Friday, January 15, 2010

Beasts to the Left of Me, Monsters to the Right

Just another reminder, everyone will have a chance to be offended as we go along, so there's no need to jump to any conclusions. Let me also say that Gillespie takes a rather neutral and scholarly approach. He's not the least bit polemical. Rather, he just lays out the facts, objectionable to some though they may be.

And it should also go without saying that I ask and expect no one to agree with me on these matters. Nor am I bothered by those who disagree with me (although I am puzzled why some of them would be in any way interested in this blog).

To conclude his take on Luther, Gillespie reiterates that although his thought "originates out of the deep spiritual problems that arise from his encounter with nominalism," his solutions create as many difficulties as they resolve, so that his "position is beset by deep and intractable problems." His only fallback position is "faith," but in my view, a faith divorced from intellect leaves the field wide open for the neo-barbaric, anti-religious intellect that followed.

Man's intellectual needs are legitimate, and he has a cosmic right to answers that satisfy these needs. We are constituted of spirit, psyche, and body -- or passion, will, and intellect -- and any of these that are not "contained" by one's religion will tend to run wild outside it. It doesn't matter if it is an inadequate theology of the body or of the intellect; leave one out, and you're asking for trouble. Just as the person can fall into sexual perversion, a mind that is not infused with the Light can clearly fall into intellectual perversion. I myself was once an intellectual pervert and textual deviate, so I know.

Obviously, nowhere does Jesus say anything about faith in scripture. I mean, for starters, he didn't write any. There was no new testament, only the used. Furthermore, in any case, scripture "has to be interpreted, and that means valuing some passages and books above others. How in such circumstances do we know we are choosing correctly? How do we know what we take to be divine inspiration behind our reading is not in fact the subliminal urgings of our passions and desires?" (Gillespie).

I would suggest that one way to know is to consult what 1500 years of grace-infused spiritual genius has produced -- i.e., to find out what the greatest spiritual thinkers have thought and said. And although some very conservative types might compare the following to our own Supreme Court interpreting the American constitution through "international standards," I don't see anything objectionable in taking this approach to religious metaphysics -- not to indiscriminately mix revelations from below, since God detests that. Rather, to simply appreciate that there is widespread coonsensus on many of the fundamentals.

Or, one can simply realize with Augustine that there exists a religion that co-arises with man, and which currently goes by the name "Christianity." Obviously Christ's existence is prior to his physical form, for he tells us ("before Abraham was I AM). To put it another way, the great novelty in Christianity is the Incarnation (and Resurrection), not the Christ. The Light is surely real, and it didn't just come into the world in 4 B.C., or whenever it was. It's always here, and men either see it or they don't.

Gillespie goes on to say that "a great deal of Luther's thought turns on the notion of grace," but that "Jesus never uses the word charis in this sense in the Bible. It becomes central only in Paul and later in Augustine." Nor is there "any mention of predestination in the synoptic Gospels."

The central problem with Luther, as I see it, is that in response to the crisis of nominalism, he overemphasizes God at the expense of man. And much of this hinges on his interpretation of the Fall. In fact, if I remember correctly, this is also an issue that divides Orthodoxy from Catholicism, since the former doesn't see the Fall in quite the catastrophic terms the West sees it. Gillespie notes that in the Latin west, there was "nearly unanimous opinion that Adam's fall had cost man dearly," and that "from this perspective, man had no intrinsic worth or dignity." Quite frankly, you are a hopeless loser, with no power whatsoever to save yourself.

I must admit that this approach has never appealed to me, and is one of the things that turned me away from the versions of Christianity I encountered earlier in my life. The idea that Socrates is in hell because he didn't know Jesus is no more appealing to me than the idea that God is punishing Haiti because two hundred years ago it supposedly made a "pact with the devil." (Besides, if that were true, one would expect to see earthly rewards paid for with the coin of eternity.)

I may be over-generalizing here, but it seems to me that Eastern Christianity hardly forgets that we are fallen, but that it also remembers that we are imago dei -- in the image of God -- and that this surely counts for something!

