Friday, November 04, 2005

Kingdom of Darkness

[T]he kingdom of darkness, as it is set forth in these and other places of the Scripture, is nothing else but a confederacy of deceivers that, to obtain dominion over men in this present world, endeavour, by dark and erroneous doctrines, to extinguish in them the light, both of nature and of the gospel; and so to disprepare them for the kingdom of God to come. (Leviathan ch. 44)

While Hobbes's Leviathan gets a lot of attention for its discussion of the state of nature and social contract, the second half of the book gets quite a bit less attention; in those chapters, Hobbes first looks at the Kingdom of God, or Christian Commonwealth, and then discusses the Kingdom of Darkness, which he defines as above. He identifies four ways in which this Kingdom of Darkness is furthered:

(1) "abusing and putting out the light of the Scriptures"
(2) "introducing the demonology of the heathen poets"
(3) "mixing with the Scripture diverse relics of the religion, and much of the vain and erroneous philosophy of the Greeks"
(4) "mingling with both these, false or uncertain traditions, and feigned or uncertain history"

The most serious form of (1) is the claim that the Church is the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God, as Hobbes understands it, is a political organization, instituted by Moses, for the sake of governing the Jews, which ended with the election of Saul as king. This Kingdom will, according to the Prophets, one day be restored. In his first coming, Jesus began to lay the groundwork for its actual restoration; and since he hasn't come again, there is no Kingdom of God at all (except in the weak sense that we Christians are, as it were, signing up for the future Kingdom of God through the ritual of baptism). The people who are most egregious in making this identification are, of course, the Catholics. Most of Hobbes's discussion of the Kingdom of Darkness is a discussion of the participation of Catholics in the "confederacy of deceivers." Hobbes sees the Catholic Church as a serious threat to his account of sovereign, wherein the sovereign is chosen by the people to exercise the fullness of power. Popes and Catholic councils do not treat heads of state as Hobbesian sovereigns. Hobbes notes with some distaste the statement of the Fourth Lateran Council, "That if a king, at the pope's admonition, do not purge his kingdom of heresies, and being excommunicate for the same, do not give satisfaction within a year, his subjects are absolved of the bond of their obedience." In other words, under certain conditions, the Church can abolish the power of sovereign. Claims like this darken the minds of people and lead to religious wars, Hobbes thinks, because it makes it impossible for ordinary people to tell who they should obey. The Church has an alternative prince (the pope), it has alternative laws (canon), it has an alternative government (the clergy). His concern goes even so far as to worry that the Church has the means of raising an army:

From the same it is that in every Christian state there are certain men that are exempt, by ecclesiastical liberty, from the tributes and from the tribunals of the civil state; for so are the secular clergy, besides monks and friars, which in many places bear so great a proportion to the common people as, if need were, there might be raised out of them alone an army sufficient for any war the Church militant should employ them in against their own or other princes.

This is a very odd worry, and I'm not sure what's behind it. The Jesuits, perhaps.

Another abuse of Scripture that contributes to the Kingdom of Darkness is "the turning of consecration into conjuration, or enchantment"; he has Catholic sacramental theology in view. Yet another is the claim that the soul is immortal (Hobbes thinks that we lost eternal life at the Fall and it was only restored by Christ for those who enter into the Kingdom of God; he doesn't, I think, believe in hell). There are quite a few things that go with this:

This window it is that gives entrance to the dark doctrine, first, of eternal torments, and afterwards of purgatory, and consequently of the walking abroad, especially in places consecrated, solitary, or dark, of the ghosts of men deceased; and thereby to the pretences of exorcism and conjuration of phantasms, as also of invocation of men dead; and to the doctrine of indulgences; that is to say, of exemption for a time, or for ever, from the fire of purgatory, wherein these incorporeal substances are pretended by burning to be cleansed and made fit for heaven.

The second way in which the Kingdom of Darkness is furthered is by introducing the demonology of the heathen poets, and one example of this is the claim that there are incorporeal spirits. So Catholic angelology and demonology takes a beating. Another example is "the worship of images," and Catholic iconography is in view. Ditto with the canonizing of saints:

The first that ever was canonized at Rome was Romulus, and that upon the narration of Julius Proculus, that swore before the Senate he spoke with him after his death, and was assured by him he dwelt in heaven, and was there called Quirinus, and would be propitious to the state of their new city: and thereupon the Senate gave public testimony of his sanctity. Julius Caesar, and other emperors after him, had the like testimony; that is, were canonized for saints: for by such testimony is canonization now defined, and is the same with the apotheosis of the heathen.

