Tuesday, February 10, 2009

On Developing 20/∞ Vision

As I said, I'll continue with volume one of The Glory of the Lord, which, at almost 700 pages, should be enough for anyone. When I do these multi-post book reviews, the main purpose is to assimilate what I've just read, otherwise it can be like having never read the book, so you end up being hungry again an hour later. You know, like Chinese theology.

In the end -- and this is something Bion knew -- intellection really isn't that different from digestion, being that it consists of identifying what is healthy to eat, chewing it thoroughly, swallowing, breaking down, assimilating, and then, most importantly, utilizing or becoming.

In other words, the "end result" of food is either energy for action or else renewed substance for your being. (I guess we left out elimination, didn't we? In that case it's best to either not ingest useless crap to begin with, or else spit it out right away. Otherwise, you risk years of "detoxification," for example, the years it takes to undo a higher education.)

Now, one thing we really need to chew on is this thing called "history," for history is somewhat like a symphony.... No, wait a minute. I'll just stick with what I know best. Let's say history is like a small jazz combo, in which case you have cycles or rhythms (the drummer), certain ground notes that hold the musical structure together and unify rhythm and harmony (the bass), the chordal structure (the piano), and the soloists who use the other three as the basis for free improvisation -- the latter of which being rooted in the structure while "floating above" it. You could say that improvisation is simultaneously immanent and transcendent, or within and beyond the musical structure.

For Balthasar, "the revelation of Biblical salvation-history is a form set before mankind's eyes, implanted in the midst of mankind's historical evolution." In other words, profane history is one thing -- you might say the rhythm and bass -- over which God improvises his divine melody. And like any melody, it can only be discerned in time. This is the difference between "horizontal" and "vertical" in music. A chord consists of multiple notes that are played all at once, i.e., vertically. But a melody can only disclose its pattern in time. A single note of a melody is "nothing." In fact, a melody can't really be discerned absent the modes of memory and anticipation.

You might say that Balthasar's central concern is the beauty of this divine melody as it appears in time, beginning with the old covenant and extending through the new and beyond. The point is, it is a form, a form that is surely as real as physical or biological form. And like any form, if you break it up into its constituent parts, the form disappears. This is especially true of scripture, which any yahoo can "disprove" to himself by focusing on a single element and removing it from its overall context. This is a favorite approach of the atheistic barbarians. In fact, here's an apt quote by Schuon:

"In the opinion of all unbelievers, it is the absurdities contained in the sacred Scriptures which primarily stand in the way of the credibility of the Message.... First of all, it is necessary to envisage a Scripture in its totality and not be hypnotized, with perfect myopia, by a fragmentary difficulty, which after all is the perspective of the devil, who disparages a mountain because of a fissure and, conversely, praises an evil because of an inevitable particle of good." (In fact, this is why Satan loves the Porkulus bill.)

But "when Scripture is envisaged in its totality it imparts a global value and its supernatural character to whomever is not blinded by prejudice and who has been able to preserve intact the normally human sensibility for the majestic and the sacred.... [W]hat cannot be imitated [in scripture] is the depth of the meanings and the theurgic radiation of divinely inspired texts" (Schuon; emphases mine).

Schuon mentions our sensibility for the majestic and sacred, which are examples of the types of "aesthetic" categories Balthasar uses to understand the Divine message in its totality, not just in terms of a momentary or isolated fragment. And in considering this totality, he observes that its "contour-lines have been drawn with such mastery that not the smallest detail can be altered. The weights have been poised in such a way that their balance extends to infinity, and they resist any displacement. God's art in the midst of history is irreproachable, and any criticism of his masterpiece immediately rebounds on the fault-finder" (Balthasar; emphasis mine).

Like any truly great work of art, we must "elevate" ourselves in order to apprehend it. Yes, the artist "reaches down," so to speak, but surely not "all the way," on pain of becoming what he is not. Christ "became man"; but he did not become an evil or sinful man, just so you could better relate to him.

Now, a great work of art is surely "rational," but that is not all it is. This is why, as applied to scripture, "the mere light of reason clearly does not suffice to illumine this work, and it can be irrefutably established that anyone who seeks to comprehend it with this light cannot do it justice." Yes, there is an elegant mathematical structure to Bach's fugues, but an "x-factor" is added by actually listening to them in their wholeness, for the "math" is in service to the overall form, not vice versa.

As it pertains to the form of revelation, "faith" is the appropriate mode in which to apprehend the form in its totality. As Balthasar writes, "the light of God which faith has sees the form as it is, and, indeed, it can demonstrate that the evidence of the thing's rightness emerges from the thing itself and sheds its light outwards from it.... The decisive thing is that this form presents itself as the revelation of the inner depth of God" (emphasis mine).

I think Balthasar would agree that the Christian revelation represents a kind of totality -- the whole symphony, as it were -- that other revelations only express in parts. This is not to put them down. To the contrary, it is to give them a new kind of value by realizing that these fragments -- various chords, melodies, themes and rhythms -- were valid intuitions of the totality. But when a part is elevated to the whole, then you're going to run into problems.

Does this sound overly abstract? Possibly so. Let me provide a concrete example. As a child, Christianity was presented to me in such a piecemeal way that it was just too easy to reject. I won't dwell on the details. My point is that I eventually began re-exploring Christianity from the "outside in," so to speak, beginning with some of its greatest thinkers. In so doing, I began to increasingly appreciate the beautiful contours of this magnificent edifice.