For me, it means that our covenant with the Creator is truly a Divine-human partnership. Sure, we're the junior partner, and always will be. But just as your relationship with your child changes as he matures, I don't think God wishes to treat everyone equally as permanently helpless infants. Indeed, Paul implicitly touches on this in the metaphor of spiritual milk. vs. meat.

Now, as I've mentioned in a couple of the previous posts, I don't think the split between Catholicism and Protestantism was strictly necessary, although, historical conditions being what they were, it was pretty much inevitable. But was there another way out of the impasse? I think there was, and Gillespie touches on this in chapter two of the book, Petrarch and the Invention of Individuality. From my perspective, the issues raised here are absolutely critical, because if you get your theology wrong, your anthropology will be a wreck, and if you get your anthropology wrong, your theology will be a mess.

At the very time that the nominalist insurgency was taking place, there emerged what Gillespie calls a Christian humanism -- not, mind you, a Christian humanism. The point is that this was a humanism that took seriously the idea that man may be wounded, but that he isn't dead. In spite of it all, he is still the imago dei; and as they say in the East, there can be a more or less wide gulf between image and likeness, and our purpose here on earth is to close that gap.

What the Raccoon calls "spiritual growth" takes place precisely in this space between image and likeness. Again, for the sake of clarity, Luther would absolutely and unequivocally reject the idea of "spiritual growth," much less that a man could do anything about it from his end. Indeed, he would condemn this as heretical, blasphemous, arrogant, and all the rest. Rather, you are either saved or you are not saved, and there's nothing you can do about it anyway but submit, identical to the Islamic approach.

Gillespie has a pithy formulation with which I agree; that is, "one cannot abandon God without turning man into a beast." But at the same time, "one cannot abandon man without falling into theological fanaticism." Look at the Islamists, who clearly err on the side of (their) god, with catastrophic consequences. To them, man is nothing, which is why they can engage in genocide with no compunction. But they are only doing what Christians did to each other in the 16th and 17th centuries.

For if man is nothing and God is everything, there is no reason why I shouldn't blow up airplanes or shoot abortionists. I'm not saying that this conclusion is inevitable, but one can appreciate where the devaluation of man leads -- just as one can appreciate where the devaluation of God leads. Atheists are not necessarily bad people, but an atheistic culture that has lost contact with its spiritual source will eventually descend into evil. And a culture that reduces man to a worthless sinner will also tend in that direction. (Please also note the similarity with leftist doctrines that are so contemptuous of the individual, who can only be saved by the anointed elites who run the god-state.)

So one thing that really caught my attention in the book was Gillespie's discussion of the handful of sensible and balanced Raccoons who were scurrying around back in the 14th century. These men attempted to forge a theology that valued the growing awareness of the individual without in any way jettisoning traditional theology. Petrarch, for example, sought "an amalgamation of Christian practice and ancient moral virtue."

This only makes sense, because it takes into consideration the very real emergence of a new phenomenon that was taking place at the time: the individual. In one sense, you can squelch the problem by condemning, repressing, and devaluing it; on the other hand, if one fails to channel this new reality within tradition, it then becomes detached from God, and transforms into the promethean glorification of the will. With Luther, every man becomes his own priest; but this is only a small step from every man becoming his own god.

Thus, Petrarch thought that the solution to this problem required "a richer understanding of what it meant to be human that drew not merely on Scripture but on the moral models of antiquity": Athens + Jerusalem, you might say. He further sought "to revivify the love of honor and beauty as preeminent human motives."

Speaking of which, there is no question that America's founders were animated by just this type of Christianity, one that very much focuses on the ancient virtues of honor, wisdom, courage, temperance, justice, and disinterested knowledge. I also happen to be reading the outstanding Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815, and when you read about the majestic honor and dignity of, say, George Washington, it seriously makes you want to weep for your country. The men who formed America were Christian humanists par excellence.

Frankly, many of them were affiliated members of the the Scattered Brotherhood of the Vertical Diaspora, but that's a topic for another post.

That's enough for today. To be continued...

57 Comments:

Blogger walt said...

Terrific material, Bob.

This is an educational blog!

1/15/2010 08:33:00 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Lovely! Petrarch was probably taking the lead from the East, who spent the prior thirteen trying to do just the same thing. One who reads Antony, Athanasius, Maximus, Palamas, Simeon -- cannot help but recognize that within them there are varying levels of this fusion.