Indeed, as is clear from the other examples Hobbes notes, just about the whole of Catholic liturgy is implicated.

The third and fourth ways way in which the Kingdom of Darkness is furthered are through vain philosophy and superstitious traditions. Needless to say, scholastic thought (with an honorable mention to the Talmudic discussions of Jewish rabbis) comes under the gun here. (Which I suppose would make me a prince of darkness. I don't get to say that often.) He also mentions hagiography.

In other words, although 'Kingdom of Darkness' has a larger extension than 'Catholic Church' (all non-Christians are members of the Kingdom of Darkness), the attack on the Kingdom of Darkness is undeniably an attack on Catholicism.

The Kingdom of Darkness, as Hobbes sees it, expands through a will to power. By spreading around these ideas, which obscure the simplicity of Scripture and Hobbesian civil philosophy, priests and the like gain power over their fellow men.

He ends the discussion in an ominous tone:

It was not therefore a very difficult matter for Henry the Eighth by his exorcism; nor for Queen Elizabeth by hers, to cast them out. But who knows that this spirit of Rome, now gone out, and walking by missions through the dry places of China, Japan, and the Indies, that yield him little fruit, may not return; or rather, an assembly of spirits worse than he enter and inhabit this clean-swept house, and make the end thereof worse than the beginning? For it is not the Roman clergy only that pretends the kingdom of God to be of this world, and thereby to have a power therein, distinct from that of the civil state.

It's interesting that anti-Catholic polemic takes up such a significant place in Hobbes's political philosophy; he spends an immense amount of space attacking the Catholic Church both qua Catholic and qua the perfect summation of priestcraft. It's difficult to say more; one area in which Hobbes scholarship is very weak is precisely in this area. It isn't clear what, precisely, the role of the Kingdom of Darkness critique plays in his political philosophy at large, in part because it's obscure in itself, but in part because there hasn't been enough work done on the matter.

Darn Historibloggers! Why Can't You Be Mediocre?

I've been trying to think of nominations for the Cliopatria Awards, and I've been having quite a hard time of it. Why is it that there is so much excellent history-related blogging?

I was going to nominate Sharon Howard's series of posts on duelling, but she's judging in that division so she is ineligible (she's tricky, that Sharon Howard!). Now I'll be going back to wade through some excellent history posts (so many!), in order to see which one I want to nominate for the Best Post series.

In any case, what I wanted to say was that if you have any nominations for history blogging, don't forget to nominate.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Elsewhere on Idolatry as Philosophical Error

Bill Vallicella at "The Maverick Philosopher" has an interesting post, called Idolatry, Desire, Buddha, Causation, and Malebranche that builds on my previous post on idolatry as a philosophical problem in Malebranche, and which has produced some interesting comments.

One interesting thing that I'd like at some point to look at, and haven't been able to do as of yet, is to examine how Malebranche is adapting Augustine's distinctions between use and fruition (enjoyment) on the one hand, and between cupidity and charity on the other, because this is at least in the background of Malebranche's analysis of idolatry, and it would be interesting to look more closely at what he's accepting and what he's modifying from that account.

Imago Dei in Those Without Use of Reason

Rebecca at "Rebecca Writes" has often had some excellent discussions about the imago Dei, always underlining that it cannot be simply identified with the use of reason (e.g., here). I was thinking about this in relation to Aquinas earlier today, particularly as found in his De Veritate. There Aquinas says that the presence of God in the mind is the memory of God in the mind. 'Memory' or memoria is a term borrowed from Augustine; for Aquinas it means not actually remembering but a sort of habitual knowledge -- i.e., memoria is a disposition for actual knowing. The presence of God as the memoria of God, however, is prior to any sensation; and since the actualization of our intellects presupposes sensation to think about, the memory of God is prior to any rational activity at all. Indeed, this 'memory' or memorial of God is prior to rational activity as a precondition for thinking at all. It is for this reason that even those who do not actually have the use of reason bear the image of God. It is, of course, the case that the image of God is expressed through things like understanding, love, creative ability, and more. But we do need to distinguish the image of God in itself and the image of God as expressed; the latter is an actualization or activation of the former, and the former is the potential for the latter.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


The History Carnival is up at "(a)musings of a grad student", and it's a beauty. Click on the link if you want to learn about Victorian Halloween reads, illuminated manuscripts of Christine de Pisan, material evidence in early modern English courts, the history of the electric chair, Locke's First Treatise, and more.