But there was a curious thing. That is, there was still a big hole in the middle of this beautiful structure. And what might that be? It was the Crucifixion and Resurrection -- the very things that made the whole thing seem so implausible if presented up front, totally out of context. In other words, once I began to appreciate the incredibly rich totality, I began to see how the Incarnation is the pillar holding up the whole beautiful structure. What emerges is a new kind of "necessity" that clearly transcends logic, for it is more like the necessity of the artist who knows that this note, or this line of color, must go right there and nowhere else.

Thus, for Balthasar, the central problem of perceiving the form is an aesthetic one. To ignore this critical dimension can reduce scripture to a kind of crude materialism, which many fundamentalists tend to do. And along with materialism comes a misguided application of reason which exists side-by-side with a kind of dopey fideism; in other words, belief in frank absurdities backed by the misapplication of reason. The left never tires of trotting out such idiots in order to satisfy themselves that religion is for morons.

As Balthasar notes, to try to comprehend religion with the categories of materialism is to have conceded up front: "What basis acceptable to reason can we give to [Christ's] authoritative claims? Anyone asking the question in this way has really already formed an answer, because he is at once enmeshed in an insoluble dilemma." If he tries to believe on the basis of reason alone, then he is ignoring the dimensions of divine authority and aesthetic contemplation. But nor does Christian faith consist of renouncing reason in order to prop it up in the teeth of all reasonable objections.

Again Balthasar emphasizes the importance of seeing the whole. "Torn between knowing and believing," the critical rationalist will be "no longer able to see anything." Rather, "the spirit searching for meaning requires a higher light of grace in order to synthesize the signs.... Allowing that this point of convergence is supernatural and that it lies in the sphere of the properly divine, then it is clear that the spirit searching for the meaning of these signs will totally (not merely partly) fail to find it as long as it seeks for the point of unity in the realm of the natural."

This is why no rational argument will convince the skeptic. Rather, "the light of grace comes to the aid" of our "natural inabilty" and "strengthens the power of sight," thereby bestowing vision and making "the eye proportionate to what is being shown." Only then do you see the One Cosmos Under God.

45 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

Christ "became man"; but he did not become an evil or sinful man, just so you could better relate to him.

Heh.
Wow.
So I'm dawdling over the first few paragraphs, reading for a sec then wandering mentally back to the things my mind likes to maddeningly grind away at, and at some point around the Porkulus Bill paragraph I was wondering whether, when Jesus was tempted, he was really tempted.

As in, did He look upon what was being offered and just easily brush it aside, knowing that the true Crown that awaited was far better for everyone, even though He must have had some inkling of how bad it would be before it got better, or did He look at what was offered and, on his human side at least, experience a longing for that path which He knew to be ultimately wrong?

Anyway, so of course while the quoted line doesn't exactly answer my question, it does give a little more to ponder.

Back to reading...

2/10/2009 08:38:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"A chord consists of multiple notes that are played all at once, i.e., vertically. But a melody can only disclose its pattern in time. A single note of a melody is "nothing." In fact, a melody can't really be discerned absent the modes of memory and anticipation."

Ahhh... I like that,

Dingy-Dawkins:Not so! See, the note is actually a blob on a staff, and what appears to foolish non-athiestic humans as *music* (tee-hee), is actually just the dots and staff's method of propagating more and more complex combinations of notes, in order to fill the page with their groups in their key, competing with other keys, all of which is just the way that ink, which first accidentally formed in India, now spreads itself on paper a....

Beethoven:Dut-Dut-Dut-Dummmmmmb

Dingy-Dawkins:AHHH!!!!
Hmm? No, I didn't hear anything. As I was saying....




(Sorry, One of those odd days when I actually feel the cafiene.)

2/10/2009 09:04:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Julie said "and at some point around the Porkulus Bill paragraph I was wondering whether, when Jesus was tempted, he was really tempted."

Hmmm... would a true Economist with real economic knowledge be tempted by being in charge of distributing billions of paper notes he knew had no value? Would a physicist who loved the principles of physics, be tempted to be manager of a project to build a perpetual motion machine? Would a true Artist and lover of Art, be tempted to be the curator of a 'museum' filled with canvas that monkeys splattered paint upon?

If there was a real moment of temptation, it could only come from the initial and partial impression of being in a position to bring something into value... the moment the offer was fully stated, and undone, I'd guess the temptation would vainish like popping a soap bubble.

2/10/2009 09:15:00 AM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

“The left never tires of trotting out such idiots in order to satisfy themselves that religion is for morons.”

At the risk of taking it out of context, I think that statement of yours, as well as the point of your fine post, echoes the flip side of: “seek and you shall find”.

2/10/2009 09:17:00 AM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

RE temptation, I don’t think it qualifies unless you are really really tempted. As in you don’t get points for not kicking a dog. Anybody can do that...and it devalues what temptation truly is.
Sort of like calling all sex rape.

2/10/2009 09:21:00 AM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

But as far as Jesus being tempted… some times I look at Him this way, He was asked to “handle” the full range of everything…so that no one could say more was asked of them to bear.

2/10/2009 09:23:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Thanks, Ricky - that's kind of what I was thinking, too.

2/10/2009 09:26:00 AM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

You’re welcome, Julie. I could be way wrong about that of course.
But I just realized that he “accomplished” it before dying, and said so. Which is one way of saying “it” didn’t kill him.
"It" being what He had to bear.

