Possible new blog coming soon

I have been blogging at Blogger for the past year.  I might have a new project in the works at WordPress on the healing of the human person, evangelism, and the like drawing upon the Patristic tradition.

Updating Mortimer Adler’s Classical Reading List

I’ve gotten rid of a lot of titles on here because I just don’t see how…well, I’m not going there.  And I’ve changed some works by some authors.  I think Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago is far more powerful and infinitely more relevant to FEMA-Camp America than are his novels.  I’ve BOLDFACED the ones I have already read.

    1. Homer – Iliad; Odyssey
    2. The Old Testament
    3. Aeschylus – Tragedies
    4. Sophocles – Tragedies
    5. Herodotus – Histories (I’ve read it but I need to reread it)
    6. Euripides – Tragedies
    7. ThucydidesHistory of the Peloponnesian War
    8. Hippocrates – Medical Writings
    9. Aristophanes – Comedies
    10. Plato – Dialogues
    11. Aristotle – Works
    12. Epicurus – “Letter to Herodotus”; “Letter to Menoecus”
    13. EuclidElements
    14. Archimedes – Works
    15. ApolloniusConics
    16. Cicero – Works (esp. Orations; On Friendship; On Old Age; Republic; Laws; Tusculan Disputations; Offices)
    17. LucretiusOn the Nature of Things
    18. Virgil – Works (esp. Aeneid)
    19. Horace – Works (esp. Odes and Epodes; The Art of Poetry)
    20. LivyHistory of Rome
    21. Ovid – Works (esp. Metamorphoses)
    22. QuintilianInstitutes of Oratory
    23. PlutarchParallel Lives; Moralia
    24. TacitusHistories; Annals; Agricola; Germania; Dialogus de oratoribus (Dialogue on Oratory)
    25. Nicomachus of GerasaIntroduction to Arithmetic
    26. Epictetus – Discourses; Enchiridion
    27. PtolemyAlmagest
    28. Lucian – Works (esp. The Way to Write History; The True History; The Sale of Creeds;Alexander the Oracle Monger; Charon; The Sale of Lives; The Fisherman; Dialogue of the Gods; Dialogues of the Sea-Gods; Dialogues of the Dead)
    29. Marcus AureliusMeditations
    30. GalenOn the Natural Faculties
    31. The New Testament
    32. PlotinusThe Enneads
    33. St. Augustine – “On the Teacher”; Confessions; City of God; On Christian Doctrine
    34. The Volsungs Saga or Nibelungenlied
    35. The Song of Roland
    36. The Saga of Burnt Njál
    37. MaimonidesThe Guide for the Perplexed
    38. St. Thomas Aquinas – Of Being and Essence; Summa Contra Gentiles; Of the Governance of Rulers; Summa Theologica
    39. Dante Alighieri – The New Life (La Vita Nuova); “On Monarchy”; Divine Comedy
    40. Geoffrey Chaucer – Troilus and Criseyde; The Canterbury Tales

