Monday, April 8, 2013

Scotus on Baptism of Jews and Muslims

Our BFF blog "laodicea" has recalled to everyone's memory Scotus' comments on forcible baptism of Jewish and Muslim children and points out it has been criticized by a pope. Here. I too have posted on this issue. Here (sorry, can't find it; it was years ago). It also came up in our discussion with Mark Wauk, here. And also David Lantigua discusses it here. There is currently a scholar from Brazil researching early modern scholasticism in latin America at Notre Dame who told me randomly the other day that the passage in question was widely misinterpreted. For what that's worth.

I quote Laodicea's post and comment below.

“Scotus in book 4 [of his Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard], dist. 4, q. 9, no.2, and in questions related to no. 2, thought that a prince could laudably command that small children of Hebrews and unbelievers be baptised, even against the will of the parents, provided one could prudently see to it that these same children were not killed by the parents…. Nevertheless, the opinion of St Thomas prevailed… it is unlawful to baptise Hebrew children against the will of their parents” – Postremo mense Benedict XIV

Comment: Great. Thank's for sharing. I was unaware of this text and I am glad to learn of it. I don't think anyone today would follow Scotus on this point. It's hard to blame Scotus, however, for as the Thomists of the Strict Observance inform us, it is impossible to understand the meaning of the terms used in theology unless one uses them as St. Thomas did (which is why all Thomists everywhere agree on what every text of St. Thomas means and certainly never write articles about how the entire Thomist tradition up to them has misinterpreted a fundamental point of St. Thomas).

One question: what is the deal with the ellipses? They are also present in the latin text on the Vatican website.

Benedict XIV goes on to say this does not apply if the child is abandoned or in danger of death. It is interesting that Scotus should have held this objectionable opinion given the connection Benedict XVI drew in his Regensburg Lecture between Scotism and religious violence.

“In all honesty, one must observe that in the late Middle Ages we find trends in theology which would sunder this synthesis between the Greek spirit and the Christian spirit. In contrast with the so-called intellectualism of Augustine and Thomas, there arose with Duns Scotus a voluntarism which, in its later developments, led to the claim that we can only know God’s voluntas ordinata. Beyond this is the realm of God’s freedom, in virtue of which he could have done the opposite of everything he has actually done. This gives rise to positions which clearly approach those of Ibn Hazm and might even lead to the image of a capricious God, who is not even bound to truth and goodness.”
Comment: Not to beat a retired horse, but come on! First an exegetical point: Laodicea says that there is a connection between "Scotism" and religious violence. But all Benedict XVI says is that "there arose with Duns Scotus a voluntarism which, in its later developments...". He doesn't say Scotists.

So what is a Scotist? The normal "narrative" here (and why is it that all Thomists become relativists when it comes to history and historical "narratives"?) is that Scotus leads to Ockham who makes the potentia absoluta/ordinata distinction a central feature of his thought, which then leads to protestantism, modernism, war, abortion, murder, nuclear war, and certainly nothing good like increased quality of life via advanced medical care or pepparoni pizza. But is Ockham really a Scotist? This would mean everyone who disagrees with someone is really a follower of that person. So I would be a Lutheran and a Kantian (as well as being a Thomist and a Laodiceist!). Ockham disagrees with Scotus on almost every point. But he was influenced unconsciously by him you say. Fine. But then Scotus was influenced by Henry, making him really a Henrician and not a Scotist, and Henry was influenced by Thomas, which makes him a Thomist, which places the blame for Ockham at St. Thomas' door (narratives are problematic for a variety of reasons, not just their relativism).

Laodicea is also shifting emphasis here from a particular censure of a Scotist opinion to a general false association with "Scotism" and violence. But it's a blog post, so we can let our present comments suffice.

7 comments:

Roberto A Lopez said...

I have read several of your articles; and you deal with medieval theology as if it were politics: with parties (thomists and scotists) and with heroes and villains. I have never never seem something like that (since the Middle Ages). Prima facie looks interesting, although some heavy acid is detected inside.

lee faber said...

well, you'll have to forgive the acid. Scotists, party or not, have been on the outs for a good while. I would prefer to simply talk about arguments but the thomists always make it a fight about church authority.

Matthew Gaetano said...

Someone needs to tell a story of medieval (and post-Reformation Catholic) theology where there are serious and interesting disagreements in [and among] the schools, while also recognizing that the vast majority of the disagreements are "in the family" and don't lead to nuclear holocaust. That would be useful.

BenYachov said...

I consider myself a Thomist and I believe with Catholic Faith Mary the Mother of God was Immaculately Conceived where as my teacher held the wrong view.

I would also object to saying denial of the IMC of TBVM was the view of Thomism. Well it was the error of Thomas Aquinas(& not Dun Scotus).

So in terms of the baptism of Jews Dun got it wrong?

Hey that is why we have a Catholic Church or we would be at each others throats like the Calvinists and the Arminians without the Vatican's Pax Roma.

Thank God I am Catholic!

mfzmou said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lee Faber said...

Thanks for commenting, BenYachov. I suppose I should be more careful when using the term 'thomism'; obviously no Thomists today or since the formal definition object to the immaculate conception.

Lee Faber said...

Dear anonymous advertiser: No Advertisements!