Words

Life

Category: Christianity

daredevil

by Andrea Elizabeth

I could seduce you, but that would be wrong. Instead, I’ll scare you. How? Grizzly murder, ghosts, hostile aliens? No, by not telling you. By letting the unknown lurk right behind your head, dodging your gaze every time you turn around. You know it’s there, you can feel it’s eyes warming your occipital scalp. I don’t have to do a thing but confirm to you that what you know is true. What are its intentions? Your paranoid side says the thing is justifying the torture. Your idealistic side says it’s got your back. Delusions, both. Your pessimistic side denies it’s even there, but you can’t get rid of it and your honest self knows it. Angels are for children, demons for fundies and flakes.

I will tell you what it is, and it’s even scarier than any of the above. It’s love. You hate it because you can’t outrun it, you can’t stop it, and worse, your success at denying it is nothing more than ostrich tactics. You will periodically come up for air and there it is, right behind your head. The sand was a delusion because nothing can separate you from it, even though you beg for it to go away. To placate you it will periodically send a spectre of hatred and destruction. You need this in order to breathe and function. It gives you confidence and makes you feel powerful like a winner. You’d rather conquer with hate than be conquered by love. Why? Because if you stop and let it be, it will drown you. You will be too fast immersed into the lowest depths where your blood will boil and your skin blister till all your flesh and even your bones are torn apart. But not one of your bones will break. This is not mercy because you will want it to end. This is why even Christians want to be cremated. Obliteration is the only escape. The idea of cremation is a spectre provided to give you a mental break from being in love. How we long instead for nothing! Go ahead, scream.

Father Seraphim Rose, Dickens, Chesterton, Belloc, and Lewis

by Andrea Elizabeth

I still haven’t finished That Hideous Strength, but I’m getting excited about what I want to pick up next.

Namely, my copy of Father Seraphim Rose, His Life and Works has been calling me, and then, or simultaneously, I think I’ll try David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens for two reasons. I have previously not been able to clear the hurdle to read Dickens after seeing the 40’s movie of DC, which was heavy on the emotional angst and exaggerated caricature side. How could it not be with W.C. Fields? Plus the assignment of Great Expectations in High School yielded mixed reviews. I don’t mind the wordiness so much as how depressing it was. I don’t remember that much of Dickens’ style, but for some reason I was more motivated to read other 19th C writers, probably because the romances were more satisfying. Dickens’ characters seemed in even gloomier circumstances with not as much emotional relief. On to my reasons why I do want to read him, which actually may be three in number. Or more. When I was converting to Orthodoxy, I read that an Athonite monk recommended David Copperfield to a novice for basic Christian teaching. That started my warming to the idea. But more recently, since having the occasion to spend a couple of hours at a stretch driving my son to college when George doesn’t go in to his office, I have been in the mood to hear words instead of songs. This is the circumstance for my listening to the podcasts I’ve mentioned in posts previous. At home I don’t listen to my pod for some reason. Wednesday I happened to think of listening to David Copperfield which is available for free on iTunes from Librivox. The guy who read chapter one, “I Was Born”, was pretty good, but chapter two’s lady, though possessing an interesting Cockneyish accent, read groups. of three words. at a time. in the exact. same. way. But still, Dickens’s humor, wit and charm show through, unlike in the movie.

The last (maybe, maybe not) reason is more convoluted. A few weeks back, on “Second Terrace” there was a post on Chesterbelloc. At the time, I wondered, which I don’t think was explained, if this word in the title was a combination of G.K. Chesteron’s (whom I woefully also haven’t read, and who was influential in C.S. Lewis’ conversion) name and someone else’s. But I shelved my curiosity in the back of my head. Then yesterday and this morning, my About.com daily classic poem email sent me a couple by Hilaire Belloc called “The Big Baboon”,

The Big Baboon is found upon
The plains of Cariboo:
He goes about with nothing on
(A shocking thing to do).

But if he dressed up respectably
And let his whiskers grow,
How like this Big Baboon would be
To Mister So-and-so!

and “The Birds”,

When Jesus Christ was four years old
The angels brought Him toys of gold,
Which no man ever had bought or sold.

And yet with these He would not play.
He made Him small fowl out of clay,
And blessed them till they flew away:
Tu creasti Domine

Jesus Christ, Thou child so wise,
Bless mine hands and fill mine eyes,
And bring my soul to Paradise.

