Saturday, October 19, 2013

Symbolism

Schmemann, The Eucharist, p. 39:
This means that in the final analysis the true and original symbol is inseparable from faith, for faith is "the evidence of things unseen" (Heb 11:1), the knowledge that there is another reality different from the "empirical" one, and that this reality can be entered, can be communicated, can in truth become "the most real of realities." Therefore, if the symbol presupposes faith, faith of necessity requires the symbol. For, unlike "convictions," philosophical "points of view," etc., faith certainly is contact and a thirst for contact, embodiment and a thirst for embodiment: it is the manifestation, the presence, the operation of one reality within the other. All of this is the symbol (from simballo, "unite," "hold together"). In it - unlike in a simple "illustration," simple sign, and even in the sacrament in its scholastic-rationalistic "reduction" - the empirical (or "visible") and the spiritual (or "invisible") are united not logically (this "stands for" that), nor analogically (this "illustrates" that), nor yet by cause and effect (this is the "means" or "generator" of that), but epiphanically. One reality manifests (epiphaino) and communicates the other, but - and this is immensely important - only to the degree to which the symbol itself is a participant in the spiritual reality and is able or called upon to embody it. In other words, into the symbol everything manifests the spiritual reality, but not everything pertaining to the spiritual reality appears embodied in the symbol. The symbol is always partial, always imperfect: "for our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect" (1 Co 13:9). By its very nature the symbol unites disparate realities, the relation of the one to the other always remaining "absolutely other." However, real a symbol may be, however successfully it may communicate to us that other reality, its function is not to quench our thirst but to intensify it:"Grant us that we may more perfectly partake of Thee in the never ending day of Thy Kingdom." It is not that this or that part of "this world" - space, time, or matter - be made sacred, but rather that everything in it be seen and comprehended as expectation and thirst for its complete spiritualization: "that God may be all in all."

Friday, September 27, 2013

Superstition

DBH, "At some level, it is even tempting to think that since strict materialism is among the most incoherent of superstitions - one that has never really asked the question of the being of things in any depth or with any persistence, or one that has at best attempted to conjure that question away as a fallacy of grammar - it is incapable of imagining any conception of God more sophisticated than its own. The materialist encounters an instance of unjust suffering and, by a sort of magical thinking, concludes from the absence of any immediately visible moral order that there must be nothing transcendent of material causality, in much the same way that certain of our more remote, primitive ancestors might have seen a flash of lightning in the sky and concluded that some god must have flung it from on high. In neither case (though in the latter case the reasoning is somewhat more rigorous); and in neither case is the god at issue much more than an affective myth." -Doors of the Sea, p. 10

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Prologue

Because the Master of Catholic Truth ought not only to teach the proficient, but also to instruct the beginners (according to the Apostle: As Unto Little Ones in Christ, I Have You Milk to Drink, Not Meat - 1 Cor. iii. 1, 2), we purpose in this book to treat whatever belongs to the Christian Religion, in such a way as may tend to the instruction of beginners. We have considered that students in this Science have not seldom been hampered by what they have found written by other authors, partly on account of the multiplication of useless questions, articles, and arguments; partly also because those things that are needful for them to know are not taught according to the order of the subject matter, but according as the plan of the book might require, or the occasion of the argument offer; partly, too, because frequent repetition brought weariness and confusion to the minds of the readers.

Endeavoring to avoid these and other like faults, we shall try, by God's help, to set forth whatever is included in this Sacred Science as briefly and clearly as the matter itself may allow.

Monday, August 5, 2013

"Nothing is without meaning."

Nothing is without meaning.

Nothing is without meaning.

Nothing is without meaning.

Nothing is without meaning.

Nothing is without meaning.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

True Story

A student wrote this for a project we are working on:
Once their was a evil teacher named Mr. Schultz, one of his students got so mad that she wasn't good at math that she planned to make him poor. For every problem she got wrong, he lost 3,000 dollars. When the FCAT came around Mr. Schultz was nervous, very nervous...

She got every problem wrong and Mr. Schultz had no money. So Mr. Schultz applied for McDonalds but not even they would let him work there.

