Friday, June 25, 2010

I Am Not Him, Therefore God Is

Pieper says that of the two -- presumption and despair -- the former is less opposed to hope, for it is only a false similitude, or "fraudulent imitation," as opposed to a true antitype. In the same way, childishness and infantility are fraudulent imitations of the holy innocence of childhood, whereas its true antitype would be old age, or senility, or Larry King.

If one is a true and consistent existentialist/materialist/atheist, then neither hope nor presumption should ever enter the picture. Presumptuousness, yes, in that that adjective obviously applies to anyone who imagines himself to have understood the vast realm of spirit sufficiently to categorically reject it.

In ether worlds, it's more than a little presumptuous for a horizontal man to reject the vertical on the basis of the fact that this is what horizontal men do. It's analogous to rejecting things that children cannot understand, or a cat insisting that lettuce has no nutritional value.

The materialist is committed to the belief that the horizontal world is sufficient to account for man's origin, destiny, purpose, and cognitive abilities, which correspond to chance, nowhere, nothing, and accident, respectively. The only thing the troll can know with certainty is that he knows nothing, which is one of our rare points of agreement.

To say that man is "ordered to God" is one of those things that is fraught with potential misunderstandings, which is again why I prefer to use the empty symbols, or pneumaticons, in this case, O and (¶).

On the surface, it can sound tautological to say that if God didn't exist, we couldn't conceive of him. But it means much more than that, for what it is really saying is that the astonishing fact of the human subject, with all of its marvelous abilities, must have a sufficient reason, a cause proportionate to it.

As I mentioned in the wooly Coonifesto and would still weave today, man is by an order of magnitude the most astonishing fact of the cosmos. Not only is this something we should all be able to agree upon, but I believe it should be the starting point of any coherent philosophy, not just a bizarre and unexpected afterthought that defies explanation and is therefore explained away. You could even say that "Man is, therefore I AM," but that would be getting ahead of ourselves.

To say that man is the "image and likeness" of O is simply to affirm that he is in some sense proportionate to the ultimate Principle of the cosmos. Interestingly, this is something that the materialist/atheist/Darwinist not only believes, but insists, i.e., that man is capable of pronouncing on his own ultimate meaning(lessness). For to say, for example, that man is a result of random genetic mutations is still to affirm that the mind of man is proportioned to reality.

The problem is, Darwinism obviously cannot explain its own intrinsic exceptions, the biggest one being man's adequation to truth. No mere animal has anything approximating this, which is why the gulf between animal and man is infinite if considered from the bottom up -- for the same reason that the gap between Ø and O is infinite from the perspective of Ø.

However, if looked at from the top down, it is both understandable and even somewhat expected -- again, for the same reason that, viewed from the top down, Ø is simply the "further reaches," so to speak, of O, like rays from the sun.

This is by no means to suggest that man was "inevitable," which would be another form of presumption, plus it would deny the creative freedom of O. It simply means that since it is in the nature of the sovereign good to create, we shouldn't be all that surprised that he should create something as magnificent as man. Astonished, yes, but not surprised.

And this would also account for our disappointment in that habitual underachiever, Homo sapiens. In contrast, the Darwinian or secular humanist has no grounds whatsoever for being disappointed in man. For him, the mystery is why man should be anything other than a mindless animal seeking food, sex, and tenure.

Anyway, back to Pieper. He points out that the problem with presumption is that it engenders a "perverted attitude toward the fact that eternal life is the meaning and goal" of our terrestrial adventure. Again, man is only proportioned to O. He is not O.

But presumption fails to honor this distinction, and therefore "fails to accept the reality of the futurity and 'arduousness' that characterize" our journey in and toward O. It manifests in the attitude, for example, of those arrogant bumper snickers that say CHRISTIANS AREN'T PERFECT, JUST FORGIVEN, or something like that. I wouldn't be so sure about that, pilgrim. You are of course permitted to hope for salvation, but to simply assume it is the height of presumption. It is also to appoint oneself judge and jury over one's own case. It is a recipe for mischief, since you can essentially do whatever you want in this life, knowing that in the end you've got a get-out-of-hell-free card.

Presumption really detaches itself from O and thereby "destroys supernatural hope" by not acknowledging the transitional nature of life in the herebelow. Therefore, it regards "eternal life as something that is 'basically' already achieved, as something that is 'in principle' already given.'" No wonder such people are so boring.

