dogmatic developments can really have anything to do with the message of Jesus of Nazareth.
It is useless to insist on the cosmological and physical theses of St. Thomas Aquinas, they are those of Aristotle. Only ashes remain. The Earth is not at the center of the Universe, not any more than the Sun, as Copernicus thought. There are no bodies heavy in themselves, nor bodies light in themselves. Everything is a relationship in the experimental world. Things are heavy in relation to each other and none has absolute lightness in itself or absolute weight in itself. There is no absolute in the experimental world. The absolute can never be perceived or measured, because perception and measurement are relationships. The absolute can not enter into any relation.
It is necessary to pass in the same way on all that relates to biology. There is no spontaneous generation. Nothing can come out of nothing. Worse, by taking up the concepts of the generation of Aristotle, St. Thomas Aquinas helped to maintain a deep misogyny in many minds. It is sometimes claimed that this is not the case. St. Thomas Aquinas wrote very beautiful things about the Virgin Mary. But this is by no means contradictory. This is the woman as a mother. Even for the Muslims, the machismo singularly pronounced, the mother is perfectly respectable. This does not prevent them from treating women as inferior in their role as women. This is also what St. Thomas Aquinas wrote: “A woman is a deficient being whose birth has been unwittingly provoked. For the active power of sperm always seeks to produce something wholly similar to itself, which is male” (Summa Theologiae, 1, 92, art 1, r.). The like is generated by the like. The germ of man is like a little man, hosted by the woman. If this germ is a woman, then it is not similar to the genitor. It is therefore that the woman is an anomaly of the germ.
St. Thomas Aquinas is the author of the famous statement: “Praeterea, nihil est in intellectu quod non sit prius in sensu.” (Quaestiones disputatae de veritate, 2, 3, 19), nothing is in the mind that was not at first in perceptions.
Leibniz opposed this view of the human mind and added this phrase by “nisi intellectus ipse” (New Essays on Human Understanding II, chapter 1, § 2), except intelligence itself. It was thus escaping materialism. The phrase of St. Thomas Aquinas is the very phrase used to justify the atheistic materialism. Of course, the atheist position is in complete contradiction with the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas. For him, the essence of things perceived is of divine nature by Creation. Atheist materialism denies Creation. It is based on the idea that matter exists on its own. But in both cases, human knowledge comes exclusively from the perception of things. This is paradoxical for the absolute.
The statement taken by Thomas Aquinas is falsely attributed to Aristotle, even if it corresponds in part to his philosophical system.
“Experiment is the knowledge of particular things, and art, on the contrary, that of the general” (The Metaphysics of Aristotle, Book 1, 1). Experiment is the result of perception. The general results from the accumulation of experiments in memory. It is memory which, according to Aristotle, characterizes intelligence by giving it access to the general. But this general is thus exclusively the result of experiment. It is in this that the thesis of St. Thomas Aquinas is very close to that of Aristotle. Perception is not enough for intelligent knowledge. It also requires memory. In reality, much more is needed, because without logic, without the search for causality, there is no real knowledge.
Perception, therefore, is not, by itself, sufficient for knowledge. Perception is absolutely necessary, for if you do not perceive anything, you can not understand or know anything. This is one of the arguments opposed to Plato's system of ideas. It is undeniable that in the absence of perception, there can be no knowledge. But this does not imply that absolute concepts are derived from perceptions. Perceptions are necessary to awaken the absolute concepts to consciousness. These absolute concepts are present in the mind that has a kind of inner vision about the transcendental world. But this vision can only be realized if the mind receives the vision of the experimental world through sensible perceptions. Otherwise concepts can not reach consciousness. Sertillanges insists moreover on the similarity of the Thomist system with the system of Kant which resembles the system of Plato. The gap seems minute, but in fact there is an impassable gap, an abyss between Aristotle and Plato. Sensible perception is a relationship that totally excludes any transfer of the absolute. It may be said nevertheless that the vision of the mind on the transcendental world is also a relationship. This is why the absolute concepts of the transcendental world are expressed by indefinable words. Words are not absolute by themselves. Words referring to absolutes refer to these absolutes. We understand the absolute, like eternity, for example. However, we can not compare the absolute to the determinations of perceptions. The criterion is a horizon. We judge by negation in some way. Thus, a duration as great as one will desire will never be taken for the infinite. We even think that it is infinitely small in relation to the infinite, which, however, we can not express otherwise than by this word. In fact, beyond this duration as extended as one may wish, there is still infinity to reach an infinite duration.
But knowledge consists not only in memorizing experiments and in deriving general views from them by synthesis and logic. Intelligence is also judgment. Man makes value judgments on perceptions, whether particular or general. “Sense and intelligence are made to judge order and reason in things” (Sertillanges, St. Thomas Aquinas © Alcan 1922, T1, p. 24). That is, to recognize if a statement is true.
We would know the things of nature exclusively through perceptions. We would be able to extract their essence. By comparing it with the next perceptions, we can only say that these new perceptions fall within the framework of the determinations already conceptualized. But nothing can guarantee that this conceptualization contains the slightest trace of truth. This is because the determinations of the new perceptions have the very same source as the determinations of the previous perceptions used for conceptualization. Of course, the accumulation of similar perceptions is convincing and seems to include some truth. It is wrong. A huge accumulation of historic facts shows that so big as could be the consensus on a statement, in physics for instance, it happens always a day it is discovered as fully wrong. This is the case of all and every Aristotle’s statements in astronomy, physics and biology. Certainly also in philosophy.
The system of Aristotle, even revised by St. Thomas Aquinas, is basically a circle. Here one joins the substantial immutability. Everything reproduces identically. We can thus understand that the influence of St. Thomas Aquinas may have led to prescriptive dogmatism, not without formal analogy with the vision of the Old Testament.
Now, for Thomas Aquinas: “Truth is the adequacy of things and intelligence (veritas est adaequatio intellectus rei)” (Sertillanges, St. Thomas Aquinas © Alcan 1922, T1, p. 40). In the Aristotle’s system, this statement means saying that thought is always true since it compares with itself. Aware of the problem, Sertillanges boldly interprets the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas: “intellectus is here the act of judgment, and rei is there the known, not as a thing in itself, but as coherent to itself under the two forms that one expresses; therefore as a thing in us. External reality is only the foundation” (Sertillanges, St. Thomas Aquinas © Alcan 1922, T2, p. 183). This nuance on the word “rei” introduces a long development on the system of Kant. For, if the thing is not what is perceived, but what is thought, we then join the concepts of Kant and the essential thesis of Alain. The limit that Sertillanges gives to this assimilation lies in the word “foundation”. What does he mean by that? It is undoubtedly to save St. Thomas Aquinas from a philosophical disaster by recognizing the importance of perception. He refuses to see the paradox. “It is not necessary that every truth should correspond to something outside the soul, since truth is all in the soul. It is not a relation of the soul to things” (id p. 180). This is what the philosopher Alain has repeatedly said. So that Sertillanges seems to approve Descartes.
If all comes from the senses, how can the mind judge? It is only a matter of comparing the perceived to the perceived! Is this judging? Judgment requires criteria independent of the thing to be judged. One necessarily falls back into Plato's system. Besides, St. Thomas Aquinas noticed it: “It is a definition of truth with a double meaning. It means the truth in us or the transcendental truth, according as the word intelligence is understood of our intelligence or creative intelligence. Constituted between these two intellects, the natural thing is said to be true according to its adequacy to one and the other”. It is doubtless this brevity and generality which have seduced the genius of St. Thomas, and which have made through him and after him the fortune of this famous sentence. It is clear enough that this conception of truth brings us back to the doctrine of Ideas and brings us closer to Platonism. In fact, St. Thomas takes this sentence of St. Augustine: “The doctrine of Ideas is so fruitful that without understanding it no one can become wise.” (Sertillanges, St. Thomas Aquinas © Alcan 1922, T1, pp. 40 and 41).
How is this possible ? Plato himself criticized his own system in the Parmenides. There is certainly no absolute idea of what is perceived. The only ideas eligible to the absolute are those of the transcendental world: the good, the true, and the beautiful, or the concepts of geometry for example. These are the criteria of judgment.
For the Thomists, these absolute ideas relate to the essence of things perceived. The essence of things would reach the mind through perceptions. How can the absolute exists in the experimental world and pass through perceptions of a physical nature? This is obviously impossible.
However, as we have just seen, St. Thomas Aquinas escapes materialism by an essential modification of the system of Aristotle: “Everything is linked to the divine intelligence as to its source; it depends essentially on it; this is also its first norm. It is only indirectly, insofar as our intelligence is a reflection of the creative intelligence, that the truth of things is relative to us and depends on it in a certain way” (Sertillanges, St. Thomas Aquinas © Alcan 1922, T1, p. 40). In so far as essence can pass through perceptions, its divine origin assigns to it a criterion value.
The human mind would thus have access to the truth! Human intelligence would have access to truth through the perception of the fundamental elements: “the perception of the proper senses is always true” (Aristotle, De l'âme, III, 3, 427b, 12, translate by Bodéus). The proper sensitives are those elements like earth, water, air and fire. There, there would be absolute concordance between the object and the perception, and therefore the knowledge. Unfortunately, it was only an immense illusion that Galileo precipitated into the dustbins of history. The theory of the fundamental elements of Aristotle, earth, water, air and fire, animated by inherent movements, is an enormous mistake. No property can be inherent in a body. Everything is relationship within the experimental world. And there is no ultimate element, the perpetual illusion of the scientists, incessantly rejected towards more primordial, towards the infinitely small.
Sertillanges will not come out of it: “It does not really exist to exist only by reason” (Sertillanges, St. Thomas Aquinas © Alcan 1922, T1, p. 24). In fact it is exactly the opposite: the only certain existence is in the reason. All other existence is known only by sensible perceptions. These existences are known to us only by the senses or by the means of observation which ultimately reduces to the sense. Perceptions are quite certain, no doubt, but what we know of them is only doubtful, for we always interpret our perceptions according to our previous knowledge most often converted into convictions. This is what made us say that we really only see what we want to see. Moreover, perception is holistic in nature. We first perceive sets. From these sets, we interpret the parts and reconstruct them. This is why the philosopher Alain said: “The object is thought and not felt” (De l'objet, 81, I, 8).
Does faith have any other way than intelligence? We can know God only by the mind. Of course, it takes the grace of revelation, but there is no perception at the beginning. The vision of a miracle can strengthen faith, but faith has no physical existence. It is a matter of reason only.
The most serious problem of the application of the Aristotle’s system is relative to the soul. This word comes from the Latin anima, animated. For Aristotle, it is the soul that gives the motion. St. Thomas Aquinas therefore had to introduce subtle differences between the souls that animate matter, plants, animals and men. In spite of these semantic subtleties, paradoxes remain insurmountable and heresy evident: “the human soul depending on matter in its operation, but not in its being, will be able to preserve its unity, it is said to be incorruptible or indissoluble” (Sertillanges, St. Thomas Aquinas © Alcan 1922, T1 p. 36).
The soul does not depend on matter, but uses matter in its operation. The soul is not the brain. The soul has a relationship only with the mind itself in relation to the brain. This corresponds to the three orders of the world: the divine, the transcendental and the experimental.
The error of Aristotle was to think that the motion results from a motor. He did not conceive the notion of inertia. St. Thomas Aquinas followed him, also without conceiving this concept. They only envisaged one possibility: motionlessness in itself. The problem is that there is no more motionless body than center of the world. Motion is measured by relationship. A body can not be motionless in itself. It can only be motionless with regards to another body. Relationships are not the physical reality, but what we perceive and may know. This is what the Thomist rejects: “He isolates himself by refusing to erect a system of relations in reality... The relation between the place and the first container makes it possible to conceive a body having no relation whatsoever with this perfectly autonomous container as the universe envisaged as everything” (Sertillanges, St. Thomas Aquinas © Alcan 1922, T2 p. 40). To imagine a first container is, in fact, to take back the concept of center of the world, for the container would have an extension and therefore a center.
In the mind of Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas, passing to motion from immobility requires an intention. This intention was for them the operation of the soul. This confusion between intention, a human characteristic, and motion, a property of bodies, is the source of the accumulation of the Thomist paradoxes. By the soul, the divine is indiscriminately intermingled with the raw matter.
In the second half of the twentieth century, a change became so natural that it has been hardly noticed. This change is, in fact, specific to France. The French word “esprit” does not really have an English equivalent. “Mind” is rather the mentality: “the american mind”. It is a sense of the word “esprit”, but not the one I think of.
It became obvious to consider man as the inseparable whole made of a body, a mind [spirit], and a soul.
Man was created in the image of God. But then, the three natures of man, soul, spirit and body, come to give another dimension to this symbol. Man is not only in the image of God, but also in the image of his Trinity. This is the fundamental dogma which, however, is sometimes difficult for us to think. The classic accusation of Muslims and atheists against Christians is to be polytheistic. This accusation is, moreover, in the Quran concerning the Father and the Son.
The threefold nature of man, soul, spirit and body, is the very image of the Holy Trinity. The soul is turned towards the Father, the spirit receives the grace of the Holy Spirit, and finally the body communes with that of Jesus Christ.
This is certainly a comparison which makes it possible to better perceive the Divine Trinity, although it is not a question of understanding this profound mystery. It must be said, of course, that being “in the image of God” does not mean identity.
This vision comes to render obsolete the old idea of the human body, heart and soul, denied, as well, by logic. The heart is in the body, in the proper sense. It is also in the soul, in the sense of Love. We can add, today, that it is also in the mind, in the sense of charity.
But it is, more fundamentally, the Thomistic view of man, body and soul, by simplifying it is true, which must be rejected. Of course, St. Thomas Aquinas used the word “anima” to mean a motional capacity. This word has been translated by “soul”. But as God is the Motor of his Creation and nothing can exist or move outside his will, St. Thomas Aquinas has deduced that animals, plants and beings of the mineral world have a soul like humans. He never used a different word for the human soul. On the other hand, it has introduced three parts in the soul: vegetative, sensitive and intellective, the latter being peculiar to man. This vision led him to write that celestial bodies are destined for redemption as men (Theological Summa Q91 A5).
Today, the “soul” is more deeply attached to the mystical world. It can no longer be said that plants and animals have a “soul”, be it only vegetative or sensitive.
Today, there must be a sort of separation between the soul and the mind [spirit], in the concept of the “soul” of St. Thomas Aquinas. And of course definitively give up giving a soul to animals, plants and minerals. Rats and wolves are certainly the most despised beings in this world. Would they then be the first in paradise?
This change is not without consequence. In reading the “St. Thomas Aquinas” of Father Sertillanges, one can not fail to notice, on each page, the sneaky presence of the innate. First, of course, is the rejection of the dualist system of Plato's ideas. Moreover, Plato vigorously criticized his own system in The Sophist and, above all, in The Parmenides where he shows the limits. “Is there a form in and of itself of the beautiful, of good, on the one hand, of man, of fire, of water, on the other? This is a question which has often embarrassed me, Socrates answered. Parmenides continued with hair, filth, mud. I do not ask for it, Socrates answered. That there are such ideas would be very strange” (Le Parménide © Editions des Belles Lettres, p.130 d).
But, on the other hand, it is also the problem of the principles of Nature (Sertillanges, St. Thomas d'Aquin, © Éditions Félix Alcan TII p 1 et s ).
The philosophical system of Aristotle is very convincing for the concepts which the mind derives directly from perceptions. “It is the possibility of giving the definition of a thing which makes it possible to grasp its essence, that is to say what it is”: as “bicycle” or “airplane”, to hang concepts a little more recent than “home” and “table”.
But we remain as suspended above the void for more intellectual concepts like the “straight line” of geometry, but also, of course, for the great ideas of truth, freedom, and those of morality. Are ”universal notions” those derived from perceptions, or rather those intellectual concepts?
The mind conceptualizes perceptions and thus acquires the determinations that characterize the ideas of perceived things. We must accept, like Plato at the end of his life, in his Parmenides, that these ideas have nothing of transcendence. They have no reason to have their own existence outside the mind. This is to justify Aristotle on this point.
For the scholars and intellectuals of our time, there would be no other way of knowledge but through perceptions and experiment. Man would thus be nothing but matter, an aggregate of atoms, to use the words of Democritus. We would only be computers, a little more sophisticated than our current machines, at most of the kinds of Internet networks.
The philosopher Searle expressed, in the most radical way, the position that characterizes the thought of our contemporaries: “We live in exactly one world, not two, three or seventeen. As far as we currently know, the most fundamental features of that world are as described by physics, chemistry and other natural sciences”. Science would have definitively proved that “types of living systems evolve by natural selection and some of them have evolved certain sorts of cellular structures, specifically, nervous systems capable of causing and sustaining consciousness”. Consequently, “consciousness is a biological and therefore physical, though of course also mental, feature of certain higher-level nervous systems” (The Construction of Social Reality © 1995 by John Searle).
But precisely, the mind seems to retain attachments external to the experimental world. This separation is intolerable for Searle. There can be only one world: the experimental world, the world of science. What is Searle's answer? "With consciousness comes intentionality, the capacity of the mind to represent objects and the states of affairs in the world”. It is innate. And this intentionality of the “I” is absorbed, somhoww, by collective and social intentionality. This social intentionality would be eligible to the reality of the experimental world. There is thus only one world including the social. The hidden postulate is here that the social is a physical reality. The social fact is a physical reality, certainly, as the historical fact. Both take place in Nature, but are they objects of Nature? Objects of perception? This is the materialistic vision of the Marxists. It is as dubious as the idea that the number two would be perceived. Perceptions separate in reality. It is mind [spirit] which assembles in the number, but nothing in perceptions corresponds to this form of unity which is number two as number. But Searle wants more. He attributes to a collection of human beings an existence, which would be its own, in the experimental world. But a social group is by no means a perceptible being, even in Teilhard de Chardin's thesis. Its Omega point is not in the experimental world.
For Searle and the atheistic materialists, man would then have only one nature, corporeal, material, that is, in fact, mineral.
It is at this level that the problem of existence arises.
When one decomposes a living being, one finds only molecules, themselves made of atoms, to stop at this stage, as an example. Nothing is found in these molecules and atoms that differ from those that make up the plants and, ultimately, the minerals. That the life results only from the organization of the more or less complex assembly of molecules, we are led to admit it because the constituent elements bring nothing by themselves. It is their respective position and their motion that seem sufficient to understand life. It is therefore that the possibility of life results from the organization of these components, without any need of any hypothesis. This reasoning can be continued by further decomposing the matter. So that the notion of the form of the Thomist doctrine can only concern the ultimate possible component. It does not explain anything.
Indeed, the ultimate component is inaccessible. It is impossible for it to be to infinite because it would be nothing, dimensionless and motionless. But it can not also be at a finite level, as assumed by the so-called atomist theories, in search of the ultimate component. To be perceptible by any measuring instrument, this component must have detectable properties. These properties should therefore be externalized. They should emanate from it. In this outward motion, a part of the component itself would have to come out of it. Consequently, the component itself must be composed since it loses, in one way or another, a part of what constitutes it. The idea of the ultimate component is therefore as paradoxical as the initial component infinitely small. It is the mystery of existence, the mystery of Creation.
The problem is that this organization of the components at successive levels has occurred in a determined direction to result in the conscious man. The consciousness of the absolute shows that man can ultimately escape the experimental world by an access to transcendence.
This access to transcendence, for example, gives access to the idea of God. But this faculty is something other than access to the reality of God Himself. It is only the God of philosophers. It seems that this access only results from the complexity of the assembly. But it is question of the absolute; the absolute shall already be present in each of the components and independently of each other, since the absolute can not have relations. It is not the concurrence of the parts which opens up to the absolute, but each part which bears this capacity or power of access to the absolute, identical in all parts, since it is unique in nature.
There is no inherence in the experimental world. Gravitation can in no way be an inherent property of matter, nor are there bodies heavy or light by themselves, as in the doctrine of Aristotle taken up by St. Thomas Aquinas. There is no center of the world which is the most immediate consequence of this doctrine. The experimental world is a world of relations, it can in no way deliver absolutes to observation.
The Thomist approach is neither of any use nor of any interest in the understanding of the experimental world. It has led to an accumulation of severe errors. This necessity of the initial absolute belongs perfectly to a doctrine of inherence which characterizes precisely the Thomism as its distant relation, Aristotelianism.
The structure of matteri, even in living form, results only from the organization of the assembly of components which, however, must have been provided for this purpose. But their shape is enough for the end. There will never be a vital impulse in atoms or in parts of atoms. Organization is enough to produce life, but it is that the components have everything for life to result from their organization. That is to say that the plan of development of nature results from the very nature of these components without being necessary to add to them any kind of will or on the contrary any force of development by state of lack, as in the doctrine of Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas. It would be to attribute feelings, and even thoughts, to the things of the experimental world.
Again, the problem that arises is that of the absolute. Man, by his mind [spirit], is also outside the experimental world. And there are two possibilities.
The human mind can have the ability to think transcendental concepts through its organization. The mind, as we have seen, is the result of the organization of the elements of Nature. It is then by the mere fact of this organization that the mind of man has, at the same time, access to the absolute concepts which are linked to the same transcendental world as the mind [spirit] itself. But nothing in the experimental world is the copy of a transcendental idea like Justice, Unity, the Infinite, the Continuous, or even time and space. Moreover, we have never seen the interest of doubling things out of the experimental world by ideas. All the practical and relative concepts that we derive from our perceptions of the experimental world are formed very simply by relative conceptualization and accumulation without any other hypothesis being necessary. The only problem is that of absolute concepts which can not be found in the relative perceptions of the experimental world. Plato's system is thus valid only for the vision by the mind [spirit] of the transcendental world whose concepts serve to interpret the determinations derived from perceptions. This first possibility is therefore that the mind has access to the transcendental world, separated from the experimental world.
The other approach is more materialistic if one may say. It is a concession to Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas. The absolute is found in things at the most extreme level of existence. But these concepts obviously can not go through perceptions. In this approach, very Thomistic, it seems to me that it is both the nature of our mind and its content of transcendental concepts that simultaneously come to us from the components of Nature of which we are formed. In this second approach, the experimental world bathes in some way in the transcendental world. It is underlying. But concepts can not come to us by conceptualizing perceptions. They would come to us directly from the elements that compose us as soon as our brain is formed. This is obviously an immense difference from Aristotle's system. “Nihil est in intellectu quod prius non fuerit in natura”, but in no case “quod prius not fuerit in sensu”.
I prefer the first approach without any hesitation. It is neither by reaction against Aristotelianism that led to enormous errors in physics nor by repugnance to Thomist dogmatism. It is because the inherence involved by Second possibility is an open door on pure materialism. Of course, in both cases, there is a plan installed from the very beginning of the matter. But in the second case, the world of the absolutes is absorbed, as a component, by the experimental world. While in the first case, it illuminates the experimental world by allowing the judgment of the mind on the perceptions of the experimental world. It allows the independence of judgment.
One can not fail to ask the question of theology. In both cases, one can deny Creation and attribute the appearance of matter, of Nature, to chance. Chance would have led to an integrated transcendental dimension to form the mind through complexification, taking up the word of Teilhard de Chardin. Yet the absolute poses a serious problem. But in the first case, one can not deny the Creation of a separate transcendental world since all absolute concepts can in no way come under chance. From then on, one can think that a divine world is also, at the same time, made accessible to us by the soul. A vision which becomes entirely artificial in the hypothesis of the inherence of absolute concepts to things if one does not also add a divine world to things, which brings us back to pantheism.
How can we now introduce Freewill into a causal system? Sertillanges begins by recalling the thesis of St. Thomas Aquinas “We see things occurring according to an order in general, the causes are therefore ordered to these effects and bound in a sheaf and form a natural unity. The order which we observe in phenomena is due to the influence of the general causes, which, extending to more or less cases, introduce harmony” (Sertillanges, St. Thomas Aquinas, p. 57).
