Thursday, June 30, 2011

Strengths, weaknesses, turning points

From Samson Agonistes:
O miserable change! is this the man,
That invincible Samson, far renown'd,
The dread of Israel's foes, who with a strength
Equivalent to Angels walk'd their streets,
None offering fight; who single combatant
Duell'd their Armies rank't in proud array,
Himself an Army, now unequal match
To save himself against a coward arm'd
At one spears length. O ever failing trust
In mortal strength! and oh what not in man
Deceivable and vain! Nay what thing good
Pray'd for, but often proves our woe, our bane?


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Divided against ourselves


This is how Adam Phillips puts it in Side Effects:
It is Freud’s view that we are ineluctably averse to ourselves (and others) because our desire is fundamentally transgressive. If what we want is what we must not have we are going to be, to put it as mildly as possible, divided against ourselves.

And this is the diagram and the text for how I put it in Radical Disorientation a while back:


Loving and hating God; loving and hating loving self

For Adam, to love God’s character, recognise his authority and embrace his purpose would have meant that he rejected sin. He would need and desire no other standard and calling than God’s loving holiness expressed in his good and righteous commands and promises. He would not want to do away with or replace God. Rather, he would love God with his whole being. And, vitally, this in turn means that he would love himself.

But, as we have seen, Adam, as sinner, hated God. Ironically, made in the image of God, Adam was already ‘like God’. But not content at bearing God’s glory, reflecting and representing God’s character, recognising God’s authority, embracing God’s purpose and obeying God’s commands, he grasped at equality with God. And this was his fall, his shame. Determined to do away with God and seeing the reflection of God in his own being and calling, he took a hammer to himself as mirror and shattered the image of God. And when, in sin, he looked at himself and saw the image of God, shattered yet not obliterated, he hated himself as he hated God. Designed perfectly in the image of God, so far as Adam loved God, he would love himself as the mirror of God. Embracing sin, the situation was reversed. Looking at himself as a sinner, he hated what remained of the image of God and thus hated himself. And all in Adam die the same death.


Consistency in sin would be murder, madness and suicide

The unregenerate, true to himself, that is to say fully consistent as a God-hater, would sin without limit. But unlimited sin would be simultaneous madness, murder and suicide. Madness, because reality is filled with God and the consistent sinner flees from reality: God is truth and the consistent sinner, endeavouring to do away with God, would reject truth. Yet truth is one, though lies are many, and so the rejection of truth, consistently worked through, would be a complete disconnection with reality. Murder, because all other human persons are image-bearers and the consistent sinner, seeking to murder God and yet unable to do so, would, instead and as well, do all in his power to cleanse the planet of every sign of God. Every other human person must be killed. Suicide because the fully consistent sinner would, regarding the remaining image of God upon himself and hating that image, seek to destroy himself. Hating God, the sinner hates truth, love and life, embraces falsehood, hatred and death and so, unrestrained, would plunge into madness, murder and suicide.


God keeps us from consistency

God’s mercy is such, however, that he restrains the sin of those who hate him, holding them back from full consistency. Thus, all around us, though only in part, the unregenerate accept truth, obey commands, reject evil, love others, and cherish life. The Christian doctrine of ‘total depravity’ teaches that sin has corrupted every dimension and faculty of human life: it does not teach that every sinner is as evil as he or she could possibly be.

And thus the sinner is a divided, a self-alienated person. Put simply, the two ‘selves’ of the fallen human person are first, the sinner as sinner, the God-hating self and, second, the sinner as restrained, the residual image-bearer as self. This sets up four relationships and stances within the one human person (see fig.1):

1. Adam (for all sinners) as a God-hater perceives himself as a God-hater and loves this self.

2. Adam the God-hater perceives himself as Adam the residual image-bearer and hates this self.

3. Adam the residual image-bearer perceives himself as Adam the God-hater and hates this self.

4. Adam the residual image-bearer perceives himself as Adam the image-bearer and loves this self.

Only unfallen Adam, Jesus of Nazareth and the fully restored people of God know the undivided self. All other human experience is that of self-alienation and of consequent confusion, fear, anger, and guilt.



Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Servility begins at home

From Samson Agonistes:
But what more oft in Nations grown corrupt,
And by their vices brought to servitude,
Than to love Bondage more than Liberty,
Bondage with case than strenuous liberty ...

..............................................servile mind
Rewarded well with servile punishment!
The base degree to which I now am fall'n,
These rags, this grinding, is not yet so base
As was my former servitude. ignoble,
Unmanly, ignominious, infamous,
True slavery, and that blindness worse than this,
That saw not how degeneratly I serv'd.

I was no private but a person rais'd
With strength sufficient and command from Heav'n
To free my Countrey; if their servile minds
Me their Deliverer sent would not receive,
But to their Masters gave me up for nought,
Th' unworthier they; whence to this day they serve.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Genius 2

Bloom on Shakespeare with some thoughts on Freud, change, and the invention of the human ...
  • "... the largest consciousness and most incisive intellect in all literature"
  • "Hamlet, Falstaff, Lear, Iago, Cleopatra, Rosalind, and Macbeth ... [Shakepeare] fashioned women and men more real than living men and women."
His language, his transcendently, preternaturally real characters, his equal brilliance in comedy and tragedy, his craft and density such that his plays (really) are to be read - all of these are signs of genius. But, according to Bloom, his essential, world-changing contribution was his 'invention of the human'. And how does that happen? By self-overhearing.
  • "Where do our selves begin? ... Shakespeare, incomparable psychologist, invented a new origin for us in the most illuminating idea any poet ever has discovered or invented: the self-recognition of self-overhearing."
  • "... at moments we overhear ourselves and are startled. Do we awaken into a new self-awareness ...?"
  • "It is not clear to me that anyone in Shakespeare really listens to anyone else. ... Self-overhearing, in Shakespeare, is the royal road to change. Hamlet notoriously changes every time he hears himself speak [in his seven soliloquies]. ... Hamlet's self-re-creations through self-overhearing are everywhere in the play ... "
  • "To overhear oneself is to be initially unaware that one is the speaker. That unawareness is so brief that self-overhearing seems more metaphoric than not, yet the moment of literal nonrecognition is authentic. Shakespeare ... seizes upon that moment to fashion another version of the human will to change. ... To hear yourself, at least for an instant, without self-recognition, is to open your spirit to the tempests of change ... This is a new inwardness that creates rather than confronts change."
And since Freud is still following me around, then it's worth making the obvious connection that what happens in dreams and in free association is a particularly powerful form of "self-overhearing". What I have yet to clarify is the relation between these and two sorts of prayer, namely, (1) the praying of Scripture until such time as we can hear a) that Scripture's note and our inner note are discordant OR b) that they are in harmony OR c) that they are identical; and (2) whatever sort of prayer it was (something between free association and Brother Lawrence) that filled Jesus's whole nights of prayer.

This self-overhearing, therefore, takes place:

1. when I speak to myself (soliloquy)
2. when one part of me speaks to another part of me (dream)
3. when I speak to another (prayer)
4. when I speak to myself in the presence of another (free association)

AND

5. when another speaks to me.

How can this be? How can listening to another be a form of self-overhearing? Actually, it's the simple moment of reading C S Lewis and thinking, "I have always thought that and felt like that but until reading those words I didn't know it". Or the simple moment of hearing the preacher say, "and you know how it is when you think / feel / react / wish ..." and finish the sentence in a way which makes you feel he's been inside your head and heart.

More theologically, "the invention of the human" is, of course, the outcome of the most potent "self-overhearing" of them all: when the Father speaks the Word and hears himself (recognises the exact representation of his being) then this leads to the "change" of bringing all creation into being with humankind, shaped by the mold of the flesh that the Word will one day become, perfectly "in his own image and likeness".

That is, the invention of the human, biblically, is the work of the Spirit as he makes an echo of the Word spoken by the Father which the Father overhears and chooses to repeat.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Increasing epistemological self-consciousness

Low points for the Christian gospel over the last 1000 years:

1. Pre-Reformation - widespread assent, widespread conformity but desperate ignorance of the gospel

2. Pre-Evangelical Revival - widespread assent, widespread immorality, so horrible inconsistency with the gospel

3. 1990-2011 - widespread dissent, widespread immorality, so massive rebellion against the gospel.


