Introduction to Theology, Serial No. 01115

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Of course there is. You see, that's why it's important to me that it's in the same respect, because of course it is on the floor, because it's standing on the table on the floor. You see what I mean? But it's not in the conventional sense of the word there. It must be in the same respect, because it is both of those things at one and the same time, but not in the same respect, because to be in between is the table, whereas it can be directly on the floor. Yes? Can I say, Father, that there is an exception in the case of our Lord being both creator and creature in His humanity? No, certainly not, because He is not both creator and creature in one and the same respect, is He? That is to say, in so far as He is. This is, of course, one of the reasons why the theologians need to distinguish between the kind of thing the Lord says about Himself


as human and as divine, because when we are thinking about Him as human, we are not thinking about Him as divine. Although, of course, it's going to be necessary in theology, this is the kind of thing I couldn't embark upon in talking about Christ, of course. We are going to have to talk about a certain kind of action which is special to our Lord, which is called theandric action, where, through His human capacities and so on, He works by His divine nature, as, for instance, in doing a miracle. When He touches somebody, the divine power goes through this human action. So it's a theandric thing. In other words, God is actually working in the action. Yes, I see the point now. Not in the same respect.


Not in the same respect. It's a very, very important thing to remember in all areas of thought, and sometimes, if you bear it in mind, you'll find the way through to the solution of the problem, because sometimes you've got those two things muddled up. Sometimes they're really saying two things that are obviously incompatible. Yes? All right, Mark? Is anything happening? Who wants to come out? We were talking about life of grace. What do we need rules for? It seems to me, I guess, the difficulty is, well, we're immersed in the life of grace in a sense. I mean, we've been baptized and we're in Christ and so forth, but we're not really living there somehow. Isn't that the problem? I mean, that's why we still need rules. I remember St. Augustine saying, quoting it loosely, what is it? Love and do what you will. If we're really loving,


then we won't sin, we won't do this. Well, actually, I think what St. Augustine really means in that particular passage is saying this, that if you love, then you will be doing what you want to do, which is a very different thing from what most people think it means. It doesn't mean, it's not a way of saying love and do what you like, in the sense that I can do any old thing that matters. If you love, then you are always doing what you want to do. You see, that's what charity is like, isn't it? I mean, it enables me to do just exactly what love suggests. Which you really want, isn't it? Yes, of course it does. It cannot work any other way, because we've seen that in fact grace is not going to be denying man's free choice, it's always going to be a voluntary act, an act of kindness, an act of love, which passes through me, is going to be a perfection


of myself. So, God is now sending hailstones, just to remind us there are other possibilities, you see. You can make it come, yes, it's coming through. Now there's an example of God's perfection, you see, make it pass through the cool air, it becomes little stones. Are we still being recorded? Yes. Can I ask you something today, just on the same lines? Yes, on the same lines, yes. Where necessities, where things are necessary in two ways, absolutely and with suitability. Yes. In the absolutely, would that be in cases which are relative to the necessity? Well, that's the only way of knowing whether they're necessary, isn't it?


It's more specific. It always has to be something specific. I mean, for instance, if I'm going to cook this meal, I must have some means of heating the pot, mustn't I? I don't have to have a gas stove or electricity, I can do it with wood. Or I may even be able to, I had one lunch in Mexico which was entirely cooked by the sun, on top of a roof. I arrived in time and had got a rabbit in a special foil thing on top of the roof with a solar panel over the top and it was excellently cooked, it had been cooking since breakfast. So, but the necessity, in order for it to be cooked was that it should be heated. So that's, so generally I think we can say that necessities always have some kind of relation to, I mean, if say, in other words, if, of course, if I want my meal cooked on a day when it's raining,


I've either got to have solar storage, haven't I, which you can have, because I had my shower bath every morning in Oxford with water that was heated by a solar panel, even on days when it was raining like this, because there was always enough hot water in the storage tank. But if I want it in ten minutes when I haven't got a storage tank, then I really am rather limiting my choices, aren't I? Well, then with respect to the incarnation, the necessity, the absolute necessity is in fact, by our experience reflecting the truth, in other words, man is in need and therefore God has responded to that need with the incarnation. Yes, but he's not necessitated to respond in that way, you see, that's the point, that's really what St. Thomas is saying, in other words, there, as far as we can see, there are an infinite number of ways in which God could have done, brought about the same effect. Because there we have part of the mystery of evil, which we really just don't understand,


and how does God put it right? We really don't understand that. Doesn't that seem okay? I'm sure St. Thomas is entirely right to insist that we have no means of knowing whether God could have done it some other way, he simply says, in fact, we have to be told this is what it is, and we're always told this is connected, we're always told about this in a way which connects it with redemption. So that's the only way we can know about it. It doesn't mean to say that God couldn't have made some kind of, well, something like rain that fell out of the sky. Anything else cooking? Obviously, in your question about grace, you really have touched again,


just like Gino did in talking about the actions of Christ, you've touched on what is a really quite complex matter, to know what we're to say about what sort of thing is grace. As you don't need me to tell you, many people are apt to talk about grace as though it were like butterflies spread on bread. And you're quite right to insist that that's one of the reasons why we can't know whether it's grace, of course, because it so penetrates the whole of our being, and our action. There's no way of turning around and saying, because we're finding grace coming up behind us, giving you the first push. Because, of course, grace is not like that. Grace is in the action, you see, every time. So it's not like butter spread on bread, albeit. It's simply saying that this kind of action has another source than that which is in me. Though it is acting compatibly with me because I'm saying yes to this.


I really think you have got into a fix now, Mark. Peter's got one first there. Come on. Yes? When you were talking about the salvation of non-believers, is it that we can believe that God wills to save them? Whether they will survive. Yes, exactly. And, well, sort of connected with this is that, what about the idea of the anonymous Christian? Well, I think there must be an enormous number of them all over the world. I'm quite sure there are. And that's really why I was saying that there is this one little text in the Letter to the Hebrews, which says that in order to approach God, you must at least believe that he exists. Mind you, of course, how far that's got to be the sort of thing we should regard as very respectable when we're talking about in this room is another matter, isn't it?


