Sunday, January 21, 2007

new blog?

No one has posted in a bazillion years...I think I am going to start a new one. It will be more focused (in theory) on theology (this one was not in theory, but was in practice! Time to make it real I guess). If someone wants to co-create and manage it, please let me know. I was thinking 2-3 writers and 203 posts a week, on whatever we are into at the time.


Monday, October 16, 2006

Response to Mr. Evett: Origen

Here is an excerpt of my reflections on Origen, which may be helpful:

In order to understand his eschatology, we have to understand how he understands the “Fall,” so I will briefly mention it in passing. He claims that all creatures are as diverse as they are due to the declension of their fall. All creatures were created originally good; they are not good to the extent that they have rebelled. For example, Lucifer is merely the nature of darkness and evil, how did he exist before evil was manifested (I.V.5)? And you cannot have two co-eternal forces, because neither of them would be omnipotent. So, the state of affairs of each creature is due to how far each one has defected from participating in the goodness of God (which is essential to God alone). It also might be helpful to mention here that the rate of the improvement of each creature has to do with his or her position in rebellion, e.g., Lucifer will take longer to improve than humans, because he fell further into rebellion.

Origen begins his discussion of “the end or consummation,” by stating that the very nature of the idea relates to some type of perfection or consummation of things. Following this, he warns that discussion of issues like this cannot be done with the dogmatic precision of used for the doctrine of the Trinity. Eschatology is more a of an open ended conversation (I.VI.1). What I find most interesting about Origen’s eschatology is what most would term “universalism;” however I think slapping on this ‘label’ fails to give justice to what he contributes. As we talked about in class, he does not necessarily follow closely to linear logic, such as ‘all will be saved, therefore no one can choose not to be saved, and therefore no one has free-will.’ In fact, Origen holds paradoxes in his attempt at a comprehensive theology. The best example of this might be the tension between free-will and his belief that after eons of time, even Lucifer and the fallen angels will be restored to peace and harmony with the rest of creation. He seems to maintain the existence of free-will in this by saying that sometime in the future, even the enemies of Christ will be subject to Him, but in the same manner that we are subject to Him – seeking salvation. This would lead me to think that far from forcing fallen angels to love Him, Christ would ‘woo’ them with His beauty, love and glory, in the same way He evokes love from us by loving us first. In the First Chapter of Book II he elevates the wisdom and power of God, by asserting that God will restore and transform all things into harmony, despite how far each creature has fallen, and God has arranged for this to happen without forcing any creature against the liberty of free-will. This leads him to believe that the whole world, with all of its diversity and members, is like one huge body held together by one soul. While this sounds Neo or Middle-Platonic (Origen is considered the latter), it also seems logical that if God is all powerful, and created all things, then God will redeem all things. This would mean all things are under God’s wisdom and power, making all things a sort of diverse-whole, which is Origen’s world-body metaphor. This brings us to the next aspect of Origen I see significant: salvation as incorruption.

Origen has interesting and diverse ideas on bodies, souls and their origin and salvation. He maintains continuity with earlier fathers such as Irenaeus, however, by maintaining that salvation is primarily incorruption. Even though Origen appears to have a very strong distinction, even dichotomy, between mind/spirit and matter, he does not maintain a Platonic form of salvation, which would consist of souls being released from their imprisonment in material bodies. Also, far from being Gnostic, he defends the bodily incarnation of the Son, and the goodness of creation. As neither Gnostic nor Platonist (at least here), Origen ridicules the idea of co-eternality of matter, and reasons through why he believes that only God has the quality of ‘incorporality.’ He says that it is impossible for any creature to ever have been without corporeal form, and it will never be possible. Following 1 Corinthians 15, he asserts that what is corruptible will put on incorruption, and what is mortal will put on immortality. Though often speculative, in my opinion Origen remains humble about what we can and cannot know about the future. This is why he responds to questions of the future of bodies with an admitted semi-ignorance. For while he maintains that this world will not pass away, he claims that the fashion of this world will pass away (drawing upon 1 Corinthians 7:31). He states in I.VI.4, “…it is by no means an annihilation or destruction of their material substance that is shown to take place, but a kind of change of quality and transformation of appearance.” This seems to be a view of ‘bodies with a future” in concert with the New Testament, Apostolic witness and the fathers before Origen. It is also relevant to conversation, I think, to conversation these days about how to treat bodies and materials, not the least of which is the earth we are destroying.

I think Origen’s eschatology is worth thinking through again today because his story of the future is more coherent with the scriptural story of the past than typical contemporary Christian stories of the future. (What I mean by “typical” is this: sometime called “Judgment Day” God is going to shut off forever the possibility of any creature turning towards the love of God, and those who have not yet will be tortured for eternity, while the rest of creation live in communion with God in harmony, in an incorporeal, spiritual state of existence). This latter account leaves us with many questions: “Why would God, who is love, will the misery of any of his creatures? If God created all things, and “it was good,” why would God allow any of his creatures to be lost from God forever? Why would God destroy his “good” creation?,” etc. Logically, it looks as though we would have to give up either free-will, or the redemption of all things – God being All in All. Maybe we can hope with Origen that over ages, evil habits will not become evil nature, and all creation will respond to the love of God.

