Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Technician's Providence: The Political Theology of Deism and Liberalism's Quiet Holocaust

Carl Schmitt argued in his work Political Theology that, "all significant concepts of the modern theory of the state are secularized theological concepts not only because of their historical development[...]but also because of their systematic structure". In other words, it was the same social conditions that generated theological concepts of God and the God-World relationship and political and legal theories. The two can be analyzed together to explain the meaning of the other.

From this, Schmitt argues, "the idea of the modern constitutional state triumphed together with deism, a theology and metaphysics that banished the miracle from the world". This is framed in the context of the juristic concept of the exception, breaking the rule to prove and preserve the rule, the grey boundary outside of Creational control. A miracle operates in the same fashion. One requires an established norm of physical life that one transcend to show its stability and one's ability to overcome it for the sake of something else. Despite the norms of Human biology and medicine, Christ can touch a withered hand and restore it.

Deism and the rationalism of Enlightenment jurisprudence sought to eliminate what seemed to be absurd, ad hoc, interventions. Thus one finds, at first, a soft Deism, a Christian Deism, that tried to reorganize the miraculous of the Bible into some sort of magic, a deeper system of rules and regulations. Like the Technician, the Magician knows how to play the World better than the unlearned and uninitiated. But this was untenable, the stack of Christian dogmas being overturned led to the overturning of the whole system. Deism became anti-Christian in its pursuit of a more logical and systematic order. This did not just happen, but represented a principled attack upon the theological cacophony of the 17th century. This was the century of the (Protestant) Dutch war for Independence from (Catholic) Spain, the Thirty Years War between (Protestant) Northern German States and (Catholic) the Holy Roman Emperor. bolstered on many sides by material and spiritual support, and the English Revolution, where a (Church of England) King lost his head to (Independent/Congregationalist) Cromwellian Parliament. The liberal constitutional order, according to its theorists, sought to overcome this through the late 17th, 18th, and into the 19th centuries.

However, the same machinery of the State was employed by this new order, but arranged differently. The very Catholic, and theistic, Portuguese mass-slavery and baptism of the Kongoese, among others, was met with the same procedure by the Dutch and the English. The former wrapped their justification in theo-political language, following Medieval justification for conquest. The Kongoese submitted to the designs of their Catholic masters to tutor them in the faith, even as they were turned into functionally chattel and property. The latter did no such thing, yet committed the same acts. 

The nascent liberalism of these Protestant Empires voided these entities, trying to suppress the obvious Humanity of the slaves. It is why very liberal documents like the Declaration of Independence (America) and Declaration of the Rights of Man (France) fail to acknowledge the fact of mass slavery that existed on its shores. This is the short-circuit of contradiction that requires a kind of double-down. Either the slaves are to be freed or they are not Human. It is perhaps for this reason that Southern Planter-Elite turned to a kind of Medieval fantasy of being Chevaliers and Gentlemen, and many French Revolutionaries latched onto the Abbé Grégoire's theo-political idea of Regeneration. Both represent a back-peddling from the full-extent of a liberal world-order.

But this was not due to a contradiction, but conceptual immaturity. As one sees in the John Stuart Mill and the Utilitarian System of the Factory, they were not averse to slavery. The precision of the Taylor system sought to turn laborers into mechanized meat-bags. Given that individuals, like the wealthy bourgeois capitalist, can own the means of production, this is in a sense a form of owning people. Industrial wage-slavery was not better or worse than chattel slavery, it was just different.

But unlike the Medieval theology that undergirded Catholic slavery, this was a world without the miracle, and thus without the exception. The slave might escape slavery through the miracle of manumission, and if one reads Medieval hagiography, miracles were not so rare. But liberalism, in an effort to control an otherwise absurd and seemingly arbitrary world, close the loop. Slavery becomes intensified; it becomes permanent and inescapable. The late 18th century saw slavery intensify, whether it was in the liberal English monarchy of the Hannoverians or the Portuguese House of Braganza under the leadership of the Marquis of Pombal. This led to the crisis of the Declarations and the eventual growth of a more comprehensive liberal political theology.

