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Category: dialectics or east v west

Romans 4

by Andrea Elizabeth

Anraham’s righteous faith was what made him leave Ur and have Isaac, not just believe that God exists. When we are to have faith in Christ, it is that what was accomplished in him can be participated in, not just covered with. 

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You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.

by Andrea Elizabeth

I have understood “impute” to mean to give someone something they don’t already possess, such as Christ imputing his righteousness to sinners. I’m reading Romans straight through for the first time since becoming Orthodox I think. One reason I haven’t is that snippets are included in the daily lectionaries. I don’t know if all the passages are covered in the annual schedule. Another reason is how my background with the Five Solas and TULIP affect my reading. 

In Romans St Paul talks about Abraham’s faith:

“Rom 4:20 He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; Rom 4:21 And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. 

Rom 4:22 And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.”

If this meant that he was given something he didn’t have, then how can this next statement be possible?

““Rom 4:8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.”

Impute must instead be the judgment of someone’s re”pute”ation. I’m going to keep reading before I comment further on faith, grace, and works.

2— Constructing a Woman’s Speech: Words and Images: “Miss Thompson” (1921), Rain (1921), Sadie Thompson (1928)

by Andrea Elizabeth

(cont from here) I’m halfway through Chapter 2 in Amy Lawrence’s Echo and Narcissus. In this chapter she gets to the meat of Maugham’s story, and also provides a plot and character summary. Victorian influences survive as deep motivations.

*spoiler* “The only scene always left unrepresented is the final one between Sadie and Davidson. This is both the climax of the story and the ultimate taboo, but in the play it is displaced by a supposedly “greater” event—Sadie’s acceptance of O’Hara’s marriage proposal. Sadie and Davidson remain structured as a series of oppositions based on class and gender: Davidson as authority (religious, military, political), and as a man with physical and vocal superiority. Sadie is sub-working-class, “vulgar,” without political power, exploited and female. Davidson’s views on sex are puritanical (the conversion of sexual energy into work results in profit), the supposed opposite of Sadie’s, who exploits sex for direct access to cash, exposing the work ethic as an exchange of sex for money. Sadie’s and Davidson’s names are virtual inversions of each other, the initials of which indicate their positions as representatives of the Marcusian bipolar opposites, eros and thanatos, or Sex and Death (the sexual woman and the puritanical minister, the prostitute and the suicide). Or as Barthes might have it, “S/D.” O’Hara is at every point inserted as the middle ground between their antithetical positions. It is through O’Hara that Sadie is reconciled to men and middle-class monogamy.”

The association of chastity and giving into temptation with death is an interesting one. Davidson had been coercing her into facing jail, which is like death. He initially convinced her, and that is when she became “zombie-like”, but peaceful. O’Hara’s marriage option is a compromise, putting sex in its proper context. But as Lawrence describes, it is too tidy a resolution to something of a fight to the death where there is no middle ground. I have read accounts of monastics who achieve so much joy and fulfillment in their relationship to God alone, that this type of chastity does seem like a higher life, and not death. But one must die to self to achieve it.

Another point she addresses is heteroglossia, or the embodiment and speaking of different points of view. Lawrence seems to dismiss Hegelian synthesis in favor of maintaining diversity. The neutral character, Dr. Macphail, eventually has to take sides, but then bounces back to the other. She posits that O’Hara seems a too convenient fix for the tension.

An author and an actor achieve distance between clear points of view that are not representative of their own. Do they synthesize them? If not, how is peace achieved? Don’t people have to take a stand? Willful ignorance is one way to handle it, which Macphail initially employs. And this may be advisable for a time because who can know another’s point of view unless they have walked in their shoes and tries to basically learn all about them? Is it even possible to ever know all about someone, or even ourselves? I think we must do our best to understand, and act on it, while recognizing there is always more to learn.

I commune, therefore I am

by Andrea Elizabeth

At a friend’s suggestion I picked up Kierkegaard again. It fits in with God, History and Dialectic, so it’s not that far off my current topic.

from this site on The Sickness Unto Death

At the beginning of part one, Kierkegaard begins with a cryptic and dense passage, that may contain an element of humor. I will quote it and then offer my commentary.

