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Old 02-03-2017, 08:49 AM
Ukulele Ike Ukulele Ike is offline
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A Father Brown question

In "The Blue Cross," the first "Father Brown" detective story by G.K. Chesterton, Brown foils the attempt of master criminal Flambeau to steal the valuable silver crucifix that Brown is carrying to...umm...a Priest Convention...somewhere in France.

Flambeau, a master of disguise, spends the story dressed up as a real tall priest, who pals up with our hero during their travels in order to switch packages on him.

When the villain is exposed at the end of the tale, he asks "How could you tell I was not really a priest?" Father Brown answers "You attacked logic. It's bad theology."

....Okay. Chesterton was a master of aphorism, and he put dozens into the mouths of characters in his detective stories. Most of 'em are damn good. But can someone explain this one to me?

I mean, if someone says "I pray daily to Ganesha! He's an all-powerful elephant with multiple human arms!" Or "On Sundays I go see a guy who turns wine and bread into literal human blood and flesh and then feeds it to me!" Who the hell says, "Yes, that's very logical."
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Old 02-03-2017, 09:10 AM
Gyrate Gyrate is offline
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Religious belief is generally quite logical to those who believe. And the religious, believing their belief to follow logically from whatever premises they are using, don't see logic as the enemy of faith but rather a bolster to it. Certainly the Jesuits are notorious for the rigorous application of logic to metaphysical matters, as are Torah scholars.

It's true that these days some people of faith view science as the enemy of religion, but that's because they view science as a rival religion. And even they don't reject logic itself.
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Old 02-03-2017, 12:51 PM
Ulf the Unwashed Ulf the Unwashed is online now
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I'm guessing you haven't read much Thomas Aquinas...

I'm not familiar with the story you're referring to--I've read very little Father Brown stuff--so I can't be sure what the specifics of "attacking logic" are in this case. But in general, Gyrate has it right. The Anglicans (I know that Chesterton, and Brown, followed Catholicism, but bear with me) like to talk about a "three-legged stool" in which tradition, Scripture, and reason are all of equal importance. While "reason" is not limited to logic, it certainly includes logical thought. Much of this emphasis on reason is traceable to the pre-Anglican western Church and thinkers like Aquinas.

It may be helpful (or may not, you never know) if you think about the focus of the discipline of Logic, which is less focused on Truth and more focused on Validity. You can start with pretty much any premise you choose and assume it is correct, then see where it takes you. Logic is less interested in blasting apart the premise that all armadillos are really purple unicorns in disguise than in investigating what we can (validly) conclude about the world based on this assumption. A similar thing here: assume the premise that God exists, that Jesus is God's son, that the gospel writings about Jesus are more or less accurate, and where does that take us? What does that imply about the nature of God, the way that we should treat others, the Big Questions of the day? From that perspective, it is not really a contradiction to "think logically" about the world, and even about faith and doctrine, from a religious perspective.
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Old 02-03-2017, 01:02 PM
Andy L Andy L is offline
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The story is available here http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/204 and the relevant quote from the fake priest is “Ah, yes, these modern infidels appeal to their reason; but who can look at those millions of worlds and not feel that there may well be wonderful universes above us where reason is utterly unreasonable?”
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Old 02-03-2017, 01:03 PM
Ukulele Ike Ukulele Ike is offline
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Thank you gents for your intelligent, well-spoken responses. I have Aquinas somewhere in the house; I must dig him out. Or at least go to the Internet Sacred Text Archive.

I suppose I could have posted this in Great Debates, but I really wanted answers rather than an argument. Also, y'know, it's from a detective story.
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Old 02-03-2017, 01:10 PM
Ukulele Ike Ukulele Ike is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy L View Post
The story is available here http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/204
Thank you for that, and I see I screwed up the quote. Father Brown actually says "You attacked reason...it's bad theology."

If you haven't read "The Blue Cross," click on the link. It may be the first story, but it's one of the best, along with "The Secret Garden," "The Queer Feet," and "The Sign of the Broken Sword."
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Old 02-03-2017, 01:12 PM
Andy L Andy L is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ukulele Ike View Post
Thank you for that, and I see I screwed up the quote. Father Brown actually says "You attacked reason...it's bad theology."

