Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Questions 2

Over the years various random pieces have got me thinking about questions:
  • The Book of Questions - Gregory Stock
  • The Kids' Book of Questions - Gregory Stock
  • "Questions are the Answer" in Awaken the Giant Within - Anthony Robbins
  • Questioning Evangelism - Randy Newman
  • Summa Theologica - Thomas
  • "An Answer to Questions" in Promises, Promises by Adam Phillips
  • The Theological Questions of President [Jonathan] Edwards
  • Dogmatic Theology - Questions - W G T Shedd
And there's any number of books of questions out there that I've not read. [How many?]

Monday, May 30, 2011

The humility of the eternal Son

In itself and as such, then, humility is not alien to the nature of the true God, but supremely proper to Him in His mode of being as the Son. ...

It must be considered what is implied by the assumptio carnis. It is not merely that God willed not to be alone, but to co-exist as the Creator with the creature. It is not merely that He willed to bind and pledge Himself to the human creature. For the reconciliation of the estranged world with Himself, He, the Creator, willed to exist as a creature Himself. He, the Lord of the covenant, willed to be also its human partner and therefore the keeper of the covenant on this side too. This is the depth to which He willed to descend from His throne, and the height to which He willed to exalt the creature man to the right hand of His throne. For what reason? ... Why? In the face of God Himself as the First and the Last we can only say: Because He is the God of this mercy, and of the power of a mercy which is so radical and total. There is no sense in trying to find or give any other reason for the fact that the Word became flesh, and therefore for this assumptio. We can only say that in its great inconceivability - always new and surprising when we try to conceive it - this reason is holy and righteous and worthy of God because it corresponds to the humility of the eternal Son as it takes place in supreme reality in the intra-trinitarian life of God Himself; and although it cannot be deduced from this, in the light of it it can be recognised as a reason which is in itself both clear and well-founded. ...

It is He, the Son of God, who becomes the Son of Man. It is He who descends so deep down to man in order to lift him up so high. It is He who goes into the far country in order that man may return home. He does not do this without the Father, but, as the Gospel of John constantly reiterates, He does it as the One who is sent by the Father, with whom He is one. He takes this downward way in the omnipotence of the Father, which will be manifest even in the depths as His glory. He does it as the One who is eternally loved by the Father, and loves Him eternally in return. ...

This God as such is the Subject of the incarnation, of the assumption of human being into unity with Himself and therefore with His essence. But He is this in His mode of being as the Son, and not as the Father or the Holy Spirit. For - as we had first to show - it is in His mode of being as the Son, as the eternally Begotten of the Father, and to that extent, although of the same essence, first loved by Him and then loving Him in return, as the one who is in order secondary and therefore obedient to Him, that He is the one God in His humility. It is to Him therefore, to God in this mode of being, that the act of humility of the incarnation corresponds. ...

This is the work of the eternal Son, determined in God's eternal decree and taking place in time, as the meaning and basis and power of the reconciliation of the world with God. It can be His work, and it must indeed be His, because He - the one God in the mode of being of the Son - in unity with the Father and the Holy Ghost, in the deepest harmony of the whole Holy Trinity of the one God - is the humble God, and therefore exalted with the Father and the Holy Ghost.

(Church Dogmatics, §64.2)

Questions 1

There are over 3,100 questions in the Bible.

Here are twenty or so of the striking / pivotal questions out of the 140+ in the Book of Genesis.

Ge 3:1: “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”

Ge 3:9: But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”

Ge 3:11: He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”

Ge 3:13: Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?”

Ge 4:6: The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?

Ge 4:9: Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?”

Ge 4:10: And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.

Ge 13:9: Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left.”

Ge 15:8: But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?”

Ge 16:8: And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.”

Ge 18:14: Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.”

Ge 18:17-18: The Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?

Ge 18:25: Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”

Ge 21:17: And God heard the voice of the boy, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is.

Ge 22:7: And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here am I, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”

Ge 24:31: He said, “Come in, O blessed of the Lord. Why do you stand outside? For I have prepared the house and a place for the camels.”

Ge 24:58: And they called Rebekah and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” She said, “I will go.”

Ge 25:32: Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?”