Pieper adds that it is also a type of heresy, but I would expand upon this to say that it is one of those intellectual heresies that isn't only specific to Christianity, but to thought as such, for it ultimately means that in one way or another, one is collapsing that generative and transitional space between man and O, which is man's true habitat. This is why both the concrete atheist and the presumptuous theist are so tedious, for they are just mirrors of one another.

Interestingly, Pieper also touches on how liberal theology transfers the gap between man and O through activism, as if by stealing enough of one man's property and giving it to another, they can create the kingdom of heaven on earth, the old hate-and-switch "immamentization of the eschaton" routine, as Voegelin put it.

The cosmic truth of the matter -- or so we have heard from the wise -- is that neither grace nor aspiration, ↓ and ↑, are sufficient, only ↓↑. And I wish I could depict those arrows in a kind of open, upward spiral, because that would be more accurate. More like the image at the right, whereby the field created by the arrows is a kind of hologram. (And note how the point at the top is none other than ʘ.)

You could even create a pithy bumper sticker to reflect this truth, say, BELIEVERS AREN'T PERFECT, THAT'S HOW WE KNOW THERE'S A GOD, or I DON'T KNOW EVERYTHING, THATS HOW I KNOW TRUTH EXISTS.


black hole said...

I enjoyed every word of your post. Your ability to create these essays each morning is a marvel. I read every day religiously.

I now understand that the gap between us and 0 is where we should focus our attention.

To presume salvation, or presume non-salvation, are both equally dead ends.

BTW saw a malevolent bumper sticker: "So Many Christians, so Few Lions."

That is wrong on so many levels.

Van said...

bh said "... I now understand that the gap between us and 0 is where we should focus our attenti..."

Ya know, there always seems to be a whiff of the spammer to bh/grunts praise comments, you know, the,

'Congratulate on interesting very blog. I so much agree!
Please to come my site, much interesting girls to see and discuss. Thanks for interesting and keep it up!'

Wrong on so many levels.

Or maybe it's just me. Anyway, back to putting the horse before the cart and on to reading.

Susannah said...

"neither grace nor aspiration, ↓ and ↑, are sufficient, only ↓↑"

Bob, in theology justification (by grace alone, through Christ) and sanctification (learning to walk in submission to God) are generally viewed as separate works. How do you conceive their interaction?

Susannah said...

Okay, never mind, that opens a HUGE theological can o' worms. LOL!

Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, exactly. Probably fair to say that ↓ is a necessary condition (a condition without which), while ↑ is a sufficient condition (a condition with which).

Magnus Itland said...

I think of it like this: Even if I get into Heaven for free, how well will I fit in there? Assuming that my mind is transparent like clear glass, so my every thought and feeling is easily readable.

Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, you'd have to be embarrassed forever!

Van said...

“... it is one of those intellectual heresies that isn't only specific to Christianity, but to thought as such, for it ultimately means that in one way or another, one is collapsing that generative and transitional space between man and O, which is man's true habitat. This is why both the concrete atheist and the presumptuous theist are so tedious, for they are just mirrors of one another.”

It’s also common to the common presumption of ‘common sense’.

True common sense flows from deep knowledge and experience in an area, which makes decisions about it simple and intuitive, and doubting them would be counter to Common Sense.

But the common presumption of ‘common sense’ is taken from the merest thin skin of appearances, and the need to go beyond step one isn’t even given a second thought, after all, the answer appears so obvious that it’s just ‘common sense’.

Cue the trolls for relevant demo’s.

Just follow the golden thread....

julie said...

In which case, it wouldn't be much of a heavenly experience at all.

julie said...

(My previous comment was referring to being "embarrassed forever;" Van sneaked one past me...)

Van said...


Heh, I like it.

Northern Bandit said...

This is a naive question, but how do we square the idea that we should not presume we are saved with the crystal clear language in, say, John 3:16?

Tod said...

RE: "...the crystal clear language in...John 3:16"

I suppose I would start with the "whosoever believeth in him" part, which seems open to interpretation.

Northern Bandit said...

which seems open to interpretation

I'm not disagreeing necessarily, however it seems that we risk turning the primary message of the Bible into some sort of deconstructivist "it's all relative" free for all if we're not careful.

The bible was produced so that it could be understood by illiterate 2nd century shepherds as well as the 21st century tenured (although I'm not so sure about the latter...). I just get uncomfortable when I sense that you have to possess some special knowledge or ability to grok Jesus' message.

Northern Bandit said...

