Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Conversations with Mysoph

Back in 1963, the great pianist Bill Evans put out a novel album called Conversations with Myself, in which he first lays down the piano parts and then overdubs his spontaneous reactions to them: the result is a pianistic conversation with himself.

Well, the following is my reflection on a series of posts on Balthasar's Theo-Drama. You're welcome to listen in, although I don't recommend it. It's just me conversing with some old tracks initially laid down in 2009: 

Drama — dramatic structure —  is a seemingly intrinsic (or at least unavoidable) way of organizing and understanding the world of experience. 

In our time, what is called "the news" is simply a dramatic structure superimposed on the events of the day, and this structure is very much an inversion and perversion of God's own dramatic structure, featuring heroes, villains, demons, sin, salvation, paradise, and other unavoidably theological categories. 

Suffice it to say that this progressive counter-drama, if it isn't penned by the Evil One, might as well be. At the very least, we can "deduce" the nature of the author by examining and deconstructing his intellectual and morally insane narrative. 

(Note also that this coprophagic narrative sees and digests only the facts it needs in order to maintain itself, which is why it is ontologically, epistemologically, and spiritually closed, and certainly leads to illness and death.)

In fact, you human beings create and inhabit narratives from the moment you can think about reality. Balthasar writes of how the child "translates its world of experience into theatrical terms, conceives things, reacts to them, in speech and in all forms of play.” As such, the dramatic structure isn't something "added to" humanness, but is an expression of  its very nature. 

Therefore, we shouldn’t be surprised that revelation appears fundamentally as historical action -- as doing  as opposed to, say, an abstract, atemporal doctrine that can be taken in all at once. This is why no one can or  could understand the revelation narrative until the action -- the drama -- was (or is) fulfilled. 

In any good whodunnit we don’t understand the action until we reach the end. Upon reaching it, the end illuminates what went before — as in how the New Testament unlocks the Old and reveals the telos toward which it had been groping. For Jews who reject the Christian premise, the OT nevertheless points to a messianic fulfillment that hasn’t yet occurred. Our Jewish brethren are still waiting to see how the drama turns out.

Even though the revelation narrative is essentially fulfilled with the Resurrection, it took centuries of collective reflection upon the drama to understand its nature and significance. Remember, the first Christians had no Bible to guide them; rather, only the mostly oral traditions handed on to them (2 Th). The Biblical canon was selected on the basis of this prior tradition, and in so doinga lot of fake nous (e.g., Gnosticism and other heresies) had to be discerned and excluded. 

Plenty of exegetes focus on something Jesus said, or even the totality of what he said, in the absence of the underlying dramatic structure that ties the transhistorical room 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 their discoverers.  One can study math or physics without getting into Einstein's birth narrative or Newton's manner of death. Gödels logic is sound despite the fact that he wasn’t.

Likewise, intimate details of the lives of Buddha or Muhammad are irrelevant to their messages. On the other hand, know them by their fruits. No sane person attempts to sneak out of the Christian west into Iran, China, or Africa.

(It occurs to me that -- in another inversion of the Christian drama -- progressives do indeed bring in details of the lives of various dramatis personae in order to negate their message -- for example, Jefferson owned slaves, therefore it is racist to say that all matter. Similarly, as a result of evangelical wokeness metastasizing its way through our educational establishment, math is racist, physics is patriarchal, and biology is transphobic.)

Under normal (non-progressive) circumstances God's truth -- or the truth he is trying to convey to us — isn't at all analogous to a scientific truth which can be handed from mind to mind in a cutandry way. What is the truth he is trying to convey? And why must it be presented as historical drama ?

Let’s begin at the top, with God’s dilemma: "how to elicit the Yes of his free partner from the latter's innermost freedom" (Balthasar).  I suppose we could say that God didn’t have any problems until man wandered onto the cosmic stage. Now what? How do you solve a problem like Eve? With one like Maria, I guess.

For Balthasar, the Theo-Drama plays out in the space of the encounter between infinite and finite freedom(s).  But how can God grant man freedom without diminishing his own? And how can man be free if God is both omni-potent and -scient?

Islam distorts the drama by denying man's freedom and attributing everything to God's omnipotence. In Islamist metaphysics there are no secondary causes at all, only The Cause. The mirror image of this is atheistic scientism, which also denies the existence man's free will, if only because "freedom" makes no sense in a world reduced to the permissible categories of material science.

I was reading just yesterday in Barzun’s The Dawn of Decadence of how both Luther and Calvin still situate man in a theo-drama, except that man plays no real role in it. Rather, God is solely responsible for every word and action of the drama, with no co-writing or even executive producer credit for man. Therefore, God is entitled to all the royalties. Man doesn’t earn so much as a penny from the production.

Literally, if you see what I did there. For readers living in Rio Linda, I’m talking about merit, which, for the first 1,500 years of Christianity, was thought to be a consequence of our free cooperation with God’s (free) grace, which in turn fuels the dramatic tension. It's the energy that makes the adventure go.

Conversely, Luther and and Calvin literally eradicate our free participation in the drama by making grace irresistible and salvation inalterable, rooted in God’s decree from all time. We can neither refuse nor consent to our own salvation. There’s still drama, of course, but now it revolves around wondering and worrying whether to not we are among the elect. There’s nothing we can do to effect our salvation, but this doesn’t stop them from looking for signs and hints and clues that we’re in there with God.

At this point I could easily veer into the subject of how the implicit structure of this Luthero-Calvinist doctrine applies to the woke volk of the left and their totalitarian blather about white privilege, structural racism, and the sanctity of sexual perversion.  But this conversation with myself has gone on long enough, so to be continued...