Sertillanges found an issue in the words “general causes”. If there are general causes, then there are particular causes. His superb piece, which is without end, rests on the existence of these particular causes. He goes on to point out, and begins there, to show that these particular causes are related to contingency in Nature: “We call uncertain effects unrelated to apparent purposes” (idem). It is done! Unwind the red carpet: Freewill is possible! This was the thesis which Bernard d'Espagnat, nearly a century after him, took up again. Quantum indeterminacy would open the way to Freewill. There would be an interstice of indetermination in causality.
But we must first avoid limiting divine omnipotence. It is necessary to by-pass the paradox. “If there was a supreme agent who disposed of everything; if any universal activity were the cause: first, of the distinction of things, including matter; secondly, and consequently of all forms of activity or passivity, then there would be no contingency; everything would be determined in this first; its action being total, would have an universal repercussion (such as the creative formula of Taine). To tell the truth, this is God. His own causality can not be prevented by any active or passive intervention, since it gives everything, even what one pretends to make him antagonistic. Just as motion does not prevent the motor, but serves it; just as the result does not prevent him who gives it, so the being in any form can not prevent God, who gives being. However, the contingency or the necessity of Nature can not be judged according to him. To call contingent what can escape God, would be to call from this name something which would no longer be. The contingent and the necessary are differences of the being: God is transcendent to all difference” (id p. 60). But precisely, Sertillanges had taken a precaution: “The Transcendental Cause which gives the being can not be the cause of any contingency. But it is out-of-frame” (id p. 58). One wonders why? He will certainly tell us!
“Now, without him [God], there is no agent in Nature that totally dominates his work. The higher, the fathers of the elements, have none the less to reckon with the flexibility of matter; this one, made active by a form, is always in power to another, and ready to flee away its first determination. It is indeed true that it changes only under a new influence, so that if this influence depended entirely on the first agent, it might be thought that the latter governed everything. But such dependence is not possible; for the action, passing from the first agent to the second, assumes material conditions which will impose itself upon any subsequent manifestation. The supposed filiation between these agents is only relative to the act, the part that belongs to the power in the mutual reactions” (p. 60).”Things escape him, and that is enough for contingency. It follows, in fact, that even in the most favorable case, which is that of a direct and exclusive action of the first agent on a body which he himself has constituted, account must be taken of the conditions of matter, because the latter escapes, to a certain extent, from the domination of the form which the agent gives it, and consequently, in the action envisaged, it is partially constituted with regards to it as an independent cause. A fortiori the perturbations will be possible if the first agent, instead of acting immediately, allies himself with others who, in truth, depend on him for their definite and knowable act; but which also involve the matter, and which therefore also bring to the action a lot of conditions to be entered in the loss account? In any case, there will be contests of active or passive relatively independent causes, and it is from this that chance arises” (p. 61). This was indeed the objective, for: “Free will imposes a first limitation on universal necessity” (p. 59).
Are we really convinced? Sertillanges does not really think so, because it comes back again and again on this problem. Before integrating the Thomist position into the paradigm of modern science, he refers to the ancient philosophers to enlighten it: “Thus, in Avicenna's Emanatist thesis, as the order of the universe must result from unconnected activities, without unity in a creative intelligence and will, this order must have been called a coincidence. Thus Democritus said that the present world was constructed by chance, not that it could be otherwise, since necessity governed all things in his eyes, but because the necessity in question only governing only in reality the atoms, regulating only their immediate actions and reactions, the resultants, whatever admirable they may be revealed afterwards, were for him without law, being sought as such by no one, having no agent corresponding to them, Power defined by him .... This latter theory may help to understand St. Thomas's position on contingency. For Democritus, there is already finality in the world, namely that which carries the atoms towards one another and makes them react according to certain laws. On the basis of this minimum finality, chance is grafted, that is to say, as Aristotle defines it, an accidental meeting in things which take place with a view to an end. And the part thus made at random is hudge, since its domain includes everything, except the eternal geometry and the eternal mechanics of atoms. For St. Thomas, it is no longer the same. The determinations of elementary matter are dominated, if not entirely, at least partially by these ideas of realization, which we call forms. Forms, in their turn, are introduced by agents who are determined by them, because they themselves obey, for action as well as for being, to the domination of a similar principle. Moreover, above this moving world, there are the indefectible activities which dominate it; whose influence establishes predicted, determined and therefore stable contributions between causal series which, in looking only at the immediate causes, are independent. There are therefore always, in the actions of Nature: first, regular series of activities under the domination of forms; secondly, series contributions attributable to more general, and therefore not accidental, activities. There is even, for Thomism of the Middle Ages, a very first activity, which is that of the first Heaven. But what is not there is an integral participation of all active and passive influences, under the government of a single one who would be fully mistress; it is a unique natural activity linking all the series, including those which are not occasioned by the act realized in the world by forms, but by the power which remains inexhaustible; which creates, consequently, leaks by which no influence will be assured of not seeing its effort flowing ... this is the source of contingency” (pp. 61 to 63).
So here we are? Ah, there is still reluctance! “But why do we suppose that this is so? For, after all, no one knows where the interlocking of things and the mutual countenances of their laws stop, and what prevents us from believing that everything obeys a supreme action whose magnitude would equal all the capacity of matter, so that it could not escape from any part, and assume determinations only those which would be commanded by it? St. Thomas saw the objection, and he observes, as Aristotle had not done, that it is not sufficient to invoke the possibility of the matter in order to ensure contingency. To speak in general, he says, it is not a sufficient reason of hazard except if one adds on the part of the universal active power that it is not rigorously determined ad unum. For if it were thus determined, the passive power which corresponds to it would be determined in the same way. Why do we refuse to suppose such a determination on the part of Universal Nature? Obviously, it is the conceptualism that opposes it, and behind conceptualism, even more profound than itself, optimism. It seems evident to St. Thomas, as to the Stagyrite, that all connection of phenomena is not equally natural, being not equally object of reason, not equally good. We conclude that this is an accidental meeting, and that nothing in nature more than in life is directly ordered. This is true for a thousand connections observed de facto in the world. The rain causes the grain to grow; the heat vivifies the earth; the human seed realizes marvels in the womb: we assure that all this is wanted, first because we recognize in it an idea, a good; secondly (and at bottom these two motifs coincide) because we see these things happen always or most often, hence we conclude that Nature seeks them. But if the rain rots the grain in the barn; if the heat dries out and the seed germinates into a monster, we say it is accidental; not that each causal series ending in these effects is not equally rigid, and that from this point of view what happens is not natural; but because the resulting fact does not seem to be governed by an intention of Nature; because we do not believe that an agent or a defined complexus of agents is naturally ordered to such a work. We judge of the universe, according to Aristotle's comparison, as a house where children follow the law of the father, and lack the common good only in a few things, while slaves and beasts enlarge the domain of the current things, and impose leaks on the common good. Thus, the great celestial activities always do, or almost do, what is suited to the desired end of Nature; but in the corruptible world many agents fail; there are sides to action, results which are not ends, and it is the very respect we have for Nature that makes us speak of it in this way” (pp. 63-64).
We could conclude here. But no, the matter becomes complicated with the eruption of modern science in the concepts of philosophy. Pending the thesis of Freewill by the quantum indeterminism of professor d’Espagnat, it was necessary to integrate Thomism in the present thought. There is a risk, of course. What if modern science is fully wrong? We will find a new Sertillanges to get rid of it and try to save again Thomism from the wreck.
“We see that this Thomistic conception ignores the idea of progress. If indeed the universe was conceived no longer as an eternal recommencement of the same phases, an incessant resumption of the same work, but as the hudge research, whose modern hypotheses open up prospects, we would strangely restrict the domain of chance. Under the influence of an immanent directing idea, which would be like the soul of the world, it would be seen to develop like a becoming organism, and many of what we call accidents would fall within the flexible plan designed. A considerable residue would remain; for the conditions of cosmic labor would always be affected to some extent by the irremediable indetermination of matter. Secondary functions would never be subjected to the common soul except according to the bonds of a political, not a despotic principle. Nevertheless, the unity of composition thus realized would be much more rich than in the other hypothesis, since the myriads of centuries were there to complete the forms and to bring to fruition the realizations which, in an idea of a narrower level, appeared out of frame. But this idea of progress is foreign to St. Thomas Aquinas. For him, as for most of the ancients, the world always gives, on the whole, all that it can give. There is progress here below for each being relative to the perfection of its species; but species are immutable, because invariable is their immanent source. The same always acts the same. The immutability of the heavens covers and encloses the moving earth. The great universal natures are fixed in perfection and envelop only those virtualities which they manifest to us. Penelope eternal, Nature reflected to redo; it is not this power on the march towards a constitution of itself ever higher, of which most dream today. Why should it be? The theological point of view, which preoccupies St. Thomas Aquinas above all, does not invite him to go beyond the ancient points of view. This world is for him a work of souls: omnia propter electos. That this work is perfecting, it would doubtless be happy and everything in his system would be consistent with it: the indefinite flexibility of matter; the inexhaustible wealth of the prime agent; the infinity of the Supreme End. But this is not necessary; it would never bring the world to a relative degree of perfection, which, with respect to the absolute, would be nothing, and as no experimental evidence shows it, we keep with the apparent, which is the perpetual resumption of the same phases. The general soul of Nature is heaven. The means of the sky are summarized in cyclic motions for short periods. It follows very evidently that the universal procession walks in a circle. The end of the world will be an arbitrary arrest (arbitrary, I say, looking only at the physical nature) and will not be the consecration of a completion, an improvement judged sufficient. What has been, is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, there is nothing new under the sun: these words of Ecclesiastes give an exact and powerful impression of the Thomist universe. Consequently, what is accidental in relation to this restricted cycle is accidental; it is not part of the immanent order; it is a waste which is not redeemed by means of nature. It will be necessary, in order to bring this partial untying to a plan, to appeal to the transcendent unity of the first Principle. That if our cosmogonic hypotheses had been known from antiquity, we may wonder what they would have inspired to him here. Two ways would have been opened before him. Either to return to the old opinion which had so shocked Aristotle, namely, that heaven is the work of chance, in the sense that it would result from particular meetingss without proper unity, for in God nothing can perish, Or to postulate, without being able to define it, some wider envelopment which would make nebular actions the servants of a guiding idea. Blaise Pascal thus believed in nests of universes containing one another, with a capacity at the same time spatial and causal. Without pushing to infinity, like the author of the Thoughts” (p. 64 to 67).
The rigour of the rationale requires the quoting of large extracts that are difficult to summarize.
Finally, here we are: “It is not a question of denying determinism insofar as it is a postulate of science; it is a matter of limiting it, at the same time that we limit science. Nor is it a question of denying the principle of sufficient reason in its highest conception, but only of dismissing it in the rationalistic sense. Thisu niversal assertion that all that happens must happen given all the conditions of the real can be perfectly maintained, well understood, and in maintaining it, we will avoid the arbitrariness of absolute beginnings in the manner of Renouvier. But it must be realized that one of the conditions of which we speak, namely matter, being an indeterminate, no definable or definable form, no set of definite or definable conditions governs action according to all that it carries. There are deficiencies, regressions towards the activity of the lower forms, which are matter in relation to that in which the activity under consideration finds its rule.” (Pp. 67-68). “Be that as it may, I insist that, contrary to false interpretations, the principle of sufficient reason has not lost here what belongs to it in so far as it expresses the law of being, that is as a derivative of the principle of contradiction. It is only said that the being in its fullness includes the indeterminate, and that there are therefore reasons which are not the reasons of the rationalists.” (p. 69).
We must still go through long developments in order to give full weight to the eruption of contingency in Nature and its possibility for man. This is the Thomist way of Freewill. Let us go to the conclusion two hundred pages later: “Between this conception and that of Kant, according to which the will gives itself, in the absolute, its own moral character, there is a manifest kinship, all the more so because, for St. Thomas as for Kant, the will is not in time by itself: only its effects and its relative conditions are there; in itself, it is a noumenon. But, St.Thomas does not believe for this that our phenomenal life is given over to determinism. For first, having admitted contingency in Nature, he will not deny it in man, which, as an animal, is nature. Secondly, and above all, St. Thomas refrains from falling into the fundamental vice to which the Philosophy of Kant, like that of Plato, succumbs, and which consists, after laying down the noumenon in order to found the phenomenon, to set each of them apart. For St. Thomas, their two roles are established in synthesis. Man is not a noumenon, and he is not a phenomenon or a bundle of phenomena; it is a compound where the noumenon and the phenomenon have their reciprocal influence” (id p. 284).
For we are at last at the end: “It follows that the act of Freewill takes part in both. It finds in himself something that is out of time, namely the enlightened will in its immaterial essence, and something which is of the time, namely, prior to the act, the organic conditions of thought and of the will, then the organic effects of thought and will, effects and conditions immanent in man, mixed substance, as he is immanent the extra-temporal conditions of his act. Man is between two worlds, participating in one and the other. He is matter and he is mind [spirit]; it is in time and out of time: so its actions. But it remains that the depths of the will from which the free act proceeds as free are themselves out of time, and that from this point of view one may say: freedom is not the fact of the phenomenon, the course of which follows the laws of relative determinism attributed to Nature; it plunges into the noumenon, and in this respect, as under that of its various determinations under such circumstances, it must be declared unfathomable” (pp. 284 and 285).
In reality, all this development is begging the question. Sertillanges uses the word mind [spirit] in its present meaning, essentially immaterial, whereas St. Thomas Aquinas speaks only of the soul. He introduces an intermediary into the human act that does not belong to the experimental world. It is therefore not the supposed existence of contingency in Nature that can justify Freewill, contrary to Sertillanges' assertion: “the roots of freedom the roots of contingency correspond each other” (p. 269).
The thesis of Sertillanges brings the Freewill to a situation of man which escapes the necessity of the experimental world in which we live: “In summary, in the Thomist system, three influences concur to explain the Freewill, but none of them oppressed it. Neither matter, which intervenes in the preparation of our actions, imposes the result; nor does the idea, which regulates them, impress upon them their final determination; nor the transcendent, which is presupposed to everything, suppresses the contingency which, on the contrary, it consecrates. St. Thomas gives satisfaction to all the necessities imposed by these three points of view, and escapes the difficulties which they propose. The mystery remains entire; but it is not given to man to examine its deep depth” (p. 298).
This is precisely what Sertillanges wanted to do over a hundred pages. He tried to explain the mystery of man, the mystery of Creation. Causality can not include any trace of contingency, and the experimental world where we live is fully causal.
The Freewill can not belong to the soul in its present sense. Indeed, it is the mind that judges perceptions. It is the mind [spirit] that tries to order human acts according to its judgment. The criteria for judgment are given. The Freewill is also given to us.
The Freewill is a free gift from God.
Sertillanges rejects this gift: “In nature, contingency is the sign of imperfection of agents; in man, freedom is the supreme privilege. Accordingly, freedom has been attributed to God, while his action does not suffer from contingency” (p. 272).
Now, the Freewill can not result from the possibility of contingency in Nature. Creation can not involve or lead to contingency. It is ignorance which gives us the idea of chance. Nothing can happen without cause. This ignorance may well be irremediable. How to find the causal chain in the innumerable shocks between air molecules that condition the speed of sound, for example. We have only the result. Causality still escapes us. This is a fortiori the case in the economic field. The multiplicity of causes leads to refuse any causality. Nevertheless, the fact that all causes are neither deceivable nor analyzable is by no means the negation of causality.
The most surprising in this case is that Sertillanges does not evoke for one moment the principle of predilection. This principle is the cornerstone of the St. Thomas Aquinas’ thesis of the predestination. Now the predestination can be regarded as the negation of the Freewill on the theological level as causality is the negation of Freewill on the philosophical level. Sertillanges concentrated on the introduction of chance, the contingency, in the experimental world. Then he has inferred the possibility of the Freewill from his introduction of this contingency. This is philosophy. But the problem comes back entirely from theology. If there is predestination, there can in principle be no Freewill. I say in principle. This is the rational point of view. But “what is impossible for man is possible to God”. We have seen that the answer to the philosophical aspect of the Freewill necessarily amounts to a gift from God. We therefore join the theological position.
It is not the interpretation which St. Thomas Aquinas gives of the letters of St. Paul. If his theory of the Freewill rests actually on the hypothesis of contingency, the predestination enters another approach. To show that predestination does not exclude Freewill, St. Thomas Aquinas introduced the principle of predilection. It's hard to understand why Sertillanges does not mention it. Perhaps he has judged this approach purely intellectual, artificial and ultimately useless. Predestination results from divine prescience. Contingency would suffice to open a door to Freewill. St. Thomas Aquinas knew it well. So why did he embark on the most flamboyant of his intellectual adventures?
By attaching qualifiers to the concept of Freewill, St. Thomas Aquinas relativizes it. In reality, his positions are no longer related to the concept itself, but to the qualifiers he has added such as “in act”, “in power”, and so on. It revolves around the concept, but ultimately there is no indication of the existence of the Freewill, but only about the modalities of intelligence and human will. St. Augustine takes the opposite attitude. He choose the philosophy of Plato against that of Aristotle. It starts from the very concept of Freewill. But in the same way that Plato, denying the absolute movement in the experimental world, has finally fixed the axis of the world, which is not better than the center of Aristotle, St. Augustine places the Freewill in the framework of divine grace. Necessarily Freewill disappears behind the infinite grace of God as it disappears in St. Paul. There is an incompatibility between the concept of Freewill used by our reason and the exclusive vision of Faith in God. The concept of Freewill is absolute in itself as all the concepts of our reason. It can not depend on any rational approach. This is the mystery of man, the mystery of Creation. The universal causality of science, itself purely conceptual, because it is inaccessible in its totality, is also incompatible with the Freewill. But it is precisely because it is inaccessible that scientific causality is not opposed to the existence of the Freewill, which is the negation of it, because these are concepts which can not in any way collide: they are fully independent of one another.
Since Sertillanges can not help us here, I will rely on the Dictionary of Catholic Theology. These are the comments on predestination in the Summa Theologica (Ia, q. XXIII). The interest of the Dictionary is to make reconciliations between the texts that are quoted.
The demonstration of St. Thomas Aquinas is almost mathematical. The first problem, the only in my opinion, is to agree on the meaning of the word “predestination”. He proposes his definition and develops his demonstration. Of course, this is not a predestination to grace, but to eternal life. Unless you say that grace is predestined to all!
What was he saying ? “God should predestinate men. Indeed, all things are subject to divine providence, as has been shown. And it belongs to Providence to order things to their end” (S. T. XXIII). It is therefore, in the mind of God, the plan, at once ordained and willed, which from all eternity determines the effective means which will lead a man or an angel to his last end. The reference to divine providence was also found in St. Augustine (De Dono pers., XIV, 35).
Divine providence is thus connected with prescience. It is a definition consistent with human logic. We obviously stay in the frame where Sertillanges stood.
On this basis, St. Thomas Aquinas shows that predestination is in God and not in the predestined, “but that it act in Him for vocation, justification, and glorification”. “Predestination is the cause of grace and our salutary acts. It is a part of Providence that permits some to fall forever into sin and for this fault inflicts on them the punishment of damnation. But reprobation is by no means the cause of sin.”
At this point, St. Thomas Aquinas introduces the predilection, as the player places his master trump.
“The predestinated are chosen by God, so that predestination presupposes the election, and the latter is the choice”. Since the love of God is the cause of the goodness of created beings, no one would be better than another if he were not loved more by God. But this predilection in no way rests on the divine prescience of merit, for, says St. Thomas, according to St. Paul, the merits of the predestined are effects of predestination. On the contrary, demerits, of which God can not be the cause, are the reason for damnation. God deprives no one of what is due to him, because he never orders the impossible, but, on the contrary, by his love, he really makes it possible for all to fulfill the precepts, and even he grants by kindness more than the strict justice would require (Ia, XXI, 4), for often he repeatedly raises men from sin, even though he might leave them there.
The drama of rationalism is to think that we can relate the divine mystery to our thought. One understands that Sertillanges did not attempt to justify the remarks of St. Thomas Aquinas on predestination. In trying to attribute thoughts to God, one inevitably enters into bewildering debates that have marked, in particular, Pelagianism.
The principle of predilection is entirely contrary to the human idea of justice. The idea of predestination is entirely contrary to our idea of Freewill. But is it just humanly that the agricultural worker who “harvested the grapes only one hour” receives as much as the one who has “harvested the grapes throughout the heat of the day?” We must finally leave to God His Will. It is absurd to take the few words of St. Paul on predestination to the letter and to attempt semantic escalations so as not to see the paradox. It is a paradox for man. It is the divine mystery.
Moreover, it is the conclusion of the authors of the Dictionary of Catholic Theology.
The absence of distinction between the Aristotelian soul and the min [spirit] is found in the conclusion of Sertillanges. In the Thomist system, the transcendent belongs to the soul. It belongs to the divine world. There is no intermediary between the raw material and the soul, and therefore between the raw material and God. “The proper object of the intellect is material essences. In these two words, Thomism is established between two almost equally formidable extremes: Plato's spiritualism and materialistic sensualism” (p. 140).
We use transcendental concepts, the absolute, the infinite, the eternal, to qualify God. It would therefore be that the time would exist in the divine world, since the eternal judges itself in relation to duration. It is humanizing the divine world.
Here we reach the true limit of Thomism: the paradox of transcendence. God is certainly beyond the concepts of the mind that man uses by his intelligence. Certainly, Plato was wrong. As he himself acknowledged, there is no idea of every existence of the experimental world. But his world of ideas is transcendental in nature. It is the world of the mind [spirit]. For him, this world of mind was separated from the divine world, for God uses the world of the mind [spirit]. He makes a copy of it in the experimental world. It is therefore that God is above the world of the mind[spirit], of the world of Plato's ideas. By renouncing this separation, Aristotle has plunged human thought into the abyss.
Sertillanges tries to save the Thomism from the same mistake thanks, in particular, to the essence. But he introduces this nuance at the level of matter. The Thomist essence belongs to the experimental world. It reaches the human mind through perceptions, but it is only known by the divine nature of the soul. The soul judges essence in relation to its transcendental knowledge of essence. Memory, as we have seen, plays an essential role, as in Aristotle. But it is not enough. For St. Thomas Aquinas, the truth is the appropriateness of perceptions transcended by the soul and of concepts directly known by the soul because of its divine nature.
This is expressed in particular by two passages: “The essence is by itself, outside space and time. It descended, as far as the beings of experiment are concerned, by what we have called individuation, and we have noted its falling times. Intellectual knowledge consists in finding this point of departure; to go back from the idea realized to the idea of realization, from house to its plan, from the art object represented by nature to the art according to which nature creates it, directs it and pushes it towards its end. Universal concepts, judgments obtained by combinations of these concepts, demonstrations proceeding from judgments to furnish others, everything must come out of it; the essential is its soul” (p. 140).
And on the other hand: “The source of the intelligible is above. The sensible before informing us is itself informed of a divine form. For form is divine. Our thought is an ideal reflection, as beings are a real reflection, of an Absolute both ideal and real. Under these conditions, the absolute can be reflected in us without the intermediary of the reality that envelops us!“ (p 152). One would think one would read Plato here!
And Sertillanges insists rather heavyly: “The mystery is cleared up. Our science is innate and divine as the first principles are known immediately, through the light of the intellect agent, which is in us divine participation. This does not prevent the principles from being a conception of the mind, that is, from being by it, though it is through a light that comes from its high Source. In no way does it belong to men to have in them dispositions which are the exclusive work of nature. Thus, the principles are divine of the divinity of concepts, which are divine themselves from the divinity of spirit emanated from the First Spirit. But the concept is not born of the mind alone. The mind [spirit] is his father, if one may so speak; but he has a mother: the imaginative and sensitive matter. As, therefore, the whole edifice of knowledge rests on principles, we see that every truth has for immediate foundation the validity of simple concepts, and for the last foundation: on the side of the mind [spirit], the divine nature of the latter; on the side of the senses, their ability to reflect the world from which they emanate” (Still in T2 pp. 188 and 189).