The Philosophers' Carnival is up at "Prior Knowledge,"
with discussion of eternity, Leibniz's view of final causes, antecedent naturalism, Heidegger, and more.


Loren Rosen at The Busybody and Stephen Carlson at Hypotyposeis are discussing what should be on the list of the top 20 literary fakes of all time, including The Donation of Constantine (at #1 position). Carlson names an interesting candidate:

We are perhaps a little too close in time to the Secret Gospel of Mark to be fully objective about its placement at no. 2, but Ossian certainly belongs near the top. Thomas Jefferson raved about it, as did Goethe. James MacPherson actually managed to make one of the first waves of Romanticism in an era that Classicism dominated. He had not been able to get his own poetry taken seriously until he came up with the idea of “editing” the oral works of Ossian. I get the sense, however, that MacPherson more or less stumbled into his fakery.

I get that sense, too. In a sense, we can regard MacPherson as trying to do at a very early stage what later folklorists would also do (but less clumsily), namely, shape the native poetry into a national epic; the most important modern case was that of Elias Lönnrot, who constructed the Kalevala out of fragmentary Finnish traditions. The difference is that what Lönnrot was doing was fairly clear and above-board; his source material was made available, for instance. MacPherson's texts do have a root in Highland folk poetry; MacPherson's problem, I think, was largely that he went too far in claiming real authenticity for his work, and then just let himself get carried along by the tide. I have a few links on Ossian at Houyhnhnm Land.

UPDATE: In the comments, Sharon reminds us of Iolo Morganwg, MacPherson's Welsh counterpart, and points out a website on MacPherson and Morganwg. Meanwhile, at "The Little Professor," Miriam adds a Victorian candidate, the Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk.

UPDATE2: Follow the Hypotyposeis link above for further discussions of the issue.

Blood-Drinking Buddhas and Wrathful Compassion

I hope you had a good Halloween. For the occasion, here is a Buddhist legend, particularly associated with Vajrayana or Tibetan Buddhism. Once there was a man who heard Buddha preach. So mired in delusion, craving, and aggression was he that he interpreted Buddha's words as a license for indulging himself to the fullest. When the Wheel of Life rolled around, he was reincarnated as a terrible monster, Rudra, and gained great power in all the hells and all the earth.

Faced with such an unregenerate egoism, the buddhas knew that they could not turn Rudra to compassion by appearing to him in their usual form. Therefore they manifested themselves as the herukas. The herukas, also called the wrathful deities, are expressions of buddha-consciousness and buddha-compassion, but under a terrible aspect. They are the expressions of wrathful compassion. Their visible representations are terrible monsters that drink blood.

The way of it is this. Sometimes people so identify themselves with their delusions, cravings, and aggressive impulses that the compassion of the buddhas is something threatening. The buddhas wish to destroy our attachment to this world, to break our slavery to aggressive impulses, to snap the bonds of our delusions. When we identify ourselves too fully with these things, it's not surprising that buddha-compassion has a terrible aspect: it destroys, crushes, devours the very things we think we are. It does so in order to free us, of course; the blood-drinking buddhas have clear minds and compassionate hearts. But their clarity of mind seems to the soul mired in egoism to be terrible and violent (as truth sometimes seems to be), and their compassion of heart appears to be something that devours and destroys (for they devour and destroy our attachments to this world).

In this way the buddhas were able to subjugate the terrible monster Rudra, bringing him to enlightenment and compassion.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Thought for the Evening

The Hegelian view that history is the march of Reason is true; it's just that the Reason that is marching is very intoxicated.

Christian Carnival XCIII

The 93rd Christian Carnival is of unusually high quality. Some interesting posts:

* An Analogical Argument for the Legitimacy of Religious Experiences at "Ales Rarus"

* N. T. Wright on the resurrection at "Theology and Biblical Studies"

* On Suffering at "Rev Bill" reflects on Elder Ambrose of Optina's thoughts on suffering

* The Engine of Shame, Part One and The Engine of Shame, Part Two at "The Doctor Is In"

Don't forget that the History Carnival, the early modern edition of Carnivalesque are coming up soon; and the Philosophers' Carnival will be out tomorrow.

Natural Virtue

(1) Not every good act need be determined by conventional rules or social institutions;
(2) No agent can be perfectly virtuous without such determination;
(3) The constitution of the body, by affecting the details of the emotional and volitional life, fits us for specific types of virtues and vices and so determined particular details and idiosyncrasies of our moral characters.