2/10/2009 09:36:00 AM  
Blogger Sal said...

Let's say history is like a small jazz combo, in which case you have cycles or rhythms (the drummer), certain ground notes that hold the musical structure together and unify rhythm and harmony (the bass), the chordal structure (the piano), and the soloists who use the other three as the basis for free improvisation -- the latter of which being rooted in the structure while "floating above" it. You could say that improvisation is simultaneously immanent and transcendent, or within and beyond the musical structure.

If someone had explained jazz like this to me, I might have 'got' it a long time ago.
Off to go find some and listen...

This is such a keeper. Thank you!

2/10/2009 09:39:00 AM  
Blogger Sal said...

Julie,
I'm with Ricky: "He was tempted in every way as we are, but did not sin."
In the story, they put it in a symbolic way: World, Flesh, Devil.

really, I just couldn't resist the wv:
trilogi

2/10/2009 09:45:00 AM  
Blogger QP said...

Bob, This is a beauty!

Where's the "tip jar"?

PayPal account?

2/10/2009 09:47:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

No tip jar. I considered it too vulgar. Oh, and amazon discontinued the program.

2/10/2009 09:49:00 AM  
Blogger Zoltan said...

But "when Scripture is envisaged in its totality it imparts a global value and its supernatural character to whomever is not blinded by prejudice and who has been able to preserve intact the normally human sensibility for the majestic and the sacred.... [W]hat cannot be imitated [in scripture] is the depth of the meanings and the theurgic radiation of divinely inspired texts" (Schuon; emphases mine).

Classical Theology of the Latin Church, Catholic and Protestant, makes this point by observing that only the Church, meaning members of the Church, those already grasped and shaken by faith in the Christ, can read the Bible.

Only they see Who the Bible is about and also what and why.

The rest cannot see the who or the what or the why. It is opaque to them, utterly meaningless, as are in consequence their observations and opinions regarding it.

Interestingly, Mohammedan jurisprudence entertains a similar but not identical dogma regarding the Koran.

The central difference is that whereas for the Church the focus of the Bible is a Personality, the Christ, for the ummah the focus of the Koran is a demand, submission to the khalifa and ulema.

(Mohammedanism conducts jurisprudence in the place of theology, leaving the conduct of theology, one presumes, to Islam, which, in the event, this observer fails to find operating anywhere vision penetrates to date.)

One consequence of the Church's experience of who can read the Bible is a famous dictum of Tertullian, a lawyer whose work, especially in tone, has not been universally accepted: extra ecclesiam nulla salus, outside the Church there is no salvation.

On its face this dictum overstates the case, especially when construed by a literalist or a legalist.

But it makes a veritable point regarding the heart of the phenomenology of the constellation of revelation, salvation and liberation (redemption), which are inseparable facets of the same act of Will.

Another consequence of the Church's experience of who can read the Bible is in the conduct of evangelism or preaching the Gospel.

Evangelism comprises preaching the Christ, and Him crucified, even in terms familiar to auditors.

(For example, Logos theology entered the Church as a requirement of evangelism, to make the preaching of the Christ intelligible in the Greco-Roman world. The first great controversy inside the Church, of course, was over the question whether the Gospel is meant for the whole world or a fractious Palestinian faction of it. The settlement of that controversy set in train the conversion of Christian -- and Jewish -- articulation from a provincial eschatological mythology to a universal [for the times] Logistical theology which appreciates and interprets myth as well as other literary forms.)

Evangelism does not comprise discussions or arguments in theology or ethics or politics or morals or economics or sociology or psychology or science or any other field of knowledge.

The Church has no direct use for the fields of knowledge in the exercise of her evangelical responsibility. She has indirect use for all of them, but nothing central and nothing essential to evangelism.

None of the fields of knowledge has standing in the Gospel, which is the Christ spoken, and even better, sung. None can measure Him.

A third consequence of the Church's experience of who can read the Bible is to limit meaningful discussion of every field of knowledge to Her orbit.

No one outside the Church can do or discuss theology. No one outside the Church can do or discuss science. No one outside the Church can do or discuss art. Etc.

This fact inspires malcontents to generate rhetorical disparagements of the Church. For example, "Western Civilization" for Latin Church and "Multiculturalism" for Christianity. We live in a time when these and other disparagements dominate the public's consciousness.

Underlying it all is the question of authority. This is also the question of evangelism. Where does authority reside? Who can read the Scriptures?

2/10/2009 10:12:00 AM  
Blogger NoMo said...

“It is written.”
“It is written.”
“It is written.”

Regarding the temptation of Jesus, I like to juxtapose these two passages:

Matthew 4 and Hebrews 4.

Regarding the last question posed by Zoltan:
Who?

“It is written.”

2/10/2009 10:32:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

" 1Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.
2And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.
3And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.
4But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God."

I went back and read through Matthew 4, and I'd appreciate others ideas on it. Although the scene is set, he has fasted for forty days and forty nights and hungered, but when the devil presents his 'temptation', commanding that he prove himself to himself and to the devil by "And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread"... I don't think the devil hits the spot aimed at. "But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.", and so on. He isn't accepting a particular quantity over the whole quality.