“The answer of St. Thomas is thus: The functions which depend on the body perish: such as sense, imagination, sensible experiment, memory properly so called, passions; but the rational functions do not perish. Only they turn their axes. Instead of finding their conditions in the work of the senses, they will turn to higher realities” (p. 151).
This necessary conclusion of the Thomist system results from the confusion between soul and mind [spirit]. Man has a body, a mind [spirit] and a soul. The mind [spirit] is the intermediary that allows man to listen to the divine Word that addresses the soul. The soul is absolutely immaterial. Now, Thomism can not go to this end because of the very nature that Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas attributes to the soul: “Unless we say as Plato that intellectual determinations are innate. But, in this case, the immateriality of the soul would be even more absolute” (p. 114).
The mind [spirit] is what essentially differentiates man, not only from the raw material, but also from the animal. The animal is undeniably intellectual capacities. Some animals use tools. It is not the functions of intelligence that make the distinction, but access to transcendence. This access characterizes the human mind.
However, human intelligence and its judgments are of no use in the divine world. It is also the case for all the functions of the body. Transcendental concepts are of no use in the hereafter. This is obvious for the absolute concepts of geometry and mathematics, but also for the ideas of Freedom, of Truth. There will no longer be any need to judge perceptions in the hereafter. Yet, in the system of St. Thomas Aquinas, concepts belong to the divine world. They can not disappear. They no longer serve anything, but they subsist. The Thomist reason fails on a contradiction. “Nature does nothing useless, for it always pursues a definite end” (St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary in The Politics of Aristotle, I, Lesson 1).
Yet Nature has had a beginning in Creation and will have a completion at the end of the world, mystery as unfathomable as Creation. The resurrected body will no longer need earthly food. We think of the man lying dead and breathing again under the efforts of the rescuer. Obviously this is not what it is. We do not know what existence is. It is necessary to go farther than the piece of wax of Descartes which evaporates under the heat of the fingers and leaves as a existence only the space that it occupied. There are molecules, atoms, particles, corpuscles, but then? The first element is only the sentence that states it. This first element would be perceptible by our instruments. It is therefore that it exteriorizes properties and is therefore not first, a role which would be devoted to those properties which are inevitably objects of the experimental world.
But if the elementary decomposition is infinite, then existence would be infinitely small, infinitely immobile. Nothingness. If our mind can only conceive this alternative, it does not mean that reality must necessarily be one or the other of these rational possibilities. The reality is different and unknowable. What really exists is inaccessible to our perceptions as well as to rational thought.
It is the mystery of creation, the mystery of existence. Insofar as one can find meaning in all the Aristotelian subtleties like “the forms which give being to matter”, or “the essences or quiddities of the substances which are the form itself”, they disappear in front of the fact of Creation, the mystery of Creation.
The resurrected body no longer uses its natural functions; we believe it without too much trouble. But what is this resuscitated body made of: molecules, atoms, particles, ephemeral corpuscles, like all that belongs to the experimental world? The resurrected body can not be ephemeral again, since it is promised to eternity. It belongs to existence itself in the mystery of Creation.
Will the mind [spirit], which is inseparable from it, still need the geometry and other concepts that man uses? That would be a pretty naive idea. The resuscitated body can not be made of corruptible and changing matter, as are the atoms, and all the components of matter. It is made of what really exists behind these transient realities. Similarly, one may think that the mind [spirit] will, in a way, have thoughts that fall within what really exists behind the concepts of human thought. These human concepts will be of no use in the hereafter. They belong to the world of Creation. They have no reason to subsist, contrary to the Thomist thesis.
This raises a question of a much higher level. The Holy Spirit descends upon men to assist them, support them, inspire them and lead them, and without him, human resources are insufficient to accomplish the work of God. But at the end of the world, this relationship to men disappears. Does the Holy Trinity then find the absolute unity so dear to the Greek philosophers? Yet the person of the resuscitated Christ is eternal! Here we see how reason is incapable of understanding divine mysteries.
Again, it does not follow that theology is irrational, as the militants of atheist materialism believe. Reason develops only on the basis of premises. These are the basic concepts of geometry as the continuous, the infinite and the straight line. These are the innumerable postulates and invariants of our outdated physique. In theological matter, the premises are the mysteries. But as they touch the confines of existence, especially Creation, the consequences drawn from it are infinitely more certain than the immense lucubrations of pure science of the twentieth century, as well as all those which may be proposed in replacement .
It is on the basis of these scholarly erudition that the intellectualist version of the Thomist can be considered as heresy. The innumerable errors of Aristotle, even a little corrected by St. Thomas Aquinas, in all fields from raw material to biology, can not result from chance. They are chained to an erroneous view of the human mind [spirit], in particular to the denial of access to transcendence by the mind [spirit] of man. How can we not think that such confusion may also have led to errors, no doubt scholarly, in all fields? “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.” (St. Matthew 11: 25-30).
Contrary to the heresies which have just been examined, Protestantism does not rest on dogmas. It was, from the beginning, characterized by the evolution of ideas and interpretations: Ecclesia semper reformanda. Predestination is today a concept more or less abandoned by the main Protestant denominations and, on this point, they rejoin the position that the Catholic Church has never ceased to claim. On the other hand, all Protestant movements include a return to certain aspects of the Old Testament, especially an archaic vision of God. It is the avenging God of the Old Testament. One could almost qualify this vision of atheist as it is contrary to the very idea of God, linked to the sovereign Good. Protestants rely on some passages of St. Paul’s letters that are at least surprising: “For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.” (Romans 11:32). At first would God have wanted the misfortune of men? Yet if we want to refer to the Old Testament, it is also necessary to remember that God found his creation good, including that of man. Moreover, what is the meaning of the words “the wrath of God” (Romans 1:18)? These are Old Testament remanences. Human visions of God.
We are going to analyze the original texts of Martin Luther and Jean Calvin. They were deeply marked by the rationalist tsunami of the Renaissance.
Some protestant denominations, more or less recent, will also be examined. Some approaches are indeed linked to the rationalist vision, sometimes moreover by reaction.
Luther's 95 theses are an almost exclusive criticism of the indulgences and principally those whose sale was intended for the construction of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. I will only quote the 86th on this subject: “Why does not the pope, whose wealth is today greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build this one basilica of St. Peter with his own money rather than with the money of poor believers?”
The very same blame could be addressed to all the builders of temples and churches since Solomon. They have always counted on the generosity of the faithfuls. But here Luther highlight the difficult relationship between faith and money. The Progressives, as we shall see, will make a further step. Luther relies, in the 59th thesis, on St. Laurent: “St. Laurent said that the treasures of the Church are his poors. In this he spoke the language of his time.”
This thought hides one of the great teachings of the Gospel: Jesus of Nazareth “He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. Truly I tell you, he said, this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” (Luke 21: 2-4).
This woman has not given all her wealth to the poor, but to the Temple, to the Church we would say today, and precisely to complete the construction of the Temple. There is no limit to the munificence one owes to God. The Middle Ages built the cathedrals. St. Peter's of Rome was built for the glory of God. Pope John of Medici, Leo X, who built it, drew a well-earned reputation, perpetuated on the very facade of the basilica. That he may have taken pride of that in his mind, it concerns only the salvation of his soul and the divine judgment.
We will find again in the Progressives this Lutheran primacy of the love of neighbor, of the poor only besides, on the love of God, although it is the first commandment. The implementation of this first commandment takes place within the Church of the Christ. The priests, behind the bishops and the pope, are not there to do charity and to look after the poor in the proper sense, but to glorify God in the most magnificent manner possible. In this context, they are in charge of a poverty much more pregnant than that of the goods of this World: the poverty of the faith! Had St. Laurent spoken only of material poverty?
Charity towards the poor, part of the second commandment, of course equal to the first, does not in any way concern a social activity. This commandment is not intended for the States, as Progressives would like. Nor does it determine the role of the Church. It concerns every man in his heart. In the same way, the first commandment, implemented in the Church, does not concern it. It concerns every man in his heart. The Church gives the framework favorable to its application, but no collective action can, by itself, respond to these two commandments. This does not mean that the priesthood is dispensed from applying them, like all the faithfuls, in their personal capacity, but no collective action can allow an individual to think himself right. Only his personal participation, authentic, has a meaning with respect to the salvation of his soul. It is in this sense that collective action is not only necessary but indispensable. Besides, the construction of a church can only be a collective act. But each one has his place from the point of view of faith, according to his personal commitment and not because of a formal affiliation. The progressive idea of justification by the mere fact of belonging to a charitable community is entirely contrary to the Gospel. The idea of the collective salvation of the Progressives certainly constitutes a heresy which is, moreover, wholly foreign to Luther's thought.
Moreover, Luther does not maintain that adherence to his doctrine alone can bring salvation. The Christ did indeed say: “I have not come to abolish the law.” (Mt 5: 17-20). But he has not ceased to assert against the Pharisees that the mere application of the law, however strict, can not in any way secure salvation. This is also what Luther asserts. However, it goes back to the conception of the salvation of the Old Testament. But it is not on a Pharisaic interpretation of the Bible that rests his return to the beliefs of the Jews.
The first thesis of Luther affirms: “In saying: Do penance, our Lord and Lord Jesus Christ wanted that the whole life of the faithful should be a penance.”
No, Luther is making there a huge mistake. God can not have wanted to punish the World. He loves men and wants them all to be saved, but he gives them a complete freedom. Why did he not then create a world without misfortunes, a world of saved? It is first of all that the misfortunes of this world do not, in any way, condition salvation or condemnation. Misfortunes enter into the mystery of Creation. But, human enjoyments too. Men experiment misfortunes, but between these misfortunes calm lives unfold, of which we neglect and of which we forget the uncountable happiness. Besides, misfortunes no more than happiness bring us closer to the faith or take us away from it. If misfortunes can lead to prayer, so often they push to the negation of God. “If God existed, there would not be so many dramas on Earth”. This is the leitmotiv of atheists. And in happy moments, who still thinks of God? That would be the norm.
It is entirely contrary to the message of love of the Christ to think only that God could want a misfortune to bring us to Him. From the sole philosophical point of view, it would be an insurmountable paradox. God is the Good. Absolute idea, the idea of God can in no way be approached by evil. The confusion of misfortune and evil is everywhere present in the Old Testament. It is in Luther's writings as well. Of course, Job refuses this assimilation against his wife and all his friends. “I will never admit you are in the right; till I die, I will not deny my integrity” (Job, 27: 5). His misfortune is not the result of faults which he has not yet committed. “the Lord accepted Job’s prayer. After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before.” (Job 42: 9 & 10). Terrestrial misfortunes are in no way a condemnation. God does not dispense misfortunes or evil.
Conversely, there is more than a similarity between good and salvation. We pray to God every day to have “our daily bread”. God can grant us the earthly goods that we ask for, such as the healing of a disease. Such gifts are obtained by faith, as Jesus of Nazareth constantly affirmed at every miracle, but the obtaining of such goods does not, by itself, mean salvation. It is faith that saves. One can speak of confusion insofar as one imagines that obtaining earthly goods would be an augury or, worse, a certainty of salvation in the hereafter. Conversely, misfortune does not announce damnation at all. If good, to a certain extent, can be assimilated to salvation in faith, misfortune has no relation to evil and damnation.
The confusion between misfortune and damnation is anchored in the minds of all Protestant confessions. But to assimilate earthly happiness to salvation is also a confusion, if faith has no part in it. It is in this sense that Luther's predestination must be understood. The faith of man would be impotent to attract the benevolence of God. God would dispense His grace and His gifts only by His entire and exclusive will.
This confusion is the justification of Max Weber's famous thesis.
Max Weber claims, in his famous works “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism”, that Protestantism has allowed the development of a state of mind favorable to capitalism and economic liberalism. It would be essentially their hoarding asceticism which would be at the origin of the formation of the capital. The Protestants affirm that the Old Testament distinguishes the Elect from the reprobate. The divine election would result, as Job's friends affirm, from human success. The Protestants seek everywhere, and especially in professional success, the confirmation of their divine election. For Catholics, the only real wealth in the sense of the first commandment is the faith to be developed and then to spread by virtue of the second commandment. Protestants rely on a materialistic interpretation of the parable of the talents of the New Testament. The one who makes good business is an elected one who will be saved. Again, this is a purely materialistic vision.
The naiveties of Weber are now over. His theory is based on the idea that the capitalism represents a historical stage; this is the thesis of Marx. In reality, the capitalism is a permanent feature of history. The father of Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor, was a Spanish industrialist, king of brick, industrial activity based on a huge capital and the exploitation of slaves, the proletarians of the time. The capitalist activities of the very Catholic Jacques Cœur, Médicis, Fugger, and so many others differ, in reality, only by the mechanical means that can be used according to the epochs, but in no way by financial criteria, Economic rules, such as the free competition that has always existed, in the shadow, sometimes, of rare state monopolies. Moreover, the social structure in no way changed the modalities of capitalism. The historical distinction put forward by Marx and Weber to justify their doctrines is an arbitrary postulate which can not withstand any historical analysis.
We shall see that the social structure is, according to Marx and the progressives, the essential parameter of history. But it must be remembered here that Christ at no time condemned the slavery which conditioned the economic situation of the humanity of his time. Similarly, Luther not only did not pass judgment on the social structure of his time, but rather he condemned the insurrection of the knights of Styria, Baden and Alsace in 1523. This insurrection was called war of the peasants, for the knights lived on their lands. But in the countries where the revolt took place and at that time, the real peasants were still serfs, obviously without arms. How could they have had a cavalry? The 100,000 dead of this insurrection left Luther totally indifferent. Moreover, Luther approved the crushing of this revolt in the States which had not yet assimilated chivalry to the nobility by granting him the same privileges, as was the case in France and Bavaria, who obviously experienced no trouble of this nature. The historian Georges Duby believes that the assimilation of chivalry to the nobility took place in France as early as the twelfth century.
These details of the founding text of Luther's doctrine were necessary to understand his position on Freewill which we shall now examine in detail.
Luther answers to Erasmus' Free Will. His answer follows the structure of the Erasmus' well-known book. The first point is the position of Luther against the interpretations of the Scriptures by the Church.
“This does not arise from obscurity in the Scriptures, but from their own blindness or want of understanding,” (sect. 4, p. 19, Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will translated by Henry Cole London, 1823). Luther considers that Scripture presents no ambiguity contrary to what Erasmus said. He clearly distinguishes the understanding of the text, which would be perfectly clear, and the mysteries which belong to the heart and can only be accepted since they escape our understanding.
This idea of the clarity of the texts is, moreover, an essential aspect of Protestantism. It follows that it is enough to believe so that everyone can unambiguously interpret the teachings of the Bible. This is a rather naive belief which is stressed by the only problem posed by translation. The Protestants themselves have a multitude of translations which oppose many passages, even for the New Testament.
I will quote only the recent example of the translation of the Gospel of St. John relative to the arrival of Peter in the tomb. The text in ancient Greek has been re-examined and a new translation has come to make all sense to Peter's surprise to see Christ's deadly linen clothes simply collapsed, proof that the body had not been removed. If such interpretations, on such an essential subject, can be brought about by a better study of ancient texts, how much more it is perfectly illusory to think that each one can interpret the texts by oneself. The validity of the translation should first be ascertained. But also, the Scriptures constitute a very vast set of texts. The various parties share innumerable bonds. Who can claim to have a mind large enough to present all these ties in interpreting a passage? Would it be argued that each passage should be read as standing alone? To be sure, Luther is right in one sense: the texts are clear, so long as they are well translated, but they can in no way be isolated from one another without entirely losing their meaning. The coming of Jesus of Nazareth, to cite only the most significant example, only takes its meaning within the framework of the totality of the Old Testament, from Genesis itself, from Creation which is its founding mystery. It is in the mystery of Creation that lies the foundation of Faith in God if you allow me this tautology! And yet, some atheistic rationalists rely on vain scientific certainties to deny the necessity of Creation. It is evidently denying God. The crowd, dazzled by their mathematical importance, rushed behind the new Till Eulenspiegel. For what destiny? Drowning, like rats?
“His know ledge is eternal and immutable,” and “that all things which we do, although they may appear to us to be done mutably and contingently, and even may be done thus contingently by us, are yet, in reality, done necessarily and immutably, with respect to the will of God.” (sect. 9, p. 31). Nothing can prevent his work “And as His will cannot be hindered, the work itself cannot be hindered from being done in the place,at the time, in the measure, and by whom He foresees and wills.” (sect. 9, p. 31). “You call us off, and forbid our endeavouring to know the prescience of God, and the necessity that lies on men and things” (sect. 13, p. 35). “But, why it is, that some are touched by the law and some are not touched, why some receive the offered grace and some despise it, that is another question” (sect.64, p. 131). It results from “preached and offered mercy of God, not of that secret and to be feared will of god, who, according to His own counsel, ordains whom, and such as He will, to be receivers and partakers of the preached and offered mercy” (sect. 63, p. 131). “T hat God foreknows nothing by contingency, but that He foresees, purposes, and does all things according to His immutable, eternal, and infallible will. By this thunderbolt, Free-will is thrown prostrate, and utterly dashed to pieces.” (sect 9, p. 30).
Luther attributes to the will of God the order of the world. The world order does not result from causality, but causality results from the order of the world willed by God. The result is that there is full causality and therefore the Freewill would be excluded, otherwise man could go against the causality, against the order of the world established by God without him. Under an opposite appearance, Luther's position is in line with the rationalism. The world in which we live is subject to causality. The reason given by Luther is at the opposite of that of the rationalists, but for man, for his knowledge, the result is strictly identical.
Science is the search for causality, the search for the necessity that Luther contemplates. But this search is endless. The first cause is to infinity in some way. Hence, the rationalism of the scientific approach is essentially limited in its extent. Of course, one might think that the total knowledge of the universe, the accomplished physics, would imply a causality without discontinuity and therefore an absolute necessity. This idea of total knowledge is not only inaccessible, but it is also absurd. The first cause could not depend on anything. It would be absolute. Now the experimental world, the object of physics, is a world of relations. It can in no way contain any absolute whatsoever. It would therefore be necessary to trace the causality to infinity. But infinity itself escapes all relations. Rationalism comes up against itself in this end without end.
The mystery of Creation is the negation of an absolute necessity. It is also the possibility of the Freewill. The Free will rests on the mystery of Creation.
It can be said that the Freewill is a gift of God to the human spirit. Luther envisages this possibility. Why could not God have the will to give man the Freewill? Luther excludes it for a dilatory motive: if God concedes to us his Freewill why could he not also grant us the mastery of the world? This is very weak argument. Nothing in Luther's argument makes it possible to exclude this gift, which is also contrary to all necessity. If one sticks to Scripture, as early as Genesis, Adam and Eve have the freedom to consume even the forbidden fruit of the tree of absolute knowledge. Satan did not constrain them, but seduced what is very different. Satan himself can do nothing against the freedom of man!
Luther maintains that the idea of Destiny, so embedded in the minds of the Ancients, Homer, Virgil and many others, is not a vain belief, but an integral part of the Scriptures as he then claims to demonstrate.
“Who will believe (you say) that he is loved of God? I answer, no man will believe it! No man can! But the Elect shall believe it; the rest shall perish without believing it, filled with indignation and blaspheming, as you here describe them. Therefore, there will be some who shall believe it.” (sect. 24, p. 52).
“For if, as long as he has any persuasion that he can do even the least thing himself towards his own salvation, he retain a confidence in himself and do not utterly despair in himself, so long he is not humbled before God“ (sect 24, p. 53).
“These things, therefore, are openly proclaimed for the sake of the Elect: that, being by these means humbled and brought down to nothing, they might be saved.” (sect 24, p. 54).
“Thus He conceals His eternal mercy and loving-kindness behind His eternal wrath: His righteousness, behind apparent iniquity. “ (sect 24, p. 54).
“Nay, it is so in every government of the people, the causes of all are adjusted according to laws. But how could they be adjusted, if the laws were not most certain, and absolutely, very lights to the people? But if the laws were ambiguous and uncertain, there would not only be no causes settled, but no certain consistency of manners. Since, therefore, laws are enacted that manners may be regulated according to a certain form, and questions in causes settled, it is necessary that that, which is to be the rule and standard for men in their dealings with each other, as the law is, should of all things be the most certain and most clear. And if that light and certainty in laws, in profane administrations where temporal things only are concerned, are necessary, and have been, by the goodness of God, freely granted to the whole world; how shall He not have given to Christians, that is to His own Elect, laws and rules of much greater light and certainty, according to which they might adjust and settle both themselves and all their causes? (sect 24, p. 81).
I have deliberately cited this long passage of the Bondage of the Will, for he summarizes Luther's position. Before coming to the essential point of his argument, we find again the predestination so dear to Luther and of which we shall speak again. But here we learn that respect for the law is the way of the just, the chosen. This is the position of the Pharisees against whom Jesus of Nazareth has constantly spoken. Luther takes up exactly the position of the Pharisees: God's Elects are saved by strictly applying the law, and their works don’t matter.
But in this passage, the most disturbing is the justification which Luther gives of the clarity and certainty of the Gospels. His argument would rather be used to reject all evidence and clarity in the Scriptures. Indeed, how can Luther ignore reality to the point of asserting that the laws are clear and certain while constantly rise proceedings for appeal, review or pardon. It is that the texts of human laws are not so clear or certain. They are frequently revised, canceled, replaced. The situations of men in relation to each other are constantly evolving, so that it is impossible to freeze any code of “good morals”. Moreover, men are cunning enough to find in the texts, even the most clearly established, ambiguities which allow them to divert their spirit to their profit.
The laws of the decalogue seem clear and certain: “Thou shalt not kill.” This imperative seems even clear enough? Yet the General sent his men to death! The soldier kills! The policeman kills the ugly and the exalted who threaten human lives! “Thou shalt not kill.”! It is therefore necessary to interpret the text and specify the cases where the law does not apply. If this law is so clear that everyone can interpret it, then the exalted will find a thousand reasons to kill!
Luther refers to the Bible to affirm the clarity of the divine law. There is no doubt that Old Testament texts affirm it without ambiguity, and there are many. The situation in the New Testament is quite different. If St. Paul and St. Peter speak of the clarity of the Word of Christ as “the light of the world,” “a lamp that shines in an obscure place,” we can not compare this Word to a kind of code, to laws.
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (St. Matthew 11: 28-30). Christ spoke out against the innumerable prohibitions of Jewish law. It is not so much the prohibitions that are in question, even less the Hebrew laws, but the idea that the mere respect of the law could ensure salvation. Again and again Jesus of Nazareth targets the Pharisees. It is not enough to apply the law, you must love! This is the true law of Christ. Here is the light, this is the clarity which needs no explanation, and which, moreover, has never received any explanation from any wise, from any doctor, from any pope, from any council . This law speaks to the heart of man and does not need to be supported by any rhetoric.
If Luther wants to speak only of this law of love, then he is fully right: "For the not comprehending the words of God, does not arise, as you pretend, from weakness of mind; nay, nothing is better adapted to the receiving of the words of God, than a weakness of the mind; for it was on account of these weak ones, and tothese weak ones, that Christ came, and it is to them he sends His Word." (sect 38, p. 90). Now, Luther understands by “Word” all the teachings of the Old Testament, for as for the New, where are the prohibitions? Where are the obligations except love?
What laws of the Gospel does Luther speak of? There is but one: to love God and his neighbor!