A human being is spirit. But what is spirit? Spirit is the self. But what is the self? The self is a relation that relates itself to itself or is the relation’s relating itself to itself in the relation; the self is not the relation but is the relation’s relating itself to itself. A human being is a synthesis of the infinite and the finite, of the temporal and the eternal, of freedom and necessity, in short, a synthesis. A synthesis is a relation between two. Considered in this way a human being is still not a self…. In the relation between two, the relation is the third as a negative unity, and the two relate to the relation and in the relation to the relation; thus under the qualification of the psychical the relation between the psychical and the physical is a relation. If, however, the relation relates itself to itself, this relation is the positive third, and this is the self (p. 13).

Here’s where God fits in,

The formula that describes the state of the self when despair is completely rooted out is this: in relating itself to itself and in willing to be oneself, the self rests transparently in the power that established it (p.14).

From D. Anthony Storm’s commentary,

It should be quite clear that Kierkegaard believes that God accords the individual with the highest importance. Kierkegaard never mentions the self’s merging into God, nor any belief that borders on pantheism. God is ultimately so interested in our selves that he sent his Son to die for individual men and women. It is man (society) that seeks to herd men. It is God who calls each man individually. Despairing sin denies or sinfully asserts the self. God establishes the true self.

In thinking about certain people’s comments on Marxism, and what ‘salvation is my neighbor’ means, I wonder if Kierkegaard’s, and possibly my, protestantism is shining here. My main feeling is that we are called to give an account of ourselves, not our group. This individualism is why I can rest in the Church which is filled with flawed people, including myself of course. The cure has been preserved and is still present within her. I am responsible for how I relate to others, and it is part of my salvation, but my responses and reactions don’t have to depend on the other person. This is why we can love our enemies.

A Sickness Unto Death is paired with Kierkegaard’s The Concept of Anxiety, which I bought not long ago. In the Historical Introduction Reidar Thomte states,

Kierdegaard’s primary criticism of Aristotle centers on his view that the real self resides ultimately in the thinking part of man, and that consequently the contemplative life constitutes man’s highest happiness. […] He does then agree with Aristotle that, strictly speaking, there is no scientific knowledge of human existence, since its essential qualification is one of freedom and not of necessity. [back to the relation between the opposites of freedom and necessity above] However, from Kierkegaard’s point of view, “Aristotle has not understood this self deeply enough, for only in the esthetic sense does contemplative thought have and entelechy [1. In the philosophy of Aristotle, the condition of a thing whose essence is fully realized; actuality.], and the felicity of the gods does not reside in contemplation, but in eternal communication.” For Kierkegaard, therefore, Aristotle falls short in his understanding that the consummation of man’s ethical life lies in the contemplative posture. (p.x)

Before we ban contemplation, to me his statements above about resting in our actualized self before God, is a contemplative posture. Perhaps his criticism is of “self-thinking thought” which Aristotle accused God of, if I remember Dr. Bradshaw correctly. Kierkegaard does say some interesting things about action, which grounds us in one’s relations between temporal/eternal, and material/immaterial though.

What skeptics should really be caught in is the ethical. Since Descartes they have all thought that during the period in which they doubted they dared not to express anything definite with regard to knowledge, but on the other hand they dared to act, because in this respect they could be satisfied with probability. What an enormous contradiction! As if it were not far more dreadful to do something about which one is doubtful (thereby incurring responsibility) than to make a statement. Or was it because the ethical is in itself certain? But then there was something which doubt could not reach!16 (p. ix)

I wonder if the Greek nous, or mind’s eye, is used by the will to focus on what we are to relate to. The nous would not be the self, but our relating mechanism.

*quoted commentaries are indented once, Kierkegaards’ are indented twice. As always, parentheses are quoted asides, brackets are my asides, one in this case is a quote from a dictionary.*

Of mice and men

by Andrea Elizabeth

There is an old folk tale told in many countries about a mouse’s quest for the most powerful husband for his daughter. The sun is the first prospect, but he says a cloud is more powerful because he can make him invisible. The cloud says the wind can blow him away. The wind says that man’s walls can hold him back. But the wall says a mouse’s holes more powerfully undermine him. Therefore she marries one of her own kind.

