Friday, August 12, 2016
One of the tells listed is "OMG", followed by either sarcasm or no argument at all.
Well, in a debate last night, I saw this in action first-hand, and it was interesting to see exactly how accurate Mr. Adams' article was:
Earlier in the debate (here is the full debate, for reference), I had been using variations on Mr. Adams' techniques for How To Un-Hypnotize a Rabid Anti-Trumper, so it doesn't surprise me that I got a result he has encountered, but it was still thrilling to see it "in the wild".
And of course, my interlocutor immediately took it as a personal insult that I would point this out to him, in spite of the fact that we are all brainwashed in one way or another.
I guess I hit a nerve?
Sunday, July 17, 2016
The older I get, the less patience I have when it comes to theological discussions, at least online.
I was recently reminded of this. For some odd reason, I was under the impression that a particular forum I'm part of online was a Christian group, and so I was participating in the various discussions with a basic understanding that we were all at least working from the same fundamental worldview.
However, in one particular discussion, one of the moderators jumped into remind everyone (particularly me) that this was NOT a Christian group per se.
Upon this revelation, I realized that I really don't care to participate in the group anymore. (This sort of surprised me as somewhat uncharacteristic of me.)
I wrote up a private reply for the moderator, but I don't think I'm going to send it to him, considering that it might be a little "too much". Nevertheless, in the writing I gained a little insight into my newfound curmudgeonliness:
I was unaware that the "Theology [the rest redacted]" group was not Christian in it's basic premise.
Theology is the study of God; God is in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself. Ergo, theology is the study of Christ; any other study is the study of false gods, to which I have nothing to add, nor reason to add it.
Christ is He for Whom, by Whom, through Whom, and to Whom all things are and were created and in Whom they consist; any discussion of things divine by necessity must be oriented in Him or be found utterly empty.
I was under the impression that I was in dialogue with people who at least hold these basic tenets. Thank you for disabusing me of that notion. I am busy enough as it is (as can be told from the long delays between my postings); I do not wish to waste time in inane discussions about whatever novelties can be thought up next and called "theology".
In short, I'm getting too old for this s***. Believe in Christ or don't. I'd say I don't care, but I do. I care very much. So allow me to amend myself: "Believe in Christ or don't"? No, scratch that. Believe in Christ. Period. Obey the Gospel. (Ain't nobody got time for this "or don't" stuff.) Get into Christ and stay there; you can't do better theology than that!
Friday, July 1, 2016
IntroductionIcons, images, idols. Do you know the difference?
Many today do not know the differences among these three words, and so they either avoid such things, or fall into idolatry. Let me give a brief explanation of the history and meanings of these three words.
WARNING: What you are about to read may alter the way you think in ways you cannot reverse and cannot ignore. If you'd rather just not know, close the page now. Proceed with caution.
(NB: Since an image is a pattern evocative of some other pattern, the word may be freely applied to non-material things -- that is, thoughts and ideas. As such, it becomes a synonym for "metaphor". But it is the material sense with which we are primarily concerned here.)
The pattern being evoked is called the "prototype". Images may vary with regards to the completeness or exactness of their reproduction, ranging from incredibly exact and thorough ("concrete") to only passing or esoteric similarity ("abstract"). This flexibility allows for imagery to be used to evoke multiple patterns simultaneously, particularly towards the abstract end of the spectrum.
Furthermore, images need not merely bring to mind patterns that have already been seen by that particular viewer, but may also be used to instruct the mind (to one degree or another) as to new patterns.
Also, images may be patterns of other images -- that is, patterns of patterns of patterns, such that the prototype may be several iterations removed from the image being viewed. This does not diminish the reality of the prototypical presence, although it may obscure it to one degree or another.