Ge 27:36: Esau said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has cheated me these two times. He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing.” Then he said, “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?”

Ge 37:8: His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.

Ge 39:9: How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?”

Ge 41:38: And Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?”

Ge 50:19: But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Welcome interruptions

  1. "... I always read to find something that will strike me ... for the quotations. I read books as if they were dictionaries of quotations, it's like the lottery ..."

  2. "One of my friends who's got children says what he can't stand is the interruption ... but it may be the point ... interruption is not the problem but the point if there's no plan ... it's only called interruption because there's no plan."
Two more from Adam Phillips.

The question - both for evaluating "was that a good day?" and for assessing "how do I read?" - is:

"What's the connection between 1. and 2. above?"

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Boasting ... the soliloquy of the uncertain

Doug Wilson's fine, fine addresses at the recent Family Conference (mp3s available here) explored something of what it means for husbands to love their wives and for wives to respect their husbands.

Amongst other things, Doug noted that when boys do not receive the respect which nurtures them then they move to boasting and when girls do not receive the love which nurtures them then they move to flirting. Thus fathers need directly to give their sons respect and (indirectly by example in the marriage relationship) to teach their sons what it means to love a woman. And fathers need directly to give their daughters love and (indirectly by being a man who wins respect from his wife) to teach their daughters what it means to respect a man.

It's this element of "boys with a respect-deficit move to bragging" that strikes a chord with another Adam Phillips moment. Phillips writes:
"Even if it is intended for public consumption, boasting is a curiously solitary act. More the soliloquy of the uncertain."
When I fail to receive nurturing respect from others (and by the vicious cycle, earn that respect less and less and less), then I ask for it by boasting.

The boasting, however, is a version of me talking about myself for my benefit and it is not a communication within the orbit and ambit of a healthy relationship. (If I have to boast to get you to relate properly to me then you are not being what you should be towards me. And if I select boasting about myself as the content of my communication with you then I am not relating to you properly.)

And thus, it's a "curiously solitary act" - it is not the act of someone living in proper relationship.

And it's the "soliloquy of the uncertain" because it is a speaking to myself out loud as a request for reassurance.

[Worth noting along the way, of course, that self-deprecation can be a clever form of boasting. It, too, is a request for the reassurance of respect. It's just that it's clever enough to take a circuitous route which enjoys 'deniability' privileges.]

All this is the participative and doxological ontology which is so wonderfully expounded in Douglas Knight.

So, since "no-one likes a boaster" (or is it, "when no-one likes a person, he becomes a boaster"), then we reduce these intrusive soliloquys by walking in God's rightly ordered ways:
  • Wives, respect your husbands.
  • Fathers, respect your sons.
  • Humans, respect one another.
  • Creatures, hear the value-bestowing creation-affirming blessing of your Maker.
  • Christians, revel in the (brought-into-history) resurrection verdict of your Redeemer-Judge.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

"That most common of conditions ...

... fear of the conversation flagging." (Houdini's Box, p.59)

Just inhabit that moment in your imagination with different sorts of people. Horrible, isn't it?

So we

- talk about ourselves endlessly (Conversational Narcissism - here; here; and here)

- ask questions unceasingly (the respectable person's way of making you keep your distance)

- avoid conversations altogether - stick your earphones in, put on the TV, leave the room, break your appointment

- talk about trivia - there's no end to that, is there? Meal-times are conversation times but if you talk about the food then you needn't actually converse!

- play board games (be honest, they're just another respectable way of not having to converse).

Thing is, you see, if the conversation flags then in the silence you might hear something really scary. In the silence of a deflated conversation you can hear the other person's need, your own emptiness, and echoes from the precipice of aimlessness. Terrifying indeed.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Attention is supremely selective

Still Phillips, still Houdini's Box:
To learn to discriminate, to learn to talk and think and choose, is to learn to exclude (attention is supremely selective).
"Attention is supremely selective."

That to which we attend is either what has power over us and/or what we regard as most attractive (where "attractive", of course, can include a car crash or a major facial scar - that which draws our gaze with a seduction /magnetism which overwhelms the alternatives).

What has power over us - our lord and sovereign

What gives us most in return for the price of our time and energy - our "good", our preference.