Eureka! The other half of the combined Chesterbelloc! So I googled that combo to find the relation, and read this fine article about the two artists. This is the last paragraph,

Chesterton said that the world of Charles Dickens was the best of all impossible worlds, and something similar is often thought of his. After all, he was an optimist, he wrote a rollicking prose that often runs away from sense to become a music that mystifies and delights. He can seem so innocent, almost prelapsarian. I suspect that this is one of his greatest accomplishments.

All this (the truly last reason) is under the unfolding umbrella of the nature of this blog, which I’m seeing as being an inquiry into what to do with one’s western roots when becoming Eastern Orthodox. I currently say, make them proud.

Perelandra 2 and Patristic Theology 2

by Andrea Elizabeth

I have said before that I am a disillusioned optimist. I keep believing that there is an answer and a fix to all the mess. I can’t help myself. And I have found answers, and when I do, like in Out of the Silent Planet, I hitch my wagon to the horse from whose mouth it came. Every time. I can’t help myself. Then the horse stumbles – how could he not? C.S. Lewis did not become an Orthodox Christian, but I so wanted someone in the western tradition to speak Orthodox, and I think he comes close many times because Orthodoxy is the language we were all meant to speak and lies in potential in all of us. What is not Orthodox is foreign, and sometimes we develop foreign habits. In Perelandra, Lewis shows his Protestantism in that he believes that Christ was incarnated because of the Fall, instead of the Orthodox belief that Christ’s intention in creation was to join with us in the Incarnation from the beginning and would have happened without the Fall. So on Perelandra when the unfallen Green Lady and the King get married, it is seen as a less great thing than what happened on earth as a result of the Fall.

Then Ransom’s sacrifice is seen as an unmeritorious act I assume because of the Protestant creed of Glory to God Alone. But this causes him confusion when he sees the King’s face who is created in the image of “Maleldil”.

“You might ask how it was possible to look upon it and not to commit idolatry, not to mistake it for that of which it was the likeness. For the resemblance was, in its own fashion, infinite, so that almost you could wonder at finding no sorrows in his brow and no wounds in his hands and feet. Yet there was no danger of mistaking, not one moment of confusion, no least sally of the will towards forbidden reverence. Where likeness was greatest, mistake was least possible.”

He continues to struggle with idolatry when he talks about man-made images,

“A clever wax-work can be made so like a man that for a moment it deceives us: the great portrait which is far more deeply like him does not. Plaster images of the Holy One may before now have drawn to themselves the adoration they were meant to arouse for the reality. But here, where His live image, like Him within and without, made by His own bare hands out of the depth of divine artistry, His masterpiece of self-portraiture coming forth from His workshop to delight all worlds, walked and spoke before Ransom’s eyes, it could never be taken for more than an image. Nay, the very beauty of it lay in the certainty that it was a copy, like and not the same, an echo, a rhyme, an exquisite reverberation of the uncreated music prolonged in a created medium.”

His iconoclasm is showing, but he knows that there is something to marvel at in humanity. It is so hard when converting from Protestantism to be able to make peace between the Creator and the created. We have been so conditioned to believe that it is a sin to appreciate the greatness of creation. Proper veneration has become foreign. We are more afraid of committing idolatry than to venerate man’s intended end, and that which represents and communicates those who have accomplished deification, or theosis – icons.

But it is because of Christ’s and the Saint’s union with God that venerating them is not idolatry. God is in them, unseparated, unmixed, distinct, and undivided. To venerate the Saints is to worship God and His intention in Incarnation. Perelandra is full of What Would Jesus Do? Instead of God filling His Saints so that they can reach their potential – deification. Lewis presents a copy, but not the real thing.

Back to disillusioned optimism, less than perfect people can still impart improvements to where we are at present, so I’ll not give up on Professor Lewis. And I’ll not give up on Father John Romanides who has also let me down with this unsubstantiated ad hominem on page 90 of Patristic Theology, “If we use the criteria of the Apostle Paul and the Church Fathers such as St. Symeon the New Theologian regarding who is truly a theologian, we will see that contemporary modern Orthodox theology, under the influence of Russian theology, is not Patristic theology, but a distortion of Patristic theology, because it is written by people who do not have the above-mentioned spiritual prerequisites [that they be in theosis].” This is all he says about Russian “theologians”. I’m very disappointed and now will have to force myself to finish this book as I did with Perelandra.