I am not advocating a return to a medieval political theology, nor am I positively appraising the supposed benevolence of the exception in an order of oppression. But the liberal world-order did not stave off bloodshed, it merely quieted it and reduced it to the a kind of underground turbulence, like the flow of lava beneath the crust of the Earth. The extreme violence of this order was not fully unveiled until the First World War, which was truly a Technician's War, but one where calculations failed and the peaceable mask slipped. The latent Deism revealed itself to be a complete sham, and a horror too. The mass dead from the First World War ought to open our eyes to the oceans of blood they merely drift upon. What of the hundreds of thousands of slaves, wage-slaves, colonial subjects annihilated for the sake of a more precise and calm world, namely a European world.

This is not to advocate, either, for a kind of post-modern, multiculturalism, that respects people's cultures for their own integrity, whatever that means. For example, there is nothing good or just in an Indian caste system or Iroquoian Mourning Wars. Rather, my critique emerges from a more strictly Biblical view, namely a Christology that announces the suffering, death, and resurrection of the Messiah. The providence put on display in Job is not the same as Medieval Catholic providence or the deistic providence of the emerging liberal constitutional order. However, a quiet horror is perhaps worse than the loud one. It is easier to mistake the former for something other than the Babylon that it is.

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Benedict Option: An Infinitely Deferred Grumble

A number of months ago, Rod Dreher published his idea about the Benedict Option, in light of the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage. This was a call for conservative Christians (I'm not sure what exactly he means) to cease political struggle and go dormant for a time, working to preserve the Christic cultural apparatus of the West. This is what Dreher saw happen in the Benedictine monasteries in the 5th century onward, where classical learning was preserved during the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. It is the Day of the Barbarians.

This is incredibly stupid. Historically, it is in error, as the so-called Barbarians did quite well preserving Roman heritage through adaptation, even envy, of Roman systems of political economy, social organization, and cultural wealth. But more importantly, this will not occur. A call to hive off and preserve a way of life is only possible with tectonic sociological shifts (and I'm ignoring the fact that Dreher's "conservative Christian" is not a unified sociological body, let alone concept). The Jews only persevered so distinctly because of the Ghetto foisted upon them in Europe, and a conceptual Dhimmitude in Muslim dominated lands. Reactionary paranoia aside, I don't think this will happen.

However, what will happen is that this Traditionalism will remain an ardent critic of the regime, whatever it is, while forfeiting everything functionally. That is to say, they will be squeaky gears in the machine. Or in other words, they will be grumblers, but well adjusted members of society. The pseudo-eschatology of a renewed Christendom will never come to pass, and in a hundred years or so, the gap between Dreher's generation and a future generation of conservatives will be wildly different.

Carl Schmitt, a conservative, even a counter-revolutionary, political theorist and jurist, explains this phenomenon, as it played out post-French Revolution:
The Restoration fought the activist spirit of the French Revolution with ideas such as tradition and custom and with the belief that history progresses slowly. Ideas of that sort could have led to a complete negation of natural reason and to an absolute moralistic passivity that would have considered becoming active altogether evil[...]In the final analysis, extreme traditionalism actually meant an irrational rejection of every intellectually conscious decision
In other words, this kind of conservatism maintains a kind of pathetic, heel-dragging, existence. Neither Human history (i.e. Revolutionary moments), nor evolutionary biology (i.e. punctuated equilibrium) pans out for this sort of strained resistance. And Biblical notions of providence certainly do not reveal this, though the Bible is usually the last resort for these cultural-conservative Christians, a deposit of proof-texts. It won't last even as it is groaning under the weight of greater and great strains of change.

I'm not a conservative, at least not in the cultural or socio-political sense I've described above, but the Benedict Option is silly for any serious conservative. It makes more sense to hitch a wagon to Donald Trump or (dare I say it!) Hillary Clinton in an attempt to steer or pressure these elements to preserve a particular vision of the American Empire they are all committed to. But I suppose every generation needs a gaggle of political buffoons, false prophets who fall over themselves.

Christ, our God, save us from this foolishness!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

It's Just the Law: Personality, Statecraft, and the Kafkaesque Nature of Bureaucracy

The other day I was visiting a friend in the hospital. He has breathing problems and requested an emergency inhaler for his bedside. The nurse told him, no. But, and this is the interesting thing, it's how she phrased it. She didn't say "I won't" or "No", she said "I can't". She proceeded to explain how it is, with the law and everything, and her hands were tied. She continued with a kind of impish complaint about government regulations etc.