Most argue, with Greek philosophical authority, that a man is the strongest of the human species. However a woman’s smile and tears can alter his course. Likewise, a child’s laughter and cry can make a woman forsake all. These have to do with internal forces. There are some who cannot feel these forces, and may seem strong against them, but that, like leprosy which causes numbness and eventual amputation, is unnatural.

Why no Reformation in the East?

by Andrea Elizabeth

Speaking of the Mongols and Ivan, further into the Introduction to GHD, Dr. Farrell states:

We may inject the First Europe into this series of questions to ask a new series
more profoundly disquieting: Why did the First Europe not go through the
Reformation? Is it to be explained adequately on the basis of merely secular causes, as
the result of the “cultural isolation” of Russia? Or because its “dogmatic mysteriological
piety” locked its culture in the reliquary of “unchangeable ritual”? Or because of the
Mongol invasion and conquest of Russia? Or because of the “timely but inevitable” Fall
of Constantinople scarcely a century before the Reformation began? Or is the lack of the
dialectical movement of Reform and Counter-Reformation to be explained on the basis
of something much more fundamental and spiritually rooted? It is the task of these
essays to show that the Byzantine and Russian detachment from these upheavals in the
Second Europe is unrelated to any merely secular explanation of them, for the root
causes of that detachment predate the Mongol invasions of the thirteenth, or Ivan the
Terrible’s Drang nach Osten and “collection of the Russian lands” in the sixteenth
centuries. These essays explain this detachment as a result of the continued rejection by
the First Europe of Hellenization, and its insistence that Augustinism was but a recasting
of formal heresies previously condemned by both East and West when both segments
were still a part of one Church, and therefore, both a part of One Europe. Thus we arrive
at a corollary to our thesis. Only the First Europe has an adequate theological basis on
which to analyze the movements of the intellectual histories of the Two Europes from
one consistent perspective; the Second Europe, to the extent that it becomes
increasingly “Augustinized” is to that extent incapable of performing the task. For those
who prefer Ockhamist lucidity: I argue that Western Christian civilization is bound with
dialectical inevitability to misinterpret both itself, the Eastern European Christian
civilization, and the antiquities common to both; only that First European civilization and
its theological paradigm are adequate to undertake a genuinely comprehensive and
universal history of Christendom. (GHD intro, p. 12)

Here he discounts isolationism or lack of freedom as preventing a Reformation in the east, but a recognition of the heresies that lead up to it.

Dr. Farrell goes pretty far in his description of the second (western) Europe’s theology as being not only incorrect, but as leading them to have a different God. Liberal Western Christians are probably offended by this, and Conservative Christians probably think the same thing about the east. I believe that the descriptions of God are different, and that the Eastern one is correct. My feeling is that wrong descriptions of God hamper one’s unity with Him, as does the lack of communion in the correct Church. However, there are many other things, such as sin and inattentiveness, that hamper this whether a person is eastern or not. Knowing God isn’t just knowing about Him, but being in union with Him in all things, including right behavior, right worship, and right theology.

I agree with him that the beginning place for world events, and understanding them, is theology, and not psychology, politics, which includes sociology, philosophy, or any other secular discipline.

The task of these essays
is therefore to expose the specifically Augustinian dialectical formulation of Trinitarian
doctrine as the root of these two very different historical movements, and to demonstrate
the Augustinian departure from traditional doctrine, and to trace the departure in its
cultural effects in the development of law, science, and philosophy. Thus the thesis of
this work is quite simple: the Two Europes worship different Gods. This may seem a
surprising, perhaps even an irreverent, assertion, until one recalls why the doctrine of
God is so significant. It is the doctrine of the Trinity which is at the core of the Church’s
belief and the ultimate basis of Her cultural influences. The differences in the theological
formulation of that doctrine therefore reflect, illuminate, and cause the difference of the
Two Europes. Once the profundity of Augustine’s dialectical formulation of the Trinity is
grasped, we shall come much closer to the fundamental influences driving much, if not
most, of the intellectual development of the Second Europe. (GHD intro, p.10)

