Thursday, October 29, 2015

Man Minus God = Death On Two Legs

More spindle clearing, this time a book by theologian David Schindler called Ordering Love: Liberal Societies and the Memory of God. The post may or may not come together. Not only am I winging it -- which is always the case -- but I'm feeling a little loose in the head.

I suppose we could say that postmodern secular societies are nevertheless haunted by the memory of God, just as a man in prison might be haunted by memories of sex. Both impulses are part of man's standard operating equipment. They can be "ignored or even forgotten or dismissed," but that hardly means they are no longer present.

I have a note to myself in the margin: emptiness is to God as curiosity is to science and wonder to philosophy. In all three cases a dynamic tension is generated. You could even say that these tensions fuel the drama of life; to paraphrase Schindler, they stir the imagination and evoke the passions.

In turn, this is the very same energy that prompts us to explore beyond appearances and into reality. Thus, this passionate energy is a prerequisite for seeing into the dimension of ontological depth.

It is "in contrast to the dull repetition of a machine-like entity, whose movement remains superficial" and is "merely a function of external forces." This is precisely what distinguishes human life from mere biological life: the passionate adventure into the dimension of depth:

"It is passion and interior power, then, that enable human life and action to be truly dramatic." But what is the drama really about?

You could say that the passionate curiosity that animates the scientist is about understanding the material world. But what's that all about? Most scientists never stop to ask, but this goes to the difference between science and philosophy of science. Philosophy is a little higher up the food chain, but what is it really about? It is about truth. And what is truth about?

First of all, in order to have a relation with something, we have to have an interior. Things with no interior cannot be related to one another, since there is no awareness. Perhaps the most revolutionary implication of modern physics is that everything has an interior, such that everything is interiorly related to everything else, from the subatomic to the cosmic.

In man, interior relations reach their highest creaturely expression, as we are in the image of the God who is irreducible relationship. Just as there is no independent particle beneath or behind the wave, there is no "substantial" God behind his relations. God is relationship (or substance-in-relation).

"Passion and interiority, in short, disclose the deepest depths of what characterizes our creaturely openness to the infinite. They indicate the human receptive capacity for relation to God."

We could say that the ultimate constitution of man is this "capacity for God." This is indeed self-evident, being that God is another word for Ultimate, and everybody's got one (even if it is just a shadow or vague memory of the actual Ultimate).

This also explains why "when God is forgotten, the creature itself grows unintelligible." This statement is completely logical -- like saying "when flight is forgotten, wings become unintelligible," or "when breathing is forgotten, the lungs grow unintelligible."

Things have their sufficient reason, and man's sufficient reason is contemplation of, and communion with, God. In other words, it is the One Thing that explains everything else about us; conversely, the mere sum of everything else about us does not add up to our capacity for God.

Certainly it is the One Thing that explains the existence of freedom, or free will. There can be no bottom up explanation of free will, because freedom by definition transcends lower causes.

In other words, if freedom is determined by lower causes, it bloody well isn't freedom, now is it? (And this is not to deny the existence of some causal factors; we are not disembodied angelic beings.) But the good person is still free to do bad, while the bad person is free to do good.

Now, if what we have said above is true, then man is a kind of bridge between dimensions or worlds. It reminds me of a crack by Dead Can Dance: We make a road for the spirit to pass over. The body is "a sign and place of relations with others, with God and with the world" (Schindler). Its purpose is not just "pleasure and efficiency," but rather, contact with others and with God.

How to put it... if you were going to create a being made for contact with God, it would look exactly like a human being. I might add that if you were going to create a planet to host human beings, it would look like this one. Likewise if you wanted to create a cosmos capable of producing stars and planets.

Or we can deny all of these soph-evident truths, in which case we reach the final common disease pathway of postmodern liberalism, AKA the Culture of Death. "The absence of God that correlates with the culture of death... is in the first instance a matter not of moral intention but of ontological depth."

In other words, the death of God becomes a cosmic defense mechanism against the attainment of depth. It is enforced via political correctness, by speech codes, by the liberal noise media, and by the academic unintelligentsia. Oh, and by ideologically undead debate moderators.


julie said...

Or we can deny all of these soph-evident truths, in which case we reach the final common disease pathway of postmodern liberalism, AKA the Culture of Death.

Speaking of which, apparently China has finally realized that the one child policy was incredibly stupid. Sadly, it may be too late; after a couple generations of one-child families, young adults often don't have any desire to have more than one child, if they have any at all.

John Lien said...

"Things have their sufficient reason, and man's sufficient reason is contemplation of, and communion with, God."

Wow Bob, the whole post was excellent! (I'm a couple of days behind.)

Sandra said...

so great article i like to read it really