Saturday, August 27, 2005

The Tactics of God

Recently I was reading a Common Lectionary reading for this coming Sunday. It is about Peter, having recently confessed Christ the messiah and Son of God, getting chastized for then rebuking Jesus about Jesus' statement that he must go to Jerusalem and be crucified. No Jesus, this must not come to pass! Jesus quickly tells Peter, now seen as Satan, to get behind him.

When I hear this what really strikes me is Peter's recent profession. You see, Peter agrees with Jesus that the world needs to be redeemed and that he's just the man to do it, but he doesn't like his tactics. You see.... I think Peter saw the writing on the wall. If this is God... and this is the way he's choosing to do things... then he's probably going to tell us this is a good idea.



Exactly. See, God's plans are long ranging. We have our own tactics, and usually they seem to us at the time to be wisdom. Only in the fulness of time do we see their shortcomings. Often violence, for instance, seems to be the answer. Yet it nearly always comes back to haunt us. We may even solve some problems... for the time being. But, ultimately, God won't be mocked. Our violence won't bring peace and our selfsih powermongering will not lead to eventual giving. We will always have to respond to one violence with another until the blood boils over, and we will always seek to accumulate more and more, telling ourselves that tommorrow we will give.

Part of the reason we love Christ so much is that he did what we all admit needs to be done; what we 'would' do if time and convenience permitted, but what we feel ourselves too weak to do. The tactics of God in the warfare of the soul.

We tend to fall into this trap a lot, even with the best of intentions. In particular, we're not open to the idea that God's logic isnt our logic - his ways are not ours. So, we keep trying to fit the square peg into the round hole just like we always have. i'm reminded once of being hired to revitalize a particular youth ministry. My mission was clear: Revitalize a failing youth program; but don't change anything. That's how we tend to think. Perhaps it's a form of insanity - trying the same processes and expecting different results. The insanity we are born with - the insanity of ignoring wisdom. Wisdom tells us that mankind has been down this road once or twice before, with far more capable hands at the helm, and the results have always been diasterous. Yet we are self-condemned by our natures to do it again and again and again ad infinitum. :-\

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Mythos and Biblical Theology

I've decided that I'm not a child of the Enlightenment. The more I study it, the more I think it shipwrecked us spiritually. I have noticed that I have begun to title my way of understanding scripture as 'consciously pre-critical'.

God's tales are my life's delight. I think that if I believed them all literally it would actually hurt my spiritual depth.

So spotty today... not like me. I dunno, can't seem to think straight or apply myself to anything over 2 minutes.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Nice work teeth

Well I went to the dentist last Wednesday for the first time in.... 7 years. After giving me the photo treatment and the cleaning process the dentist and hygenist had a nice little pow-wow around me to congradulate me on no cavities and the 'stainless' enamel. Apparently however the dentist forgot that he was talking to an Arkansan. It went kinda like this:

Nice job cleaning these babies! You must brush at least twice a day!


No really, apparently you have no bad habits, like stupid cigar smoking


and I bet you've never dipped snuff in your life

(yup... or drank Wild Turkey out of the bottle... hello, life-long arkie!... oh wait I was born in Mississippi... that helps my odds... at all)

Keep up the good work!

(fight the good fight teeth, reinforcements soon I promise :-\

Battle of the Thorn

I love in the Bible when St. Paul refers to the thorn in his side that is always with him - that one problem he's aware of that constantly haunts him... his demon, the skeleton in the closet. Perhaps this isn't the only exegesis, but given that it's been attributed by various authors to everything from mild sickness to regret to far more carnal things, I think it's fair to say that his secret lies with him now until the resurrection of the body allows us to ask.

Of all the writers in the NT, it is Paul with whom I most relate. I, too, have my secret thorn. So long you can keep it, bear it, fight it, and lose. Lose and lose and lose. It never ends, it never stops whispering in your ear or pulling you out into the wilderness to have another go. Unlike Christ I am not offered all power on earth... I'm not offered anything substantative beyond normal human means.