My opinion is that when we ask 'What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem, or what does light have to do with darkness?' We mean to say that from Jerusalem proceeds a light, and entering the world it casts shadows which are Athens.

When the world is done we ought to expect it all to pass away, but Chrysostom says that the 'heavenly treasures' the 'moth does not eat' are nothing other than the virtues.

1/15/2010 08:45:00 AM  
Blogger Warren said...

>> in the Latin west, there was "nearly unanimous opinion that Adam's fall had cost man dearly,"

I think all Christians would agree with that.

>> and that "from this perspective, man had no intrinsic worth or dignity."

Balderdash. The Catholic Church has never taught or believed any such thing, in any of its phases. (I'm referring to its official dogmas, not necessarily what may be said by certain priests, nuns, bishops, etc.) If I thought they believed such a thing, I could not have become a Catholic. What you quote as the Eastern Orthodox view is identical with my understanding of the Catholic view:

>> Eastern Christianity hardly forgets that we are fallen, but that it also remembers that we are imago dei -- in the image of God -- and that this surely counts for something!

Theologically, on this issue at least, the Greek and Latin Churches are in complete agreement, as far as I know. The difference is one of rhetorical emphasis only.

(OK, I'm not offended yet, but keep trying....)

1/15/2010 09:17:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"His only fallback position is "faith," but in my view, a faith divorced from intellect leaves the field wide open for the neo-barbaric secularized intellect without faith which followed."

Deifinitely True.

wv:menocur
Well... some are

1/15/2010 09:19:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Warren:

All I can say is that people who said similar things did not escape the Inquisition and the stake, as we will get into in subsequent posts.

1/15/2010 09:23:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Let's just say I take it a little personally when a man is burned at the stake for being a Coon...

1/15/2010 09:52:00 AM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

I'm glad we can examine these topics -- it's been a real eye-opener. In particular I'm starting to understand better how Islam came to be what it is (i.e., an expression of, among other things volunteerism and occaisionalism). I didn't really appreciate the parallels within Christianity itself.

I have to say that nothing I've heard yet in any way makes Catholicism less appealing to me, and accounts of medieval corruption and malfeasance are unlikely to change this.

Meanwhile over on the "if Hell didn't exist, we'd have to invent it" side of town, the Left is having a rollicking good guffaw over that perennial side-splitter, abortion. Intact dilation and extraction, what a gas!!

1/15/2010 10:09:00 AM  
Anonymous JohnnyB said...

Petey-
Tell Bob that his vertical wings are made of wax and that he should probably read St. Iranaeus "Against Heresies", since the Gospels haven't made a dent. Without faith, there is nothing. Faith is the beginning, not the end. Works without faith are dead.
I don't know how the four Gospels, Paul and the other Apostles all got it so wrong

JohnnyB

"if a man can be his own priest, he can next be god".

hmmmmm..............

Folly.

1/15/2010 10:11:00 AM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

Re shooting abortionists like the saintly George Tiller, yes it was murder and of course no Christian should advocate murder, but I sure as hell don't lose sleep over it. It's borderline territory as with shooting Nazis before WWII, when Nazism was perfectly legal (and shooting them definitely wasn't). Legal or not, Nazis needed shootin'.

1/15/2010 10:16:00 AM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

The fact that Tiller is revered by the likes of Chuckles Johnson tells you all you need to know. And once again, I do not agree with shooting anyone over abortion, however I do believe abortion is the greatest sin America (and the West generally) currently commits. We don't do enough toward reversing R v W.

1/15/2010 10:28:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

NB:

Yes, one must always distinguish between the invisible church and the wicked people who have sometimes -- and absolutely inevitably -- passed through it.

1/15/2010 10:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Really old Chinese philosopher said...

"It doesn't matter if it is an inadequate theology of the body or of the intellect; leave one out, and you're asking for trouble."

"If you wish to think about it,
although you'll never break through
that last barrier of obscurity,
you can reason out the steps of the process
all the way back to that moment.

If you can do without thought,
although you will still never truly grasp
the final intangible, you can come to intuit
that there is a further mystery.

