Friday, February 20, 2009

The WholePoint of HisStory (2.20.10)

Who can hope to obtain proper concepts of the present, without knowing the future? --Johann Georg Hamann

If we consider the historical form of Jesus, we see that he cannot be understood in isolation, unlike, say, Buddha or Shankara, who divulge a message of purely vertical metaphysics which stands outside time. In fact, the same could be said of the Koran, and we can see how this leads to certain inevitable problems, i.e., either the devaluation of time (as in Buddhism), or else the attempt to cease it altogether, so that we might all live shabbily ever after in a 7th century caliphate worse than death.

But Jesus appears within a dense network of earlier truths, of which he is said to be the "fulfillment." Ultimately, as we shall see, his form is very much temporal as opposed to spatial.

As such, as I mentioned in the new testavus, apprehending his form is much more analogous to hearing a symphony, which must be listened to in its entirety before we can know what it was about. You might say that the "future" of the symphony illuminates its past, and reveals the necessity of various passages which can only be tied together and "resolved" within time. (cf. The Tristan Chord for the most extreme case.)

This is quite unique among the world's revelations, because it is so entangled with history, which means that it somehow renders history -- which would otherwise be purely horizontal -- an extension, or expression, of the vertical. You might say that at the center of Jesus' mission, as it were, is the verticalizing of the horizontal, whereas for Buddha or Shankara, it would be simply escape from the horizontal. Whereas Jesus is like a symphony, Buddha would be like a great painting.

(This is not to criticize the latter, just to highlight the differences; also, the later Bodhisattva principle involves a certain horizontalizing impulse, in the sense that the liberated person forgoes the vertical for the horizontal in order to devote his life to saving the damned, those deluded souls who are marooned in the purely horizontal. Thus, the Bodhisattva is in the world, but not of it.)

As Balthasar explains, Christ's form is embedded "within a context of events which partly condition Jesus' historical person and which are partly conditioned and prompted by it." This is a rather interesting observation, because it means that, in the Incarnation, there is a certain "random" element. In other words, if God is going to submit himself to man, it means going the whole hog, and submitting himself to time, to history, and even to the random element that intrudes in the herebelow.

Indeed, without submitting to this random element, one would not be truly submitting to the real conditions of mankind. As Balthasar writes in A Theology of History, "In order to become manifest, the absolute uniqueness of God, uniting itself with the humanity of Jesus, makes use of the relative uniqueness of a particular historical personality..."

This then leads to the interesting question of how one conveys intrinsic and unchanging Truth within the context of change? Think about it. It would be analogous to incarnating as a metaphysics professor in a liberal university, where the only truth is that truth does not exist. But that would be the one place that would be most aching for the appearance of Truth, would it not, even if it meant being crucified by the inquisitors of political correctness? Indeed, how else to teach these devils that the crucifixion of Truth is the central truth -- and therefore, lie -- of the left?

It gets even more complicated, because if we are to believe the totality of revelation, then Jesus is the Total Truth who appears in the historical context of his own "partial truths" that had to first lay the groundwork for his own reception. Here, I see that Balthasar is on the same page with me thus far:

"A statue can be placed anywhere; a symphony can be performed in any concert hall; a poem of Goethe's can be understood and enjoyed without any knowledge of its biographical context." But the form of Jesus "cannot be detached from the place in space and time in which it stands. He is what he is only by fulfilling, on the one hand, all the promises that point to him, and, on the other, by himself making promises which he will at some time fulfill."

Again, this is a fascinating thing to contemplate. It reminds me of how you can trace your family tree back so that it looks as if you are the final cause, the meaning, the fulfillment, the "end point" of all of those previous generations.

At the same time, you could reverse the image, so that a family tree grows into the future from your single point of departure. Thus we have the image of a point in the present, with two trees growing from it, one into the past, the other into the future. Therefore, you are the cause of both your ancestors and descendants.

It is as if Jesus does the same thing, except with all of history and all of mankind. In other words, all of history leads to his "point," and then flows into the future from that point. But where is the point? Is it his birth? His life? His teachings? His resurrection?

It is somehow all of these things, not to mention the fact that, once he enters history, his causal power is far from over, as he continues to exert a profound effect on people and events. The "whole line of development in the history of salvation is ordered toward himself as its climax and subjected to himself as the meaning which fulfills it..."