To illustrate the nature of dialectics in the west, I’ll go ahead and include this paragraph,

We may highlight the seriousness of that development by asking some rather
obvious, though deeply serious, questions. Why did the western half of Christendom split
along so cleanly dialectical lines during the Protestant Reformation and Catholic
Counter-Reformation? Why, for example, is it not only convenient but possible to
describe that split by a series of polar oppositions: Faith versus works, Scripture versus
Tradition, “private conversion stay-at-home-and-watch-television religion” versus “public,
sacramental, institutional” religion; predestination versus free will, Kernel versus Husk,
Kerygma versus Dogma, Luther versus Zwingli, Calvin versus Arminius, Whitefield and
Edwards versus the Wesleys, Henry VIII versus the Pope? It has its secular counterparts
as well: Empiricism versus Rationalism, Materialism versus Idealism, Science versus
Religion, Creation versus Evolution, hard versus soft disciplines, and so on. One could
cite an endless litany of similar oppositions. Indeed, theologians, philosophers, and
historians of the Second Europe have long written about this or that pair of these eitheror
polarities, but astonishingly, have either done so in isolation of an examination of the
paradigm of dialectical opposition itself, or they have accepted that paradigm as an
inevitability of Christian theology or of Judeo-Christian civilization itself. The
phenomenon of this acceptance is therefore deeply rooted, and must be accounted for.
These essays argue that the paradigm is itself a direct consequence of Augustine’s
formulation of trinitarian doctrine. But the movement from the specifically Augustinian
formulation of the Trinity to these cultural consequences is certainly not an easy one to
recount, and thus, many theologians — those most adequately equipped to undertake
the task — fail to do so, for they view the original dispute between the East and West
over that formulation as a dispute about words. The troublesome questions multiply:
Why did a Church and a culture, which believed absolutely in the complete union in
Christ of the utterly spiritual and the completely material, without separation and without
confusion, lose sight of the implications of that belief in the movements of the dialectical
deconstruction of its thought and institutions? Why did the same Church, which, heir to
the doctrine of the Trinity, ought to have believed in the “both-andness” of Absolute Unity
and Utter diversity find itself embroiled in life-and-death constitutional struggles between
the Empire and the Papacy, or more fundamentally, between endless contests between
One Pope and Many Bishops? (p.11)

15 authors

by Andrea Elizabeth

Macrina of A Vow of Conversation has cordially tagged me in this 15 Authors meme.

Fifteen authors (poets included) who’ve influenced you and that will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes. Tag at least fifteen friends, including me, because I’m interested in seeing what authors my friends choose.”

I enjoyed reading hers so I’ll contribute mine.

Rudyard Kipling – I hope I’m not being too repetitive in relating how as a 4 or 5 year old child I would repetitiously listen to a record of Sterling Holloway (Winnie the Pooh’s voice) reading “The Elephant’s Child”. This story probably explains my “‘satiable curtiosity” and the lickings I’ve taken for it.

C.S. Lewis – My fourth grade teacher’s reading of the Chronicles of Narnia after lunch will remain one of my favorite memories. Is the enchanted world beyond that far away?

Jane Austen – At around 12 years old I graduated from my beloved horse stories to more intricate expressions of human emotion with Pride and Prejudice.

Daphne du Maurier – Her expressions are a little more modern. Rebecca is the most famous, but I also enjoyed her more retro My Cousin Rachel. Hey those are my two daughters’ names, but I had the Bible Saints in mind.

Major Ian Thomas – I believe I read If I Perish, I Perish about Queen Esther, but that’s not the main reason I mention him here. Though I’d asked Jesus in my heart at around 4 years of age, it was when I was 15 at Major Thomas’ Torchbearer’s His Hill Ranch Camp that I would say I had a conversion experience. It was there I learned that Christ wants to walk with us 24/7 rather than just after we die.

The Bible – With this awakening I became very hungry for the Scriptures. For the next few years I read the Bible through a couple of times and memorized a few chapters. My favorites were 1 Cor. 13, Hebrews 1, Philippians 2, and Romans 12.

Unfortunately I waned a few years after that.