Sure, he was primed by the scenario, and the offer of temptation was made where he was "tempted of the devil", and Jesus was in a state where there was a need for the alleged substance of the temptation 'bread' (I'll forego all the possible meanings), but as with what is noted in the post today, he wasn't fooled into seeing only the particularized vision, he isn't tricked into accepting the immediate instance separated from the whOle context, he won't dignify the porkulus on account of the 'particle of good'. He refuses to be "...hypnotized, with perfect myopia, by a fragmentary difficulty, which after all is the perspective of the devil, who disparages a mountain because of a fissure and, conversely, praises an evil because of an inevitable particle of good." (In fact, this is why Satan loves the Porkulus bill.)"

, my take, and assumption, is that for the person who does see the whole, who is not willing to dismiss the forest for the tree bark stuck in their teeth, who is not willing to accept a disintegrated 'effect' for the fruit of substance, who is unwilling to accept a fraud as a value, do they feel the temptation, as a temptation?

I'm not sure that the opposite is true either, someone like a sen. Chris Dodd may be presented with a 'temptation' (successfully) of being put in a position of being seen as making imaginary homeownership available for those who can't afforded, in return for passing theft as legislation. There is no absence of value he acknowledges and is tempted away from, he sees only disintegrated opportunities to appear important and powerful. He IS NOT tempted, he only eagerly seeks, accepts and complies.

Perhaps someone like sen. Arlen Specter is tempted by health language in the porkulus that purports to make healthcare more available, if he will only ignore the fact that the Fed Gov't will now have someone in a position to dictate what healthcare will be allowed to be offered by anyone's doctor. He, in his acceptance of a mish-mash view of pragmatic actions and 'principled' views, actually convinces himself that he is trading one value for another... he is tempted, and he succumbs.

I don't see that happening with Jesus' 'temptation'... sure he went through the scene... but is he at any point agonizing over the devils 'offers', or does he see them as worthless on the face of them?

I'm not seeing him feeling temptation when being tempted. Am I missing something?

2/10/2009 10:44:00 AM  
Blogger Zoltan said...

Van, I concur with your observation.

First the story is given in the literary form of a myth. It has no historiographical intent.

Its point is existential: His unity with God is not ruptured by circumstances. He remains whole, retains health, in God, no matter the extremity, whether of delight or of despair.

Your distinction between being tempted but not experiencing temptation is the point of the story, which, importantly, is in the literary form of a myth because that is the most powerful means of making the point in the eschatological forms of expression typical of the context which gave rise to the Synoptics.

The story describes the existential condition of the Christ of God who is Jesus of Nazareth, expressing the power of faith in God inspired by Him as well as giving a powerful image and symbol to support that faith.

2/10/2009 11:11:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

the artist "reaches down," so to speak, but surely not "all the way," on pain of becoming what he is not. Christ "became man"; but he did not become an evil or sinful man, just so you could better relate to him.

Christ becomes the Last Adam, the Second Man as man truly is.

Art is as it truly is.

Evil is deception and distortion above all.

Was Jesus fully feeling the temptation? He certainly was in Gethsemane. It is not those who give in to temptation who knows its full power but those who overcome it.

I don't know the full strength of someone who beats me in a fight. I do know the full strength of one I have defeated.

wv: estessi -- and the egoni

2/10/2009 11:30:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

It is said that the Devil, who comes to tempt him, is actually uncertain of him truly being God. He comes to test (tempt) him - since the signs were hidden from him as to whether this man was indeed the Messiah. It also appears that he does not comprehend what him being Man and God really means. But then again, we still haven't completely figured it out.

If he could have known, he would have tried to find a way to stop the crucifixion. But then, only God knew, and so therefore, he could even speak of it quite literally and his own disciples would remain nonplussed.

The Orthodox accept the dictum of Tertullian: There is no salvation outside the church. But, we don't have such an institutional interpretation of the church, either.

I've also noticed that there is a certain simplicity of mind which grants an understanding of what scripture is literally true, as in an actual literal account, and what is some other kind of literary device.

Origen fell into error later by always treating scripture allegorically. His mystical and theological explanations are of great use and depth, but he ultimately borked his anthropology. His was perhaps an example of someone who started out by baptizing Platonism with Christ and ended off Platonizing Christianity itself. I don't know where the 'turn' eventually came, but several centuries later he was 'unsainted', that is his position as exemplar was removed.

We have to be careful to not become too sophisticated and rational in our understandings, nor take the offhand absurdity of some stories to mean that they must ultimately be allegorical.

Most of us, whether born in the faith or not, approached what we now consider solid and reasonable things as originally somewhat absurd and problematical. The process never ends.

2/10/2009 11:32:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Mushroom said "Was Jesus fully feeling the temptation? He certainly was in Gethsemane."

Matthew :
"36Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.
37And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy.
38Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.
39And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.
40And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?
41Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
42He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.
43And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy.
44And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.
45Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.
46Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me. "

Is that temptation? I see an agonized understanding of what will come, and what must be endured, but experiencing temptation? I don't see it.

"52Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.
53Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?
54But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?"

He feels an all too human disquiet over feelings of impending doom, but he faces it, and does not seriously flinch from the reality he knows will be because of what IS.

Or even in the more explicit Mark,
"32And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray.
33And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy;
34And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch.
35And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.
36And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.
37And he cometh, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? couldest not thou watch one hour?
38Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.
39And again he went away, and prayed, and spake the same words.
40And when he returned, he found them asleep again, (for their eyes were heavy,) neither wist they what to answer him.
41And he cometh the third time, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough, the hour is come; behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners."

Again, I see the agony of anticipation, then resolve... but not temptation.