These two methods, reasoning and intuition,
would seem to be totally different,
and yet both address the same need,
the need to know our origin."

1/15/2010 10:36:00 AM  
Anonymous notanonymous said...

Northern Bandit:

Tiller is using the self-defense theory; ie, if someone is about to commit a murder, you have the right to use deadly force to stop him.
Not a bad defense at all...
heck 45,000,000 dead babies should have had some form of protection.

1/15/2010 10:37:00 AM  
Anonymous notanonymous said...

er..the guy who shot tiller is using the defense


my bad

1/15/2010 10:40:00 AM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

notanonymous:

To clarify, Tiller was the doctor who got himself shot. He was one of a handful of people in the country who would kill a healthy, viable late-term fetus. I'm considerably more emotional than usual over this as my wife is pregnant now. Also, when I was in the womb I had heart issues which had I been conceived by leftists more recently would likely have resulted in my being suctioned before I'd tasted my first breath.

1/15/2010 10:40:00 AM  
Blogger robinstarfish said...

Rich vein, this topic. To paraphrase Rumsfeld, it's deep into the grand expanse of things I didn't know I didn't know.

1/15/2010 11:42:00 AM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

robinstarfish:

I know what you mean. Unlike most of what I've learned here (which can't be found in mainstream life for the most part) I kinda feel like I should know this history better than I do.

Maybe a la Homer Simpson I put too much leftist twaddle into by melon in my 20s and it squeezed the Reformation out entirely.

1/15/2010 12:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Petey said...

You know what they say: the only new thing in the world is the history you don't know.

1/15/2010 12:02:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I don't really care for JohnnyB's tone or attitude, but I have to agree with him that saying, if a man can be his own priest, he can next be god, doesn't follow.

The very first Pope, if you will, quotes Exodus and Isaiah in support of his assertion that we are a "royal priesthood" (1 Peter 2:9). The most authoritative surviving documents from the 1st century are those canonized as Scripture, and they show no evidence of a priestly caste. Paul enumerates the fivefold ministry of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher (fourfold, if you read it pastor-teacher), but only as light-bringers and guides. If you want to go back to the Law and the Prophets, consider the cry of Moses, "Oh, that all God's people were prophets." (Numbers 11:29).

I understand a world saturated with Deepaks and Obamas that you are sounding are warning. Still, I tend to think a person who understands his preistly role is the least likely to think of himself as God.

1/15/2010 12:06:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, the point is that the horizontalized man -- horizontalized due to the same nominalism that makes him his own priest -- can also result in him becoming his own God -- of assuming the other end of the polarity, so to speak.

In my view, man is indeed pontifical, spanning all of the vertical dimensions of being. But again, for the nominalists, there are no vertical degrees, only man and God, and ultimately only God if you remove man's free will. The question then reduces to, who is God, me or God? And if one doesn't believe in God, one is therefore God.

1/15/2010 12:24:00 PM  
Anonymous JohnnyB said...

Mushroom,
First: If THE article of our salvation is up for debate...Faith AND ???? and becomes Not just Faith, one has to wonder what other errors are being commited. Would you like to face God without Faith? Not a thing spoken of so lightly.
Second; I honestly invite Bob and anyone else to read St. Iranaeus (found online in .pdf format at about 1000 pages) for a very, very, very, clear picture of the first second and third century church. He was a disciple of Polycarp (martyred) who was a disciple of John the Apostle. He is responsible for the inclusion or canonization of the Four Gospels in the first and second centuries.
Far better authority then me......

1/15/2010 12:31:00 PM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

In the wake of Haiti various pundits have trotted out Voltaire's old poem as if on cue.

David Hart observes: Voltaire sees only the terrible truth that the actual history of suffering and death is not morally intelligible. Dostoevsky sees—and this bespeaks both his moral genius and his Christian view of reality—that it would be far more terrible if it were.

Speaking of Dostoevsky, has he ever been covered here in any detail? I can't seem to recall any posts to that effect...

1/15/2010 12:32:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

All priesthoods have hierarchies.

Johnny - it is Grace. Even faith is grace of God. The works are preordained, as Paul says, SO THAT WE MAY WALK IN THEM.

