Jessica Ziakin-Cook, facilitator

Recently, a fellow parishioner asked me, “Is Theology on Tap an intellectual activity that you hope will attract those among us who are seeking intellectual satisfaction?” I responded, “Theology on Tap is for those who, for love of God, seek a deeper understanding of Him and, in doing so, will be better equipped both to speak to His role in our lives, and to discern the difference between the Kingdom and our broken world.”

Theology on Tap is a discussion group, not a lecture series. My goal is not to make an authoritative or even thorough presentation of a subject, but to offer up a collection of artifacts from our tradition which will provide meat for a discussion in which we might examine the world in which we live, articulate its challenges to our faith, and have the opportunity to hear how those who have gone before us have responded.  To prepare for our meetings I leap into research following tangents, preparing definitions of key terms, and looking into sources from Theology, Philosophy and Art History that I believe will illuminate the concepts at hand. As I progress in my research, I tend to feel less and less prepared for the upcoming meeting—I learn how much I do not know!

For our first discussion in this new season, I have alit upon the subject of the virtues through contact with the book After Virtue  (Notre Dame, 1981) by the Catholic philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre. The book is difficult and dense, but it makes some observations that are proving to be more accurate today than when it was written: Words like temperance, prudence, fortitude and even chastity are arcane.  Social discourse has become shrill to the extreme as differences have become incommensurable. Indeed, the question that seems to be pressing upon us from our Southern borders is, “What is truth?”

This Wednesday I will offer a refresher on the virtues, drawing on MacIntyre’s book, Giotto’s frescos in the Arena Chapel, and a short essay by George Grant (available for download here). It is easy to be critical and disapproving and even afraid of Postmodernism and contemporary society, but let us listen to St. Paul and instead turn to the study of “…whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, [and] if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

 

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