Heh... I seem to be channeling Nomo today.

;-)

2/10/2009 11:57:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Van,
"I'm not seeing him feeling temptation when being tempted. Am I missing something?"

That's what I was wondering about. I'm with Mushroom, if there was ever a point where he felt temptation, it comes across more in the passages about Gethsemane than in the desert. Then again, the deprivation and hunger of the desert almost certainly refer to much more than a mere need for food. Ultimately, though, it's almost like a zen koan or a Klein bottle, inasmuch as seeking the answer leads the mind round and in and up and out without ever quite providing the answer (which is probably the point). A good meditation, it helps to distract me from the usual mental grinding. Well, a little, anyway.

Zoltan,
"Who can read the Scriptures?"

At a humble guess, I'd have to say those with eyes to see and ears to hear.

2/10/2009 11:59:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

"Again, I see the agony of anticipation, then resolve... but not temptation."

Indeed. And so, the grinding continues...

2/10/2009 12:03:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

I haven’t looked up the word temptation, but it seems to me they would include:

1. The act of attempting to seduce someone (the offering)
2. The consideration of whether to accept the offer
3. The accept or deny of the offer

With that understanding, I say Jesus participated in at least 2 if not all three.

2/10/2009 12:24:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

I suppose all should keep in mind that I am not technically a Christian, but I do take the bible giving body to Truth, of describing and revealing the living Truth which we are able to perceive and receive, the Truth as it IS.

Again, in Gethesmane,
"35And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.
36And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.
"

he is not seeking to alter reality, to seek a shortcut, a remaking of reality in the image of his desires, which is ultimately what the devil offers, but only if it is possible in truth that it could be otherwise, he yearns that it could be... but in no way actually succumbs to wishing to remake what is, "nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt".

I may be going in the face of established theology (Ooh... was that a thrill I felt? Heh... go figure), but as Zoltan said,
"Its point is existential: His unity with God is not ruptured by circumstances. He remains whole, retains health, in God, no matter the extremity, whether of delight or of despair."
, and I agree. What is a lie, if grasped as such, is of no interest for someone who desires the Truth. It. Just. Isn't. A. Value. To. Be. Sought.

River said "It is said that the Devil, who comes to tempt him, is actually uncertain of him truly being God. He comes to test (tempt) him - since the signs were hidden from him as to whether this man was indeed the Messiah. It also appears that he does not comprehend what him being Man and God really means. But then again, we still haven't completely figured it out."

That's an interesting take, and for my two cents, it seems to me that it is the devil who is undergoing the pains of temptation, as always, not Jesus.

Julie said "A good meditation, it helps to distract me from the usual mental grinding. Well, a little, anyway."

Yes, and especially today, in this economy, and beginning month two of unemployment, and people telling me "you've GOT to hope for the bailout"... they are astonished when I say "No"... it isn't a value. I get looks that say "You're a fool", or that say "Wow, didn't think you could hold to your principles...", but is it really a feat of strength to refuse to drink poison? (and please, no, I'm not making any divine comparisons or delusions for myself here, just applying the lesson). My recruiter seemed annoyed because I didn't chime in with hoping with him, that we'd see some bailout programs in the tech sector... I could see he was annoyed that I didn't give an agonized "Yeah... I wish... but...maybe it'd be..." ... but... come on.

What. Is. False. Just. Isn't. Real. Only bad will come of corrupting what is true, and if you see that, you can't really be tempted by it. The bad thing that's happening hurts, it's painful, you see and feel that... but you just can't seriously yearn for a tall frosty mug of cyanide.

You just can't.

2/10/2009 12:28:00 PM  
Blogger Zoltan said...

Van, concur again, you are describing the condition of faith. Yields an immense delight and content. A rare condition these days. Precious and very powerful.

The Gesthsemane story has some actual historiography in it, as well as myth and much legend. But the point of the story is as you describe it.

Thiering I believe it is who has some of the historiography -- working from memory on that, possibly faulty.

The central intent is evangelical, to describe the Christ in life-situations and comfort, strengthen, thereby -- that is, strengthen those who have not heard the Gospel or seen its effects or disparage it from what can never amount to more than cussedness.

2/10/2009 12:39:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Ricky said "With that understanding, I say Jesus participated in at least 2 if not all three. "

Hmm... yes, #1, he was definitely presented with the offer. #2, the offer, the temptation was seen, and had to be considered at least to the point of understanding that this item "bread" was being urged on him, and he certainly would have been aware that "bread" would satisfy his hunger, but with the realization of the actual content of the offer, that "If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread", would be to separate the form from the substance and make it null, and the understanding that "...It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.", ends the process of consideration, the offer is recognized as being in fact a Null value, there isn't even nothing there, and the decision loop hits an 'exit sub' well before any invested consideration is undertaken, the offer is rejected as being the worthless thing it is.

2/10/2009 12:41:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

I don’t see where we disagree then.

Let me put it this way, man is tempted and Jesus needed to deal with that…or He would have been “all God and no man” and then what would be the point in him coming. As I understand it He was (is) all God and all Man.

Somewhat related, and this may be NT 101, but there seems to be significance to when Jesus is referred to as “The Son of God” and other times “The Son of Man.” And when either description is chosen that that is which set of eyes He is using. Is this true?

2/10/2009 01:02:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

…and if so, it may be the Son of Man who is approached with the offer/tempted, and then the Son of God who rejects those offers. Isn’t the point to show us how we are both Sons of Man and Sons of God too?