Hayden Ramsay has a nice paper on Aristotle's and Aquinas's accounts of natural virtue ["Natural Virtue," Dialogue 37:2 (1998) 341-360] in which he notes that, despite the immense difference between their virtue theories, Aquinas and Hume agree on all three of the above points (Ramsay combines the first two into one thesis; I've just broken it into two). An example of a natural virtue for Aquinas would be the understanding of first principles (this is the sort of natural virtue that is common to all human beings), or the temperamental disposition of a particular man that allows him to understand certain things better than another (this is the sort of natural virtue that varies from individual to individual). Aquinas discusses the matter in ST 1-2.51.2).

Ramsay notes that the concept of natural virtue is important for natural law: natural virtue is what identifies the general ends of our nature; they are the seeds that are developed into virtue in the proper sense. This implies objective moral norms and the limits of consequentialism: "Acts which directly and intentionally threaten (anyone's) realization of some human good(s) are practically unreasonable, incompatible with perfect virtue, and so immoral even when performed for good ends" (Ramsay, p. 350).

When Hume talks about 'natural virtues' he has a different meaning, since many of Hume's natural virtues are acquired virtues; the contrast in Hume is not, as in Aquinas, between 'natural' and 'acquired', but between 'natural' and 'artificial', where the artificial virtues are the virtues that intrinsically presuppose a reference to public good. He notes this explicitly in a discussion of natural virtue in T3.3:

The only difference betwixt the natural virtues and justice lies in this, that the good, which results from the former, arises from every single act, and is the object of some natural passion: Whereas a single act of justice, consider'd in itself, may often be contrary to the public good; and `tis only the concurrence of mankind, in a general scheme or system of action, which is advantageous.

Both types are "intermixed" in our moral judgments. It's interesting that Hume, too, is not a consequentialist; I've discussed this point before.

Serenity and Belief

Jeffrey Overstreet has an excellent discussion of Serenity. There are spoilers, of course, but, honestly, if you haven't seen it already, what have you been doing? One of the nice things about the ship and its crew, in both the series and the movie, is that it manages to be a metaphor for the human soul without being too obvious or preachy about it. Overstreet does a good job of bringing out the key moral theme of the movie, namely, that moral focus requires some sort of conviction. (He also doesn't flinch from pointing out flaws in the particular way in which Whedon cultivates this theme.) I do think he is a little hard on the visual style of the film, which, while not radically innovative or ground-breaking, and while a bit uneven, is respectable, particularly for a first attempt.

UPDATE: Also, check out Overstreet's I Heart Huckabees interview.

Feser on Blackburn on Anscombe

Edward Feser has a worthwhile post on Blackburn's review of Anscombe at "Right Reason". I think he's a bit hard on Blackburn in places, but the post does a good job of indicating how Blackburn has misunderstood Anscombe's point about terms like 'moral law', 'duty', 'obligation', and the like being only consistently possible in a moral perspective that allows for a moral legislator. It is not, contrary to Blackburn, the claim that if there is no God everything is permitted (indeed, a little thought should have shown Blackburn that Anscombe couldn't at the same time both mean this and recommend the psychological, and ultimately virtue-theoretical, alternative). Throughout his review of Anscombe Blackburn conflates 'morality' and 'morality seen as a set of obligations and duties', without any indication that people might deny that the latter is the only way to see it. Feser makes this point very well:

Also, Blackburn’s dismissal ignores the fact that Anscombe never says that no ethical concepts can have application in a non-theistic context, but only that concepts like duty, obligation, and others that presuppose the existence of moral law per se (as opposed to moral virtue) cannot have it, since moral law, so the argument goes, has no coherent meaning if the existence of a moral lawgiver is denied. So to show that the sorts of moral judgments Blackburn wants to affirm really can coherently be affirmed within an atheistic framework, he has to show that their apparent coherence doesn’t in fact depend on an illicit transition from their defensibility in terms of concepts like virtue, flourishing, social utility, etc. (which do not require a lawgiver) to the conclusion that they have also thereby been shown to count as genuine duties or obligations. That is to say, in order to make his case, Blackburn has carefully to disentangle, and address separately, those aspects of the atheist’s moral judgments that Anscombe might admit can be rationally justified without appeal to a lawgiver, and those that she would insist cannot be so justified. It will not do merely to note that secularists can coherently apply “moral” categories, for the term “moral” is ambiguous between these two distinct elements which need to be distinguished.

