Thursday, October 17, 2013

Power, Truth, Freedom, and Proof that Liberals Don't Exist

Dennis Prager often says that he prefers clarity to disagreement. In other words, rather than arguing per se, it's more productive and less threatening to simply express one's position as clearly and dispassionately as possible, without dissembling, prevarication, evasion, logical fallacies, and other tricks of the tenured.

At the same time, when he has a fundamental disagreement with a guest or caller, he says that, just as he acknowledges the weaknesses or problems entailed in his position, they should have the intellectual honesty to acknowledge those in theirs.

For example, I will acknowledge that liberty has its downside, in that it requires a mature and responsible citizenry, and who wants to grow up if he doesn't have to? But liberals refuse to acknowledge the problems resulting from a massive and intrusive state that provides "security" while inducing passivity, immaturity, and a sense of entitlement in its beneficiaries.

I think we can apply Prager's two principles to our venture into process theology. That is to say, I am happy to acknowledge any difficulties that arise from a point of view that seems to limit divine omnipotence and omniscience (as conventionally understood).

But a person holding the traditional view needs to be honest about the insoluble problems to which it gives rise, most notoriously, the problem of evil (and that is far from the only one). Try as you might, so long as God has the power to mitigate evil, then he is complicit.

This is ironic, in that Christianity, unique among the religions, seems to convey exactly the opposite lesson -- i.e., that even God himself is subject to great evil.

For me, one of the most shocking implications of the Incarnation is that God submits to his own creation -- to history, to human nature, to suffering, and to cosmic injustice. This is unlike any other notion of God, either before or since. And clearly, the apostles had a great deal of difficulty wrapping their minds around it. I mean, what is the point if your god can't just go all Chicago on his enemies, like, say Allah or Obama?

If memory serves, there are some illuminating passages that touch on these questions in chapter four of Meditations on the Tarot, The Emperor. Let's see if we can pull out some relevant nuggets.

First of all, our Unknown Friend emphasizes that God governs by authority and not by force -- force in this context being synonymous with necessity. If God is omnipotent in the traditional sense, then everything ultimately reduces to force and therefore necessity.

But for UF, "Compulsion is only an expedient in which one takes recourse to remedy a lack of authority." Thus, the Emperor "does not have a sword or any other weapon. He rules by means of the sceptre, and by the sceptre alone."

Divine authority only reaches through to the person through a love of the good. It seems that this is the lesson God wishes for us to internalize, for "omnipotent force" doesn't turn out well, neither on heaven nor on earth.

After all, the most successful nation on earth has also been the most free of compulsion (at least BOE, Before the Obama Era) and most oriented to the God of freedom, whereas the most cruel and oppressive ones have been rooted in omnipotent force -- and not only the secular ones. For example, the compulsion of sharia mirrors the force of Allah; as above, so below.

For Unknown Friend, the true Emperor mirrors the divine emptiness (kenosis) in his own humble submission (via love) to a higher authority. For "God governs the world by authority, and not by force. If this were not so, there would be neither freedom nor law in the world..."

And the "first three petitions of the Lord's prayer" are recalled for "the purpose of affirming and increasing divine authority and not divine power." After all, there would be no need to petition a God of force only.

Finally, Unknown Friend emphasizes what was alluded to above, that in the Crucifix we see "the image expressing the paradox of almighty God reduced to a state of extreme powerlessness. And it is in this paradox that one sees the highest revelation of the Divine in the whole history of mankind. One sees there the most perfect revelation of the God of love."

If God is omnipotent in the more vulgar sense, then atheist vulgarians have a valid point: "Why does he not give a visible sign, if not of his power, at least of his existence? Why does he not defend his own interests?" Or in short, Come down from the cross, and then maybe we'll believe you!

A subtle point: truth and power are easily conflated. So, how can this pathetically powerless victim possibly be a reflection of the highest truth? For UF, those who "worship the idol of power" will never see this. But at the same time, there are those who explicitly believe it, but who implicitly draw the wrong lesson, and convert divine love to power.

UF says there are actually two forms of this mischief. There are "those who aspire to the ideal of the 'superman'"; and "those who believe in a God" who is "responsible for all that happens." In other words, omnipotence is either introjected or projected.

For the latter, "Their faith in God depends only on the power of God; if God was powerless, they would not believe in him. It is they who teach that God has created souls predestined to eternal damnation and others predestined to salvation; it is they who make God responsible for the entire history of the human race, including all its atrocities." Again, omnipotence implies necessity, and therefore no freedom.

The bottom line is that "the idol of power has such a hold on some human minds that they prefer a God who is a mixture of good and evil, provided he is powerful, to a God of love who governs only by the intrinsic authority of the Divine -- by truth, beauty and goodness -- i.e., they prefer a God who is actually almighty to the crucified God."

Interestingly, we come back to the meaning of liberty mentioned above in paragraph three. For real freedom is synonymous with real existence. In other words, if I am not free, I am just an extension, or prolongation, or effect, of something else, something necessary.

This being the case, freedom must be "the highest gift," since it is nothing less than the gift of real existence. So: "Love existence, and you have chosen heaven; hate it and you have chosen hell" -- one iteration of the latter being the liberal fascism that renders one a mere extension of the state or of some tinpothead dictator.