This is a pretty common phenomenon, and it's a linguistic convention we dabble in. But I thought about this literally: "What do you mean you 'can't'? You could physically get him what he needed, no?" There's a certain politeness involved. It is considered rough bedside manner to frankly say No. Especially in hospitals, when information is more critical than many other social exchanges, I wish nurses, doctors etc. didn't talk circles in an attempt to make you feel better. But what else is going on? Carl Schmitt's analysis has helped me to grasp this further.

What is going on is an act of obfuscation. The nurse is empowered as an agent of the Hospital's legal apparatus to provide care and to prevent medical liabilities (many times for monetary/insurance based reasons). The Nurse is the one who is empowered with a kind of authority to act in a scenario. She is the interpreter of the law. She is the responsible agent for its enforcement, she is the face of the Hospital administration to every patient in every room. When one acts as representative, one's agency is linked to an entity that inherently does not possess agency, namely Hospital code. This is the nature of office based authority. There is melding of voices, where the nurse speaks as Person X and as the Hospital Administration.

However, this is uncomfortable and the weight of responsibility is grave. Whether for personal reasons or more systemic ones, this is above reality is not front and center. Instead, we many times experience appeals to the law or the rules, as if they are self-enforcing, as if they are standing in the background as a looming judge. What the nurse intends to say is that that her office, with its accompanying pay and reputation, is in jeopardy and subject to judgement by others. She says to the request, most likely, for self-serving reasons (this is not inherently bad or wicked). By passing it off into the fog of "just the law", this takes the psychic weight of decision-making away. If something were to go horribly wrong, one could always blame the voiceless law-code, which, inadvertently, does little to nothing.

I'm not saying rules and legal apparatuses can't be bad and systemically destructive in some way or form. But I want to emphasize more that there is a deeper systemic rot in place where the rules of the institution are given a faux-life for the purposes of status-quo. This is the horror of the Bureaucratization, when technicians replace the Human element in structures for the sake of precision. Things that are inherently impersonal, like a law-code, are given person-like attributes that prop up a kind of idol-scapegoat that takes away the pressures of decision making. This ultimately results in the ability to offload otherwise unthinkable acts even as you, the person and the agent, commit them. This is, fundamentally, the creation of an idol, a deaf, dumb, and dead god that is given attributes as if it were a personal entity.

When applied to statecraft, this results in the modern liberal state. This was an attempt to restrain the violence and overly Human sources of conflict, most viciously climaxing in the Thirty Years War. But this not only shrouds the facts of the War, but also paved the way to perhaps an even bloodier form of governing that appears bloodless. It is this form that allows a "not my problem" attitude that, with a stroke of the pen, ends the lives of countless (whether biologically, or one's existence within an existing socio-economic structure) and allows them to go home, kiss their children and be members in good-standing within their church communities. This obfuscates a reality that Christ promises to judge. We cannot avoid the weight of our decisions, cloaking our laziness, greed, and malice behind neutralized technique.

It's worth reflecting on, for it is too easy to fall into this mode of behavior. It ought to shake every Christian to his or her soul.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Living in a Nightmare, or Why Radical Orthodoxy is Garbage

John Milibank once penned this famous first line and battle cry of what is Radical Orthodoxy, "Once there was no Secular". This perfect sentiment created the heat of what has been generally termed Radical Orthodoxy, which has become an academic phenomenon, though there is, perhaps, a question hanging on its future. It is generally theological, but also carries on into a revival of a kind of Distributism economic policy and a Red Tory political theory. Radical Orthodoxy tries to recover a vision of the Christian Society that one encounters in Medieval Europe before the Reformation. The movement began within the Anglo-Catholic wing of the Anglican church, but it has spread into other forms of Protestantism and even among some Roman Catholics, though they most eschew the label and draw upon overlapping traditions.

I will say that the major positive element of Radical Orthodoxy is that it represents an attempt by Christian intellectuals to deal seriously with twentieth century philosophy. But that's about it. As one would-be popularized of the movement would call it, Radical Orthodoxy tries to recover the "Platonic-Christian Synthesis", reintegrating Hellenistic philosophical trends within the pale of Christianity that had occurred within some corners of the High Middle Ages. It is trying to recover a much more sweeping and comprehensive view of Christianity for people today. Milibank, and many others, seek to restore theology to being the "Queen of the Sciences", the highest form of knowledge that supports all others.