Erasmus argues that “there is a Freewill” (sect 38, p. 99). But according to Luther “Man has no Freewill, but is a captive, slave, and servant, either to the will of God, or to the will of Satan.” (sect 26, p. 61). “That same Free-will [of Erasmus] is overruled by the Free-will of God alone, just as He pleases” (sect 26, p. 61). Wherefore would come this force which belongs only to God. The answer to Luther is in the Scriptures: “The Lord created human beings from the earth, and makes them return to earth again.a limited number of days he gave them,but granted them authority over everything on earth. He endowed them with strength like his own, and made them in his image“ (Ben Sirac the Wise 17, 1-15).
“But, not contented with this, he outstrips even the philosophers. For it has never yet been settled among them, whether or not any thing can give motion to itself; and upon this point, the Platonics and Peripatetics are divided in the whole body of philosophy. But according to Erasmus, "Freewill" not only of its own power gives motion to itself, but 'applies itself' to those things which are eternal; that is, which are incomprehensible to itself! A new and unheard-of definer of "Freewill," truly, who leaves the philosophers, the Pelagians, the Sophists, and all the rest of them, far behind him! Nor is this all. He does not even spare himself, but dissents from, and militates against himself, more than against all the rest together. For he had said before, that 'the human will is utterly ineffective without grace:' (unless perhaps this was said only in joke!) but here, where he gives a serious definition, he says, that 'the human will has that power by which it can effectively apply itself to those things which pertain unto eternal salvation;' that is, which are incomparably beyond that power.” (sect 44, pp.98 & 99).
Contrary to Luther's assertion, Erasmus does not contradict himself. If man chooses good, he needs grace to bring this good to salvation, but he can freely choose evil, and in that respect grace does not seem to me really necessary! Erasmus uses the words “apply itself to those things which pertain unto eternal salvation” but he did not say that this choice is sufficient, thi sattachment to salvation becomes a work of salvation only through grace. Moreover Erasmus by no means eliminates the support of grace so that Freewill guides us towards this attachment. Besides, it is even a necessity, for to choose one must know. Now knowledge comes from the Word, as Luther rightly points out, and the Word is a grace given to man. It is the Word that makes it possible to separate good from evil. But Freewill is placed before the alternative of choosing between the two. His freedom is to hear and listen to the word or to refuse it.
“Although I might justly refuse this book, [The Ecclesiastes]” (sect 46, p.101). Luther does not only believe that everyone can interpret Scripture, which would be clear and certain, but that everyone would be free to retain or reject the texts he considers valid. Why not accept the multiple apocrypha and even the Quran as such? It is the very book of predestination!
The discovery of the Qumram manuscripts and the recent studies of the Scriptures, historically, linguistically, juridically and otherwise, have led to a re-reading of certain hitherto obscure passages, notwithstanding Luther. How can a Christian, on his own initiative, interpret the texts, choose the right ones? A multitude of exegetes work on these texts and teach us new things every day. For example, The Greek language has three words for love: ἀγάπη, agápê: love disinterested, divine, universal, unconditional; Στοργή, storgế: family affection, family love; Φιλία, philía: friendship, caring love, the pleasure of the company. There is also ἔρως, eros: natural love, concupiscence, bodily pleasure here without object.
In a flight of lyricism not without elegance, St. John wrote that St. Peter first answered to the strong word of Christ with the word weak. Now, in Aramean, there is only one word for love. This interesting interpretation was therefore not true. We can multiply the examples. It must be admitted that a minimum of modesty is required and that the gentleman, however overwhelmed with penance, the Elect, can in no way alone decide the validity of the texts he has under his eyes, would have them been established by Luther or Melanchthon.
“For if a man, when he has lost his liberty, is compelled to serve sin, and cannot will good, what conclusion concerning him can be more justly drawn, than that he can do nothing but sin, and will evil?” (sect. 50, p. 108). This passage must be compared with what Luther says of health a few lines above: “If I were to ascribe it to one who was sick, I should think I was giving him nothing else than an empty name” (sect. 50, p. 107). In both cases Luther gives absolute meaning to words. This is obvious for the disease. A man can have a cold and have a heart in perfect health. There is, therefore, no contradiction in applying the word health to it if we speak of the heart. No human action is absolute. It is by no means contradictory to be under the influence of evil for certain aspects of existence, and seek good at the same time.
This is what St. Paul says, of which it can not be doubted that he sought first the salvation of his soul: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Rom 7:15). How, then, would it be if, as Luther asserts, Freewill: “"Freewill," of itself, cannot but go on to worse, and (as the Scripture saith) fall down to hell” (sect. 63, p. 131).
The doctrine of Luther is characterized by a return to the idea of predestination, a word which he also uses in his conclusion: “God can be neither deceived nor hindered in His Prescience and Predestination” (Conclusion, p. 302). It is evident that Luther does not mean here that God is predestined, which would make no sense, but that he absolutely controls the predestination of men and would have chosen eternally, and secretly, those who will be pardoned and will be entitled to eternal life, as Luther explains in his book.
Predestination, especially evident among Muslims, involves an initial intention of God with regard to every man from the beginning of Creation, it is the famous evident book which Muhammad repeatedly cites.
In a sense, Luther's predestination is the recognition of the omnipotence of God, but it also affirms the unworthiness of human existence. This vision appears on every page of the Old Testament, but it is entirely contrary to the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. (St John 3: 16-17).
Luther's vision is a rationalism. We have seen that his approach to causality is that of rationalists. But as far as words are concerned, he also prefigures rationalists by accepting to attribute to words that designate human things an absolute nature. He attributes an absolute nature to words when this enters into his argument. Health is by no means a concept. This word carries no form of transcendence. Besides, when Erasmus speaks of good and evil, he does not at all consider them as absolutely antinomic. One can, as St. Paul says, sin without ceasing to seek the salvation of the soul.
Things are complicated to show that the passages of the Scriptures quoted by Erasmus do not imply Freewill: “If you will, you can keep the commandments, and to act faithfully is a matter of your own choice.” (Sirach 15:15) and “If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” (Mt 19: 16-17). Here Luther uses his own thesis of predestination. The “if you will” would have nothing to do with any freedom given to men by God, for this freedom would be contrary to the rationalist causality that Luther adopted. It is evidently a petition of principle, for claiming the existence of Freewill is at the same time denying the predestination. Luther deduces, without paradox from his point of view, since he starts from rationalist predestination, “Heap together, therefore, out of the large Concordances all the imperative words into one chaos, provided that, they be not words of the promise but of the requirement of the law only, and I will immediately declare, that by them is always shewn what men ought to do, not what they can do, or do do. And even common grammarians and every little school-boy in the street knows, that by verbs of the imperative mood, nothing else is signified than that which ought to be done, and that, what is done or can be done, is expressed by verbs of the indicative mood." (sect. 57, p. 119). “To what purpose is it (saith the Diatribe) to exhort those who are not in any degree in their own power?” (sect. 59, p. 124 ) asks Luther. Now, justly God gave man power over himself as we have seen.
Further on we are offered another explanation, the distinction between legal use and the evangelical use of words. Thus, “save you from the ways of wicked men” (Pr. 2-12) is an order, a divine command, but “Return to your rest, my soul” (Ps 116: 7) is a word of grace, consolation.
Luther introduces another distinction: the preached God and the God hidden in majesty. We know only the preached God, the God of the Scriptures. The hidden God “Nor has He, in this Character, defined Himself in His Word, but has reserved unto Himself, a free power over all things.” (sect.64 p. 132-133). Is the God who comes to us and in us through Christ the God of Scripture or the hidden God? Is the God of Love the God of Scripture or the hidden God? Is the crucified God the God of Scripture or the hidden God?
Luther states: “Men are not allowed to scrutinize the divine will”. Who thought the contrary? By definition, from the philosophical point of view, “God can neither deceive nor deceive us” (St. Thomas Aquinas Q1-A1). The question of the Freewill is not connected with the examination of the will of God, but with the will of man to do this will or to turn away from it. Here we meet the problem of the possibility of this human will: it is in the mystery of Creation.
“Matt. V. 12: Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven. Your reward, that is, the reward of Freewill. For the Diatribe so understands this passage, that Christ and the Spirit of God are nothing. For what need is there of them, if we have good works and merit by Freewill! (sect 69 p. 143). Erasmus does not maintain that good works and merits result from Freewill. On the contrary, he recalls that they are the result of divine grace. But there is no contradiction in his position when he conditions the realization of good works and the obtaining of merits to an initial free choice of man. Luther constantly relies on his postulate of predestination to refute the arguments of Erasmus. Luther recognizes, of course, the omnipotence of God the creator. Why should this power be limited by the impossibility of giving men the power of Freewill, not, of course, an infinite force, unlimited as his own, but a strength to his size and scale? This is the mystery of Creation. And nothing can limit the power He has put in place to give man access not only to his evangelical nature, in Luther's words, but also to his divine nature through the incarnation of Christ “True God and true man”. Luther's position is irreconcilable with the two words: “God made man in his image” and “God became man.” These mysteries are, of course, unfathomable by reason. But is God subject to human reason? “My thoughts are not your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8)
Luther then leads us into introspection: “And then follow exhortations, in order to animate those who are already justified, and who have obtained mercy, to be diligent in the fruits of the Spirit and of righteousness received, to exercise themselves in charity and good works, and to bear courageously the cross and all the other tribulations of this world. This is the whole sum of the New Testament.” (sect. 69, p. 145). Not only is it not the sum, but such a self-centered vision of the individual is actually the antithesis of the message of Christ. It is not a matter of bearing the fruits, nor of profiting from the gifts, but of spreading them, and not only by good charitable works, but by giving everything, his whole life, his whole mind, his whole heart for the announcement of the Word. This is what Jesus of Nazareth never stopped asking the apostles, the disciples and all men. The postulate of predestination leads us to despise this duty of the Christian. Since there is predestination, why spread the Good News? The Elects know it, the damned would not use it!
Predestination is really the foundation of Luther's thought: “If you speak of the consequence, there is nothing either good or evil which has not its reward. And here arises an error, that, in speaking of merits and rewards, we agitate opinions and questions concerning worthiness, which has not existence, when we ought to be disputing concerning consequences. For there remains, as a necessary consequence the judgment of God and a hell for the wicked, even though they themselves neither conceive nor think of such a reward for their sins, nay, they utterly detest it; and, as Peter saith, execrate it. (2 Pet. II. 10-14.) In the same manner, there remains a kingdom for the just, even though they themselves neither seek it nor think of it; seeing that, it was prepared for them by their Father, not only before they themselves existed, but before the foundation of the world.“ (sect. 30, p. 146).
“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God” (St. John 1-12). “This passage is a hammer that crushes Freewill”. According to Luther, this sentence of St. John does not imply any human work. What then is the nature of the gift? The gift would be only to be the son of God? If man receives no power, why not simply write “He made them sons of God”? Moreover, does a father deny all power to his son? How much more, God could grant powers to his sons. The text is therefore not as clear as Luther asserts, since it is necessary, after selecting the right texts, to retain only the right words. For the rest: non licet esse.
Luther well agrees that God can not do evil: “Let no one think, therefore, that God, where He is said to harden, or to work evil in us (for to harden is to do evil), so does the evil as though He created evil in us anew, in the same way as a malignant liquor-seller, being himself bad, would pour poison into, or mix it up in, a vessel that was not bad, where the vessel itself did nothing but receive, or passively accomplish the purpose of the malignity of the poison-mixer. For when people hear it said by us, that God works in us both good and evil, and that we from mere necessity passively submit to the working of God, they seem to imagine, that a man who is good, or not evil himself, is passive while God works evil in him: not rightly considering that God, is far from being inactive in all His creatures, and never suffers any one of them to keep holiday. But whoever wishes to understand these things let him think thus:—that God works evil in us, that is, by us, not from the fault of God, but from the fault of evil in us:—that is, as we are evil by nature, God, who is truly good, carrying us along by His own action, according to the nature of His Omnipotence, cannot do otherwise than do evil by us, as instruments, though He Himself be good; though by His wisdom, He overrules that evil well, to His own glory and to our salvation. Thus God, finding the will of Satan evil, not creating it so, but leaving it while Satan sinningly commits the evil, carries it along by His working, and moves it which way He will; though that will ceases not to be evil by this motion of God. (sect. 86, p. 174).
Thus, according to Luther, God does not do evil, but it is the instrument which is evil, it is man who does evil. That can not be doubted. But since man is a creature of God, how could God be unaware that the evil instrument he created would do evil? To create the evil instrument, capable first of all of evil, is it to act according to the good? The creation would therefore be bad. This is what Luther says: “Man saw all the things that God had made, and behold they were very good. Many things seem very good unto God, and are very good, which seem unto us very evil, and are considered to be very evil.” (sect. 83, p. 171). One falls again and again on the mystery of the Creation and on the confusion between the misfortune and the evil. It is not said anywhere that God created hell. It is the mystery of the fallen angel! The dramas of this World are in no way connected with the evil as many Jews thought against Job, and especially and above all against the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth.
Luther repeats the argument of predestination to ruin Freewill in the case of Judas: “If God foreknew that Judas would be a traitor, Judas became a traitor of necessity; nor was it in the power of Judas nor of any other creature to alter it, or to change that will; though he did what he did willingly, not by compulsion; for that willing of his was his own work; which God, by the motion of His Omnipotence, moved on into action, as He does everything else.—God does not lie, nor is He deceived. This is a truth evident and invincible. There are no obscure or ambiguous words here, even though all the most learned men of all ages should be so blinded as to think and say to the contrary. How much soever, therefore, you may turn your back upon it, yet, the convicted conscience of yourself and all men is compelled to confess, that, if God be not deceived in that which he foreknows, that which he foreknows must, of necessity, take place. If it were not so, who could believe His promises, who would fear His threatenings, if what He promised or threatened did not of necessity take place! Or, how could He promise or threaten, if His prescience could be deceived or hindered by our mutability! This all-clear light of certain truth manifestly stops the mouths of all, puts an end to all questions, and forever settles the victory over all evasive subtleties.” (sect. 91 ,p. 182).
Luther cites the letter to the Romans (9-18): “Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.”. This sentence can not be separated from the whole passage relating to the situation of Israel. In particular, St. Paul recalls another passage from Exodus (Ex 33-19): “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion”. There is no predestination of the reprobate inspiring pity. But above all, God's vision of the Old Testament is marked by the antinomy between the salvation promised to Israel and the condemnation of its infidelities by a vengeful God with fulminating anger. This vision fades throughout the Old Testament and is finally transformed into pure love of men through the sacrifice of Jesus of Nazareth, the only son of God. So that all passages of the Old Testament must be read in this new vision of the Gospels and that contrary to what Luther maintains, one can not Christianly read the Old Testament verbatim without illuminating it in the New Testament in order to establish its full meaning.Luther maintains that “For is it not searching with temerity, when we attempt to make the all-free prescience of God to harmonize with our freedom, prepared to derogate prescience from God, rather than lose our own liberty?” (sect. 93, p. 186). This is the crux of the matter: why would it be impossible for God to reconcile two things which seem to us human, reasonably contrary? It is the mystery of the Freewill, the mystery of Creation.
According to Luther, the acts of men must happen in a certain and infallible way because God knows everything beforehand, thus everything is written in a way. Since God can not be deceived, what will happen will be what He has foreseen, so that man can in no way have the choice to act otherwise than according to the order fixed by God in advance. “This is the effect of the necessity of the consequence, that is, if God foreknows a thing, that thing must of necessity take place” (sect. 192, p. 192). It is the absolute application of the principle of causality, an absolute determinism.
Durkheim’s theses are based upon this absolute determinism. But in Durkheim it is the absolute reign of the mineral: “Moralists have not yet even grasped the simple truth that, just as our representations of things perceived by the senses spring from those things themselves and express them more or less accurately, our representation of morality springs from observing the rules that function before our very eyes and perceives them systematically”. (Durkheim The rules of the sociological method Translated by W. D. Halls, 1982 p. 66).
Durkheim is the only philosopher of history who has given a general value to the principle of causality. Moreover, he accepts the causal uniqueness, without restriction, in sociology.
" Stuart Mill admits in fact that the same consequence does not always result from the same antecedent, but can be due now to one cause, now to another. But this alleged axiom of the plurality of causes is a negation of the principle of causality. Doubtless if one believes with Mill that cause and effect are absolutely heterogeneous and that there is between them no logical connexion, there is nothing contradictory in admitting that an effect can follow sometimes from one cause, sometimes from another… But if, on the other hand, the causal link is at all intelligible, it could not then be to such an extent indeterminate.. Moreover, it is only the philosophers who have ever called into question the intelligibility of ·the causal relationship. For the scientist it is not problematic; it is assumed by the very method of science.” (Durkheim p. 148).
To establish the causal connection, Durkheim has an excellent means: “The true experimental method tends rather to substitute for common facts, which only give rise to proofs when they are very numerous and which consequently allow conclusions which are always suspect. decisive or crucial facts. as Bacon said. 3 which by themselves and regardless of their number, have scientific value. and interest” (Durkheim p.111). Add to this the famous “consensus among rational beings” of Habermas, and nothing can henceforth stop the progress of science towards absolute realism.
Who judges the value and relevance of scientific theories? The Progressives. What are the criteria for judgment? The certainties of Progressives.
This absolute causality is the secular form of predestination. It is to deny the omnipotence of God to subject Him to a vision of human rationalism, to this absolute determinism. The principle of causality, and principally the principle of specific causal unity, the foundation of pure logic, is a principle of human reason which God created, but to which He can in no way be subjected. His absolute nature excludes any form of obligation. The laws are for men not for God.
St. Paul could not, in Luther's words, interpret the Old Testament in any way. It would be to “corrupt the Holy Scriptures” (sect. 98, p. 193). What is written is that “the elder shall serve the younger” (Genesis 25-23): Esau will serve Jacob. Since this was written before they were born, it would be proof of predestination. In repeating this passage, St. Paul would confirm predestination. Why then is it written, “I am the Light of the World” (St. John 8:12)? This Light enlightens the Old Testament which announced Him. It is therefore necessary to interpret the Old Testament in the light of the New Testament. If St. Paul takes up this passage from Genesis, it is not to return to the letter of what is written as the Pharisees and the Scribes did, but to enlighten it by the words of the Christ. Moreover, the Old Testament is itself a long instruction from Israel in view of the coming of Jesus of Nazareth. Abraham's faith led to the suppression of the hitherto common human sacrifices. Kierkegaard made a dramatic misunderstanding of history. Human sacrifices were a practice, not only common, but legal, compulsory. Abraham did not, at any moment, have the idea of a crime. God did not ask him for a crime. He asked for the application of the laws of that time. Isaac was the son of Abraham. The victims of those days were also sons of their father! The act was demanded to the father himself. This was a difficulty that demonstrates the depth of faith. It was also the beginning of a new relationship between God and his people, the renunciation of human sacrifices. Subsequently, the Jews sacrificed only animals, then Jesus of Nazareth came to put an end to these practices. If Luther were right, we wonder why he did not reorganize the sacrifices of animals? Why does he give himself the right to interpret the Scriptures and not do what is commanded? Christ came to put an end to these sacrifices not by forbidding them, so that God would have changed his mind? He would have been mistaken in ordering to sacrifice animals, sacrifices to which even Mary and Joseph have proceeded?
In a similar way, the retaliation came to replace the vengeance without limits. And this law was itself abolished by Jesus of Nazareth “You have heard that it was said, Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth. But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” (Matthew 5: 38-39). Again, was God deceiving himself to say the opposite of what he had first stated?
The Old Testament must therefore be interpreted in the light of the New Testament. And there is even more than one interpretation, there are large renunciations!
Besides, can we say that Luther's position is not an interpretation? By pretending to align himself with the writing, with the letter, he takes a position contrary to the Words of Christ. If He said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” (St. Matthew 5:17). He also condemned the Pharisees and the Scribes who retained only the letter and rejected the spirit. Jesus affirms that the whole law must be interpreted on the basis of these two commandments: to love God with all his heart, all his soul, and his thought, and to love his neighbor as oneself. And St. Paul will confirm: “Not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Corinthians 3: 6).
A passage from Luther's reply shows to what extent he remains in a conception of the avenging God of the Old Testament and totally he wants to disregard the enlightenment of love of the New Testament: “God does not love or hate as we do; because, we love and hate mutably, but He loves and hates from an eternal and immutable nature;“ (sect. 101, p. 197). How could the Christ hate? How could God hate?
Luther condemns the advocates of Freewill because they would ask that God judge according to human reason: “Here they require, that God should act according to human laws, and do what seems right unto men, or cease to be God!” (sect. 106, p. 204). It seems, therefore, that according to Luther, God does not think according to human reason. How, then, could he attribute to it the strict application of causality, the principle of human logic? Here, strictly speaking, there is no contradiction. In fact, Luther only refers to the idea of justice. And he is right on this point. It is not man who judges, nor can we think that God “we will declare Him to be unjust, as being one who delights in evil and wicked men, and who invites and crowns their impiety by rewards.” (sect. 101, p. 206). It is us who think that such a man is unworthy or just, but our thought is only relative to what we believe we know. God judges in Truth. But Luther attributes to God a judgment based on logic since it is of the order of predestination and therefore of absolute determinism which is only a human utopia, even if it rests on the principle of causality, by the way, a principle of human logic. It is an absolute principle. In the matter of judgment, on the one hand, we know only a tiny part of the truth, so we can not judge, but, on the other hand, the reference of judgment, the absolute good, escapes us too; we have only snippets.
“Every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.” (Genesis 6-5 and 6). Luther sees here the proof of the total absence of all Freewill. But first, is it the man himself who is bad or satan that makes him bad? Man is weak, of course, but God can not have created it evil because he has done him in His own image. The passage of Genesis can therefore be interpreted in a direction opposite to that given to it by Luther, and, moreover, in the light of the New Testament, we understand that this passage from Genesis is intended for men who still had an idea of God loaded with human feelings like sadness that obviously can not relate to God. This necessary interpretation is made even more evident by the following text: “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth,” and in a passage that precedes: “The Nephilim [The giants] were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.” (Genesis 6-4). Does Luther really think that these mythological giants ever existed? As for the corruption of the earth, it is necessary to take up the many Words of Jesus of Nazareth rejecting all idea of impurity in the World to attribute the impurity only to the thought of the man.“What else is it for sin to abound by the law, but for all the works, done according to the law, to become sins?” (sect. 116, p. 219). If “sin to abound by the law” then it is that the law defines sin by default of the law. This is what St. Paul explains. The same is true of all human laws. Illegality is measured by laws. Similarly, sin is measured by the Law. But this never meant that the law is the cause of sin. Ignorance of the law does not remove the fault. Works conforming to the Law are therefore by no means sins. On the other hand, what is true is that the law of love of Christ has a perfection inaccessible to man. In this sense, it is true that man is irremediably sinner. But this is not at all what Luther is aiming for. He speaks of the Law of the Scriptures, that of the Pharisees and the Scribes, since all the texts he quotes here belong to the Old Testament. There is indeed the exception of the centurion Corneille. But this quotation from Luther does not relate to the Law, but to the fact that Cornelius was just and fearing God. This is what enables Luther to return to predestination: the centurion was at first inspired by the Holy Spirit. Erasmus's thesis is that Cornelius has received grace, but that it does not deprive him of his Freewill. It is precisely his affirmed faith that saves his child. The affirmation of faith can not come without grace. But Freewill is affirmed by the act of faith or by the rejection of faith. The absolute determinism of Luther leads him to deny this freedom: it was only God who wanted it. One wonders why God created the universe and man? If man is governed by necessity exactly as the torrents that flow, the lilies that open, the donkeys that bray, then what is the utility of man who would be no more than an animal, a vegetable, even only a mineral?
True, man includes a spirit and a body, but Luther asserts (p. 224) that "both are flesh" and “the whole of man is flesh”. Both of them would belong to the World, and would fight against each other (p. 224). This is a profound impossibility. The mind has access to transcendence, and even to the thought of God. Now this thought is of an absolute nature. It can not therefore in any way belong to the material world which is essentially a world of relations. For Luther “flesh” is synonymous with “impious” (p. 223). This is denied by all the teaching of Christ. There is no impurity in the world around us.