Mr. Schultz was very sad and his wife left. Even his baby craweled away from him. He drank from dirty puddles and ate from dumpsters.

Mr. Schultz decided to get into a bad habbit of abusing animals. So he got taken to jail. Everyone laughed at him. And the rest of his days were sad lonely and miserble.
I left the spelling and grammar errors in to preserve the middle school charm.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Common Sense?

One of my atheist friends and I were talking a few days ago:
Him: ...you know that horrible taste of medicine?

Me: Yeh, I remember the first time I tasted it - I was like "What is going on! Why is this so horrible!"

Him: Yeh, that's our body telling us that that is poison.

Me: Hmm, maybe.

Him: Seriously, think about it.

Me: Pizza tastes really good, is that my body telling me that it's good for me?

Him: Exactly, things that are good for you taste good.

Me: So, pizza tastes so good because it contains a lot of nutrients. That's why you're not supposed to eat to much of it. Things that taste delicious should me eaten sparingly. Like candy.

Him: Yes.

Me: You know, from an entirely empirical worldview, there's no way to demonstrate that Why.

Him: Yes, I know what you mean.

Me: You can demonstrate using empirical evidence that the pizza tastes good and that medicine doesn't. But you can't go the next step and say Why? That's all speculative.

Him: I know where you're going with this. We've talked about this before. Well, it's a hypothesis. It helps explain a lot of other things.

Me: But what allows you to do that?

Him: You have to use common sense.

Me: Hmm. Remember how I said that I have some questions for Lewis?

Him: Yes.

Me: This is one of those questions. I don't think you can account for common sense. You have to be able to account for it to use it.
At which point we were interrupted.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Senses of 'History'

Wright opens up his, to date, most thorough tome (pp. 12-14), with a helpful typology of 'history' that really frees up the booklength argument to unfold with focus and cogency:

It has frequently been argued, indeed insisted upon, that whatever we mean by the resurrection of Jesus, it is not accessible to historical investigation. Some have even suggested that it is not to be thought of in any meaningful sense as 'an event within history' at all. The archers cannot see the target properly; some doubt if it even exists. Over against this, I shall argue that the resurrection of Jesus, whatever it was, can and must be seen as at least a historical problem.

What, though, do we mean by 'historical'? 'History' and its cognates have been used, within debates about Jesus and the resurrection, in at least five significantly different ways.

First, there is history as event. If we say something is 'historical' in this sense, it happened, whether or not we can know or prove that it happened. The death of the last pterodactyl is in that sense a historical event, even though no human witnessed it or wrote about it at the time, and we are very unlikely ever to discover when and where it took place. Similarly, we use the word 'historical' of persons or things, to indicate simply and solely that they existed.

Second, there is history as significant event. Not all events are significant; history, it is often assumed, consists of the ones that are. The adjective that tends to go with this is 'historic'; 'a historic event' is not simply an event that took place, but one whose occurrence carried momentous consequences. Likewise, a 'historic' person, building or object is one perceived to have had particular significance, not merely existence. Rudolf Bultmann, himself arguably a historic figure within the discipline of New Testament studies, famously used the adjective geschichtlich to convey this sense, over against historisch (sense 1).

Third, there is history as provable event. To say that something is 'historical' in this sense is to say not only that it happened but that we can demonstrate that it happened, on the analogy of mathematics or the so-called hard sciences. This is somewhat more controversial. To say 'x may have happened, but we can't prove it, so it isn't really historical' may not be self-contradictory, but it is clearly operating with a more restricted sense of 'history' than some of the others.

Fourth, and quite different from the previous three, there is history as writing-about-events-in-the-past. To say something is 'historical' in this sense is to say that it was written about, or perhaps could in principle have been written about. (This might even include 'historical' novels.) A variant on this, though an important one, is oral history; at a time when many regarded it as carrying more authority than the written, history as speaking-about-events-in-the-past is not to be sneezed at.

