What Hath Wine to do with Theology?

The Wine Barrel at Heidelberg Palace, built in 1591

There is a good reason why Jesus’ first miracle involved wine and a wedding. The King had arrived. The bridegroom had come to rescue his bride. It was not a time for mourning, for separation, but for union and celebration. The holy day (holiday) permits rest of both mind and body. Perhaps the wine was meant to give the bride a sense of her release. For the Roman philosopher Seneca, this is why Bacchus invented wine. He comments that the mind needs a time of rest so that it does not lose its vigor and become dull and languid. States should establish holidays so that the bond that work places on the mind may be slackened. For the sake of mental peace, Seneca explains, one should go for a walk outside or go for a brief journey, and when possible, have a drink of wine.

Sometimes [the mind] will get new vigour from … a change of place and festive company and generous drinking. At times we ought to reach the point even of intoxication, not drowning ourselves in drink, yet succumbing to it; for it washes away troubles, and stirs the mind from its very depths and heals its sorrow just as it does certain ills of the body; and the inventor of wine is not called the Releaser (Bacchus) on account of the license it gives to the tongue, but because it frees the mind from bondage to cares and emancipates it and gives it new life and makes it bolder in all that it attempts. But, as in freedom, so in wine there is a wholesome moderation […] Yet we ought not to do this often, for fear that the mind may contract an evil habit, nevertheless there are times when it must be drawn into rejoicing and freedom, and gloomy sobriety must be banished for a while. For whether we believe with the Greek poet that ‘sometimes it is a pleasure also to rave,’ or with Plato that ‘the sane mind knocks in vain at the door of poetry,’ or with Aristotle that ‘no great genius has ever exited without some touch of madness’ – be that as it may, the lofty utterance that rises above the attempts of others is impossible unless the mind is excited. When it has … soared far aloft fired by a sacred instinct, then alone it sings a song too lofty for mortal lips (On the Tranquility of Mind, XVII8-9).


Good Friday Meditation: Plato’s Glaucon on the Just Man

Now, if we are to form a real judgment of the life of the just and unjust, we must isolate them; there is no other way; and how is the isolation to be effected? I answer: Let the unjust man be entirely unjust, and the just man entirely just; nothing is to be taken away from either of them, and both are to be perfectly furnished for the work of their respective lives. First, let the unjust be like other distinguished masters of craft; like the skilful pilot or physician, who knows intuitively his own powers and keeps within their limits, and who, if he fails at any point, is able to recover himself. So let the unjust make his unjust attempts in the right way, and lie hidden if he means to be great in his injustice (he who is found out is nobody): for the highest reach of injustice is: to be deemed just when you are not. Therefore I say that in the perfectly unjust man we must assume the most perfect injustice; there is to be no deduction, but we must allow him, while doing the most unjust acts, to have acquired the greatest reputation for justice. If he have taken a false step he must be able to recover himself; he must be one who can speak with effect, if any of his deeds come to light, and who can force his way where force is required his courage and strength, and command of money and friends. And at his side let us place the just man in his nobleness and simplicity, wishing, as Aeschylus says, to be and not to seem good. There must be no seeming, for if he seem to be just he will be honoured and rewarded, and then we shall not know whether he is just for the sake of justice or for the sake of honours and rewards; therefore, let him be clothed in justice only, and have no other covering; and he must be imagined in a state of life the opposite of the former. Let him be the best of men, and let him be thought the worst; then he will have been put to the proof; and we shall see whether he will be affected by the fear of infamy and its consequences. And let him continue thus to the hour of death; being just and seeming to be unjust. When both have reached the uttermost extreme, the one of justice and the other of injustice, let judgment be given which of them is the happier of the two. (Republic II, 361b-d)

Douglas Hedley @ McGill Centre for Research on Religion

Well, I’ve decided that should put this blog to some use. I’ve linked to a video of Douglas Hedley’s lecture at the Centre for Research on Religion here at McGill in Montréal entitled: “Reflection & Conversion: Neoplatonism and early-modern philosophy of mind.”

