Godzdogz

Godzdogz

The blog of the Dominican student brothers at Blackfriars, Oxford.

Built on the four pillars of our Dominican life – preaching, prayer, study, and community – Godzdogz offers many resources for exploring the Catholic Faith today.
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Biblical Beasts: Snake

Friday, September 30, 2011
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28th September: The Dominican Martyrs of Nagasaki

Wednesday, September 28, 2011
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Fruits of Study 7: Esse and Essentia

Thursday, September 22, 2011
St Thomas’ second argument in the Summa for God’s existence goes along the following lines: in the universe, everything we sense has some cause, nothing can cause itself to exist and there can’t be an infinite series of causes. Therefore there must be a first cause, and this we call God. This cosmological might at first seem susceptible to some serious objections: if God can exist without being caused, then why can’t other things exist without being caused? Why can’t there be lots of first causes? Aquinas’ argument for the distinction between esse and essentia in his short work, De Ente et Essentia can help us to respond to these objections. Read more

Ordinations at Blackfriars

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Term is Coming...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Biblical Beasts: Raven

Monday, September 19, 2011
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Simple and Solemn Professions 2011

Monday, September 19, 2011

Fruits of Study 6: Suffering and Love in St Catherine of Siena

Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Catherine of Siena (1347-80) was very practical and focused and on how to help people be saved and sanctified in the concrete situation of their lives. For her, suffering was a daily reality and one that can be crushing and an obstacle to a life of faith. She wanted people to see suffering in the light of God’s truth and goodness and then use it positively to produce a life of love and other virtues. As with other themes she relates this to the Crucified Christ, the centre of her thought. Read more

Biblical Beasts: Tortoise

Monday, September 12, 2011
Someone commented that Godzdogz is 'scraping the bottom of the barrel' in having a summer series on Biblical Beasts. Well if that's true we are at the very bottom of that barrel in looking for a biblical beast whose name (in English) begins with the letter 'T'. There are no toads or turkeys and one mention of a tiger (Job 4:11) though most translations render it 'lion'. No tigers in Africa - no tigers in the Bible, perhaps. We have to wait for William Blake's wonderful poem before we meet the tiger as a symbol of divine power although the 'lion of Judah' has a long history even before C.S.Lewis's Aslan appears on the scene. Read more

Fruits of Study 5: Creation Ex Nihilo

Monday, September 12, 2011
The much referenced 'science versus religion debate' has at its root a timeless question which we humans feel compelled to answer: where do we come from? Philosophers, natural scientists, theologians, to name but a few, have all quite rightly grappled with this tantalising issue. In recent years it seems to have become more polarised. Creationists and secular Darwinists look across a spectrum of other positions with the Church somewhere in the middle but broadly speaking you're seen to either be with the science crowd or the religious.

Creation would then seem to be the pivotal issue. However, we would be wrong to think that this debate is somehow new: we just have very short or very selective memories. When Thomas Aquinas was penning his Summa in the thirteenth century the same controversy was very much apparent in the new universities. Indeed, a scientific revolution was under-way across Western Europe as the works of the ancient Greek natural philosophers and mathematicians became available in Latin for the first time. Specifically, many held that there must be a fundamental incompatibility between the claim of the Greek naturalists that something cannot come from nothing, and the Christian teaching of creatio ex nihilo, creation from nothing.

Aquinas couldn't conceive that there could be an incompatibility between the two positions – what we now may call science and religion. Christian doctrine maintains that God is the author of all Truth; the aim of rigorous scientific investigation is to find the Truth. Why should one side fear the other? In fact, are we not on the same side if we believe in Truth at all? Well, it wasn't to be that clear cut then and it doesn't seem that much has changed. In straightforward terms, the problem would appear to be complete confusion by what we mean by the nature of creation and natural change.

Thomas, when speaking of creation, is not pondering how one thing came to be from another thing but what is common to all things in the universe, namely existence. But what is the cause of all existence? Is it a cause in the sense of a natural change or of some kind or an ultimate bringing into being of something from no antecedent state whatsoever by Divine Agency? Here lies the fundamental conflict; there is simply a major misunderstanding in the use of the term creation. By seeking to ground it solely in the realm of the natural sciences and being unwilling to admit it has a place in metaphysics and theology we will continue to grope blindly in the dark.

The Greeks were in fact correct, nothing comes from nothing, if we understand rightly that 'comes from' implies a change. Change from one natural state to another requires some pre-existant material reality. A possibility for change must lie in something, there must be potentiality. Creation on the other hand differs as it is the radical causing of the whole existence of whatever there is in existence. We can see the difference if we look at how being the cause of something's whole existence must in fact be different from causing a change in something that exists. In other words, we are not talking of God taking a bit of this and a bit of that and putting a universe together. Creation then, is not a change in matter but a cause; God produces existence absolutely ex nihilo. This act of creation may also be seen as one of conservation, that is God did not simply create in one distant moment and exit the next. Creation is a continual action by which he gives existence as he upholds the world in being.

Without God, the Cause, there can be no effect. The ability that creatures have to act only comes by virtue of their existence. So yes we can make some things, change some things and observe change in other existing realities but we cannot create. Creation accounts for the very existence of things not for changes in things. Only God can create, he is like the ultimate power source that if it were to cease then out would go the lights – only there would be no lights! Read more
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