Book Plunge: Back To Virtue

What do I think of Peter Kreeft’s book published by Ignatius Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We often talk about people being good today. We have debates about morality and the nature of it. Something we don’t often talk about is virtue. The word seems dated most often. My main introduction to the word virtue was back when I played Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar. It’s an oddity in that the goal of that game in addition to being an RPG with fighting monsters, was to gain virtue. Sure. You could trick that blind shopkeeper and pay less for what you needed and get it, but you would lose virtue. Sure. You could run from that enemy you could defeat, but you would lose virtue. Show enough virtue and you can go to a shrine and get recognition for it to complete the game.

Maybe that’s why I saw it there. We think of virtue perhaps as a medieval concept. Our notion of character is that so much of morality that we need to abandon is restraining. How can you have any fun?

So ditch that Christian morality on sexuality and have at it! As long as you both consent, what’s the harm? Don’t worry about pride. Think highly of yourself. Know that you’re the best. Greed is good! About the only exception to this would be envy, because envy is the one deadly sin that has no pleasure to it.

Kreeft thinks we need some of this system back. If we do not have virtue, then our civilization will die. As a big fan of Lewis, Kreeft uses Lewis’s account of ships on the water. Ships on the water need to know three things, how to stay afloat, how to avoid hitting other ships, and why you are there in the first place. Our culture often works on the first two, but we don’t pay attention to the third.

Our approach is utilitarian. If it feels good, do it. Does it bring us what we call happiness? Then do it. Too often, we see what we call morality as a bad thing to an extent. Why do we use terms like goody two-shoes? A fuddy-duddy is someone who is spoiling our fun.

Kreeft tells us that the virtues are actually more enjoyable. The way of righteousness might cause us to abandon some short-term pleasures, but in the end, we will have more true joy than anyone else. Perhaps part of the problem in our culture is that we don’t know what happiness or joy are.

Kreeft takes us to the Sermon on the Mount for this and gives it as a real sermon that Christians today are to really follow. He also sees the beatitudes as being in contrast to the seven deadly sins. He walks us through each sin and then explains the counterpart to it in the beatitudes.

What he says, I leave to you, but Kreeft is always a stimulating writer. He speaks on an everyday level and at the same time, if you have heard him speak, it’s hard to read the book without hearing his tone and voice with it. While Kreeft is a Catholic, I have found his writings quite enjoyable as a Protestant and in some ways, he seems more Protestant than a lot of Protestants I know.

Kreeft in the end lays down what is at stake. We either go back to virtue or our civilization perishes. We cannot turn back the nuclear clock. Nuclear weapons are here to stay. We can do something about the people who have access to them.

Christ called us to be a virtuous people. It’s not an option for us. I recommend getting this book to learn more about how to do that.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Hitler In Heaven?

What would you think of this news? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Peter Kreeft is one of my favorite writers and speakers and I plan to write a review of a book of his tomorrow, but last night I was listening to a talk of his on the nature of Heaven. Somewhere in there, he was talking about deathbed conversions and said that yes, you could live the worst life possible and still convert and be in the loving presence of God. He said that what if Hitler as the allies were closing in and before he shot himself somehow repented and came to Christ? Would he be in Heaven? His answer was yes.

Honestly, I recoiled a bit when I heard that. Then I took a moment to think about that. Why should I? We all don’t doubt that Hitler was a very evil man. Generally, the rule is that the first one to point to Hitler is the one who will lose the debate. It’s understandable. You want to talk about evil? You look to Hitler.

I could especially imagine some Jewish people recoiling at this thought. “Why, that’s the man who killed my grandparents! He tried to wipe out my people! Why would I want to have anything to do with a God who would forgive him?”

On the surface, this is understandable. Most all of us have people in this world we can’t stand. We have people who hurt us tremendously. Reality is that in many cases, it is okay to be angry with them. I’m learning this now. I don’t want to hate my ex-wife at all, but I also realize I have to allow some anger. After all, if I just try to bottle it all up, that could much easier lead to hatred. I can be angry and upset that I was unjustly hurt and I feel it every day. I still pray for her and want the best, but I can accept that something awful happened.