The deathblow to this order was Nominalism, an insidious philosophy that vitiates the Chain-of-Being metaphysics that was beneath the theological philosophy of Medieval Europe. This is an incredibly stupid statement, and is symptomatic of why Radical Orthodox proponents fail to understand why the Reformation happened. It was not just nominalism nor a spiraling out of control of an effort to curb moral abuse in the Roman dominated churches of Western Europe. There was a general shift and reaction against the Medieval political economy. It was the explosion of many disparate movements and changes. I have critiqued the failures of the Reformation, but I am glad to live in a West that went through it.

I must say that I used to be attracted to Radical Orthodoxy. But I also knew enough about Medieval Europe to recoil in disgust with the fantasy. I turn against it, completely and totally.

Radical Orthodoxy a exhaust port for Christian intellectuals disaffected with global capitalism and functions as an exercise in fantasy. Let me be clear, this is not political imagination, but fantasy. It's the dream of a world that never was, and it does not understand geo-political and economic realities. Its ecclesiological vision only exists in academic theology journals. The Church it talks about does not actually exist except as a Platonic Ideal that is instantiated. It claims to be a recovery of tradition, but it's hardly that. It is ironic that Milibank's wife is a priestess, and Hauerwas, who represents a more Americanized Pragmatist spin on the movement, also has a priestess wife. This is not an aberration, but fits a Christianity that is in complete conformity with a zeitgeist. It has become an fetishized protest within the global capitalist order, a fashionable clique of prigs. Ultimately, not only does it undermine the Scriptures, but lures intellectually adept Christians into a fantastical trap.

But this is not it. Radical Orthodoxy's fantasy is dark. It dreams of a Medieval Order that was hardly unifying or at peace. Corrupt princes of the state and the church did battle with each other to exploit peasants. The highly dreamed Medieval World was one where nobility and churchmen pontificated, while serfs and peasants toiled. Yet it was not only oppression, but God-ordained oppression! It was God's will that the Third Estate was trapped in squalor, while others lived off their labors and spent luxuriously on clothing, feasts etc. The Radical Orthodoxy promotes a kind of renewed political clericalism, where the unwashed masses are kept at bay through appeals to dignity and right order. Like all Clericalisms, the true Body of Christ is the ordained priesthood, secular and monastic, the professional Christians, that become boats, through their parish work, to carry the unlearned and unwashed into paradise. God willing, this world will never return. This is not just a fantasy, but a nightmare.

Of course, the lure of Radical Orthodoxy is that it seems to offer an intellectually serious alternative to the different trends of liberal theology. I've suffered with that, but the price is not worth it. The true and apostolic gospel is better than this garbage.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Genesis Explains the Origin of the Self

In my first year of college, I began dating a girl who was nominally Christian. As we departed for winter break, a kind of existential crisis loomed over me. I was serious about understanding Christ and serious about questions of life and death, meaning and direction, that a lot of people I knew tended to ignore or placate. However, I wondered, was she? I soothed myself with the thought that a person's interior was like a body of water. Everyone has levels of depth, just some people (a lot of people?) tended to stay in the shallower end of the pool. But if I asked the right questions, if I prodded her, then I'd find out what she 'really' thought about x, y, and z.

Another time, years later, I got into a semi-facetious argument with a girl I knew. She was big into philosophy and asserted that not everyone was a philosopher, only certain people had the capacity to explore the difficult and real questions of life. To troll her, I argued on behalf of all the unreflective idiots of the world, and argued they indeed possessed philosophies, they just were not aware of what philosophical ideas they held. This was a world-viewish type argument about presuppositions and the like.

Recently, I have begun to realize that I argued from the wrong place in both of these stories. For the longest time, I assumed that the self was a static quality. However this static quality possessed a cavernous interiority, a depth that was impossible to probe. I misapplied the verse from Ecclesiastes, "He has set eternity in our hearts", to mean the sort of infinitude of the self's self-reflective exploration. The process was like looking into a tripartite mirror (like ones in hotel bathrooms) where the different mirrors reflect images into one another, projecting an infinite hallway of images.

This accords with the identity fixation of our present age. There is something distinctly modern about the quest for authenticity and the outward expression of one's 'true' inward disposition. However, I added an Augustinian depth to this. Unlike certain crude discussions, where people speak and act with a foolish confidence in their authentic acts, Augustine advocates caution. He was perceptive enough to see that one, by looking, can never find one's self. It's an endless maze.