He who claims faith but has no works to make alive his faith has what? An interesting philosophy?

And in any case what does Christ mean when he says, "and he that endures to the end shall be saved"? And St. John says the same in Revelation.

1/15/2010 01:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Walter said...

Johnny, you're out of your element.

1/15/2010 01:13:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Johnny, you can read my bit about faith on yesterday's post, which Job apparently liked.

See Our Dear Leader's statement above, "if one doesn't believe in God, one is therefore God."

In other words, JohnnyB, "Faith? I got yer faith right here."

The B'ob and I are not arguing about the importance of faith. He's working through a whole series, and I'm just hanging out spouting whatever his light fires off in my neurons.

Think of it this way -- I used to have a Yamaha SR500 which was a big single. You could burn through twisty roads and lay it down in a corner until the pegs scraped.

But when my wife rode behind me, I had to slow way down in corners. The reason: I'd try to lean it over, and it freaked her out, so she'd lean the other way and try to pull us up. That's what I'm doing now on the back of Bob's vertical chopper.

1/15/2010 01:25:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

"That's what I'm doing now on the back of Bob's vertical chopper."

Veritcal chopper. I like that.
But the image of you two..
:-)

1/15/2010 02:07:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

Bob,
For the record, I haven't been offended yet.
But then again, my Catholic upbringing was pretty shallow. You just did what the guy next to you was doing. Why? Just because. I guess. Church 101. Be good, etc. If the people around me were more interior than that, they forgot to share it with me.
I don't blame them, however. Someone probably forgot to tell them. And so on..
Anyways, what Walt #1 said.
Personally, I find the people closest to Christ (historically), the first Christians (or whatever they're called, or called themselves[not just the disciples]) the most magnetic. I suppose that's nothing new, nor my point.

1/15/2010 02:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anne H. said...

You're right, Rick, it's a little disturbing. But then, so is picturing you as Anne Hecht.

I know, pretend I'm Anne Hecht.

1/15/2010 02:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Thom said...

Nice usage of the word "balderdash", Warren. : )

Warren is correct to say that the Church has never officially taught such a thing; that man had no intrinsic worth or dignity. In fact, there were battles against such heresies, if I remember correctly.

Secondly, the Church has never forgotten that we are made in the image and likeness of God. To do so would to deny Holy Scripture itself, namely Genesis 5:3.

Other than that, carry on lad. Enjoying the series. Interesting to see the comments lit up like a Christmas tree these days, as well.

1/15/2010 03:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Thom said...

Jansenism

1/15/2010 03:15:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Mushroom said "...if a man can be his own priest, he can next be god, doesn't follow."

From the view of someone without a dog in the fight, try looking at it this way.

A Supreme Court Justice who is familiar not only with the Constitution, but the concepts of classical liberalism and natural law which it developed from, is in next to nil danger of using his judgments to legislate from the bench.

A Supreme Court Justice who knows the text of the the Constitution, but dismisses the concepts of classical liberalism and natural law which it developed from, is dangerously close to becoming his own legislator through his judgments from the bench. Constitutional nihilism soon follows.

Does that apply? Seems to from here, but what do I know.

"Still, I tend to think a person who understands his priestly role is the least likely to think of himself as God."

Depends on the meaning of priestly he deem priestly to mean... and that depends on how well he understands, not recites, but understands, his scriptural material, and that may be strongly affected by how familiar he is with what past masters of the material said about it - and that brings you right back to the initial question, P or C, you began with... hopefully with more questions (NOT doubt, questions).

But then of course, not being aligned with either side, you should always take whatever I have to say on the subject with a grain of psalter.

ahem.

1/15/2010 03:22:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"Atheists are not necessarily bad people, but an atheistic culture that has lost contact with its spiritual source will eventually descend into evil. And a culture that reduces man to a worthless sinner will also tend in that direction. (Please also note the similarity with leftist doctrines that are so contemptuous of the individual, who can only be saved by the anointed elites who run the god-state.) "

I've been chomping at the bit, but other than my comment to Mushroom, have tried to stay out of it... but there is far more than mere 'similarity with leftist doctrines ', but the issues you raise, predestinatin, etc, has much more than a similarity to the Determinism vs Free Will battle lines in philosophy, and with much the same source, Nominalism and its mirror images.

