Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The problem with turning faith into a human achievement.

To even make faith a sort of disposition that is required (a feeling, a cognitive awareness, a self-understanding, a longing, a desire) is problematic in that, however minute and simple, however easy, the very fact that it is found in you makes it questionable. "Faith is uncertain," Luther once said, and his diatribes against the same have gone scarcely noticed by theologians today. The matter becomes wholly relative; a sort of gaseous pathogen that flits from one portion of the human construct to another, always escaping the gaze or, if caught, evaporating.
Barth once called faith a pure negation, a pure lack, a vacuum. He was right, and right also to immediately speak against turning this into a human thing. Faith is not a human thing. It is in us, but we cannot locate it or describe it. It is in us, but there is no part of it to which we are attached. We cannot say that we have it, yet a paradox forms in the epiphenomenon of assurance and joy. How can these things come if one does not know faith? Justifying faith! Yet as soon as we return to our self-reflection, the despair returns. Human achievements work despair alone.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

What theological era are we in currently?

If I can compare it to anything, it would be that of the age of Medieval Scholasticism. Instead of reading and expositing the scriptures, theologians content themselves with the writings of Karl Barth or the modern church fathers (Bonhoeffer, Troeltsch, Yoder, Schleiermacher, Tillich etc...). Does anyone not see in this a stunning analogue to the days where the prime task of a theologian was to comment on Peter Lombard's Sentences?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Theological Lightbulb!

This correlation, if true, has no doubt been held and explained far more profoundly and accurately than I (a querelous little brat) could ever dream of doing. Nevertheless, I am excited at having made this particular revelation personal:

The correlaton is between Arianism and the dignity of nature. Clearly, if Jesus was (is) not God but a lesser, created being... how far of a stretch is it to proceed from this presupposition to the assumption of a natural dignity bestowed on the creature, unhampered (though perhaps weakened or neutralized for a time by the fall)? Especially in light of Jesus' incarnation (seen from the Arian standpoint) may we not begin to assume that all of the great and magnificent things done by this Christ are examples of the universal human possibility; albeit in the clearest and most honorable light as compared with all other men? And is it not the case, then, that the focus of Christ's redemptive activity is not in the mere forgiveness of sins or justification of the wicked sinner by grace, but in his exemplary instruction (no doubt still through his vicarious suffering) to humanity through word and deed, in his pedagogical revealing of the potency of humans to do good of themselves, or perhaps in tandem with the power of God? Perhaps, at the end of the dogmatic reflection, Jesus saves men by teaching them to save themselves?

Historical thesis: It is necessary that the heresy of Arianism precede and pave in definite and decisive forms the way for the later heresy of Pelagianism.

My correlative discovery should not be immediately applied sweepingly to all Arians. In historical reflection I wish as much as possible to treat individuals (even Arian individuals) as individuals, rather than guilty on all points by association with certain schools of thought. But if I apply my thesis to the immediate materials of knowledge available to me, I find some intriguing results:

1. The cult of the Jehovah's Witnesses, which has consistently indoctrinated an Arian christology, also lacks any satisfactory knowledge of justification by pure grace apart from works.

2. The same holds for Mormonism.

3. John Howard Yoder's Politics of Jesus, which very subtly places the doctrines of the trinity and the incarnation in the background in light of the importance of Jesus' ethical significance, is also smattered from cover to cover with clear statements of justification by the good works of disciples of Jesus (note particularly his chapter titled Justification by grace through faith, where he literally morphs the word "faith" into "faithfulness" and removes any forensic significance of justification in favor of a concrete social event).

4. N.T. Wright's questionable christology, wherein the human Jesus of history is relatively ignorant of his own Godhead and can only perceive a vocation laid on him which abstractly and nebulously presupposes divinity (cf. the christological chapters of his Simply Christian), would here be fittingly related to his idea that we are justified both by Jesus' faithfulness to God AND the concrete fulfilling of the law in the lives of the believers.

More to come, no doubt! I have certainly uncovered similar trends in Bishop John A.T. Robinson, but right now I am most curious about the work of James Dunn. He has already stated his position as monotheistic (by which he means that there is only God the Father; which is certainly a false monotheism inasmuch as it denies scriptural revelation), but he has also called the doctrine of sola fide a genuine "litmus test" against all bad theology. Given the fact that he hasn't read squat from the Reformation, my suspicion is that his sola fide may turn out to be perfectly commensurate with works-righteousness (hints in this direction being his complete disinterest in a vertical view of Paul's written subject matter, in favor of its social implications).

Are current vampire-hunting guilds influenced by post-modernism?

Such is the title of a satirical piece I wrote for my high school newspaper in grade twelve. Despite some lack of philosophical comprehension and divers grammatical errors, I still think it was brilliantly done. I exercise the right to laugh at it because it was funny. Here is an excerpt:

The vampiric community values strategic accomplishments of the modernist age, worst of all the idea of a universal struggle for human destruction. More commencingly (sic) dangerous is the mindset that post-modern conversation is met prominently through drinking blood. To gain a clarified stance on the problem, we eagerly attended a story-sharing between a vampire and his victim. The vampire appeared quite intent on sharing his feelings; he gnashed his teeth many times and made a number of daunting linguistic marks on the victim's neck. The victim, however, appeared less successful in communicating his story. In an obscure fashion he let out a few moans and one distinctive "arrrrrrgh!!" We are humbly reminded of Derrida's proposition that "there is nothing outside the text."

A Good Quote.

"In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." -Jn 1:1

In the face of the recent and very pseudo-intellectual upsurge of arianism in the Protestant church, we must cleave to this inspired truth of scripture and say a simple "No, thanks." As soon as a Protestant abandons the truth of scripture; she abandons the right to refer to herself as Protestant. Goodness, to think that the Catholics are more on track these days.....