God is all powerful in history so long as there is faith; and he is crucified so far as one turns away from him. -- Meditations on the Tarot

18 Comments:

Blogger mushroom said...

There are two (transliterated) Greek words that used to get a lot of play in Pentecostal/Charismatic circles: exousia and dunamis. Exousia is authority -- so I'm told. Dunamis -- power in action -- and the root, as I heard a hundred times, of the word dynamite -- might equate to force. When Jesus said, "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to Me", He was talking about authority.

10/17/2013 09:58:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

For me, one of the most shocking implications of the Incarnation is that God submits to his own creation -- to history, to human nature, to suffering, and to cosmic injustice. This is unlike any other notion of God, either before or since. And clearly, the apostles had a great deal of difficulty wrapping their minds around it. I mean, what is the point if your god can't just go all Chicago on his enemies, like, say Allah or Obama?

Yes, the Last Supper must have been quite a shock for the apostles. Here before them, God in the flesh, whom they have observed performing miracles left and right, is saying, "Tomorrow, I'm going to die. Now, eat me."

10/17/2013 10:05:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I was thinking this morning that the past, while set and done, can be changed. That is, it can be redeemed. No matter how much evil it contains, that which carries us to Christ is holy. If our past brings us to redemption, it, too, is redeemed.

Herman Wouk had a great line in The Caine Mutiny equating the character of the men involved to small hinges on which a very large door may turn. It's the same thing with faith and the Cross, the whole of human history pivots on two very small points.

10/17/2013 10:07:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, just as there are aspects of the future that are determined, there appear to be aspects of the past that are undetermined, in the sense that they don't reveal their meaning until the future sheds light on them. Alternative futures imply different pasts.

10/17/2013 10:12:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Consider how the Old Testament took on an entirely different meaning in light of the New....

10/17/2013 10:15:00 AM  
Blogger John Lien said...

if I am not free, I am just an extension, or prolongation, or effect, of something else, something necessary.

This being the case, freedom must be "the highest gift," since it is nothing less than the gift of real existence.


Wow! Nice.

10/17/2013 10:26:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Hey, I'm a slow learner.

Only clicked this morning (thanks to these posts, watching the 1966 movie "The Bible" last night, and current events) the aspect of the Tower of Babel which previously seemed to me to only explain the origins of all our different languages. The rest of the story I just didn't see the connection -- between the tower and languages, ie communication.

By current events, I mean, our Emperor Nimrod. What is he trying to do with his Obamacare tower? What his kind always try to do: purchase immortality.

Certainly, he's shooting for "President For Life." Certainly, so far, no one has been able to "bend his bow" (wehy, the Repubs caved just the other night).

Isn't it interesting this "communication break-down" with those trying to deal with the Obamacare website -- the users and builders.

Man cannot purchase life no matter how much bread he coughs up, but by every communication with God.

Or no soup for you! One age.

10/18/2013 07:48:00 AM  
Blogger ted said...

I look forward to your thoughts on Hart's book. It will be an interesting complement to all this process stuff. I read some of the preview pages, he makes an interesting point that Henry Newman could find nothing in the idea of evolution/process contrary to or problematic for the traditional doctrine of creation.

10/18/2013 08:15:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Ted;

Yes, I felt the need for a little balance -- some music to go along with the words. Although Hart can be pretty pompous. Seems to be afflicted by a slight case of tenure.

10/18/2013 09:05:00 AM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

" liberals require leviathan not so much to curtail their freedom as to impede their compulsiveness."

At some point, Bob, you must exert authority. You must act. Not for the benefit of the Raccoons, but for those who are pointed here to find the questions they haven't asked yet.

Only iron sharpens iron. The soft pluff mud found in an open trench only sucks truth down to its dulling level. It's a mewling little demon that should not be suffered to speak. It is a lie. I wonder that you entertain it.

Be done with the foul thing.

10/20/2013 09:49:00 AM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

I mean, it's practically begging you to cast it into some nearby unclean entity --HuffPo?-- which if fine with me if he drives them off a cliff.

10/20/2013 09:59:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Joan,
Have you watched Father Barron's latest video commentary on the violence in the Bible. If you haven't, you both are on the same wavelength...

10/20/2013 10:48:00 AM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

Haven't seen it or heard of him.

I only speak to, not an intellectual tedium, but of a grieving of the Holy Spirit.

If Bob's blog is merely an intellectual exercise, I'd allow as how everything is a "learning opportunity." Sometimes it's best to learn when enough is enough. The quenching of the Spirit is not a trifle or a speed bump in the pursuit of revelation and wisdom. It's a pernicious, persistent evil.

Again, be done with it.

10/20/2013 11:21:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Link to it here. I take it as being about half-measures.

http://wordonfire.org/trackback/599bd019-04a0-402a-a824-2b22436a2cbb/Violence-in-the-Bible--A-commentary-from-Fr--Barron.aspx

10/20/2013 11:36:00 AM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

Wow! Does THAT feel better!

:o)

10/21/2013 06:44:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Thanks Joan, feeling positively perky now - nice work Cuz.

10/21/2013 07:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

Sorry for the lapse. Just laziness on my part, not any lack of malevolence.

10/21/2013 07:30:00 AM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

Laziness in the pursuit of Slack! :o)

10/21/2013 07:42:00 AM  

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