The “Christ b the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world” (sect 121, p. 229). This in no way means that the Elect are sinless, for the measure of good is boundless as we have seen.
A passage from Jeremiah comes to support Luther's thesis: "I know, O Lord! that people's lives are not their own; it is not for them to direct their steps.” (Jeremiah 10-23). It is also written, “To humans belong the plans of the heart, but from the Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue." (Proverbs 16: 1) and “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” (Proverbs 16: 9). I have already used the argument of deterministic thought that characterizes the Old Testament. Here, I repeat that the Old Testament still needs to be read in the light of the New Testament. It is in this way that the idea of salvation, reserved for the people of Israel, is extended to the whole world by the Gospels. Similarly, the vengeful, quasi-dictatorial God of the Old Testament is transformed into the God of Love in the Gospels.
Luther isolates the last words of a sentence from the well-known passage of St. John: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15: 5). The words “apart from me you can do nothing” seem to prove his doctrine of predestination. But the whole text shows a very different thing: man can not spread the good news without the help of God. This is the first and fundamental work of charity demanded of the Christians: it is the fruits, the true wealth, that must be distributed. Moreover, even verbatim, this text by no means proves Lutheran determinism. Indeed, can Luther assert that the branch develops according to the orders of the vine? According to necessity, certainly, but this necessity rests on the totality of the knowledge of the Universe from the infinitely small to the infinitely great, knowledge that man will never have. And in any case, the role of the vine is practically nil in the direction taken by the branch. The fruit of the Gospel does not in any way accrue to those who “who remain in the vine” (sect.126, p. 237). The fruit of the vine falls to the vine grower! The branches, in truth, are burned after the harvest. We see here that the parables can not be taken literally. We must withdraw its spirit. The letter pushed beyond what is expressed always leads to the absurd. Moreover, on several occasions, Christ interprets His parables for His disciples.
Although Luther only quotes St. John's passages to answer Erasmus on the meaning of the word “nothing,” it can be remarked that the passage “A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven” (John 3- 27), does not mean that man can not have Freewill. In fact, he has received everything, even his body, by Creation. But we do not see in what way this passage of St John forbids thinking that man has also received Freewill in the mystery of Creation? This was not the reason invoked by Erasmus, but I do not feel in any way limited to his analysis of the Lutheran heresy.
After the debate on the extent of “nothing”, Luther draws us into the value of “all” in the letters of St. Paul. Do “All the impiety and injustice of men”, concern “all men”? Taken in the absolute, all men are, in fact, sinners since the absolute Good is inaccessible to them. But it is not in this sense that Luther hears it. All men are created sinners by nature. Only grace, attributed to the just only, even before creation, can save them from sin that can be forgiven. Here we return to predestination, to the rational determinism that Luther maintains. It is quite obvious that the determinism of the experimental world excludes any form of Freewill for minerals, plants and animals. But precisely, man is not only an animal. Without even speaking of religion, from the philosophical point of view, the mind of man has access to transcendental ideas such as infinity, continuity, law, unity, which do not exist in Nature. These ideas can not exist in the experimental world because they are exclusive of all relations.
Now it is true that Freewill does not “can endeavour any thing good?” (sect 135, p 251). On the contrary, satan takes advantage of Freewill to push man towards evil, sin. But grace acts the opposite. Is man only the Buridan Ass, unable to choose? Is it God who would have decided before all creation that the righteous, the chosen, the believer, will go to the good and the impious, the damned, the unbeliever towards evil?
The Jews are transgressors of the law, because they are not Jews in the spirit,” (p. 396 quoting Psalm 14: 1-3). By refusing any exception, Luther does not seem to have noticed a small problem, and I am very ironic in using the word small. The Virgin Mary was Jewish, and all the apostles also and St. Paul too! Of course we should think they are Jews in “spirit”. St. Paul, again, refers to a text of the Old Testament, marked by the idea of God's direct power over the course of things and the actions and thoughts of men. It was the vision of God of all the religions of antiquity. It was taken up without nuance by Muhammad in his Quran. Luther wants us to return to this skewed and oudated conception.
The New Testament does not change the Law, but the vision of God, giving everything to men in a boundless Love. And again, Luther never demonstrated that God could not also give man Freewill. To rely on predestination to deny this gift is to limit the power of God by a rationalistic determinism, by human logic.
After the recall of the Psalms, St. Paul adds "Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law" (St. Paul Roman, 3 - 19-20). But is it possible to isolate this passage from the conclusion? : “God did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” (Rom 3:26). Of course, Luther would rely on his postulate of predestination to assert that he who “claims to be faith” is the righteous, the chosen, and not the one who has freely chosen to rely on faith. But will his mouth also be closed? Will the chosen one finally be found guilty and damned? Does he not practice the law? Therefore, the practice of the law is not sufficient to be saved. This passage must be understood in the light of the words of Christ. Above all, we must love God and his neighbor. The text of St. Paul presents an ellipse. Indeed, if no one is justified by the practice of the law, it is therefore that those who are not limited to the practices of the Pharisees can be justified and therefore that the words “the whole world would be find guilty”, leave a hope to the righteous not to be found guilty. One could also attach guilt to the already evoked vision of a judgment in relation to the inaccessible absolute good before which all men are evidently sinners. In both cases, Luther's position is untenable because it is entirely contradictory to his assertion of the divine power. If God is all-powerful, nothing can prevent him from subtracting man, his soul I mean, from the absolute determinism that Luther maintains. It should be noted in passing that Luther speaks of works as the acts of men made under the Law: ”the works of the Law” (p. 262) while specifying that a fortiori it is not only “Ritual works”. Again, this passage of St. Paul must be read in the light of the words of Christ. Works and works of salvation are acts of love for God and his neighbor, that is, far beyond respect for the letter of the Law.
Luther admits a necessity other than the application of the letter of the Law: “For Paul divides law-working men into two classes, those who work after the spirit, and those who work after the flesh, leaving no medium whatever.” (sect. 144, p. 265). This distinction is extracted from another passage of St. John, somewhat modified by Luther: “every thing which is not of the Spirit is flesh” (P. 407 from John 3: 6). What is Spirit for Luther concerns the Elect who have received the Spirit. The Elect therefore make works by the spirit. This obviously has nothing to do with the law of love of Christ which is the true necessity of salvation.
Luther admitted that “By the law (saith Paul) is the knowledge of sin” (p. 267). But who, then, has claimed that Freewill gave the knowledge of sin? Why does Luther attack those who think that Freewill may not need the law to know sin. Freewill is not related to the knowledge of sin, but to the freedom to choose, to deviate from it. This passage of Luther is therefore particularly impenetrable. Perhaps he wants to answer a point in Erasmus's enumeration: “if we can do nothing, why so many laws, so many precepts, so many threats, so many promises”. But Erasmus never said that these laws, precepts, threats, and promises were known by Freewill. These are the elements that Freewill knows by the Scriptures and from which it exercises its judgment. It is not clear what Luther tries to demonstrate in this polemic over a text which he seems to take literally.
The Freewill is then assigned a goal that nobody envisaged. Luther writes: “If there be no freedom of will, how can there be place for merit?” (sect. 148,p. 272). Who, then, could have imagined that a man who, by his liberty, has made the choice he thinks fit, is justified? The choice is made on the basis of his knowledge. But who can pretend to know divine justice?
The justification is never acquired by the work. No one, either, has affirmed the contrary. For absolute good is inaccessible to man. The choice to apply the law can not therefore be the guarantee of justification. The law of Love is limitless. How then can one pretend to have the assurance of truly and totally acting according to the love of God and of neighbor? So grace is always needed. Grace being acquired, then justification results from the right choice. To choose sin under the temptation of satan is to refuse grace and finally the possibility of justification. Once again, we wonder to whom Luther attacks in this new controversy.
Luther promises us a development on original sin. “Original sin itself, therefore, will not allow of any other power in Freewill, but that of sinning and going on unto damnation.” (sect. 152, p. 279). But he will say only a few words in his conclusion (p. 303). We learn that even the chosen ones, those who are predestined to salvation, experiment “annoying boredom by fighting the good” in this low world ruled by satan because of original sin. As for the impious, the damned, they can only be turned to evil, of course. The negation of Freewill which Luther deduces from it completely disregards all forms of God's love for mankind.
“They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God” (p. 287 Rom 9-8). The children of the flesh in no way designate all human beings, evidently all born of the flesh in the proper sense, but children who choose sin, the life of the flesh, and not the good, the life of mind. Luther keeps a very personal interpretation of St. Paul and the Gospels. And he even states how they should be interpreted. It is therefore that, contrary to its preliminary postulate, the texts are not always so obvious.“And now farther, as Christ is said to be the way, the truth, and the life, (John XIV. 6), and that, by positive assertion, so that whatever is not Christ is not the way but error, is not the truth but a lie, is not the life but death, it of necessity follows, that Freewill, as it is neither Christ nor in Christ, must be bound in error, in a lie, and in death. “(p. 438). Yet we have seen that Luther asserts that only God has absolute Freewill. Now Christ is God. We must therefore reverse the conclusion of Luther, which would perhaps be a little excessive, however. Freewill is neither the way, nor the truth, nor the life.
“No one can come unto Me except My Father which hath sent Me draw him, (Jn VI-44)” (sect 162, p. 294). The condition laid down by the Christ is by no means exclusive, otherwise what would be the purpose of the commandment to love one another? It is an order of the Christ, but men have the freedom to follow Him or not. This possibility is excluded by Luther on the basis of predestination and determinism postulated by his doctrine. Salvation would be possible only for those who were elected before their birth, and who were therefore attracted by the Father. They would not be asked for any personal initiative. And if they ultimately reject God, it would be that God had always foreseen this reversal and therefore condemned these saved, for God can not be deceived and therefore change so little that it is a preestablished plan from all eternity.
Luther cites (p. 297) another passage of St. Paul: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and[a] knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” (Rm 11, 33). This sentence confirms the Scriptures, “My thoughts are not your thoughts” (Isaiah 55: 8). Rational vision is specific to man. This does not mean that God can be deceived in the sense of reason, by default of the rules of formal logic, but that his knowledge is absolute and infinite while that of men is relative and limited. Relative to the few knowledge we have, and limited by the abilities of our being. That's what we can think of the fact that God can not deceive us. Luther, without saying it here, always refers to his idea of the absolute determinism of Creation. This is in the order of human thought in reality, always in search of causality, and he extend the causality to man. Unlike the Creation of mineral, vegetable and animal, and all that is necessary for his existence, from the infinitely small to the infinitely great, man has received in addition the grace to be in the image of God. Man thus escapes the absolute determinism postulated by Luther. For if we may admit as Luther that the omnipotence of God can not be defeated by an exception to causality, we can not think that God himself is an effect of causality. The first cause escapes causality, since it can not obviously be the consequence of anything.
Now it is precisely by the gift to man of this nature that one can call divine, being an image of God, that man escapes determinism. He does not escape the determinism of his material existence, of course, which can not bear the image of God. He escapes determinism in his soul. And in the struggle of the divine world and the satanic world, he has the freedom to choose. And even, when I write that his body could not bear the image of God, we must have in mind the Incranation. This is the very mystery of Creation. We assimilate existence to more or less complex constructions of molecules themselves made of atoms. These atoms are in turn sets of particles which scientists imagine they have discovered, at the beginning of the millennium, the ultimate component. Perhaps, but this component has properties, mainly fields of gravitation and electric and magnetic fields. They would appear de facto with the still mysterious formation of these particles. But how is this possible? By the operation of the Holy Spirit? Who would dare to say it? They boasts of having extended the idea of evolution to all Nature until these mythical particles. But they think normal to attribute to these particles invariant, absolute, constants properties. By what magic evolution, which affects all things, would spare these famous invariants and the celerity of light among others? It does not really make sense. Vary slightly the constant of gravitation, then the mythical Big-bang would be pushed back to infinity or on the contrary to the second that precedes us according to the direction and intensity of the variation! It is, then, that many things remain to be discovered, and it must be acknowledged that the very nature of existence still escapes us. We may even think that the nature of existence will always escape us, for it can only go back to infinity if we do not want to pose the absolute in the experimental world. Indeed, the ultimate brick of material existence would itself escape all causality, being nothing else but itself. It would thus also escape evolution, which would leave man before a paradox as profound as the infinite.
It is the mystery of Creation.
The Word of God is necessarily accessible to human reason. But this does not imply that God thinks according to human logic. Can the action of thinking be attributed to God? One may believe it from the fact that we were created in His own image and that it is written that: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. ... The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1: 1-4 and 14). This is the vision of the Logos. The Holy Spirit gives us the truth. One might think that God descends to the level of his creature by the Logos, by the Word and reason, but that He truly reigns beyond it: " As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9) But in this beyond: “the Word was God.”
As to crown his diatribe, Luther totally assimilates good to earthly riches and evil to misfortune. “The tents of marauders are undisturbed, and those who provoke God are secure--those God has in his hand.” (Job 12: 6), “This is what the wicked are like-- always free of care, they go on amassing wealth." (Psalm 73:12). “Is it not, I pray you, in the judgment of all, most unjust, that the evil should be prosperous, and the good afflicted?” (sect.166, p.300). But who are those who make such a judgment? For whom is the wealth the sign of salvation? Only Luther imagines that there are such unconscious men. Why does he write “in the judgment of all”, whereas only a few envious people utter such a naive judgment? Moreover, the progressives see in wealth the worst evil of humanity “Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you.” (James 5: 1-6). These same progressives see salvation in the misery of the proletariat, a misery that is somewhat watered down in the West by innumerable privileges.
The “judgment of all” is therefore only the judgment of Luther. Man can therefore understand that the judgment of God does result neither from misfortune nor from happiness, but from sin and from love, which is the opposite. Judgment is therefore not hidden from man. Consequently, he uses his Freewill to act according to the Word, according to the Law and first according to the first commandment, to love God, and the second that is like to it: to love his neighbor.
Calvin took up the Lutheran concept of predestination by pushing it to the the absolute, as we are going to see it at first. But above all, his doctrine is characterized by the rejection of works as an instrument of salvation.
His approach is, there also, purely rational. Since God created everything, our good works do not result from our will, but from divine grace alone. It would be absurd to rely on it. Moreover, the most elementary humility must lead us to believe that we are indebted to God for everything. But regarding good works, Calvin's doctrine comes up against an infinitely deeper problem. How can we claim to judge for ourselves the value of our works? How is it possible to think that our acts can please God? We can only offer them by praying that they will agree Him! The problem of the utility of our good works for our salvation disappears entirely behind the question of their value. The progressives come to the idea that there are good works, social works, which please inevitably God. And of course, the progressive is humble-minded, and like Calvin, he does not require that his good works be imputed to him personally. Unlike Calvin, he does not attribute them to God, but to Society, or at least to those who concur with him in reforming the Society.
Calvin's vision is purely rationalist. He attributes to God a thought according to human logic. Thus, God completes by degrees the work of our salvation, and here are the degrees of mercy. Calvin quotes St. Paul: “And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” (Rom. 8-30). This idea of degrees is an approach specifically linked to human logic. It is absurd to attribute an approach to God, how much it would conform to the logic which is the way of functioning of the human mind. All heresies rest, as we have seen, on human visions of divine mysteries such as Creation, the divine nature of Jesus of Nazareth, the Holy Trinity. It is, from the beginning, the drama of rationalism. Long before this word was used, men tried to connect these mysteries with human logic. Today, this shortened vision of the divine world is rejected. Nevertheless, the progressive approach is itself a new rationalist attempt, an intellectual approach that is intended to be logical. They defend themselves from it. They are in denial as well.
More dramatically, Calvin takes up the thesis of Luther's predestination, but almost absolutely. This predestination would result from the universal knowledge of God. God would know the totality of the Universe from its creation until its disappearance at the end of time. This total knowledge implies that he knows in advance which men will be saved. These, in the mind of Calvin and Luther, are therefore predestined by God to be saved.
It is here again to attribute to God a thought in line with human logic. The very idea of universal knowledge is an extension of the human knowledge of the world. Calvin thinks that God reasons like man and must have a knowledge of the universe of the same order as that gives to us the scientific knowledge. This knowledge is only extended to the totality of the duration of the Universe. This extension might seem suitable to a being which would be superior to us by the extent of knowledge and not by nature. God would have a knowledge of the Universe similar to that which we acquire progressively through experiment and reasoning. This extension is certainly beyond human possibilities, but it remains based on the way of knowledge of man. God is far beyond this rationalist vision. One can attribute to God neither a human thought, nor even a human way of thinking. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55: 8-13).
Time itself is the means for the human mind to understand motion. Man thinks according to a time spread out from infinitely past to infinitely future, whereas experiment gives him access only to the present moment. In the same way, man's mind conceives the motion, and additionally the existence, in space. To think that God can think on the basis of these same concepts is an anthropomorphism. The human thought of eternity attributed to God is also an extension of the concepts of our mind. God is far beyond these determinations, even extended to infinity. God has need neither of time nor space. He completely escapes all the concepts in which man would want to confine Him by merely extending these concepts to what man imagines under the word “infinite”.
The purely rationalist view consists in attributing to God a human way of thinking. This led Calvin to think that the human condition would be predestined. In the absence of references in the Old Testament, Calvin relied essentially on St. Paul and St. Augustine. The people of Israel are the chosen ones of God, but this does not give rise to any individual predestination as in Calvin. Throughout the Old Testament, we do not count the damned, though Jews. There is no predestination in the Old Testament. It is a pure production of rationalism born in the fifteenth century.
Relying on passages from the letters of St. Paul, Calvin thought he would find confirmation of his rationalist point of view: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.“ (Romans 8: 28-30).
We can also quote: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to God’s holy people in Ephesus,[a] the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Praise for Spiritual Blessings in Christ Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” (Ephesians 1: 1-6).
The great Greek theologians seem to have adopted rather generally the position taken up by the rationalists. This is the famous controversy post “prævisa merita” against “ante prævisa merita”. The idea of predestination rests on the divine universal prescience. Now the very idea of prescience is an anthropomorphism. It is the idea that God would have a knowledge of the world of the same nature as human knowledge, a scientific knowledge.
The Apostolic Fathers took a less clear-cut position. This is the case first of the Epistle of St. Clement of Rome to the Corinthians. Salvation rests on an initiative of divine mercy. But we can not obtain this salvation without the concurrence of our works. We are already the antipodes of Calvinism. But the third proposition of St. Clement truly illuminates the texts of St. Paul: virtuous works are themselves a gift of God. Just as Freewill is a gift from God, our good works are only possible through a gift from God. St. Clement thus finds himself in total opposition to Calvin's rationalist thesis. The recognition of the gifts of God leaves all its grandeur, so to speak, to the divine mystery, and also to the mystery of man. For the divine gift implies the possibility of access to the gift. Man receives divine gifts through faith which itself is a gift.
One could say that there is a rational basis in this approach. The point of departure, the gift, is not a fact of reason. But the consequences, in the actions of men in particular, are due to the use of reason, but also to our physical faculties, since thoughts must be converted into acts, would it be only the prayer.
Rationalism is not only measured by the use of human logic. The problem is the starting point. There is no science without premises, principles or postulates stated a priori. We must start somewhere! The drama of Calvin is to attribute to God thoughts according to the human way of thinking. By resting his reasoning on the free gift of God, St. Clement leaves to God and man all their mystery. The gap is in the starting point. St. Clement starts from the possibility of God's gift to man. Calvin starts from the possibility of divine prescience, and therefore of the possibility of a scientific knowledge by God.
For St. Augustine: “The mystery of predestination is reduced to this: 1. By his omnipotent grace, God restores the freedom of man, who because of sin is evil de facto, capable of meritorious works; 2. By a permission suggested by his secret judgments, God, in certain cases, leaves the liberty of man, in fact, bad. The mystery is therefore that of the divine election: ex massa perditionis. It is a mystery of justice and goodness” (Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique III-I- 3-1-1b ã Letouzey et Ané).
The position of St. Augustine, repeated on several occasions in his writings, was the object of many debates during his lifetime. By relying ultimately on the mystery of the divine gift, he takes up the thesis of St. Clement. It is the most beautiful interpretation of the texts of St. Paul. It operates the perfect link with the necessity of the works evoked without ambiguity by the Epistle of St. James (2: 14-20): “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, Go in peace; keep warm and well fed, but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, You have faith; I have deeds. Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?” (St James 2: 14-20)
On the contrary, this can be seen as a justification of the progressives’ position. Faith: of course, but only works. The second commandment would suffice for itself since it is identical with the first. The liturgy? What for?
Calvin's rational vision of predestination and his negation of Freewill contrasts with his vision of God. It is inspired by a completely different approach. Curiously, this approach is the opposite of rationalism. From a philosophical point of view, the sovereign good emanates from God. God is therefore goodness itself. Deus is caritas. Thinking that God can harm men is thus an unfathomable philosophical contradiction. God can only want good. These are the very words of St. Thomas Aquinas: “Amor Dei is cause bonitatis rerum.” It must also be remarked that the verb “to want” attributed to God keeps something human from which He is certainly and absolutely very far. Just as curiously, Calvin support the avenging and aggressive nature of God, but without any reference. He is the God of the Old Testament. The idea is so prevalent in the Old Testament that Calvin probably did not have the thought that it could be otherwise.
Moreover, even St Paul sometimes takes up this conception of God: “For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.” (Rom 11-29-36). To do evil to do good is certainly a position fully contrary to the Gospel. I imagine that St. Paul addressed essentially to converted Jews and was influenced by his Hebrew education. Moreover, he was always marked by the position of the Old Testament with regard to women. He only quotes the name of Mary once (Rom 16: 6), but he is not the mother of the Lord. On the other hand, St. Paul's position on predestination can not be based on the Old Testament, where it simply does not exist.
The texts of St. Paul are one of the great justifications used by Calvin in favor of predestination. St. Clement has shown that predestination without Freewill is in fact an utterly erroneous interpretation of the letters of St. Paul. God has given everything, even the being itself, but above all good, essentially charitable works. There is a contradiction between Freewill and predestination only in human reason. Science, the knowledge of the world by man, is besides purely causal. How can a necessarily deterministic Universe be reconciled with Freewill? This is obviously impossible. The negation of Freewill is the most characteristic aspect of the doctrines of Luther and Calvin. But, our knowledge of the Universe is limited by origin, the Creation. It is a mystery, for the philosopher necessarily, but also for the scientist, even if he refuses this limitation of knowledge.
Creation is a mystery. The Freewill a gift.
After this general introduction we shall enter into the master work of Calvin. The objective is to show where a purely rationalist vision has led. To tell the truth, we already knew: to Positivism and to atheist materialism. It is not surprising that most positivists are of Protestant origin. One could oppose the Catholic origin of Auguste Comte. It would be forgotten that he left this religion, still adolescent, under the influence of Daniel Encontre, his professor of mathematics, belonging to a family of Protestant pastors. Following him, we can cite the philosophers Hippolyte Taine, Émile Littré, sociologist Max Weber, psychologist, William James, mathematician Henri Poincaré, polytechnicien as Comte. Of all the band, Pierre Duhem is the only one who has dared to affirm a profound truth: “The Catholic religion promotes scientific progress”. For this progress obviously did not wait for the sixteenth century and the arrival of Luther and Calvin. From point of view of Duhem, “Physics proceeds by an autonomous method, absolutely independent of any metaphysical opinion.” One sees that it placed deep limits on the absolute ambitions of Comte towards the total knowledge of the Universe. In other words, he would have rejected without hesitation the relativistic myth of the unification of forces in view of the final explanation.
1. The Treaty of the justification, extracted from the Institution of the Christian Religion translated by R.C. Sproul, this book exists only in French)
Calvin's position rests on interpretations of a number of passages from the letters of St. Paul, often quoted by St. Augustine.
