Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Homo-Drama and the Broad Way of History

We are discussing the importance of Frames. Without a frame of some sort -- a container -- you can't see much of anything. Arguably you can't see anything at all. Science, for example, is a frame. Metaphysical scientism is the belief that science provides the only legitimate frames for looking at the world. But what is the frame for that meta-scientific belief? That's a philosophical frame, not a scientific one.

One may look at human life through the frame of Darwinism. Nothing wrong with that. But only through the frame of Darwinism? That would be insane.

Which I mean literally. No Darwinian lives his life as a rigorously consistent Darwinian. For example, think of, say, Richard Dawkins, who argues passionately on behalf of metaphysical Darwinism. What's that all about? Doesn't he ever wonder how random mutations have resulted in his passion for "truth," of all things? Selfish genes not only don't care about truth, but could never know it to begin with.

Science provides one frame for viewing the world. Religion provides another. Nor can you just say "science," and leave it at that. For example, in order to practice psychology, you need to look at the patient through numerous frames: neurobiology, endocrinology, attachment theory, anthropology, group dynamics, religion, etc.

Indeed, this is what is so interesting about the human being: man is the intersection of all frames, from matter on up and God on down. Some people say man is homo sapiens (the wise guy), others homo ludens, highlighting our capacity for fooling around.

One could equally focus on language, art, humor, freedom, transcendence, love; we are the "political animal" but also the one consigned to an unbridgeable loneliness and solitude. Ultimately we are god and animal in the same package. Which makes for some *interesting* conflicts.

Speaking of which, we might say that God is framed for us by Jesus; and that Man is framed for God by Jesus. But Jesus cannot be reduced to a three-dimensional object, since his life -- like any other life -- takes place in time. He is framed by his own development, from embryo to infant to adolescent and on. "Incarnation" is not a kind of one-off lightning flash that occurs with the Annunciation. Rather, in the beginning is the Word, and the Word is a verb.

The point is, this divine-human frame is not like a static painting, but rather, as Balthasar discussed over five volumes and 2,631 pages (yeah, I just counted), a Theo-Drama. In being the Theo-Drama, it is also the Cosmo-Drama, the Homo-Drama, and the Everything In Between-Drama.

When did we spend that year discussing Balthasar and the Theo-Drama? 2009? I can't say I remember many details. Let's consult some old posts, which are probably old enough that none of you remember them either.

When Christianity is reduced to a creed or formula -- like the folks who hold up those John 3:16 signs at every football game -- it can lose its distinctly dramatic character. For unlike other religions, it cannot become a mere doctrine without betraying itself. After all, if a doctrine were sufficient, then God would have presumably dictated a memo and sent it down to a prophet without having to personally get involved in this messy business of history.

One of the reasons Muslims reject Christianity is that they cannot imagine God as man, since it is so beneath his station. It's unthinkable, like, say, Cary Grant playing a sewer worker or MSNBC host (yes, a distinction without a difference).

The point is that for the Christian, God's revelation fundamentally appears as historical action, as doing. His doing is anterior to our knowing. This is why no one could understand the teaching until the action -- the drama -- had been fulfilled. And even then, it took years of collective reflection upon the drama to understand its nature and significance. Indeed, we're still trying to divine the divine plot, and always will be, until history has darkened its last page.

It seems that many people try to focus on something Jesus said, or even the totality of what he said, in the absence of the underlying drama that ties it all together. But Jesus is unlike any other religious figure, about whom the facts of their lives are inconsequential to the teaching -- any more than the facts of science are determined by the personal biography of the researcher. You can study math or physics without getting into Einstein's childhood or Newton's manner of death. Likewise Buddha or Mohammed.

What this suggests is that God's truth -- or the truth he is trying to convey to us -- is again not at all analogous to scientific truth, which can be handed from mind to mind in an unproblematic way. What is the truth he is trying to convey? And why must it be presented in this way, as historical drama?

.... Here is the dilemma for God: "how to elicit the Yes of his free partner from the latter's innermost freedom" (HvB). Again, for Balthasar, the essence of the Theo-Drama is this encounter between infinite and finite freedom. How can man surrender to infinite freedom without undermining his own?

.... Jesus is God's word, and that word is primarily Yes: yes to existence, yes to life, yes to freedom, yes to love. But remember, Jesus is also man, so he is simultaneously man's ultimate Yes to God. So there is the essence of your Theo-Drama, this mutual dialogue between free partners. Again, the drama is taking place "within" God, i.e., the Trinity, but it is also happening in history, allowing us to take part in the drama -- to say Yes to it, jump on the stage, and accept our role.