2/10/2009 01:10:00 PM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

I think it would be pretty crazy to compare my temptations with those of the 30-year-old Jesus. I can see him being tempted like me - with the modifications that he did not have any bad habits but neither had he any personal experience of a bad conscience or the plain emptiness that comes from allowing sin to reign. But the thing is, I believe he had those temptations somewhere around puberty or so, before leaving them in the dust to deal with much deeper ones.

The same happens to those who follow him, albeit not at the same speed. Some temptations cease to be temptations. But new and more subtle ones arise.

2/10/2009 01:19:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Van said
"What is a lie, if grasped as such, is of no interest for someone who desires the Truth. It. Just. Isn't. A. Value. To. Be. Sought."

Indeed.

"but you just can't seriously yearn for a tall frosty mug of cyanide.

You just can't."

And Ricky,
"Isn’t the point to show us how we are both Sons of Man and Sons of God too?"

I think you've hit a little closer to where I was wandering this morning: trying, in my own small and human (and therefore not even remotely accurate) way to fit my own wonky template against His example. In part, what I'm grinding away at is a connection between thought and deed, the conflicting pressures between want and doing what is right - especially when that is also (mercifully) what you want.

Switching back into merely human terms, it's not the cyanide that's the danger, not when it's recognized. (Or as Magnus just put it: "Some temptations cease to be temptations. But new and more subtle ones arise.") Sometimes, it's the end we can only barely perceive, far in the distance, a shimmering mirage of possibility that is so tantalizing, the spoiled inner child doesn't want to wait for things to come to True fruition in their time, but yearns for it right now, that impatience that glares at the orange pip, expecting a tree to spring up all at once, on demand, and laden with tasty fruit, and never mind that the only spot to grow said tree happens to be currently occupied by an entire spectacular forest which isn't to be uprooted. And of course, that's not really what one wants, but just try and get that little brat to shut up and grant some peace...

Which ultimately all leads back to practicing Patience and Trust.

Speaking of which, it seems I have some work to do, and a good bit of afternoon timelessness in which to do it.

2/10/2009 01:30:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I think there is an old debate within the Church as to whether or not Jesus could have sinned. Some have always said that His temptations were more or less meaningless. I agree with Magnus and others that Jesus was probably fairly immune to the ordinary sins of the flesh.

Here's the thing, though, the temptation to turn stones into bread is not so much about the bread as about "show me you're the Son of God." I have never been tempted to perform a miracle because I can't do it -- at least, as far as I know. Have you ever been tempted to jump off a building to show everybody you're special?

Jesus could do the miraculous so He was tempted to do it out of order and to serve His own ends. Don't tell me it wasn't a temptation to put the devil in his place. "What do you 'if I'm the Son of God', hellboy?"

So, too, in Gethsemane, Jesus isn't tempted to do wrong as much as He just doesn't have to do this. He doesn't have to endure the beating and the humiliation. He can just walk away. He told Peter, I can right now call legions of angels down. That's not temptation? Luke's account says He was sweating blood to get to the point of total obedience and submission to the Father's will.

Temptation will rise to our level, but to be tempted is no sin.

2/10/2009 01:40:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

That should be "what do you mean if".

wv: spartals -- 300?

2/10/2009 01:44:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

Great discussion, all! I would just hearken back to what Sal said at 9:45 and maybe add a little bit. Not profound, but perhaps worth noting is that the Greek for "temptation" and "tempted" can also mean "testing" and "tested".

Referring to Jesus, someone wrote, "For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin." (Heb 4:15)

And, in his first letter to the Corinthians (10:13), Paul wrote, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”

Although tempted / tested no less than any of us, it so happened that Jesus the man ALWAYS endured. No one else ever has.

Finally, the Hebrews writer followed with,

"Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace,
so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."

'Nuf said.

2/10/2009 02:02:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Julie said "In part, what I'm grinding away at is a connection between thought and deed, the conflicting pressures between want and doing what is right - especially when that is also (mercifully) what you want."

And there is where we as people, have to deal with, as Ricky put it " the Son of Man who is approached with the offer/tempted, and then the Son of God who rejects those offers"... what is the road that is open to us to to bridge that gap, to where we are able to detect whether the 'bread' is Bread, and not stone, and how do we find it? After all, the bible does say that Jesus did turn water into wine... what is the difference between that, done in comfortable company, and turning stone into bread while starving in the desert? The answer isn't up myopically close to the particular instances themselves. The answer exists in the summit of Principles, whose summit is only approached by one who approaches the world, the particulars, from the context of first being born from above.

Mushroom said "He told Peter, I can right now call legions of angels down. That's not temptation? Luke's account says He was sweating blood to get to the point of total obedience and submission to the Father's will.
Temptation will rise to our level, but to be tempted is no sin."

Ooh... good points Mushroom, though again, I think the difference lies in the perspective from which the issue is raised and considered, from below "prove to ME you're a bigshot, get rid of that hunger in your belly... nOW! Prove it!" all disconnected urges and perceptions, or "I could choose to call legions of angels down and continue on down a different path, or come to grips with this issue here and now... both might be legitimate choices, but one, which does involve pain and agony, will accomplish more" and again, only the path directed from above, centered around principle instead of particular, is seen to be the one that will face the issue and accomplish it.

(Hey, you guys know I’m not "arguing" with you right? Just loudly considering and discussing the issue... and loving it... thanks!)

