Pilgrim Notes

Reflections along the way.

Month: October 2007 (page 1 of 2)

Curb Your Dogma!?

When I was in college in the early 80s, Larry Norman had a t-shirt with a picture of Phydeaux and the words, “Curb Your Dogma!” I loved it. With fresh burns from fire-breathing fundies, this little phrase expressed my sentiment completely: too much dogma, not enough love.

I see these same ideas circulating regularly among various Christian/x-Christians groups who are frustrated by the lack of love they’ve experienced in the church. I still related to the frustration, but I believe it is a bit misdirected. Dogma, properly understood, would not restrict love, but provides a channel through which loves flows.

Chesterton says that without dogma, some solid unshakable ideas, man becomes subject to the trends of the moment.  So the real problem with the loveless fundamentalists, is not dogma, but possibly a lack of understanding how dogma works in our lives.

Reading a recent issue of Touchstone, I saw a great quote by Flannery O’Connor that perfectly captures the role of dogma in the journey of faith. She says, “Dogma is an instrument for penetrating reality…It is one of the functions of the Church to transmit into prophetic vision that good for all time.” The challenge of dogma is the challenge is taking a stand, and then acting on the basis of that stand.

Some folks would like the freedom to turn right and left at the same time. While this might be an interesting theoretical puzzle for quantum mechanics, I don’t live in a theoretical world. I live in a world where I must chose. Those choices open new possibilities while removing others.

Christian dogma is the freedom to choose to live by a set of ideas that happen to be older than the latest best seller that will soon be on the discount shelf for half price (and may never even see a reprint). Instead of a short-time vision, Christian dogma stretches across centuries and has shaped the formation of cultures and civilizations.

O’Connor continues by saying that “Your beliefs will be the light by which you see, but they will not be what you see and they will not be a substitute for seeing.” Over centuries, weak and fallible humans have struggled to see the implications of Christian dogma.

In spite of human flaws and failures, this dogma has reaffirmed a value of human life not tied to status, race or sexuality. We must imagine the struggle of redefining person in a world where landowners alone enjoyed the status of person. Taking Paul’s lead, the Church Fathers wrestled through the implications of their Christian dogma and what it meant for the status of all human beings. Working out their idea, has not always been successful but the world it created is far different from the world where the ideas first emerged.

Each generation of Christians faces this challenge of revisioning their world through the eyes of light that Christian dogma provides. Instead of building fortresses around our ideas, thinking that is what it means to be faithful. We look out upon a world of finance, computers, war, politics, entertainment and more, and we consider how does this dogma enlighten the way, guiding us to be visionaries who do not stumble but are walking (in trust) toward the full light of day.

Vodka Drip Saves Life

drip.jpgAccording to AP (via MSNBC) an Italian tourist was visiting Australia earlier this year, when he almost died from a ingesting a large quantity of ethylene glycol. But his life was saved through quick thinking doctors who promptly administered a vodka drip.

“The patient was drip-fed about three standard drinks an hour for three days in the intensive care unit,” he said. “The hospital’s administrators were also very understanding when we explained our reasons for buying a case of vodka.”

Since this treatment was so successful popular, I guess hospitals all across Australia will now happy hour treatments.

Posting, Journaling and more

Lately, I’ve been using this blog to do some journaling. In the past, I tried to limit it to observations, but my mind doesn’t work in the pure blogging form. Sometimes I notice interesting things and trends online that I want to note, but other times I blab way to long for a typical blog. But it gives me somewhere to think out loud. Of course, I might just get tired and quit blogging again for 6 months. As Jeremy says, I am not a blogger but a grogger.

Christian Action springs from a communion of love

“Let us not love in word or speech, but in deed and in truth.” 1 John 3:18

Von Balthasar lays out a vision of Christian action based upon the revelation of Jesus and fully revealed in his self-emptying devotion on the cross. This action is rooted in a completely free communion of love between the Father, the Son and the Spirit.

Christian action outside this revelation of love becomes pure ethics and is drained of the relational content of love’s revelation. Without this relation, action can become subject to necessity because it is not free in love. Think of Jesus action in the cross. It proceeds from the love of the Father and returns to the love of the Father. His action is an incarnation of Lover and Beloved. Just as the Son lives in this pure relation of lover and beloved with the Father, He reveals this love to a world at enmity with God.

His incarnation reveals God’s intention to relate to His people as Lover and Beloved. Von Balthasar references the Song of Solomon to emphasize that Lover and Beloved are complete within their mutual reciprocation of love. This love is not dependent upon producing children but is free of necessity and complete in itself.

The love between the Father, the Son and the Spirit is a complete love that needs nothing outside the relation to bring completion. Creation does not make God’s love more real. God’s love does not necessitate creating. The love between the Father, the Son and the Spirit is complete (completely fulfilling and fulfilled).