But what if the self is not a static quantity? What if who I am is not some essence buried under heaps of inauthentic social conformities and historical accidents? Indeed, Heidegger understood something of this when he talked the thrownness of being. There is no quiet unfolding or entrance, which the forces of time and space warp and ware. Instead, the very processes of time and space are the disclosing of our being in the world. In this, the self is motion, it is a process of becoming that one can only freeze and abstract for analytical purposes, not for recognition and true understanding.

In addition, what if this being is a void? This premise emerged within a kind of materialism, but it doesn't necessitate it. What this means is that our inward reflection is confusing and strange because, in a sense, it's like trying to see in the dark. There is no authentic inner-self that one has to go look for. The self is a cognitive artifact, something we create, an image of ourselves to look at through the dialectical act of the Same examining Itself as Other.

What does any of this mean? In practical terms, it means that the quest for your 'real' self is a waste of time, if not an intentional distraction. Call me paranoid, but I think this ideology of the authentic modern self has been promoted and weaponized over the past couple centuries for the purposes of population control. In modern times, this is why so-called Left movements, like the Feminism of Betty Freidan and Gloria Steinem, are extremely conservative if you read between the lines. They insulate the status-quo from actual critique.

This, I argue, is a part of the modern West's search for an alternative social control beyond templecraft. It's amazing how much time people waste in the pursuit of "meaning", trying to find themselves, know who they really are and what they are really supposed to do. It's strength lays in the fact that it doesn't need top-down propagation, instead it circulates on its own, as it promotes the experience of Heaven on Earth for those who buy the books, take the classes, etc etc. Some people deceive themselves through a kind of self-hypnosis. Other people are lured into it through the false promises of advertising and mass-media. However one ends up there, it makes you into a naval-gazer and a radical disconnect between interiority and exteriority is complete. You can mindlessly sustain the empire and be completely distracted.

However, I am not arguing against interiority, the self, or self-reflection. All of these are affirmed or commended in the Scripture. Rather, I'm arguing that we are reading modern notions back into the text to justify a Christian version of the cult of authenticity. This fits with Evangelicalism's middle-class near-complete bondage to Americana.

Instead, we should look in terms of Genesis 1. I think it is wise, as St. Maximus argued, to see the Human being, as priest of Creation, as a microcosm of the created world. As the Creation was called into being, which occurred through time, from a void, so is our interior life. God's Spirit hovered over the waters, and so God's Spirit is involved in the creation of an interior space. This is the gift of the Image of God imprinted into all Creation.

However, Orthodox theology makes a distinction between the Image of God and the Likeness of God (based on two different Scriptural phrases in Genesis). This reading sees Adam as good, yet not perfected. Through obedience towards God's commandments, Adam would fulfill the Image in bearing the Likeness. As a side-point, I think this has parallels to the Reformed distinction between Covenant of Works and Covenant of Grace, especially when not conceived as opposition per the Lutheran Law/Gospel dialectic.

What is the process of the Image coming to be in Likeness? This is the self coming to be out of the void of subjectivity. How does this happen? Through obedience to God's commandments, which in following, we become. This is the process St. Peter describes in his first epistle: "add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love". We discover ourselves in the living voice of God, the Word, who took flesh and saved us. Without this, the self that emerges out of the void is always teetering on the edge towards return. Sin is this process of destruction, this return towards oblivion as we construct selves that bear not the likeness of God, but of beasts and lizards.

What this means is that instead of filling up with anxiety about who you are or trying to figure out what your purpose is turn away. Instead, listen to voice of God who calls your name. Seek God and obey His commandments (e.g. prayer, fasting, loving your neighbor as yourself, loving God, growing in the virtues, giving to the poor etc.). This is the only way an interior life is created and begins to image God throughout our whole being, no matter how it was thrown into the world. Faith in Christ gives us the beginnings of recognizing our self in the world.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Judgement Day and Job's Friends

Job is one of the most interesting and uncomfortable books of Scripture. I won't get into all the reasons why, but my primary focus will be on the role of Job's comforters. These men were his friends and they came to help Job "understand" his predicament. They are ultimately rebuked by God for their foolishness.