My thorn and I have an interesting relationship. Born in a type of love that has been corrupted, and finally descending into near-madness by constant perversion and twisting, my demon is nearly never exorcised. Always always always it's in my ear, bidding me to fail. I do fail too. There's no doubt who's the stronger... well that's not true, there is a doubt. There is a type of giving in which I have never gone to, a wall of defense that has never been breached. The emeny sallies forth again and again, often breaching the outer perimiter, only to be rebuffed at the last second by shields of faith, arrows of holiness, and an armor provided by God's metallurgists from the oldest and strongest of metals - fate. It comes again even as I type, manifesting in seemingly endless hordes. Comes wave upon wave. Against such reckless hatred, as the King of Rohan noted, what can men do?

Thus far i've done nothing. I've just hidden behind my defenses. Guards of elite demeanor provided by the angels in heaven and not by my own strength of will repulse the onslaught. I try to surrender only to have my angel grab the white flag and say no... the fight will yet be won. God will triumph in the end... just hold the line... just hold the line.

What can I do? What long forgotten arcane tactic will God use to bloster the ranks of the righteous against their enemies both without and the traitor lurker within. The whisper is felt coldly against my will, stinging all of my sensitive spots of the sacred, profaning every altar and temple that I construct.

Back to the battlements for now.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

A death

A friend of mine has passed away. Suffered a heart attack while attending a Bar meeting in Chicago (he was a Law School Dean - brilliant guy). There is a lot to this. He was homosexual, which would get him looked down upon in many circles, but he was also a brilliant Law professor, a good friend of President Clinton's, and someone who helped me out with an open home and open heart in a couple of awkward situations (like when I had a lease run out two week before my next lease started). It's odd his heart attack, he wasn't very old (late 50's), and was a borderline health freak - grew all his own vegetables, didn't eat meat, etc. He was also an MDiv grad from Yale Div school, so we had many excellent conversations on God and faith. He had a very deep spiritual sense, but I always got the impression it was in an active searcher kind of way. Overall he was one of those people who was just so kind and sincere that the world was a little better off wherever he was. Don't think he had a greedy or mean bone in his body.

Interestingly, I'd been thinking about him a lot recently. It seems to happen that way when something big is about to happen. He and his partner were supposed to come down and grill out at the pool with us. He'd lent me a book and I just received the copy of the book I was going to give him. Ugh.. what a depressing matter.

That's all I can write until more details become available. May his memory be eternal.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Convos with Dr. Mike volume 2

> = previous letter
plain script is my section

>Our fate is intertwined with how we react to God. God is ultimately Good
>that he is faithful to his own promises. So, Covenant more than abstract
>moral theology is what it means for God to be Good by his own command. In>many ways Orthodoxy talks about God apophatically. Ultimately God is

>So being faithful makes Him good? Is it that God is consistent and sticks
>to His word?

I think what I'm getting at in short is that God is a First Principle. We reference God to discern what is Good. I would be very skeptical of the idea of Good apart from God. Being faithful to his word is part of the Goodness, Judging is part of the goodness, and the fact that his promises speak to our true natures is part of the goodness. Yet through it all God is wholly Other.

>Greek religion assumed a God who was
>so philosophical that it was almost worthlessly trapped in its own
>philosophical perfection.<

>That seems on the money for Aristotle, Plato and especially Plotinus. Of
>course, Spinoza had a similar view of God and took Him to not be a person, to not care, >etc.

Orthodox don't typically care for Spinoza, and even the Catholics told him to shut his mouth as I recall. Spinoza was essentially a deist as I recall, though I could be mistaken.