1/15/2010 03:35:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

predestinatin?

Before aluminum recycling was possible.



sheesh.

wv:unred
I wish.

1/15/2010 03:40:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"Speaking of which, there is no question that America's founders were animated by just this type of Christianity, one that very much focuses on the ancient virtues of honor, wisdom, courage, temperance, justice, and disinterested knowledge."

Definitely. Back when I was a know-it-all Objectivist, I set out to prove to a religious friend (hmmm... Catholic, btw) that the Founders were mostly Deists or under cover Atheists... boy was I ever in for a surprise... one that turned out to be very positive for me however, because through their statements, writing, letters, etc, I discovered a type of religious person I'd never encountered before.

Very I opening, and put me on the road to changing from a know-it-all Objectivist, to a gno-it-all Raccoon.

"I also happen to be reading the outstanding Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815, and when you read about the majestic honor and dignity of, say, George Washington, it seriously makes you want to weep for your country. The men who formed America were Christian humanists par excellence."

I've got a couple of his (Gordon Wood) books, and have been itching to get that... a bit of sticker shock on it though, I'll have to wait for the paperback version. Btw, He gave a talk on BookTV on Empire of Liberty, that was quite good.

1/15/2010 03:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Raccons may very well savor the writing of Benjamin Franklin. He seems to have been just the kind of Christian Humanist Bob speaks of here.

He advocated productive labor, advocated "venery in moderation" (gad I love that) and of course, "a penny saved is a penny earned."

Great stuff here Bob. Gad, why am I a troll? Why must I criticize? Is the stepmother evil, or do his children have something to do with it?

So I've got to throw the stinkbomb or it will explode in my hand.

I waited too long. I need to go take a shower.

1/15/2010 04:36:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Van, as I said, I'm only reacting to what is exposed in my own thinking. You might say I'm playing the Devil's Fundie -- which may be an actual position -- I'm not sure.

However, I would say judge who thinks he's legislator is neither a judge nor a legislator. He's a tyrant.

A priest who thinks he's a god is also neither.

The function and purpose of both judge and priest is as a mediator. Obviously, one cannot mediate with a party of one. The judge mediates between law and man, the priest between God and man.

I agree with you about the kind of judge we'd like to have, but, right now, I'd happily settle for a judge that knew nothing BUT the Constitution and considered it the supreme law of the land.

I think that's the point that JohnnyB, Job, and I are making. Socrates, Aquinas, Boethius, et al, are valuable, no doubt. But they are not essential. There is no virtue in ignorance, but, apart from faith, there's no virtue in anything.

It's easy to say that Jesus didn't write the NT. But we know nothing of what He said apart from the NT record. Therefore, if you're going quote Jesus, you're going to rely on the record. Off the top of my head, from the entirely of the Old and New Testaments, I can think of a single passage in Isaiah where God says, "Come let us reason together." Mostly He says, Believe in Me.

Jesus does not require reason. He requires faith.

But again, I think we are arguing prematurely.

1/15/2010 06:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Thom said...

"You might say I'm playing the Devil's Fundie"

Don't you mean, the Devil's Fungii?

On your last point, Mushroom, although true that Jesus requires our faith, in many instances he appealed to people's reason, some of who were trying to safeguard their faith in the letter of the Law, ie, who among you wouldn't rescue your sheep on the Sabbath?

1/15/2010 06:33:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

The Devil's Fungii -- that's good.

Yep, I agree. I'm not arguing against the value of reason, either to bring someone to faith -- as happened to me, or as you point out, to get people out of bad theology.

1/15/2010 06:57:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Mushroom,

I hope you, Susannah and all else don't think I'm jabbing at one side or the other, I'm just curious and looking at how the sides look at the ideas involved. I don't normally enter on debates directly about faith, except as it affects the philosophical ideas... and I really have no understanding of the Protestant/Catholic divide, I mean I know the history pretty well, but speaking from the outside, it's always seemed as pointless as any other family rift I've ever seen.