Again, I'm not being confrontational here. I'm having a problem understanding today's post and am looking for clarification is all.

Rick said...

I think I may have answered your question for me yesterday:

"It is something that occurred to me recently. How can one know exactly what Jesus means when he says x? You can't know exactly of course, but you can only know better by listening to everything He said. All the Word is the context."

Rick said...

“For him, the mystery is why man should be anything other than a mindless animal seeking food, sex, and tenure.”

Wait-a-minute, isn’t tenure really just free food and sex?

Tod said...


>I'm having a problem
>understanding today's post
>and am looking for clarification
>is all.

I'm with you. I like the question because it addresses something that always bothered me about 'believing in Jesus' as I tried to understand it, which in my life went something like this:

You have a 'conversion' experience where a friend helps you 'accept Jesus' and after that you 'believe' in Him.

Surely this can't be all there is to it unless you apply yourself somehow.

black hole said...


BH's praise of Bob is sincere. Bob is, aside any differences I may have with him, an outstanding writer.

He consistently both informs and entertains, no easy feat.

My sincere praise for you, Van, is that you are well-informed and enthusiastic. I sense you like debate and I appreciate that quality. A question, are you actually singer Van Morrison?

I'm aware you don't trust me. And you shouldn't. I can turn on you in a millisecond.

NB: You can only Grok as much of Jesus as you are able. He meets all people on their own level. This is because he uses parables which contain multi-level meaning.

Rick: Regarding tenure. Yes.

Magnus Itland said...

A lot of people who "believe in Jesus" don't believe Jesus, which is kind of counterintuitive. If Jesus is more awesome than me, holding sharply different opinions on important topics is likely to cause trouble. Not trouble as in angry Jesus smash, but trouble as in us stepping in marked minefields.

julie said...

NB, I have a couple thoughts on this. YMMV, of course.

In part, I think it goes back to the idea someone posited here a couple years back (I forget who; Susannah, maybe?) of Faith as a verb. That is, it's not some static thing which one either has or does not have; rather, it is something one must do. Just so, Communion, for instance, is not static; it is as much a living process as breathing, and the point at which one ceases to do either is the point at which one begins to die.

As to the believing part, to believe is also a verb, no? And for anyone making this journey, do we really think we've properly begun, much less reached our deustination? The one thing of which I've become quite certain in recent years is that not only can I not presume to know the heart of any other person, I can't even presume to know my own, certainly not the way I used to think I did.

It would be simple to pay lip service to belief, and it is just as simple to convince oneself that (no, really!) one believes. But when push comes to shove and that still small voice says "Trust Me," how many of us really do? How deep does our "belief" really go?

Can you say, without a shadow of a doubt, that you have reached that point? As to meeting us where we are, in some ways being a simpler person, a more childlike person, makes it easier. Do you remember being so innocent? I do. I can't honestly say that I'm anything close to that, now.

Ultimately, it is presumptuous for any of us to say of ourselves, "Well, I've made it. I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it Jesus loves me!" We are not the arbiters of our own deustination. We simply know that there is something we must do. Is once really enough?

julie said...

Or put another way, in the parable of the workers in the field, the guys who came early didn't show up, put in a few minutes' work, then wander off expecting to return later and still get paid. The point was that one had to be present, do some work for however long one was there, and stick around until the day was done and the foreman was handing out the coin.

Tigtog said...

To NB and Tod

Believing is the easy part. Living up to the message is a ball breaker. Julie, is right, faith is a verb. As such it must be exercised everyday. And Grant is correct, we will be naked and transparent in both heaven and hell.

Mizz E said...

"You are of course permitted to hope for salvation, but to simply assume it is the height of presumption. It is also to appoint oneself judge and jury over one's own case." And one's fellow tenured and wannabe tenured pilgrims.

Kitschy kitchy ya ya ya.

Gagdad Bob said...

Just read a relevant passage in a completely unrelated book:

"There's the story about a Catholic priest who takes up an Anglican friend's request to spend a couple of days reading the Book of Common Prayer, and then reports back, 'You left in all the pretty parts and took out all the hard parts.'"

(It was in the context of making a point about how the left lives in a world where there are only benefits, no costs, to their programs.)

Northern Bandit said...

Julie, Tigtog, Tod et al:

Excellent points and just the clarification I was looking for. I expect there are even more subtleties to Pieper's notion of hope that will emerge as we move forward.