>How do we know what actions are God's? Or is all of nature and its events His work?

door #2. However, that has to be understood in a perfected sense. God created goodness, but allowed it to be fickle in order to allow free will. Still, it's all part and parcel of the great theophany of life in one form or another. God is the goodness that shines through the darkness and is not overcome by it - in any circumstance. "Sanctifying" matter to its original purpose is a big part of sacramental Christian worship used in more traditional churches. So matter is always dual - earthly and heavenly purpose. bread feeds the body, but sanctified bread feeds the soul... etc.

>The nature of Jesus is a tough question-as I recall the debate over the
>trinity resulted in a heresy or two. On the plus side, it did add a lot to the
>discussion of identity and multiple location-thus providing part of my
>dissertation material. :)

Or five. Yet, I would say that all of those heresies inaccurately represented the faith. Most of them were "new" in their time. I think that I used to have a little bit more sympathy for the heretical movements until I studied them in a bit more depth.

Glad we could help. :)

>But, I have heard highly educated people either 1) deny the communist actions (it is all >western propaganda) or assert that 2) it was necessary and the peasants got what they
>deserved. Naturally, these same people insist that the US is always trying to commit genocide >(not true-the last time was during the Indian wars).

Pathetic isn't it? And yes, the US is hardly the proponents of genocide that the hate-America-first crowd wants to project. Many very good points of the left wing of our political spectrum are lost because they won't tone down the ridiculous accusations. Most Americans basically want to do "right" and would basically agree on what that is if they saw it, at least where genocide is concerned. Much of our self-criticism is kind of funny in a certain way. For example, I found it interesting when the prison scandals broke in Iraq - here we are in a frenzy over apologizing and laying blame for the world's largest frat hazing while every day insurgents were killing tens of people by beheading. The self-hate is very odd, and Americans abroad weather way more abuse than they should. I dislike the IRaq war more than most, but I am not the American to listen to French and Germans tell me how we're murderers and colonialists - the irony seems lost on them entirely.

Americans seem to break into two camps - the unquestioningly loyal and the unquestionaningly dissentious. NEver the twain shall meet.

>You'd like Leibniz's view of justice-he has a very nice passage about the
>machinery of justice and how sin brings about its own punishment and goodness
>brings about reward-in due time.

I think the Hebrew's beat him to the punch. The Principle of LAw stated inDeuteronomy 30:1-20.

>True. Experts have quite a few competing views. Unfortunately, people
>weren't so good about recording things back then, crediting sources and using quotes. If they >were as obsessed about copyrights then as we are now, we'd know a lot more.

Historicity and the Scriptures is a Protestant problem. For me it is not an issue. The texts are holy because the people of the Covenant accepted them and used them in their lives. God speaks through them prophetically. It's part of my Edifying Story view of the Christian story and might take a while to explain. :-p

>It seems pretty reasonable. His main view is that a person shouldn't just assume that >anything that pops in their head that fires them up must be a command from God.

Ok then I take it back, he's got a point.

>Locke had a very practical, English reply-we can't be certain about most things, but it doesn't >matter. Anyone who requires perfect certainty before acting will starve. If a person has >doubts about the existence of a furnace, they can stick their head in it. The basic idea is that >we know enough to function in ways that matter in everyday life (avoiding pain and seeking >pleasant things).

He's right, but limited.

>I'm a committed rationalist-but admit that knowledge probably comes
>via many avenues.

I'm not. Ironically in schooling both HS, Collegiate, and now graduate, I believe that most would call me "rational" in the calculating sense of the word, but I'm a devotee of the D&D divide. Clerics have Wisdom and Mages have Intelligence. I think Gary Gygax was brilliant in making said distinction. :)

Rationalism, aka: Int., makes life consistent, but Wisdomgoes beyond it and makes life worth living - beyond mere survival.

>True.That use of the term "knew" got a lot of mileage back in grad school
>humor. Some funny, some lame.

However funny or lame I'm quite serious. When I ask someone if they "know"Jesus - I'm not asking about their mystical sex life (although many mysticsdo go there), but I AM asking more about a powerful personal conversion and less about whether or not Jesus makes rational sense to their mind. Cardia,ou nous. :)

Always wonderful to heard from you Doc. I enjoy your challenges, and yes I even enjoy offering my Neolithic responses.