There is no unmet longing within God. While human happiness necessitates a longing beyond ourselves, the love of God is free of necessity. This is difficult for us to grasp because we do not live in this reality. As result, without something new outside the circle of reciprocal love, we might tend to think this love, this relation will growing tiresome, boring. That reveals our own incapacity for complete love that is free of necessity.

With this idea of a completely fulfilled love within the relation of the Godhead, Von Balthasar continues to lay out a picture of love that has no motive, no unfulfilled eros, no longing beyond the mutual reciprocity of love. For images of this among humans, Von Balthasar turns to Mary when she pours out the costly vial on Jesus’s feet. Her act is pure response to love, thus it appears as useless to outside eyes. (This useless outpouring of love makes me think of Chuang Tzu’s useless tree.)

Christian action springs from the freedom of a loving communion between Lover and Beloved. Enveloped in the ongoing communion of lover and beloved, the Christian moves from love and toward love. Only now can Von Balthasar begin to discuss dogmatic theology and offer his definition that “Dogmatic theology is the articulation of the conditions of possibility of Christian action in light of revelation.”

Thus all Christian action is a secondary reaction to the primary action of God as Lover and Beloved. Taken up into this communion by the Holy Spirit, the Christian simply responds and acts in this self-emptying love as most fully revealed in the cross. In the cross, God reconciles his enemies. When the enemy is not even on speaking terms, God acts to bring reconciliation.

In Christ, He enters into the gulf of sin and suffering that ripples across our world. Entering into the very gulf of death created by such violations of love, God both both judges and offers complete rectitude by taking the division, the suffering, the separation into Himself. The cross is both historical (occurring at a fixed point in space and time) and ahistorical (anticipating the revelation of love’s ultimate triumph when all creation is reconciled to God).

Thus the Christian acts (incompletely and partially) in love at a fixed point in time and space while still anticipating the triumph of love in that action (complete and absolute). Von Balthasar calls this action parousial. The act of love that anticipates the sudden revealing of complete love in all creation.

The Christian also acts in faith. While not ignoring the faults of others in the world around him, the Christian is to look with eyes of faith at Jesus’ action in the cross. By the grace of the Spirit, the Christian is taken up into the communion of suffering found within the cross. Only in the place of the cross, does the Christian begin to behold the knowledge of the love of God. Thus loving action cannot be separated from a loving communion that is rooted in self-emptying love.

Von Balthasar offers many points for consideration and reflection: a love without necessity, loving action that is both universal and particular/historical and ahistorical, action rooted in the communion of self-emptying love, and a knowledge rooted in loving communion as revealed in the cross.

MSNBC Newsvine

MSNBC takes a step closer to real interactive news by purchasing Newsvine. This is an interesting news site because it was originally an invite only community. Community members can post, vote and comment on news story. While I mostly lurked through the discussion threads, I always enjoyed the hearty and sometimes volatile discussions.

Read the community’s response to today’s announcement in the Newsvine community.

The Holy Spirit and Hyperlinks

Oddly enough, after I posted the social computing diagram (that I picked up from Alex at the TechTarget blog), I thought of the Trinity–and the Holy Spirit in particular. The way the Internet has connected ideas (past, present, and even future) provides an analogy for thinking about who the Church Fathers called the “Fellowship of God.”

Many people pause and question the Christian doctrine of the Trinity (three persons, one God).  It doesn’t make sense in a highly individualized world. And in fact, Enlightenment theologians rarely mentioned the Trinity (when compared with the writings of the Fathers).

Coming from the word pneuma, spirit means wind or breath. The wind moves over the surface of the connecting everything. We breathe to live. Breath in-spires or inspirits us. When I speak with another person we share words. The words are sounds carried by breath. Thus we share breath. Some have used the doctrine of the Holy Spirit to speak of a non monist, non dualism–challenging both East and West.

But that’s another story. Back to social computing. The amazing interconnectivity of the web reveals the amazing interconnectivity of humans across the planet (space) and across cultures (time). This provides an analogy for thinking about the Holy Spirit who is present to all particularities at the same time. (Accepting of course that the Triune God is beyond all referents while anticipating all referents.) He is not limited by particularity but can interact with particularity, which is difficult for us to process, so we ask, “How could God hear and answer all prayers at the same time.”

This might begin to help us think about questions like that. The Church Fathers thought about this and used the term perichoresis to discuss it.

Cloud Computing – Data Research on Speed

cloud-computing.pngI quit posting web 2.0 updates because the number of variations on the same theme quickly began to bore me. Sort like listening to a cliched fugue. But I find the NYT story on Google and IBM’s plans for cloud computing pretty exciting. This will allow some heavy duty data crunching that can better process and explore the unlimited information pools across the internet.