Please note that when this Yes happens, it is only the beginning, not the end, of your own little theo-drama. Isn't this what Jesus promised the apostles? Not, "follow me and your problems are over," but "follow me and your problems have only just begun." "For they will hate you as they hate me."

As to how this all relates to our subject, in the following passage, just replace boundaries with frame:

Living in the higher light of this drama, everything becomes more intense with meaning. I believe that this is because the closer one draws to ontological realities, the more vivid life becomes, whether it is death, or birth, or marriage, whatever; it is near these boundaries of existence that we live most intensely, and the boundary of mundane existence necessarily shades off into the celestial. Heaven is conjoined to earth, but only by virtue of being separate from it. Thus, heaven's distance is the possibility of its proximity. Insert drama here.

The Theo-Drama is the secret history of the world. It is both written and unwritten, closed and open, again, in respect for man's freedom. I would conceptualize it as I would a work of art, in which things are conditioned from top to bottom, e.g., theme --> plot --> character --> action --> dialogue. At each level down, there is more apparent freedom, and yet, everything is ultimately conditioned and lured from above.

Got a late start this morning, so that's about it.


julie said...

But Jesus cannot be reduced to a three-dimensional object, since his life -- like any other life -- takes place in time.

He is the fulcrum upon which all of history turns.

Abdulmonem Othman said...

you definitely raise challenging issues. We are all lured from above. Sometime I wonder why we are endowed with memory, if not, to remember the bond of our existence the frame of our life processes,sets to us by the unframable. the one that we can not know in order to frame. The only free one that encompasses all frames, that he wills to be. I created you with what you know, I created you with what you do so our knowledge and our action are already framed to us that is why there is this innate urge for the above. How right the closer we are drawn to the ontological reality/realities,the one and the many, the more vivid our life becomes. Moslems do reject christianity but reject framing god in one frame that confine the one that can not be confined. I love Jesus as you do, however my understanding of god as a system of names whose essence can not be contained because it contains everything, prevent me from framing him. Indeed we are still trying to understand the divine, the one that can only be pursued through some of his basic names, such as life, knowledge, will, un-constraint ability, speech, his generous sustainability and his balancing scale until the end of time. There is no dilemma in the divine world, dilemma is a human problem, it augment itself when the finite try to understand the infinite in the grammar of the finite. The road to him is filled with never ceasing discoveries and never ending surprises. The field of wonders and awes. Thank you for a rich maneuvering in the limiless field of the divine.

neal said...

I would argue that the incarnation of Christ Jesus is the resolution of the dilemma. The Creator? No problem.
Man? Problem.

Entanglement? Someone is paying the price. Better yet, an invitation to participate.

If existence was ever random, perhaps the old prophecy encoded before the foundation would just brood over the transmission.

Warms the heart.

mushroom said...

Art not science. Comedy, tragedy, we don't know where one stops and the other begins. All humor is gallows humor, and I like it.

ted said...

The Chesterton books looks good! I always appreciate the recommendations I get out here.

Gagdad Bob said...

I'm going to start reading it today. Speaking of Chesterton, I've also been thinking about the whole subject of "irony," and wondering if anyone has explicitly written about with regard to religion. Turns out someone has. I ordered this one, mainly because it cost only a penny. But I like the idea that there is only fundamentalism or irony. It explains why the left is so lacking in it.

There's also this one by Anthony Esolen, but I'm cautious to pull the trigger, since I've read at least a couple of his books and found them wanting.

Gagdad Bob said...

And if the Chesterton book turns out to be good, the author wrote an interesting looking sequel called Jousting with the Devil: Chesterton's Battle with the Father of Lies.

julie said...

Speaking of irony, that's a word I could have used this morning. A lot of people have difficulty with the idea that the Bible - indeed, that Christ - may say one thing at one time, then say something that seems contradictory at another. There may be many reasons for this, context being the primary one, but occasionally irony plays its part as well . not to mention all the wordplay that gets lost in translation.

ted said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ted said...

Richard Rorty, who was one of the only postmodern philosopher's I like because he had a good sense of humor, wrote a book where he said there are only platonists and ironists. Similar idea, I suppose.

Gagdad Bob said...

