But one ought not – as some recommend –to think only about human things because one is a human being, nor only about mortal things because one is mortal, but rather to make oneself immortal, insofar as that is possible, and to do all that bears on living in accord with what is most excellent of the things in oneself.”Aristotle
The wisdom which I have designated as chief of the virtues is the knowledge of things divine and human, which comprises the mutual fellowship of gods and men. But if wisdom is the greatest of the virtues, as it undoubtedly is, it follows of necessity that the duty derived from this fellowship and communion is the greatest of duties.”Cicero
In the study of creatures, one should not exercise a vain and perishing curiosity, but ascend toward what is immortal and everlasting.”St. Augustine
The experience of mutuality in the relation with God, of the amicitia in the Thomistic sense, of the grace which imposes a supernatural form on the nature of man is the specific difference of Christian truth. The revelation of this grace in history, through the incarnation of the Logos in Christ, intelligibly fulfilled the adventitious movement of the spirit in the mystic philosophers.”Eric Voegelin
The Ciceronian Society is an ecumenical organization committed to the foundational teachings of historic Christianity as developed by the Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Eastern Orthodox traditions of the faith. While our members come from a variety of Christian denominations, we share a belief in a benevolent God who gave his only begotten son, Jesus, for our salvation. And we believe that Christianity is distinguished by its regard for the dignity of the human person, in its respect for life, and in holding the family and the Church as foundational to a virtuous and flourishing society. Christianity also completes a path suggested by the Classical world to order one’s soul in accordance with the Divine, and to seek knowledge of ‘things divine.’
Alexis de Tocqueville famously observed in the 1830s that Americans run the risk of relying completely on the strength of their own individual efforts on any subject, devoid of any revealed truth or authority in the manner of Descartes’ “radical doubt.” Untethered by tradition and revelation, there might emerge a dangerous corresponding tendency to popular conformity, centralization, and materialism that ultimately leads to a loss of liberty. The perceived absence of divine authority may lead to moral disorder and a kind of “spiritual vacuum,” exploited by the state, demagogues, ideologues, or other forces. Tocqueville saw American Churches mitigating against this tendency by injecting the transcendent into everyday life. They anchored the ordered liberty that was crucial to the survival of the early American Republic.
The Ciceronian Society follows this same cause by serving the Church broadly. As a cross-disciplinary and ecumenical organization, we come together as Christians committed to intellectual discipleship, scholarship, and friendship inspired by our love of Jesus, the Holy Scriptures, and the Church.
Christians also know that we live in a fallen world that is ordered and loved by the Creator. While Cicero speaks of “things divine,” Christians know that the physical things of this world are indeed “divine,” but not in a pantheistic sense. It is, instead, that the Creation points toward its Creator. This understanding promotes the pursuit of truth across disciplines. Aristotle and Ptolemy, for example, believed that the planets were beyond human comprehension, but scientific progress was only possible when the objects of the heavens were understood as created objects. Christianity advances progress in the physical sciences and other fields of inquiry because it “lowers” the status of the universe to a created thing that can be observed and understood systematically. This is accomplished through the appearance and incarnation of Jesus Christ, leading Stanley Jaki to call him “the Savior of Science.”
While the de-divinization of Creation in favor of the Creator paves the way for the things of this world to be observed as objects, the revelation that all people are made in the image of God radically alters our understanding of personhood. Christians know that human beings are not mere objects but must instead be respected as the image-bearers of Christ. This new, differentiated understanding of “things divine” stands at the heart of the mission of the Ciceronian Society. We have been told from the Classical world to look for what is highest in the Universe and we have found it in the God who has come to us and died for us.
How do these beliefs inform what the Society does?
The scholarship found in our journal, podcast, and conference is deeply informed by our faith and love of ‘things divine,’ and we make it a point to ground all we do in prayer, Holy Scripture, Christian tradition, and devotion.
Looking to the future of the Ciceronian Society, it is our intention to turn increasingly to the local church and become a bridge between scholars, clergy, and congregations offering resources for intellectual discipleship. The form such support takes will be determined, in part, by the specific needs of local congregations. It may, for example, be in the form of lesson plans and training or in helping churches develop programs of public history or in Christian formation. In the years ahead, we hope to learn through research and conversation about the many ways we might help the Church be what Christ has called her to be.
Suggested Reading List:
In the classical world, Plato is said to have coined the term “theology” and Cicero directs our attention to “things divine” in De Officiis, but for Christians there is no better place to learn about “things divine’ than the Holy Bible and at church. We also strongly recommend all the writings of figures such as C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton as well as those of the Church Fathers, and particularly St. Augustine.
The following are some additional recommended readings on the subject of “things divine” and we welcome your suggestions for others.
Christopher Blum and Joshua Hochschild
- A Mind at Peace (2017)
- The Everlasting Man (1925)
- The Way (1934)
- The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity (1594-1597)
C. S. Lewis
**Click here for a list of C.S. Lewis’ works and where to find them. We especially recommend the following:
- The Abolition of Man
- Mere Christianity
- The Great Divorce
- The Screwtape Letters
- The Chronicles of Narnia
- The Space Trilogy
- For the Life of the World (1970)