Fifth and finally, a combination of (3) and (4) is often found precisely in discussion of Jesus: history as what modern historians can say about a topic. By 'modern' I mean 'post-Enlightenment', the period in which people have imagined some kind of analogy, even correlation, between history and the hard sciences. In this sense, 'historical' means not only that which can be demonstrated and written, but that which can be demonstrated and written within the post-Enlightenment worldview. This is what people have often had in mind when they rejected 'the historical Jesus' (which hereby, of course, comes to mean 'the Jesus that fits the Procrustean bed of a reductionist worldview') in favor of 'the Christ of faith'.

Confusion between these senses has of course bedevilled this very debate about the so-called 'historical Jesus', the phrase being used by some to mean Jesus as he actually was (sense 1), by others to mean what was significant about Jesus (sense 2), by others to mean that which we can prove about Jesus, as opposed to that which we must either doubt or take on faith alone (sense 3); by others again to mean what people have written about Jesus (sense 4). Those who, as I mentioned, have taken the phrase in sense 5 have often rejected the Jesus not only of that sense but, apparently, of the previous 4 as well. Jesus and the Victory of God constitutes, in part, a response to this position. But what we must now face one very specific, particular and in some senses peculiar case of the problem. In what sense, if any, can Jesus' resurrection be spoken of as 'historical'?

Ever since the time of Paul, people have tried to write about Jesus' resurrection (whatever they meant by that). The question of course, rebounds: were they thereby writing about an event in the past? Were they writing 'history'? Or was it all actually the projection of their own faith-experience? When they said 'Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day', were they intending to makes some kind of historical claim about Jesus, or did they themselves know this was a metaphor for their own remarkable new religious experience, the rise of their faith, and so on? This pushes us back to sense 1, which is the question at stake throughout much of this book: was the resurrection something that actually happened, and if so what precisely was it that happened? We do not seem to have had much polemic against 'the historical resurrection' in the same way that there has been angry rejection of 'the historical Jesus'.

There is no problem about predicating sense 2 of Jesus' resurrection. Virtually everyone will agree that whatever-it-was-that-happened was extremely significant. Indeed, some recent writers agree that it was very significant while continuing to argue that we cannot know what 'it' is. There are enormous problems about sense 3: it all depends on what you mean by 'proof', and we shall return to that question in due course. Sense 4 is unproblematic: the 'event' has been written about, even if it was all made up. But it is sense 5 that has caused the real headache: what can historians in today's world say on the subject? Unless we keep these distinctions clear in our minds as we proceed, we shall not just have enormous problems; we shall go round in ever-decreasing circles. [source]

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

6 ages, 6 days, 6 epochs

On page 9 of his study of Book I of the Confessiones, Gary Wills notes the structure of Augustine's anthropo-creational-cosmology:
Ages of ManCreationHistory
1Infantia (pre-verbal)LightAdam to Noah
2Pueritia (speaking)Sky/EarthNoah to Abraham
3Adulescentia (15-30)VegetationAbraham to David
4Juventus (30-45)GalaxyDavid to Babylon
5Maturitas (45-60)FishBabylon to Christ
6Senectus (60-)Animals/ManChrist to End

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Paul and the Totality

Sed contra:
This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
[Ephesians iii, 6]
Blessed Epiphany!

Monday, December 31, 2012

Hays and the Totality?

Been reading Richard Hays lately, coming off the the heels of Jesus and the Victory of God.

...

During the Gospel reading this past Sunday, John i, 1-17, I couldn't help but think how, given historical context, the discourse on light and darkness seems so obviously in reference to Jews and Gentiles. The only problem I had, then, was my next thought was how regularly I found myself reading the New Testament as predominantly a commentary on the relationship between Jew and Gentile - so regularly, in fact, that it's a little bit suspicious. Note this line (Hays) from today:
In Romans, Paul cites Scripture not as a repository of miscellaneous wisdom on various topics but as an insistent witness of one great truth: God's righteousness, which has now embraced Gentiles among the people of God, includes the promise of God's unbroken faithfulness to Israel. Virtually every text Paul cites or alludes to is made to circle around this one theme.
Is it not possible that the project of Hays, Wright, Inc are possibly guilty of flattening out biblical theology?