Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Dept. of Some Things Never Change

Over at Siris, Brandon Watson is doing series on the Maronite year. The other day he had the following post:

July 10 is the Feast of the Blessed Massabki Brothers, Abdel Mooti Massabki, Francis Massabki, Raphael Massabki. They lived in Damascus during a time when tensions were very high in the Ottoman Empire. A great civil war broke out in the region of Mount Lebanon and Syria in 1860 between Maronites and their Druze governors. The fighting was fierce, and the Maronites at an inevitable disadvantage against Druze forces backed by Ottoman troops. In July 1860, the fighting came to Damascus, and the results were brutal as much of the relatively peaceful Christian population was slaughtered by Druze and Muslim paramilitary groups while the government looked the other way -- thousands of Christians died in the Damascus Massacre, perhaps as many as ten thousand, and the Christian quarter of the city was almost entirely destroyed. The massacre might well have been total had it not been for cases of Christians being saved by their Muslim neighbors, especially in poor areas around the city. Of note as well was the work of Abdelkader El Djezairi, an Algerian Sufi freedom fighter who was living in exile in Damascus at the time; having forewarning of the trouble, he and his fellow Algerians sheltered hundreds of Christians in his house and sent his sons out into danger in order to bring Christians to safety.
But there were many who had no such protection, and no recourse but to pray. The Massabki brothers, prominent Maronites in the city, were praying in a Franciscan church on July 9, 1860 and given the choice to die or convert to Islam. They were beatified in 1926 by Pius XI.

Civil war in Syria? Whole populations massacred? Christians persecuted and driven out? Streams of refugees fleeing? Thank goodness those days are over with.


  1. Very sad situation. Long live Assad and Russia - for without them the situation would be much worse.

  2. In Lebanon, there was the 1860 Civil War, and then the (more famous) 1975 Civil War, which featured a lot of atrocities from the Christians no less than the Muslims (e.g., the Sabra and Shatila massacre, which, in addition, was allowed to occur by Israelis). In Syria of course there is the current civil war. For what it's worth, though, Muslims and Christians in Lebanon now get along relatively peacefully.

  3. Some people argue against to original harmony of creation, before the Fall, by appealing to animal suffering before the creation of humans. However, these arguments tend to revolve around the intristic teleos of animal features. Lions have teeth that are for ripping flesh, and so, if lions existed before the Fall, how can we say that a lion is fulfilled if he didn't use his teeth to rip and eat flesh?

    However, Darwinism can actually serve as an objection against this objection, because Darwinists tend to view the teleos of biological things as extristic, as based not mostly in the specific feature itself, but in the feature's and the organism's relationship with their environment.

    So, a Christian can argue that the natural environment all creation before the Fall was such that the purpose of teeth was different, and that the natural environments after the Fall eventually encouraged the function of teeth being for ripping flesh, due to the discord sounding through the Harmony of creation due to the Fall.

    What do you think of this theory, sir?

    1. Sorry that it's kind of really off topic 😅

      Christi pax,


    2. Would that mean that teeth ne'er ripped flesh before Man came on the scene?

    3. Who says the first man, who marred the nature of man, and perhaps all the rest of animal life, was from Earth? He could've been a sapient string of silicon molecules from another galaxy.

      The Fall is not a genetic disorder, passed on in the germ-line; it inheres in the status "man", and is "inherited" by anyone who accedes to that status.

      "Man", for spiritual purposes, means "sapient animal" (for those purposes "animal" means "heterotroph" not "member of a particular lineage of Earth life with DNA, organelles, and no cell walls"). It doesn't mean "particular type of primate", although that is the only known kind of animal we can call "man".

    4. Life on Earth is only three-point-something billion years old, but there have been stars like ours (with the kinds of things you probably need to make life) for 10 billion years. Assuming that Earth is typical in it taking a couple billion years for life to appear, there could've been life-bearing worlds as long ago as a bit over 8 billion years. If the first man appeared on one of them, and marred all of creation, we'd never know about it; our entire solar system didn't exist yet. We would be operating in the "post-lapsarian" world from before the accretion of the Solar System.

    5. (Oops, forgot to add in the time it takes for sapient life to appear—assuming Earth is typical, about 3.5 billion years. That still puts the appearance of the First Man at right around the very beginning of our Solar System.)

    6. Who says the first man, who marred the nature of man, and perhaps all the rest of animal life, was from Earth? He could've been a sapient string of silicon molecules from another galaxy.

      The Fall is not a genetic disorder, passed on in the germ-line; it inheres in the status "man", and is "inherited" by anyone who accedes to that status.

      An interesting speculation. How do you reconcile it with the traditional Christian teaching that original sin is transmitted by "propagation" (Latin: propagatione)? In this context, the word traditionally refers to reproduction (for example, the encyclical Humanae Vitae uses this Latin word when discussing birth and the transmission of life). The suggestion, then, seems to be that we inherit original sin from an actual ancestor (Adam), not from some being that evolved independently.

    7. A living thing's nature is acquired by conception-and-birth within its species, so it is in that sense an inborn, inherent property of all creatures born as "man". That's also why Christ had to be "born of a woman"—the nature of "man" is as the member of a species, and is acquired by being reproduced from members of that species.

      The word propagatio is also used of the spreading of the faith, after all. (Or at least the verb from the same root, propagare, is—e.g. in its ablative feminine gerund, in Congregatio de Propaganda Fide, the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith.)

      Also, the word "propagatio" is not used directly with regard to original sin in the Summa. (First Part of the Second Part, Questions 82 and 83, are the two questions in the Summa which deal directly with Original Sin.) It is used with regard to an Aristotelian biological theory in Question 81 of that Part (in Article 1, Reply to Objection 4), and then in the Respondeo of Article 2, it says simply that what is passed on is species, not individuality, although it adds that with regard to biological generation sometimes qualities like "fleetness of body, acuteness of intellect, and so forth" are "transmitted to the children" (propagantur in filios); however, then it adds "but nowise those that are purely personal".

      Aquinas, at least, can be read as supporting either view.

    8. I'm still uncertain how your original speculation can be reconciled with traditional Christian teaching, which is that sin is (mysteriously) transmitted by natural generation from an ancestor (see, e.g., Council of Trent or Humani Generis). Adam transmitted his human nature through natural generation in a fallen state, and therefore transmitted original sin to his descendants. If you are not descended from Adam by natural generation, then you do not inherit the fallen, corrupted human nature. Without this understanding, I can't see how to even make sense of two recent debates in the last few years: (1) Would aliens need baptism, if they are not descended from Adam? (2) The whole controversy over polygenism vs. monogenism with respect to the doctrine of original sin.

    9. Again, every sapient animal is "man" metaphysically speaking, so all sapient animals have "human nature" in the metaphysical sense. Since the first man marred that nature, all who are born as sapient animals have the marred nature, whether they are physically related to the first man or not.

      So the answer to (1) is "yes", and the answer to (2) is "irrelevant". We don't actually need to be physically related to all be "human"; if it turned out that humans didn't all have a common ancestor, here on Earth, we would still all be humans for spiritual purposes.

    10. Hmm. Well, I'll just have to give your argument more thought.

      On a more humorous note, this conversation prompted me to re-read paragraph 404 of the Catechism, which says: "[W]e do know by Revelation that Adam had received original holiness and justice not for himself alone, but for all human nature. By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state."

      Being the kind of person that I am, I couldn't resist thinking:

      Error 404: Original holiness and justice not found.

      That's my joke for the day.


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