Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 14, No. 12. September 20, 1951
..Letters to the Editor
..Letters to the Editor
From Munz to Munz Meat
Sir,—Dr. Munz suggests that I acquaint myself with the meaning of the word "logic." Instead, I shall harvest the new crop of fallacies he has produced in his latest letter, and thereby help to acquaint him with the thing. "I took my stand," Dr. Munz declares, "with Schweitzer, Loisy and Klausner. Surely this is plain enough." How one can take a stand in three places at once is not clear at all; it is a feat of intellectual acrobatics which even Dr. Munz would find difficult. That these men hold three different views is clear to anyone who knows anything about them. Thus Loisy holds that the mystery religions deeply influenced Christianity, whereas Schweitzer holds that their influence was negligible.
"As a wise Catholic the author of the first volume (of the "Church History" of Martin and Fliche) does not discuss the historicity of the N.T. at all." This statement of Dr. Munz's calls for several comments. First, if Dr. Munz had really read this work he would surely know that it has two authors—Lebreton and Zeiller—not one. Second, using his favourite tactics, he insinuates that Lebreton, the author of the first chapter, is either an insincere Catholic or a dishonest historian. For what else can "wise" mean in this context? It must mean either that Lebreton was wise enough to know that the N.T. is unhistorical, even though the Church holds that it is; or omitted to discuss the question because he knew he could not make a good case for the historicity. Third. Lebreton devotes three pages to the historical Christ and the Gospels (pp. 63-65) and concludes that "if the facts which the apostle relates were not real, he was a lying witness, and the faith of Christians would be vain." The reason why he does hot discuss the question more fully is very simple. The plan of the whole work called for a volume of about 500 pages to cover the history of the first two centuries; a long discussion of the historicity of the N.T. would have been a waste of valuable space, when a full treatment of the subject is readily available in such works as De Grandmaison's Jesus Christ, to which the reader is referred in a footnote on p. 63.
Dr Munz declares that the first three paragraphs of my letter were pointless because he does not "call himself a rationalist." Surely what matters is not what Dr Munz calls himself, but what he is. He argues that because he is a disciple of Schweitzer and Klausner, and "neither Schweitzer nor Klausner are rationalist. We'll let Schweitzer and Klausner pass—though one could reasonably call them rationalists—but what, about Loisy? if Dr Munz "takes his stand with Loisy," he is certainly a rationalist. Dr Munz would be easier to argue with, if he had done some independent thinking and had some firm convictions, instead of hitching his wagon to three different stars.
Dr Munz writes as if his decision not to accept the compatibility of faith and reason proceeded from a judicious weighing of St Thomas's arguments, which like a conscientious historian he has read, presumably in the original Latin. Actually, St Thomas has very little to do with the matter, if you admit that the Christian faith is divinely revealed, and that human reason comes from God, it obviously follows that faith and reason cannot contradict each other. The whole question is: Is the Christian faith divinely revealed? And to find the answer to that question it is better to consult a modem work of apologetics than read St Thomas, for St Thomas does not discuss it at length.
Open Door—closed Mind?
Sir,—In view of the fact that Dr. Munz stated at one of his lectures that his knowledge of Thomas Aquinas was second hand, and also in view of the fact that the Summa Theologica is 22 volumes long, and in view of the learned Doctor's omniscience in other fields it does not surprise me that his necessarily scanty studies have failed to convince him.
Copies of the Summa are now available in England and a Companion to it is available in New Zealand. The way remains open.
It remains true that Dr Munz's statement that Loisy had good historical reasons for disagreeing with the Pope is simply a non-specialist opinion, worth no more than the next man's. As for his statement that "Loisy was an honest man," it is ridiculous. Loisy pretended to be a loyal Catholic long after he had ceased to believe in the Divinity of Christ. Loisy's Memoirs make it clear that he was no longer a Christian, and probably not even a theist, as early as 1892. Excommunication is not, as Dr Munz seems to think, "a way of dealing with the likelihood of error," but a way of preventing dishonest persons like Loisy from teaching as Catholic truth that which is actually erroneous.
"I know quite enough," Dr Munz declares, "in order to say that trans-substantiation was not part of the beliefs held by the primitive church, because the very word is first met with only during the 12th century." What an argument! The word was coined only in the 12th century; therefore people could not have believed in the change it designated until that date. It is just like arguing that no one before 1700 knew wood burned or iron went rusty because the term "oxidation" was not coined until the 18th century. To prove that "transubstantiation was not part of the beliefs of the primitive church," Dr Munz will have to undertake a close study of the teaching of the primitive church on the Eucharist, to see whether it contains implicitly what is formulated explicitly and precisely in the-doctrine of trans-substantiation, in the meantime, his non non-specilist opinion on the subject is worth no more than the next man's.