Archive for the ‘Short Response’ Category

How often we hear we need to think outside the box. In order to find creative solutions, in order to meet challenges, we need to think outside the box. This is often illustrated with the following puzzle.

Nine dots puzzle

The goal is to connect all nine dots by only drawing four lines. From the illustration above, we see that there is more than one possible solution – though they are similar – and none of the solutions include making a box. Therein, lies the rub. There is no box. How can one think outside the box when there is no box to think outside of in the first place?

The puzzle is nine dots and it is only solvable by recognizing that reality. Here we come to a very important point: In order to solve a problem we shouldn’t think outside the box; we should think within the larger reality in which the problem is present. If, analogously, the larger reality is a box then, in order to solve the problem, one must think inside the box. Not to do this is to break the system itself. In this the problem is not solved, it is destroyed.



A solution has not been found. Rather, the reality of the game has been changed.



Fish bowls

Rather than finding a solution, the system is left altogether for another.


More often than not, it is not the case that the system itself is the problem, but that the system has a problem within it that needs to be solved. This requires keeping the system intact and so thinking inside the box, which is more difficult, requiring much more creative thinking than the supposed outside of the box.



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I once heard that Christ was known through the Old Testament – meaning, if you want to know Christ look to the Old Testament – and this is true. For instance, if you want to know about Christ’s high priesthood, you need to know about the various aspects of priesthood found throughout the Old Testament beginning with Adam through the whole of salvation history up to Christ. The first antiphon for today’s morning prayer (the feast of St. Luke) says, “The holy evangelists searched the wisdom of past ages. Through their gospels they confirmed the words of the prophets.” We can rightly say that the prophets testify to Jesus Christ. We can even say they confirm Him, but we can only say this because Jesus first confirms them. One does not conclude that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and son of man, by checking off each item on a prophetic list. Yes, He fulfills all that the prophets said, but He is also more. It is He who confirms the prophets and all the Old Testament. We must know them for ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ, but to truly know them (the Word which has been inked) you must know the Word-made-flesh.

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Transfiguration of our Lord

So many times St. Peter is used as an example of God showing His strength through the weak. Personally, I think we need to find better examples because Peter wasn’t abnormally weak. Today’s feast celebrates the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ on Mt. Tabor. It was a revelation of His glory to three of his disciples: Peter, James, and John. I’ve heard Peter pointed to in this episode as the one who yet again sticks his foot in his mouth and on this particular occasion finds himself corrected by no less than God the Father. Peter sees his Lord in glory conversing with Moses and Elijah. Up to this point there has been no moment in his life in which he was caught in such awe and amazement. It elicits from him a petition: that three tents should be erected – one for Moses, one for Elijah, and one for our Lord, Jesus Christ. St. Peter was not being dumb when he made this exclamation. He was being reasonable. He was thinking like a good Jew. God pitched His tent among the Israelites in the desert, then in the Promised Land during the period of the judges, and finally He pitched His tent in an immovable place when He inhabited the Temple in Jerusalem. To stand before God and be in His presence one had to go to where His tent was pitched, to where His dwelling was among men. From their time in the desert until the destruction of the first Temple the Jews enjoyed in a unique way God’s presence among them (via the Ark of the Covenant). When the Jews return from exile, they built a new Temple, but the Ark was not within it. Peter recognizing the revelation of the Divine on Mt. Tabor petitions that three tents be erected so that once again God’s dwelling may be among men. Rather than being corrected by God the Father, Peter is directed to His Son who will reveal the fulfillment and true dwelling of God among men. No Jew, no person, at this time could have known what this meant. Peter was not being dumb or sputtering in the midst of his wonder. Peter was expressing what is the desire of all men and he did so in accordance with God’s revelation: to dwell with God and He with us. Just as the New Law does not abolish the old, but fulfills it, so too the new way in which God dwells among men.

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In the Jan/Feb 2012 issue of The Angelus, Fr. Dominique Bourmaud, SSPX states:

“Pius XII had little time for the new theology and its avant-garde teachers. They represented for him the rear guard of the old modernist wave so forcefully condemned by St. Pius X in Pascendi of 1907. The again reiterated the condemnation of the new – old – trends in Humani Generis: ‘Others [de Lubac] destroy the gratuity of the supernatural order, since God, they say, cannot create intellectual beings without ordering and calling them to the beatific vision…'” (Angelus, 10-11)

Notice the “de Lubac” in brackets. Fr. Bourmaud provides a quote from Blondel/de Lubac to support his accusation that de Lubac does indeed deny the gratuity of the supernatural order by denying that God could create an intelligent being without ordering them to the beatific vision: “The supernatural is ‘absolutely impossible and absolutely necessary to man.'” That’s it? Really? I hope that Fr. Bourmaud can find something better than this to support his claim. Let’s take a quick look at this quote. 

First, to say that the supernatural is “absolutely necessary to man” is not to say that God could not have created man without ordering him to the supernatural. It is simply a recognition of the reality of man: the supernatural is absolutely necessary for man because that is how God created us. Isn’t this what the SSPX teach their children? From the Baltimore Catechism we read: “Why did God make us? God made us to show forth His goodness and to share with us His everlasting happiness in heaven.” Does not the very fact that God did not have to create us in this way show the complete and absolute gratuity of the supernatural order?

Second, de Lubac said that the supernatural is “absolutely impossible… to man.” The only way man can achieve the supernatural, the beatific vision and everlasting happiness with God is by the grace of the Most Holy Trinity. This grace is given though we do not deserve it. Does not this also show the complete and absolute gratuity of the supernatural order?

If the SSPX desire to show that de Lubac is a modernist then they are going to have to do better than this.


This conference given by David Bentley Hart, while not concerned with the above topic, does make reference to gratuity and the relationship between the natural and supernatural order. His comments towards the beginning of the video shed light on the framework found in the Thomastic commentaries from which I presume Fr. Bourmaud is working.

Dr. Hart: Love and Knowledge in Scotus 

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