Let us begin with the problem of the Law: “man’s only resource for escaping from the curse of the law, and recovering salvation, lies in faith” (sect. 1). "The cause of the rejection of the Jews to have been, that they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.” (sect. 13 quoting Rom. 10-3). “Hence it follows, that so long as the minutes portion of our own righteousness remains, we have still some ground for boasting. Now if faith utterly excludes boasting, the righteousness of works cannot in any way be associated with the righteousness of faith.” (sect. 13). Calvin therefore claims that we must abolish our justice.
Calvin's reasoning has a logical appearance. Logic is perfect for geometry, filled with transcendental beings. It is not the same for our life on this Earth. We are immersed in an ocean of relationships. The Law of God is absolute. It is in this sense that we are necessarily in default with regard to the Law. The problem of works is that they can not be just with respect to the absolute. The Pharisees relativized the Fa by interpreting it in a formal and literal way. This attitude gives the illusion of respecting the Fa and therefore leads one to think oneself right. The Law is absolute, and works are judged by the yardstick of the absolute. This is the parable of the employees of the vineyard. Each one is judged individually in relation to the absolute and not in relation to human laws like equal pay for equal work.
What is condemned without ambiguity by the letters of St.-Paul, it is to think to be just with regard to the Law and thus to claim to be elected by this fact.
Works, therefore, are in no way excluded from the judgment which, moreover, can only be applied to works, but not only in relation to the Law of Scripture, but in relation to the Law of Absolute Love of Jesus Christ. “Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21). “if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing” (Cor. 13). It is therefore that faith is nothing if it is alone and that it can bring no justification by itself. Love is also necessary and love exist only through works. For Calvin quotes St. Paul: “Charity is the end and fulfilling of the Law (1 Tim. 1:5). “ (Inst. Rel. p. 200).
In total contradiction to this text of St. Paul, Calvin absolutely denies the utility of works. He relies on another passage of St Paul: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph. 2-8-9).
Now, it can not be inferred from this passage that works are totally useless, as Calvin writes. Grace and faith are needed to be saved. Works do not intervene in salvation, but in judgment. Grace, and the faith it brings, is necessary for salvation, but salvation rests on judgment. But what is the judgment about, except on works? If the judgment concerned only the reception of the grace and therefore of the faith, the verdict would be pronounced before the judgment since it intervenes after the death. Grace has no object after death. The problem of faith no longer arises. It is therefore a question of judging the acts. And acts are judged in relation to the Law of Love taught by Jesus of Nazareth. This is what St. James says loud and clear: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, Go in peace; keep warm and well fed, but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, You have faith; I have deeds. Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.” (Jc 2: 14-18).
Calvin also interprets a passage from St. Augustine: “The only hope of the faithful who groan under the burden of their corruptible flesh and under the infirmities of present life, says St. Augustine, is that we have a mediator, Jesus Christ, Who has obtained for us the remission of our sins. What can these words mean? If the faithful have only this hope, where is the confidence of works? For, in saying that this is the only hope of the faithful, he leaves them no other” (Traité de la Justification 1693 p. 164). Now, St. Augustine has by no means written that the exclusive mediation of Jesus Christ did not pass through works, through love of neighbor. There is in fact no ambiguity in the text of St. Augustine. Jesus Christ is indeed the exclusive mediator, but this in no way implies, as Calvin claims, that this mediation is totally disconnected from works. Obviously, mediation does not go through works. It passes exclusively through Christ. But this mediation operates according to the works, on the basis of the judgment in relation to the Law of charity, of love. To speak like the Thomists: one thing is mediation, another the action of mediation. One thing grace, another the action of grace. One thing faith, another the action of faith.
Another aspect of Calvin's thought is the essentially bad nature of man. "What are mortals, that they could be pure, or those born of woman, that they could be righteous? If God places no trust in his holy ones, if even the heavens are not pure in his eyes, how much less mortals, who are vile and corrupt, who drink up evil like water!" (Job 15-14 to 16).
Was not man created in the image of God? Did not God take the condition of man in Jesus of Nazareth? There is, therefore, another attitude than this autoflagellation, which can easily be derived from a feeling of self-justification: since I recognize myself as unworthy, am I not an Elect of God?
The other attitude is to glorify God and praise him for having made us in his image. To thank Him for having given us a spirit and a heart and a body also which is certainly not contemptible like Calvin judges. The absurdity would obviously be to take pride in our condition. Everything has been given to us. And this gift is certainly not a despicable thing as one reads it in Calvin in particular. Yes, man is an extraordinary creature. But of course, he did not create himself.
Calvin's argument is that man was created good, but the original sin of Adam and Eve plunged him into “corruption and rot.” Adam and Eve did not exist in the literal sense of Genesis. It is a symbol like all the story of Creation. Yet this symbol covers a reality. But no human thought can express the mystery of this reality: the mystery of Creation. And by baptism comes another mystery: the erasing of the original sin, thanks to the sacrifice of Jesus of Nazareth for the whole of Humanity and not only for the baptized. We can no longer say that man is damned by nature. It would deny the redemptive grace of the crucifixion. Calvin's morbid vision remains absolutely paradoxical, incomprehensible.
Starting from damnation, rather than salvation, Calvin then questions the justification: “Who will be saved say the disciples to Jesus? He replied that what was impossible to men was not impossible to God. This, said St. Bernard, is our only consolation, this is the foundation of our hope. But though we are certain that he is all-powerful, what shall we say of his will? Who is the one who can know whether he is worthy of love or hate? For who knew the intention of the Lord to be able to instruct him? It is necessary here that faith and truth should come to our aid, so that what concerns us and which is hidden in the Father's heart be revealed to us by his Spirit by bearing witness to us, persuading our hearts that we are children Of God, and persuade them by calling us and justifying us gratuitously by faith, for vocation and justification are as the medium through which we must pass from eternal predestination to the glory to come”. (Traité de la Justification 1693 , pp. 216 & 217).
If, then, man is to receive from the Holy Spirit the revelation that he is a child of God, that he is called, and is therefore justified, man then knows that he is worthy of the love of God. God. Man, therefore, would have knowledge of his predestination to eternal salvation, if necessary, during his lifetime: “But if the fetcheries we endure come to us from other side than men, let us think of what is said in the Law. Is that all prosperity flows from the source of the blessing of God, and that all calamities are so many curses also coming from Him (Deut 28: 2ff.)” (Traité de la Justification 1693, p. 101).
This position, fundamentally totally contrary to all the affirmations of the New Testament, is at the origin of a characteristic attitude among many Protestants and which is the basis of the theses of the sociologist Max Weber. Protestants would be much more competent for business than Catholics. For many, social success is like a proof of divine protection and therefore of predestination to eternal salvation. As is often the case with the Protetants, passages from the Gospel are taken literally, like the passage of St. Matthew: “The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. Master, he said, you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more. His master replied, Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25, 14-30). To derive profit from its talents and to fruit his money would be a proof of the divine favor reserved for the Elect. The Medici and the Fuggers were Catholics. Catholics made huge fortunes well before and after Luther. An interesting example is Albrech Dürer. He has made fruitfull his talents, and his fortune as well, and remains a Catholic. He was at first tempted by Luther's ideas of Reform, but in view of his obstinacy against all reason, and especially his violence, Dürer stood behind Erasmus and the Catholic humanists, a rather useless precision, for there could be hardly found any humanist outside of Catholics. This is what is conveyed by an atheist philosopher of our time, Marcel Gaucheux. Catholic humanism is inscribed in the Rights of Man and no one can oppose this immense progress today. Gaucheux concludes that the Catholic religion having delivered its message would no longer be useful. It must be pointed out that the word humanism was used willy-nilly, so that the Marxists took themselves for humanists. I doubt that the millions of victims of the Soviet gulags and their Chinese counterparts could have shared this view.
We find this attitude among many Protestants as well as many Jews. So that one of them said: “If you do not have a Rolex at age 40, you have missed your life”. But among the Jews there is no predestination other than to belong to the chosen people. Additionally, salvation is individual and is obtained by the respect of the Law of Moses. One can say that Calvin has a regressive vision of salvation, of a fetishistic nature much more than biblical.
Calvin does not shrink from any contradiction. If the works are of no use, then why: “There are some who, having been initiated by the sacraments into the Christian religion, renounce by the impurity of their life and by their actions, the God whom they confess with their mouths and are Christians only by name. Some who are hypocritical hide their wickedness under deceptive appearances. Finally, some who are regenerated by the spirit of God study themselves to true sanctity (Traité de la Justification 1693, p. 227).
I pass over those who “being entirely deprived of the knowledge of God are buried in idolatry; no spark of good will be found in them.” (id.). For them, no possible redemption. Acts and works can therefore lead to damnation. Therefore, they intervene in salvation, contrary to Calvin's constant assertions. As for those who know themselves predestined, their works seem not to be useless, since they strive to live holy lives! Would it be that a less holy life could, in spite of their predestination to eternal salvation, devote them to Gehenna?
What does mean a holy life for Calvin?
Calvin interprets in his own way a passage from St. Augustine: “All who are distant from religion are worthy of punishment, far from deserving any reward, whatever may be the admiration which has been conceived of them because of The reputation of their virtue; because by the impurity of their heart they defile the goods of God which are pure. For although they are the instruments God uses to preserve the society of men in the practice of justice, continence, friendship, temperance.” (Traité de la Justification 1693, p. 235). Yet this text is perfectly clear. Of course, the practice of the just works enumerated by St. Augustine is a gift of God to men. But Augustine does not say that the concrete realization of these works in this world is not significant. On the contrary, they are the very basis of God's judgment on men. True, there is a gift first, but there is also judgment. Now Calvin never evokes judgment. For Calvin, judgment is a prerequisite because it is part of predestination. God would not need to judge, having in advance knowledge of everything. Predestination eliminates judgment. It is true that this is also a mystery. The mystery of the end of the World, really imbricated in the mystery of Creation.
Calvin tries to draw a proof of predestination in St. John: “Moreover, if what St. John says is true, that he who has not the Son of God has not life Then those who are not partakers of Jesus Christ whoever they may be, whatever they may do and whatever they strive to do throughout the course of their lives, run to their misfortune and judgment which is Eternal death. It is for this reason that St. Augustine expresses himself thus: Our religion does not discern the righteous from the unjust by the law of works, but from the law of faith, without which works which seem good are converted into sins” (Boniface, 3 chap. 5, Traité de la Justification 1693, p. 239).
St. Paul met Jesus of Nazareth on the way to Damascus, whereas he had fought fiercely against the Christians. It is therefore that one who has not known Jesus Christ may one day meet him. It is true that it is not by itself, but by grace. But can it be said that St. Paul was at first predestined to fight against Christ, and then predestined to proclaim his Gospel? Moreover, St. John does not say that works are useless, but we can understand that they are useless without faith in the Christ. This is also what St Augustine says. Faith, the gift of the grace, is necessary, but it does not say that works are not. The answer, often made to Calvinism, is that works are also a gift from God. But we can take this position for a negation of Freewill. For man would be given good works without any personal intervention. The only answer is that Freewill is a gift in itself. And this gift leaves man the freedom to follow the path of Christ. It is the use of this freedom that is judged the last day. Otherwise, the very idea of Judgment would have no meaning.
The following text confirms the position of Calvin: “For as regards the beginning of the Justification, we have no quarrel with the scholastics, who have some reasons and some equity. They remain in agreement with us, that the sinner being freed from the condemnation is justified. The difference there is that under the word justification they understand the renewal by which the Spirit of God reforms us to obey the Law. For this is how they define the righteousness of a truly regenerated man. They say that when man is once reconciled to God by faith in Jesus Christ, God reputes him just because of his works and in consideration of his merits.” ((Traité de la Justification 1693, p. 278 and 279). Those whom Calvin calls the scholastics, perhaps referring to the Thomists, separate the judgment from the faith. Calvin uses the word "repute" instead of "judge" who is the only one which actually suits. Of course, Calvin can not accept the idea of judgment which implies a posteriority to works, but above all a posteriority to the faith. From a rational point of view, there can be no duration in the nature of God. Calvin therefore refuses the mystery of Creation and its corollary of the end of the World. For the Creation and the End involve duration, which is paradoxical for the divine existence in the human thought. This is the foundation of this mystery.
Calvin seems to have great difficulty in convincing himself of the inanity of works. So many texts affirm the contrary! Therefore, he finally teaches us that works are nevertheless necessary: “It is therefore necessary that the purification of the heart precedes works, if we want those which proceed from us to be accepted by God and received favorably, for in the end these words of Jeremiah remain always firm: let the eyes of God look to loyalty. And besides, the Holy Spirit has assured us through the mouth of St. Peter that it is by faith alone that our hearts are purified. Hence it follows that it is on true and lively faith that the first foundation of our justice must be founded” (Traité de la Justification 1693, p. 268). We read further that “The sacrifice of the wicked is abomination to the Lord, but the request of the uprights is pleasing to him. It is, therefore, something to be regarded as incontestable, and on which those who are so well versed in the knowledge of the Scriptures can be certain that the works which proceed from men who are not yet really sanctified whatever appearance they may have can only be considered as sins far away that God imputes to them for justice” (Traité de la Justification 1693, p. 266)
In reality, Calvin confirms here that human works are of no use. Much worse, they are only sins: “It is not surprising that works that have been sanctified in the Lord's law become soiled by the impurity of the wicked, and that what an impure hand touches can only make impure what is holy.” (Traité de la Justification 1693, p. 263). They are purified for the predestinated only: “One thing is certain that we can not attain any perfection, while we are clothed in our flesh and that, moreover, the Law pronounces judgment and death against those who will not fulfilled all righteousness by their works; the law would always have something to accuse us and convince us if the mercy of God does not intervene and absolve us by a continual remission of our sins” (Traité de la Justification 1693, p. 276). Our works can only be irremediably bad, except to be purified by divine favor. It is unquestionable that works are of no use in salvation, and that there is no form of divine judgment in the doctrine of Calvin.
One must read attentively what Calvin writes, otherwise one might think that he contradicts himself. It is also the case of this passage: “For if at the moment that we recall in our memory all the gifts which it pleased God to depart to us, these gifts are in some way like rays of his face which illuminate us, so that we may contemplate the light of His sovereign goodness: even more so our good works, which are the effects of His grace, must bear us to this contemplation, since they reveal to us that the Spirit of Adoption has been given us.” (Traité de la Justification 1693, p. 318).
On the one hand, one reads here that the predestined one is conscious of his state. The saved would know he was saved. His works, which may well be identical to those of the damned, and equally filled with solicitude for others, are good because of their purification brought by divine grace to the only predestined. It is always the negation of the judgment of God.
Overzealousness is equally useless, as if there was a limit to what one owes to God. The Law, nothing but the Law, and even if it were respected, it serves as nothing, as Calvin never ceases to affirm. “Indeed, boasting of having done works of supererogation, [ie, going beyond the Law] how can this accord with this commandment: When you have done all things which are commanded, say: we are useless servants because what we were required to do, we did (Luke 17-10). That is why the Lord commands us to acknowledge sincerely and to consider in ourselves, that we can not give him free duties and that all those whom we render him, we are obliged to give back to them” (Traité de la Justification 1693, p. 294).
One could only accept this other passage of Calvin: “There are two main plagues that we must overcome from our hearts in this situation, one is the trust in our works and the other the raise and the glory that we could assign them “(Traité de la Justification 1693, p. 303). That would be after a very quick reading. For Calvin, works are always sins in themselves. They do not take into account, not by a judgment on their quality, but on a divine decision to purify them when they are carried out by predestined persons. In this case, the predestined has all the good reasons to be all joyful of his good works: “First, it is that comparing their good cause with that of the wicked, which is evil, they conceive a certain hope of their victory, not so much in consideration of their justice, which is the cause of the just condemnation which their enemies have deserved. Secondly, in recognizing themselves before God, even though they do not compare with anyone, the purity of their consciousness makes them feel much consolation and gives them full confidence.“ (Traité de la Justification 1693, p. 314).
Calvin always uses the same interpretation filter. His method consists in absolutizing the texts, that is to say in rendering the affirmations exclusive. This is also the case here: “This is what St. Augustine demonstrates very elegantly and in a few words when he speaks in this way: I do not say to the Lord: do not despise the works of my hands. I have sought the Lord with my hands and I am not disappointed. However, I do not praise the works of my hands, for I am afraid that when you come to cast your eyes you will find more sins than merits. I say only this and this is the only thing I ask and desire: do not despise the works of my hands. See Your works in me, and not mine. For if you see mine, you can only condemn them, whereas if you see yours, you will crown them. Now all the good works that I do proceed from you. St. Augustine alleges two reasons why he would not dare to show and praise his works before God. The first is that if he sees in them something good, he sees that it does not proceed from him and the second that what is even good is overcome by the multitude of his sins.“ (Traité de la Justification 1693, p. 326 & 327).
Calvin draws from this text the negation of the Freewill and the total inanity of the works. On the contrary, in this text, St. Augustine contemplates the judgment of God on his life, at his death or at the last judgment. It is an act of humility before God. Moreover, St. Augustine evokes his good works. He think they are good, but obviously before the infinite goodness of God, the goodness of human works is always negligible. At no time did St Augustine write that all our good works are necessarily impure as Calvin writes. The divine mercy is to grant, nevertheless, a value to our good works, that is to say, complying witht is will.
To be truly precise, it should be noted that Calvin envisages God's judgment: “The remission of sins being thus made the first, the works that come next are considered in relation to anything other than their merit, for all that they are imperfect is covered by the perfection of Jesus Christ and all that they have of stains and defilements is cleansed by its purity so that they do not come to account before the judgment of God.” (Traité de la Justification 1693, p. 464). But precisely Calvin excludes the works of men from judgment. You will never know what this judgment is for Calvin? Judgment precedes acts because they are included in predestination.
He relies on St. Bernard to reach the same conclusion: “These words of St. Bernard, in which he says that as it is enough to merit not to presume of any merit, it is enough to have none to be judged. This expression is hard, but St. Bernard softened its hardness by first explaining his thought. Take pains, he said, to have merits. When you have them, acknowledge that they are given you. Hope in the fruit of the mercy of God.” Again, this is an act of humility exactly like that of St. Augustine. Nevertheless, we must have merits in view of the judgment. St. Bernard seems to contradict himself by disregarding the merits of the judgment. In reality, he speaks of the merits of which one would like to boast.
Calvin's negation of the judgment is even clearer hereafter: “For we do not imagine a dead faith, or a justification which can subsist without good works; but here is the difference we make, that although we agree that faith and good works are necessarily united to each other, we make justice consist in faith and not in works” (Traité de la Justification 1693, p. 386). Judgment would therefore focus exclusively on faith and not on works. But if faith is given to the predestinated, then the judgment is devoid of content since God would judge what he has decided from all eternity!
Finally, Calvin comes to the innumerable texts which contradict his doctrine. We are going to pass from the bad Roman translations, in the sense that we must give according to him to the words used by the authors of the sacred texts, passing by the total rejection of the sacred texts too contrary to his theses.
I shall begin with the latter. Exit the Ecclesiastic: “Mercy shall give place to every man according to the merit of his works”. Exit the Epistle to the Hebrews: “But to do good and to communicate forget not, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”. Calvin added: “Although I could reject the authority of the Ecclesiastic, I do not wish to exercise my right, but I deny that the author of this book has been cited faithfully, whatever it may be, and the natural meaning of these Words which have been corrupted in the Latin version.” (Traité de la Justification 1693, p. 352). In fact, Cavin denies any theological value to the Ecclesiastic. And he does not hide what he thinks of the Epistle to the Hebrews.
In the same way, one should understand the word just in the sense retained by Calvin: “We see now that there is not much cause to be alarmed by what the faithful are so often called righteous in the Scriptures? I confess, surely, that they are called by that name because of the holiness of their lives. But as they apply much more to the study of justice than they do, it is quite reasonable that the justice of works whatever be, yields to Justification by the faith from which it holds everything what it is.“ (Traité de la Justification 1693, p. 478).
Finally, we must come to the confrontation of the letter of St. James and the letters of St. Paul. It would only be a vocabulary problem. The word faith does not have the same objective, if not the same meaning in these texts.
“But our adversaries are not here. They say that St. James is so opposed to us that it is not possible for us to respond to the difficulty which arises from the words of this apostle: for he teaches that Abraham was justified by his works, and so do we as long as we are justified by works and not only by faith. But what can be their thought? Do they pretend that St. Paul and St. James contradict each other in this encounter? If they consider St. James to be the minister of Jesus Christ, they must explain his words in such a way that they conform to those of that divine savior who spoke through the mouth of St. Paul. The Holy Spirit assures by the mouth of this apostle that Abraham has obtained justice by faith and not by works and we say similarly that we are justified by faith without the works of the Law. The same Spirit teaches, through the ministry of St. James, that the righteousness of Abraham and ours depends not only on faith, but also on works. It is certain, however, that the Holy Spirit does not contradict himself. In what way should we reconcile things? The objective of St. James is to show how ridiculous these men were to imagine being faithful to that vain phantom of faith: they manifested their infidelity by neglecting and ceasing to do the works which ought to distinguish the faithful, and nevertheless did not fail to boast of having false faith” (Traité de la Justification 1693, p. 479 then 484).
For Calvin, this is a problem of words. Faith and justification do not have the same meaning in the two texts: “Our adversaries make two paralogisms by misinterpreting at the same time the term faith and that of justifying. What St. James calls faith is nothing but a frivolous opinion far removed from the truth of faith, which he has done by way of concession without in any way derogating from the true cause as he demonstrates it the beginning of his words: my brothers who will profit by faith if any one says that he has faith and that he does not have works? (Traité de la Justification 1693, p. 479 then 486).
Calvin justifies his position by the interpretation that this faith is only an illusion of faith that is limited to believing that there is a God.
With regard to “The other paralogism: it seems that St. James puts into the works a part of our justification. Let us therefore grant this apostle with all the writing and with himself, we must necessarily take the term to justify in another sense than it takes in St. Paul. In the sense of St. Paul, we are said to be justified, when the memory of our injustice being effaced, we are deemed righteous. If St. James had spoken in this view, he would have wrongly quoted the testimony of Moses. Abraham believed in God. For here is how these words are related to the preceding ones. Abraham was justified by the works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar. And so the writing was fulfilled saying that Abraham believed and it was allotted to him for righteousness.” (Traité de la Justification 1693, p. 479 then 489).
This passage is enlightened by these lines a few pages before: our enemies “say, as I have already insinuated, that if St. Paul has no stronger argument to prove the justice of faith than that which is written of Abraham: that faith has been imputed to him for righteousness, that we may conclude with regard to works what the apostle concludes (Rom 4-3 Gal. 3-6) with regard to faith, since is said of the action of Phinehas that it was also allocated for righteousness. And this is also the consequence they draw. For as if they had gained victory, they decide, after having agreed with us, that we are justified by faith, that we are not by faith alone, and that works are necessary to render our justice accomplished. I conjure good people here who know that the true rule of righteousness must be taken from Scripture alone” (Traité de la Justification 1693, p. 479 then 460).
Scripture asserts on many occasions that works will be judged at the last day. A judgment can only relate to acts in relation to criteria. Here there is only one: the law of love demanded by Jesus of Nazareth. Again, how could the judgment be about obtaining faith through grace? Since it is God who gives grace, why should a judgment be required? The cause would be tried from all eternity!
Calvin finds confirmation of his interpretation of St. Paul: “They allege in the same sense this passage of St. Paul: it is not those who listen to the Law who are righteous before God, but those who put the Law into effect will be justified (Rom 2-13). I do not wish to make use of the solution of St. Ambrose who states that it was said because the fulfillment of the Law is faith in Jesus Christ” (Traité de la Justification 1693, p. 479 then 494).