Leonardo da VinciNotebooks

  1. Niccolò Machiavelli – The Prince; Discourses on the First Ten Books of Livy
  2. Desiderius Erasmus – The Praise of Folly; Colloquies (I’ve read different parts of Erasmus
  3. Nicolaus CopernicusOn the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres
  4. Thomas MoreUtopia
  5. Martin Luther – Table Talk; Three Treatises
  6. François RabelaisGargantua and Pantagruel
  7. John Calvin – Institutes of the Christian Religion
  8. Michel de MontaigneEssays
  9. William GilbertOn the Lodestone and Magnetic Bodies
  10. Miguel de Cervantes – Don Quixote
  11. Edmund Spenser –; The Faerie Queene
  12. Francis BaconEssays; The Advancement of Learning; Novum Organum; New Atlantis
  13. William Shakespeare – Poetry and Plays
  14. Galileo GalileiStarry Messenger; Two New Sciences
  15. Johannes KeplerThe Epitome of Copernican Astronomy; Harmonices Mundi
  16. William HarveyOn the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals; On the Circulation of the Blood; Generation of Animals
  17. GrotiusThe Law of War and Peace
  18. Thomas HobbesLeviathan; Elements of Philosophy (It’s on the Shelf)
  19. René Descartes –  Discourse on the Method; Meditations on First Philosophy
  20. Corneille – Tragedies (esp. The Cid, Cinna)
  21. John Milton – Works (esp. the minor poems; Areopagitica; Paradise Lost; Samson Agonistes) (In progress)
  22. Molière – Comedies (esp. The Miser; The School for Wives; The Misanthrope; The Doctor in Spite of Himself; Tartuffe; The Tradesman Turned Gentleman; The Imaginary Invalid; The Affected Ladies)
  23. Blaise Pascal –  Pensées;
  24. BoyleThe Sceptical Chymist
  25. Christiaan HuygensTreatise on Light
  26. Benedict de SpinozaPolitical Treatises; Ethics
  27. John LockeA Letter Concerning Toleration; Of Civil Government; An Essay Concerning Human Understanding; Some Thoughts Concerning Education (Currently reading)
  28. Isaac NewtonMathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy; Opticks
  29. Gottfried Wilhelm LeibnizDiscourse on Metaphysics; New Essays on Human Understanding; Monadology
  30. Daniel Defoe – Robinson Crusoe;
  31. Jonathan SwiftThe Battle of the Books; A Tale of a Tub; A Journal to Stella; Gulliver’s Travels; A Modest Proposal
  32. William CongreveThe Way of the World
  33. George BerkeleyA New Theory of Vision; A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (On the shelf)
  34. Alexander PopeAn Essay on Criticism; The Rape of the Lock; An Essay on Man
  35. Charles de Secondat, baron de MontesquieuPersian Letters; The Spirit of the Laws
  36. Voltaire – Candide
  37. Henry FieldingJoseph Andrews; Tom Jones
  38. Samuel JohnsonThe Vanity of Human Wishes; Dictionary; Rasselas; Lives of the Poets
  39. David HumeA Treatise of Human Nature; Essays Moral and Political; An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding; History of England (Currently on the shelf)
  40. Jean-Jacques RousseauDiscourse on Inequality; On Political Economy; Emile; The Social Contract; Confessions
  41. Laurence SterneTristram Shandy; A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy
  42. Adam SmithThe Theory of Moral Sentiments; The Wealth of Nations (Currently on the shelf)
  43. William BlackstoneCommentaries on the Laws of England
  44. Immanuel KantCritique of Pure Reason; Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals;Critique of Practical Reason; Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics; The Science of Right; Critique of Judgment; Perpetual Peace
  45. Edward GibbonThe History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire;(Currently reading)
  46. James BoswellJournal; The Life of Samuel Johnson
  47. Antoine Laurent LavoisierTraité Élémentaire de Chimie (Elements of Chemistry)
  48. Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James MadisonFederalist Papers (together with the Articles of Confederation; United States Constitution and United States Declaration of Independence)
  49. Jeremy BenthamComment on the Commentaries; Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation; Theory of Fictions
  50. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe – Faust
  51. Thomas Robert MalthusAn Essay on the Principle of Population
  52. John DaltonA New System of Chemical Philosophy
  53. Jean Baptiste Joseph FourierAnalytical Theory of Heat
  54. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich HegelThe Phenomenology of Spirit; Science of Logic;Elements of the Philosophy of Right; Lectures on the Philosophy of History (I’ve read most of these)
  55. William Wordsworth – Poems (esp. Lyrical Ballads; Lucy poems; sonnets; The Prelude)
  56. Samuel Taylor Coleridge – Poems (esp. Kubla Khan; The Rime of the Ancient Mariner );Biographia Literaria
  57. David RicardoOn the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation
  58. Jane AustenPride and Prejudice; Emma