Because, first of all, some people are not great thinkers. And they may not even know what name to call this. But I think the kind of apprehension that there might be some kind of power, some kind of force, some kind of influence in the world other than myself, is by no means uncommon. And it is treated as something very closely related to acts of conscience by people who think like that. And so I think when people are like this, I must think, for instance, one of the people I always think of in this connection is an extraordinary Jewish teacher I had. And I never left, I think, his presence without the extraordinarily strong impression of grace. Because his humanity, if you like, his humanity was so kind of glowing


with all the qualities one would expect grace to be, that it seemed to me to be very difficult to believe that he was not in a state of grace. And as far as I know from what he said, I never heard him say anything which was incompatible with being in a state of grace. Because it seems to me, if you like, that it's fairly minimal what you can talk about in this matter, is probably enough. And of course actually I began to teach in Norway, and I say in the school where I taught in Norway, I began to teach by saying by accident one day to one of the members of the staff something or other which led him to say, or something about it, I think I said, of course I was a communist at 16, everybody is. And so he said, well why don't we come and have a discussion about this? And inevitably this, as it developed with the students present, we were just talking across their heads, you know, talking at each other,


and they would tell me when they wanted to. And of course at one point, as I was known to be a priest, I never concealed this, although I wasn't generally dressed as a priest, I did have to say to one of the students, well perhaps I don't believe in the God you don't believe in. In other words, what I was really trying to make him see was that not everybody who says he's an atheist is disbelieving in the God I believe in. Because after all I wouldn't believe in the God they think God is. In fact I definitely, faith requires me not to. You see what I mean? This kind of, once you get into this area of vague language, you can often find that there will be people whose whole behavior and disposition and so on suggests that they do actually believe in God sufficiently to be able to respect their conscience, and therefore perhaps from time to time to pray.


And so there must be a lot of those about. I would guess there must be far more than there ever were. I don't know, but I could be wrong. We shall know one day. Yes? Anyway, yeah, that reminds me of an incident back in Manila. I was with my co-workers then, and they were people who profess a certain disbelief in God. Exactly, yes. And then one night there was this great earthquake. Some of these buildings were really thrown down. Anyway, when this earthquake was just going on, they all cried out, my God, my God. Yes, exactly. Yes, of course, it does sometimes require, and then of course there's the famous oft-repeated remark,


you know, betwixt the saddle and the ground, he mercy sought and first he found. It can happen as instantly as that. Suddenly somebody can, by the mercy of God, suddenly be put on the spot, and in a way he does recognize what is at issue and makes the act which is necessary, appropriate to the occasion. So I just don't know. But I have the impression that as I get, I think the older I get, the better I think people are taken by and large. Taken by and large. There are not very many people who are willfully malicious all the time. Yes? Well, it's just kind of relative to that in a way that one kind of tends to hear certain kinds of circles that the fringe person who is very good


shows this kind of goodness. I think Gandhi is always being quoted among others, or cited, I should say, that these are in fact the true Christians. And you know, you wonder whether the moral goodness is the same thing as a belief in God that these kinds of, different kinds of revelations, whether it is in fact the same thing. And one hears it in a kind of moralizing way. That's the way we ought to be. Yes, I think obviously the kind of flaw with that is that we can't quite judge it on those terms. And that's to say whatever their state of mind is, provided it's the best they happen to be able to do. There's a great number of these kind of people who have never really, even living in towns where there are churches, it's not surprising. I mean, I'm bothered if I had been born of a pagan family, I would have looked very seriously at the church.


I don't think I would have been prepared to be very interested in it. Especially if I'd known as much about it as I do now. Well, the church is in, right? I mean, the church is a very, very real obstacle to people believing. We must face the fact, now with 2,000 years of history, it's become a very real obstacle, in fact. When you say church, you're talking about the organization. I'm talking about the organizational institution, yes. Because when you talk about atheists, I was thinking, Brother Stan mentioned Madeline O'Hara, the atheist, who goes around, I guess, calling people trouble or something. But he says she's got to, he said she's got to be sick because why does somebody who believes in nothing spend so much time getting rid of it? Over something that doesn't exist. There's got to be something wrong with her to do that. If it doesn't exist, I think you would just ignore it. Yes. Well, I think we obviously, in principle,


we can't exclude that it would be possible actually to hate God. I personally tend to say to people who say that to me, why don't you go and tell him, sir? Because the hatred is at least contact. And I think Madeline herself had mentioned that the reason why she's an atheist is because she had bad experiences. Yes, exactly. Of course, that's what it is. In other words, what she's objecting is people who claim to represent God. And obviously, this is where we ought to have our doubts about ourselves, I suppose. So I don't know, John, but it does seem to me that's really the right answer, isn't it, that one can't just estimate this kind of thing. And I don't think it's always very wise to try to push such people in the direction of organized Christianity unless they show a disposition to make such an approach. Because after all, one doesn't know what they're going to be confronted with, which may be an obstacle.


I'm sort of thinking... I'm not preaching against ever telling anybody what Christian faith is about, but preaching at least to lay people, do remember that... You see, in the old church, I still think there's some case that may yet come in the lifetime of the younger of you for doing what after all the early church did, turning people out after the instruction and not allowing people to present to the Eucharist with they were not cleavers. As you know, it's still retained that the deacon says the doors, which means that people are meant to be shut out. And there may be some case for restoring that kind of discipline. I don't know. There may be. You know, we read in the refectory a book some while back. I forget what it was, but it was a missionary, a Catholic priest who went to...