2/10/2009 02:34:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

NoMo, and everyone actually, thanks.
I love you guys, and this place :)

2/10/2009 02:42:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Nomo said "Not profound, but perhaps worth noting is that the Greek for "temptation" and "tempted" can also mean "testing" and "tested"."

Ah... that is actually a profoundly different approach and perspective on the issue... sure wish those pesky Greeks had spoken English like they did in the rest of the bible.

ahem.

2/10/2009 02:45:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

No, Van, we're not arguing, just thinking.

Greek/English reminds me of the old church joke where they ask someone why he still uses the King James Version and he replies, "If it was good enough for the Apostle Paul, it's good enough for me."

2/10/2009 02:58:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

‘course, Van!
Same here, Julie.
Good one, Mushroom.
‘night John boy.

(couldn't resist :-)

2/10/2009 03:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Bulletproof Monk said...

From yesterday's post:

"Indeed, the need for logical satisfaction "increases in proportion to ignorance, not in proportion to knowledge."

That has been my experience. Very insightful. Thanks.

2/10/2009 04:16:00 PM  
Blogger Zoltan said...

And when either description [Son or Man or Son of God] is chosen that that is which set of eyes He is using. Is this true?

…and if so, it may be the Son of Man who is approached with the offer/tempted, and then the Son of God who rejects those offers. Isn’t the point to show us how we are both Sons of Man and Sons of God too?

The two appellations, Son of Man and Son of God, belong to a set of three such, the third being, I am One with the Father (God).

They represent statements made by Jesus over a long span of years and reflect his developing self-awareness as Messiah.

The Bible conflates them without reference to their sequential appearance and the meaning of that sequence.

Son of Man and Son of God were familiar appellations in different contexts, Essene/Palestinian eschatological discourse for the former and Greco-Roman society for the latter.

There was nothing unusual about these terms in the First Century Mediterranean universe.

Their significance in this case is their reflection of an individual's self-awareness. They mean very different things in this context. And the significance of the first two is not grasped adequately until the third, the consummator, is in place.

This is a common phenomenon in the development of any process towards its goal or telos. It is only really seen from or in its fulfillment.

The developed nature of the Messianic self-awareness of Jesus of Nazareth was devilishly extruded earlier in this discussion and noted by Van, who inquired after its congruence with the accepted structure of theological certainty, i.e., orthodox theology.

Orthodox, by the way, means straight learning and living. Queers rightly sneer at "straight" because they are cross-wired, crooked.

To answer Van's question, it does and it does not, which is an unsatisfying answer, I realize, but the only one accurately to be offered. Regrettably, I am out of time to expatiate on why this is so beyond this cryptic indication: the orthodox tradition is wider than the orthodox take it and narrower than the heterodox take it.

Early in his career Jesus said he is the Son of Man. He meant he felt separate from God although attached to Him.

Later, Jesus said he is the Son of God. He meant he felt related to God, a member of His close family, even of his special creation. At about this time Jesus realized he is the Messiah promised by God through the Prophets.

This declaration precipitated his condemnation for blasphemy.

These first two declarations are conflated in the Synoptic Gospels, whose content and structure are driven by evangelical considerations among general Palestinian and Greco-Roman audiences.

Near the end of his career, Jesus said that he and his Father are One. He meant that there is no separation or essential distinction between God and Himself.

This declaration is reflected in the content and structure of the Fourth Gospel, which aims to develop evangelism in all territories and among all orbits of the Hellenistic world and beyond.

The Fourth Gospel reflects the contact with mysticism of the East, specifically India and Tibet, which distinguished Hellenistic from classical Greek philosophy.

Hellenistic philosophy is essentially religious and mystical, related more to Pythagoras and Parmenides than to Plato or Aristotle.

In any case, the three declarations of Jesus, which occurred sequentially as reflections of his self-understanding, indicate that his Messianic awareness did not drop either with, on or through him from Heaven in whole cloth at his nativity.

The previous devilish extrusion asserts that this development reveals confusion on Jesus' part, akin to that the extruder assigns to all and sundry.

This assertion is a misreading and misrepresentation of the facts, probably including an absence of awareness of some of them.

Development is not confusion.

The natures and relationship of the "two natures" of the Christ is the subject of the formulations taken by the Church at the Council of Chalcedon which, like the formulations taken by the Church at the Council of Nicaea has not been superceded, nor will be.

The solution as Ricky formulates it is Nestorian and was rejected at Chalcedon, along with the Alexandrine solution.

The problem was of immediate existential moment and especially deeply felt in the Eastern portions of the Roman Empire, especially Egypt and Alexandria: the old "scandal" of having to believe in a God who gets killed.

It does not make sense. Either he is God or he isn't. Who wants to be tagged with following a loser? Who can blame them for not wanting to?

Alexandrian opinion, therefore, followed ever since by the Greek Church, tended to swallow the humanity of Jesus as the Christ in his divinity.

(Cf. the justly famous iconography employed by the Greek Church.)

The Latin Church would have none of this. Pope Leo I promulgated a famous letter which essentially decided the issue at Chalcedon, agreed by both Greek and Latin Churches, though with permanent discomfort by the former.

Leo said that the properties of each nature and substance [important technical terms derived from Hellenistic philosophy] were preserved entire and came together to form one person. Humility was assumed by majesty, weakness by strength and mortality by eternity.

There is one true God in the entire and perfect nature of one true man, Jesus of Nazareth.

