by Andrea Elizabeth
I do not know anything about St. John of Tobolsk, but this treatise on God’s Providence regarding circumstances is amazing. What an attention span.
*contains spoilers* Unlike Teresa Halbach’s brother, who seems to believe God guides all things, even gruesome murders, I believe God can use all things for his purpose. It seems Calvinists believe that God’s end game is to make sure that justice prevails where the right (chosen) people live happily ever after and the wrong (unchosen) people are punished. But what about his sister? The prosecution played a video tape of what a sweet, loving person she was. I suppose they think God will reward her in heaven, but caused her to be killed to bring punishing justice to the poor white trash inbred Averys.
One internet theory is that she committed suicide and that county officials used her body to frame Steven. That fits with her brother’s affect during the whole trial and weird statements about the grieving process and how messages got erased from her voicemail. If so, then her brother would believe himself an agent of God to punish the unchosen Averys.
I don’t think this was all God’s plan A. Calvinists believe that the fall of man was God’s plan A because evil was part of man and then was a necessary deterrent for the chosen ones. I believe the Orthodox position is that evil is allowed because of man’s free will, so that he has an option. God can use the freely acted evil actions of others to correct a person, though. Even if Steven was falsely accused again, it seems that all of this light shining on their family sins has had somewhat of a cleansing effect that previous jail time didn’t have. To me, that means that there’s someone in the family who desired or deserved saving. Maybe a young Avery girl who would have been victimized.
Light has gotten shed on the county officials who behaved very badly as well. The difference is that they didn’t think they were bad people. The Averys were more resigned to and accepting of their reputation.
I love how this documentary equalizes both sides: the frozen chosen and the unchosen. There is a hero, though, the humble defense attorney who believe everyone deserves to be presumed innocent. He was the most shaky when trying to accuse Lt. James Lenk of tampering with the evidence, however, but you have to have an alternate explanation. He wasn’t wanting Lenk sent to jail, though, just to shed doubt on Avery’s guilt, which was his job. A google search will show that a lot of people think he’s a modern Atticus Finch.
For my daughter’s “Christian biography” assignment, we are going to listen to St. Augustine’s Confessions in the car. Chapter 1 – almost total depravity and grace alone! In babies and their mothers, no less. Babies are totally selfish, greedy, and jealous for wanting to be fed and comfortable, and mothers are driven by God through their intuition to make their infants so. What about mothers who abandon their babies, as they did on certain hills during Augustine’s day? We have a choice!
If nutrition is good, then it is not selfish to acquire it. It is bad to not want others to have it, and some babies may indeed have a problem with resentment, but not all do. Some toddlers love their infant siblings and want to help take care of them. Why did Fr. Seraphim Rose like this book so much?
is the sequel to Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. Actually, I think it was explained to me that Ender’s Game is the prequel to Speaker for the Dead even though it was written first.
I’m a little fuzzy on the details because it is not the sort of book I normally read. I gravitate towards psychological/relational type books written by the greats of the 19th Century. This one has enough of that to keep me engaged, but it’s also pretty sciency and politically as well as religiously philosophical.
The main character is agnostic, but likes to surprise religious people by his goodness. This sort of reminds me of a recent Walking Dead episode where the gay girl is “surprisingly” self-sacrificial. It’s as if the religious right has tarred and feathered these alternative, shall we say, life-styled people in a way that has totally vilified them. If one weren’t Calvinist, one could say they have been categorized as sub-human. One statement in Speaker for the Dead is that it takes Calvinists a long time to get over that flawed viewpoint.
Any consideration of the goodness of God at once threatens us with the following dilemma. On the one hand, if God is wiser than we His judgement must differ from ours on many things, and not least on good and evil. What seems to us good may therefore not be good in His eyes, and what seems to us evil may not be evil. On the other hand, if God’s moral judgement differs from ours so that our ‘black’ may be His ‘white’, we can mean nothing by calling Him good; for to say ‘God is good’, while asserting that His is wholly other than ours, is really only to say ‘God is we know not what’. And an utterly unknown quality in God cannot give us moral grounds for loving or obeying Him. If He is not (in our sense) ‘good’ we shall obey, if at all, only through fear—and should be equally ready to obey an omnipotent Fiend. The doctrine of Total Depravity—when the consequence is drawn that, since we are totally depraved, our idea of good is worth simply nothing—may thus turn Christianity into a form of devil-worship.