What did his friends say? One friend said, essentially, God is punishing you, you must have done something wrong, even if you don't know what it is, it is your fault and you must repent. This is sufficient enough to see what they all tried to do, and what Job refused. His friends sought to provide a cosmic framework for Job, in which he can assume his place and responsibility. In this particular framework, God rewards the just and punishes the unjust. Thus, all suffering must be the result of some injustice. This is a personalized karma.

The most horrible manifestation of this is in the metaphor of the cosmic painting. It goes thus: when we look at life we might only see darkness. But if we step back, we can see the whole picture that is made up of both light and dark colors. Our darkness is made sense of in the coherent fabric of the universe. If we can appreciate this, then we can bear the burdens of life.

I think this is totally bullshit and mostly worthless in teaching people the Gospel in moments of suffering. What this does is make evil a necessary, and harmonious, part of Human existence. This goes with a view of the Fall as 'felix culpa'. This makes Human suffering not only a reality, but a necessity. In a sense, evil makes God better. This is absolutely Pagan, akin to yin-yang of the Tao. Sin had to be in order for anything to be, and thus operates as a necessary component part.

In contrast, the Athanasian Revolution, as I've discussed elsewhere, posits the deeply disturbing real possibility of Creation slipping back into oblivion. This is the complete horror of sin, which God reveals in the unleashing of the floodgates in the days of Noah. Evil is not the dark colors in an ordered picture, it is the threat of disorder disrupting God's creative designs. Yet God, even as God made creation in complete freedom, He is related to it in the way that an artist is related to his arts. Yes, an artist may heap his art in the trash (Creator-creation distinction of creatio ex nihilo), but to do so is for the artist to reject his own creativity in pronouncing His verdict over the art. God can and cannot let Creation tumble into the dark.

Yet, if Creation is actually in serious trouble, with sin as a real threat, what does God do? The cross presents the absurd response, an inversion of darkness. This is a creative act in the presence of the decreative void of sin. This is the Divine joke where the most horrible and evil is gutted and completely refigured. This is the sovereign majesty of God's creative power, where even the darkness of sin vomits up the light it obscures.

The practical point is that when we see tragic events, the judgement of the cross ought to guide our ability to perceive them. In that event, we recognize something truly bizarre. Evil has no necessary value, nor does it belong to the cosmic harmony of "everything happening for a reason". Yet God can give it a reason, even as it is inherently destructive to the Creation He made. God does not need darkness to make the light shine, for the life of God is best described by the Psalmist, "in Your light we see light".

The problem with Job's friends is that they did not see an issue that needed to be judged, to be intervened upon. Instead, they sought to master it in their understanding of a cosmic order. The problem with saying "It was God's will for x" is not that it is impolite when someone has lost a child or been in a horrible accident. But because it seeks to explain God's judgement. There will be a day, when in the light of Christ's returned presence, when we will all be able to say with Joseph, "You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good". In other words, there will be a day when God will judge events and make even the meaningless give meaning.

This is the glory of God's providential lovingkindness, where even things against His predestinations can, and will, become co-opted for His glory.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Why Analogia Entis Might Be the Doctrine of Anti-Christ

One of the most strange and shocking things Karl Barth said (and he's said a lot of them) was the only difference between Protestants and Rome was the doctrine of analogia entis and that this doctrine was from the anti-Christ. He said this in between the radical days of his Romerbrief and the beginnings of his Church Dogmatics, after he rediscovered the heritage of the Reformation. von Balthasar, and other more conciliatory students, argue that Barth softened on this point and misunderstood what he was fighting against. von Balthasar et al. sometimes even argue that Barth softened his opposition. When understood through Pryzywara, who taught von Balthasar, then the doctrine is sound. I'm going to tentatively disagree.

The analogia entis in brief is an idea that rests upon Absolute Divine Simplicity. This is the idea that God as Simple (as in not made of divisible parts) requires a metaphysical equal signs for realities that seem distinct for men. Thus, while good, beauty, justice etc. are distinct categories of Human thought, in their Divine true sense, they are all one in the same. However, this is neither understood equivocally or univocally. That is, what we say of Human good and Divine good are not two radically different things (equivocal) or that the Divine good is the maximal form of Human good (univocal). The analogical understanding is that there remains a similarity that exists in an infinitely qualitative difference between the Human and the Divine. Thus, Human good is like Divine good, but it is not Divine good. This is, mainly, because Divine good is itself Divine, namely God Himself. The horizons of Human understanding see the conflation of categorical distinctions, and we see the hazy reality that exists beyond all Human concepts of knowledge. The horizon is itself not the edge, except in the sense that it is edge of created reality, a reality that the Divine can intersect and meet us in. The finite cannot broach the infinite, but the infinite, lacking any boundary set on its ability, can intersect the finite.

