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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Fruits of Study 8: The Notion of Love

Monday, October 03, 2011
Our faith is based on love, and love is the foundation of our whole life. Of course we know what it is, but trying to describe it is not always that easy. Can we at all give a definition of such an all-embracing, profound notion?  Read more

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

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

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

Fruits of Study 4: The Development of Doctrine

Wednesday, September 07, 2011
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Fruits of Study 3: Re-enchanting Education

Saturday, September 03, 2011
The following review, by Fr Vivian Boland OP, was published in Faith magazine in January 2011:  Read more

Fruits of Study 2: Why Do We Have a Clergy?

Thursday, September 01, 2011
The presence of clerics within the Catholic Church is, to many critics, inside and outside the Church, a problem and stumbling block. From the outside the Roman Catholic Church can seem like a “notoriously clerical affair”. It is often perceived that having a ‘clerical class’ amongst the people of God, acting as “rulers of God’s people”, is in direct opposition to Christ’s call for his followers to be characterized by profound humility. However to understand the need for bishops, priests and deacons within the Church, one must start by showing that the clergy was divinely established by Christ and present within the Apostolic Church. Read more

Fruits of Study 1: Christology

Saturday, August 27, 2011
We teach …  that the one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, is to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not split or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten God, the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ ... Read more

Fruits of Study: Introduction

Friday, August 26, 2011
Study plays a central part in Dominican life, and informs all our writing and preaching, so that it could all be called the fruit of our study. Read more
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