What was it now? Christianity Rediscovery. Yeah, that was the one. And he saw the whole institutional thing as such a problem because what were these missionaries... First of all, they were doing, they were showing up with these hospitals and health dispensaries and that type of thing. And so they were serving to the physical needs of the people, which was important to them. But, and that was it. And they weren't getting, they weren't teaching the gospel. Yes. Really. And so you'd go a hundred years and healthy people, but they had no concept of the gospel. Yes, I remember actually Archbishop Roberts himself telling me that the Jesuits have had a college in Numbay which has been attended by Hindu students for nearly a hundred years. They've hardly ever had a convert. And so what he had to do in the same situation was just to, the institution had become


such an obstacle, which we'd said earlier, that he just had to drop that. And what he did was take an approach that was largely the early church. And so I was just... How did he do it there? I mean, one of the ways in which I decided to do it, at one point, I can't just remember what happened, I decided to dispense with clerical dress when I was travelling. A thing which I'd become totally unaware of until I was leaving America for the first time I'd been here. And the man inspecting my passport as I was leaving happened to be a Catholic. He said, heavens, you wouldn't be able to dress like that if you were a Catholic priest in America. And I simply said, it was indeed true that I'd found, by experience, that if you wore clerical dress on public transport in most places in Europe, you either got somebody who was drunk or a little bit mentally disturbed


approaching you. Not that I feel unsympathetic with either case, but it was really rather a nuisance and obviously could sometimes be an obstacle to a sensible conversation with somebody. And in fact, I've found that provided you're prepared to say that you're a priest when they ask you what to do, as people inevitably do after about ten minutes or so, by that time, you've already established a kind of human contact which makes them able to ask you things they would never have asked you if you'd been an advertiser that you were to begin with. It's happened repeatedly to me on journeys. There's an infinite advantage to look like everybody else does, as far as my external appearance is concerned. Anyway, this priest, well, he spent, I suppose,


what, two years or so in this type of catechesis, and I just found it interesting how he passed on the tradition of the Eucharist at the end of this time of catechesis, and I used the text from St. Paul. St. Paul says, I pass on to you only what I know, or something like that. Which is the earliest text we have in fact, of course. And then he left them, I think, left this tribe. Mass signs. What was it? Mass signs. Mass signs, yes. In fact, there was something National Geographic on them some time back. But anyway, and so he left, and he just left them, you know, after he had spent this time. And I was just thinking the other night on this, again, it's interesting why this would come up. And I was...


So there he kind of left the church in the hands of the elders of the tribe. And I was thinking, OK, now there is no, as such, any priesthood in the sense of, according to canon law, at least. And the only training and tradition they have is what he passed on to them. But I was just thinking, you know, perhaps this is what we're going to have to come back to because we've gotten so, perhaps, caught up in such an institution, concept, where when missionaries do come into a country, it is so tied up with the concepts of Europe. Yes, there's no doubt about it. Still, they are very European, yes. You know, it's really, it's not an easy answer.


I don't think it is. And of course, in one way, underneath what you're saying is a very interesting thing. One of the things I would like to mention to you is a book by a priest who, a Russian priest, Longs is dead. He died, I think, in the 50s. And of course, all these are out there. And I think I mentioned this to Brother John Baxter, although I intended to mention it in this book, but unfortunately I left it across the day where certainly no one was reading it. But it's a book called, it's been translated into French as Les Lys du Saint-Exupéry. I'm hoping to get it for our library at Big Sur. And it is an attempt, what this priest did was, his wife actually published it. It's published by SEV. It's still in print as far as I know.


It's not very expensive. And it is a very, very interesting attempt to discuss the question of the priesthood of the laity. The whole concept of the church starting with the laity. Now, it's not in any way unorthodox, but it is, I think, trying, most of the time we tend to try to look at this problem of hierarchy from the top downwards. Whereas in fact, what a reminder of the early church situation does is that the church grew from the bottom upwards, if you like, first by baptism. And it is of course true that if there were no baptised Christians there would be no need for clergy either, would there? So there is some connection between the faithful and the priesthood, which although, as the Vatican too has just said, they are essentially different,


it's not yet, nobody's yet clear, either in the East or the West, in what way this difference exists. It's certainly got nothing to do with the global dress, whatever it is. So I suppose you can say that here is a question where somebody might be in a difficulty. I mean, what should be done? All I can say is that you do know that the experience of China, for instance, and I would think also, my extraordinary experience in Norway, in certain cases, is that sometimes people's awareness of what faith is can last for centuries without the ministration of the clergy. There were, as you probably know, the Jesuits did have, there was the very first test, big important test, the quest of vernacular liturgy.


The Jesuits did do a lot of remarkable work in China when they first went there and were eventually thrown out, partly because it was decided by people a long way away in Rome they weren't allowed to do anything in the use of the Chinese language. But the faith survived in lots of places where they had been. People knew it, how to say, the Badanassa and the Hail Mary, for centuries afterwards. And very soon after arriving in the place where I lived in solitude in Norway, I was led by a non-Catholic book printed in Oslo in the 19th century, which showed that people up in little villages in Norway, who had officially been Lutherans since the Reformation, knew the Church of Canada and not only the major feasts, but also the feasts of people like St. Botolph and so on.


They got them all right. In other words, on farmyards, and there are still places, for instance, in my area, there were still farms where they would talk about the fact that the sun is just coming back, so if you put butter on a pancake and put it in the window of a kindle-messer, which is a candle-messer, of course, then it will melt. That's the sun, the sun is where it's coming back in. So people remembered the kindle-messer, although they had no idea what it was about, of course, but then all kinds of funny things got remembered, and things were done, which you'd never think. But mind you, of course, we're now in a different sort of world. In America, I was terribly struck by the fact that everything is about to move on. If you go to a place like Espanola near Chryston Desert, for instance, you'll find in the middle of the town a large notice that says this town was founded in 1565, but if you look at it, you would think it was founded last weekend and probably will be next.


