Speculative Execution and the Gospel

The recently publicized matter of security issues with modern computer CPU design is very interesting from a Thomist perspective, and in fact from  the viewpoint of any serious Christian philosophical perspective.  Now of course, existentially, the most important matter remains ‘is the Gospel true’; however, leaving that aside for the time being consider instead: if the Gospel is true, what are the implications?  Surely one implication is that to assume one can accurately predict the future is to be heading for a fall and will have serious security risks.

Modern CPU design is deeply pipelined and in order to get the fastest performance out of this has also adopted speculative execution To quote from WhatIs.com, “Speculation (also known as speculative loading ), is a process implemented in Explicitly Parallel Instruction Computing ( EPIC ) processors and their compilers to reduce processor-memory exchanging bottlenecks or latency by putting all the data into memory in advance of an actual load instruction.”

Inherent in this, I think, is an over confidence in our ability to predict the future which is dangerous and it is to be expected that security risks would arise. Further, given the nature of modern cloud IT structures, these security risks will have major financial implications.

Who would have thought that being an IT Manager would lead one back to Saint Thomas Aquinas?

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Nine Dylan CDs and One Song

  1. The Times They Are A-Changin’ – 1964
  2. John Wesley Harding – 1967
  3. Blood on the Tracks = 1975
  4. Senor – 1978
  5. Trouble No More #1 – 1979
  6. Trouble No More #2 – 1981
  7. Oh Mercy – 1989
  8. Dylan Unplugged – 1995
  9. Time Out of Mind – 1997
  10. Tell Tale Signs #2 – 2008

 

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The Fundamental Historical Fact

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. This is the fundamental historical fact and it changes everything. Among other consequences, it changes the nature and significance of history and historical research in comparison to experimental science.

Many people, both Christians and non-Christians, do not think much about the consequences of this, for various reasons.  And, of course many folks do not consider it to be a historical fact at all. However, IF it is a historical fact, then it certainly warrants very careful consideration and has wide-ranging implications.

This course will be studying Christian reflection on this fact during the period from Saint Athanasius through Pope Saint Gregory — roughly the 4th, 5th and 6th centuries in the Christian calendar.  The previous posting, from Dec. 11th, lists the texts we will be using.

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Five Early Doctors

Early Doctors of the Church

The text below is from Wikipedia.

Doctor of the Church (Latin doctor “teacher”) is a title given by the Catholic Church to saints whom they recognize as having been of particular importance, particularly regarding their contribution to theology or doctrine.

In the Western church four eminent “Fathers of the Church” attained this honour in the early Middle Ages: Saint Gregory the Great, Saint Ambrose, Saint Augustine, and Saint Jerome. The “four Doctors” became a commonplace among the Scholastics, and a decree of Boniface VIII (1298) ordering their feasts to be kept as doubles in the whole Church is contained in his sixth book of Decretals (cap. “Gloriosus”, de relique. et vener. sanctorum, in Sexto, III, 22).[1]

In the Latin Church, the four Latin Doctors “had already long been recognized” in the liturgy when the four Great Doctors of the Eastern Church, John ChrysostomBasil the GreatGregory of Nazianzus, and Athanasius of Alexandria were recognized in 1568 by Pope St. Pius V.

Athanasius

Athanasius (c. 296–298 – 2 May 373) is counted as one of the four great Eastern Doctors of the Church in the Roman Catholic Church.[3] In the Eastern Orthodox Church, he is labeled as the “Father of Orthodoxy”. Some Protestants label him as “Father of the Canon”. Athanasius is venerated as a Christian saint, whose feast day is 2 May in Western Christianity, 15 May in the Coptic Orthodox Church, and 18 January in the other Eastern Orthodox Churches. He is venerated by the Oriental and Eastern Orthodox Churches, the Roman Catholic Church, the Lutherans, and the Anglican Communion.

Basil

Basil of Caesarea, also called Saint Basil the Great (330 – 379), was an influential theologian who supported the Nicene Creed and opposed the heresies of the early Christian church, fighting against both Arianism and the followers of Apollinaris of Laodicea. In addition to his work as a theologian, Basil was known for his care of the poor and underprivileged. Basil established guidelines for monastic life which focus on community life, liturgical prayer, and manual labour. He is remembered as a father of communal monasticism in Eastern Christianity.  Basil is considered a saint by the traditions of both Eastern and Western Christianity. His feast day is January 2nd.

Ambrose

Ambrose (c. 340 – 4 April 397), was a bishop of Milan who became one of the most influential ecclesiastical figures of the 4th century. He was the Roman governor of Liguria and Emilia, headquartered in Milan, before being made bishop of Milan by popular acclamation in 374.  was one of the four original Doctors of the Church, and is the patron saint of Milan. He is notable for his influence on Augustine of Hippo.