I struggle with disillusionment a lot, but I know I can’t keep retreating forever from the less than perfect. Part of it is dealing with being offended and learning to forgive and have a humble attitude about how much I fail myself and require patience and forgiveness from others. But also I have read that love requires perfection, so it is ok to notice when something is not perfect and to bring it to attention when it is presented as the truth. We are easily deceived and must fight it in ourselves and others. Father John Romanides is motivating me to seek theosis through purification and illumination by prayer and repentance, so I will keep reading him even though he must be one of those ethnocentric Greek Orthodox. It just takes some of the fun out of it is all.

Plato 7, Socrates and Adeimantus Discuss Education

by Andrea Elizabeth

Continued from Book 2 of Plato’s Republic,

Socrates and Adeimantus agree that traditional education “has two divisions, gymnastic for the body, and music for the soul.” Literature, fiction and non, is included in the category of music, which should be taught before gymnastics. Socrates says that it is okay to introduce a child to fiction, as long as it is good, which is to be determined by censors. He says children are not to be told tales that misrepresent the gods. He gives the example of Hesiod describing a god who does bad things and then his son retaliates against him. This bad behavior, especially when enacted by gods, should not be given as a model to young children. They should be told that the gods, and citizens, never quarreled amongst themselves. He says that this is true in the case of the gods, and the stories of Zeus beating his wife and such are not true. Children do not understand allegory and will take these stories literally.

This confirms what C.S. Lewis said about the gods being used as allegories of human passions. However Plato and Socrates seem to still believe in their literal existence. Lewis said that the philosophers became monotheistic (?) and this seems consistent with what Socrates says next.

And is he not truly good? and must he not be represented as such?
Certainly.
And no good thing is hurtful?
No, indeed.
And that which is not hurtful hurts not?
Certainly not.
And that which hurts not does no evil?
No.
And can that which does no evil be a cause of evil?
Impossible.
And the good is advantageous?
Yes.
And therefore the cause of well-being?
Yes.
It follows therefore that the good is not the cause of all things, but of the good only?

Assuredly.
Then God, if he be good, is not the author of all things, as the many assert, but he is the cause of a few things only, and not of most things that occur to men. For few are the goods of human life, and many are the evils, and the good is to be attributed to God alone; of the evils the causes are to be sought elsewhere, and not in him.

I believe that the reason C.S. Lewis sounds different than most Protestants is because he respected human intuition. If not intuition, then that God sent prophets to the pagans before the Christians got there (not that they had full revelation). If Protestants close off their intuition and forsake anything a non-Sola Scriptura person says, then they will have a different view of God. Many strongly disagree if we say God is not an angry, vengeful God and that evil is not necessary. It is easy to back up a Reformed, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, Christianity by the Bible alone. The Traditional Church, who embraced the Bible, did not come to the same conclusions. I’m not going to speculate that they were influenced by pagan notions of God, though most of the Fathers of the early Church were classically trained. I cannot historically diagnose the root sources exactly, but I’d rather believe the above than the Calvinist version, and I trust myself when what gives me peace, joy and love for God is confirmed by Traditional Christianity.

Then we must not listen to Homer or to any other poet who is guilty of the folly of saying that two casks Lie at the threshold of Zeus, full of lots, one of good, the other of evil lots, and that he to whom Zeus gives a mixture of the two Sometimes meets with evil fortune, at other times with good; but that he to whom is given the cup of unmingled ill,

Amen.

He then discusses God’s immutability saying that anything that is perfect does not fall prey to imperfect influences. Which leads me to think that it is a marvelous thing that God, joined to creation through the Theotokos, did not suffer change and become fallen as we did.

Next is a discussion on how God in addition to being perfect and changeless, does not lie or deceive. That men and God all hate lies, but that

a lie in words is only a kind of imitation and shadowy image of a previous affection of the soul, not pure unadulterated falsehood. The true lie is hated not only by the gods, but also by men?

Whereas the lie in words is in certain cases useful and not hateful; in dealing with enemies –that would be an instance; or again, when those whom we call our friends in a fit of madness or illusion are going to do some harm, then it is useful and is a sort of medicine or preventive; also in the tales of mythology, of which we were just now speaking –because we do not know the truth about ancient times, we make falsehood as much like truth as we can, and so turn it to account.

Oh, he’s justifying fictitious literature as long as it portrays God correctly. I think C.S. Lewis liked Plato.