There's increasing epistemological self-consciousness through these - ignorance, hypocrisy, rebellion.

Ignorance may be dealt with by the Word of the Reformation gospel.

Hypocrisy may be dealt with by the Wind of the Evangelical revival Spirit.

But the self-conscious rebellion of the celebration of promiscuity, the normalisation of perversity, the supercilious but unconsidering disdain for history, the self-righteous hatred of the God of the Bible which marks our day? Maybe there's no way of 'reversing' that. Maybe you have to go through it. Maybe it takes 50-100 years for a demonstration of the bankruptcy of liberal secularism to be shown because at present it still relies upon some residual Christian values. It'll take another two to four generations to see what individual and communal life looks like when it is founded upon radical epistemological and ethical relativism. Kyrie, eleison.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Mighty through God

A jawbone, a cross - the weapons of our warfare ...

From
Samson Agonistes:

.................... on their whole Host I flew
Unarm'd, and with a trivial weapon fell'd
Their choicest youth; they only liv'd who fled.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Mea culpa

I've no-one else to blame.

From Samson Agonistes:

......................... of what now I suffer
She was not the prime cause, but I my self,
Who vanquisht with a peal of words (O weakness!)
Gave up my fort of silence to a Woman.

Appoint not heavenly disposition, Father,
Nothing of all these evils hath befall'n me
But justly; I myself have brought them on,
Sole Author I, sole cause:

All these indignities, for such they are
From thine, these evils I deserve and more,
Acknowledge them from God inflicted on me
Justly, yet despair not of his final pardon
Whose ear is ever open; and his eye
Gracious to re-admit the suppliant ...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Strength and wisdom

Bodily exercise is of some value but ...

From Samson Agonistes


O impotence of mind, in body strong!
But what is strength without a double share
Of wisdom ...



Immeasurable strength they might behold
In me, of wisdom nothing more then mean;
This with the other should, at least, have paired,
These two proportiond ill drove me transverse.


The liberator bound

John 18.8, 13 // Judges 16 // Milton's Samon Agonistes

Ask for this great Deliverer now, and find him
Eyeless in Gaza at the Mill with slaves,
Himself in bonds under Philistian yoke;

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Genius


I think - and it'll take a while - I'll pull out my favourite moments from Harold Bloom's "Genius".

From the prelims - some lines expressing his curmudgeonly dismissal of the liberal establishment, a quote from Emerson which I'll use as an endorsement of copying things out from other people's books, and a couple of the one-line descriptions which Bloom gives of his book.


"Groupthink is the blight of our Age of Information, and is most pernicious in our obsolete academic institutions whose long suicide since 1967 continues."

"Genius is no longer a term much favored by scholars, so many of whom have become cultural levelers quite immune from awe."

"If genius is the God within, I need to seek is there, in the abyss of the aboriginal self, an entity unknown to nearly all our current Explainers, in the intellectually forlorn universities and in the media's dark Satanic mills."

Emerson: "Only an inventor knows how to borrow."

"I seek only to define as best I can, the particular genius of my one hundred personages."

"One hundred exemplary minds"
~

Monday, June 20, 2011

Interruptions and the given or constructed self

Adam Phillips ("On Making It Up" in Side Effects) discusses, amongst other things, the ancient debate about whether we discover ourselves or create ourselves (essentialist or existentialist; given or constructed; midwives or Prometheans).

Then he puts the question in terms of "interruptions":


In a sense, the issue of trauma can be stated quite simply: is a life interrupted by events, or are the interruptions the life? Do we, as organisms, have an aim, a teleology, a true life story from which we can be deflected, or is what we call a life – and the telling of a life story – a series of more or less productive and satisfying adaptations and transformations of what happens to happen?

All very interesting.

But what if there is a purposeful Creator who intends



  • to form a person in the likeness of his Son;

  • to do so by means of his own Fatherly ordering of events;

  • in conjunction with the Spirit's cultivation / inspiration / animation of particular wsays of responding to, relating to and handling those events which themselves amount to 'formation'

?