IdolsHumanity has in its nature a certain inclination to worship -- that is, to ascribe worth. We have various ways of showing this, most of which are gestures of submission: i.e. bowing down, by lifting hands, etc. This is a collective memory of our communion with God, and an affirmation of the fact of our ultimate reliance on His power and care. We do this in reaction to things we see, whether with our heart (spiritual apprehension), or our mind (imagination -- soul), or our eyes (physical sight).
We also, however, through this same fall into sin, became incredibly blind, especially in our spirit, and began to ascribe worth where none was found -- or rather, in excess of what was found -- since we could no longer see the True Worthy One .
The sight of God -- the only one worthy of ultimate worship (Greek, latreia) -- was and is a spiritual sight, seen in the faculties of the heart (not the fleshy bit of muscle, but an aspect of the spirit), and not in the mind or in the eye. ("Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.")
But we lost our internal sight of the uncreated, and so began to make images that we thought accorded with the patterns of things we had seen. Or that we wished to see. We began to make images of things created, to try to find in them the image of the uncreated, the sight of which we had lost, that we might see it again.
These images were false, but some had more easy remembrance of that Sight than others, and thus we began, in the darkness of our blindness, to forget their Creator and ascribe worth to the images per se instead. Those images are called idols, from the Greek work eidolon, which derives from eidos: "to see" or "sight", and the worship offered to them is gross idolatry (eidolon + latreia).
The demons had a role in shaping this. Desiring the worship of God for themselves, they showed us themselves as the Angels of Light that they once were (2 Cor. 11:14, 15), and we saw in this pattern (or cheap imitation of it) glimmers of the ancient Sight, and our darkened minds were quickly drawn to them. We made images of them, and worshiped these images, worshiping in them the demons. (1 Cor. 10:19, 20)
At some point, of course, humans not being complete idiots, and having the witness of their conscience against them, the idolaters realized that giving worship to wood and stone and created things per se was not all that bright -- that the pattern was not it's prototype. And so they began to offer their worship to the prototypes of their patterns -- what they imagined to be the True God. There being many different patterns presented, however, they called them gods -- plural. (Gal. 4:8)
Now, it does us well to observe that the idea -- that the worship and honor given to an image passes through to its prototype -- is a valid one, considering that both are but patterns in our minds.
But the pagan worship was still directed to the wrong objects, since the prototypes themselves were created things, and demons. This is not so much "gross" idolatry as "sophisticated" idolatry (my own distinction), because it is based on a correct principle, but directly wrongly.
The True God, being uncreated and completely separate from His Creation, was not able to be depicted at all, and so no image could bear worship to Him, as He had no prototype to pattern after, no form to be imaged. "And the LORD spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice." On this basis He gave a prohibition to His chosen people:
Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the LORD spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire: lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flieth in the air, the likeness of any thing that creepeth on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth: and lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the LORD thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven.
How, then, did the word come to denote religious images? And why does the Church use them in her worship, making their use even a point of doctrine? Has the Church fallen into idolatry? Or has paganism overcome the Church? Is an icon an idol?
Since all icons are images, and all images are icons (in the mundane sense), then yes, it is possible for an icon to be an idol, since it is possible for an image to be an idol, and all icons are images. (NB: Conversely, and importantly, it is possible for an icon not to be an idol as well, for the same reason.) There are two aspects to this determination: subject and viewer.
If the prototype (the subject) is not the True God, and the viewer is offering to its prototype the worship (latreia) that is due to the True God alone, then yes, the icon is an idol, and the viewer an idolater. (Even if the prototype is the True God, but the viewer is offering the worship to the icon itself per se, and not as passing through to the prototype, then this also is idolatry, although I would call it, to be more precise, iconolatry, since what is seen is not the point of differentiation in this case so much as what is worshiped.)
"Idol", as we have seen (pun intended), is derivative of "to see", and is a class of icon/image that is used in an attempt to "see" the deity, and offer worship to it through them, but failing because this was impossible, seeing as (again, pun intended) the deity could not be depicted, having no form or shape or similitude in created things.
