Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Scripture: IT'S ALIVE!!!

In-spiration means God-breathed, or theopneumatic. It would appear that man qua man is theopneumatic, in that what distinguishes us from the animals is this question of God breathing into us the breath of life.

That last word is another clue, suggesting that inspiration has something to do with the intensity of life -- as in IT'S ALIVE! If something is more inspired and more inspirational, it is more alive, and actually conveys -- or SHOUTS -- its life to us.

As in the "inspired word of God," i.e., scripture. Sheed points out that Paul uses a newish Greek word, theopneustos, for scripture (of course, he would have been referring to the Jewish scriptures), pneustos being related to pneuma, and all of this relating to the Holy Spirit, so we're back to God's breath.

This is bound to sound a bit dodgy to modern ears, at least for those who have never experienced God's breath, or his expiration fueling our inspiration.

Sheed claims that there is no official explanation of exactly what Inspiration is until the First Vatican Council in the 19th century. As usual, the Church tries to steer a middle course between two extremes.

On one side is the idea of Scripture "composed by men without the special aid of God and then approved by the Church's authority." At the other extreme is the notion that scripture conveys "revelation without error," as if God were simply dictating to human stenographers, as Allah to Muhammad.

The official explanation is that the books of scripture "were written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit," such that "God so stimulated and moved the authors to write and assisted them in their writing." Thus, scripture is God-breathed, but again, the purpose is to furnish points of reference for human beings to navigate about in the vertical world.

This is quite tricky, as the actual audience for scripture is unimaginably diverse in terms of culture, language, education, intelligence, imagination, historical time period, and more. I don't see how a vertically exiled man could create something that would be so universal as to provide nonlocal points of reference for all comers.

I suppose the closest comparison would be to certain works of art that attain universality and timelessness -- that speak to all men at all times, so long as they should remain men. Note that this is a kind of intensified "life" (as alluded to above), which is why truly inspired art "lives forever," so to speak (i.e., in an analogous way), because it inspires us forever.

Thus, in inspiring men to compose scripture, "God takes the readers into account" and makes "provision for very different readers who were not yet, but would one day be!" You try doing that. It's not easy. It's hard enough to make sense to one person.

Just as in the Incarnation -- in which God submits himself to all of our existential infirmities such as time, space, history, loss, death, etc. -- so too must scripture be "submitted to human limitation." Naturally God could "have eliminated all limitation," but only at the cost of "treating the men as un-men."

Rather, just as "in the Incarnation, he was not pretending to be a man" but became one, with Inspiration "he was not pretending to use men, they were men..." It was a genuine partnership -- which perhaps goes to why even the synoptic gospels have significant divergences. God could have presumably had each writer transcribe the identical verbatim account.

Now, "How God influences a mind while leaving it free is his secret." Is that entirely true? Analogously we could ask how it is that we can be influenced by truth, and yet, preserve our free will. We preserve it because truth loses all merit if it is not freely embraced.

In my experience, God doesn't so much compel as attract. "Compulsion" is analogous to efficient causation, as in past-to-future. But it seems to me that God mostly influences the humansphere via final causation, or in a future-to-present manner. God prefers a certain future which exists via nonlocal attractors which provide those points of reverence we've been discussing of late.

As a matter of fact, Schuon has an essay that goes to this subject. He suggests that there are two spiritual paths, one that is very much rule-based, another which he calls "the path of attraction." To the extent that Christ transcends the Law, it seems to me that he is offering a new way of attraction vs. the existing way of compulsion.

Schuon doesn't explain too much about the way of attraction, but notes that it revolves around "the spiritual intuition of the mystic and the divine aid or Grace that answers it and at the same time provokes it."

This very much corresponds with what I symbolize (⇅), with the caveat that this is actually a continuous spiral, and that the ultimate source -- the alpha and omega of the spiral -- is naturally from above, not from our end. We cannot create it, but we can participate in it.

Elsewhere Schuon says that this path is guided by following what "draws one closer to God," while avoiding that which "takes one away from Him." Thus, "everything in this second path is more independent and spontaneous than in the first; the sense of the nature of things takes precedence over concern for rules or conventions."

Yeah, you could call it an elaborate pretext to be who I am and do what I do.


julie said...

God could have presumably had each writer transcribe the identical verbatim account.

And oh, how dull and uninspiring it would be! Part of the wonderful appeal of the gospels is the unique voice of each one, which provides a sort of quadrocular view of the life of Christ. Were they all the same, we would literally only be getting one side of the story. Considering how easily people tend to go off the rails with the extra perspectives, one shudders to think how it would be with just that one view.

Gagdad Bob said...

Look at how political correctness transforms a simple fact into a big mystery: the last sentence of the piece reads "the vast majority of syphilis cases are among men 'who have sex with men.'" Mysterious!

mushroom said...

That all makes sense. If we had a really simple, one-dimensional god who was more like Superman than I AM, we could probably tidy up the revelation considerably. Get it down to a few pages of do's and don't, plus some rituals for breaking karmic chains. I think a lot of people would be happier with that.

neal said...


If not for inspiration, preliterate cultures would have rejected the Gospels. Foreshadowing, and Words made Flesh, and completion. Talking pictures.

julie said...

Bob, that's a good example of mokita.

Seems to me that if sex ed were really about education, and if people really cared about the health and well-being of gay men, they'd be teaching young men about the numerous dangerous health effects of having gay sex. And not just the STDs, but the whole suite of afflictions that can result, condom or no.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Now, "How God influences a mind while leaving it free is his secret." Is that entirely true? Analogously we could ask how it is that we can be influenced by truth, and yet, preserve our free will. We preserve it because truth loses all merit if it is not freely embraced."

The way you said that is so clear even Skully understands it.