The thing is that all reactions are creative and all creations are reactive. The active / passive distinction is ultimately unstable.

We are both "given" and "constructed". Both come from God. Both demand and invite our total engagement and involvement.

Which is why it is so hard to keep precise rules for dealing with interruptions few and simple. Interruption is just a another word for event -"when God steps in to make something happen".

The Incarnation was an interruption! And Pentecost! And the return of Christ!

And the knock on the door, the indigestion, the blank sheet of paper, the new baby, the first day of holiday, the phone call, the placing (or spilling) of a cup of tea on the table in front of you.

Interruptions are events. Events are gifts. Gifts are blessings from Another. And the fact that I had planned something doesn't mean that it's not an interrruption-gift.

If unplanned and undesired, I need to reckon with the fact that it is a blessing from Another.

If planned and desired, I need to reckon with the fact that it is a blessing from Another.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Questions 6

Some questions to ask in trouble ...
  • How will this look on resurrection morning?
  • Will I thank the Lord for it then?
  • How would this seem if Jesus were standing next to me physically in all his authority and compassion?
  • Was this within the reach and under the control of my sovereign Father’s wise love when it happened?
  • In terms of my well-being and God's glory could anything at all be better than exactly this exactly now?
  • What might God’s good purpose in this be, I wonder?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

True humans are still human

Christ is truly human and the hypostatic union does not produce ontological change in the human nature which the Word assumes to Himself. The sinner is a marred and inconsistent human being but still a human being and regeneration does not make him/her some other species than human.

There is an historical particularity and a temporal contingency about the human existence of the incarnate Son and about the regenerate-ness of the redeemed. Neither of which are to be taken as uncertainty, fragility, or reversibility:
Godhead surrounds this man like a garment, and fills Him as the train of Yahweh filled the temple in Is. 6. This is the determination of His human essence. It is again apparent that there can be no question of a transferred condition, or an infused habit, in this grace addressed to Him. It is all a history against the background and in the light of this inward life of God: a history which in the living Jesus Christ is played out between His human being as the Son of Man and His divine being as the Son of God which He is also and primarily; a history between the Father, and also between the Holy Ghost and the Son, who as such is also the Son of Man. How else, then, can this determination of His human essence take place and be seen and understood except as an event? What habitus could either belong or be ascribed to Him in His relationship to the grace of God? The grace of the Father's Yes and the Spirit's power a habitus! Even the man Jesus of Nazareth exists in a concrete history as its recipient. He takes the road which leads from His birth to His death, from His secret preparation to the beginning and fulfilment and completion of His human work. He takes the road on which the good-pleasure of the Father, the gift of the Spirit and His own existence as the Son of God must always mean something new and specific at every step. He takes the road on which there can be no permanent state of blessing, but the continuity of which can be assured (although, of course, definitively) by the fact that He is always the same elect man confronted and surrounded and filled by the same electing grace of God. (Church Dogmatics, §64.2)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Questions 5

How do Jesus’s questions in Matthew’s gospel re-orientate, reassure and challenge people to trust? Take a look at his questions in the verses below and ponder their impact upon the listeners.
  • 6.27
  • 6.30
  • 7.9
  • 8.26
  • 9.28
  • 10.29
  • 12.48
  • 18.12
  • 20.32
  • 26.10


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sustained outwardly, impelled inwardly

The life of a Son of God. First, supremely, and originally in Christ. Subsequently, analogously, and derivatively in us:
His humanity as that of the Son of God is determined by the fact that as the Son of Man He is fully and completely participant not only in the good-pleasure of God the Father but also in the presence and effective working of the Holy Spirit ... As the Son, therefore, He is sustained outwardly by the inflexible Yes of the Father and His inexhaustible blessing, and enlightened and impelled inwardly by the comfort and power and direction of the Holy Spirit. (Church Dogmatics, §64.2)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