Attention - the beginnings of true worship ("This is my beloved Son, listen to him"; "Look to me and live")

Attention - the foundation of true service ("as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master")

Attention - what children seek from parents, peers from peers, husbands and wives from each other

Attention deficit and attention misdirection - a way of describing what's wrong with humans

Attention is supremely selective. Attention is supremely revealing.

Mind you, it's not a subject for lengthy consideration - otherwise, instead of enjoying the beauties outside we'll be like the child staring into the close-held mirror and attempting to see both eyeballs at once or to watch in the mirror what his eyes do when they look away from the mirror.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

We're all escape artists

Adam Phillips again:
We are all too familar with ourselves as escape-artists. Knowingly or otherwise we map our lives - our gestures, our ambitions, our loves, the minutest movements of our bodies - according to our aversions; our personal repertoire of situations, or encounters, or states of mind and body that we would literally do anything not to have to confront. As though our lives depend, above all, on accurate knowledge of what we are endangered by, of all the feelings we must not have. In wishfulness, in the elsewheres of the imagination, we are either choosing our dangers, or out of harm's way. And yet the irony that the irrational phobia exposes is that the hardest thing to escape from is the wish to escape. That the imaginative activity involved in flight can blind us to any knowledge of quite what it is we are escaping from, and of any way of finding out about it. Indeed, that is its function. When it doesn't starkly and literally save our lives - when we shoot our approaching lion - fear sustains our ignorance. ... It is as though, if we can keep ourselves sufficiently busy escaping, we can forget that that is what we are doing.
Two key areas where this happens:
- the choices we make about what we do next when given that luxury (which we all are, many times a day, however hemmed in we feel our lives to be);

- the choices we make about the direction of conversation - changing the subject, moving things this way rather than that, choosing "not to go there", making that item a joke, pausing so that the other person keeps talking etc.

Escaping is the endeavour not to face up to what we are escaping from. To ask why are you running in this direction may be quite revealing.

Audio Greek New Testament

All four gospels now complete
. Thanks to Andy Martin and glory to God.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Idol reading

From Adam Phillips, Houdini's Box: On the Arts of Escape:
Reading books was like a devotional exercise - they called up a more thoughtful reading-self in him that he liked and admired ... But he read books very quickly, 'getting in and out as fast as possible', as though lingering was tricky for him. He wasn't sure whether he wanted to read the book or to have read it - to have experiences without having to go through them, or through with them. And this question had intermittently troubled him, because it was like living in and for the future, when he would have read all the requisite books. When he would be finally equipped, but for what? Books, in other words, were a more enigmatic invitation - made more of a muddled appeal to him - than he realized. Reading, whatever else it was, was a sacrificial pleasure. It was a satisfaction that deferred satisfaction.

Just because I can't remember ...

Moonwalking with Einstein
is a lot of fun. Interesting too.
"Until the age of three or four, almost nothing that happens to us leaves the sort of lasting impression that can be consciously recalled as an adult. The average age that people report having their earliest memory is three and a half, and those tend to be just blurry fragmentary snapshots that are often false."
And yet, when you see a not-yet-speaking 18 month old (OK, he's slow off the blocks) getting excited about the plane flying past or the tiger at the zoo, or getting upset at losing his soft toy or being denied another sweet, then there's no doubt that this is very "conscious" indeed.

Similarly, you can have deep and detailed conversations with a two and a half year old - every single day!

But these incidents and moments, though undeniably conscious experiences at the time, are, almost every single one of them, irrecoverable consciously in later years.

When, therefore, we argue for paedo-faith, we don't need to overstate the difference between it and the faith of an adult. There are differences of verbalisation, self-consciousness*, testedness and so on. But there is no reason to claim (on the basis that "conscious = memorable") that a child's faith is not "conscious" whereas an adult's is.

Because - this is the point from Foer - it is not necessary for something to be "remember-able at a later date" for it to be conscious at the moment it happens.

Just because I can't remember it today doesnt' mean it wasn't conscious when it happened yesterday.

If faith is
"a conscious, willed, and informed confident dependence on another person"
then the faith a baby has is a young version of the same thing. It is not a different thing.