  59. Carl von ClausewitzOn War
  60. Lord Byron – Don Juan
  61. Arthur SchopenhauerStudies in Pessimism
  62. Michael FaradayThe Chemical History of a Candle; Experimental Researches in Electricity
  63. Nikolai LobachevskyGeometrical Researches on the Theory of Parallels
  64. Charles LyellPrinciples of Geology
  65. Auguste ComteThe Positive Philosophy
  66. Honoré de Balzac – Works (esp. Le Père Goriot; Le Cousin Pons; Eugénie Grandet;Cousin Bette; César Birotteau)
  67. Ralph Waldo EmersonRepresentative Men; Essays; Journal
  68. Nathaniel Hawthorne – The Scarlet Letter
  69. Alexis de Tocqueville – Democracy in America (Halfway through reading)
  70. John Stuart Mill – A System of Logic; Principles of Political Economy; On Liberty;Considerations on Representative Government; Utilitarianism; The Subjection of Women;Autobiography
  71. Charles Darwin – On the Origin of Species; The Descent of Man; Autobiography (Currently reading)
  72. William Makepeace Thackeray – Works (esp. Vanity Fair; The History of Henry Esmond;The Virginians; Pendennis) (On the shelf)
  73. Charles Dickens – Works (esp. Pickwick Papers; Our Mutual Friend; David Copperfield;Dombey and Son; Oliver Twist; A Tale of Two Cities; Hard Times)
  74. Claude Bernard – Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine
  75. George Boole – The Laws of Thought
  76. Henry David Thoreau – Civil Disobedience; Walden
  77. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels – Das Kapital (Capital); The Communist Manifesto
  78. George Eliot – Silas Marner
  79. Herman Melville – Typee; Moby-Dick; Billy Budd
  80. Fyodor Dostoyevsky – Crime and Punishment; The Idiot; The Brothers Karamazov
  81. Gustave Flaubert – Madame Bovary; Three Stories
  82. Henry Thomas Buckle – A History of Civilization in England
  83. Francis Galton – Inquiries into Human Faculties and Its Development
  84. Bernhard Riemann – The Hypotheses of Geometry
  85. Henrik Ibsen – Plays (esp. Peer Gynt; Brand; Hedda Gabler; Emperor and Galilean; A Doll’s House; The Wild Duck; The Master Builder) Currently reading
  86. Leo TolstoyWar and Peace; Anna Karenina; “What Is Art?“; Twenty-Three Tales (Currently reading)
  87. Mark Twain – The Innocents Abroad; Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court; The Mysterious Stranger
  88. Henry AdamsHistory of the United States; Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres; The Education of Henry Adams; Degradation of Democratic Dogma
  89. Oliver Wendell HolmesThe Common Law; Collected Legal Papers
  90. William James –  The Varieties of Religious Experience; (Currently reading)
  91. Henry JamesThe American; The Ambassadors
  92. Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche – Thus Spoke Zarathustra; Beyond Good and Evil; On the Genealogy of Morality; The Will to Power; Twilight of the Idols; The Antichrist
  93. Georg CantorTransfinite Numbers
  94. Jules Henri PoincaréScience and Hypothesis; Science and Method; The Foundations of Science
  95. Sigmund FreudThe Interpretation of Dreams; Three Essays to the Theory of Sex;Introduction to Psychoanalysis; Beyond the Pleasure Principle; Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego; The Ego and the Id; Civilization and Its Discontents; New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis
  96. George Bernard Shaw – Plays and Prefaces (Have on shelf)
  97. Max PlanckOrigin and Development of the Quantum Theory; Where Is Science Going?; Scientific Autobiography
  98. Henri BergsonTime and Free Will; Matter and Memory; Creative Evolution; The Two Sources of Morality and Religion
  99. John DeweyHow We Think; Democracy and Education; Experience and Nature; The Quest for Certainty; Logic – The Theory of Inquiry
  100. Alfred North WhiteheadProcess and Reality; (I have on shelf)
  101. George SantayanaThe Life of Reason; Scepticism and Animal Faith; The Realms of Being (which discusses the Realms of Essence, Matter and Truth); Persons and Places
  102. Vladimir LeninImperialism; The State and Revolution
  103. Bertrand RussellPrinciples of Mathematics; The Problems of Philosophy; Principia Mathematica; The Analysis of Mind; An Inquiry into Meaning and Truth; Human Knowledge, Its Scope and Limits; History of Western Philosophy
  104. Albert EinsteinThe Theory of Relativity; Sidelights on Relativity; The Meaning of Relativity; On the Method of Theoretical Physics; The Evolution of Physics
  105. James Joyce“The Dead” in Dubliners; A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man;Ulysses (Have on shelf)
  106. Jacques MaritainArt and Scholasticism; The Degrees of Knowledge; Freedom and the Modern World; A Preface to Metaphysics; The Rights of Man and Natural Law; True Humanism
  107. Franz Kafka – Metamorphoses (Currently reading)
  108. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn – Gulag Archipelago, vol. 1-3.  Currently reading.