He also discusses Blackburn's more specific complaints about 'natural' as a moral term. Arguably Blackburn is on stronger ground here, but as Feser notes, the argument presupposes that 'using something contrary to its natural function' just is 'using something for something other than its natural function'; and given the theory of practical reason behind natural law theory it is not so clear that we can always make this identification. The sense of 'natural' here is the sense of natural in which human beings are naturally rational animals; anyone who admits that immorality is irrational has conceded the general point, unless they hold either that rationality is not natural to us or that it is irrelevant to the rest of our natural functions. And it is clear that reason allows for a distinction between doing something other than a given conclusion of practical reason and doing something contrary to a given conclusion of practical reason; e.g., for the former there might several possibilities, and therefore several different rational paths. It is certainly true that the specifics are difficult to get precise on (this has always been explicitly pointed out by natural law theorists), and there will certainly be room for argument about them; but Blackburn's argument doesn't seem promising as a refutation of Anscombe's general line of argument.

(Blackburn's walking analogy, by the way, is a much weaker parallel than its verbal formulation suggests, even abstracting from issues of practical reason. When I bicycle, it isn't clear that I am using my legs for a different function than when I am walking. The parallel would not be to cases like contraception, etc., but to artificially aided insemination -- the reasons Catholic might have for caution on artifical insemination are rather different from their reasons for rejecting artificial contraception, which is, for instance, why Catholic philosophy is more accommodating of artificial insemination than it is of artificial contraception.)

Some Texts on the Doctrine of Justification

[I'm doing a bit of brushing up on the subject, so this post is mostly just a link-post for my own use]

A Reformed View: Discernment About Justification in the Fathers, at "Historia Ecclesiastica"

A Catholic View (circa 1910): Justification at the Catholic Encyclopedia

A Catholic View: Justification by Christ Alone and Justification in Catholic Teaching, by James Akin

Some Historical Documents

Lutheran-Catholic Discussion (20th Century): Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification: "We confess together that sinners are justified by faith in the saving action of God in Christ. By the action of the Holy Spirit in baptism, they are granted the gift of salvation, which lays the basis for the whole Christian life. They place their trust in God's gracious promise by justifying faith, which includes hope in God and love for him. Such a faith is active in love and thus the Christian cannot and should not remain without works. But whatever in the justified precedes or follows the free gift of faith is neither the basis of justification nor merits it."

Lutheran-Catholic Discussion (20th Century): Response of the Catholic Church to the Joint Declaration: "Whereas for Lutherans this doctrine has taken on an altogether particular significance, for the Catholic Church the message of justification, according to Scripture and already from the time of the Fathers, has to be organically integrated into the fundamental criterion of the "regula fidei", that is, the confession of the one God in three persons, christologically centred and rooted in the living Church and its sacramental life."

Lutheran-Catholic Discussion (20th century): a Lutheran response to the Joint Declaration, at The Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod: "We distinguish between the result of justification, which is the Christian life, and the work of God to save us. Rome mixes sanctification with justification. Why is this view troublesome? Because it teaches that something other than trust in Christ is necessary for or salvation. That "something other" is what we bring to the table. And the only thing we do bring to the table is our sin, not our good works. Our works are a response that God works in us, but not a contributing cause to our justification."

Newman (19th Century), Anglican period: Lectures on the Doctrine of Justification: "Justification, then, viewed relatively to the past is forgiveness of sin, for nothing more it can be; but considered as to the present and future it is more, it is renewal wrought in us by the Spirit of Him who by His merits completes what is defective in that renewal. And Faith is said to justify in two principal ways:—first, as continually pleading our Lord's merits before God, and secondly, as being the first recipient of the Spirit, the root, and therefore the earnest and anticipation of perfect obedience."

The Council of Trent (16th Century): Sixth Session: "If any one saith, that without the prevenient inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and without his help, man can believe, hope, love, or be penitent as he ought, so as that the grace of Justification may be bestowed upon him; let him be anathema....If any one saith, that men are justified, either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ, or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, and is inherent in them; or even that the grace, whereby we are justified, is only the favour of God; let him be anathema."

John Calvin (16th Century: Antidote to the Sixth Session of the Council of Trent: "The whole dispute is as to The Cause of Justification. The Fathers of Trent pretend that it is twofold, as if we were justified partly by forgiveness of sins and partly by spiritual regeneration; or, to express their view in other words, as if our righteousness were composed partly of imputation, partly of quality. I maintain that it is one, and simple, and is wholly included in the gratuitous acceptance of God. I besides hold that it is without us, because we are righteous in Christ only."