It is therefore that the words of St. James do not have to be brought into conformity with all the rest of the Scriptures, for they are here entirely similar to those of St. Paul. St. Ambrose's argument goes in the direction of Calvin, who rests salvation on the faith only, moreover, given by divine grace. But, of course, St. Ambrose does not reject the judgment of works.
There are, however, other passages of the Scriptures still clearer: “Let us now turn to the passages where it is said that God will give to each according to his works. These are the ones that follow: each will win in his body according to what he has done either right or wrong (Rom 6-9-10). There will be tribulations and anguish over every soul of man who does evil, but glory honor and peace will be for all who do good. And they will come forth to know them that have done well in the resurrection of life. But those who have done wrong in the resurrection of damnation” (Traité de la Justification 1693, p. 479 then 514 & 515).
Calvin adds other passages a little farther: “Let them do good; that they are rich in good works and that they are quick to give and share their goods to those who need them, making themselves a treasure of a good foundation for the future so that they may obtain life Eternal (Tim. 6:17). Good works are compared, as we see here, with wealth which we shall enjoy in the beatitude of eternal life. I reply that we shall never have a true understanding of these passages until we know the purpose which the Holy Spirit has had there. If what Jesus Christ says is true where our treasure is also our heart. As the children of the age attach themselves to nothing with so much application as to acquire that which is the happiness of the present life.” (Traité de la Justification 1693, p. 548 to 550).
Hence it is no longer a question of words alone, but of the impossibility of understanding these passages, not because of a lack of clarity but because of a hidden intention of the Holy Spirit. One wonders why then the texts used by Calvin to justify his doctrine would be exempt from this sort of difficulty. Could it be that Calvin would have known the intentions of the Holy Spirit?
Yet there is still doubt. We come to the end of Calvin's argument. The works, though, is it really nothing? "And not only by virtue of these promises of the Gospel the Lord accepts our works, but besides this he accompanies them with blessings which he had promised by his covenant to those who would have fulfilled the Law. I confess therefore that the faithful obtains by their works the reward which the Lord had promised in his Law to those who were truly righteous and truly holy, but we must always look at the causes which attract this grace.”(Traité de la Justification 1693, p. 427).
This cause, it will be learned a little farther still, is predestination. And the consequence is that the judgment of God does not relate to righteous works, but only to the predestination to receive the grace of faith: “The remission of sins being thus made first, the works that come next are considered in relation to everything other than their merit, for all that is imperfect is covered by the perfection of Jesus Christ, and all that they have of stains and defilements is cleansed by purity so that they do not come before the judgment of God” (Traité de la Justification 1693, p. 479 then 464).
2. Institution of the Christian Religion, Jean Calvin (Translated by Henry Beveridge)
This fundamental book of Calvin is the consequence of his doctrine on the practice of religion.
The most well-known aspect relates to the munificence due to God. Calvin as Luther completely denies its utility. He then takes up the old arguments of the Iconoclasts against the representations of God and the saints in the churches.
“and the other Sacred rites do not require gold, and things which are not bought with gold, please not by gold. They step beyond the boundary, therefore, when in sacred matters they are so much delighted with gold, driver, ivory, marble, gems, and silks, that unless everything is overlaid with costly show, or rather insane luxury …It was a Father who said, It is a horrid abomination to see in Christian temples a painted image either of Christ or of any saint. Nor was this pronounced by the voice era single individual; but an Ecclesiastical Council also decreed, "Let nought that is worshipped be depicted on walls." Very far are they from keeping within these boundaries when they leave not a corner without images” (Epistle to the King of France Francis).
Progressives will not go that far. They will retain the rejection of all munificence for a reason that would have been worthless to Calvin. Love of neighbor would pass first. Give your money to the poor, not only first, but exclusively. The passage of the Gospel on the widow who gives all that she has to the treasury of the Temple of Jerusalem, aimed in particular to complete its construction, contradicts this narrow vision.
Calvin claims that the representations of God and of the saints were excluded from the churches at the beginning of Christendom. “First, then, if we attach any weight to the authority of the ancient Church, let us remember, that for five hundred years, during which religion was in a more prosperous condition, and a purer doctrine flourished, Christian churches were completely free from visible representations. Hence their first admission as an ornament to churches took place after the purity of the ministry had somewhat degenerated.” (I Ch11 par 13).
It is a total error resulting from ignorance. The chalice of the sanctuary of St. Sergius of Rosafa in Syria, dating from the years 380, wears a Christ crowned with a crucifere nimbus. But there is much more ancient: the representations of Christ in the Roman catacombs date from the beginning of the 2nd century. The earliest known aureole of Jesus of Nazareth appears on gems, supposed to be of Gnostic origin. One of the two gems is dated from the 2nd century. From the beginning of the Christian era, the face of Christ appearing on the Shroud was exposed in a rectangular frame leaving a circular opening.
It was not until the eighth and ninth centuries that an iconoclast wave flooded over the Empire of Constantinople and caused massive destruction of statues and paintings and the persecution of the supporters of images. The West was spared by this wave of madness which ended at the second Council of Nicaea, as Calvin remarked: “Enough, I believe, would have been said on this subject, were I not in a manner arrested by the Council of Nice; not the celebrated Council which Constantine the Great assembled, but one which was held eight hundred years ago by the orders and under the auspices of the Empress Irene. This Council decreed not only that images were to be used in churches, but also that they were to be worshipped. Every thing, therefore, that I have said, is in danger of suffering great prejudice from the authority of this Synod. To confess the truth, however, I am not so much moved by this consideration, as by a wish to make my readers aware of the lengths to which the infatuation has been carried by those who had a greater fondness for images than became Christians. But let us first dispose of this matter. Those who defend the use of images appeal to that Synod for support. But there is a refutation extant which bears the name of Charlemagne, and which is proved by its style to be a production of that period.” (I Ch11 par 14).
In the same vein as iconoclasm, one can also notice an attack of Calvin against the cult of the saints: “The distinction of what is called dulia and latria was invented for the very purpose of permitting divine honours to be paid to angels and dead men with apparent impunity. For it is plain that the worship which Papists pay to saints differs in no respect from the worship of God: for this worship is paid without distinction; only when they are pressed they have recourse to the evasion, that what belongs to God is kept unimpaired, because they leave him latria. But since the question relates not to the word, but the thing, how can they be allowed to sport at will with a matter of the highest moment? But not to insist on this, the utmost they will obtain by their distinction is, that they give worship to God, and service to the others. For λατρεία (latrei`a) in Greek has the same meaning as worship in Latin; whereas δουλειά (doulei`a) properly means slavery, though the words are sometimes used in Scripture indiscriminately. But granting that the distinction is invariably preserved, the thing to be questioned is the meaning of each. Doulei`a unquestionably means slavery, and latrei`a worship. But no man doubts that to serve is something higher than to worship. For it were often a hard thing to serve him whom you would not refuse to reverence. It is, therefore, an unjust division to assign the greater to the saints and leave the less to God. But several of the ancient fathers observed this distinction. What if they did, when all men see that it is not only improper, but utterly frivolous?” (I Ch12 par 2).
In reality, the Church has always struggled against the cult of images and the excesses of the cult of the saints. One can not deny a quasi-perpetual resurgence of a form of superstitious idolatry in certain practices. Images are only a support for prayer. They set our attention so easy to divert. We generally need benchmarks and recalls in all our activities. Few people can stay focused on a subject for more than a few minutes with no other activity than thought! Acts are needed to fix attention. The sight basically made us distract from our current occupation. Eyes closed, it is the ear that will take charge of turning us away. So there must be silence. It is nowadays a rare commodity.
The distinction evoked by Calvin remains unknown to the faithful today. The Church has long insisted on the idea of intercession, less scholastic than the concepts of Latria and Dulia. But intercession can also lead to excesses. One comes to no longer pray the Holy Spirit! No one knows the Veni Creator and even less the magnificent Veni Sancte Spiritus. I have occasionally heard a vague translation from the first in a church of Lausanne.
This is followed by statements of a rationalist nature: “It is a Father who testifies, ‘That the substance of bread and wine in the Eucharist does not cease but remains, just as the nature and substance of man remains united to the Godhead in the Lord Jesus Christ.’ This boundary they pass in pretending that, as soon as the words of our Lord are pronounced, the substance of bread and wine ceases, and is transubstantiated into body and blood. They were Fathers, who, as they exhibited only one Eucharist to the whole Church, and kept back from it the profane and flagitious; so they, in the severest terms, censured all those who, being present, did not communicate How far have they removed these landmarks, in filling not churches only, but also private houses, with their masses, admitting all and sundry to be present, each the more willingly the more largely he pays, however wicked and impure he may be,--not inviting any one to faith in Christ and faithful communion in the sacraments, but rather vending their own work for the grace and merits of Christ!” (Epistle to the King of France Francis).
Here we rejoin the mystery of Creation. What is existence? The scientists of the twentieth century claimed to have discovered it in an identity of energy and mass. Nothing remains of their lucubrations. Existence is an absolute concept, like time and space, which we are using to express our thoughts, but the concept itself can not be explained. We think by concepts, but we can not think the concepts themselves, we can not explain the concepts. The real presence of the Christ in the host is a mystery that enters into the mystery of the resurrection. What is the nature of the resurrected body? A changeable and corruptible matter like that which we seem to be formed? Is it not existence itself, underlying the mysteries of Creation and the End of the world?
The Catholic Church teaches us that the Christ is not only really present in the host, but in ourselves if we accept it. Calvin's rationalist position can not be reconciled with this mystery. Moreover, the God of Calvin is by no means a God of Love who would lean toward the Christian. It is the inaccessible and avenging God of the Old Testament.
We can not doubt, however, the profound faith which animates Calvin: “Nay, although learned men, and men of the greatest talent, should take the opposite side, summoning and ostentatiously displaying all the powers of their genius in the discussion; if they are not possessed of shameless effrontery, they will be compelled to confess that the Scripture exhibits clear evidence of its being spoken by God, and, consequently, of its containing his heavenly doctrine. The same Spirit, therefore, who spoke by the mouth of the prophets, must penetrate our hearts, in order to convince us that they faithfully delivered the message with which they were divinely entrusted. This connection is most aptly expressed by Isaiah in these words, ‘My Spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever,’ (Isa. 59:21)” (I Ch 7 par 4).
And a little further: “Read Demosthenes or Cicero, read Plato, Aristotle, or any other of that class: you will, I admit, feel wonderfully allured, pleased, moved, enchanted; but turn from them to the reading of the Sacred Volume, and whether you will or not, it will so affect you, so pierce your heart, so work its way into your very marrow, that, in comparison of the impression so produced, that of orators and philosophers will almost disappear; making it manifest that in the Sacred Volume there is a truth divine, a something which makes it immeasurably superior to all the gifts and graces attainable by man” (I Ch 8 par 1).
The following pages are all arguments in favor of his faith in the Scriptures. Calvin does not in any way attack the Catholic Church on this point, but atheists, Muslims and supporters of other religions and sects.
Calvin's problem stems from his interpretation of the texts. From the next page the heresies accumulate. And I do not speak only of theological heresies, but first of all philosophical. The very idea of God, infinite goodness, can not agree with the arbitrariness that Calvin attributes to it. Predestination is above all an irreducible contradiction on the philosophical level: “Nay, the modest and teachable reader will find a sufficient reason in the promise contained in Isaiah, that all the children of the renovated Church ‘shall be taught of the Lord,’ (Isaiah 54:13). This singular privilege God bestows on his Elect only, whom he separates from the rest of mankind. For what is the beginning of true doctrine but prompt alacrity to hear the Word of God? And God, by the mouth of Moses, thus demands to be heard: ‘It is not in heavens that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth and in thy heart,’ (Deut. 30:12, 14). God having been pleased to reserve the treasure of intelligence for his children, no wonder that so much ignorance and stupidity is seen in the generality of mankind. In the generality, I include even those specially chosen, until they are ingrafted into the body of the Church. Isaiah, moreover, while reminding us that the prophetical doctrine would prove incredible not only to strangers, but also to the Jews, who were desirous to be thought of the household of God, subjoins the reason, when he asks, ‘To whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’ (Isaiah 53:1). If at any time, then we are troubled at the small number of those who believe, let us, on the other hand, call to mind, that none comprehend the mysteries of God save those to whom it is given” (I Ch 7 par 5).
Recalling Luther's remarks, Calvin then asserts that everyone can interpret the scriptures. I quote the passage of Calvin without further comments on a problem already developed for Luther: “But in regard to those parts of Scripture which, to our capacities, are dark and intricate, what forbids us to explain them in clearer terms--terms, however, kept in reverent and faithful subordination to Scripture truth, used sparingly and modestly, and not without occasion?” (I Ch 13 par 3).
Calvin uses here the concept of subsistence with existence and essence. His argument was taken up by Cardinal de Bérulle in the great Thomist movement: “For the communication of Essence establishes the Mystery of the Trinity and the communication of Subsistence establishes the Mystery of the Incarnation” (The Works of Cardinal de Bérulle 1665, p. 192).
The passage of Calvin, certainly in a language of a time gone by, is not without importance. It is this argument which led to the condemnation by Calvin of Michel Servet (1511-1553) who developed a non-Trinitarian Christology. By order of Calvin, then at the municipal council of Geneva, Servetus was burnt alive: “But to say nothing more of words, let us now attend to the thing signified. By person, then, I mean a subsistence in the Divine essence,--a subsistence which, while related to the other two, is distinguished from them by incommunicable properties. By subsistence we wish something else to be understood than essence. For if the Word were God simply and had not some property peculiar to himself, John could not have said correctly that he had always been with God. When he adds immediately after, that the Word was God, he calls us back to the one essence. But because he could not be with God without dwelling in the Father, hence arises that subsistence, which, though connected with the essence by an indissoluble tie, being incapable of separation, yet has a special mark by which it is distinguished from it. Now, I say that each of the three subsistences while related to the others is distinguished by its own properties. Here relation is distinctly expressed, because, when God is mentioned simply and indefinitely the name belongs not less to the Son and Spirit than to the Father. But whenever the Father is compared with the Son, the peculiar property of each distinguishes the one from the other. Again, whatever is proper to each I affirm to be incommunicable, because nothing can apply or be transferred to the Son which is attributed to the Father as a mark of distinction. I have no objections to adopt the definition of Tertullian, provided it is properly understood, ‘that there is in God a certain arrangement or economy, which makes no change on the unity of essence’--Tertull. Lib. contra Praxeam” (I Ch 13 par 6).
Osiander (1498-1552), the same man who published the works of Copernicus in 1543 the year of his death, curiously rejecting in a preface of his hand that Copernicus had really wanted to propose a heliocentric system, Osiander, after having adhered to Lutheranism, fell under the wrath of Calvin concerning justification: “Nor, though the spirit is given by God, and when it quits the flesh again returns to him, does it follow that it is a portion withdrawn from his essence. Here, too, Osiander, carried away by his illusions entangled himself in an impious error, by denying that the image of God could be in man without his essential righteousness; as if God were unable, by the mighty power of his Spirit, to render us conformable to himself, unless Christ were substantially transfused into us.” (I Ch 15 par 5).
The most curious thing about Osiander's attitude towards Copernicus's heliocentrism is that he had nothing to fear from possible Vatican thunderstorms. He was profoundly Protestant. The idea that the Protestants could be more open-minded, as has been repeated for centuries, is somewhat illusory from the outset. The reality is that men of middle age are irreducibly enclosed in their convictions. The famous Max Planck saw in this human blemish the only reason for the persistence of the most enormous stupidities which have not ceased for thousands of years to infest the knowledge of Nature, pompously called scientific.
Then, recalling most of Aristotle's errors on the relation between perceptions and thought, Calvin returns to the original sin of Adam and Eve with some philosophical arguments: “First, I admit that there are five senses, which Plato (in Theæteto) prefers calling organs, by which all objects are brought into a common sensorium, as into a kind of receptacle: Next comes the imagination (phantasia), which distinguishes between the objects brought into the sensorium: Next, reason, to which the general power of Judgment belongs” (I Ch 15 par 6). What Calvin calls here fantasy is the translation of the Greek word φαντασία (phantasia), used in particular by Scot Erigena to designate the images of sensible objects in the mind. We recognize in these lines the thesis of Aristotle then commonly accepted following the comments of St. Thomas Aquinas. As we have seen, this philosophical doctrine amounts to denying the transcendental nature of the human mind and distinguishing man from the animal, from the plant, or even from the mineral, only by semantic subtleties.
Obviously, the consequences of Aristotle's theses on the notions of right and wrong are completely disrupted by the Scriptures. Calvin exposes at length his thesis of predestination and justification without works, of which I evoked in the first part.
We are now looking at the Freewill. It may be noted that Calvin is completely opposed to any idea of contingency, thus rejecting part of Thomas Aquinas' argument for the possibility of Freewill: “The thing to be proved, therefore, is, that single events are so regulated by God, and all events so proceed from his determinate counsel, that nothing happens fortuitously… This being admitted, it is certain that not a drop of rain falls without the express command of God.” (I Ch 16 par 5).; “it was a true saying of Basil the Great, that Fortune and Chance are heathen terms; the meaning of which ought not to occupy pious minds.” (I Ch 16 par 8).
It was more delicate to rely on St. Augustine. In a passage referring to his book Against the Academicians, St. Augustine combines this divine determinism with Freewill, a paradox made possible by the mysteries of Creation and the gift of Freewill. How will Calvin get out of it: by interpreting by semantic subtleties the Freewill accepted by St. Augustine: “We ought also to be moved by the words of Augustine (Retract. lib. 1 cap. 1), ‘In my writings against the Academics,’ says he, ‘I regret having so often used the term Fortune; although I intended to denote by it not some goddess, but the fortuitous issue of events in external matters, whether good or evil. Hence, too, those words, Perhaps, Perchance, Fortuitously, which no religion forbids us to use, though everything must be referred to Divine Providence. Nor did I omit to observe this when I said, Although, perhaps, that which is vulgarly called Fortune, is also regulated by a hidden order, and what we call Chance is nothing else than that the reason and cause of which is secret. It is true, I so spoke, but I repent of having mentioned Fortune there as I did, when I see the very bad custom which men have of saying, not as they ought to do, So God pleased, but, So Fortune pleased. In short, Augustine everywhere teaches, that if anything is left to fortune, the world moves at random. And although he elsewhere declares (Quæstionum, lib. 83). that all things are carried on, partly by the Freewill of man, and partly by the Providence of God, he shortly after shows clearly enough that his meaning was, that men also are ruled by Providence, when he assumes it as a principle, that there cannot be a greater absurdity than to hold that anything is done without the ordination of God; because it would happen at random. For which reason, he also excludes the contingency which depends on human will, maintaining a little further on, in clearer terms, that no cause must be sought for but the will of God. When he uses the term permission, the meaning which he attaches to it will best appear from a single passage (De Trinity. lib. 3 cap. 4), where he proves that the will of God is the supreme and primary cause of all things, because nothing happens without his order or permission. He certainly does not figure God sitting idly in a watch-tower, when he chooses to permit anything. The will which he represents as interposing is, if I may so express it, active (actualis), and but for this could not be regarded as a cause.” (I Ch 16 par 8).
In this passage, Calvin uses his good old method of exclusion. Now an affirmation is never exclusive except to specify it, which St. Augustine never did. The prescience of God is exclusive of Freewill only in the mind of Luther and that of Calvin, for everything is possible to God, as to reconcile what is irreconcilable in the eyes of rationalists, in the eyes of human thought.
We find all the illusion of the rationalists in this affirmation of Calvin : “It is true, indeed, that in the law and the Gospel are comprehended mysteries which far transcend the measure of our sense; but since God, to enable his people to understand those mysteries which he has deigned to reveal in his word, enlightens their minds with a spirit of understanding, they are now no longer a deep, but a path in which they can walk safely--a lamp to guide their feet--a light of life--a school of clear and certain truth. But the admirable method of governing the world is justly called a deep, because, while it lies hid from us, it is to be reverently adored.” (I Ch 17 par 2).
Does this mean that the mysteries can be explained by the human mind, with the help of revelation? It would no longer be a mystery. The mysteries are revealed to us, but precisely they are mysteries and they can not be explained!
One can pass quickly on the long development that follows. Calvin tries to reconcile his predestination with the impossibility of imputing to God the evil acts, even the crimes, committed by men predestined to realize them, beginning with the betrayal of Judas: “And certainly, in regard to the treachery of Judas, there is just as little ground to throw the blame of the crime upon God, because He was both pleased that his Son should be delivered up to death, and did deliver him, as to ascribe to Judas the praise of our redemption. Hence Augustine, in another place, truly observes, that when God makes his scrutiny, he looks not to what men could do, or to what they did, but to what they wished to do, thus taking account of their will and purpose.” (I Ch 18 par 4).
For Calvin, this will is the interstice between man and his determinate destiny. The will would be free in some way, but the very act which should result from it is predetermined. It is once again one of his semantic rotten tricks which leaves stunned.
Calvin leaves to man a part worthy of consideration, since it would not be entirely earth and mud: “nothing being more absurd than that those should glory in their excellence who not only dwell in tabernacles of clay, but are themselves in part dust and ashes” (I Ch 15 par 1). What then is the rest of man made of? Calvin will not tell. Yet the whole of man is plunged, not only in sin, but into filth: “All of us, therefore, descending from an impure seed, come into the world tainted with the contagion of sin. Nay, before we behold the light of the sun we are in God's sight defiled and polluted. ‘Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one,’ says the Book of Job (Job 14:4). We thus see that the impurity of parents is transmitted to their children, so that all, without exception, are originally depraved. The commencement of this depravity will not be found until we ascend to the first parent of all as the fountain head. We must, therefore, hold it for certain, that, in regard to human nature, Adam was not merely a progenitor, but, as it were, a root, and that, accordingly, by his corruption, the whole human race was deservedly vitiated. This is plain from the contrast which the Apostle draws between Adam and Christ, ‘Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned; even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord,’ (Rom. 5:19-21).” (II Ch 1 par 5-6).
There is no doubt that this morbid vision of man does not call into question the extraordinary nature of man in the image of God.
It's Adam's fault: “Adam, therefore, when he corrupted himself, transmitted the contagion to all his posterity. For a heavenly Judge, even our Saviour himself, declares that all are by birth vicious and depraved, when he says that that which is born of the flesh is fleshy (John 3:6), and that therefore the gate of life is closed against all until they have been regenerated.” (II Ch 1 par 6).
This beautiful reasoning is very logical, unfortunately things are not so simple, for Adam certainly never existed in the proper sense. Genesis is a symbol. It is in the mystery of Creation that the nature of man is to be found. To tell the truth, it does not change Calvin's outcome. Man is sinful certainly, but is he totally sinful? Jesus of Nazareth came by his death to redeem the man. Baptism, moreover, erases the original sin, if not what is it for? Why, then, should man remain immersed in the foul Adamic condition? The whole thought of Calvin soaks in the idea of predestination. How then could those who are predestined be justified? We have seen Calvin's answer. The same acts are sins or not according to whether one is in the rank of the damned or predestined to eternal salvation: “Here I only wished briefly to observe, that the whole man, from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot, is so deluged, as it were, that no part remains exempt from sin, and, therefore, everything which proceeds from him is imputed as sin. Thus Paul says, that all carnal thoughts and affections are enmity against God, and consequently death (Rom. 8:7).” (II Ch 1 par 9).
In passing, it will be noted that in the passage quoted above, Calvin states that “Jesus Christ, who is the judge before whom we shall have to account.” But again, give an account of what if everything is predestined?