And the Gospel, the Good News, tells us that He did exactly that: that God truly became Man and dwelt among us, and "we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." The Gospel teaches that this was not a mere apparition, a false form, but a true unification of two natures -- God and Man -- into one Person, the Man Christ Jesus.
Therefore, since He took upon Himself a form, and appeared to us in the flesh, while remaining true God, we may rightly offer worship to the Father through Him who is the icon of the Father. And we may depict His form as well, and offer worship to Him through such depictions, and through Him to the Father.
Such images are called "icons" in the religious sense.
But what of those images that are not strictly of Him? Why do we offer to them the same signs of submission (bowing, kissing, etc.) that we offer to Him through His own images?
Just as I said, above, that the worshiper may become an idolater by offering the worship to the image per se, rather than the prototype through it, so also he may become an idolater by offering the latreia -- that is, the ultimate worship, due to God alone -- to depicted subjects that are not Him.
That being said, however, the worshiper may yet offer a lesser worship -- that is, not the ultimate worship due to God alone, attributing true and ultimate worthiness, but rather only attributing worth commensurate to the degree to which the subject has been made holy by the True and Ultimate Worthy One working and dwelling in him, or her, or (in the case of events and objects) it.
This lesser worship is sharply differentiated in English by the term "veneration", from the Latin venerare, meaning, "to regard with reverence and respect". That is, to honor. In Greek, the word is doulia.
This lesser worship is offered only within the context of and with reference toward and from the Ultimate Worthy One, for it is He who makes anyone honorable, and it is He Who works in them both to will and to do of His good pleasure. It is He in them -- for the Saint is the Image of Christ, as Christ is the Image of the Father -- to whom we offer worship at all, and "God is glorified in His saints". The Saint is the image of the Image, and the icon of a Saint is an image of an image of the Image of the Father.
Thus we "praise God in His sanctuary" -- i.e. that place which is sanctified by His presence -- giving honor to whom honor is due.
This dichotomy between pagan idolatry and Christian worship, ushered in by the Incarnation, is so vibrant that once one grasps it one cannot thereafter deny it and remain in the Truth. For whoever has seen the Son has seen the Father (John 14:9); His Word is Truth. And the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and rests in the Son, He also sends into our hearts crying, "Abba, Father!".
Thus, when we see the Son, whether face to face or in painted depiction, the Holy Spirit "shines in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" and we prostrate ourselves with believing Thomas, kiss Him, and cry, "My Lord and my God!", truly worshiping the Father in Spirit and in Truth, to Whom be all glory, honor, and worship, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen!
Tuesday, June 14, 2016
That Adam and Eve were not created with the power to choose between good and evil, but were granted this power subsequently, and that this power is not, therefore, part of our nature, but something added. (Therefore, the resolution of this power, or its removal entirely, is not a violation of our nature.)
Such a choice has as prerequisite the knowledge of the two, and since they were created innocent -- without that knowledge -- they did not therefore have the power to choose between them.
They were not even created with the power to choose the knowledge. This was a gift of God, and the beginning of His tutelage of them as children, with an eye toward bringing them to full sonship. He planted the garden, and placed them in it, and only then did He cause the trees to grow, including "the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil". And only then did He give the commandment, thus giving them, by the commandment, the power to obey or disobey, and by the tree, the potential to obtain the knowledge of good and evil.
They were, however, created free -- that is, with the power to disobey (or, more significantly, with the power to seek the source of their life and knowledge from else but God Himself), and they could not know, of course, that this was not good, since they had not the knowledge of good and evil.
"Thou shalt surely die", rather than being a threat, constituted the warning label on the package. Not a Divine Decree of Punishment, but a Divine Warning of Consequences, for the Deity has the knowledge of good and evil in Himself, and therefore knows very well it's contents. To see that this is so, one needs merely to remember that He created all things. As such, He Himself is the provider of the nature of all things, including the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and therefore, He must have the Knowledge of Good and Evil in Himself, or there could have been no Tree.
