Eric M. Johnston is a husband and father of five. His family goes back four generations in Madison and other parts of Wisconsin, though he went to high school and college in St. Paul, Minnesota, and now has more family in the Northeast than anywhere else. His wife is from Rhode Island and Connecticut.
Eric did his undergraduate education at Carleton College and then the University of St. Thomas, Minnesota, majoring in theology and the great flagship of Catholic Studies. There he was introduced to Bl. John Henry Newman, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, and St. Thérèse, among others. He did his Master’s in Systematic Theology at Boston College, where he worked with Romanus Cessario, O.P., Fr. Matthew Lamb, and the great Franciscan medievalist Steve Brown – and where he met his wife. He then did his Ph.D. in medieval theology at the Catholic University of America, where he was much helped by the great scholar of Bonaventure and Francis, Regis Armstrong, O.F.M. Cap., but had his most formative experiences outside of the department, with Msgr. Robert Sokolowski and Kevin White in the great School of Philosophy, and liturgically at the Dominican House of Studies.
From Madison to St. Paul to Boston to Washington, Eric fell in love with cities, and he and his wife now own a home in the Ironbound district of Newark, NJ. Newark is rough, but there is much to love, including the presence of the CFR Franciscans.
In addition to theology and spirituality, Eric enjoys playing Bach on the piano, reading Evelyn Waugh, Flannery O’Connor, and Jane Austen, as well as European history, working on his house, and leisurely family walks in nearby New York City.
You may contact Eric at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reasons to Believe in Jesus
Reasons to believe Jesus is alive in a new life with God can be found in quotes from two prominent atheists and a biology textbook.
Thus the passion of man is the reverse of that of Christ, for man loses himself as man in order that God may be born. But the idea of God is contradictory and we lose ourselves in vain. Man is a useless passion. (Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness: A Phenomenological Essay on Ontology, New York: Washington Square Press, p. 784)
Among the traditional candidates for comprehensive understanding of the relation of mind to the physical world, I believe the weight of evidence favors some from of neutral monism over the traditional alternatives of materialism, idealism, and dualism. (Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False, location 69 of 1831)
And certain properties of the human brain distinguish our species from all other animals. The human brain is, after all, the only known collection of matter that tries to understand itself. To most biologists, the brain and the mind are one and the same; understand how the brain is organized and how it works, and we’ll understand such mindful functions as abstract thought and feelings. Some philosophers are less comfortable with this mechanistic view of mind, finding Descartes’ concept of a mind-body duality more attractive. (Neil Campbell, Biology, 4th edition, p. 776 )
Sartre speaks of the “passion of man,” not the passion of Christians. He is acknowledging that all religions east and west believe there is a transcendental reality and that perfect fulfillment comes from being united with this reality after we die. He then defines this passion with a reference to Christian doctrine which means he is acknowledging the historical reasons for believing in Jesus. He does not deny God exists. He is only saying the concept of God is contradictory. He then admits that since life ends in the grave, it has no meaning.
From the title of the book, you can see that Nagel understands that humans are embodied sprits and that the humans soul is spiritual. He says, however, that dualism and idealism are “traditional” alternatives to materialism. Dualism and idealism are just bright ideas from Descartes and Berkeley. The traditional alternative to materialism is monism. According to Thomas Aquinas unity is the transcendental property of being. Campbell does not even grasp the concept of monism. The only theories he grasps are dualism and materialism.
If all atheists were like Sartre, it would be an obstacle to faith. An important reason to believe in Jesus is that practically all atheists are like Nagel and Campbell, not like Sartre.
by David Roemer
Dear Professor Johnson
I envy your graduate education. After leaving seminary which I attended through the diocese of Brooklyn for 10 years, up until 4th theology, the Spirit of Christ intervened and I was not called to the sub-deaconate. During the summer of 1956 I finally saw the actions of the faculty as a strong message from the Father so I did not return. I then went to the U of T in pursuit of a doctorate in Philosophy under Fr. Owens C.Ss.R. on the subject of Aristotle on Human. Cosmic, and Divine mind/nous.
Outwardly all seemed fine, I married and had three children but my prayer life was lifeless. In the words of SS I was hard-hearted, all mind and no heart. I never noticed how often God and Jesus refer to the heart. My prayer was simply reading or saying the text, many times at great length but as I later realized not from the heart.
The change came about beginning two years ago when I found myself blowing up almost once every few weeks about the inadequacy of my wife’s efforts to stabilize our marriage. She was a recent convert but poorly catechized and she would not allow me to teach her through the many books I purchased to help her. One day she suggested we read “Give Us This Day” in the morning and I would comment on the prayers usually the Psalms as well as SS. After reading St. Therese of Liseaux and St. Faustina I wanted to follow the little way. Very soon we began to ‘feel’, ‘sense’, ‘be aware’ of quite nudges in the direction of understanding and practicing guarding our tongues as well as actually praying the Divine Office, and the Rosary.
I am always on the lookout for solid spiritual writing and you fill the bill. By the way I caught polio as an infant and spent 5 years in a residential hospital on Long Island under the care of Daughters of Wisdom. I came home just before my eighth birthday. I suspect the years of separation from my family was damaging although well intentioned.
I derive so much joy and wisdom from your comments, I especially liked your comments on he submission issue in “Ephesians”. In our discussions in the morning we agreed that a better translation would be “wives support your husband” and dissolved any hangover from the submit translation. Thank you for your work and please continue, you are on a great mission.
John R. Catan
State University of New York at Brockport
And John – let me finally, on the first day of a new year, respond to this beautiful comment. It moved me when my wife read it aloud to me in the car last summer. But I haven’t done a good job of responding to comments.
Anyway: thank you again for your faithfulness,
missing from your booklist is the greatest saint of our time,
Pere Roger Thomas Calmel, OP 1914-1975 who struggled
against modernism from the moment he entered seminary