In this regard, Jesus doesn't just give meaning to history, but somehow "is himself history," or "the living center of history itself." Again, think of how different this is from situating the center in a point in space, such as Mecca, or the Scientology Celebrity Centre International in Hollywood.

As I have mentioned before, Jesus is more like a vertical depth charge dropped from on high into history, which then causes a kind of temporal tsunami, so that the waves from the original impact continue to lap upon the shore of the present. And the waves will bear the "imprint" of the original event, just as we can trace the present background radiation to the "big bang" at the origin of the horizontal cosmos.

This is again only fitting, if "the Word becoming flesh" implies the vertical becoming horizontal. For, as Balthasar explains, "To the horizontal power with which he encompasses all time and rules all space 'even to the ends of the earth,' centering world history on himself, there corresponds the vertical power with which he makes the Father visible and with which he makes present, in his witness concerning the Father, the Father's witness to him."

What a marvelous paradox! Just yesterday I was thinking how different Christianity would be if, instead of truly submitting to the world, Jesus tried to "conquer" the world, à llah Mohammed. Obviously it would no longer be Christianity, for central to it is this idea that the Word becomes flesh not to overpower the world in the horizontal sense, but to redeem it.

Mariani refers to "Christ's Great Sacrifice, the ramifications of his radical self-emptying and humility, not grasping after what was his by right, but returning everything to the Father in an act of total self-emptying, even unto a criminal's death on the cross." What a strange God! Who would ever invent such a counter-intuitive story?

For the man who is spiritually existent, who is directed upon the whole of reality, in other words, for the man who philosophizes, this question of the end of history is, quite naturally, more pressing than the question of "what actually happened." --Josef Pieper, The End of Time

33 Comments:

Anonymous Northern Bandit said...

I take offense Bob -- not offense -- I object, carefully, with love. You may have gathered from my scattered contributions that I am presently in Turkey. A sojourn in Ankara has led me to several weeks in Istanbul. Which brings us to the Haghia Sophia and the (forced, historic) juxtaposition of Islam and Christianity.

The Muslims I have met here in Turkey are OVERWHELMIGLY better candidates for 'coonhood than the people you call neighbors in California (or my neighbors variously in NYC, Toronto, and Nova Scotia (actually there are plenty of old-school Catholics in NS).

The enemy is Islam - ISM (big caps on the ISM) -- not workaday Muslims. I cannot emphasize that enough. The reason that they have not read the coonifesto is that is ONLY IN ENGLISH.

2/20/2009 08:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

I see you're off your meds again. Or on your "meds" again.

2/20/2009 08:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Northern Bandit said...

In fact, let's get the Coonifesto published in Arabic. Why not?

My limo ride from the 5-star hotel to the Haghia Sophia, and back was 500 euros. The driver was a student who was EAGER for knowledge about the West.

I'll start us off with a $500 pledge.

(Plus a few phone calls in new York if you're serious, Bob).

Bob, in the words I'm familiar with (Apple, IBM) your message SCALES.

It scales in a way that nobody is going to erect a cult, but there is enough there that you've used your God-given IQ to help the next fella over a hump.

2/20/2009 08:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Northern Bandit said...

Cousin Dupree:

You and I have camped out back for a long time. You're a soul, just like the dusty beggar playing a 1,000 year old double flute while the blatting exhaust of busses drowned him out.

I gave him 20 lira.

Fucker. What have you done recently aside from mooch off of Bob?

2/20/2009 08:49:00 AM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

Mooch off LaFayette.

2/20/2009 08:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Darweenie said...

"Christ's Great Sacrifice, the ramifications of his radical self-emptying and humility, not grasping after what was his by right, but returning everything to the Father in an act of total self-emptying, even unto a criminal's death on the cross."

“What a strange God! Who would ever invent such a counter-intuitive story?”

Okay okay..I’m workin’ on it, I’m workin on it.. stupid genes..


RR :-)

2/20/2009 09:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Joyce said...

Not to worry. When a part so ptee does duty for the holos, we soon grow to use of an allforabit. The movibles are scrawling in motions, marching, all of them ago, in pitpat and zingzang, for every busy eerie whig’s a bit of a torytale to tell.

