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Sunday, April 21, 2024


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The quotation comes Lewis’ essay “Is Theology Poetry?” that is included in the collection The Weight of Glory. As to your reaction to the opinion that refer to Chapter 20 of the Gospel of John, that Jesus himself distinguishes between “seeing is believing,” that is belief that arises from sensory experience and seeing with “the eye of faith,” which, as you say, “is not a physical eye but a spiritual eye:” Verses 27-29 contain the relevant passage:

“Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My LORD and my God.
Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”

Here is a different link to the Clive Staples Lewis quote, and which works. He has more to say & I bet the readers of this esteemed blog would love to read Mr. Vallicella's words about the link which I am now posting:


Sorry, I did not review what I wrote carefully enough: The second sentence should read, "As to your reaction to the opinion expressed in it, refer to Chapter 20 of the Gospel of John, where Jesus himself distinguishes between..."


Thanks for the link. While I agree that Christianity makes sense of the world and in particular of the scientific enterprise, and while I myself have argued against materialism/physicalism/naturalism and in favor of Divine Mind as source of the world's intelligibility, it must be borne in mind that Xianity is a very specific religion with very specific tenets such as Incarnation and Trinity. Why should anyone think that such apparently unintelligible doctrines are necessary for the intelligibility of the natural world?


You are quite right to bring up the example of doubting Thomas and to point out that the distinction between seeing with the physical eyes and 'seeing' with the 'eye' of faith is to be found in the Gospel of John.

Setting aside Cartesian hyperbolic doubt, I will grant that Thomas knows by physical sight that Jesus who died on the cross is now standing before him and therefore rose from the dead. But what Thomas in this instance knows is that a man rose from the dead; he does not know by physical sight that the man standing before him is God Incarnate.

You will grant that a man's resurrection from the dead does not show that that resurrected man is God, even granting that any resurrection is by the power of God. This is why the resurrection of Jesus is not the central and defining Christian motif. That central motif is the Incarnation. It is impossible to know by physical sight that a man standing before you is fully human and fully divine, let alone that the personhood of this man is the personhood of the eternal Logos, the 2nd person of the Trinity.


Which is literal and which is figurative: visio intellectualis or visio oculis?

A question for theologians:

Does the Beatific Vision require resurrected and thus physical eyes, or can a saintly soul enjoy the visio beata right after death and thus before the general resurrection?

Hi Bro Bill

Well the tenets you mention (Trinity, Incarnation) certainly aren't necessary to understand the natural world; but one does, as a human being, have to believe that the natural world IS intelligible, and that you CAN understand at least some of it. Otherwise you can't make a rational, workable picture of the natural world. And to make that picture is quite an achievement, compared to the astrology interpretations in the National Enquirer and the Weekly World News.

(And the nuns of Saint Therese grammar school told us never to believe that stuff.)

As for the Trinity and the Incarnation, those doctrines are useful portals to mysticism, I think, and so I listen, and listen, and listen, and maybe I will get there. It requires a spiritual eye to see these things, as you have said, and I think it requires that same eye also to see evil, and there is a deficit of that "eye" in the country now, which is why people like HRC and JRB and BHO can get as far as they have gotten.

Well it's time to do the dinner dishes, which will be a chore no matter what. — Catacomb Joe


Yes, I “grant that a man's resurrection from the dead does not show that that resurrected man is God, even granting that any resurrection is by the power of God,” and that “central motif [of Christianity] is the Incarnation.” However, the appearance of a resurrected body of a dead man cannot be taken as an isolated datum, but rather must be placed in the context of the pre- and post-mortem words and acts attributed to that man. It is precisely these words—the authoritative modification of the Law and the messianic prophesies, for instance--and acts—the forgiveness of sinners (something belonging only to God in Judaism) and the miracles of Jesus before death, along with his Transfiguration; and his words and acts in the forty days before the Ascension, when he is still personally present on Earth, preparing to send forth the Spirit, that account for the high Christology that one can argue is present in all four Gospels, although diversely conceived and expressed. Leaving aside the question of the veracity of the accounts of the Evangelists, their contextualization of the Easter Event within a pre-and post-mortem messianic narrative certainly makes it rationally acceptable to regard it as a verification of Jesus’ divine ontological status.