Lewis, C. S. (2009-05-28). The Problem of Pain (pp. 28-29). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
50% in to The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg and I realize that the first third of the book is just the introduction. I know it said Introduction at the beginning, but being read on a new Kindle Reader, I thought that since the Introduction didn’t stop, for some reason it was mis-titled and that this Project Gutenberg edition would have no breaks, even for chapters. When it finally ended, a first-person narrative of the Calvinist villain takes over. It is spooky and scathing. But not too far fetched, imo.
Which brings me to Monday’s Right to Life March in Washington DC. I received a forwarded email, whose original author I don’t know, titled, “if this doesn’t fill you with pride, I don’t know what will”. It then links the article from the Washington Post, Orthodox Believers Hit the Streets. The article pretty much lauds the OCA clergy, lead by Metropolitan Jonah, and wonders where the Greeks and Antiochians were.
The connection is this, and includes yesterday’s post on unconditional love, where I point out the rightness of Orthodoxy. Ortho means right or straight. When one thing is right, like free will (contra Calvin), in person anti-abortion statements, and Orthodoxy, things that are wrong inevitably get criticized. If one is concerned with rightness and truth, this is inevitable. The problem comes with the burden of being right. I’ll set aside for now the fact that those who are right need to concentrate on their own failings where they aren’t. Actually I wont because there’s one aspect of that that I’m getting at. With being right comes anger at the popularity of being wrong. Then when someone on the right side is publicly lauded, as in the above article, prideful triumphalism can set in. But we can’t negate the truth just to avoid the sin of triumphalism. Perhaps the problem is in the anger and feelings of rejection when something wrong is popular. Not that Calvinism is popular, but I think its insidious determinism is. When one feels isolated in their acquisition of rightness and truth, a certain pathology can set in. Some combat this with anti-triumphalism because they feel guilty for being one of the few enlightened ones. They, in their anti-elitism, start criticizing fellow truth adherents for their pride and triumphalism. I don’t think it’s the same sin as being wrong. There’s a story of a monk who was called all sorts of names, which he didn’t contradict, but when he was told to deny that Orthodoxy was true, he wouldn’t. As unattractively triumphant, prideful, obnoxious and judgmental as anti-abortionists, anti-Calvinists, and Orthodox people can be, they are on the right side, and so I wont condemn them/us. It’s lonely at the top, so cut us some slack.
The problem with books on psychology is that they presume that those who have psychological problems are those guys, and that on the other side there are the healthy ones. Who is healthy? I think most people, especially myself, are constantly teetering between denial and dysfunction. This teetering is probably healthier than dwelling in dysfunction alone, which is what the healthy (in denial) ones do when they analyze other (dysfunctional) people.
The problem with dwelling on dysfunction is that it denies Christ and it denies essentially good human nature. So it seems to me that the healthy thing to do is quietly realize that I am completely messed up, completely in the sense that nothing about me is unshakably healthy or perfect, and at the same time to try to pretend and thus act like I’m ok. Realizing that it’s a functional pretense keeps me from being dysfunctional, in denial, or in despair, or from forgetting that Christ, and those He’s given me, are my only hope.
Jnorm on Energetic Procession‘s latest post on the Heresy of Calvinism has provided a link to three Christology Workshops in which one can learn the correct nature of God the Son’s Incarnation. I found it very clarifying.
Bio: Dr. Jeffrey Macdonald was formerly the Professor of Church History at St. Herman’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Kodiak, Alaska. Dr. Macdonald converted to Orthodoxy while studying the history of the early Church at Wheaton College in Illinois where he completed a B.A. in Biblical Studies and Archaeology in 1978. He went on to St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in New York, receiving a Master of Divinity degree in 1982, writing his thesis on the condemnation of the early Byzantine Scholastic John Italos under the direction of the late Fr. John Meyendorff. After graduating St. Vladimir’s, he began teaching at St. Herman’s Seminary in Alaska. In 1986, he went to Washington, D.C. for further graduate work at the Catholic University of America. He returned to teaching at St. Herman’s in 1989 and received his Ph.D. in Early Christian Studies in 1995 with the completion of his dissertation on the Christological writings of the sixth century emperor-theologian Justinian. Dr. Macdonald continues to lecture on church history at St. John the Forerunner Orthodox Church in Cedar Park, Texas, and the thirty three recordings available on the download page are from these lectures.
In Orthodox meditation, one seeks to direct one’s mind toward God. One does this by using one’s mind as a tool or a muscle to descend into one’s heart where God and the cosmos dwells. The mind is a focusing agent to observe others. Asceticism is used to direct the mind away from onesself. My impression of Buddhist meditation is that not only is one directed away from onesself, one gives up on knowing God and the cosmos too. I believe Buddhists teach that there is a means to do this through contemplating nature, but nature isn’t the end either.