Well, I don't know, Paul Mark, what we should be able to say about that. It seems to me obvious that we have to go on making some provision for people to receive the sacraments, and there are some ways in which I think we, by experience, should feel a bit of respect for some of the basic things about canon law. It is important to know that the elementary things that are really necessary are done, and obviously every detail about the way we celebrate Mass is not canonically required, but at least some things are obviously required. The sign and symbol element must be present, and canon law can't be wrong in insisting on this. This is not just... Yes, I'm sorry, come on. I was going to say, that's what I like about the book you were talking about, because the other day you were saying that the New Testament wasn't starting a new religion. Exactly. And in my feeling, like St. Paul, that despite the historicity of his experience on the road,


the road to Damascus, it's not seen as an insight. He gets this sudden flash that he was a holy man, and finally it dawned on him, Christ, in the word that they knew, the scriptures they knew. Or at least what I pick up in that book Paul Mark was talking about, Christianity Rediscovered. Yes. This missionary, in the people's own belief at the time, he showed them Christ in their belief. Yes. And I thought that was fantastic, because they believed that God was up on a mountain somewhere, and he was able to communicate that the God that was up there is really with them there. Yes. And he took their symbols and the signs that they already had, and he used them to convey the Eucharist, and they were a Eucharistic community, because at the end he was saying there's something about a clump of grass, because that's part of their livelihood, and he would go into the village and he'd greet somebody, and give them this grass, and then they would go greet someone. It would take about an hour or so he'd say, but eventually they ended up all coming there,


and those who had differences had to pass that piece of grass to each other, and they were reconciled, and then they joined together in the breaking of the bread. I was saying, I'm also going to give this introduction, when I'm going through, our storm is always like this, it's here. They're very, very fascinating. It's very fascinating what's going on outside at the moment. I've not seen it quite like this. I've seen lots of storms in the hills, but on flat land I've never seen quite the extraordinary little explosions of lightning going all around the building. Does it always happen like this again? Does it, yes. Fascinating. It can be pretty violent. That's the problem we had a couple of the other day. Really, yes. Yes, I can feel it physically, don't you? This is one very fascinating thing. I always feel it in my body. I have a very responsive body, and I can always feel the charges. I don't want just to dawdle about this.


Is there anything else you really want to add? I don't think so. I think, if you like, there's a direction there, which does need thinking about. I think it needs thinking about sensibly. Obviously we can't suddenly, in the middle of Canada, if we want to begin to do things like this. Really, we can't do it. Because it makes people too confused. First of all, the kind of man you're talking about is working in a society which is still, of itself, relatively stable. Ours is extremely unstable. So to draw that kind of thing in is to make people simply more confused than they already are. That's the great danger of it. Even if there are no more grave theological reasons, you can go against it. It is certainly precarious to leave people in that kind of state. I wonder if there is such thing as lay ministers here,


in this country. Back in the Philippines, we have several of these. Because of this, 90% of the population are God. Yes. Now we have not many priests. Right. Not many priests. In proportion to the needs of the church in the Philippines, not many priests. But they train the lay people to minister to the people in the barrios like that. Yes. There are lots of them. Yes, they bring communion to the sick. Yes, there are quite a lot in America. Yes, there are quite a lot in America. Yes, in fact, each time I've been to a major town parish church, there's usually been a layman standing beside the priest giving communion to the people. So they came up in two rows. They're all much quicker that way. But in that case, in our case, sometimes they... They're by themselves, yes.


Ah, yes. On Sundays they... Yes. Yes, well this of course has been officially provided for, as you know, in the arrangements since Vatican II. Where it's necessary and so on. Well, bless you all. I'm very grateful to you. And I hope you will prosper under your Chinese director. He is apparently Chinese, coming from Hong Kong, being trained in Louvain. And due to arrive on Thursdays, as the abbot says. And... So he will be carrying on with something or other for a bit. And as I say, I should like to be... With regard to the objections, I think we gain a few useful clarifications in the answers Thomas gives. To the first one, namely there are lots of unbelievers


who have no connection with the Church. St. Thomas says that although those who are believers are believers, are not actually in the Church, yet they could be. And this possibility is founded on two considerations, he says. First and foremost, the power of Christ, which is sufficient for the salvation of the whole human race. And secondly, of course, in complete accord with what Erikan II has just been saying to us, the free will of those in whom this possibility exists. That's to say, the possibility of responding to the offer of Christ. I think if we were going to do something rather more complex, I suppose we would have to say that it's rather difficult to know what's the very minimum, if we take this for the side of possibility, just to simplify things a bit.


The Epistle to the Hebrews does say at one point that in order to attain to God, one must at least believe that he exists. I think this can be something very obscure, but it can be very real. And I suppose the next minimal stage is something like the belief that if God exists, then he's done something for human need, which we somehow recognize we can't do ourselves. And I presume that would be enough to make one a member of the Church of Decent Desire. It would be comforting to think that all official members of the Church thought as much, which one is sometimes in doubt on. As I say, really what's, if you like, the obscure bit


is just how explicit this has to be. And obviously, to some extent it depends, I think, on the person, because many of us do remain in obscurity in lots of profound areas of our life, a lot of our life. It can be the case, of course, even somebody who becomes a saint, like Bernadette, who couldn't talk, couldn't explain anything about the Trinity. I presume, of course, she was faithful to the kind of thing we were mentioning the other day in class. A very philosophical explanation of the Trinity, instead of being taught about it out of the Gospels. At any rate, it's obvious there can be obscure ways in which I think people might really genuinely come to


faith and realize this can only be a guess, of course, but I've often thought in my experience with my fellow human beings that there are certain moments in everybody's life when they know they're being offered the possibility of saying yes to something about God and they know they're free to say yes or no. I could be wrong in that, but I think I've seen signs of it in certain people at certain moments. That both the possibility is there and that they're aware that it's there. They don't always know what it is. And I think, undoubtedly, some of them respond to it enough for it to be faith. Then, of course, the second one, that lots of people who are already members of the Church don't look as though they're very much members of Christ as their head. St. Thomas says, of course, that the glorious Church, without spot or wrinkle,


is the final goal to which we are led by the Passion of Christ. In this world, many are obviously in different states with respect to this final fulfillment. It is, of course, I suppose, a great mistake, isn't it? One of the things I'm hoping is happening as a result of the breakdown of ecclesiastical organization is that very slowly, preachers will remind their ordinary Sunday congregations that, of course, they're all called to a life of perfection. Because they are. And let's say, although we who enter a religious life aren't said to be called to a life of perfection, it doesn't mean to say that no other Christians are at all. And I've not the slightest doubt that there are a great number of people who live lives in the world who have ample opportunities of becoming a great deal more perfect than people in monasteries do. They are tried more constantly, in more subtle ways, every day.


