My weekend reading has taken me to three very different, but equally worthwhile places.

First, a riff on stats from XKCD:


A tip of the hat to one of my favorite libertarian blogs for that one.

Second, RJ Snell clarifies for those worried that Robert George’s take on human reason is too cheery that no, Aquinas does not think reason is infallible:

Given original sin, the rational appetite is inordinate and can act counter to right reason. We do disobey the divine mandate, we do allow lower appetites to dominate reason, and we do allow the goods of the body to triumph over the goods of the soul. Further, given original sin and the loss of human integrity and rectitude, we do suffer what Thomas calls the wound of ignorance, that is, we can voluntarily ignore truth and the desire for truth. We can, and do, act in cunning fashion, whereby reason is bent to devise new and clever evils in service to inordinate desire.

There is no cheery optimism in Aquinas with respect to reason. The human is disordered; one might even say we suffer a totality of depravity since not a single human capacity or function remains in the state of original justice. Yes, humans are utterly messed up, but they are still human beings, and as human beings, as rational animals, they still possess the natural law, for to lose the natural law would be a loss of humanity, actually to become a beast. Not, that is, to act bestially—humans do so—but to be a beast. And this has not happened, since original sin does not change our essence—nor could it.

As for Robert George’s view, however, I suppose that’s another matter.  Okay, that’s kind of a joke.  I suspect George would agree with this, but it’s worth noting that Snell doesn’t give us George’s take directly.

Finally, listen to some Bach this weekend.  Your soul will be better for it:

The Art of the Fugue is perhaps Bach’s most abstract and intellectually challenging work. Yet its pristine grace led Arthur Peacocke, the English theologian and biologist, to aver that the Holy Spirit himself had written it, using Bach’s hand. A quarter millennium after the composer’s death, this quality of his music provides Christianity with a curious inroad to a group of people who in the past had resisted evangelization more effectively than any other: Japan’s elite.

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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.


  1. Amen to Bach! Even “Sheep May Safely Graze,” though it’s from the secular “Hunt Cantata” (and featuring a cast of pagan gods and goddesses, no less!) has become, popularly, a ‘sacred’ song. For me this comes from IIRC hearing it as a child, as the theme song to the ‘fifties TV show “Lamp Unto My Feet.”

    Still, I’m sure Bach had to be aware of its religious overtones (including the title). I’m guessing his faith informed everything he did (“Pray without ceasing”–1 Thessalonians 5:17).


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