Thus concludes Book 2.

C.S. Lewis/Ransom on doubts

by Andrea Elizabeth

“I say – you’re all right, aren’t you? You got through the barrage without any damage?”

“The barrage? – I don’t understand.”

“I was thinking you would have met some difficulties in getting here.”

“Oh, that!” said I. “You mean it wasn’t just my nerves? There was something in the way?”

“Yes. They didn’t want you to get here. I was afraid something of the sort might happen but there was no time to do anything about it. I was pretty sure you’d get through somehow…. Oh they’ll put all sorts of things into your head if you let them,” said Ransom lightly. “The best plan is to take no notice and keep straight on. Don’t try to answer them. They like drawing you into an interminable argument.” (Perelandra p.20)

A Developing World-View

by Andrea Elizabeth

I am looking forward to studying the Celts, Gauls and the Anglo Saxons when our curriculum focuses on them year after next. Meanwhile I’d like to write down some of my impressions about roots. My mother’s family has lived in the Deep South since the early 1700’s. Before that they came from England. My father’s mother is of similar lineage, but his father was German whose father had come to America, first Chicago, as a child. So I am 1/4 German and 3/4 British descent with rumored Cherokee blood possibly thrown in.

I have a vague knowledge that during Medieval times Germanic (Frankish, Norman and Slavic) invasion was pervasive in Russia and Eastern and Western Europe. That much conquering is impressive. Even the Anglo Saxons previous to William the Conqueror were Germanic. They and the Romans previous to them pretty much conquered the existing Celts and Gaul. Apparently the Celts weren’t quite as ambitious and had more tribal factions. The Germans must have been more organized. My impression is also that the Germans were more technically advanced and the Celts had more of a soul-ish constitution. Germans more calculating, the Celts were directed more from their hearts.

I need to continue reading Dr. Farrell’s God, History, and Dialectic which is on a computer that the boys generally take over for school and gaming purposes, and which is in another room, to gain more insight into the Christianization of these regions. Jared is further into it than me at present.

England, being one of the more distant outposts of Rome and Normandy, seems to have been, while conquered, harder to manage and thus perhaps maintained more of the Celtic influence that further distant Ireland is known for. I think that is my question because judging from later English colonization and actions during the two World Wars, mainly in the Middle East, perhaps it has more Germanic and Roman tendencies than I’ve been aware of. So far America has had a very similar heart and mind as England, but with the effects of more recent immigrations from other countries, that may be about to change. I also want to understand more how the Asian presence in America, first with the Native Americans, then with mass immigration from China and Japan distinguishes us from the English. Much time has already been spent on the African influence, such as in our music and entertainment and other things of soul.

I am interested in this in light of my evolving sense of God’s sovereignty and providence, and ideas of predestination, and free will as well as ideas of nationalism and the organic or intended unity or diversity of mankind. I also want to understand Germanic and Byzantine influence in Russia, whose Church is my newly adopted religious parent. Like England, Romania also seems a nexus of cultures with latin, greek, and germanic influence. The French identity is a mystery to me. Italy, Greece, and Germany seem to have more singularly influenced personalities, though Dr. Farrell spends a lot of time on the Frankish influence in the Roman Church. Most of my Protestant interests in history were Biblical and focused on the development of the Jewish nation, so when thinking about all the recent clashes in the Middle East as well as the Holocaust, I was loyal to the Jews. I am now rethinking Zionist political policies in the Middle East. But Jewish migration into Europe and Russia should also be considered as influential in the developments in those countries.

An Athiest’s response to The Great Divorce

by Andrea Elizabeth

This person perhaps named Ebon, seems to prefer the Buddhist approach which it is believed leaves no child behind in hell.

These two chapters [12&13], the last except for a brief epilogue, are the most heartrending of the entire book. George MacDonald and the narrator come across an angelic procession honoring a Spirit named Sarah Smith, who evidently saved many souls while she was on Earth. But while passing through the woods, this Lady (as Lewis styles her) comes across a Ghost who used to be her husband. Shrunken and dwarfish, and silent himself, this Ghost leads around a bizarre, ambulatory puppet like a ventriloquist’s dummy, which Lewis names the Tragedian, that speaks for him.

The Tragedian claims to have been worried about the Lady, distressed that she was there without him, believing she must have missed him terribly. But she denies this, explaining that “There are no miseries here” (p.115). She says that she has been perfectly happy without him. The Tragedian is badly shaken by this.

