Monthly Archives: September 2009
Sorry about the long gap in posts. Turns out I’ve been busy. Anyways, while I’ve been silent there’s been plenty of good stuff being churned out in the blogosphere, including this post from Paul Griffiths. He offers a list of principles on violence and peace on which he hopes all Christians can agree, which read as follows:
- Christians love peace, first and last: the first garden was peaceful and the last heaven will be. That’s the grammar of Christian thought. ‘Peaceful’ here means (at least) that in paradise and in heaven no one damages anyone else, physically or otherwise, and no one wants to.
- But, we are fallen. Which means that peace no longer obtains, which means in turn that each of us wants to damage others, physically and in other ways, and that each of us does so. Hence, at the physical level, murder, war, rape, torture, and quotidian beatings.
- Christians know that the condition mentioned in (2) is not the way it’s supposed to be; also not the way it once was and, one day, not the way it will be.
- We Christians also know that we should act in response to and furtherance of beauty-truth-goodness, and not by calculation of effect. (Controversial this; but true and right nevertheless.)
- And so, we ought never act in such a way as to intend physical damage. That would be ugly, a repetition of the fall, a deepening of damage.
- But, sometimes, acting in response to and furtherance of what’s beautiful-good-true brings physical damage in its train, as rain can bring flood and sun drought. Sometimes, too, we can know this to be the case: disarming the man with the gun may break his arm; preventing the wife-beater from continuing to beat may hurt him; and so on. [This is a version of the principle of double effect.]
- In such cases, we should nonetheless act as beauty demands, thrumming & dancing thereby in response to the Lord, but at the same time wrapped in dark clouds of repentant mourning for the inevitable post-lapsum imbrication with violence of what we do in the Lord’s service. What we renounce as Christians is not actions that in fact produce physical damage, but actions intending that outcome.
- Pacifism, then? No. Renunciation of violence-as-physical-damage? Also no. What we seek is peace, which is both prevenient and among the last things; what we know is that our seeking of it will unavoidably contribute to damage. Hence, mourning, lament, penitence. The Christian soldier has to be a good mourner for what he is and does.
A lot of good stuff here. First, I really hope that I can write as well as Griffiths does someday. Also the emphasis on Christian activity always being oriented towards furthering beauty-truth-goodness, though without calculation is vital.
However, its too bad that Griffiths doesn’t do much to alleviate the problem he diagnoses, namely that Christians tend to “argue these questions in a deep conceptual fog about what counts as violence.” His basic thrust seems to be that Christians should never intend physical damage by their actions, but this is inevitable in a falling world, so we should be penitent. This seems to me to be obviously true, indeed Mennonite theologian Chris Huebner has argued a point very similar to this, namely that we don’t ever quite know what “peace” is or the fullness of how our lives are gripped by violence.
However, to move from the observation that we are caught in a world where our actions may, tragically bring about harm in ways we don’t intend, to “the Christian soldier” seems a huge leap in logic. I don’t really see how anyone could be a soldier without purposefully acting “in such a way as to intend physical damage.” As Griffiths rightly notes, “that would be ugly, a repetition of the fall, a deepening of damage.”
There seems to be some sort of inertial Niebuhrianism at work here. Somehow the observation of our fallneness leads (reluctantly) to the point of resignation to active violence-as-intending-harm, all cloaked in an aura of penitence. This, I think is precisely what we must not do. The last thing that observing that our lives are enmeshed in violence should do is drive us to accommodate our active behavior to this state of affairs. The proper response to his is not simply “mourning, lament, penitence” but actual repentance in the face of our failures. But actual repentance, the turning around of one’s life by the Spirit of Christ, and going in a new direction seems to be precisely what Griffiths doesn’t think can really be done. Therefore we are left to simply mourn and continue on as things have been from the beginning. Fortunately I don’t think this bleak outlook is one that we need adopt.
Melissa posts a couple awesome quotes from Augustine on God as Mother. Here’s just one:
“My father and mother have abandoned me (Psalm 26:10). The psalmist has made himself a little child in relation to God. He has made God both his father and his mother. God is our father because he created us, because he calls us, gives orders and rules us; he is our mother because he cherishes us, nourishes us, feeds us with milk, and holds us in his arms” (Exposition 2 of Psalm 26, par. 18).
Didn’t Augustine know that only modern liberal feminazis call God “Mother”? I guess not.
This is my dilemma. I have an office with ample shelf space where I could easily house the large part of my library, thus having it with me every day during the work week. This would also have the advantage of having my books on-hand while doing editorial work. However, I have this deep-seated fear of not having my books at home, close at hand in my place of living. However my room can’t take any more books. Hence the conundrum.
Now, obviously these questions are of the utmost importance. Though it may seem trivial to some, the location of one’s library is actually a thing of massive significance that cannot be settled on lightly. So, with that in mind, what are folks’ different philosophies about where to locate your books? Home or office? Or home office, I suppose. Regardless, I pose the question to you all. Where should one’s books reside?