The passions are distractions that make one focus on one’s feelings and appetites. When these are mastered, with the help of redirecting thoughts through repetitive Liturgical prayer, one learns to train one’s mind on God. I say mind because it is the heart’s love which makes one choose to think on God over onesself. The Prayers and Readings inform the mind on who God is and what He has done and what He desires. It is important to get this right or one will become unbalanced and not be able to advance as far towards communion with Him. For example, if one believes that God hates the unelected, one’s heart will be too warped to attain likeness to God, and one will not see Him as He is.
The hard part is what to do with one’s sense of self. If one is denying self and focusing on God, where does that leave one? The purpose is to be filled with the energies of God, or uncreated grace. One delights in the Other. Delight is unselfconscious, but an awareness of enjoyment is entailed. When one focuses on the enjoyment, one can lose focus, similar to St. Peter’s looking down at the water and thus starting to sink. When one thinks of being in love, one is focused on the object of one’s affection, and can feel a sense of their presence in one’s heart. One can get lost in this feeling. Yet one is aware that they are happy. Through this experience we can see that thinking is accompanied by feeling.
Some ascetic practices require one to deny one’s feelings. One cannot always trust one’s feelings. We can desire wrong things, or be deceived as to the nature of these things. Even if one senses that one feels the presence of God, one can be wrong and should not completely trust these feelings. One can also sense the rightness of things that are taught about God. I suggest that ultimately we do have to trust some of these feelings or one will have to deny everything, which may be the Buddhist way.
If there is one way, as I believe there is, and that it is Orthodox (which includes physical communion, not just mental), then to me everyone should have this innate sense of rightness about it. Skipping over arguing this point, does that make everyone fundamentally the same and put this sense of feeling the rightness about Orthodoxy on the level of human nature? I think so. What about individualism? Why isn’t everyone Orthodox? Because they are denying themselves. Why would someone do that? They must hate themselves, or at least they are distracted from themselves. So to become Orthodox you must learn to love yourself and quit ignoring yourself. But isn’t Orthodoxy about denying yourself and taking up your cross? Yes, in order to find yourself in Christ. You have to love Him more. So losing yourself to Christ is the way to find yourself? Yes, because He wont let you disappear. You can let go of yourself if you trust Him to keep you.
For the most part I really appreciate Abeka Academy videos, which this year I am using for all three of my children who are still at home. For elementary, they repeat all the repetitious and redundant phonics, spelling and math drills over and over and again and again in fun ways that the kids enjoy. The class is all upbeat and they do these jump up from your seat, popcorn games and races and things that my youngest especially enjoys participating in. When it’s just me teaching at this level, I sadly tend to say, just repeat it silently in your head. This year with the video my youngest is having one of her funner and more successful years. They are definitely Protestant in their approach, which in the younger grades isn’t so bad because they teach the Old Testament Bible stories pretty true to the Word, as far as I can tell. My daughter recently memorized a good part of Isaiah 53, repeating it with them every day, and is now working on Psalm 1. It’s not the Septuagint, but at least it’s the King James.
However, in high school, I don’t know about Jr. high, as we don’t order the Bible class which starting in 7th grade comes separately, the Protestant indoctrination gets turned up a few notches. Even though we order separate classes, the 10th grade World History teacher, who I think is Calvinist, but he can be funny, is very slanted in his presentation of early Church history. Yesterday he very emphatically stated that with the mass, forced conversions of the “unregenerate” when Christianity was legalized, paganism infiltrated the Church. He talks about how cool it was to worship in the temple of Dianna, with all the ornate gilded columns and such, the incense, candles, chanting, and the priest in the fancy vestments. No wonder the unregenerate pagans brought that to the Church, and how sad and tragic that was. This is the brainwashing we have to deal with in this country.
His supposed Sola Scriptura stance totally neglects the detailed worship in the Jewish tabernacle laid out in Moses’ books. Guess what, there was incense, gilded objects of worship, three dimensional angels on the mercy seat, candles, and such. Was that evil pagan worship too? And what did St. John record in Revelations? His heavenly experience of incense, censors, angels, other heavenly beings, the prayers of the Saints, and the attended alter of God. The teacher’s disdainful presentation totally ignores how worship is described in the Bible. Articles of worship attend worship, even the Pagans know this. Too bad Abeka and Bob Jones teachers, and generations of their students don’t.