Me, AE: Way more sympathy for the self-absorbed misery monger than the lady who has finally found untouchable joy in the Lord.

Over the course of their conversation it emerges that, while they were both alive, the Lady loved this man because she was emotionally vulnerable and needed to be loved by someone else to feel complete. She apologizes for using him like this instead of loving him truly, for his own sake, as she should have done. But the Tragedian seems unfazed by this; what upsets him is her confident assertion that she is no longer weak and lonely, but now happy and strong, and no longer needs him. The Tragedian takes this as a personal insult and grows increasingly angry. He demands to know why she does not pity him, but her reply is that she will no longer accede to pity used “for a kind of blackmailing”, to “hold joy up to ransom” (p. 120), used by people who deliberately make themselves feel terrible so that others will feel sorry for them.

Me: Imagine that. Ebon is a Tragedian himself.

As he hears those words, the dwarf Ghost dwindles until he disappears entirely, and only the Tragedian is left. The Lady refuses to speak to him any longer, and with these words the conversation ends:

“You do not love me,” said the Tragedian in a thin bat-like voice: and he was now very difficult to see.
“I cannot love a lie,” said the Lady. “I cannot love the thing which is not. I am in Love, and out of it I will not go.”
There was no answer. The Tragedian had vanished. The Lady was alone in that woodland place…. (p.122)

And, alone, she walks away. The angelic choir accompanies her, singing joyously as if this ending somehow represented a victory. If this is a song of triumph, it is one that, to this atheist’s ears, sounded hollow indeed.Even Lewis’ narrator recognizes the incongruity of this, and has a long talk with MacDonald about it, a more detailed study than is given to any other theological issue mentioned in the book. “Is it really tolerable,” he asks, “that she should be untouched by his misery, even his self-made misery?” (p.123). MacDonald replies that it is better this way, and in response to the narrator’s claim that “the final loss of one soul gives the lie to all the joy of those who are saved,” responds, “That sounds very merciful: but see what lurks behind it…. The demand of the loveless and the self-imprisoned that they should be allowed to blackmail the universe: that till they consent to be happy (on their own terms) no one else shall taste joy: that theirs should be the final power; that Hell should be able to veto Heaven” (p.124).

MacDonald explains that “every disease that submits to a cure shall be cured”, but “we will not call blue yellow to please those who insist on still having jaundice, nor make a midden of the world’s garden for the sake of someone who cannot abide the smell of roses” (p.125). In essence, he is saying, the good people in Heaven should not be troubled by the suffering and misery of the damned, because otherwise they would not be able to enjoy Heaven. This is an enduring problem for exclusivist Christians, but Lewis’ method of dealing with it is not inadequate. In fact, it is grotesque.

Me: I think he’s forgetting that the people who choose to go back to hell keep getting chances to come back to heaven. Though they probably get to so “hardened” a state that they quit coming.

It is a complete contradiction in terms to say to someone that you love them and want them to be happy, but you won’t be hurt or troubled in the slightest if they reject your love or spurn your offer. It is part of the definition of love that it is a state where the happiness of another is equal to your own. Lewis’ Spirits are no longer human beings at all; they are more like bright machines, emotional cripples, lacking the fundamental human quality of compassion. They no longer care about anyone but themselves. (Reading his book’s descriptions of their behavior, I was reminded of this case…)

Me: Earlier Ebon says you can’t give a kindergartner free choice to choose health or illness. But God deals uniquely with each individual in this story. They are given the conversation partner that is most suited to their particular level of development to help bring them up. It is the person’s choice to reject what the joyful, loving person is saying. So until all people decide for Christlikeness, everyone should be miserable? And if this never happens? Then there is no heaven. It is quite clear that this woman worried for her husband while on earth, but there comes a time when you have to respect their decision. An age of accountability as it were. When they come to the crossroads and knowingly decide for the wrong one. Sometimes you have to let them go or else choose hell for yourself. And this is rejecting God which an atheist apparently has no problem doing.

The only justification Lewis offers for this appalling state of affairs is that the damned have chosen their damnation, and it would not be fair to allow them to use this as a weapon against the saved. But as we have seen, this is not so. Lewis’ damned have not freely chosen their fate; they have been deceived into making the wrong decision because they do not understand the situation they are in, nor the nature or the gravity of the choice they face. Meanwhile, the saved stand by and watch, in a state of dazed euphoria, unable to question or protest.