[* in so far as faith is the Christ-ward look, self-consciousness is not only non-essential to faith, it often militates against it. If I'm thinking about whether I believe in Jesus, I'm thinking about my beliefs rather than thinking about Jesus. And, however much I value them, my beliefs are not the Saviour of the world.]

Audio Greek New Testament

New files up at http://www.davidpfield.com/audio-gnt/AudioGNT.htm . One chapter more and the gospels are complete.

Monday, May 16, 2011

I have a dream ...

Much of our "applying the gospel" amounts to a reactive problem-solving. What would things look like, this side of resurrection morning, if we began to see God's new world intensively and pervasively? If we were to start the final paragraph of a gospel speech with the words, "I have a dream ..." then what would come next?

The answer should consist of recognisable "goods" none of which can properly be defined and none of which can truly be attained apart from Christ crucified and risen.

Much more besides, but something like this perhaps?

• forgiveness for our failures
• a lasting cure for poverty
• peace among the nations
• freedom and security
• justice for the world's oppressed
• wealth and generosity
• healing of our hurting wounds
• unbreakable community
• renewal for our planet
• inner peace and wholeness
radiance in knowing God
• constant joy and purpose

Most people, of course, "know" that hopes like that all end in tears. They’ve been lied to, they've been let down. They can’t rely on politicians; they can’t believe the press.

If you dream, they think, … you’ll be disappointed.
If you trust, they think, … you’ll be betrayed.
If you love, they think, … you’ll get hurt.

But what if …

A man once lived to give the dream both shape and colour

That man then died to take away the nightmares

And now he lives and reigns to make the dream a reality ...


That'd be something eh?

I know - but I hate being reminded

When people are determined on a mode of conduct which they know to be wrong, they feel injured by the expectation of any thing better from them. (Sense and Sensibility, chap 36).

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The trauma

Further to the previous post: Childhood is the trauma from which we spend our lives recovering ...

Genesis 3.23: the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken.

Freud theologised

This will have been said a thousand times before but it's a new thought to me.

A. Take some summary statements to represent "Freud":

1. Childhood is the trauma from which we spend our lives recovering

2. Things go wrong as the male

a) desires to possess his Mother wrongly
b) resents and seeks to kill his Father for the Father's possession of the Mother
c) is punished (and thoroughly messed up) by the loss of power
d) seeks pretty much any possible way of avoiding the resultant pain without facing up to its cause.

B. Now go back to The Beginning:

1. the Childhood of the Race (the Fall of Adam) is the trauma (embodied in and recapitulated by all of us) from which the rest of history is spent recovering

2. God the Creator is Father. The created order is the Mother (that from which Man receives life as animated by the Father).

3. Things go wrong as the Man

a) desires to possess his Mother wrongly - Adam wanted to possess "the world"

b) resents and seeks to kill his Father for the Father's possession of the Mother - Adam resented God laying down the law and seeking to prevent him possessing "the world" (in its entirety)

c) is punished (and thoroughly messed up) by the loss of power

d) seeks pretty much any possible way of avoiding the resultant pain without facing up to its cause.

C. If the deep structure is there, then we would be utterly unsurprised if that deep structure were not then to find adumbrations / recapitulations / instantiations in individual lives - in the areas of possession (money), relations between men and women (sex), and the pursuit of control (power).

D. The recovery of the human race will only be possible if the Man simultaneously goes back to the beginning and "works through" the Fall - achieving the maturity of second innocence rather than seeking refuge in the escapism of denial / infantilism.

E. This happens in Christ and then in those who are themselves united to him.

Or something.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Lurching every which way

Species of imbalance from Rutherford's, The Trial and Triumph of Faith (1645):
  • The truth is, while we endeavour to gain a grain-weight of truth, it is much if we lose not a talent-weight of goodness and Christian love.
  • Many are friends to the success of reformation, not to reformation. Men's faith goes along with the promises, until providence seem to them to belie the promise.
  • Lord, give us not leave to be mad with worldly wisdom.
  • Gifts wither apace without grace: gifts neither break nor humble; grace can do both.
  • Christ strong in moral acts, and strongly moderate in natural acts: the contrary is in natural men ...