Well, this is one voice worth listening to. All thoughts are welcome.


Sunday, September 17, 2006

Questions from Tim on Wrath, Hell, and Arrogance

Am I the only one who thinks that God's quote "wrath", is loving people, not striking them down? that God's "punishment" is pulling us even closer too him? that "hell", whatever "hell" is, is a place where people are loved-not tortured?
Or how about this: Does anyone else think that all of us humans on earth are equal like God created us, and that followers of Jesus are not a being that is "over" or "Higher up" than non-christians? I can't see those who are not following Jesus wanting to follow Jesus if the example they see is Christians who act like they are overpowering and better than non-followers or believers. input?
It seems to me that God's love is unbelievably powerful, and conquers ALL things. Does anyone think this way or have any comment to this? Im sure some would disagree with this, but I would still like others' opinions on this.

peace&love brothers and sisters.
-tim e.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

"Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone"


Immanuel Kant has a bizarre yet rational account of religion. As the title indicates, he limits religion to the limits of reason. This means that certain things are passed by as useless, such as miracles, proofs of God’s existence, and means of grace, even the resurrection. In fact some of these above things are heavily critiqued. By making religion rational, he seeks to develop an idea of religion that is universal. If it is to be universal and apply to all humans, it must not include any historical facts or events, for these would then religion would be contingent upon the news of such facts or events. He thus rules out special revelation. What he does say is universal is the moral law; this [he says] is something obvious in all humans. He states, “Religion is the recognition of all duties as divine commands.” To do anything other than duty is superfluous.

He follows the Christian narrative, starting with the Jews. He says the Jewish faith included statuary laws that were merely provisional. These laws and Judaism itself were used then by Jesus to bring about true religion, i.e. morality. Kant prefers to refer to Jesus as the archetype. This archetype was not necessary to see in person (again, he is making this religion universal), since the archetype lies in all humans through reason. Jesus’ (or other) miracles are superfluous; they only happened to establish the new religion over the old one (which was also established by miracles). The religion is now established and can maintain itself on rational grounds. Kant focuses on the teachings of Jesus that debased exterior rites and elevated interior motives to say that Jesus was advocating true religion as a disposition toward doing one’s duty. Kant gives a list of the worst of the church in its history, and lashes out against priests (“priest-craft”) as controllers of the masses. He goes through means of grace, seeking to show their worthlessness:

1. Praying: thought to be internal service to God; it is really a superstitious illusion. Note: having a spirit of prayer is okay, since it motivates oneself to be moral. Using words is wrong though and presumptuous. Since we cannot be certain of the existence of God, we are not sincere when we pray with words. The one exception is Public prayer, but only because it is a motivating tool for morality, not that we think God is present or anything.

2. Church-Going: thought to be a ceremonial service to God; God is not served, because humans cannot affect supernatural ends with natural means, and God cannot be served By humans/doesn’t need anything. Church is only god as a means of creating a union of moral people. Kant says the church is only provisional until reason is fully liberated.

3. Ceremonial initiation: this act (baptism) aims toward holiness, but brings no actual change/holiness, therefore it is not a means of grace.

4. Communion: good because expands selfish people toward a cosmopolitan community; still not a means of grace.

He says means of grace is a self-contradiction anyway. Humans are to do their duty, simply for the sake of duty, for no other reason. And further still, they are to do it with their own effort. Grace exists beyond the realm of reason, and is not calculable. The “ought” of the law implies that humans are able to do the law. This means humans have freedom. Kant says each person has a supreme maxim that rules his or her conduct. If one simply gives in to their desires and influences, that means at some point in their mind they made “whatever desire is the strongest” as their maxim. This means they are a slave of desire, and are not acting freely. To act freely, is to make the moral law – which is available to all, as if engraved on human hearts– the ruling maxim. Freedom has to exist, otherwise morality exists, for to make moral choices requires freedom. The moral law both reveals and presupposes freedom. (Freedom and determinism are compatible; this will be maybe another roost, or a good conversation to have in person: “for freedom consists not in the contingency of the act…but in absolute spontaneity…such spontaneity is only endangered by predeterminism, where the determining ground is in antecedent time, with the result that, the act being no longer in my power but in the hands of nature, I am irresistibly determined; but since in God no temporal sequence is thinkable, this difficulty vanishes.”)

He deals with original sin in an interesting manner (it seemed pretty logical). I will just mention here that he says humans are responsible for evil, and must by their own effort conquer it. Man made himself what he is morally; otherwise the category of morality does not apply (this is a presupposition of morality). Persons must also lay a hold of the help/make herself worthy of it/ adopt it into her maxim to become good. He says both the fall and the re-ascent are incomprehensible, so we assume both. He then says ought implies can, i.e. it is within our power, since our souls prompt us to become better. Atonement is related to Christ’s work, but [as far as I understand it] Christ is to be a symbolic representation to help motivate morality, rather than actually bring forgiveness. [More on this: On the level of principles, it was a victory: it held greater influence than if he lived on teaching, etc., he opened the portal to freedom. There is refuge under another dominion; we can’t be held against our will any more. Whether this is real or imaginary, I am not sure what Kant thought.]

