Grace perfects the natural primacy of parents

Last Saturday, Dr Alan Fimister began the third lesson of his course on parents as primary educators with a concise review of the vast and complex plan of the first two lessons. In its broadest terms, the mission to educate begins with the family in the natural order, is perfected by the Church in the supernatural order — without violating the natural primacy of parents — and is supported by the state in all things natural which the family cannot necessarily provide on its own. This plan corresponds in every point to the principles of natural law and the deposit of the faith. As the course breaks until the new year, participants can take this opportunity to consolidate their understanding of the premises established so far, before the course concludes with an in-depth look at the praxis of Christian education today, in some of the most hostile historical conditions that the family has ever encountered.

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How divine law differs from natural law

Those who have followed the Family and Life Academy’s course on natural law and gone straight on to the course on divine law cannot but notice the difference between the disciplines. Having traced the natural law tradition from the Acropolis of Athens to the present day, covering the key theses, antitheses and syntheses of its development and ill-fated abandonment by western thinkers, and the case for its revival in the twenty-first century, we now graduate to the subject of divine law. Having come so far and attained a more or less firm grasp of the relevant philosophical tools, the layman must be humbly disposed to find himself further back than he began — not at the Acropolis, but in Eden — with a whole new set of theological tools to get to grips with, and even more subtle tasks to tackle

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How to approach the issue of abortion

So far, in the Family and Life Academy’s course on abortion, Dr Greg Pike has presented data from some of the best scientific studies in recent decades, John Smeaton has explored the universal principles of natural and divine law in relation to the contemporary crisis, and Ann Farmer has delved into the historical records of the authors of the “pro-choice” narrative themselves. The course’s multifaceted approach makes the most of each teacher’s expertise to tackle the most controverted human rights issue in the world today — the right to life from its very beginning. Three lessons into the course, all the teachers have had the opportunity to contribute and have acquitted themselves of the task with uncommon clarity, depth of focus and an essential cohesion between their different disciplines — scientific, moral and historical. The result is a synthesis of substantial insights that provides a solid foundation for anyone looking to build a better understanding of the issue of abortion.

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Why we should study the natural law tradition

In the opening lesson of his course at the Family and Life Academy, Dr Joseph Shaw explored the origins of the natural law tradition — from ancient Athens in the fifth century BC to Roman North Africa in the fourth century AD. In under an hour, Dr Shaw brought together eight centuries of key figures and ideas from diverse schools of thought, starting with Socrates and ending with the great doctor of the Latin Church, St Augustine of Hippo. He also covered Aristotle’s understanding of ergon (“function” or “characteristic behaviour”) in some depth and, without breaking stride, advanced halfway to St Thomas Aquinas’s definitive formulation of natural law in the thirteenth century.

This week, Dr Shaw has begun to build on this foundation in lesson two, with no-less-diverse materials. He explained how the augustinian tradition, Roman legal theory and the rediscovery of Aristotle in the West would impact the thinking of St Thomas Aquinas and shape the whole of the scholastic approach to natural law. He has made a second pass over the key aristotelian principles, this time from the eagle’s-eye view of Christian Revelation, continuing to expand the perspective on the natural world, on human nature in particular, and on the supernatural destiny to which humanity is called. What is more, he has made it look easy — and with four lessons still to go.

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