No, Lewis took great pains to show that the people preferred hell. They rejected that painful feet are required to find joy, which they rejected as well. Yes I believe in deception, but when the Truth comes along, we are given a choice. Ask to be shown the truth, and you shall receive. Then you must choose if the revelation is worth it. In my experience I’ve seen people look at sore feet, reject them and then will make all sorts of excuses because they are committed to comfortable feet which Lewis shows is indeed enough for them. They prefer the rain/darkness/a self-made world. They have their own version of happiness, and God in his mercy doesn’t endlessly pester them to try to get them to change their mind. Love respects the others’ choice.

All of the self-justifying ink Lewis spills cannot alter the fundamental immorality, the injustice, of this belief system. In the end, we are to believe, the damned will be lost forever, all because they did not understand the choice they were making, while the relative few who reach Heaven will immediately lose all concern for those left behind, and will pass eternity without even a thought for their loved ones who did not make it. This cannot be described as anything other than deeply selfish. (Why did the Ghost who was converted to a Spirit immediately ride away rather than stay behind to help his fellows? After all, he was one of them only seconds earlier; does he no longer care what happens to them?) And we are told that this is a good outcome.

God is love and joy, so choosing them is choosing God. Rejecting them is rejecting God. Putting another person before God is idolatry. And again, I think he forgets all the spirits who do come back for these people. But the newly illumined one is like a babe himself and needs nurturing before he can help someone else. Ebon is justifying himself and his choice to reject God and the Christians who have presented the Gospel to him. He rejects going to Church to become enlightened himself and expects everyone to turn their gaze from Christ to argue endlessly with him why Christ isn’t good enough for him. Stop it, come up right now! There’s still time for you. Quit rejecting joy in the Lord. Is that good enough for you? I doubt it. Prove me wrong, but I’m not going to hold my breath till I pass out over it as much as you would like me to.

As a counterexample, consider Buddhism. In this belief system, there is a class of beings called the bodhisattvas – human beings who have become enlightened and who have therefore won their freedom from the cycle of reincarnation, who no longer have to be reborn into the mortal world that is dominated by misery and suffering – but who freely choose to stay in that world, regardless, and help other beings escape it. Consider their vow:

“Never will I seek nor receive private individual salvation – never enter into final peace alone; but forever and everywhere will I live and strive for the universal redemption of every creature throughout all worlds. Until all are delivered, never will I leave the world of sin, sorrow and struggle, but will remain where I am.”

Who would you consider a more moral, a more admirable being – the Buddhist who willingly takes that vow, or one of Lewis’ Spirits who blithely ignores the suffering of the damned because he is happy?

Seeking private salvation is hell. I didn’t see any spirit selfishly and ignoringly alone in the whole story. The spirits did leave a better existence for others, though I’m not really sure this is necessary. I think maybe they can keep ascending and intercede for others at the same time. Also being a Christian and choosing Salvation instead of hell are sort of selfish. But the paradox is that choosing hell is more selfish. It is rebellious, misery-loving though ironically comfort-loving, impulsive, short-sighted, self-defeating, obstinate, voluntary blinders on, self-justifying, self-choosing torment. Christians choose to obey Christ instead of themselves, but they are actually more true to their intended self which needs obedience to Christ to truly be fulfilled. Choosing emptyness is self-destructive and dysfunctional and will only bring others around you down. How selfish to want people who are willing to get their feet stabbed in order to gain Christ to reject Him for an atheist’s stubborn rebellion. If Christ says to let them go, let them go. There comes a point when a parent has to let their children go as well, though I would imagine they still pray for them. But there may be a time when we are out of love told to stop doing that too. His will be done.

But even granting Lewis the benefit of the doubt – even assuming that the Ghosts had freely and willingly chosen their fate – why should this be considered relevant? Why shouldn’t God, whom we are continually told has an infinitely greater perspective than that of finite human beings, make the right choice for them if they will not make it themselves? Why shouldn’t he tear down Hell and change all the Ghosts into Spirits? Would they be unhappy? Would they be ungrateful? If Heaven itself sang with joy for the conversion of one sinner, imagine the exaltation for a billion! All old wounds would be healed, all grievances set right at last; instead of having to be made invincible to the suffering of their damned friends and loved ones, the saved could rejoice to be reunited with them. There seems to be no reason why God should not enact such a plan – no reason, that is, except that Lewis is bound by his Christian beliefs to reject universalism. In fact, this book was written specifically to combat it, and to do this he concocts this bizarre, Kafkaesque Heaven where the saved are stripped of humanity and the damned are condemned for being offered a choice they cannot understand and choosing wrongly. In an ironic twist, Lewis’ effort to defeat universalism only goes to show how it would be a much better plan than the Christianity of the Bible.