2/20/2009 09:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Islam_vere said...

Its a shame that you have decided to be so anti-Islam without understanding it in the slightest.

Of course you are in numerous company since very few people, including the vast majority of self proclaimed Muslims, have ever understood it.

Mr/Ms Bandit is correct that Islam, taken as some sort of political entity or movement, is the source of many problems. But the same is true wherever we find Religion being confused with something which it isn't [such as Science, Politics or History]. Self proclaimed Christians have certainly not been without fault in this area, yet it doesn't speak directly to the meaning or significance of Christian religion, understood as such.

A humble suggestion: Consider that Religion, taken in its genuine form, is wholly without Theology or Legalism of any sort. This is not just a contingent fact about it, but rather its essence.

Now I know that to you, so steeped and consumed by what your intellect [or what you take your intellect to be] can do, this suggestion seems impossible. I also expect to be called some names [if not by you then by your cheering section] and dismissed. That is fine, of course, and I submit to it if it is so. But Ponder the possibility that all of what you consider your intellectual and spiritual endeavors and knowledge are just the preliminary stage for real Religious Experience.

I know you experience Lack, and that your thoughts can provide a nice, comfy system which not only explains it but shows you that it is necessary and perhaps even beneficial.

But when you are ready, all of what you have thought and written will seem like so much sand, scattered to the wind. A tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing.

Consider Aquinas' words after having what was perhaps his first truly Religious Experience on the feast of St. Nicholas: 'All that I have written seems to me like straw compared to what has now been revealed to me.'

Good Day.

2/20/2009 09:34:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Hey, give me a little credit. After all, all that you have written seems to me like straw compared to what has been revealed to me.

2/20/2009 09:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Islam_vere said...

Always with a glib retort.

'In the beginners mind there are many possibilities, in the experts' there are few.'

You need to re-discover your beginners mind.

This is what it means to be like a child.

I know you pretend to be childlike, but you are actually just childish.

Don't be so adolescent as to assume that anyone trying to tell you something is your opponent who needs to be rebelled against.

2/20/2009 09:59:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

From childish to adolescent in one comment. I call that progress.

2/20/2009 10:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

I was right about the meds. I just checked the site meter, and there have been no visitors from Turkey.

2/20/2009 10:16:00 AM  
Blogger NoMo said...

Islam_vere -

Assalamu alaikum. Respectfully, if you are a knowledgeable Muslim, it may be important for you to seriously consider these words:
_____
[Jesus said]"I and the Father are one."
Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, "I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?"
"We are not stoning you for any good work," they replied, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God."
(John 10:30-33)
_____
[For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the word and the Holy Spirit, and these three are One.] "And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. The one who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the witness that God has borne concerning His Son. And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. (I John 5:8-12)
_____
And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. (I John 5:20)
_____

That is the difference. The difference is everything.

2/20/2009 10:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

No, this is the difference.

2/20/2009 10:29:00 AM  
Blogger Susannah said...

"In this regard, Jesus doesn't just give meaning to history, but somehow "is himself history," or "the living center of history itself." Bob, you touched on some of my favorite scriptures in this post! Philippians 2:5ff, Hebrews 1:3, and especially the Colossians passage... "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross." ...I especially love to contemplate: "...all things were created through him and for him...in him all things hold together." The whole passage is glorious.

2/20/2009 10:41:00 AM  
Blogger Susannah said...

LOL, Bob! I can't believe that video hasn't been yanked yet! I need to read the entire "blogging the Koran" series on Hot Air.

2/20/2009 10:52:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Well, the workaday Muslim is not an Islamist, this is true. To demonstrate this fact is the historical evidence that when an Islamic empire lost control of certain territories, they converted back to Christendom.

This doesn't excuse the fact that there are huge, huge problems with the Koran and the system of Islam itself, but the people are mostly people. They can become a crowd, and God help us if we can't reach them before they're shouting "Crucify!"

And of course their leaders do bear responsibility for how they mislead or cause harm.

2/20/2009 01:27:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

I think this also suggests that the reach of the Gospel is unknown, since places that are Muslim - since Islam is a political system - contain truly faithful persons who would accept the Gospel given the chance. But Paul already talked about this, like what, 1900+ years ago? Old news.