But one doesn't know. At least, it's very important to remember that, of course, we're all called to be sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. And this is so personal, the thing, that there's no way, really, of dividing people up into categories. I mean, all those things have their canonical uses, but they're not very useful in the pastoral sense. Then to the third one, on the problem of the Fathers of the Old Testament, St. Thomas says that they did not lean on the mysteries of the law as such, but simply on them as shadows of things to come. And so, these Fathers were led to Christ by the same faith and the love that leads us to Him. So that on this side, you see, if you like, we can put people who belong obscurely, and the Old Testament, later on, and so on.


Through symbols and mysteries. This does not say that we don't also believe through symbols and mysteries, but very different in kind. I mean, let's say, when our Lord says that Abraham rejoiced to see My day, it obviously isn't, He's not really saying that Abraham considered very much about the Incarnation. But He is saying that whatever the patriarch's faith was, when God promised him that he would have children, more numerous than sons, I was delighted that Fr. Francis said to me after lunch, the last thing you said on Sunday in your conference, I noticed he was taking some notes down, was not in Bianconino, and I said, No, it wasn't. I don't always tell everybody what I see, because it was in Gregor the Great. It was one of the things I was mentioning in my conference in Oxford, that Gregor the Great is saying, in fact, we have every reason to suppose


there are lamps of light all around the world, because Abraham has got so many children, more numerous than stars, and one can't always see every lamp that is burning, sometimes there are glasses of smoke in, but the heart can be full of love in a very obscure kind of way. And this, of course, is obviously true. And it seems to me, in the modern world at least, we must really slightly extend what is being said here. You see, it seems to me that we now know what people didn't know in St. Thomas' time. St. Thomas didn't know that China existed. I always think how marvellous it would have been if St. Anselm could know what China was like in his period, or St. Bernard. Some of those wonderful products of Chinese culture were actually being created at that particular time, at the same time. Extraordinary creative period all over the globe. It seems to me possible that there may even be such people alive today


who are in a kind of Old Testament situation. In fact, I don't hesitate to say that it seems to me that a great number of people who are baptised do generally go through the whole story of the Bible in living it out. I mean, they really started very Old Testament people. It takes a long time to get ready for the Gospels. Because, of course, don't forget that one of the things I didn't say, as I might have said, I suppose, at some point in this course, is something which Irenaeus says very clearly in a very short work of his, which we only have in Syriac. It's in translation in the Ancient Greek and Writer's Series here, in the library, I have no doubt. Namely, the proof of apostolic preaching, where Irenaeus says, Why do you tell me to keep the Sabbath when I keep it every day in my body? In other words, Irenaeus is really saying, I think, this is a potentiality which has really never been adequately worked out.


In fact, St Thomas says it at some point, also in the second part of the Summa. He says, Why on earth do I have to ride all this bitter toll? Because, clearly, the life of the New Testament is the life of grace. And you don't need all these rules. I suppose we can say that the Gospels really are, what that kind of thought is saying, is that of course, not that the Gospels are abolishing the commandments, but they actually make life much more difficult. Because if you live by the Gospels, you really are taking on something quite, where you've got to be very aware, very alive, very, really conscious, and so on. Then you don't need to worry about the commandments. You'll be doing them all right. You'll be full, indeed. The demands for love are simpler, because they only come one at a time, in a way.


But they're very searching. But if there's anything you want to ask me about that, we can talk about it later when we've had a break. I think I can only conclude what I'm saying now with two remarks about how all these considerations ought to affect our life and our prayer. In respect to our own life, we have, and always shall have in this world, much to learn and much to realise, to which we should pray about and work to remain open to. And insofar as the very concept of revelation implies God's wish to save all human beings, I've personally never been able to forget something which was often said by one of my teachers, who was not a Catholic, of whom I was very fond when I was a small boy. Namely, he said, I've made a habit of saying to myself,


have I made anyone's case worse by what I've said or done today? To which, if we think we have, we need not neglect St David's remedy, not to let the sun go down before we've tried to put it right. And for the wider perspectives, we couldn't do better, perhaps, than follow his recommendation to his anchor's sister. Bind then the whole world in one embrace of love, there remember and rejoice with all the good, there behold the evil and weep for them, there look on the afflicted and oppressed and have compassion. And after all, as so many stories tell, greatly great tells one, in one of his 40 homilies, which we have, 40 homilies on the gospel, one knows, after one never knows, whether by one or other of those means, by serving somebody, by compassion,


we shall not truly have shown to Christ the compassion which we need to receive from him. Which is what one of the tests of the judgment seems to involve, I suppose. Well, let's take a break, shall we, and then see if there's anything to what's talking about. Is really the argument itself. You see, you've got, I think if I can give you a tiny picture of the way theology was conducted in St. Thomas' time. I'm sorry, I was going to make noises on the machine, as I didn't notice it was on. You had your master sitting up, on a kind of elevated seat, and below him would be sitting his bachelor in training.