Does the Beatific Vision require resurrected and thus physical eyes, or can a saintly soul enjoy the visio beata right after death and thus before the general resurrection?

Aquinas, for one, responds to this question in ST, Supp. III, q. 92, a.2, answering in the negative and distinguishing between direct (“A thing is perceptible directly if it can act directly on the bodily senses”) and indirect perception (“An indirect object of sense is that which does not act on the sense, neither as sense nor as a particular sense, but is annexed to those things that act on sense directly: for instance Socrates; the son of Diares; a friend and the like which are the direct object of the intellect's knowledge in the universal”):

“I say then that God can nowise be seen with the eyes of the body, or perceived by any of the senses, as that which is seen directly, neither here, nor in heaven: for if that which belongs to sense as such be removed from sense, there will be no sense, and in like manner if that which belongs to sight as sight be removed therefrom, there will be no sight. Accordingly seeing that sense as sense perceives magnitude, and sight as such a sense perceives color, it is impossible for the sight to perceive that which is neither color nor magnitude, unless we call it a sense equivocally. Since then sight and sense will be specifically the same in the glorified body, as in a non-glorified body, it will be impossible for it to see the Divine essence as an object of direct vision; yet it will see it as an object of indirect vision, because on the one hand the bodily sight will see so great a glory of God in bodies, especially in the glorified bodies and most of all in the body of Christ, and, on the other hand, the intellect will see God so clearly, that God will be perceived in things seen with the eye of the body, even as life is perceived in speech. For although our intellect will not then see God from seeing His creatures, yet it will see God in His creatures seen corporeally.”

I am not sure what to make of this, since I am highly skeptical of these sorts of speculations, but it is, I think, worthy of further thought.

Quotation source:

C.S Lewis, “Is Theology Poetry?” in The Weight of Glory: And Other Addresses (New York: HarperCollins, 2001), 140.


I'll have to think about your last comment, but for now I'll say this.

For old men like you and me, nearing the end of the trail, there is nothing better for us to do with the time that remains to us than to dig as deep as we can into the depths and riches of the ancestral religion that we imbibed, whether literally or figuratively, with the milk of our pious Italian mothers. I believe I am speaking for both us if I say that prayer, contemplation, and study come naturally to us and is a source of deep satisfaction.

I already recommended Louis Bouyer to you. His *Intro to Spiritual Life* is astonishingly good. I want also to recommend Henri du Lubac, *The Mystery of the Supernatural,* which is hard-core theology at the highest level.

An easier read, but well-worth your time, is Dom Aelred Graham, *Zen Catholicism.*

All three books are from the early '60s that decade of ferment which you and I were privileged to experience with all the intensity and passion of youth. What a time it was! Especially for you in Greenwich Village.


Thank you for recommending these books, which I have added to my wish list on Amazon. And I agree that "prayer, contemplation, and study" are great consultations and sources of spiritual nourishment in this final stage of life. I am strongly tied to the first and last activities in the list, but, unfortunately, I lack the depth of your spiritual life that has allowed you to pursue the second, contemplation (meditation) for so many years. Luckily, I have been graced with several moments "in and out of time" (Eliot)--in nature, during worship, alone in the night--that have sustained me over the years and the keep alive my faith in God.

Living in the Village in the 60s: Even after sixty years, I am grateful for the experience. It was one of the great moments in what Malcolm Pollack aptly refers to as the Before Time. When I think back on what we have lost since then in our national civic and cultural life, under constant assault from our domestic enemies, it is very painful.

Trust your (God given) mind. That is why we need to be holy so that we can conclude based on our knowledge, which is nothing but God's work primarily for each recipient (of knowledge).

There is no such thing as immortal soul. God can make us immortal human but He has shown no interest for that on this world. But without giving any psudo hope to sinners aka dying people of this world, God gives hope for the eligibles/saints of His ability to remove death and give paradisal life away from sinners, who is Hell (cf. Sartre). So even saints are left this world as if dead so that sinners donot feel they lost the opportunity because it is the same God who gave the original freedom/sin to live the way they lived now as if a god. Thus all who lives in paradise is "embodied" and there is no such thing as beatific vision simply God is pure Mind/Spirit/Word, only what He create is matter, apparition included and what He hides, no one can see.

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