You've let yourself down 2

The combination of our ability to sin and our choice to sin:
It is not our genuine freedom, our liberum, but our servum arbitrium, that we choose evil. It means an alienation not only from God and our neighbour but also from ourselves. We do not act freely, but as those "possessed," when we do wrong. And it is only as we actually do it that it shows itself to be a determination of our human essence which, although we cannot shake it off, is supremely inappropriate and improper. (Church Dogmatics, §64.2)

You've let yourself down 1

Mummy Balloon and Daddy Balloon have been having trouble getting Baby Balloon to stay in his own bed at night. But the time comes when Daddy Balloon takes a firm line:
"Come on now Baby Balloon, you're getting too big to sleep in our bed. You must stay in your own bed from now on."
For a few weeks this works fine and Baby Balloon stays in his own room.

Then one night, waking up and feeling lonely, Baby Balloon creeps across the landing to Mummy and Daddy Balloons' bed.

Quietly opening the door and creeping across the bedroom floor, Baby Balloon tries to sneak into the bed.

But no! Bigger now, Baby Balloon finds there is no longer room for him in his parents' bed.

A plan springs to mind.

Reaching across, he lets a little bit of air out of Daddy Balloon. Shssssssssssss. Then he tries again to get into the bed but still there's not enough room.

So he now lets some air out of Mummy Balloon. Shsssssssssss. He tries again to get into bed but still there's not quite enough room.

Finally, then, he lets a little air out of himself. Shssssssssss.

And now there's just enough room so he snuggles down and falls fast asleep.

Next morning Mummy and Daddy Balloon are already up and can be heard downstairs making breakfast. Baby Balloon feels guilty about what happened the night before and slowly creeps goes downstairs and quietly opens the door to the kitchen.

Mummy and Daddy Balloon know that he's there and they turn to look sternly at Baby Balloon. With a tone of mixed anger and sadness, Daddy Balloon says,
"Son, I have to say that I really am disappointed with you, I said you can't sleep with us but you disobeyed me. You've let me down, you've let Mummy down, and, worst of all, you've let yourself down."

Friday, June 10, 2011

Hypocrisy, self-deception, free association and 'counselling'

More Adam Phillips. This time from Side Effects.

And this time it's simply noting that the Freudian slip, the denial, the silence, the diversionary tactics, the things unsaid which are so much part of the analyst's concern as the analysand engages in 'free association' should be no less a concern for the Christian minister. The single biggest connection between "depth psychology" and the Christian faith is the recognition of how far-reaching and deep-seated is the messed-up-ness of human beings and how determined we are not to face up to the horribleness, the pain, and the desires within.

The puritans had been to these places in their cure of souls. They knew that there is usually a 'question behind the question', that changing the subject and avoiding the question and choosing this rather than that metaphor and vocabulary are highly revealing. But it takes many many years of experience, observation, deliberate practice (see Geoff Colvin), along with deep Bible knowledge, prayerfulness, the filling of the Holy Spirit, and sensory and linguistic acuity before pastors can see that deeply, make those connections, and take this person to the place where self-understanding and a sight of the particular majesty, sufficiency, and grace of Christ meet.

Sometimes a version of 'free association' may positively help in these situations. Sometimes, it's worth asking, "what's on your mind?" or, "what would you like to talk about?" and just letting it roll for 20 minutes (or three hours).

Here's Phillips talking about free association - it may prompt some useful thoughts:
  • ... as the patient speaks as freely as he is able, and begins to understand the ingenuities of the censorship he imposes on himself.
  • Free association, what is said by the way, what is said as aside from the matter in hand, what is said ‘off topic’, is where the action of meaning and feeling is. In this picture digression is secular revelation, keeping to the subject is the best way we have of keeping off the subject; of speaking up without speaking out.
  • In much modern writing it is the things said in passing, when the writer takes his eye off the point he is trying to make, that are most striking. Concentration, argument, persuasion, deduction can convince us, but being convinced is not only or always the thing we most want to be; changing how people feel is rarely just a matter of amassing evidence.
  • What the writer writes while he is writing something else, what the patient happens to say when he is saying what he wants to say, what we dream when we are wanting to sleep, how we fail when we are determined to succeed; this is what psychoanalysis, and not of course only psychoanalysis, wants us to attend to.
  • The essays of Lamb or Hazlitt or Emerson create the conditions, not unlike a psychoanalytic session, for concentrations and meanderings, for changes of tone and changes of heart over a very short space of time. .... Their enthusiasm for digression, for telling all sorts of stories and non-stories, for telling almost whatever occurs to them while they are writing, tempers their fanaticism. It is as though in their writing, whatever the topic, they want to be distracted, they want to be waylaid.