As for the verb aspect, when I was in Rome last December I remember seeing all the young Christians from all over the world. They were so transparently full of faith and joy -- especially the African kids, it seemed. At least in my own case I have to be careful not to overthink things, and to instead walk with Christ.

Dianne said...

I made a pretty presumptive statement in one of the recent threads.

To JWM that it's easy to forget the struggle once you're there. I didn't mean that I'm completely there and now I can stop trying. Only that I've worried over it and let fear rule my life.

It's hard to explain. I know I don't know everything and never will, and that it's important to keep learning and striving. But, now I just do it with much less fear because I think I have at least a rudimentary understanding based on study, contemplation, experiences and encounters, and I'm not afraid of God or life anymore.

Susannah said...

Mizz E, thanks for the link. I noticed one of hubby's colleagues is a contributor there! The internet makes for a small world.

I'll think out loud re: belief with everyone else.

A large part of believing is, I think, stepping out of the boat, so to speak, and then experiencing God's very real, manifest enabling. (As in, you *know* it can't be you holding you up on the water.) Abraham, for example, believed, and it was "credited" to him as righteousness. Now, he was as fraught with weakness and failure and cowardice as the rest of us; he was hardly righteous. But he trusted God (yes, in a childlike way) enough to step out of Haran and go, and God did the rest (whenever Abraham didn't get scared and seize up and start ineptly taking matters into his own hands, that is).

Yet, even the faith comes from God as a gift. We don't get it any other way. It's as if it comes right with the calling--"Step out of the boat"-- and then the Holy Spirit literally en-courages us and we can do what we couldn't on our own. There's just something about that Voice that animates, "quickens" us.

I believe the scriptures are not being metaphorical when they talk about our being brought from death to life when we are reconciled to God in Christ. Something *literally* happens in our spirit, and we are *literally* a new spiritual creation. Suddenly, the old things, the old identity, have passed away. The new identity is now "hid in Christ." We can hold on to that; we can believe it.

Though faith is a gift of God, we do have to put ourselves in a position to receive (humility, hands open, turning away from our little mud puddle of sin, turning toward his ocean of love). Anybody can choose put himself in the right position to receive, but very few ever cultivate the hunger and thirst for God.

Suffice it to say that repeating a few words in a sinner's prayer may or may not be that "stepping out of the boat." Many times it is (according to testimonies I've heard), and just as many times it probably isn't. As Julie said so eloquently, "The one thing of which I've become quite certain in recent years is that not only can I not presume to know the heart of any other person, I can't even presume to know my own, certainly not the way I used to think I did."

But we can trust the one who knows our hearts fully to be faithful to complete the work he begins, and out part is just to keep on walking in step with the Spirit, keeping both eyes on the prize, enduring to the end (when we "fall in his arms at the finish line").

black hole said...

Magnus, I hear what you are saying about "Marked minefields."

If you want to diverge from Jesus, or hold opinions in contradiction to his teaching, you had better have a good rationale. And check it twice.

Or otherwise, you are in a minefield. Any minute...kaboom.

The upshot of this is Jesus should be studied very, very carefully. We can assume his teachings are unerring and form the master blueprint for a life properly lived.

The part about giving up all one's possessions is probably a mine; I can't seem to conform to the teaching in a complete way and that's a problem.

Kaboom. I can smell it coming.

Dianne said...

Susannah - that was beautiful. :)

Mizz E said...

Susannah, So you're familiar with the FPR, good. If you haven't yet read John Wilson's "Why I Am A Conservative", I highly recommend it. He's of the old fashion school, i.e. doesn't tolerate BS.

julie said...

Bob, I like that quote. It could be said of much of pop culture Christianity as well, at least what I've seen.

Susannah - what Dianne said™

Susannah said...

"The upshot of this is Jesus should be studied very, very carefully. We can assume his teachings are unerring and form the master blueprint for a life properly lived."

I can't seem to gauge the sincerity here, but I'll give my honest response.

Something that's been coming home to me lately is that being filled with the Spirit is essential to walking with the Lord. God can do more in our lives in a minute through his power than we could ever do flailing around under our own pathetic meagerness, trying to live up to a set of "teachings" or "rules."

Jesus' teachings are there to show us what God is like, and why we must be like Him, and how we are not.

The sad part of our story is, apart from his Spirit, we really can't be like him. We're "like sheep without a shepherd," pretty much stupid, heedless wolf-bait on our own.