And He knew (as we now know) that the knowledge of good and evil is obtained only in death, and so to partake of the fruit of that tree is to die. Thus the warning.
Knowledge of something, in the Biblical sense, is the experience of that thing, and not so much merely cognizance of information in the abstract. Both good and evil can only be known by experience, then, and the experience of both, I will show briefly, includes undergoing death.
With respect to the Good -- Good is God, and God is Love. Ergo, to Love is to know Good, and the only true Good is to Love as greatly as possible (anything else, while good, is not the fulness of goodness, and so cannot be considered truly to be the "knowledge of good"). The greatest Love possible is for a man to lay down his life for his friend. Ergo, the complete knowledge of Good is only obtained through the experience of death. QED
With respect to Evil -- God is Good, and the giver of Life. Ergo, Evil is the separation from God, and from Life, and this, of course, is death. Therefore, the knowledge of evil is obtained by the experience of death as well. QED.
This is why there is one tree, of the knowledge of both good and evil, and not two trees, one of the knowledge of good and the other of the knowledge of evil. The two are obtained by the same means, and so the one tree is the tree of Death, the experience is the knowledge of both.
This is also why there is no greater Love than to undergo death on behalf of the beloved. Because death itself is evil, to allow yourself to be slighted, to be evilled -- to coin a term -- in order to give the other life -- this is the nature of God, of grace, of mercy.
But I digress.
In time, God would have prepared the Man to receive this knowledge -- this experience of Death -- with faith in Himself and His power to Resurrect, to overcome Death -- Faith that the Darkness does not overcome the Light, but is swallowed up by it. They would have eaten, at His command, with faith and love, knowing that in eating they would die, but believing that He would raise them up again -- which He would have done -- and they would then have eaten of the Tree of Life, and lived forever as Sons of God with the knowledge of good and evil, and with eternal life. This has, I think, always been His plan. Their disobedience was not a "derailment" of His plan from which He then had to recover, but rather an exercise of the freedom He gave them with the grace of the commandment. It had the same result, in the end, because even when we are faithless, He remains faithful -- He cannot deny Himself.
Instead, they considered equality with God a thing to be grasped, rather than received, and, stretching forth their hands to the tree, partook of Death.
But the callings and purposes of God are without repentance; they are only delayed or hastened by the choices of the Man.
Since they partook without the fear of God, without faith, they (and their descendents) were deprived of the grace that comes through faith and drives away all fear. They discarded the commandment, and so the grace of the commandment was discarded with it.
Therefore, they were not only subject to death itself, but to the Fear of Death, by which they were thenceforth held under bondage to sin, and although they now had open eyes, and knew good and evil, they had now lost their former power to obey. (There being no commandment remaining to obey.)
Nevertheless, the goodness of God began immediately to prevail -- He remaining faithful, as noted above. He commenced posthaste the long and arduous process of cleansing them and restorin them to their former state. And, since they had jumped ahead, He Himself in His mercy jumped further ahead -- as is His wont -- took the evil done and turned it into good, not only undoing all the damage, but furthermore bringing them to glory. Not only restoring their innocence, but giving them power to become the Sons of God, as was the plan in the first place. Not only clothing them with skins, but with Himself. Not only binding death, but destroying it.
But I get ahead of myself.
Having seen that the Man had gotten ahead of Himself, and thereby lost His power to not only desire, but to choose the Good, He immediately acted to restore that power to some degree (although not thoroughly, since, regardless of their ambition, they were not as yet quite mature, and in addition to needing to learn faith, also now needed to learn patience), by giving them an example, and a commandment to follow it. (Since it is His Word that, being Good, enables goodness at all, which they had, as we noted early, recently discarded.)