Still, we in the West have cut apart Christendom - or shall we say, Western Christendom - in trying to find 'the perfect system'. So you really have an unmooring of the Catholic Church from the Orthodox Faith - the result is that the Western Church remained structurally sound and still holds its See, but the East held the doctrine more closely and lost all of its Sees. Sure, the truth is more complex than that, but I think that outlines it nicely.

[Antioch, Alexandria, Constantinople and Jerusalem are no longer under Christian control.]

N.B. Don't forget that the Koran gave birth to both the system of Islamic states - or is partner to it - that puts those workaday muslims in that situation.

2/20/2009 01:35:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

OT, but somehow I missed this little gal's impassioned speech... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOR1wUqvJS4

2/20/2009 01:59:00 PM  
Blogger jwm said...

It looks like bracketdotdotdotbracket has converted to islam. Just keep him away from sharp objects.

JWM

2/20/2009 02:42:00 PM  
Anonymous islam_vere said...

Islam is not something one converts to. Its something one recognizes.

That which historically bears the name Islam has little to do with Islam rightfully understood.

2/20/2009 04:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

Islam is not something one converts to. It is something one recognizes. One tends to recognize it just after the knife is drawn, but before it pierces the skin. After that it's too late.

2/20/2009 04:32:00 PM  
Blogger jwm said...

Well how about if we hear a little about what islam has to say. Right from the horse's ass:

In blasphemy indeed are those that say that God is Christ the son of Mary. -Surah 5:17 (Yusuf Ali)

They say: "God hath begotten a son!" - Glory be to Him! He is self-sufficient! His are all things in the heavens and on earth! No warrant have ye for this! Say ye about Allah what ye know not? -Surah 10:68 (Yusuf Ali)

They said, "The Most Gracious has begotten a son"! You have uttered a gross blasphemy. The heavens are about to shatter, the earth is about to tear asunder, and the mountains are about to crumble. Because they claim that the Most Gracious has begotten a son. It is not befitting the Most Gracious that He should beget a son. –Surah 19:88-92 (Rashad Khalifa)

…the Christians call Christ the son of Allah. That is a saying from their mouth; (in this) they but imitate what the unbelievers of old used to say. Allah's curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the Truth! -Surah 9:30
(Yusuf Ali)

****On the trinity
They do blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except One Allah. If they desist not from their word (of blasphemy), verily a grievous penalty will befall the blasphemers among them. –Surah 5:73 (Yusuf Ali)

**** On the crucifiction

That they said (in boast), "We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah"; but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not:- Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise – Surah 4:157-8 (Yusuf Ali) [emphasis mine]

This last one just takes the cake. islam, then, reduces the most awe inspiring event in world history, to a cheap ass magic trick to fool the credulous rubes of the day.

And finally- This:

**** On the Jews
Amongst them we (Allah) have placed enmity and hatred till the Day of Judgment. Every time they kindle the fire of war, Allah doth extinguish it; but they (ever) strive to do mischief on earth. And Allah loveth not those who do mischief. -Surah 5:64 (Yusuf Ali)

I think the Torah (which predates the koan by a little while)views that a little differently

WV: JUDGE
(wv is getting a little spooky. And I mean that in a good way.)

JWM

2/20/2009 05:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Kemal Ataturk said...

I have a couple of close Muslim friends -- one whom I work with.

Sometimes I will ask him where his suicide belt is, or inquire as to how the jihad is going, or make some other such un-PC joke.

He usually responds by calling me a Zionest infidel and threatening to behead me.

Other times he will ask for news about my family living in "Palestine." They live in Tel Aviv.

It's all quite humorous and good-natured. We are good friends and work well together.

If only all Muslims were secular Turks...


Qur’an 9:5

"Fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem;

Qur’an 9:29

"Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued."

Qur’an 5:51

"O ye who believe! take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors: They are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them for friendship is of them. Verily Allah guideth not a people unjust."

2/20/2009 05:08:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

What, someone came along that wants to kill Christians? Naaaa you don't say who woulda thunk it

I mean its not like its all through the New Testament or nothin

Oh wait it is

2/20/2009 08:08:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I think we are all off our meds this evening. Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, so, as you say He is the cause of all history before and after, and we are moving toward Him as the culmination of history.

wv: I see pardis by the dashboard light.