Monday, August 01, 2005

congrats on the engagement?

Well, two of my friends are getting married and I don't get it. Certainly we're not dealing with religious folk here. in fact, they've been living together for two years. He's more atheist than she is (she's what I would call a cultural Catholic). In any case, she wants to be married 'in the church'. Needless to say, that makes me sick. When I was told the news, the messenger acted as if I should be happily surprised. 'Oh, what a great thing! It's about time! Best of luck in life and love!". Buh.

Instead I simply asked "oh really. What's their motivation?"

Snide as this answer might seem, I was really interested. So, I went ahead and asked three or four others. Nothing. Not one real answer to my question. A lot of "well it's about time". Why? "it means something." What does it mean? (no answers were forthcoming). and finally the killer: "She wants to be married in the Catholic Church."

hold on while I ready my reaction to that idea...............


It makes me damned sick living in Generation Feel. "Oh I know I should stop smoking but I don't feel like it". "Oh I know I shouldn't abandon my spouse but I don't feel whole." WELL ARE YOU WHOLE OR ARENT YOU?! Seriously man, it's an entire generation with less than 10% able to think past its stomach and genitals.

I think the Church should burn itself down before allowing mixed marriages with non-believers. If you don't believe and won't submit to a mandatory period of pre-marriage counciling (which should be a pre-req for marriage in a Church), then there's no way you should take vows to a Christian God. Despite my friendship I won't be able to go... afraid I'm probably protesting. Watching hypocrisy in action is too difficult for me. If it was a civil service I'd be more than happy to go and plan the reception, but I can't compromise my principles enough to go for an hour and watch vows being falsely given to a God the parties A. Don't believe in and B. Inasmuch as they do it's some very nebulous "godhood" idea, not the thrice holy godhead. Sitting there having what is bound and loosed on earth bound and loosed in heaven and not even believing that God exists.... after living a lifestyle for a large number of years that the Church consistently preaches as ungodly. Are you kidding me? It makes me sick to my stomach.

I don't know whether to cry or break something. I want to give my entire life to the idea of this redemptive God through his Son and in his Holy Spirit, and to think that I will watch two people I usually like blatantly blaspheme holy vows. It's unacceptable.

So then what is it? Is it just the financial boons? If so, then we should certainly do away with the legal idea of marriage. Those boons were originally meant to assist people in rearing children (once an understood obligation of rightfully married and fertile people). Benefits were certainly not meant to be given out just so that your love could be recognized. Do people really think that the government of the USA gives a rip about your duly committed love to another human being? Get a grip.

Is it recognition before God? Well, said deity would have to be acknowledged before a vow to it meant anything.

Is it merely a public pronouncement? Can't be. Cats already out of the bag on that one. It's been pretty official for some time now.

Is it to be gathered to make vows before friends and family? That could have been done without the Church being involved.

So I am left with only one conclusion. The Church is being used. It's being used as a vehicle of happiness. Although 99.9% of their lives will be spent in open hostility to its teachings, there is a draw of beauty and majesty there that cannot be equaled by secular rituals. There is a power in the very building where the Body of Christ gathers... it oozes holiness in its liturgy, in its sacraments, in its art, and in its music - these things cannot be duplicated by outsiders. The Church, the music, the faith, and the tradition will be used and then dispensed. It's being desecrated and made to play the fool by people who have no understanding or appreciation of its ways. The blood, sweat, and toil of true believers who have built those buildings and been sanctified by those vows and sung those hymns will be cast aside for nicety and expediency. There will be no amen sounding through the people again on that night, there will only be the laughing of Satan as secular society wins yet another against the Body of Christ. The Desolating Sacrilege of Daniel will once again stand in the Temple.

If I am ever a priest I will not marry unbelievers in my Church, no matter what the cost.