If you haven't read "The Blue Cross," click on the link. It may be the first story, but it's one of the best, along with "The Secret Garden," "The Queer Feet," and "The Sign of the Broken Sword."
"The Invisible Man" is my favorite (also available at the link).
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Old 02-03-2017, 01:54 PM
Thudlow Boink Thudlow Boink is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ulf the Unwashed View Post
I'm guessing you haven't read much Thomas Aquinas...
In discussing this line in his Annotated Innocence of Father Brown, Martin Gardner quotes "the Catholic philosopher Etienne Gilson, in The Unity of Philosophical Experience," as saying that "Father Brown was obviously a sound Thomist."
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Old 02-03-2017, 02:55 PM
Trinopus Trinopus is offline
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It wouldn't always actually work: there are plenty of mystical priests. The Catholic Church has always had a mystical wing -- somewhat minor, but definitely present.

Chesterton's Brown solves a lot of mysteries with insufficient evidence. The writer is playing the usual mystery-sleuth game, making his detective into a super-genius by allowing him to jump to conclusions which always happen to be correct.

Also, in the stories, Father Brown is somewhat of a non-entity. There really isn't much "there" there. The TV series is quite a bit better than the original stories, at least in the aspect of giving the man a developed and rounded personality.
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Old 02-03-2017, 02:58 PM
The Other Waldo Pepper The Other Waldo Pepper is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trinopus View Post
It wouldn't always actually work: there are plenty of mystical priests. The Catholic Church has always had a mystical wing -- somewhat minor, but definitely present.
If I'm reading the story right, the question at issue is whether Thou Shalt Not Steal would be the dictate of reason on yet other worlds.
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Old 02-04-2017, 11:46 PM
rowrrbazzle rowrrbazzle is offline
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I give you a quote from Asimov's Robot story, "Reason" ("Cutie" is QT-1, a robot).
Quote:
“You can prove anything you want by coldly logical reason—if you pick the proper postulates. We have ours and Cutie has his.”

“Then let’s get at those postulates in a hurry. The storm’s due tomorrow.”

Powell sighed wearily. “That’s where everything falls down. Postulates are based on assumptions and adhered to by faith. Nothing in the Universe can shake them. I’m going to bed.”
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Old 02-05-2017, 02:58 PM
Trinopus Trinopus is offline
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Originally Posted by The Other Waldo Pepper View Post
If I'm reading the story right, the question at issue is whether Thou Shalt Not Steal would be the dictate of reason on yet other worlds.
The larger point was (bloviating) on whether unreason could appear as reason. A world of mad people, doing mad things...on the basis of reason. Brown says that's not a priestly way of reasoning...but I think this short-changes the vast variety of priests.

re Thou Shalt Not Steal, it's actually easy to envision a civilization where stealing is a completely reasonable societal norm. American Indians or Irish reavers stealing horses might come close to a human example. Good old Robin Hood!

Chesterton was "lawful neutral" too much of the time; he tended to overlook the need for the good. He was also a bit blinkered by some of his assumptions.

(And he was a frightful anti-Semite. Many of his books have nasty jabs at "The Jews." "The Man Who Knew Too Much" is a delightful collection of Sherlock Holmes-esque mysteries, absolutely worth reading by anyone who enjoys the Father Brown stories. Truly a wonderful, wonderful book. But...there's an ugly bit about "The Jews" in it that hurts to read.)
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Old 02-05-2017, 03:22 PM
Ulf the Unwashed Ulf the Unwashed is online now
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Originally Posted by Trinopus View Post
(And he was a frightful anti-Semite. Many of his books have nasty jabs at "The Jews." "The Man Who Knew Too Much" is a delightful collection of Sherlock Holmes-esque mysteries, absolutely worth reading by anyone who enjoys the Father Brown stories. Truly a wonderful, wonderful book. But...there's an ugly bit about "The Jews" in it that hurts to read.)
I read this book a few years back, and I remember that passage as one of those jaw dropping moments. The man can't possibly be saying what I think he is saying...can he? 3 readings of the passage later, I reluctantly became convinced that he was saying EXAcTLY what I thought he was saying--and saying it proudly, too.

Didn't make me want to read more of his stuff, when you come right down to it.
  #14  
Old 02-05-2017, 03:31 PM
Captain Amazing Captain Amazing is offline
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In the story, Brown had suspected Flambeau of being a fake beforehand because of a criminal tattoo he saw on Flambeau's arm. That's why he did all that obnoxious stuff to start with...switching the salt and sugar, switching signs at a fruit stand, etc, because the fact that Flambeau didn't make a big deal about any of it was a sign he was hiding something, and also the reason he threw his soup bowl at the wall, knocked over an apple cart, and smashed a plate glass window (to draw police attention.) Flambeau's comments about reason were just icing on the cake.
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Old 02-05-2017, 06:09 PM
Trinopus Trinopus is offline
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nm; sorry!