John Calvin (16th Century): Of Justification by Faith, at "A Puritan's Mind": "A man is said to be justified in the sight of God when in the judgment of God he is deemed righteous, and is accepted on account of his righteousness; for as iniquity is abominable to God, so neither can the sinner find grace in his sight, so far as he is and so long as he is regarded as a sinner....The order of justification which it sets before us is this: first, God of his mere gratuitous goodness is pleased to embrace the sinner, in whom he sees nothing that can move him to mercy but wretchedness, because he sees him altogether naked and destitute of good works. He, therefore, seeks the cause of kindness in himself, that thus he may affect the sinner by a sense of his goodness, and induce him, in distrust of his own works, to cast himself entirely upon his mercy for salvation."

Theodore Beza (16th Century): Faith and Justification at "Reformation Ink": "[W]e speak thus with the Apostle, and we say that by faith alone we are justified, insomuch as it embraces Him who justifies us, Jesus Christ, to whom it unites and joins us. We are then made partakers of Him and an the benefits which He possesses. These, being imputed and gifted to us, are more than sufficient to make us acquitted and accounted righteous before God."

Francis Turretin (17th Century): Institutio Theologiae Elencticae, Question 16: "The justification of the wicked, of which Paul speaks, Rom. 4:5, ought not to be referred to an infusion or increase of habitual righteousness, but belongs to the remission of sins, as it is explained by the Apostle from David. Nay, it would not be a justification of the wicked, if it were used in any other sense than for a judicial absolution at the throne of grace. I confess that God in declaring just, ought also for that very reason to make just, that his judgment may be according to truth. But man can be made just in two ways, either in himself, or in another, either from the law, or from the gospel. God therefore makes him just whom he justifies, not in himself as if from a sight of his inherent righteousness he declared him just, but from the view of the righteousness, imputed, of Christ."

John Bunyan (17th Century): Justification by an Imputed Righteousness: "If any works of ours could justify us before God, they would be works after faith received; but it is evident that these do not; therefore the righteousness that justifies us from the curse before God is a righteousness inherent only in Christ."

Jonathan Edwards (18th Century): Justification by Faith Alone: "A person is to be justified, when he is approved of God as free from the guilt of sin and its deserved punishment, and as having that righteousness belonging to him that entitles to the reward of life. That we should take the word in such a sense, and understand it as the judge’s accepting a person as having both a negative and positive righteousness belonging to him, and looking on him therefore as not only free from any obligation to punishment, but also as just and righteous and so entitled to a positive reward, is not only most agreeable to the etymology and natural import of the word, which signifies to pass one for righteous in judgment, but also manifestly agreeable to the force of the word as used in Scripture."

Augsberg Confession (16th Century): Of Justification: "Also they teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for Christ's sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ's sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight."

Martin Luther (16th Century): The Method and Fruits of Justification: "He that studieth to fulfil the law without faith is afflicted for the devil's sake; and continues a persecutor both of faith and the law, until he come to himself, and cease to trust in his own works; he then gives glory to God, who justifies the ungodly, and acknowledges himself to be nothing, and sighs for the grace of God, of which he knows that he has need. Faith and grace now fill his empty mind, and satisfy his hunger; then follow works which are truly good; neither are they works of the law, but of the spirit, of faith and grace; they are called in the Scripture the works of God, which He worketh in us."

Thomas Aquinas (13th Century): The Effects of Grace: "The entire justification of the ungodly consists as to its origin in the infusion of grace. For it is by grace that free-will is moved and sin is remitted. Now the infusion of grace takes place in an instant and without succession....[T]he justification of the ungodly is not successive, as stated above; but in the order of nature, one [stage] is prior to another; and in their natural order the first is the infusion of grace; the second, the free-will's movement towards God [i.e., conversion to God]; the third, the free-will's movement towards sin [i.e., by detesting it]; the fourth, the remission of sin."

Presbyterian Bible Content Exam Learning Tool

Unwieldy name, great time-waster. Steve Whitney, a Presbyterian pastor, has put up a website for practice bible content exams (HT:Magic Statistics). Now you can see how well you know the book. I took the 2005 and got a 95%; the biggest problem area for me was the Pauline Epistles (apparently I need to re-read Colossians and Ephesians). I also could remember nothing about Haggai, and, in retrospect, was confusing it with Habakkuk anyway. I did fairly well on the Historical books and the Gospels, though. On the 2004 I got a 94%, and again it was Paul who was dragging me down (I did even worse on the Acts and Paul section on this one, so it's a good thing I did better on the rest). You can tell what I'll be re-reading in days to come.

In any case, it's a good way to pass the time.