Dr. Boersma argues that nominalism infected the late medieval period. One can see the impact of nominalism especially in certain religious orders, like the Augustinians, which produced Martin Luther. Luther was just a product, some would argue a rotten fruit, of a bad school of Catholic thought. His writings were just the logical (or illogical) outcome of the way that he saw the world, the Church, and the sacraments. Nominalism had became a dominant mode of thinking in that era or epoch. This way of thinking can be seen in the writings of many significant Catholic thinkers as well as the Magisterial (Classical) Protestant Reformers themselves.
What is nominalism in laymen's (non philosophical) terms? Basically it is a flattening of categories and a lack of drawing distinctions or qualifications. In short, it is a rejection of reality in all of its depth and beauty. So why should Christians care about nominalism here in the 21st century?
A 17th-century fresco in the Lateran Baptistery shows the vision of Constantine before the battle of the Milvian bridge in October 312. (Photo: Fr. Lawrence Lew, OP)
On October 28, 312, Emperor Constantine met Emperor Maxentius in battle just outside the city of Rome at the Milvian Bridge, spanning the Tiber. This battle—occurring exactly 1,700 years ago—is one of the most important events in the history of Christendom, since it was through Constantine’s victory that Christendom began. It is a battle well worth reflecting upon.
As is well known, the previous day Constantine experienced a vision of a cross of light in the sky, with the words “By this sign you shall conquer” (in Greek, not Latin, by the way). That night, so we are told, Constantine had a dream wherein he was told to paint the cross on the shields of his soldiers.
'Verily I say unto thee, thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou have paid the last farthing.' --ST MATTHEW v. 26.
There is a thing wonderful and admirable in the parables, not readily grasped, but specially indicated by the Lord himself--their unintelligibility to the mere intellect. They are addressed to the conscience and not to the intellect, to the will and not to the imagination. They are strong and direct but not definite. They are not meant to explain anything, but to rouse a man to the feeling, 'I am not what I ought to be, I do not the thing I ought to do!' Many maundering interpretations may be given by the wise, with plentiful loss of labour, while the child who uses them for the necessity of walking in the one path will constantly receive light from them. The greatest obscuration of the words of the Lord, as of all true teachers, comes from those who give themselves to interpret rather than do them. Theologians have done more to hide the gospel of Christ than any of its adversaries. It was not for our understandings, but our will, that Christ came. He who does that which he sees, shall understand; he who is set upon understanding rather than doing, shall go on stumbling and mistaking and speaking foolishness. He has not that in him which can understand that kind. The gospel itself, and in it the parables of the Truth, are to be understood only by those who walk by what they find. It is he that runneth that shall read, and no other. It is not intended by the speaker of the parables that any other should know intellectually what, known but intellectually, would be for his injury--what knowing intellectually he would imagine he had grasped, perhaps even appropriated. When the pilgrim of the truth comes on his journey to the region of the parable, he finds its interpretation. It is not a fruit or a jewel to be stored, but a well springing by the wayside.
In this year of presidential elections, I have decided to summarize key values that guide me as I decide for whom to cast my vote. There are three basic elements of choosing a candidate for public office responsibly:
1. Values we hope the candidate will stand for and the order of priority among them (which requires of us knowledge of faith as a whole, rather than just a few favorite topics, and knowledge of how faith applies to contemporary life).
2. Ways in which and means by which these values are best implemented in any given situation (which requires of us a great deal of knowledge about how the world actually functions and what policies lead to what outcomes—for instance, whether it would be an economically wise decision to try to reintroduce the gold standard).
3. Capacity—ability and determination—to contribute to the implementation of these values (which requires of us knowledge of the track record of the candidate).
Most important are the values. As I identify
each value, I will (1) name the basic content of the value, (2) give a basic
rationale for holding it, (3) suggest some parameters of legitimate debate
about it, and (4) identify a key question for the candidate.
I write as a Christian theologian, from the
perspective of my own understanding of the Christian faith. Whole books have
been written on each of these values, explicating and adjudicating complex
debates. In providing a rationale for a given value, I only take one or two
verses from the Bible to back up my position, more to flag the direction in
which a rationale would need to go than, in fact, to strictly offer such a
rationale. (Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from the
In the final act of an official relationship that's come to be marked by an exceptional degree of mutual respect, even personal closeness, for the first time a Vatican Synod was addressed earlier today by the archbishop of Canterbury as – on the eve of his retirement as head of the Anglican Communion – Rowan Williams took to the dais on the invitation of the Pope.
Slated to be present for tomorrow morning's outdoor Mass marking the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II, Williams' turn in the Aula came after a private audience with the pontiff, billed by the Holy See as a "farewell visit."
After a turbulent decade-long tenure, the English primate will stand down come year's end to take up a teaching post at Cambridge. In a statement last week, the Crown Nominations Commission charged with designating his successor indicated that it was deadlocked on a choice.
Since Benedict's election, the two theologians have come to forge a bond between the chairs of Peter and Augustine of a kind unseen since the days of Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey, to whom the late pontiff famously gave the ring off his finger at the end of their first encounter in 1966. That the current Vatican-Lambeth relationship has remained solid amid historic tension-points on the part of both churches – the Pope's 2009 invitation for Anglican groups to enter the Catholic fold, and the specter of women bishops in the Church of England – has made the duo's warm rapport all the more evident.
It was inevitable that I encounter Simone Weil. Our souls were intended to meet, despite our separation of time and place. In fact, regardless of our not ever meeting face to face, Simone and I found each other through the experiences and lives of many others who have been influenced greatly by her inspirational thoughts and works.
To frame the influence of Simone Weil on my life, I would identify silence and relationship as two main themes for hers and my journey together.
Silence. Often perceived as a state that is lacking or is creating absence, silence has become for myself a place of solitude and rest. Inattentive and often negligent of my soul, I discovered Simone along a journey of quiet desperation and unawareness. My soul being divided in its attention found comfort in Weil’s writings in Waiting on God.