Last edited by Trinopus; 02-05-2017 at 06:09 PM.
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Old 02-05-2017, 06:50 PM
Roderick Femm Roderick Femm is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trinopus View Post
Also, in the stories, Father Brown is somewhat of a non-entity. There really isn't much "there" there. The TV series is quite a bit better than the original stories, at least in the aspect of giving the man a developed and rounded personality.
You may be right about this part, it's been quite a while since I read the stories. But I think the series suffers from changing the mise en scene so drastically into the 1950's Kent (or Sussex or whatever other garden spot they are supposed to be in), not to mention the obnoxious secretary or the decorative Lady Bountiful. My memory of Father Brown from the books is that his parish was urban, and that he was more slyly self-effacing than "absent" in terms of personality, and that he didn't have any sidekicks nor a nemesis police inspector. At least they got the hat and the bicycle right.
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Old 02-05-2017, 07:33 PM
Trinopus Trinopus is offline
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The setting being 1950s and not 1920s seemed weird. The minor characters were needed to round out an ensemble. Personally, I love all of 'em (especially the ne'er do well chauffeur!)

Lady Montague is fun: she has the plumb job of screaming whenever there is a body to be discovered. She screams more than Ensign Chekov!
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Old 02-05-2017, 07:55 PM
Ukulele Ike Ukulele Ike is offline
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If you can get your hands on the 1974 BBC series, featuring Kenneth More, do. It's excellent.
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Old 02-05-2017, 11:12 PM
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I was so glad to see this thread. The Blue Cross is one of my favorite short stories, and often read at the "Short Story Parties" we had back in the day*. I thought it was clever to use the "switching the salt shaker" and other things to make the priests memorable to the clerks when the police questioned them as they tried to trace the pair. And I did like the idea that an outsider might equate "faith" with "irrationality", not knowing that a real priest would believe the opposite.


*Our other favorites? The Open Window by Saki, and Light of Other Days (by... Robert Shaw?). Imagine friends around a fireplace, taking turns reading and noshing. Ahhh...
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Old 02-06-2017, 12:30 AM
Northern Piper Northern Piper is online now
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Ukelele Ike, here's an example of the use of reason in theology. In all the debate about the EO, you may be hearing references to Matthew 25. The relevant passage is:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Matthew 25
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Now, if you are a Christian, you have to take this passage seriously. It's Jesus telling a parable that has obvious moral intent.

But what does it mean in today's world? How should Christians react to that passage today? Answering those questions calls for the use of reason, in analyzing the passage and the scope of its implications.

For example, was Jesus meaning this parable as a direction of some sort just to individuals, as a moral commandment for individuals to care for others? or is it a direction for individuals to implement through their society (i.e. government)?

And in this parable, there does not appear to be any risk to the righteous for carrying out this duty to visit the imprisoned. Does that mean the parable has less value as a direction if there is a clear risk to the righteous for doing so? or to their families and friends? or should the possibility of risk simply increase the moral imperative of that parable, to take pity on the detained even if there is personal risk to you, your friends and family, or your society?

And is this passage simply urging good care for detained people, or does it go further and call for action to help people who are wrongfully detained?

This passage thus serves as the jumping off point for a major theological and moral exegesis, in which reason plays a key role. There will be different interpretations of how this passage applies to current events.

(Note that I'm giving an example that has current application, but I'm not meaning this post to be a comment on the merits of the EO; just using it to show how a passage from the Gospels can be used by Christians for moral guidance, with the assistance of reason, in grappling with today's moral issues.)

Last edited by Northern Piper; 02-06-2017 at 12:31 AM.
  #21  
Old 02-06-2017, 12:54 AM
foolsguinea foolsguinea is offline
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I don't know if I ever thought about it this way, but here goes:

Logic is actually really important to theology. The material sciences can rely on empiricism to some degree; they probably tolerate fuzzy logic, false identities, and a total lack of critical thinking pretty well if observational data gets them back to reality. Theology lacks much empirical data, so it largely lives on logic.

Ganesha's existence isn't illogical. Neither is transubstantiation. Those may be untrue. The outsider may find them fantastic, incredible, and head-shakingly weird. But to call them illogical is a failure to understand critical distinctions. The logical is not the same as the real. Something can be entirely unreal and completely internally consistent.
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