Jerome

Jerome (c. 27 March 347 – 30 September 420)  is best known for his translation of most of the Bible into Latin (the translation that became known as the Vulgate), and his commentaries on the Gospels. He is recognised as a Saint and Doctor of the Church by the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Lutheran Church, and the Anglican Communion.[7]

Augustine

Augustine (13 November 354 – 28 August 430) is recognized as a saint in the Catholic Church, the Eastern Christian Church, and the Anglican Communion and as a preeminent Doctor of the Church. He is also the patron of the Augustinians.

Gregory

Gregory (c. 540 – 12 March 604) is a Doctor of the Church and one of the Latin Fathers. He is considered a saint in the Catholic ChurchEastern Orthodox ChurchAnglican Communion, and some Lutheran denominations. Immediately after his death, Gregory was canonized by popular acclaim.[5] The Protestant reformer John Calvin admired Gregory and declared in his Institutes that Gregory was the last good pope.[6] 

 

Bibliography/Syllabus

For the class/discussion, in addition the Bible, unabridged Revised Standard Version, we will use the following books:

  1. Athanasius – Khaled Anatolios
  2. Basil – Stephen Hildebrand
  3. Ambrose – Boniface Ramsey O.P.
  4. Jerome – Stefan Rebenich
  5. The Confessions – Augustine  (Everyman Library edition)
  6. Gregory the Great – George Demacopoulos

 

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Faith and the Future

…the future of the Church can and will issue from those whose roots are deep and who live from the pure fullness of their faith.  It will not issue from those who accommodate themselves merely to the passing moment or from those who merely criticize others and assume that they themselves are infallible measuring rods; nor will it issue from those who take the easier road, who sidestep the passion of faith, declaring false and obsolete, tyrannous and legalistic, all that makes demands upon men, that hurts them and compels them to sacrifice themselves.
To put this more positively: the future of the Church, once again as always, will be reshaped by saints, by men, that is, whose minds probe deeper than the slogans of the day, who see more than others see, because their lives embrace a wider reality.  Unselfishness, which makes men free, is attained only through the patience of small daily acts of self-denial.  By this daily passion, which alone reveals to a man in how many ways he is enslaved by his own ego, by this daily passion and by it alone, a man’s eyes are slowly opened.  He sees only to  the extent that he has lived and suffered.  If today we are scarcely able any longer to become aware of God, that is because we find it so easy to evade ourselves, to flee from the depths of our being by means of the narcotic of some pleasure or other.  Thus our own interior depths remain closed to us.  If it is true that a man can see only with his heart, then how blind we are.
From Ratzinger’s 1969 book ‘Faith and the Future’
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Baldwin of Ford, Archbishop of Canterbury

Baldwin of Ford was the 39th archbishop of Canterbury. His birthdate is unknown and he died on November 19th, 1190 AD. He was a Cistercian monk and the abbot of their Abbey at Ford, in Devonshire, before being elected to the see at Canterbury in 1180.

“The Spiritual Tractates were written almost entirely during the decade Baldwin lived at Forde, probably as sermons which were then recast later. They reveal a man thoroughly and happily at home in cistercian spirituality, an acute theologian well aware of contemporary currents, and one of the last true representatives of the rich patristic-monastic tradition.”

In the Liturgy of the Hours, the second reading for November 3rd has this extract from one of his writings:

The word of God is alive and active
The word of God is something alive and active: it cuts like any double-edged sword but more finely. These words tell us how much power and wisdom there is in the word of God for those who seek Christ, who is the word and the power and the wisdom of God. This word, with the Father from the beginning and co-eternal with him, came at its own chosen time, was revealed to them, was proclaimed by them, and was humbly received in faith by its believers. A word, therefore, in the Father; a word in the mouth; and a word in the heart.
  This word of God is alive. The Father gave it life coming from itself just as the Father’s own life comes from himself. The word is not just alive, therefore, it is life, as it said itself: I am the way, the truth, and the life. Since the word is life, the word is alive to give life. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so the Son gives life to anyone he chooses. He gives life, as when he calls the dead man out of the tomb, saying Lazarus, come forth.
  When this word is preached, the voice of its preaching which is heard outwardly calls forth a voice of power that is heard inwardly, that voice by which the dead are restored to life and their praise raises up sons for Abraham. So this word is alive in the heart of the Father, alive in the mouth of the preacher, and alive in the hearts of those who believe and love. If a word is alive in this way, how can it not also be active?
  The word is active in creating, active in guiding the world, active in redeeming the world. What could be more active? What could be more powerful? Who shall tell of his powerful deeds? Who shall proclaim the praises of the Lord? It is active when it works, it is active when it is preached. For it does not come back empty-handed: wherever it is sent, it prospers.
  It is active and cuts finer than a double-edged sword when it is believed and loved. For what is impossible to the believer? What is hard for the lover? When this word speaks, its words transfix the heart like a flight of sharp arrows, like nails hammered deep into its very essence. This word is sharper than a double-edged sword in that it cuts deeper than any strength or power, it is finer than anything made by human ingenuity, sharper than any human wisdom or learned speech.
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Weinandy’s Letter

July 31, 2017

Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola

Your Holiness,

I write this letter with love for the Church and sincere respect for your office.  You are the Vicar of Christ on earth, the shepherd of his flock, the successor to St. Peter and so the rock upon which Christ will build his Church.  All Catholics, clergy and laity alike, are to look to you with filial loyalty and obedience grounded in truth.  The Church turns to you in a spirit of faith, with the hope that you will guide her in love.