Chrysostom, a church father, once said that if you are angry out of proportion or wrongfully with someone, that is a sin. Most of us could agree with that. Even a skeptic might not use the word sin, but he could say “Yes. You shouldn’t be angry like that.” However, Chrysostom also went the other way. If you should be angry with someone and you are not, that is also a sin. I am not at all saying he is infallible, but it is certainly a statement to think about. Some events in life should lead to anger in you.

So now let’s get back to Hitler. What if you were presented with news that was absolutely certain that he had repented like that and he would be part of the blessed for all eternity despite what he did? Your response doesn’t reveal a lot about God. It doesn’t reveal a lot about Hitler. I contend they reveal absolutely nothing about those two. They reveal a lot about you.

After all, what grounds do you have for getting into eternity that Hitler wouldn’t have? Could you say you did more good works? Sure, but that’s not the basis for God forgiving you. Could you say you were more faithful? Yes, but again, that is not why you are forgiven. God doesn’t owe you forgiveness. Could you say you didn’t do the evil Hitler did? Yes, but God is not letting you in for what you didn’t do and He will talk more about what you did do. (Sins of omission excluded here are an exception here.)

So what is your reason for God forgiving you? Because you asked. You repented. You did not deserve that grace? You did not earn it? God does not owe you forgiveness. Apart from the grace of God, you would wind up in Hell and you would deserve it, as would I.

And God would not be unjust in a bit of it.

There will never be a point in all of eternity where you deserve to be there. Every moment you are there is still a gift of grace. You will depend on God for everything all your life, including grace. Every moment there is a moment of His love and mercy. Every moment He gives you here to repent also is such a moment.

Years ago I wrote a blog about if your murderer will be in Heaven. The reality is God can take the people who should have been the most hostile to each other on Earth and by His grace transform them into great lovers of one another. Perhaps if we sought repentance more and more now, we could see the same thing happen here on Earth.

So did Hitler repent? If I had to take Vegas odds, I’d bet against it, but if he did, we should rejoice. We should celebrate it, because were it not for the grace of God we would be like him. By forsaking God, we all have the capacity to live like Hitler, but by repentance, we all have the capacity to live like Jesus.

Choose this day who you will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)


Rationality Rules On The Unmoved Mover

Is the unmoved mover a bad argument? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I have been dialoguing with an atheist via text message a local pastor told me about. Last night, we were talking about Aquinas’s argument for the unmoved mover. He wanted to send me a video arguing against it to get my thoughts. He told me the video was by someone who went by “Rationality Rules.” I have noticed that so many people who identify themselves by rationality or reason or logic often honor the idea with their lips, but their heads are far from it. I asked him to send it so I could see it. It can be found here.

Fortunately, it comes with a long description to show many of the main points. I found it amusing that towards the start we have Aquinas and Peter Kreeft both having dunce hats put on their heads. Yes. Aquinas, one of the greatest minds in Western civilization should have a dunce cap on. It’s amazing the arrogance that these guys have.

Anyway, RR says he’s not going to deal with Aquinas’s, but Kreeft’s, because, you know, the arguments are basically the same.

No, they’re not.

But hey, apparently it would be too hard to, you know, go and look online and actually read the original argument and actually work to understand it and see what it’s really arguing. Nope. Just go for someone you think is giving the argument. Kreeft is a wonderful philosopher, but here he is also speaking for laymen and not giving the argument in its full sophistication. Unfortunately, I think he also gets it wrong, but let’s see what is said.

Anyway, this is how RR sums up the argument syllogistically.

• Everything that exists is in motion.

• Everything in motion is caused to be in motion by something else.

• Something must’ve existed without a cause.

• We call this first-cause (or unmoved mover) god.

• Therefore, god exists.

This isn’t the argument.

For one thing, we have to ask what is motion. Motion is not just movement, but movement is a type of motion. All movement is motion but not all motion is movement, at least in the physical sense. We know this because Aquinas would talk about movement in angels and angels are not physical. Your atheist friend can say he doesn’t believe in angels. Irrelevant. Aquinas does and Aquinas knows they are not physical so his argument is not limited to the physical.