He calls all worship, prayer and the like “fetish-faith”; whereby people unwilling to live lives of good conduct seek to manipulate God rather than change.

Question: What is you reaction to this system?

Deo Gratias~Thomas

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


by Wendell Berry

Love the quick profit, the annual raise, vacation with pay.
Want more of everything made.
Be afraid to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery any more.
Your mind will be punched in a card and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something they will call you.
When they want you to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something that won't compute.
Love the Lord. Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace the flag.
Hope to live in that free republic for which it stands.
Give you approval to all you cannot understand.
Praise ignorance,
for what man has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium.
Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion--put your ear close,
and hear the faint chattering of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world.
Laugh. Laughter is immeasurable.
Be joyful though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap for power,
please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head in her lap.
Swear allegiance to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and politicos can predict the motions
of your mind, lose it.
Leave it as a sign to mark the false trail, the way you didn't go.
Be like the fox who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.


Thursday, July 06, 2006

Teenage Mega Conference

I was recently at the DCLA2006 conference held in Washington D.C. In fact, I just got back yesterday. This is a teenage mega conference hosted by Youth Specialties and sponsored most notably by Youth For Christ. The purpose of the conference was to walk through the book of John to experience a story of God in the large group gatherings and how to share your faith during the small group gatherings.

The most notable event that happened during this conference was during the last large group session. This Christian rapper who had translated the book of John into a rap got to the point of the gospel in which Pilot asks Jesus about truth. This rapper interprets Jesus response as saying, "You are only a king on paper". This segment of the service was preceded by a reading of scripture in which the reader exploded into several expressions stating that Jesus had conquered death and that Jesus is alive.

As I exited the conference room I was bombarded with a Christian mall. I could buy T shirts with the words love on them or a multitude of CD's or dating books. There were hats, buttons, and even hemp cross necklaces that I could buy. I mean, my money could go anywhere in this mass uncontrollable atmosphere of Christian consumerism. This one booth was even selling pro life clothes with harsh statements that minus well have said congratulations on killing a fetus, like they didn't already know that. If the Christian mall wasn’t enough for me to rethink my presence I couldn't help but notice the lack of ethnicity in 12,000 teenagers. Was it the cost of the event, irrelevance of the message, or the unwelcome presence of multi ethnicity that kept certain ethnic groups away from hearing a very prophetic message like: Pilot, you are only a King on paper or paraphrased President Bush: you are only a President on paper.

It seemed to me that this message was not only not heard among other ethnic groups outside Korean and Caucasian but also washed to the side by the blatant attack of consumerism. What would have happened if I would have stood to my feet and yelled that clothes are only cotton, or cd's are only electronic, or these conferences are only for rich white suburban people. Would of my voice been heard if I continued the prophetic message of Pilot is only a king on paper to include flashy youth productions featuring flashy bands and flashy speakers with flashy evangelistic messages?

The thought that has come to me over this week is don't scream at people to practice ideas that you can't at least imagine. If one can't imagine God's kingdom to be bigger than the ever attack of consumerism, America, white flight, torture, etc… then why would one scream God's kingdom at people?


Saturday, July 01, 2006

Of Forgiveness

Derrida argues that pure forgiveness is impossible because it is forgiveness void of all repentance, reconciliation, and so on. For him, forgiveness has to be something as clear as possible. I think we as Christians, a people who talk extensively about forgiveness and a forgiving God—which I often emphasize—, should also come to as clear of an understanding of forgiveness as we can too.

Derrida says:
“I try to explain that any type of pure forgiveness is impossible. And that one can only truly forgive that which is unforgivable. If one forgives what is easily forgiven, one doesn’t really forgive. One must forgive what is unforgivable, and so do the impossible.
I also try to distinguish between reconciliation and forgiveness. A forgiveness that is demanded or accorded in order to achieve some type of reconciliation it is not forgiveness. If I forgive solely to change a situation or to heal a wound, or if I forgive with a therapeutic intention or a psychoanalytical or ecological purpose, or so that someone’s health returns, or peace is restored, then to me, that is not pure forgiveness. That’s a calculation. Now I might think that’s a good calculation, one that must be made, but I wouldn’t consider it pure forgiveness. I would regard it as something that is part of a process, a process of mourning or reconciliation, which is sometimes therapeutic or politically necessary. And I approve of all these processes of reconciliation that are attempted in many parts of the world today. But since I am a philosopher who tries to be rigorous with what’s said and tries to understand the meaning of words and evaluate their sense and implication, I refrain from calling theses situations examples of pure forgiveness.”

I’m not sure what to make of this yet. I was just exposed to the thought today. But something in my mind tells me this is a very important thought in regards to our understanding or idea of a God of unlimited forgiveness and a people that strives to forgive ourselves and others as God does.

I’ll give myself some time to ponder the implications of Derrida’s statement. Hopefully I’ll have something to say soon.

If ANYONE has ANY thoughts please share them.

----yhtomiT SOMMEr