Colleen McCullough – I very much identified with Meggie the The Thorn Birds. She personifies the confusing dialectical choice between God or human romantic love. I read this in high school and then saw the miniseries while a young nurse after I met my Ralph. I ended up marrying Luke too.

Alexandra Ripley – Scarlett came out while I was separated for the first time from my now ex-husband. I wanted to see if she could get Rhett back. If I hadn’t been successful, I wouldn’t have had Rachel.

unworthyseraphim – I didn’t read for a long time after that. When I was remarried to George and probably because of being devastated by having a still-born child, Isaac, I wanted more from Church. I saw the Passion movie and was so moved I started to explore Catholicism on a Christian on-line forum that I’d recently found through a writer’s group’s advice. They were starting Catholic/Protestant discussions and I started asking questions. “unworthyseraphim”, the only Orthodox poster, answered them better with his wonderful, peaceful, informative style and grace. He drove over from Mississippi to be George’s sponsor at our Chrismation.

Clark Carlton – His The Faith was the first Orthodox book I read on the recommendation of a parishoner when we visited our first Orthodox Church. I haven’t read it since I’ve heard that some think he’s too polemical, but I was so shocked that I’d never heard of the Orthodox Church and so loved the positive things he said about it that I probably thought the polemics criticizing why it took 40 years for Christian me in a Christian country to be connected with Christ’s body and blood were justified.

The biography of St. Seraphim of Sarov (maybe Zander’s version?) made my spirit rejoice when I found someone else who wanted to hide under leaves when people came to visit.

St. Maximus the Confessor – I have to give Perry and Photios the credit for my finding this genius Saint. Through the discussions and Photios’ paper, “Synergy in Christ” (I have a category with that name where there may be a link to it) I found some pretty substantial meat that’s sourced a lot of content on this blog.

Dr. David Bradshaw – Aristotle East and West helpfully focuses on the tradition of the Orthodox understanding of the essence and energy distinction that Energetic Procession discusses in a forum format.

Fyodore Dostoevsky and Charles Dickens – Because I have two spots left, I’ll close with them. I’ve recently read Brothers Karamazov, Crime and Punishment, and David Copperfield to better understand how Christ’s energies work in this fallen world of fallen human relationships.

I’ll extend the invitation to anyone to post their influential 15 authors instead of listing specific people.

The Rangers, Indians, animals and women

by Andrea Elizabeth

‘He [H.L. Mencken] … conducted an epistolary debate on individualism with a socialist acquaintance that eventually appeared in book form as Men versus the ManMen versus the Man shows how his political thinking had solidified — hardened, really. The law of the survival of the fittest, he declares, is “immutable,” thus making socialism an absurdity; human progress is the product of the will to power, and all social arrangements failing to take this fact into account are doomed to failure; inequality is natural, even desirable, both in and of itself and as an alternative to mob rule; the world exists to be run by “the first-caste man.” ‘(quote in this very interesting, though sometimes disturbing, article by John Derbyshire. H/T facebook friend)

My newly awakened sense of ‘go get ’em’ in this World Series bid is leading me back to my individualistic political mindset. By the way, it is interesting to me that the article links individualism with nationalism, which is a group identity. I disagree with the point made about inequality, but see how one must accept a certain version of it to promote individualism. We do not all have the same abilities. My view on education has been that everyone can learn. I have not thought that much about can everyone think. I think my opinion about this comes largely from having a brother who was born with some brain damage. In many ways I think he was put in a category and not challenged enough. I think he could have excelled more than he did but for the “tyranny of low expectations” (G.W. Bush). I sense that tyranny in some places of the article.

On the other hand, for two of our six children it seems that most subjects come easier and more naturally to them than the other four, though of course they all excel in their own ways. The article does give a nod to people whose strengths do not match the current demand, and that this demand may change in time. For those two sons, however, it seems they have less blocks to learning. The wheels seem more greased. I think that everyone’s mind has a capacity to explore an infinite variety of subjects to an infinite degree, and some people’s bodies let them go further than others (because of the fall) in either sense. Inheritance (instead of “nature”), nurture, and will contribute to which limitations are placed on us. But we are not made to be limited. Our wills (still possibly shaped by inheritance and nurture) will keep us individuals though, even if all limitations are someday removed.