Calvin's position challenges the general opinion of the Fathers of the Church. They would have been influenced by the philosophers: “Among ecclesiastical writers, although there is none who did not acknowledge that sound reason in man was seriously injured by sin, and the will greatly entangled by vicious desires, yet many of them made too near an approach to the philosophers. Some of the most ancient writers appear to me to have exalted human strengths from a fear that a distinct acknowledgment of its impotence might expose them to the jeers of the philosophers with whom they were disputing, and also furnish the flesh, already too much disinclined to good, with a new pretext for sloth. Therefore, to avoid teaching anything which the majority of mankind might deem absurd, they made it their study, in some measure, to reconcile the doctrine of Scripture with the dogmas of philosophy, at the same time making it their special care not to furnish any occasion to sloth. This is obvious from their words. Chrysostom says, God having placed good and evil in our power, has given us full freedom of choice; he does not keep back the unwilling, but embraces the willing, (Homil. de Prodit. Judae).” (II Ch 2 par 4).
We must not despair Billancourt, so to speak, to use the words of Sartre, who had long since seen the Marxist impasse.
Calvin tells us the positions of these Fathers of the Church on Freewill, which he regards as speaking “so doubtfully and obscurely, except St. Augustine.” He will then have no trouble in showing us this philosophical influence and that their positions must be rejected or taken in the direction of predestination. According to Chrysostome: “This is obvious from their words. Chrysostom says, God having placed good and evil in our power, has given us full freedom of choice; he does not keep back the unwilling, but embraces the willing, (Homil. de Prodit. Judae). Again, He who is wicked is often, when he so chooses, changed into good, and he who is good falls through sluggishness, and becomes wicked. For the Lord has made our nature free. He does not lay us under necessity, but furnishing apposite remedies, allows the whole to depend on the views of the patient, (Homily. 18, in Genesis). Again, As we can do nothing rightly until aided by the grace of God, so, until we bring forward what is our own, we cannot obtain favour from above, (Homily. 52). He had previously said, As the whole is not done by divine assistance, we ourselves must of necessity bring somewhat. Accordingly, one of his common expressions is, Let us bring what is our own, God will supply the rest. In unison with this, Jerome says, It is ours to begin, God's to finish: it is ours to offer what we can, his to supply what we cannot, (Dialog. 3 Cont. Pelag). From these sentences, you see that they have bestowed on man more than he possesses for the study of virtue, because they thought that they could not shake off our innate sluggishness unless they argued that we sin by ourselves alone. With what skill they have thus argued we shall afterwards see. Assuredly we shall soon be able to show that the sentiments just quoted are most inaccurate. Moreover although the Greek Fathers, above others, and especially Chrysostom, have exceeded due bounds in extolling the powers of the human will, yet all ancient theologians, with the exception of Augustine, are so confused, vacillating, and contradictory on this subject, that no certainty can be obtained from their writings. It is needless, therefore, to be more particular in enumerating every separate opinion. It will be sufficient to extract from each as much as the exposition of the subject seems to require. Succeeding writers (every one courting applause for his acuteness in the defence of human nature) have uniformly, one after the other, gone more widely astray, until the common dogma came to be, that man was corrupted only in the sensual part of his nature, that reason remained entire, and will was scarcely impaired. Still the expression was often on their lips, that man's natural gifts were corrupted, and his supernatural taken away. Of the thing implied by these words, however, scarcely one in a hundred had any distinct idea. Certainly, were I desirous clearly to express what the corruption of nature is, I would not seek for any other expression. But it is of great importance attentively to consider what the power of man now is when vitiated in all the parts of his nature, and deprived of supernatural gifts. Persons professing to be the disciples of Christ have spoken too much like the philosophers on this subject. As if human nature were still in its integrity, the term Freewill has always been in use among the Latins, while the Greeks were not ashamed to use a still more presumptuous term--viz. aujtexouvsion, as if man had still full power in himself. But since the principle entertained by all, even the vulgar, is, that man is endued with Freewill, while some, who would be thought more skilful, know not how far its power extends; it will be necessary, first to consider the meaning of the term, and afterwards ascertain, by a simple appeal to Scripture, what man's natural power for good or evil is. The thing meant by Freewill, though constantly occurring in all writers, few have defined. Origen, however, seems to have stated the common opinion when he said, It is a power of reason to discern between good and evil; of will, to choose the one or other. Nor does Augustine differ from him when he says, It is a power of reason and will to choose the good, grace assisting,--to choose the bad, grace desisting. Bernard, while aiming at greater acuteness, speaks more obscurely, when he describes it as consent, in regard to the indestructible liberty of the wills and the inalienable judgment of reason. Anselm's definition is not very intelligible to ordinary understandings. He calls it a power of preserving rectitude on its own account. Peter Lombard, and the Schoolmen, preferred the definition of Augustine, both because it was clearer, and did not exclude divine grace, without which they saw that the will was not sufficient of itself. They however add something of their own, because they deemed it either better or necessary for clearer explanation. First, they agree that the term will (arbitrium) has reference to reason, whose office it is to distinguish between good and evil, and that the epithet free properly belongs to the will, which may incline either way. Wherefore, since liberty properly belongs to the will, Thomas Aquinas says (Part 1 Quast. 83, Art. 3), that the most congruous definition is to call Freewill an elective power, combining intelligence and appetite, but inclining more to appetite. We now perceive in what it is they suppose the faculty of Freewill to consist--viz. in reason and will. It remains to see how much they attribute to each. In general, they are wont to place under the Freewill of man only intermediate things--viz. those which pertain not to the kingdom of God, while they refer true righteousness to the special grace of God and spiritual regeneration. The author of the work, De Vocatione Gentium, (On the Calling of the Gentiles),  wishing to show this, describes the will as threefold--viz. sensitive, animal, and spiritual. The two former, he says, are free to man, but the last is the work of the Holy Spirit. …. ). The schools, however, have adopted a distinction which enumerates three kinds of freedom (see Lombard, lib. 2 Dist. 25); the first, a freedom from necessity; the second, a freedom from sin; and the third, a freedom from misery: the first naturally so inherent in man, that he cannot possibly be deprived of it; while through sin the other two have been lost. I willingly admit this distinction, except in so far as it confounds necessity with compulsion.” (II Ch 2 par 4-5).
Still less can the grace be given to those who want it: “We must, therefore, repudiate the oft-repeated sentiment of Chrysostom, Whom he draws, he draws willingly; insinuating that the Lord only stretches out his hand, and waits to see whether we will be pleased to take his aid.” (II Ch 3 par 10).
Calvin therefore thinks it would be better to ban the use of Freewill expression. For even St. Augustine can be ambiguous: “In another passages he is offended with those who deny Freewill; but his chief reason for this is explained when he says, only lest any one should presume so to deny freedom of will, from a desire to excuse sin. It is certain, he elsewhere admits, that without the Spirit the will of man is not free, inasmuch as it is subject to lusts which chain and master it.” (II Ch 2 par 8). .
This is the miracle method of today's scientists: ambiguities allow to reject experiments of appearance contrary to the paradigm. This is essentially the case of the Sagnac experiment, but also of Miller's measurements with a Michelson interferometer as analyzed by Professor Allais. In the name of ambiguity, Calvin rejects Freewill with the words that express it.
As this process is, to say the least, cavalier, Calvin finds an even better solution: Freewill belongs to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Whoever tastes will die: “What, then, is meant by Cyprian in the passage so often lauded by Augustine, Let us glory in nothing, because nothing is ours, unless it be, that man being utterly destitute, considered in himself, should entirely depend on God? What is meant by Augustine and Eucherius, when they expound that Christ is the tree of life, and that whoso puts forth his hand to it shall live; that the choice of the will is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and that he who, forsaking the grace of God, tastes of it shall die?” (II Ch 2 par 9).
The argument should not be convincing enough, because here is another one on the next page: “Here however, I must again repeat what I premised at the outset of this chapter,  that he who is most deeply abased and alarmed, by the consciousness of his disgrace, nakedness, want, and misery, has made the greatest progress in the knowledge of himself. Man is in no danger of taking too much from himself, provided he learns that whatever he wants is to be recovered in God. I have always been exceedingly delighted with the words of Chrysostom, The foundation of our philosophy is humility;” .» (II Ch 2 par 10-11).
The search for humility has the pride for reflection. The intention ruins the action. Velázquez imagined painting the Infanta, daughter of Philip IV. But he paints what he sees in a mirror and the mirror painted on the painting brings out the king and the queen looking at the scene, precisely, from the place of the mirror that reflects it. Mind is this game of mirrors. The man looks at himself in a mirror to paint himself filled with humility. This mirror reflects the image of pride. It is the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, where the progressives see first the opposition of the rich proud to the humble poor. Enormous misconceptions, for the Pharisees strove to live in poverty, and the publicans, a kind of generals farmers, were for the most part very rich, like Zacchaeus.
This is the whole drama of the doctrines of Luther and Calvin. Humility can only become a show. The Elects think that they are chosen by their earthly successes, proofs of divine grace. They succeed in making fruitful their talents, in the Roman sense of money, and their talents, in the English sense of skilled, so they are chosen from God. Got mit uns! But they obviously know how to be humble, because these talents have been given to them. The mirror returns the pride! The satisfaction of the chosen one!
If there is an ambiguous word, it is predestination. It is as well to explain the objective of God. This rationalistic claim is the biggest branch, if not the trunk, of the forbidden tree of Eden. Calvin rightly proposes to distinguish the divine from the human: “The distinction is, that we have one kind of intelligence of earthly things, and another of heavenly things. By earthly things, I mean those which relate not to God and his kingdom, to true righteousness and future blessedness, but have some connection with the present life, and are in a manner confined within its boundaries. By heavenly things, I mean the pure knowledge of God, the method of true righteousness, and the mysteries of the heavenly kingdom.” (II Ch 2 par 13).
Can we doubt that Creation and predestination belong first, if not only, to the divine world?
Do the concepts of good and evil relate to this mystery of Creation? Calvin is here rather embarrassed, for it must be admitted that many works written by “iniquitous and infidel” at all times are far from containing only bad ideas. Moreover, the discoveries of “the mechanical as well as the liberal arts” have nothing in common with faith. It is not the same with the philosophical developments, always conditioned by a religious vision. I include in these visions the atheism where official philosophy has been flooded for more than a century. The Elect must make use of the works of the damned. So the talents of the damned have come to fruition! We can not, however, deny that Calvin is perfectly right to attribute these works to divine grace, since we owe everything to God.
I will quote the whole passage, for it contains a curious rejection of the doctrine of Plato's ideas. It is true that, according to the assumption attributed to Plato in an absolute sense, all things would be the image of a preexisting idea. This leaves little room for novelty, for progress. Plato rejected this absolute view of the doctrine of ideas in the Parmenides essentially. On the other hand, the fact that man has concepts, innate principles such as Calvin's support, is perfectly in conformity with the position of Plato, which will be taken up much later by Descartes and Kant.
“14. Next come manual and liberal arts, in learning which, as all have some degree of aptitude, the full force of human acuteness is displayed. But though all are not equally able to learn all the arts, we have sufficient evidence of a common capacity in the fact, that there is scarcely an individual who does not display intelligence in some particular art. And this capacity extends not merely to the learning of the art, but to the devising of something new, or the improving of what had been previously learned. This led Plato to adopt the erroneous idea, that such knowledge was nothing but recollection. So cogently does it oblige us to acknowledge that its principle is naturally implanted in the human mind. But while these proofs openly attest the fact of a universal reason and intelligence naturally implanted, this universality is of a kind which should lead every individual for himself to recognise it as a special gift of God. To this gratitude we have a sufficient call from the Creator himself, when, in the case of idiots, he shows what the endowments of the soul would be were it not pervaded with his light. Though natural to all, it is so in such a sense that it ought to be regarded as a gratuitous gift of his beneficence to each. Moreover, the invention, the methodical arrangement, and the more thorough and superior knowledge of the arts, being confined to a few individuals cannot be regarded as a solid proof of common shrewdness. Still, however, as they are bestowed indiscriminately on the good and the bad, they are justly classed among natural endowments.
15. Therefore, in reading profane authors, the admirable light of truth displayed in them should remind us, that the human mind, however much fallen and perverted from its original integrity, is still adorned and invested with admirable gifts from its Creator. If we reflect that the Spirit of God is the only fountain of truth, we will be careful, as we would avoid offering insult to him, not to reject or condemn truth wherever it appears. In despising the gifts, we insult the Giver. How, then, can we deny that truth must have beamed on those ancient lawgivers who arranged civil order and discipline with so much equity? Shall we say that the philosophers, in their exquisite researches and skilful description of nature, were blind? Shall we deny the possession of intellect to those who drew up rules for discourse, and taught us to speak in accordance with reason? Shall we say that those who, by the cultivation of the medical art, expended their industry in our behalf were only raving? What shall we say of the mathematical sciences? Shall we deem them to be the dreams of madmen? Nay, we cannot read the writings of the ancients on these subjects without the highest admiration; an admiration which their excellence will not allow us to withhold. But shall we deem anything to be noble and praiseworthy, without tracing it to the hand of God? Far from us be such ingratitude; an ingratitude not chargeable even on heathen poets, who acknowledged that philosophy and laws, and all useful arts were the inventions of the gods. Therefore, since it is manifest that men whom the Scriptures term carnal, are so acute and clear-sighted in the investigation of inferior things, their example should teach us how many gifts the Lord has left in possession of human nature, notwithstanding of its having been despoiled of the true good.
16. Moreover, let us not forget that there are most excellent blessings which the Divine Spirit dispenses to whom he will for the common benefit of mankind. For if the skill and knowledge required for the construction of the Tabernacle behaved to be imparted to Bezaleel and Aholiab, by the Spirit of God (Exod. 31:2; 35:30), it is not strange that the knowledge of those things which are of the highest excellence in human life is said to be communicated to us by the Spirit. Nor is there any ground for asking what concourse the Spirit can have with the ungodly, who are altogether alienated from God? For what is said as to the Spirit dwelling in believers only, is to be understood of the Spirit of holiness by which we are consecrated to God as temples. Notwithstanding of this, He fills, moves, and invigorates all things by the virtue of the Spirit, and that according to the peculiar nature which each class of beings has received by the Law of Creation. But if the Lord has been pleased to assist us by the work and ministry of the ungodly in physics, dialectics, mathematics, and other similar sciences, let us avail ourselves of it, lest, by neglecting the gifts of God spontaneously offered to us, we be justly punished for our sloth. Lest any one, however, should imagine a man to be very happy merely because, with reference to the elements of this world, he has been endued with great talents for the investigation of truth, we ought to add, that the whole power of intellect thus bestowed is, in the sight of God, fleeting and vain whenever it is not based on a solid foundation of truth. Augustine (supra, sec. 4 and 12), to whom, as we have observed, the Master of Sentences (lib. 2 Dist. 25), and the Schoolmen, are forced to subscribe, says most correctly that as the gratuitous gifts bestowed on man were withdrawn, so the natural gifts which remained were corrupted after the fall. Not that they can be polluted in themselves in so far as they proceed from God, but that they have ceased to be pure to polluted man, lest he should by their means obtain any praise.” (II Ch 2 par 14-15-16).
Calvin's position on Freewill comes not from a conception of good and evil. Good and evil, in the Christian sense, have nothing to do with earthly happiness and misfortune. Calvin's position is perfectly orthodox. Job's misfortunes have no relation to any sin. Man as animals seeks for material well-being: “For this appetite is not properly a movement of the will, but natural inclination; and this good is not one of virtue or righteousness, but of condition--viz. that the individual may feel comfortable. In fine, how much soever man may desire to obtain what is good, he does not follow it. There is no man who would not be pleased with eternal blessedness; and yet, without the impulse of the Spirit, no man aspires to it. Since, then, the natural desire of happiness in man no more proves the freedom of the will, than the tendency in metals and stones to attain the perfection of their nature, let us consider, in other respects, whether the will is so utterly vitiated and corrupted in every part as to produce nothing but evil, or whether it retains some portion uninjured, and productive of good desires.” (II Ch 2 par 26).
Here again is a characteristic example of what has been called a semantic escalation. Calvin passes from the yoke to the prison. The slave was subject to the will of his master. If this submission had been a prison, how could many of them have been freed after having amassed a fortune sufficient to cover the cost? Serfdom was never absolute. Epictetus was a slave and was able to take liberty and time to become a great philosopher. There is no serfdom that doesn’t leaves a share of freedom. Servitude of sin can not be a negation of Freewill. It is therefore absolutely false to claim: “every thing proceeding from the corrupt nature of man (is) damnable.” (Title of II chapter 3).
By virtue of his opposition to Plato's doctrine, which is unfounded, Calvin shows that he adheres, in fact, to the materialist system of Aristotle, and thus to most Thomist theses. This is what appears unambiguously here: “Everything, therefore, which we have from nature is flesh. Any possible doubt which might exist on the subject is removed by the words of Paul (Eph. 4:23), where, after a description of the old man, who, he says, is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, he bids us be renewed in the spirit of our mind.” (II Ch 3 par 1).
In rejecting Plato's system, Aristotle also cut the bridges towards the concepts of mind. Between the world of the concepts of Plato, Decartes and Kant as well, and the human body, there is the mind and its access precisely to transcendence. Calvin therefore remains in the Thomist movement.
We have seen that, for Calvin, the last judgment does not in any way relate to works, but to the faith given by grace to the predestined, so that the verdict is fixed in advance. But the verdict is not only known to God, but also to men, which is at least disturbing: “Still, the surest and easiest answer to the objection is, that those are not common endowments of nature, but special gifts of God, which he distributes in divers forms, and, in a definite measure, to men otherwise profane. For which reason, we hesitate not, in common language, to say, that one is of a good, another of a vicious nature; though we cease not to hold that both are placed under the universal condition of human depravity. All we mean is that God has conferred on the one a special grace which he has not seen it meet to confer on the other. When he was pleased to set Saul over the kingdom, he made him as it were a new man. This is the thing meant by Plato, when, alluding to a passage in the Iliad, he says, that the children of kings are distinguished at their birth by some special qualities--God, in kindness to the human race, often giving a spirit of heroism to those whom he destines for empire. In this way, the great leaders celebrated in history were formed.” (II Ch 6 par 4).
Now it is written, “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; deliver, and it shall be delivered to you “(Luke 6:37). Who can affirm that one man is damned, another chosen and saved? Judgment belongs to God. Here we reach the most dramatic consequence of the thesis of Luther and Calvin's predestination. No one can say that Judas, already suspended from his rope, has not had a last appeal for a pardon to divine grace? One might think that this is unlikely given the words of Jesus of Nazareth: “It would have been better for this man never to be born!” (Mt 26:24). But who dares to judge?
“Men are indeed to be taught that the favour of God is offered, without exception, to all who ask it; but since those only begin to ask whom heaven by grace inspires, even this minute portion of praise must not be withheld from him. It is the privilege of the Elect to be regenerated by the Spirit of God, and then placed under his guidance and government… No man can come to me, except the Father, which has sent me, draw him” (II Ch 3 par 10).
We subscribe gladly to these statements. It seems that for Calvin, the Elect who has received grace does not have the slightest possibility of departing from it. We find the negation of all human will. St. Chrysostom, however, affirmed necessity. Moreover, "attraction" does not presume in any way the inanity of the will, to refuse in particular. It was the case of the philosopher Alain, undoubtedly attracted by the Catholic religion, but who always refused to take the step, at least until his last writings. After that? Who can say?
After such lengthy developments, one might think that Calvin expressed his conviction. Does he think that we would still be far from accepting his negation of Freewill and the necessity of works? For here is another argument in the form of a conclusion, but it is not one. There is still far from the end of this book!
“We have now an attestation by Augustine to the truth which we are specially desirous to maintain--viz. that the grace offered by the Lord is not merely one which every individual has full liberty of choosing to receive or reject, but a grace which produces in the heart both choice and will: so that all the good works which follow after are its fruit and effect; the only will which yields obedience being the will which grace itself has made. In another place, Augustine uses these words, Every good work in us is performed only by grace, (August. Ep. 105). In saying elsewhere that the will is not taken away by grace, but out of bad is changed into good, and after it is good is assisted,--he only means, that man is not drawn as if by an extraneous impulse without the movement of the heart, but is inwardly affected so as to obey from the heart. Declaring that grace is given specially and gratuitously to the Elect, he writes in this way to Boniface: We know that Divine grace is not given to all men, and that to those to whom it is given, it is not given either according to the merit of works, or according to the merit of the will, but by free grace: in regard to those to whom it is not given, we know that the not giving of it is a just judgment from God, (August. ad Bonifac. Ep. 106).” (II Ch 3 par 13-14).
Calvin must have felt some reluctance: “Should any one wish a clearer reply, let him take the following:--God works in his Elect in two ways: inwardly, by his Spirit; outwardly, by his Word. By his Spirit illuminating their minds, and training their hearts to the practice of righteousness, he makes them new creatures, while, by his Word, he stimulates them to long and seek for this renovation. In both, he exerts the might of his hand in proportion to the measure in which he dispenses them. The Word, when addressed to the reprobate, though not effectual for their amendment, has another use. It urges their consciences now, and will render them more inexcusable on the day of judgment. Thus, our Saviour, while declaring that none can come to him but those whom the Father draws, and that the Elect come after they have heard and learned of the Father (John 6:44, 45)” (II Ch 5 par 5).
One finds the judgment whose cause is heard before the act. The unfortunate ungodly will then only find that they were damned from the beginning of time. And in addition they are inexcusable to have been damned. I am seriously worried about the obscurity of Calvin's logic. Unfortunately I am not more convinced, except that the presumed clarity illuminates the contradiction.
Calvin takes many examples in the Old Testament to support his doctrine. They concern the realization of human vows on this very Earth, as of defeating the enemy. In the same way, the pains afflicted to men would be in this very world. This is an enormous confusion. Indeed, the parables of Jesus of Nazareth concern only Heaven, the life of the hereafter in no way the hurts and misfortunes of our earthly world. The idea that evil, sin and misfortune are linked is deeply rooted in Calvin's mind, even though he defends himself from it several times. “These things must happen,” Christ said in speaking of the dramas of this earthly world. They have nothing to do with the afterlife. Similarly, regeneration does not, of course, concern the human, material condition, but the soul, the heart.
Calvin's method is revealed particularly a few pages later: “These expressions, therefore, it is said, indicate that while, in the matter of grace, we give the first place to God, a secondary place must be assigned to our agency. If the only thing here insisted on were, that good works are termed ours, I, in my turn, would reply, that the bread which we ask God to give us is also termed ours. What, then, can be inferred from the title of possession, but simply that, by the kindness and free gift of Gods that becomes ours which in other respects is by no means due to us” (II Ch 5 par 14).
Of course, we ask God to give us our daily bread. But, just as in works, an act is demanded of man. The bread does not fall from Heaven, at least in general, if we think of the Exodus. I would be a little ironic in reminding Calvin the Genesis: “You will gain your bread by the sweat of your brow.” Calvin proceeds by exclusion, that is, he makes the utterances absolute. It eliminates any complementary possibility. The gift would be absolute, and man would have only to receive the bread. In reality, the gift is certain, but it takes the act in addition.
Calvin makes no distinction in the Law, whether of Moses or of the Gospe: “that Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth, (Rom. 10:4); and, again, that ministers of the new testament were not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the split giveth life, (2 Cor. 3:6).” (II Ch 7 par 2) . Christ illuminates the Law, certainly, but it is by another Law and not by His will alone. This nuance is essential because it leaves room for the human act, for works, contrary to Calvin's thesis. The acts of salvation are not in accordance with the Law of Moses, but with respect for the Law of Christ and this Law is not written in letters: it is the Law of Love!
Yet this Law of Love is already inscribed in the spirit of the Law of Moses. The Law of Christ is a framework that surrounds each of the Laws of Moses. The Law of Moses is certainly not bad in itself. Could Calvin have gone against the “Thou shalt will not kill”? One understands that murder by a chosen one is a sin, as for the damned, but he would be forgiven in advance of the Elect, since he is predestined!
It is not the Law that must be respected, it must be respected with love. It is the spirit of the Law and it brings the Law to life. This is what St. Augustine explains in the Diversis quaestionibus ad Simplicianum (I, 1.17): “The law is the only letter for those who have learned to read it and can no