So in a public discussion, the bachelor would be expected to deal with objections and difficulties coming from the audience. And in fact, we have got some reports of these sorts of discussions, of St. Thomas actually at work, in what is known as the quadlibitalis, which means just what you like. In essence, what I'm giving you now, in fact, is a quadlibit. And let's say you can say whatever you like, or ask me whatever you like. I can also refuse to answer. But the point of the quadlibits was that people put up arguments. In fact, one of the very shortest ones, which I could easily have quoted in this course, is one in which the question is put, why on earth should you have any theological teaching at all? Which explains things. And St. Thomas gives the very simple reply that if you don't explain to people why things are so, then they go away with empty heads,


because they don't understand. If they only know that it is so, but are not told why it is so, then they don't understand anything. And so really, I suppose that's the value of the discussion. I think it's the value also to the teacher. And so, in fact, really, although these are called responses in the sum itself, this was what the master did when the discussion had been going on. His bachelor was doing his best to give answers which seemed satisfactory. And then the master gave what was known as the determinatio, which is to determine the question, as you can see it's the English word determination. And also, of course, this is how you got... One of the very first of St. Thomas' works was a commentary on the sentence. It's a long, long sentence. Because what I've been telling you, sometimes when I make a comment, that is my sententia, is what I think about it, if you like.


So in fact, what St. Thomas was really doing was kind of reducing to book form, and very much simplified form, what these public discussions were like. Actually, at the time when I was being brought up, and most people in my generation, we did actually have to be able to dispute in Latin about these things. And there were very definite rules to the game. It was a very adept game to play. I couldn't possibly play it any more now, I think. Because it worked on the principle that you always have to be able to concede something to what your objector says. You make... You then say, I concede this, but I distinguish in this way or that way. And St. Thomas, we've already seen in the reports I've been giving you in the summer, that sometimes he will say, well, this can be looked at in two sorts of ways. There can be two kinds of necessity, and so on. Those sorts of things. So you've got... That's how the system functioned.


And I think one has got to remember, in this way, of course, medieval universities were unlike the modern American universities they could possibly be. Because people could, in fact, very freely choose their own master within reason. And this is how somebody like Peter Abelard, for instance, in the 12th century, became so extremely popular. I must say that even reading the printed texts we now have of, for instance, his commentary on the Romans, it's still possible to catch the feeling how exciting it must have been to listen to as a lecturer. And why it was young students fascinated by him and flocked to him when he was talking on the Christmas of the Romans. It's a very, very exciting kind of work to read. I don't say it's very easy to put it across to a modern audience, the excitement, but I think once you can read the letter, which is not very difficult, you can get the feeling why the students wanted to hear him. By the way,


what does anybody want to ask about anything? Is anybody particularly intrigued with these kind of perspectives? As I say, even if I'm asked to come back, it doesn't look as though it will be before the fall. And then I may very well depend on contact with one or the other of you to know exactly what has been going on, because this would have helped me. Though I don't think, I hope you won't feel I've failed you whenever you go on, because even if you go over some of this ground again, you may find it sounds a bit different from somebody else. And then you'll have to make up your own minds, because in the long run, you'll only really go along with the theology you understand, won't you? Nobody else can have it for you. I think that's really one one has to find what one's own questions are and see how well one can answer them.


But of course there are two different ways of doing this. Either they come spontaneously, which as they do to all of us. Somebody says something in a homily or makes some remark in passing which we won't think about. But the other way, of course, is by reading the big books. I think not only did I make the choice that I wasn't going to read articles a great deal, but right from the beginning of my studies, I've always tried to read books rather than commentaries on books. This meant that I was reading the Summa in a very modern kind of way, I think, long before it became fashionable, because I found many of the classical commentaries on the Summa are so impossible, not in the sense that they aren't brilliant. Sometimes they're extremely ingenious indeed, but they're a long, long way from St Thomas' own way of thinking. And having a rather strong historical sense, I really wanted to get back to this because sometimes I think this is the only way


we can understand what St Thomas is really talking about by making the effort not to impose on him our own thoughts, but to try to. And of course, for them, at the time I was doing this, it was still rather embarrassing not to hold a very Thomistic point of view, especially if it was the Thomist school's way of looking at the Summa, which I often couldn't. And nowadays it's much more. In fact, I guess that much, much less teaching is done directly from the Summa itself. But I think you can see that sometimes these sorts of clarifications which St Thomas does are the kind of ones that we'd all of us spontaneously make and which are useful clarifications of principle


and as I say in a certain way, I hope what we've done is just to look at a few of the sorts of ways theologians work. And St Thomas is always interesting in that he always keeps his eye very firmly on what can really be. He's not very intrigued by, as it were, speculative extravagances, one might say, in the theological world. I think he is philosophically. I always feel in one way he's more at home in thinking about things like the angels because there he's thinking much more in the world of Islamic philosophy, which I think in certain ways he felt rather at home with. Which is probably why he took all the trouble he did to write a special Summa


addressed to the Islamic audience. Yes? Father, we have... There are a couple of questions that came up in a class that we had. I don't know if you feel that it would fit in. You don't have to answer them. But I was just... It could be brief or something. I would just give you the questions. One of the questions that he asked was since God is his perfection, he said, can God create something that is imperfect? That was one question. Another question was, and he did not believe that there is absolute truth. Is there absolute truth? How could you go about proving that there is absolute truth? I can't remember the other ones that he asked. I see. Somebody asked these questions. Yes. Would you just repeat the first one? The first one was that God is perfect.


Everything he does is perfect. Therefore, can he create something that is imperfect? He creates everything. Well, let's just say one or two things in principle about creation. If we put God up here, whatever perfections he has are what he is. And so they are identical with himself. Now, there's one way in which he must differ from everything he creates. That it is sustained. Let's put the devil here, shall we? I'll tell you what the devil he is, what the devil he does, how the devil he does it. Now, you see, one of the ways in which the devil is still good is that he is. In other words, every creative thing is less perfect than God is


because what it is is not the same as that it is. Because that it is depends on God. What it is, sometimes, as in the case of the devil, depends on his voluntarium, his choice. So, in that way, every creative thing is less perfect than God. Now, other things, the devil is a special case, too complicated for us to talk about. But let's come down to, let's put it in other words, me. Now, I, of course, am imperfect in all kinds of different ways. I mean, first of all, I start as baby. And then I become youth.