Unlike the rest of us who view everything from the outside, and most of the time try to give a *presumptuous* one-size-fits-all prescription--our Lord can see from the inside out. He could see the heart of the rich fellow he was addressing, in your example. The Spirit knew exactly what area to target in that fellow's life. The Voice was calling, "Step out of the boat." One trembling step, and the Spirit would have empowered...but he quailed and drew back.

The real question is, not can you live up to all the rules you derive, unwisely, from his teachings (I'm telling you right now, you can't), but are you willing to lay it bare and receive God's prescription for your problem?

ge said...

well for no reason [full moon?]
i happened on a chilean death metal band's site and checked 'em out: either hilarious or scary probably the latter [i'll report any nightmares] question is: who or what do they hate so? whence such wrath? Chris Matthews? Hip-hop?? Madonna?
+ how-why do they make their voices sound so horrorshow demonic?
what's that drum sound? 5 Linn bass drums set at fastest?

Oh my!

wv: behipped

Van said...

bh said "A question, are you actually singer Van Morrison?"

Yes. Please see to it that my bank account finds it's way back to me. I seem to have misplaced it somewhere.

"This is because he uses parables which contain multi-level meaning."

I really hate the appearance of agreement with the likes of bh, but NB, I think that there is much truth in that. Jesus spoke in parables, or to put it another way, he spun the poetic fire into forms that can be passed to any of the remnant of Babel and be fully understood in their language, almost despite the translation used.

When they are reassembled, no matter how clumsily, the who is transmitted. Where we need to be careful, where we need specialized (that's not quite the right word... deeply informed?) knowledge, is when we do look to particular words and phrases in them, it is important to refer back to the whole of which they are a part, in order to find their meaning.

Magnus Itland said...

A fascinating aspect of vertical space is that as you move upward (or inward), space opens up. From the ground, it looks like a pyramid, getting smaller and smaller, but when you are actually there, it just expands and expands.

In a way it certainly looks like the goal is receding faster the more we move forward. But that just means we can cover a larger distance, that we did not even know about.

If we have reached our highest aspiration, something is terribly wrong with our aspiration.

Tigtog said...

To GE re: Chilean Metal Rock

I couldn't stand more than 30 seconds. What's with the cheesy organ?

Rock is clearly dead. I blame Elton John and Madonna.

Dianne said...

There are no "multi-level" meanings in Jesus' parables. I've found that he means what he says.

It's up to us to seek to understand it. There's only one meaning.

Magnus Itland said...

The rich young man who came to Jesus was pretty sure he had reached his goal, but somehow he had not arrived where he had expected, in the place where he could have true happiness.

Susannah said...

The NT goes on to clarify what we see lived out in the gospels...that it's not merely the *teachings* of Christ (though they, and indeed he himself, show us the Father), but Christ himself, in whom we must believe. As he said, "I am the Door...I am the Bread of Life...I am the Good Shepherd..." etc.

The teachings are best taken internally, dosed properly by the Helper and Comforter he promised you.

Magnus Itland said...

Indeed, Susannah, the "unpacking" of Jesus that we see in the New Testament has continued since, and it still goes on today. The Spirit has not yet ended His work, and we have not eaten the last of the Bread of Life. Like a river that grows the more who drink of it, like a light that shines brighter the more times it is reflected, it is a miracle. It follows the laws of a higher dimension, and cannot be exhausted in a lower, any more than a map can fully describe the terrain until it becomes one with it.

julie said...

"how-why do they make their voices sound so horrorshow demonic?"

Cookie Monster. (If you're easily offended by childhood icons saying naughty words, don't click)

Susannah said...

Just wanted to come back and clarify that I'm not trying to be glib about inviting the Lord's prescription, but know how scary that can be. :/

julie said...

Atheists Don't Have No Songs

Note the raccoon looking on in the background...

ge said...

so i didnt get nightmares from the Chilean Death Metal unless the President's presence must be counted---actually he appeared up close and more warmly human than i tend to credit him with, and even performed a virtuosic piece on a large harp-dulcimer type instrument! then Michelle helped some opposing family get a property my peeps were scheduled to...

who, me? said...

"[by presumption] one is collapsing that generative and transitional space between man and O, which is man's true habitat."

Wow. The beauty of Winnicott taken to the Highest Power. Relational, and convivial. O yes.

RegretTheSin said...

Hebrews 6:4-6

James 2:14-18

2 Peter 2:18-22

Philippians 3:7-16

Exodus 32:31-33

2 Timothy 4:3-8