Because God loves them too much to force them into happiness that they don’t want, and would indeed make them miserable. They are in heaven, but they hide from it, as you are doing. Stop it. (the feedback to Ebon’s site is by email only and I don’t want to give him my personal information that the email could lead him to, so I think I’ll decline inviting him to read this. Besides, if he rejected C.S. Lewis and Sarah Smith, why should he listen to me?)

And or or?

by Andrea Elizabeth

The Zen riddle is that if it is not I who made myself and it is not another who made me, then neither made me so I disappear into nothingness. The conundrum that is dismissed as ridiculous though in the Buddhist dialogue presented in Darrida for Beginners, is that I am both made by myself and by another. Is Eastern Orthodox Christianity the only belief that allows both/and? Coming from a Protestant perspective, the veneration of Saints is a very hard hurtle to get over because it seems impossible to a binary, either/or thinker that we can be saved both by God and by Mary, the Second Eve, for example. This is why the reformed have to do away with free will, so that they don’t have to take her, any other Saint, Sacraments, or any other other as a source into account.

But in God’s economy, he provided for plurality. Not in a Pantheistic sense because free will (still not sure how that differs from voluntarism) is necessary to be obedient to God and enter into His heavenly kingdom. “Thy will be done” as Mary said, can only be said by a person with free will. And it is this subjection of her will to God’s that makes her a source of our salvation, both by example, and because of the fruit of her will and her womb and her prayers.

I think that it is this both allowance that enables us to comprehend reality better. This is how we love our neighbor and ourself, it is also how we see Christ in everyone. The other person is Christ because he is made in God’s image and because he is united to Christ because his very life is based in inspiration. Yet he is not Christ because he does not have the same hypostasis as Christ who is a distinct Person with a divine and human nature. And he is not Christ if he sins.

Creation is both God and not God. Christ is God and a created human. I am saved by God and the Saints and by everything and everyone in the universe, including myself. In addition to learning more about Buddhism, I’m also trying to work through The Deconstruction of Buddhism to see how Derrida sees it – not sure yet. But he seems to seek the membrane between without saying neither side exists. That instead they supplement (both in completion and in addition) each other.

Nineveh was a great city before God, of about a three-day journey

by Andrea Elizabeth

Jonah 3:3

more from Ad Thalassium 64

Permit us to fill in this gap with a few observations. We must assume that the thee-day journey signifies the three different ways of the godly life, or in other words, the discipline proper to each of the three universal laws. By universal laws here I mean the natural law, the scriptural law, and the law of grace. For each of these laws has a peculiar mode of life and appropriate course of action, since each generates a different disposition of the will for those who follow it.

Maximus explains that the Natural Law “prevents the senses from overpowering reason” in how we treat others, typified by Christ’s teaching, Whatever you desire for men to do to you, do likewise to them (Mt. 7:12, Lk 6:31). Maximus says that this law provides a type of unity among people who overcome their selfishness.

The second law, the Scriptural Law, “curbs the unruly urges of the more foolish by the fear of punishment, and trains them to look only for equitable distribution… of justice” which slowly turns the fear (of punishment) into a disposition  [of] “deliberate willing of the good.” This will eventually engender a love of others, and a desire for mutual loving unity with them. “The law of nature consists in natural reason assuming control of the senses, while the scriptural law, or the fulfillment of the scriptural law, consists in the natural reason acquiring a spiritual desire conducive to a relation of mutuality with others of teh same human nature. Therefore the Lord himself specifically says, Love your neighbor as yourself (Lev 19:18, Mt 5:43; 19:19; 22:39; Mk 12:31) and not Regard your neighbor as yourself. The one indicates only the connatural sharing in being, while the other signifies the providence leading us toward well-being.

So he’s saying natural law leads to fairness, but Scriptural law leads to love of those like us.