So here we are with varying strengths in varying areas. What about nationalism, which I’ll use as an affiliation with a group, and how we treat those “weaker”? Socialism seeks to even the playing field, which to some extent is the accepted thing to do nowadays. There are even new rules that keep rich baseball teams (Yankees) from buying all the best players. I don’t mind this, but what I mind more is that teams with a city’s name on them don’t have players from that area. But that’s not too irritating because I believe in adoption.

I also like the idea of the strong being able to see how far they can go. But that leads to the Yankees going to the World Series every year, monopolies, slave labor, genocide, extinction of animals and ancient trees, and women wearing burkas. Ideally strong people will be good sports and nice Christians and consider not only can we, but should we. Historically laws have to make this happen.

Back to the Rangers. On one hand I don’t like the Giants’ intimidating beards, or San Francisco’s non-Bible belt behaviors. On the other hand, I don’t want them to adopt our behaviors just to even the playing field. May the best team win, whatever that means.

Kierkegaard on the Symposium

by Andrea Elizabeth

In The Concept of Irony with Continual Reference to Socrates, pgs.41-52, Kierkegaard unpacks Plato’s Symposium very helpfully. He passes over the first more concrete dialogues pretty rapidly, and visits the doctor’s – my favorite – a little longer than the others before dwelling on Socrates’ contribution. The doctor talks about the higher and lower elements of love, the physical and heavenly, dwelling together. He takes a less oppositional stance to so-called opposites such as hot and cold. In love they are united together as seasonal weather is throughout the year. Each has its place. I suppose the use of dialectics in this dialogue is the type that divides and categorizes like a prism does with light.

When he gets to Socrates’ discussion of love being desire for something it lacks, he expands on his premise that Plato moves from the concrete to the abstract. The abstraction is described as ironic negativity. Through the use of ironic negativity, in Socratic (Platonic?) relationships the lover becomes the beloved. He is initially the lover because his force of character is at first extroverted, but when pursued becomes introverted, withdrawn, and hidden. He is complete in himself with a type of fullness that is described as love.  This love is non-possessive and indiscriminate. I’m thinking it could be described as dispassionate and detached.

But is it Christlike? Socrates on one hand withholds himself, but on the other he is present and engaged. Socrates leaves his followers frustrated and wanting more. They may at some point catch a glimpse of his glory, but then they spend the rest of their time struggling to get inside again. When some Orthodox Fathers speak of God’s essence, they use terms of hiddenness. Was it St. Dionysius who said that God is like a setting sun, you are forever going after it, but it keeps disappearing behind the horizon. He gives you enough to want to pursue, but you’ll never catch up to him.

I wonder if irony is a good term to use about the Incarnation. God became manifest to us in a tangible, present way. He healed his followers and they went away rejoicing, not frustrated. Theosis brings peace and contentment. Mary was pursued and filled, not sent empty away.

Solovyovian Dialectics

by Andrea Elizabeth

Preliminary Solovyovian question: He seems to use the type of dialectics where synthesis between two opposing bodies is achieved. One criticism I’ve heard about this type of synthesis is that it makes compromise the goal. I’ve been an extraneous party to a court-ordered mediation session where that did not work out at all. But I consider this to be because one person was honest and trustworthy and the other wasn’t. That would be an unequally yoked situation that we are warned against. The example Solovyov in Transformations of Eros is explaining is between the Sophists and the Traditionalists. When Socrates is involved, the two parties are no longer fighting each other but are united against a common enemy. Their synthesis comes about by ignoring their points of disagreement. But once their enemy is vanquished, so it seems their unity would be. Socrates’s synthesis is drawn from both of their systems. He cafeteria-style picks and chooses the merits of the Sophists and the merits of the Traditionalists, while pointing out that the followers of both systems are pretty inept. His new system seems like a compromise between two other systems, but if the two opposing systems are based on invalid segregations of thoughts, then pulling out the gold from both rocks is not compromise, but salvage.  The gold is presented as Truth. I wont get into the allegation of Platonism at this point. I’ll just say that I think there’s some gold in Platonism to be mined as well. 🙂