Now, it is, of course, not perfect for me to have all the properties of the ancient when I am a baby. In other words, there is a kind of imperfection here, if you like, which is, some things develop since then. I am made to grow in perfection. Now, of course, you'll remember that St. Thomas did make a rather important kind of distinction, which we had to talk about in connection with some things. We can't forget just what it was. In which, oh yes, it was, of course, in connection with divine providence. One of the special things that God has done about man


is to leave, is to give us freedom of choice. Which means to say, in other words, that he won't force us to reach a certain kind of perfection. And that's to say, if I eat too much food, I become as well as a tub, or whatever it is, you know. Now, it's something that I'm perfectly free to do, and is certainly very imperfect. A perfect man ought to be able to move. At least. He shouldn't be, if you like, be immovable, for his own carelessness, if you see what I mean. So those kind of imperfections are sometimes bent on choice. And then, of course, I mean, if we look out the window at the trees, and diddle the birds and squirrels all whizzing round and so on, and they're all realising certain kinds of developing perfections, aren't they? They are made to be like that. And that's to say, in other words, the fact that they're not,


that the little squirrel is not a big squirrel, it's not an imperfection, while it is a little squirrel. An imperfection of the human being, obviously, is if the human being never really goes up, provided, I mean, that he's capable of doing this. And obviously, if somebody remains infantile when they're 60, there's something wrong. It may be something physically wrong. So I think we've got to bring into this picture, what we didn't talk about the other day, was that God, with three things, God not only permits them to actually choose what kind of perfection they will reach, or whether they will reach it at all, but also God permits evil. We haven't talked about what is known as the problem of evil. Evil, which is deprivation of good.


So God permits evil to occur, and commits both physical and moral evils. Moral evils, of course, must necessarily be connected with the will somewhere, there must be a choice on somebody's part, before moral evil can come into existence. Presumably the devil must have made a choice. And we can hope to understand what kind of choice it was, but he must have made a choice. And the kind which we ourselves can make, we become little devils. But I think it's important to distinguish between moral and physical evil. Both are deprivations of good. Now this kind is part of the normal work in the world. Isn't it? I mean, that's to say,


one of the things that every gardener knows is that it's a good thing that the leaves of the trees that have to shed their leaves, fall, because in fact this is part of the natural cycle. Lots of the physical evil in the world is part of nature's cycle. Actually, it looks as though creation is designed to work in this way. So that some things break down into other things and so on, because new life comes out of that. Moral evil is, of course, a much more profound question. But once you've got the concept of free will into the world, you can't really keep moral evil out of some kind, anyway. What God is going to do about this in the long run, we don't know, which is why I said that I think, although we can't teach it as dogma, we may hope that God will do something about everything, even about the world's people. Because we're not bound by any dogma,


the kind that we are, to think that there's no election in heaven. I did hear the other day, like my Lord, I once went to the host and carefully, very carefully, and I heard somewhere, in the last few weeks, I heard somebody reporting our Lord saying to St. Gertrude, I won't tell you what I did about Judas, because that wouldn't be very good for everybody to know, which suggests that it was meant to be. It is a very real problem for me, I must say. It's a very real problem. I don't think that he was the first part of it. It's a very real problem for me, why it is that our Lord didn't do something about Judas. That we know, anyway. But he may have done. Let's say, if you like, as far as dogmas go, nothing is revealed about what the faith of Judas would be. We just don't know. We know what Jesus said about him, but that doesn't necessarily mean it was true. Yes?


In terms of God creating, being perfect, it would seem that He created people. Could we say that, in a sense, can we say that if God creates perfect, and He's created a perfect you, however, you are not equal to the creature, so you're not the same as the creature, so God who creates perfect... But you're not the actualized... Yes, in other words, some things, the perfection of some things, consists in their capacity to develop, doesn't it? That is a perfection. The capacity to develop is a perfection of itself, at the same time. And that's the beauty, really, I suppose, of those of us who are fascinated by plants and trees, is watching things mature in a given situation. I mean, the wonderful trees which take several hundred years to grow, that's part of their beauty, that in fact they do develop,


their capacity to develop. And the same is true of human beings, of course. Well, that seems to be a big thing in my own life, is that if we all exist as beings, we must be related in some way. The first gift of God is existence, and in the case of some other things, it is actual development. There's no doubt about it. So, this is a kind of picture, so, if you like, surely this is a fairly satisfactory answer, isn't it, Lauren? Yes, it's a very good point. It's very good. It doesn't explain everything, because, as I say, we only know that God has done something about man's condition, which is something to do with redemption. We only know it for ourselves, and we only know certain aspects of it, and we none of us know what the end term is going to be for any of us. It's not generally, perhaps it's not as often remembered as it should be, that it's the ordinary teaching of the Church


and nobody can know whether they're in a state of grace or not. It doesn't mean, say, you have to worry about it before you go to Compton, because you can't find out anyway. There's no way. In other words, what St. Thomas will say is we can only know this by signs. And let's say if you're always stealing things from the pantry in town, and all the rest of it, there may be some doubts, but not necessarily. It might even be virtuous, if you're being starved, which is really why St. Thomas will say if a starving man is taking a loaf of bread, he's not stealing, because he needs it. And God provides that in which he may be fed. He's not committed a formal act of theft. So in any rate, as I say, there are obviously areas there where we just don't know about everything, but this doesn't mean to say that the existence of the world in which things are here and now imperfect is the sign that they're unworthy of God.


Sometimes it's a very positive thing, a marvellous thing, that they are what they are. I suppose the most exciting thing about human beings, what makes them so intriguing to live, is that they don't remain the same. They have tremendous potentialities. Nothing's more painful, I think, if one really loves one fellow human beings, is to see the way they warp themselves and spoil themselves when you see that they could become such wonderful people. Well, what about the second question, then? That's even worse, I think. What about that? What was the other one? Is there absolute truth? Well, of course, one of the predictions of God is that he has truth. Well, I like it. That he has truth. But if... I suppose then I have to ask you, what does this question mean?