"However, I would say judge who thinks he's legislator is neither a judge nor a legislator. He's a tyrant.
... The function and purpose of both judge and priest is as a mediator. Obviously, one cannot mediate with a party of one. The judge mediates between law and man, the priest between God and man."

Very true, and I've seen many a person who I thought ruled their own lives as tyrants... and what is the irresponsible, self indulgent git, but a tyrant? Does it matter that they've no other citizenry but themselves (hopefully) to oppress? I've also seen people who seemingly approached, and applied, their idea of their faith to their own lives as tyrannically as any theocrat or mullah might... and a bit more mediation... a bit more general knowledge or self knowledge, could be a great benefit to them and their faith.

And of course mediators can often help a person see what was right in front of their faces all along, but missed... and especially as regards a person not given to introspection, I can't help but think that a priest could help a person discover more about their faith than they would on their own, and again, the more knowledgeable the priest, the more potential they'd have for aiding the person in deepening their understanding of their faith and its relation to their lives. And I can't help but thinking that the more knowledgeable the person has to begin with themselves, such as through catechisms', etc, the better off they would potentially be.

1/15/2010 08:19:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Mushroom said "Socrates, Aquinas, Boethius, et al, are valuable, no doubt. But they are not essential. There is no virtue in ignorance, but, apart from faith, there's no virtue in anything."

Are Socrates, Aquinas, Boethius, et al essential? Well... No. Potentially... highly probably... more likely to enhance rather than obstruct? I'd say so. Is there virtue in shunning such knowledge, or in banishing rituals and pageantry, which might offer a deeper connection to and understanding of the faith you so value? Hard to see it.

Now the flipside I suppose is, and what I hear is maybe even common among Catholics, is either being dulled to that additional knowledge through the 'I hate school' effect, by which they might never have understood how any of it was relevant to their lives; or in reducing such knowledge to a mere retention of various facts, trivia and memorized motions, and thinking such textual perversion was just as good as true faith, I could see that as a problem. ... but then I've seen that in protestant friends too... so... again, from my view on the outside... looks like a family rift carefully maintained by the bickering family members, accomplishing nothing, and certainly non-essential to their actual faith.

Are Socrates, Aquinas, Boethius, et al essential to your personal faith? No, I suppose not.

Are manners essential to your faith? Math? History? Might all of those enable you to enlarge your life and enhance it's value? I think so, and I can't see how they'd be a detriment to a person's faith, and would probably enable a person to get more out of their faith than they could without them. The more that a person approaches and examines their life, through the mediation of likes of Socrates, Aquinas, Boethius, et al... I personally think lives and their faith would likely be enriched, and I've heard of more than a few people who felt that the absence of such thinkers from their lives would have been a huge impoverishment and would even have hindered them from delving into the deepest reaches of their faith... folks like Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, etc, and I've no doubt there are many, many more who'd say the same from the Protestant or Catholic side.

Which I suppose is all to say, I don't get your guys annoyance with each other. I can completely see how one person would prefer one approach to the other, but antagonism - apart from those who like to pretend they have a personal connection to the bad dealings of centuries past - I don't get.

Which, again, probably has more than a bit to do with my not having a dog in the fight.

Hope I didn't offend anyone, I much prefer doing that intentionally.

1/15/2010 08:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great discussion Bob.....I don't often completely agree with you, but this time your analysis of what Christianity can be and really is finally made me understand what you are up to.....Thanks!

1/15/2010 10:40:00 PM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

Anonymous 10:40

Proof that not all anons are trolls. Glad you're starting to understand what the rest of us have for some time: this is a rare gem of a site, and you're not required to agree with B'observations (however if you become a raccoon you are required to put Dupree up on your sofa for at least one night per year when Bob kicks him out yet again for raiding the liquor cabinet).

1/16/2010 04:45:00 AM  
Blogger Susannah said...

"How do we know what we take to be divine inspiration behind our reading is not in fact the subliminal urgings of our passions and desires?"

Might I suggest, by the testimony of the Holy Spirit that resides within us?

Bob, do you not recognize a distinction between justification and sanctification?

1/16/2010 04:18:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes I do. But for Luther, there wouldn't be much practical difference, since we have no free will and cannot participate in sanctification from our end of things. Rather, it's all done through the Holy Spirit.