I can now sort of understand the Patristic angelic celibacy thing

I posted my Musings on Methodius on Puritanboard.   They didn’t like my dichotomy of Hebrew vs Hellenic thought.  I’ve spent almost a decade reading Greek (pagan and Christian) sources.  What I say is beyond dispute.  I’m also (not) surprised they didn’t take up the line of Methodius’s neo-Galatian two-class Christianity, but enough of that.

I’m fairly harsh on the Fathers for the idealization of angelic celibacy.  But as I reflect upon it, I can kind of get where they were coming from. They lived in a decaying, overly sexualized debauched culture of the late Roman Empire (nominally Christian or not).  The appeal to monasteries fairly obvious:  faced with starving poverty, unfulfilled sexuality, and lack or order, monasteries offered a stable alternative.  Does that justify later monastic trends?  Of course not, but it’s worth remembering.  If the Fathers were over-reacting to what is below, then I can understand, even if I do not approve.

(Wisdom prevailed and I didn’t post any pictures)

Musings on Methodius of Olympus

All citations taken from Schaff’s Ante-Nicene Fathers volume 6

Pros of Methodius

  1. His prose often exquisite and always lyrical.  He occasionally approaches the talent of Gregory Nazianzus, the Christian Pindar.
  2. While he often gets off track of his topic, his “wanderings” are very interesting and usually more sound than his main point.


  1. I do not believe Methodius lost the gospel.  I do think he came within a razor’s edge of losing it.
  2. His use of excessive allegory is subject to the critiques of that position.  If allegory is true, it is impossible to falsify since there is no permanent standard to say “X is wrong.”

Banquet of the Ten Virgins

Like many ancient Christians, Methodius held perpetual virginity to be the summum bonum.  Unlike other ancient Christians, his defense of it, while suffering in terms of exegesis and argument, is the best-written defense (Augustine’s is confused and he knows it; Tertullian’s ranks as the worst treatise in the history of written thought).

  • “Virginity mediates between heaven and earth” (312-313).
  • Methodius bases much of his argument on legal analogies from Old Testament shadows: 327-329; 344.  Even though this is a form of the Galatian heresy, even here he is not consistent, for he knows that people can bring up another OT text: Genesis 1:27ff about procreating (and even worse, maybe enjoying it). Indeed, he calls such men “incontinent and uncontrolled in sensuality” (320).
  • “The likeness of God is the avoidance of corruption.”  A problematic statement, but not too bad.  It gets worse when he adds another premise:  virgins have this likeness (313).  This brings up a troubling conclusion:  can married people have the likeness of God?
  • Indeed, if you are married you need to work towards the goal of never having sex again.  Methodius writes, “Until it removed entirely the inclination for sexual intercourse engendered by habit” (312).  It gets worse:  if married people enjoy sex, “how shall they celebrate the feast” (347)?  What does Methodius mean by feast?  Probably not the liturgy in this section (though of course he would draw that same application); it could be either “the kingdom of God” or the “proper Christian life.”  The narrative isn’t clear.
  • He knows the prohibition against marriage is a demonic doctrine, so he hedges his bets: marriage is to produce martyrs (314).
  • He has a fascinating discussion on numerology (339) and his commentary on the Apocalypse, while wild and fanciful, is no less arbitrary than any other “spiritual” interpretation of it


It is not accidental that Methodius used OT legal shadows to buttress his argument.  He picked and chose from God’s law and supplemented it with the doctrines of man.   Gone is the freedom of the Christian life.  Indeed, the Gospel has become a New Law (348-349).