2/20/2009 09:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Stolen from BigHollywood said...

Several centuries ago, the Pope decreed that all the Jews had to
convert to Catholicism or leave Italy. There was a huge outcry from the Jewish community, so the Pope offered a deal.

He would have a religious debate with the leader of the Jewish
community. If the Jews won, they could stay in Italy; if the Pope won,they would have to convert or leave.

The Jewish people met and picked an aged and wise rabbi to represent them in the debate. However, as the rabbi spoke no Italian, and the Pope spoke no Yiddish, they agreed that it would be a 'silent' debate.

On the chosen day the Pope and rabbi sat opposite each other. The Pope raised his hand and showed three fingers.

The rabbi looked back and raised one finger.

Next, the Pope waved his finger around his head.

The rabbi pointed to the ground where he sat.

The Pope brought out a communion wafer and a chalice of wine.

The rabbi pulled out an apple.

With that, the Pope stood up and declared himself beaten and said that the rabbi was too clever. The Jews could stay in Italy.

Later the cardinals met with the Pope and asked him what had happened.

The Pope said, 'First I held up three fingers to represent the
Trinity. He responded by holding up a single finger to remind me there is still only one God common to both our beliefs.

Then, I waved my finger around my head to show him that God was all
around us. He responded by pointing to the ground to show that God was also right here with us.

I pulled out the wine and water to show that God absolves us of all
our sins. He pulled out an apple to remind me of the original sin.

He bested me at every move and I could not continue.

Meanwhile, the Jewish community gathered to ask the rabbi how he had won.

'I haven't a clue' the rabbi said. 'First, he told me that we had three days to get out of Italy, so I gave him the finger.

'Then he tells me that the whole country would be cleared of Jews and I told him that we were staying right here.'

'And then what?' asked a woman.

'Who knows?' said the rabbi. 'He took out his lunch so I took out mine.'

2/20/2009 11:22:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

NB and atta turkey are right, the islambies are getting a raw deal... what the world needs now is a nice PR offensive to get aHead of all this nastiness, maybe a nice Muslim Man & Wife could ... I don't know... start a TV station or something, you know, spread the word about how all those crazy things like honor killings and such are just hot air.

I'll probably be out of touch for a week or so, but I'll check back and see how that works out.

It'll be good to get HerStory.

ahem.

2/20/2009 11:22:00 PM  
Anonymous hoarhey said...

Northern,
How bout throwing the little peeps a bone and reporting back from the Academy Awards Presentation with some dish on all those starlets at the apres awards parties.
You international man of mystery you. ;)

2/21/2009 12:03:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"This then leads to the interesting question of how one conveys intrinsic and unchanging Truth within the context of change? Think about it. It would be analogous to incarnating as a metaphysics professor in a liberal university, where the only truth is that truth does not exist."

Absolutely! Oh wait...:^)

2/21/2009 01:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Skully said...

"Again, think of how different this is from situating the center in a point in space, such as Mecca, or the Scientology Celebrity Centre International in Hollywood."

Or, to put it in terms our latest Islamatroll might understand:

Meccaleccahi mecca hiney ho.

2/21/2009 02:35:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Of course you are in numerous company since very few people, including the vast majority of self proclaimed Muslims, have ever understood it."

That which historically bears the name Islam has little to do with Islam rightfully understood."

Since so few people understand "Islam rightfully understood" maybe you should come up with a different name for your version, which should be easy to explain since there's no theology in it, which means no Koran or Suras.

I don't see what your beef is with Bob, since Bob is talking about the past and present Islam as understood by the vast majority who proclaim the Koran, Mohammed and suras to be holy. You know, all that pesky theology and sharia law stuff you don't subscribe to.

According to you, you ascribe to a different Islam (without the theology) that only a very few understand. Therefore, you shouldn't take offense to anything Bob said, you should be endorsing what he said.

Feel free to elaborate, preferably in beginners mind Allah mode so we don't get confused.

2/21/2009 02:58:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

As I've said before, if all Muslims understood Islam as Fritjhof Schuon, a lot of people would be out of work, because there would be no need for airline security, the UN, Middle East studies departments, and Palestinian spokesholes.

2/21/2009 07:15:00 AM  

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