I certainly agree that the Holy Spirit is central, but I also believe that it is for us to surrender to its influence, and to actively participate in purification, illumination, aspiration, rejection of darkness and falsity, etc. I believe there's a lot we can do, whereas Luther insists that there is nothing we can do.

To be sure, we can do nothing without the Holy Spirit, but -- in a manner of speaking of course, since in God all things are possible -- it is as if it is the necessary condition, whereas our own will is the sufficient condition. This more or less corresponds to the upward and downward symbols I use.

1/16/2010 04:35:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

Well, I'll admit I have no idea if the assertions about Luther's theology are true. My understanding is that the Church in general (from the beginning) has always acknowledged this distinction, and that it carried through into the Reformation. I do know that I consider Calvin's teachings mistaken on the issue of predestination. So perhaps any intellectual assent to the distinction is overridden by the practical outworkings of the doctrine of predestination...

1/16/2010 04:48:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

I should probably just buy Gillespie's book and find out for myself! LOL! Sadly, I don't have a book budget, though, and have more than enough I already ought to be reading here...

1/16/2010 04:50:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

Sorry for the interruption, but this mini thread and today’s post again reminds me of some passages in the OT that I can’t get my arms around. They take place in and around Exodus 10. God repeatedly “hardens Pharaoh’s heart” and I believe Pharaoh also hardens his own heart. The more time I spend with the Bible the more of it makes sense to me. In other words, the things that once seemed like paradox I almost don’t even recognize as such anymore. But the idea of God hardening Pharaoh’s heart, I can’t seem to penetrate. On the surface it seems to support Luther’s argument, or even the Greeks view of what the Gods like to do. But of course, it’s just this and maybe a few other incidents, so maybe it doesn’t “completely” support Luther, which is your point, Bob about both the up and down arrows are necessary.
Have you run across any exegesis specific to these passages, Bob?…or anyone?

1/16/2010 05:07:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

I've read quite a bit of commentary on both sides of the issue, Ricky, but I fear I am not the person to summarize it! I leave it to my betters...

1/16/2010 05:20:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

Thanks, Susannah.
The other one that comes to mind, but doesn’t puzzle me anymore, but did quite a bit once. Was how Moses at another time seems to successfully talk God out of a decision.
I'll bet you know which one I'm talking about. I'm fairly new to the Bible (as a serious student).

1/16/2010 05:25:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

River said:
“He who claims faith but has no works to make alive his faith has what? An interesting philosophy?”

River, how does the Orthodox teaching (praxis?) define “works”? Not necessarily with “examples”, if that’s even a way to do it, but the way it’s defined.
If you don’t mind, that is.
Thank you.
RR

1/16/2010 05:27:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Re Exodus 10 --

According to my Orthodox Bible commentary, it is simply a way of saying that God permitted, but did not cause, Pharoah's heart to be hardened. Pharoah hardened his own damn heart.

Either that, or God gave Pharoah atherosclerosis.

1/16/2010 05:38:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

Bob,
My NRSV has Exodus 10:1 translated this way:
"Then the Lord said to Moses, "Go to Pharaoh; for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his officials..."
There are other passages that say Pharaoh hardened his own heart.

I'm certain my problem (which is too strong a word for my feelings) is a failing of my own understanding.

1/16/2010 05:46:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

Bob,
I picked up a compilation CD set called The Essential Stevie Ray and Double Trouble. Never heard “Riviera Paradise” and a few of others. Anyways, I’m calling it the NSRV version. Starting today.

1/16/2010 05:58:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

That's probably the best collection, excluding the box set. It takes the best tracks from the four albums, throws in some live tracks, and tosses in a couple he did with his brother...

1/16/2010 06:11:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

I suspect it has something to do with the process described in Romans 1: being "given over" to what you wanted in the first place, and becoming "futile" in thinking, debased. Careful what you wish for...

1/16/2010 06:12:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

I wonder who is on the electric piano on "paradise"? Is it SRV? I'm not sure there is any guitar when/behind the piano.
I actually don't have the CDs, I downloaded it on iTunes..

1/16/2010 06:18:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

Oh, I see it must be Reese Wynans.

1/16/2010 06:23:00 PM  

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