Sewanee Senior Honors Theses 2001


Recent Submissions

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    "And the Life of the World to Come:" The Metaphysics of Resurrection
    (2001-04) Brown, George Wilcox
    The Christian hope centers largely on what the Nicene Creed calls ''the life of the world to come.'' The Apostle's Creed, moreover, characterizes this life as ''everlasting''. This everlasting life in the world to come is brought about, orthodox Christianity decrees, in some sense by the death and resurrection of Christ. Christians believe that because of and by way of Christ's death and subsequent resurrection, they too will die only to be resurrected at the end of time to spend an eternity in a place called the ''Kingdom of God''. While these sorts of beliefs motivate Christian life and are generally an integral part of Christian doctrine, it is difficult to lend them a precise meaning. The resurrection of the dead is thought to precede man's eternal habitation with God, but it is less than clear what this event entails. The purpose of this paper is to explore various accounts of life after death, resurrection and the persistence of the self through death. In the course of doing this, I will examine competing accounts of (mostly Christian) philosophers in light of the sticky area of personal identity. My goal is to paint a picture of the resurrection that does not blatantly contradict any pertinent passages of Scripture, or any part of the Apostle's or Nicene Creeds. In so doing, I hope to provide what might be considered a coherent, Christian account of ''life after death.'' I should perhaps point out that in this paper I am making certain assumptions and asking my readers indulgently to make them with me for reasons of utility, if they are not prepared to make them outright. I am, for example, not going to argue for the existence of God. I will henceforth be taking His existence for granted. I am also implicitly lending a certain weight to the authority of the Bible. I will not make any claims for its ''infallibility'' or ''inerrancy,'' but I will operate on the general assumption that it is an advantage for a resurrection account not blatantly to contravene any passages of the Bible that have been charitably and reasonably exegized.
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    Doubting Thomas: A Modest Defense of Transubstantiation
    (2001-04) Humphries, Thomas L
    The Catholic Church maintains that in the Eucharist the bread and wine are converted into the body and blood of Christ, and, furthermore, that this implies the entire or whole presence of Christ when the Eucharist is properly celebrated. The Thomistic formulation of the replacement of the bread and wine with the substance of Christ remains an important explanation of the Catholic doctrine (explicitly formal teaching). Nevertheless, if the Thomistic position is incoherent or contradictory, it will not serve as a satisfactory explanation of the Eucharistic mystery. The doctrine seems to commit the believer to holding that a particular host is identified with Christ, which is obviously problematic, as Christ has a set of properties that are different from a host. The doctrine also appears to commit one to assert that an accident is both a thing which inheres in a substance and a thing which does not inhere in a substance. In addition, believers also seem committed to asserting the multilocation of a material body, which is restricted to unilocation. In what follows, I shall articulate and defend the (Catholic) Thomistic formulation of transubstantiation. I wish to make it clear from the outset, first, that I do not intend to offer a philosophical proof or argument that the real presence does occur; rather, I intend to defend the doctrine by showing that Thomas's position is not guilty of the contradictions mentioned above; and, secondly, that I will not attempt to resolve the mystery of the Eucharist, but only to defend Thomas's account as a possible explanation of this mystery. In this, I believe I have written in the spirit of Elizabeth Anscombe: When we call something a mystery, we mean that we cannot iron out the difficulties about understanding it and demonstrate once for all that it is perfectly possible. Nevertheless we do not believe that contradictions and absurdities can be true, or that anything logically demonstrable from things known can be false. And so we believe that there are answers to supposed proofs of absurdity, whether or not we are clever enough to find them. This project will require a brief explication of the doctrine in preface to a discussion of seeming contradictions and logical impossibilities. In defining the doctrine, I will not focus on theological arguments against the Catholic understanding of Scripture. I will focus, instead, on defending Thomas's doctrine as logically possible.