Grandaddy Rousas

The grand old man of reconstructionism (for all many wonders and its not-so-many woes) was Rousas J Rushdoony. Some of my favourite moments from his Newletters, Reports, and Position Papers are online HERE.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

We cannot toy unpunished with inversions of this type ...

Barth is exploring the relationship between divine essence and human essence in the hypostatic union. He examines a particular form of the Lutheran communicatio idiomatum which, for all the qualifications presented, appears to him to amount to a divinising of the humanity of Christ. However, since the human nature of Christ is the human nature of all humankind, then surely the door is opened to a general divinisation.
But where does the way through this door lead? It obviously leads smoothly and directly to anthropology: ... to the doctrine of a humanity which is not only capable of deification, but already deified, or at any rate, on the point of apotheosis or deification.
And then the uniqueness of Christ is lost and humanity may be worshipped:
If the supreme achievement of Christology, its final word, is the apotheosised flesh of Jesus Christ, omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient, deserving of our worship, is it not merely a hard shell which conceals the sweet kernel of the divinity of humanity as a whole and as such, a shell which we can confidently discard and throw away once it has performed this service?
And then we might conclude, says Barth, that it is not an accident that German Idealism grew up in the soil of this Lutheran doctrine.
For does not this correspond more or less exactly to the anthropology which is so easily reach from this Christology once its open door is passed – the anthropology of a humanity which is destined and able to be deified, and already on the point of deification? ... Was Hegel so wrong after all when he thought that he could profess to be a good Lutheran?
His conclusion – and I am not at all sure that in a chain of argument so long as this (Barth takes 11 pages to work this out) the conclusion is inescapable – is that
Luther and the older Lutherans did in fact compromise – at a most crucial point – the irreversibility of the relationship between God and man, long before the message of the Church was similarly affected by a secular human self-understanding ...
And he then reflects,
We cannot toy unpunished with inversions of this type ...

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Risk and Desire

You do or you don't really know what you want. Or both. Two more paragraphs from Adam Phillips' Houdini's Box:
The convinced are in flight from the experimental nature of wanting, from the fact that you can only find out what you want by trying to get it, and in the process you may find something else that you didn't know you wanted. The unsure are in flight from acting on inclination, from following the compass of their excitement. For the unsure there is always a safe haven of compromise, of world-weary wisdom about the impossibility of satisfaction, and the noble truth in disappointment. Whereas the convinced live in a different kind of inner superiority, the belief that they really know what everyone really wants, but that they are the only ones with the courage, or the recklessness, or the moral strength, or the good fortune, to be capable of the ultimate satisfactions that life has to offer.

Scepticism is a refuge from conviction and conviction is a refuge from scepticism. Each of these is a relief from the tyranny of the other. But these two parts of ourselves that we can play are always envious of each other, and often secretly believe that it is the other who will be saved, the other who might just be the happier one. So they must never meet, never be on speaking terms with each other, because they fear conversion; and for both of them conversion is the only imaginable form of change. Indeed, it is their mutual suspicion that sustains and fortifies them. Both of them, in other words, glamorize risk to avoid taking one.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Professor John Semple Craig


What a man!

Professor of Early Modern History and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and the Social Sciences at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.

He almost certainly knows more about churchwardens' accounts in England in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries than anyone else in the history of the universe so far. And much, much, much more besides.

His writings have world-leading research standing, are SO witty, clear, and readable, and are full of historical, theological, cultural, and spiritual insights.

Never miss a chance to listen to him lecture. Never miss a chance to read his work.