To those in the Pacific Northwest or who are able to travel from elsewhere, you should really try to be at this year’s Film, Faith, and Justice conference, put on by The Other Journal. The event goes from the 15th through the 17th of October, and promises to be a great installment of a great conference.
The speakers this year include Kelly Johnson, Emmanuel Katongole, James K.A. Smith, Mark Russell, Rob Morris.
The movies and schedules are online and we’re looking forward to a really great event, where we’ll be looking at issues of Human Trafficking, Human Rights, Business as Mission, Reconciliation post-Genocide, and Facing Tragedy.
“I do not seek my own glory” (John 8:5). With these words Jesus set a precedent for all those who claim to follow him. Fundamental to the call to discipleship is the renunciation of seeking to glorify, to magnify, to enhance and promote oneself.
It is often thought that this calling is based on the distinction between God and humanity. God should be glorified, not us. Therefore we refuse to glorify ourselves and instead glorify God. Indeed, aspects of the Reformed tradition insist that God’s whole aim in being involved with the world is to glorify God’s own self. Thus, we glorify God rather than ourselves because God wants to glorify God’s self rather than humanity.
However, this is all entirely wrong. Jesus, according to the Christian confession is God’s very self come among us. Thus, when Jesus reveals that he does not seek his own glory, he is stating something that is not only to be true about us, but preeminently about God’s own life. God’s life consists in the refusal to seek self-glorification. Rather, the life of the Godhead itself consists in the loving mutuality of the trinitarian persons who only seek the glory of one another. Thus, Jesus seeks the glory of the Father rather than his own, and so also the Father seeks to glorify Jesus (John 7:18). Finally, God also fundamentally desires to glorify humanity: “those he justified he also glorified” (Rom 8:30).
So, we do not reject the quest of self-glorfication to somehow “make room” for God’s desire to self-glorify. Rather we reject self-glorification because that’s precisely what God is like. To reject the quest for self-exaltation is, counterintuitively, the very epitome of what it means to be God-like. We don’t reject self-glorification because self-glorification is reserved for God alone. We reject it because self-glorification in any form is demonic.
If there were any doubt it is gone now. If there was even the slightest question that Mark Driscoll is simply rabid misogynist who’s boarderline psychotic, this quote clears all that up. There really are no words for this kind of mindless stupidity:
Without blushing, Paul is simply stating that when it comes to leading in the church, women are unfit because they are more gullible and easier to deceive than men. While many irate women have disagreed with his assessment through the years, it does appear from this that such women who fail to trust his instruction and follow his teaching are much like their mother Eve and are well-intended but ill-informed. . . Before you get all emotional like a woman in hearing this, please consider the content of the women’s magazines at your local grocery store that encourages liberated women in our day to watch porno with their boyfriends, master oral sex for men who have no intention of marrying them, pay for their own dates in the name of equality, spend an average of three-fourths of their childbearing years having sex but trying not to get pregnant, and abort 1/3 of all babies – and ask yourself if it doesn’t look like the Serpent is still trolling the garden and that the daughters of Eve aren’t gullible in pronouncing progress, liberation, and equality.
Mark Driscoll, Church Leadership: Explaining the Roles of Jesus, Elders, Deacons, and Members at Mars Hill, Mars Hill Theology Series (Seattle, WA: Mars Hill Church, 2004), 43.
As I said, there really are no words. This sort of juvenile and petulant hatred of women speaks for itself. Driscoll really doesn’t give a shit about the Bible or “what Paul said.” He just is desperate for power and control over women. Its very sad that some people consider this bastard a pastor who has something to contribute to the church. He’s nothing more than a parasite who preys on the weak and opposes the Gospel at every turn. Hopefully more people will grow to see this and the cancer that is Mark Driscoll may go into remission.
Thanks to Rachel for pointing me to this horrible quote.
Daniel Izuzquiza’s Rooted in Jesus Christ is a very stirring addition to contemporary theology, and in particular is a helpful engagement with and extension of the project of liberation theology. The book focuses on four central features of liberation theology: method, God as liberator, the martyrs, and the poor. Some of his statements about martyrdom are particularly good:
If our discourse about martyrdom focuses on the violence, suffering, and death operating against the poor people—instead of highlighting their fortitude and endurance—the unwanted effect might be a victimization of the people themselves. In this scheme, the poor would be mere passive recipients of the violence exerted on them, while the real protagonists would be the executioners. The paradoxical outcome of such a theology of martyrdom would be a factual dis-empowerment of the victims, who are left with no other option than silent suffering of their unjust fate. Considered from another perspective, this approach seems to mimic the dominant discourse, with its emphasis on dramatic excesses, that may get attention from the mass media. In a sense, the recent film The Passion of the Christ might be an example of what a distorted theology of the cross and martyrdom may look like: a bloody and dreadful affair with little connection to human praxis in daily life. (p. 13)
In other words, if a theology of martyrdom is fixated on the violence suffered by the martyrs rather than on their courage and witness, we end up simply valorizing violence itself, making martyrdom something of a fetish.
This is where I’ll be. If the Lord wills. Please, Lord will.