What is being talked about is potential becoming actuality. Potential is the capacity for change that something has. Actuality is the way that it is. I am sitting right now as I type this. I have the potential to stand, kneel, lie down, jump, etc. If I do any of those, such as stand, then I am actualized my potential to stand and from there, I have the potential again to sit.

This is indeed caused in some respect by another. I do something because I want something outside of myself, which is what would be called The Good. My will is driven towards this. Every one of us desires what we think of as The Good. We can disagree on what we think The Good is, but all of us do want it and when we do something, we are doing it for something we perceive to be a good.

Aquinas is also talking about objects that have no will. A hand moves a stick which moves a rock which moves a leaf. Remove any piece of the chain and the leaf doesn’t move.

So what is the cause of this change? Aquinas says we have to find what it is to avoid an infinite regress. What kind of regress is he talking about? It’s either per accidens or per se. In the former, suppose mine and Allie’s parents both die suddenly. Could we still have children together? Absolutely. All things being equal, there is nothing about our reproduction that is hindered or helped by our parents being alive. That is irrelevant.

Now consider a chain that’s more per se. Each event is dependent on what came before it. Consider a Rube Goldberg machine. That is what it is like. This is the point of Aquinas. This means that everything in the chain is being used as an instrument, but if there are secondary causes, there must be a primary cause. The chain has to find its origin somewhere.

Note that this is also not saying it has to start there chronologically, as the universe being eternal is at this point irrelevant to Aquinas. It’s saying that there must be some great source, such as a gear that all the other gears have to move around and if the big gear stops, the little ones do as well. For Aquinas though, this place where the buck stops must be unmoved itself. If it is not, then it is part of the chain and the chain still needs to be explained.

If we see anything that is in motion, then we need to explain that. That would include the universe because I think it’s quite uncontroversial to say the universe undergoes change. We can all agree to that one. What needs to be at the root is something unchanging in its nature.

RR says the first flaw with this argument is that it does not prove that Christianity is true.

It would not prove that this Unmoved Mover still exists, that it’s a being, that it’s conscious, or that it impregnated a virgin, in order to sacrifice itself to itself so that it could forgive you for your ancestors’ actions… or in other words, it would not prove that Kreeft’s very specific interpretation of the Christianity is true.

This is the common silly objection that so many atheists have. You have not proven that this God is the Christian God, therefore the argument fails. Yes. What a great rejoinder, except the argument was never meant to prove the Christian God. Aquinas knew this. Every defender of the argument knows it. Aquinas could use this argument, but so could the Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides. So could the Muslim philosopher Avicenna. Put these three in a room together and they will not dispute this argument. They will agree to it. That’s when the disputes start. Who is this mover?

Also, to say that it doesn’t show the mover still exists is just fallacious because once Aquinas establishes God, he goes on to establish things that can be known about God from reason and natural theology and that includes His eternality and immutability among other things. People who argue against the argument like this are just intellectually lazy. Of course, we knew that when we saw the bad representation of the Trinity anyway.

The second fallacy is that of special pleading. Something must have existed without a cause. That’s not the argument though. It’s that something must have existed that is not in motion like everything else is. God is not moved by anything else. He moves all other things. Aquinas does say why as well. Special Pleading fails.

The last two objections deal with the Big Bang Theory. Unfortunately for RR, these are irrelevant. Aquinas’s argument is not about the origins of the universe. The Big Bang Theory could be disproven tomorrow and Aquinas would be unfazed. The universe could be shown to be eternal and Aquinas will still be standing. Aquinas would ask why you’re talking about all this stuff about how the universe came to be when his argument says nothing about that.

In conclusion, it will be good when RR deals with the real argument. If he wants to do so, I suggest for a good understanding he consider something like reading Edward Feser. Feser’s “Aquinas” would be a great introduction for him. As it stands, RR has dealt with a straw man and the dunce cap needs to be removed and put on the head of the rightful owner.

In Christ,
Nick Peters


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