Luther had in mind the reality expressed by this formulation when he said that Christians should be "little Christs."

The whole church therefore rejected both the separation of natures asserted by the extreme Antiochenes, represented by Nestorius, and the absorption of one nature by the other asserted by the extreme Alexandrians, represented by Apollinarius.

Like Nicaea, which dealt with the relation of God the Father and the Christ, Chalcedon, which dealt with the relation of the natures of the Christ, had and continues to engender problems.

It will ever be so because literalists and self-important polemicists refuse to consider (1) the deeply-felt existential concerns treated in discussions of these two sets of relationships, God with man and man with himself and his world, and (2) the salient shortcomings of any expression of essential depth in existential stirrings.

Hellenistic society, Greco-Roman culture and Christian civilization are deeply committed to examining and resolving the existential dilemmas which abound by his patrimony in the heart of man.

Now, I have over-stayed my welcome and wish to express my deepest thanks for your kindness in allowing me to participate in these proceedings. It has given me great joy to do so and I have the greatest affection for the well-being of each and all of you ... of us. Farewell.

2/10/2009 04:33:00 PM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

What I miss is actually Jesus' "Smallville", to use a contemporary analogy. We know that at the age of 12, Jesus was remarkable, but still considered just a gifted youngster. When he died, supposedly in his early 30es, he had absorbed the entire fullness of God into his human life, and in such a way that others could follow. (Although to the best of my knowledge, no one has followed him all the way.)

It has long puzzled me that the part of his life that seems most relevant to our daily life is not documented at all, but left to the Spirit to reveal to each as needed. There is probably a reason for this.

2/10/2009 05:12:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

Zoltan,
Thank you. I don’t doubt that chronology is important to seeing an evolution of awareness. But do you think it is possible that that is not all that it means? as certainly the eyes you look out of at any given time reflects your awareness. I certainly didn’t mean to suggest He was confused, because I never thought that, but that by exchanging places (eyes) so to speak, was asking us to do the same. The existence of His humanness, to show it, allows us to elevate that better part of ourselves.

What got me thinking like this the first time was the section of John 3.3-3.18 where Jesus himself refers to the Son of Man and Son of God in such a short span of words and time.

Either way, thank you. The evolution of His awareness into a final third thing completing that trinity/re-unity is both a beautiful dimension added to, and perspective on, the hologram. I’m certain that we were meant to take notice of it, but not only notice.

I’m only beginning my own private studies, with all of your help, and the more I do the more I find how large the mystery is. Ordinarily, with me anyway, this would be discouraging. Yet, as River put it, what originally seemed absurd or problematic simply grows more solid before our eyes.

2/10/2009 07:23:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

“It has long puzzled me that the part of his life that seems most relevant to our daily life is not documented at all, but left to the Spirit to reveal to each as needed. There is probably a reason for this.”

I wonder about that too, Magnus. So far all I’ve come up with is that if we knew every single step he took, if we knew him so literally, we might lose our identities by following each one so closely.

2/10/2009 07:29:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

The Orthodox use the term 'passions' to mean the ways in which we are open to the possibility of sin. They include both blameless and sinful ones; hunger being blameless and things like lustfulness being sinful. The point being that a passion represents not a sin, but a suffering (that's what the word means literally from the Greek) which may lead us to sin, or may not. As far as I know the Lord was free of sinful passions, though he willingly took on the blameless passions since they are essential to our existential condition. That is, what it is to be human. Like anyone, the opportunities to sin were everywhere, but he took none of them, we could say because he lacked the sinful passions, which is just to say he was a perfect man. If you were such, the 'temptations' of various things, gluttony, wrath, lust, and so forth, would not seem appealing. You would stop eating when you weren't hungry, you'd express anger in moderation, you would only desire that which was proper to have, etc.

But there's no real good way to get around the fact that as God, he did not have to take on any of it, he was not bound or required to except that if he did not then he would not have been truly man. So what often looks like necessity to us (or is necessity to us) is a choice for God.

I suppose, though, with all of that preparation, he would not have gone and hosed the deal by cheating. Then again, perhaps that very act might have destroyed the man, and thus God would not consider it.

So take note, that the notion of the blameless passions, helps us understand the pain and agony of the garden, while knowing that he never desired evil for even a moment. It is said that there is a passion associated with the body's natural desire for living, and that his agony is an expression of the very truth of his human life; that his humanity would not simply extinguish itself without resistance.

This agony of Gethsemane, I would think, is that same force which makes things 'easy' when life and death are on the line. It is the vital force itself, maybe!

2/10/2009 08:22:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Also, the temptation by Satan reveals that perfect man is 'dead to the world', that is, the passions as John cuts them into three: "The pride of life, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes."

It is in the tomb in which we find the path to life. Duality is broken in three.

2/10/2009 08:33:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Also to note, since I've noticed I slide into 'Ortho-lexicon' 'The World' i.e. the Passions (the sinful passions, in this case...) is short for 'the system of this world', or in B'ob "The conspiracy to rob us of all of our slack." So 'the world' in that case is the same 'world' in 'the prince of this world' - it is the same Greek word (as far as I know) but the context is different. So when we say "God so loved the world..." (John 3:16) we most definitely don't mean 'God so loved the sinful passions...' But rather, the Cosmos.

River adjourned!

wv: tersc - it meant, 'terse? tsk.'

2/10/2009 08:38:00 PM  

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