So Godel proved the existence of God. Pretty obvious when you think about it: Ax. 1. {P(φ)∧◻∀x[φ(x)→ψ(x)]} →P(ψ)Ax. 2.P(¬φ)↔¬P(φ)Th. 1.P(φ)→◊∃x[φ(x)]Df. 1.G(x)⟺∀φ[P(φ)→φ(x)]Ax. 3.P(G)Th. 2.◊∃xG(x)Df. 2.φ ess x⟺φ(x)∧∀ψ{ψ(x)→◻∀y[φ(y)→ψ(y)]}Ax. 4.P(φ)→◻P(φ)Th. 3.G(x)→G ess xDf. 3.E(x)⟺∀φ[φ ess x→◻∃yφ(y)]Ax. 5.P(E)Th. 4.◻∃xG(x)

julie said...

Oh, sure - that makes perfect sense.

ted said...

Looks like a climate change model.

Gagdad Bob said...

Except there's no proof for that religion.

Anonymous said...

In reply to comments by Julie regarding Christ being the fulcrum on which history turns...does that mean Lord Krishna is chopped liver? The Buddha gets no snaps?

In terms of the Bible contradicting itself, why does that not raise a red flag warning the reader there may be some BS going on? It gets a pass on that?

If Jesus was God's only begotten son, why does the Lord's prayer begin with "Our Father?" Are all others begotten from some other source not previously mentioned? Like what would that be? So what if the process involved some biology? God owns biology, lock, stock and barrel. Every gamete that exists is His haploid child.

What evidence is there the immaculate conception occurred only once? Since nobody is around to view gametes in action inside the body, any number of us could be "immaculately" conceived. If He wanted, he could make infertile couples bear children, and they would never know how directly their prayers were answered. He can install DNA out of thin air, in anyone at any time. God keeps visible miracles to a bare minimum to avoid riots, but out of sight...well that's open season on miracles.

Anyway there's my two cents. Christians can get tunnel vision due to scripture and occasionally widening of the road is needed.

julie said...

Oh, heavens - you've made my eyes roll so much it is quite impossible to answer.

Christina M said...

The creed is for times of tumult and dementia, when that's all you can remember, that's what you hold onto.

Nicolás said...

In the modern world the number of theories is increasing that are not worth the trouble to refute except with a shrug of the shoulders.

Anonymous said...

In response to Christina: You are right, of course. Logical issues regarding the creed need not lessen its spiritual impact and utility.

I do recognize the Lord's Prayer as completely unassailable. It alone encapsulates the entire faith (and perhaps all faiths), and indeed, if the Bible consisted of it alone, that would suffice to make it great.

Its all the unnecessary verbiage(the telling of how pigskin is unclean, prohibitions about crops, and so forth), extravagant and conflicting claims, and oblique history telling that renders the Bible less than credible, not the core values it represents. I mean seriously, does not someone ever undertake to edit the thing? It needs it badly.

julie said...

OR, you could just actually try reading it, maybe for instance with a reputable study group or study guide that can provide helpful context and clarification. The Bible has been around for a few thousand years, and people continue to find it illuminating and relevant. Including all the "unnecessary" parts. However, coming to it alone and with a jaundiced eye virtually always renders it impenetrable. The problem isn't in the book, it's in your head and your heart.

julie said...

I highly recommend BSF International, if you are actually interested in meeting people and having some good discussion. They are studying John this year. Nice folks.

I'm sure there are a multitude of churches in your very neighborhood that also offer study groups. In my experience, they all love to have new members with whom to share and study the Word.

On your own, any of the Little Rock Scripture Study courses are quite illuminating, as well.

Anonymous said...

Hi Julie:

Thank you for your thoughtful response regarding the Bible. Being Hindu, I don't think I can take your advice to the full extent; the adherent of any faith must concentrate on the chosen path.

But of course there is a wealth of wisdom in the Bible, and is perfect as is. As a debater I often take viewpoints for the sole purpose of being contrary. My vice is, I like debate, and I especially like acrimonious debate. You'd be surprised just how difficult this is to pursue unless you go to some political partisan blog. There it is banal, so predictable, so overdone.

I like philosophical and theosophical debate. One Cosmos is the rare blog where the blog author serves us such rich fare.

Enjoy your walk with Lord Christ! I go now to commune with Vishnu.

Van Harvey said...

"What this suggests is that God's truth -- or the truth he is trying to convey to us -- is again not at all analogous to scientific truth, which can be handed from mind to mind in an unproblematic way. What is the truth he is trying to convey? And why must it be presented in this way, as historical drama?

.... Here is the dilemma for God: "how to elicit the Yes of his free partner from the latter's innermost freedom" (HvB). Again, for Balthasar, the essence of the Theo-Drama is this encounter between infinite and finite freedom. How can man surrender to infinite freedom without undermining his own?"

The vanishing point within the frame.