On the Arts of Escape

A few more lines from Adam Phillips' Houdini's Box: On the Arts of Escape. Psychological probing, cultural comment, spiritual challenge:
  • People become demonic when they believe that havoc is a necessity.
  • In this culture, if academics think you're a bit naive and non-academics think you're rather pretentious, then you're probably onto something.
  • No-one can be indifferent to being ignored. ... My mother was always encouraging me to be more independent but really she wanted me to leave her alone.
  • What he called up in me was a kind of quasi-religious personality, someone who could rant with conviction, but someone who was left afterwards strangely unpersuaded by himself. Not exactly regretting what was said, but unsure of the point of saying it. ... Encouraged - unwittingly by him - to be a caricature of my virtues, they seemed like vices.
  • "Yes, because I never did a thing like this before ... I wouldn't have wanted to for the obvious reasons but I know I'm sick of something ... of the way I behave ... it's so childish to say this, to say it like this, and even though I know what you're going to say and you're probably right and probably wrong but I'm like a fugitive now, a vagrant ... I can't settle to anything ... I'm always being interrupted but there's nothing to interrupt because I'm not really doing anything ..."
  • Real magic is the illusion that there is such a thing as real magic.
  • The absence of desire and real death, of which the death of desire is a foreshadowing, are the two great hauntings.
  • It was Houdini's unique but exemplary artfulness, to make himself the magician the public could trust. They knew he was brilliant at deceiving people. That's why they could trust him.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Questions 4

Some questions from Leviticus and Numbers:

Le 10:17: “Why have you not eaten the sin offering in the place of the sanctuary, since it is a thing most holy and has been given to you that you may bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the Lord?

Le 25:20-21: And if you say, ‘What shall we eat in the seventh year, if we may not sow or gather in our crop?’ I will command my blessing on you in the sixth year, so that it will produce a crop sufficient for three years.

Nu 11:11-14: Moses said to the Lord, “Why have you dealt ill with your servant? And why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? Did I conceive all this people? Did I give them birth, that you should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a nursing child,’ to the land that you swore to give their fathers? Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me and say, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat.’ I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me.

Nu 11:23: And the Lord said to Moses, “Is the Lord’s hand shortened? Now you shall see whether my word will come true for you or not.”

Nu 12:2: And they said, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” And the Lord heard it.

Nu 12:8: With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?”

Nu 14:11: And the Lord said to Moses, “How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them?

Nu 14:41: But Moses said, “Why now are you transgressing the command of the Lord, when that will not succeed?

Nu 16:8-10: And Moses said to Korah, “Hear now, you sons of Levi: is it too small a thing for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself, to do service in the tabernacle of the Lord and to stand before the congregation to minister to them, and that he has brought you near him, and all your brothers the sons of Levi with you? And would you seek the priesthood also?

Nu 16:12-13 And Moses sent to call Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and they said, “We will not come up. Is it a small thing that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, that you must also make yourself a prince over us?

Nu 22:28: Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?”

Nu 22:30: And the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey, on which you have ridden all your life long to this day? Is it my habit to treat you this way?”

Nu 23:8: How can I curse whom God has not cursed? How can I denounce whom the Lord has not denounced?

Nu 23:10: Who can count the dust of Jacob or number the fourth part of Israel? Let me die the death of the upright, and let my end be like his!”

Nu 23:11: And Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I took you to curse my enemies, and behold, you have done nothing but bless them.”

Nu 23:12: And he answered and said, “Must I not take care to speak what the Lord puts in my mouth?”

Nu 23:19: God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

Nu 32:6-7: But Moses said to the people of Gad and to the people of Reuben, “Shall your brothers go to the war while you sit here? Why will you discourage the heart of the people of Israel from going over into the land that the Lord has given them?

No spokes in the centre

You won't find an adequate analogy for that which is the ground of all analogies, namely, the hypostatic union.

You could say, of course, that the ground of all analogies is the eternal relationship of the Father and the Son and the fact that the Son is the Image of the Father. You could say that the covenant is grounded in the eternal life of God rather than in relationship between God and the world which is founded upon the hypostatic union. But these things need not be set against each other:
- the eternal relationship of Father and Son
- any intra-trinitarian covenant which you may choose to assert
- the hypostatic union
- the Father's act of creation by the Word ...

all of these (perspectivally!) are grounds of analogies and grounds of the covenant. But in creation, the primary (though not the chronologically first), the original, and the principial "relating" of the uncreated and the created is the hypostatic union.