Thanks to David for posting this:
“Since the man of common sense makes his appeal to feeling, to an oracle within his breast, he is finished and done with anyone who does not agree; he only has to explain that he has nothing more to say to anyone who does not find and feel the same in himself. In other words, he tramples underfoot the roots of humanity. For it is the nature of humanity to press onward to agreement with others; human nature only really exists in an achieved community of minds. The anti-human, the merely animal, consists in staying within the sphere of feeling, and being able to communicate only at that level.”
—Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, trans. A. V. Miller (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1977), 43.
The older language in which the theme of “conformity to this world” was stated in Bible times had to do with “idols,” with those unworthy objects of devotion to whom men in their blindness sacrificed. Thus it is quite fitting to describe the use of violence as the outworking of an idolatry. If I take the life of another, I am saying that I am devoted to another value, one other than the neighbor himself, and other than Jesus Christ Himself, to which I sacrifice my neighbor. I have thereby made a given nation, social philosophy, or party my idol. To it I am ready to sacrifice not only something of my own, but also the lives of my fellow human beings for whom Christ gave His life.
In the deep nonconformity of mind to which the gospel calls us, we can not accept the analysis according to which one kind of action (suffering servanthood) is right from the point of view of revelation, but some other pattern is equally right from the practical perspective. This ultimately denies the lordship of Christ and shuts Him up in the monastery or the heart. There is clearly a double standard in the world, but it is not between discipleship and common sense; it is between obedience and rebellion.
~ John Howard Yoder, The Original Revolution, 174-75.
The Immanent Frame has an interview up with Terry Eagleton that is well-worth a read. Here are just a couple of his memorable quotes:
Religion has become a very comfortable ideology for a dollar-worshipping culture. The scandal of the New Testament—the fact that it backs what America calls the losers, that it thinks the dispossessed will inherit the kingdom of God before the respectable bourgeois—all of that has been replaced, particularly in the States, by an idolatrous version. I’m presently at a university campus where we proudly proclaim the slogan “God, Country, and Notre Dame.” I think they have to be told, and indeed I have told them, that God actually takes little interest in countries. Yahweh is presented in the Jewish Bible as stateless and nationless. He can’t be used as a totem or fetish in that way. He slips out of your grasp if you try to do so. His concern is with universal humanity, not with one particular section of it. Such ideologies make it very hard to get a traditional version of Christianity across.
I think, actually, [Richard Dawkins is] a pre-Christian atheist, because he never understood what Christianity is about in the first place! That would be rather like Madonna calling herself post-Marxist. You’d have to read him first to be post-him. As I’ve said before, I think that Dawkins in particular makes such crass mistakes about the kind of claims that Christianity is making. A lot of the time, he’s either banging at an open door or he’s shooting at a straw target.
I swear this is the last quote I’ll post on the topic for a while:
I got a note from a good friend yesterday expressing shock, and anger, about Drudge and Malkin’s usage of that alleged racial beat-down on a school-bus [to attack Obama]. On some level, I wonder if something’s wrong with me. I’m neither shocked, nor angry. This is exactly how I expected these fools to respond to a black president.
If anything, I’m a little giddy. For black people, the clear benefit of Obama is that he is quietly exposing an ancient hatred that has simmered in this country for decades. Rightly or wrongly, a lot of us grew tired of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, mostly because they presented easy foils for Limbaugh-land. Moreover, again rightly or wrongly, they were used to define all of us.
It’s intensely grating to live say, in Atlanta, and have some dude in Harlem crowned as your unelected leader. It’s even more grating if said dude’s agenda seems, in large measure, come down to standing in front of cameras and tweaking his opponents. It’s no mistake that O’Reilly and Sharpton would break bread together at Sylvia’s–they feed each other.
But Barack Obama, bourgeois in every way that bourgeois is right and just, will not dance. He tells kids to study–and they seethe. He accepts an apology for an immature act of rudeness–and they go hysterical. He takes his wife out for a date–and their veins bulge. His humanity, his ordinary blackness, is killing them. Dig the audio of his response to Kanye West–the way he says, “He’s a jackass.” He sounds like one of my brothers. And that’s the point, because that’s what he is. Barack Obama refuses to be their nigger. And it’s driving them crazy.
You don’t have to wear a white hood to have views that are significantly animated by racist beliefs and fears–and saying that a lot of the hysterical protest on the right (stylized as a desire for ‘small government’) is significantly animated by racist beliefs and fears is most decidedly not to say that “limited government sentiment is automatically a form of subliminated racism.” Much of it is so animated, but that doesn’t mean that each person with such ‘limited government’ views is a racist, let alone has a penchant for white-hood wearing.
Here’s a question: what proportion of the people clamoring about ‘limited government’ at these rallies seem to have no problem with–indeed seem to much support–federal programs that they think benefit them and people like them (Medicare, Social Security, federal spending that provides jobs in their community, such as on defense, etc.), but are rabidly opposed to things that they think will go to people unlike them? I think an answer to that question would go a long way to answering how much of the protest is animated by racism.