Concerning Free Will

This is an important text because it summarizes ancient thought on freedom and necessity.  What is the origin of a human action (357).  Methodius wants to make sure that God is not the author of evil, but without the categories of “ultimate and proximate causality,” it’s not clear he can avoid giving evil a semi-independent existence.

His larger point is worth considering, though.  The form of necessatarianism he fights is some mixture of astrology and fatalism.  Methodius wants to free God from the charge of evil by noting he is separate from matter.  (Nota bene:  in ancient thought matter and necessity were linked.  It makes sense if you think of it.  If the above two are connected, and the will is immaterial, then the will is free).


As a full treatise on freedom it is inadequate, but his suggestions on matter and freedom are quite interesting.

Oration Concerning Simeon and Anna

“and preserved his mother’s purity uncorrupt and uninjured” (385).  the last two words suggest Jesus was born miraculously without damaging Mary’s ‘lady parts.”  He “opened the virgin’s womb  and yet did not burst the barriers of virginity.”  While this sounds absurd, it is consistent. The evil for men, per Methodius and ancient Christians, is corruption.   The tearing of the vaginal canal, for example (forgive the rough illustration), is corruption.  Therefore, the Logos, the Incorrupt One, could not have caused it.

The only way to really combat this idea is to attack the original premise.

Minor Works and Fragments

Many of these are corrupted mss and/or lyrical panegyrics on deceased saints.  Not much of history except we see early Marian devotion.  While this is perhaps uncharitable towards Methodius, one wonders if the point of Jesus in our lives is so we can praise Mary.

Evaluation and Conclusion

Methodius is a good witness to Eastern Christianity before the Nicene Council.  He has some interesting suggestions on free will and determinism.  Unfortunately, he exalts man-made ideas of perpetual celibacy to the first-order level of the gospel.  It is instructive that we see why:  sex–assuming it to be married sex–is messy and smelly and arouses extreme passions between man and wife.  This is low on the scale of being and it does not become the one who wants to transcend finitude to the realms of the passionless.

This is very good Hellenistic philosophy, but is an open attack on an earthy Hebraic Christianity.   Methodius himself suggests as much (see page 344).

He is worth reading for the occasional insight, but even where he is right (e.g., the Trinity) he has been surpassed by other luminaries.  Where is wrong, he is fatally wrong.


No salvation outside of (which?) church

People think I make this stuff up.  Now if someone says, “You aren’t reading the context,”  fair enough.  But if we have to qualify it with “context,” then we need to stop making blanket condemnations of Protestants.

“Whoever denies Orthodox hesychasm is excommunicated by this Council (of St. Gregory Palamas), and whoever cannot understand the hesychastic life shows that he does not have the mind-set of the Church.” Eminence Hierotheos Vlachos, Metropolitan of Nafpaktos

Concerning the necessity of not permitting heretics to come into the house of God, so long as they persist in their heresy. (Canon 6 of the Council of Laodicea)

Do not err, my brethren: if anyone follow a schismatic, he will not inherit the Kingdom of God. St. Ignatius Of Antioch, Epistle to the Philadelphians, 3:2-4:1

He that saith not ‘Anathema’ to those in heresy, let him be anathema. (Seventh Ecumenical Council) [I can agree with this statement depending on who means what by heresy]

Neither the Papist nor the Protestant church can be considered as the True church of Christ. The first was altered by a number of innovations and the accursed despotism (Primacy) due to which resulted the schism from the Orthodox. The same goes for the Protestants whose innumerable innovations lead to total anarchy and chaos. Only the Orthodox church maintained the teachings of Christ flawlessly without a single innovation (St. Nektarios of Aegina)

Those that are not reborn by the divine grace in the only One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, they do not consist of (comprise) any church, neither visible nor invisible. (St. Nektarios of Aegina)