Perhaps the most interesting discovery that Hedley relays is that after the revival of Platonism and Neoplatonism by the Cambridge Platonists in the 17th century, the concept of “consciousness” as “self-reflection” disappears in early modern philosophical discourse. When Ralph Cudwarth speaks of self-reflection in connection with consciousness he refers to the Neoplatonic philosophy of Plotinus. After Locke consciousness appears to be thought of as a static reality rather than an action.

De Absentia Propositionum: Concerning the Status of “Epistole” and Content of Future Posts

This last year has thrown many things my way, things that have taken most of my time to manage, and of course these things have kept  me from blogging in the traditional manner (i.e., at least a few posts per week). I also must admit that I am a bit uncomfortable with the word “blogging.” It seems to connote “keeping a diary” or “whining about the status quo” or more fitting in my case “talking to oneself while making frequent use of a Thesaurus.” No matter the connotations behind the word “blogging” I am not ready to abandon the process of immediate personalized media publication that blogs make available. I do not think “blogging” has to mean the things I listed above. The one thing that does make this blog a bit less (or more) than a blog is the frequency and length of posts. From now on, though it has been this way for the past year, publications on this blog will occur around once a month and will perhaps exceed the length of a typical blog post (again, nothing new). So, “Epistole” will be more of a blog/periodical than a blog/weekly.

The content of posts here will still address the same topics: Medieval philosophy, Protestant Scholasticism, and issues of the Reformation & Renaissance. New topics that I will explore are the precursors, both Medieval and Modern, to the Scientific Revolution, and that of Early Modern philosophy, specifically the resurgence of the science of Metaphysics in Germany, Poland, and Bohemia leading up to the 17th century. The following is a list of upcoming topics of discussion that will be appearing here within the next few months:

1. A few posts on Melanchthon

  • On his doctrine of salvation: I’ll ask if “synergist” is an appropriate referent for his theology and if his soteriology differs significantly from Calvin’s.
  • On his use of natural philosophy: What was Melanchthon’s attitude to natural philosophy and how did his influence contribute to new ideas in this area?
  • Within the same “science” as the last item, I plan on doing a chapter-by-chapter review of Suchiko Kusukawa’s book on Melanchthon, The Transformation of Natural Philosophy: The Case Of Philip Melanchthon.

2. On Melanchthon’s contemporary at Tübingen, Jacob Schegk and his Tractationem physicarum et medicarum tomus unus in which he demonstrates a Platonic philosophy through his doctrine of “plastic nature.”

3. On Peter Martyr Vermigli’s notions of moral and venial sins and conscience as a faculty of preparation in relation to his doctrine of Iustificatio.

4. Jonathan Edward’s notion of Christian happiness and its similarity to that of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas.

5. On Clemens Timpler’s Metaphysicae systema methodicum libri v, making frequent use of Joseph Freedman’s The Life, Significance, and Philosophy of Clemens Timpler 1563/4-1624. In this post I will examine what makes Timpler’s metaphysics unique and how it relates to similar works by Keckermann, Goclenius, and Alsted.

Other shorter posts will most likely occur in order to present smaller quotations/translations from primary source material that I find interesting or beneficial. And, I will most likely modify some of these topics along the way as my own research reveals further connections between ideas, events, and significant thinkers. My goal for this blog is still to bring a greater appreciation for the Reformed faith through examination and explanation of the primary sources, and in the process to shed light on the Early Modern period in general. Any comments, corrections, or additions along the way are still greatly encouraged.

De Vita Magistri

TeacherA brief update for those who have been wondering where all the posting went. I’ve begun my first year as a high-school teacher. So, I have been busy preparing daily lectures on the Ptolemies and Seleucids (for New Testament class), faith and reason (for Discipleship), God’s transcendence and immanence (for Worldview), teleological and deontological ethics (for Ethics), and Platonic vs. Aristotelean psychology (for Psychology). My schedule has been hectic, as I have to write lectures for all of these classes every day. I am planning on continuing this blog. My interests have not changed. When things become a bit more routine and second nature I’ll start posting regularly again. In the mean time I may find something substantial to ramble about here and there.