This is how we find it in one of the longer paragraphs of Church Dogmatics §64.2. I love the wheel/spokes piece:
To be sure, certain analogies to the relationship between God and man, God and the world, are established and made possible in His becoming and being. One such is the relationship between heaven and earth described in Gen. 1.1 and often mentioned later in both Old and New Testaments. Again, the being of man as husband and wife (Gen. 1.27) is expressly described as a picture of the living God of Israel in His action and co-existence with man and the world. The relationships of father and child, king and people, master and servant, frequently emerge in the Bible as correspondent to this relationship. Everywhere analogies have their proper place where it is a matter of consideration and understanding of the covenant as it was willed in God's eternal counsel and fulfilled in time in the incarnation of His Word. Again, in the connexion with their earthly surroundings the fulfilment of the covenant, Jesus Christ and the kingdom of heaven are all open to comparison. In this connexion they are obviously made a subject of comparison in the New Testament. But in Jesus Christ Himself - and it is of Him that we now speak - we have to do with the eternal basis and temporal fulfilment of the covenant and therefore with the ground and basis of all the natural and historical relationships in which the covenant is reflected as the basic relationship between God and man, God and the world, and in which it therefore has its analogies. We have to do with the presupposition of the connexion in which it can also be a subject of comparisons. In Him we have the basic reality which underlies the possibility of the basic relationship of the covenant, and therefore all the natural and historical relationships, and in Him the analogies, and therefore His own connexion with His earthly surroundings and the comparisons which it invites. In Him we have their beginning, their meaning and their goal, the centre which invites and carries the whole, both creation and the covenant. This centre is the divinely established unity of existence between Himself and man, the unio hypostatica in the one Jesus Christ. But as a wheel with its different spokes can have no spokes in the centre, so in this centre of creation and the covenant, the origin even of its own connexion with its earthly environment, there cannot be a relationship between God and man, God and the world, which is comparable to natural and historical relationships, having an analogy or likeness in relationships of this kind. That the Creator became a creature, the Lord a servant (and, as a servant, and the Brother of all other servants, genuinely the Lord), the divine I a human Thou, God's existence the existence of an essentially different man - in other words, the becoming and being of Jesus Christ - cannot be understood and apprehended, either in advance or afterwards, by means of any reflexion which looks beyond Him or from any neutral place apart from Him. With a strange, one-sided, self-glorious spontaneity, we have to do here with the work and action of the faithfulness and omnipotence and mercy of God Himself, which has no ground of reality except in Himself, or ground of knowledge except in His self-revelation.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Questions 3

Some questions from Exodus:

Ex 2:14: He answered, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid, and thought, “Surely the thing is known.”

Ex 3:11: But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”

Ex 3:13: Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?”

Ex 4:11: Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?

Ex 5:2: But Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.”

Ex 5:22: Then Moses turned to the Lord and said, “O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me?

Ex 10:3: So Moses and Aaron went in to Pharaoh and said to him, “Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, that they may serve me.

Ex 14:5: When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, the mind of Pharaoh and his servants was changed toward the people, and they said, “What is this we have done, that we have let Israel go from serving us?”

Ex 14:11: They said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt?

Ex 15:11: “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?

Ex 16:28: And the Lord said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and my laws?

Ex 17:2: Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?”

Ex 17:4: So Moses cried to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.”

Ex 17:7: And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the Lord by saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

Ex 18:14: When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening?”

Ex 32:26: then Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said, “Who is on the Lord’s side? Come to me.” And all the sons of Levi gathered around him.

Ex 33:16: For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Merrily coming downhill

When we say Jesus Christ, this is not a possibility which is somewhere ahead of us, but an actuality which is already behind us. With this name in our hearts and on our lips, we are not laboriously toiling uphill, but merrily coming down.

(Church Dogmatics, §64.2)