The third law is the Law of Grace, which “teaches those who follow it directly to imitate God himself, who… loves us, his virtual enemies because of sin, more than himself, such that, even though he himself transcends every essence and nature, he consented to enter our human essence without undergoing change, and while retaining his transcendence, to become a man and willingly to interact as one among men. He did not refuse to take our condemnation on himself, and indeed, the more he himself became a man by nature in his incarnation, the more he deified us by grace, so that we would not only learn naturally to care for one another and spiritually to love others as ourselves, but also like God to be concerned for others more than forourselves, even to the point of proving that love to others by being ready to die voluntarily and virtuously for others. For as the Lord said, There is no greater love than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend (Jn 15:13).

…The law of grace consists in a supernatural reason, and transforms nature, without violating it, unto deification. It also displays, beyond comprehension, the supernatural and superessential Archetype in human nature, as in an image, and exhibits the permanence of eteranal well-being. 

…For the entire orderly arrangement of the Church (indeed the individual human soul) is encompassed in these three laws, having its length defined in virtue, its width in knowledge, and its depth in the wisdom of mystical theology. [notes: This triad of virtue, knowledge, and mystical theology evokes the three dimensions of the spiritual life – ascetic practice, contemplation, and mystical theology – which Maximus appropriated from Evagrius and expounded abundantly in his spiritual writings.] 

On the Trinity

by Andrea Elizabeth

From the end of On Heresies by Saint John of Damascus

 

We believe in Father and Son and Holy Ghost;
one Godhead in three hypostases;
one will, one operation, alike in three persons;
wisdom incorporeal, uncreated, immortal, incomprehensible,
without beginning, unmoved, unaffected, without quantity,
without quality, ineffable, immutable, unchangeable, uncontained,
equal in glory, equal in power, equal in majesty, equal in might, equal in nature,
exceedingly substantial, exceedingly good,
thrice radiant, thrice bright, thrice brilliant.

Light is the Father, Light the Son, Light the Holy Ghost;
Wisdom the Father, Wisdom the Son, Wisdom the Holy Ghost;
one God and not three Gods;
one Lord the Holy Trinity discovered in three hypostases.

Father is the Father, and unbegotten;
Son is the Son, begotten and not unbegotten, for He is from the Father;
Holy Ghost, not begotten but proceeding, for He is from the Father.

There is nothing created, nothing of the first and second order, nothing lord and servant;
but there is unity and trinity
– there was, there is, and there shall be forever –
which is perceived and adored by faith –
by faith, not by inquiry, nor by searching out, nor by visible manifestation;
for the more He is sought out, the more He is unknown, and the more He is investigated, the more He is hidden.

And so, let the faithful adore God with a mind that is not overcurious. And believe that He is God in three hypostases, although the manner in which He is so is beyond manner, for God is incomprehensible. Do not ask how the Trinity is Trinity, for the Trinity is inscrutable.

But, if you are curious about God, first tell me of yourself and the things that pertain to you. How does your soul have existence? How is your mind set in motion? How do you produce your mental concepts? How is it that you are both mortal and immortal? But, if you are ignorant of these things which are within you, then why do you not shudder at the thought of investigating the sublime things of heaven?

Think of the Father as a spring of life begetting the Son like a river and the Holy Ghost like a sea, for the spring and the river and sea are all one nature.

Think of the Father as a root, and of the Son as a branch, and the Spirit as a fruit, for the substance in these three is one.

The Father is a sun with the Son as rays and the Holy Ghost as heat.

The Holy Trinity transcends by far every similitude and figure. So, when you hear of an offspring of the Father, do not think of a corporeal offspring. And when you hear that there is a Word, do not suppose Him to be a corporeal word. And when you hear of the Spirit of God, do not think of wind and breath. Rather, hold you persuasion with a simple faith alone. For the concept of the Creator is arrived at by analogy from His creatures.

Be persuaded, moreover, that the incarnate dispensation of the Son of God was begotten ineffably without seed of the blessed Virgin, believing Him to be without confusion and without change both God and man, who for your sake worked all the dispensation. And to Him by good works give worship and adoration, and venerate and revere the most holy Mother of God and ever-virgin Mary as true Mother of God, and all the saints as His attendants.

Doing thus, you will be a right worshiper of the holy and undivided Trinity, Father and Son and Holy Ghost, of the one Godhead, to whom be glory and honor and adoration forever and ever. Amen

From Death to the World