This is mostly magic to my little math-challenged brain, but the implications rock me Amadeus baby.

They're Back!

nuclear-power.gif

Just in time for the re-release of Poltergeist, the ghosts of Nuclear Power plants are making a comeback. Even some environmentalists are considering the possible advantages of nuclear power to address global warming issues. Of course, this excites me because maybe we’ll get to see another great skit like the Pepsi Syndrome.

Dogmatic Theology and the World of Algebra

Hans Urs Von Balthasar writes, “Dogmatic theology is the articulation of the conditions of possibility of Christian action in the light of revelation.” Reflecting on Balthasar’s idea, it seems to me that revelation is a lot like algebra. Unlike like the simple math of 2 + 2, which corresponds directly with the natural world, Algebra creates a seperate world of logic. Within this world formulas like a + b -c are used in a world that does not directly correspond to the natural world but has implications for the natural. As mathmatics continues to move further into theory and speculation, we discover a seperate world that becomes further and further abstracted from the natural.

Within this speculative world, one does not abandon logical consistancy. There is a logic within the mathmatical world that is self-containted within the argument. In Balthasar’s statement above, I see at least two worlds. First, I see the natural world where Christian action takes place. Then there is the world of revelation that is not discovered through natural observation.

The gospel makes the audacious claim that Jesus is God in the flesh. Some people may like the story but refuse to listen to logical claims within the context of the world of revelation created by the Bible. There are actually two arguments to explore here: one, the logical continuity of this world of revelation, and two, whether this world of revelation corresponds to this natural world. In other other words, is the archetect of the moral universe with the gospel story, the same architect of the natural in which we live.

Obviously, for Balthasar this world of revelation does correspond to the natural world. Working from a theology of analogy, Balthasar is wrestling with the question of a transcendence and immanence. How can man who is limited by time and space speak of a Creator outside of time and space? Space doesn’t provide a place to work through his analogy of being here, but bascially man does learn of the transcendent God through analogy.

As author of time and space, God creates a world of analogy with pointers to his character in all of creation. Man himself is created as the image of God. Yet, at the point of analogical connection, creation’s dissimilarity with the Creator is greater than its similarity with God. Without expanding on this idea further here, I suggest this idea provides the basis for that this world of revelation directly corresponds with the natural world.

Using the Bible and the Tradition of the Church, Balthasar works through the logic of revelation, which ulimately suggests that Jesus’s self-emptying act in the cross is God’s absolute expression of love. The first question one asks when facing this world of revelation might be, “Is the story of revelation satisfactory?” Does the story work? When someone says that they like the story of Jesus or that they find the story appealing, they are on some level responding to the logic of this world.

While not all Christians work through the logic of this world, they do begin with a belief in the story. As faith seeks understanding, this belief may work through the logic of the world on some level. As one makes a connection between the world of revelation and the natural world, one begins to discover the historical claims of Christianity. Thus revelation is seen as historical. It is not reached through reason but through faith. Yet working from faith, reason wrestles with the claims of revelation and the implications of revelation for action.

So for Balthasar dogmatic theology articulates how this world of revelation both creates the possibility for action and the implications for that action within the natural world. This is where it becomes difficult. In wrestling with the claims of revelation, theology explains the implications for actions in ideal terms. For example, the Christian is called to love as Jesus loved. The self empyting act of the cross is the pattern for behavior.

Yet as real human beings seek to act out these implications, their adherence to the challenge of Christian action is always less than ideal. Some people outside the world of revelation look at Christians behavior. Seeing actions that fail to reflect the image of love, they reject or challenge the claims proceeding from the world of revelation.

How does a Christian respond to this unbelief, scorn and even strong rejection and even hatred of the world of revelation? I think we continue to listen to the claims of dogmatic theology. We continue to observe the pattern of the cross. We continue acting by the power of the Spirit who helps us to translate this revelation into the natural world. In spite of our flaws, we continue seeking to embody self-emptying love revealing in some small measure that claim of revelation that love alone is credible.

300 frames per second?

Sean Captain over at the Popular Science blog demonstrates a new digital camera prototype from Casio’s Jin Nakayama. Sean writes:

By mating a high-performance CMOS image sensor with a new, lightening-fast processor, the camera can shoot up to 60 (yes, 60) six-megapixel photos per second or—get this—300 video frames per second. That’s National Geographic-style slow-mo video from a consumer camera. Well, if Casio goes ahead and builds a consumer camera. For now, it’s just a science experiment. But the prototype I saw looks pretty darn close to a real product.

Thanks to Pajamas Media for the tip.

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