Yet, Your Holiness, a chronic confusion seems to mark your pontificate.  The light of faith, hope, and love is not absent, but too often it is obscured by the ambiguity of your words and actions.  This fosters within the faithful a growing unease.  It compromises their capacity for love, joy and peace.  Allow me to offer a few brief examples.

First there is the disputed Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia.  I need not share my own concerns about its content.  Others, not only theologians, but also cardinals and bishops, have already done that.  The main source of concern is the manner of your teaching.  In Amoris Laetitia, your guidance at times seems intentionally ambiguous, thus inviting both a traditional interpretation of Catholic teaching on marriage and divorce as well as one that might imply a change in that teaching.  As you wisely note, pastors should accompany and encourage persons in irregular marriages; but ambiguity persists about what that “accompaniment” actually means.  To teach with such a seemingly intentional lack of clarity inevitably risks sinning against the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth.  The Holy Spirit is given to the Church, and particularly to yourself, to dispel error, not to foster it.  Moreover, only where there is truth can there be authentic love, for truth is the light that sets women and men free from the blindness of sin, a darkness that kills the life of the soul.  Yet you seem to censor and even mock those who interpret Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia in accord with Church tradition as Pharisaic stone-throwers who embody a merciless rigorism.   This kind of calumny is alien to the nature of the Petrine ministry.  Some of your advisors regrettably seem to engage in similar actions.  Such behavior gives the impression that your views cannot survive theological scrutiny, and so must be sustained by ad hominem arguments.

Second, too often your manner seems to demean the importance of Church doctrine.  Again and again you portray doctrine as dead and bookish, and far from the pastoral concerns of everyday life.  Your critics have been accused, in your own words, of making doctrine an ideology.  But it is precisely Christian doctrine – including the fine distinctions made with regard to central beliefs like the Trinitarian nature of God; the nature and purpose of the Church; the Incarnation; the Redemption; and the sacraments – that frees people from worldly ideologies and assures that they are actually preaching and teaching the authentic, life-giving Gospel.  Those who devalue the doctrines of the Church separate themselves from Jesus, the author of truth.  What they then possess, and can only possess, is an ideology – one that conforms to the world of sin and death.

Third, faithful Catholics can only be disconcerted by your choice of some bishops, men who seem not merely open to those who hold views counter to Christian belief but who support and even defend them.  What scandalizes believers, and even some fellow bishops, is not only your having appointed such men to be shepherds of the Church, but that you also seem silent in the face of their teaching and pastoral practice.  This weakens the zeal of the many women and men who have championed authentic Catholic teaching over long periods of time, often at the risk of their own reputations and well-being.  As a result, many of the faithful, who embody the sensus fidelium, are losing confidence in their supreme shepherd.

Fourth, the Church is one body, the Mystical Body of Christ, and you are commissioned by the Lord himself to promote and strengthen her unity.  But your actions and words too often seem intent on doing the opposite.  Encouraging a form of “synodality” that allows and promotes various doctrinal and moral options within the Church can only lead to more theological and pastoral confusion.  Such synodality is unwise and, in practice, works against collegial unity among bishops.

Holy Father, this brings me to my final concern.  You have often spoken about the need for transparency within the Church.  You have frequently encouraged, particularly during the two past synods, all persons, especially bishops, to speak their mind and not be fearful of what the pope may think.  But have you noticed that the majority of bishops throughout the world are remarkably silent?  Why is this?  Bishops are quick learners, and what many have learned from your pontificate is not that you are open to criticism, but that you resent it.  Many bishops are silent because they desire to be loyal to you, and so they do not express – at least publicly; privately is another matter – the concerns that your pontificate raises.  Many fear that if they speak their mind, they will be marginalized or worse.

I have often asked myself: “Why has Jesus let all of this happen?”   The only answer that comes to mind is that Jesus wants to manifest just how weak is the faith of many within the Church, even among too many of her bishops.  Ironically, your pontificate has given those who hold harmful theological and pastoral views the license and confidence to come into the light and expose their previously hidden darkness.  In recognizing this darkness, the Church will humbly need to renew herself, and so continue to grow in holiness.

Holy Father, I pray for you constantly and will continue to do so.  May the Holy Spirit lead you to the light of truth and the life of love so that you can dispel the darkness that now hides the beauty of Jesus’ Church.

Sincerely in Christ,

Thomas G. Weinandy, O.F.M., Cap.

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