Don't I, really? Before I go on any further. I can see some of the things it might mean. And let's say, if the question is, can I know absolute truth, here and now, the obvious answer is... What is it? You must be able to tell me the answer to that one. You don't have to toss a coin for that, though. You must be, you must have in your own head the principles by which you can answer that question. Mustn't you? And if the question means, if you can, can I know absolute truth, the answer must necessarily be no, mustn't it? Because, in fact, it isn't... What is absolutely true is not self-evident to me. And I say, if you like, that kind of truth which God is,


is not evident to me. This doesn't mean, say, I cannot know it in obscurity. I can believe in God and have contact, therefore I can believe that what God said is true. Faith, in fact, is an act of saying yes to what God knows. But that doesn't mean to say that I understand it, does it? There was confusion, I think, about the word no absolute truth. We can be certain of it, but when we say no, we sometimes mean, well, what you're using it means, we never actually experience or realize what it is. If that's what the person is asking, then of course the answer is no. In other words, if the person is asking... St. Thomas says one very interesting thing when he's commenting on the metaphysics of Aristotle.


He says what was also said by another very great philosopher, much later Kant, namely that the mark of a philosopher is to be able to see what is doubtful. As St. Thomas says, if you cannot see there are any questions to be asked, you cannot possibly make any progress. It's obvious. In other words, I think that anybody with a trained mind is going to develop the capacity to doubt whether they know what is true. I mean, everything I've ever written, I think, I often look back at it and think, I wonder if that's really true. Don't you think one ought to doubt oneself? Doubting oneself is not the same thing as doubting the truth, is it? It's precisely because one believes the truth is attainable to the mind, the mind has an appetite for truth, that one ought to doubt whether one sees it. You may think that so and so is true, but you ought to be in a state of mind when you can say to yourself, is this true?


Or do I understand this? It seems to me that so and so thinks it, but is it true? And obviously, we ought to keep this capacity. We oughtn't to doubt about everything, but first of all, it makes life too difficult. If you do. But I think we ought to doubt enough about things to be able to keep alive and awake, yes? Were you saying that we can't know absolute truth in a direct way? In a direct way? No, we can't, can we? Because what I'm thinking of is, well, this whole idea of not-self-knowledge brings us to humility, and to the grace given in that. Yes, exactly. And it's the virtue of truth that I know about myself, surely, the nearer I get to some kind of self-knowledge, the more I'm aware of what I don't see about myself, don't you think? Okay. But this allows us to approach, too, truth.


It does, yes, it does. Yes, it does, yes. So on the whole, the chaps who want some kind of very special sort of truth will have to be fairly humble people, because they'll have to be willing to be taught both by things, by other people, and by their own thoughts. Don't you think? I think the most terrible thing that took me, I don't suppose I've ever quite recovered from it, one of my masters saying, well, I think one should never say to anybody else, you're unteachable. It took me a very long time to live that one down. Imagine, I mean, he'd got rather bad-tempered with me. As I can now see. Yes? One of the examples that he used,


the person we asked, he said, we believe, I think this is the way he said it, I'm not sure if this ties in, but it had something to do with, we believe that there should be one man and one wife. Yes. But there are, and we think it's immoral for a man to have more than one wife. Some of us do, yes. But in some cultures, they believe, in some tribes, That's why I said some of us do, yes. Yes. He said in some tribes, they believe that it's virtuous for men to have more than one wife. Yes. And he says, And of course we can create examples from the Old Testament where God appeared to prove it. And I can't believe it. So what he was doing was he was taking different examples, and he said, Is there any way that everything is relative?


But it isn't true that everything is relative. After all, relatives have to be about something precise, don't they? In other words, it seems to me that you can have a butter which is relatively good or not, but it's either butter or it's jam. Isn't it? I mean, that's quite simple. It's not true. People who've been to say things like that tend to want to say things which are merely just silly. Because it is really true that we can know, we can measure the purity of a specimen of iron or whatever it is we are testing. And know reasonably what it is. We now have a picture of the physical world which is infinitely more complex than anybody in the 19th century had. So that we, in fact, we now have a picture of even the most solid looking objects


being masses of things in flight and movement and so on. Now that we know how complex a molecule is. Those sorts of things. But remember, they are only pictures of the physical world. In one way we've moved out into a world of kind of symbols even in physics, haven't we? In our own time. And we've done that precisely because people have been prepared to ask that kind of question. I mean, is this... I mean, for instance, when I got down to my new particle, is this as far as I can get? So I remember an old lady saying, somewhere near an atomic research station, we were having supper one night and an old lady was saying all through the meal, I do wish they hadn't discovered the atom. Because they never did. It wasn't the kind of thing you had to say in the middle of supper. But nobody ever did. Because the idea of an atom was itself a concept.


And the whole examination of the physical world as it's gone on in our own time has led to the explosion of that as a conception of the way nature works. And it's done so precisely because some people have came for various good reasons to doubt whether this picture was good enough. And I've no doubt that if we had an expert physicist in the room at the moment he'd probably be able to tell us something so complex we'd none of us understand it. And we might not have any criterion for judging whether it was true or not. I mean obviously about ordinary things we can generally only judge by the principle of contradiction. Which I suppose presumably you did this with Marx with Bohr, didn't you? Didn't you have something about the principle of contradiction when you were doing philosophy with Bohr? You must have done. Well. John. It cannot be


both black and tall and white and short at one and the same time and and one and the same respect. That's one of the self-evident truths. And of course when you get down to one of those sorts of things then you may get to the point when you ask the sort of questions which do lead to a great leap forward. And of course it's one of the reasons why I had to ask you what the question meant.


Because it could mean several incompatible things at one and the same time. Let's say if he was making if he was really saying I can't make a statement which nobody can refute in any sort of way that might very well be true. It depends what kind of statement it was. But this one is I think an irrefutable statement.