Grace comes through faith(fulness). Having been unfaithful, they had fallen from the grace given to them. Now He restored to them some measure of grace by providing another commandment -- another means of faithfulness. This He provided as a gift, in His mercy, and so even then, in that primitive time, they had no room to boast, even if they remained faithful from thenceforth, seeing as they received the commandment with its opportunity the same way as in the beginning -- not as deserved, but as a free gift, prevenient, and not merited. (This is, of course, God's nature: He sends His rain on the just and the unjust.)
And so, by degrees of faithfulness and faithlessness, this dance played out, each round amplified and more detailed, but following the same pattern (for both natures remained the same), until finally the time was come to full term, and God Himself not only restored the example and commandment, but Himself became both the Man and the example, and fulfilled all commandment in Himself, remaining Faithful. He, as the Man Himself, in due time, underwent Death by obedience, and stretched forth His pure hands upon the Tree, not grasping for divinity, but in faithfulness and with faith, for His Love of the Beloved, giving His Life for (and to, by the Spirit of God) His Friends.
Therefore He, as the Man, was exalted to the Right Hand of God by God, as was planned from the beginning for the Man, and thereby communicated from the Father to all mankind in Himself the Holy Spirit, the Giver of Life, and restoring once and for all in Himself the ancient power, sanctifying and glorifying those who die with and in Him to be the sons of God, who cry "Abba, Father" in their hearts with Him.
Thus the Commandment has gone forth yet again, and finally -- the grace of God enabling faith and faithfulness by it, and calling all to the same.
"The Law shall go forth from Zion, and His Word from Jerusalem."
"The LORD hath made bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nation; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God."
"The whole earth is full of His glory!"
"For if we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him.
If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him.
If we deny Him, he also will deny us.
If we are faithless, yet He abideth faithful: He cannot deny Himself."
Tuesday, March 8, 2016
© Copyright Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Brookline, MA, used by permission. All rights reserved.)
- Cf. Ps. 2:1
- Ps. 73:13
- Cf. Hab. 3:3
- Cf. Matt. 27:57, 58; Mark 15:43
- Cf. John 19:38, 39
- John 5:8
- John 1:9
- Ps. 87:4
- I.e., on the earth. The Greek, although being a play on "below," can also mean "formerly."
- Cf. Jonas 2:2.
- Ps. 129:1.
- Ps. 79:4.
- Ps. 79:2.
- Ps. 79:3.
- Ps. 78:8.
- Cf. Ps. 85:12.
- Cf. Ps. 29:3.
- Cf. Ps. 15:10.
- Jonas 2:6.
- I.e., subdued.
- Ps. 75:3.
- The Greek word also means "bow-string."
- Cf. Eph. 2:14.
- Cf. Matt. 26:53.
- Ps. 23:7.
- Cf. Ps. 67:4, 21
- Hab. 3:14.
- Cf. Ibid.
- Ps. 23:10.
- Cf. Ps. 23:8.
- Cf. Ps. 73:14.
- Eph. 5:14.
- John 14:31.
- Ps. 87:4.
- Vide Gen. 2:7, "And God…breathed upon his face the breath of life."
- I.e., on the Holy and Great Friday.
- Vide Gen. 3:24.
- Or, "shameful coat of skin."
- I Cor. 2:9.
- Vide Matt. 27:52.
© Copyright Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Brookline, MA, used by permission. All rights reserved.)
There will be one final installment of this sermon — the footnotes. I keep these separate, so that you may have them open in a separate window, for reference, as you read each of the Parts of the sermon.
© Copyright Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Brookline, MA, used by permission. All rights reserved.)
The God of tender mercies verily heard all these cries, and so Christ judged that it was not right that His love for man should only be shared with them that lived in His days and after Him, but that those also that before His coming had gone down to Hades and that sat in darkness and the shadow of death should be partakers of the same as well. Thus God the Word visited with body and soul men who were still in the flesh, but to the souls which were bereft of bodies He manifested Himself in Hades with His Divine and blameless soul, bereft of a body but not of Divinity.
Stay tuned for the final Part, Part 7, in which Christ finds Adam, and then (Part 8) the Footnotes.