The fundamental reality from which all categorizations flow is the primary category of categories, being. This is the easiest way of understanding the analogical difference. While Humans are beings who exercised such in becoming (we exist and we move from is to is not), along with all other created things, God is not a being, but Being Itself. This means God is not merely the biggest and best piece of furniture in the room, but is the very grounds of existence (to say the room in this metaphor is not itself enough).

None of this is distinctly Christian. Plotinus, the mystic and Neo-Platonist par excellence, argued something similar in how he conceived of the One. You can even see a pseudo-trinity in how he talks about the One, the Nous/Mind, and the World Soul. Some Hellenophile Christians embraced Plato and his students as God's prophets to the Greeks (Clement of Alexandria). Others accepted the metaphysics in a more qualified sense (Origen, Justin Martyr), but it's here where problems emerge. As I've said elsewhere, Origen was the first to understand all the problems and lay them out clearly, and simultaneously proceded to answer them in all the wrong ways, revealing the fundamental problems between Hellenistic metaphysics (which had all converged into late Middle and Neo Platonism) and the Holy Scriptures.

While a major problem with the analogia entis is the subsequent Absolute Divine Simplicity it entails, this is not the only one, which has more serious ethical implications. Rather, it is how the universe is conceptualized. The analogia entis recognizes a kind of Chain of Being metaphysics which implies a kind of harmony within the World. Humans, who possess a sense of divinity (whether in Plotinus as divine-spark or the more Biblicized notion of Image of God) can ascend and descend along the ladder in a quest towards reunion with the One, who remains always out of sight and yet always close. Thus, Plotinus can paint a picture of the infinite quest of the alone chasing the Alone, but he can also speak about experiencing the One because of the One's effulgent presence of the Good.

In addition to this, the One as ultimately simple and as the ultimate good, only meditates (if such a word is proper to use) on itself as the only One, literally, for nothing else is worthy. This is the goal of all Humans as well, who fix their eyes upon the One who sets its own eye (again, an anthropomorphism) upon itself. Humanity's ascent is through this concentration, and its descent is through taking its eyes off of it.

However, none of this squares with the Biblical portrait of God who looks upon the deeds of Man, knows the very hairs of his head, and condescends to him in providential lovingkindness. Neither does this square with a Creation which is in a state of corruption, threatened with oblivion, and is a de facto war-zone. In fact, the world of the analogia entis promotes a conservative view of the hierarchy of the world as it is now. It is individual Human fates that ascend or descend along the ladder of proximity to Being. Origen's answers that imply an infinite cycle of falls-and-redemptions and the pre-existence of souls are attempts to answer clearly Biblical problems, but trapped within Hellenistic metaphysics. It also explains why he can sound proto-Nicaean and proto-Arian at the same time.

This is why it might be right to call the analogia entis a form of anti-Christ: it denies the radical depth of corruption that Adam plunged the Creation into. It individualized a corporate problem, and simultaneous banishes the Fall while it makes it inherent within creation due to finitude. In this way, Origen, and Augustine who continued the same metaphysic, are kissing-cousins with Schliermacher who posited that man was created in sin. Finitude, individuality, and free-will become the prime reason for the fall and sin and redemption tends towards erasing all of these. If you read carefully, it's hard not to see the Beatific Vision as a form of Death, a parallel to Nirvana, where the mind is totally fixed upon God/Being/One and, in a way, snuffed out. To the Image of God, creation is itself a distraction. This is a doctrine of demons.

This is why I have become recently fascinated with the 17th century Confession of Dositheus, an Eastern Orthodox response to the supposed crypto-Calvinism of Cyril, the Patriarch of Constantinople. The response is so obviously colored with misinformation and Roman Catholicized doctrines that is somewhat bewildering. This is clear in the Molinistic Arminianism is professes, in God's saving grace takes place by forseeing the faith some would have.

What does that have to do with the analogia entis? Because the idea of a predestination conditioned by foreseen faith places the foundations of the Creation firmly in a harmonious universe, a kind of best-of-all-worlds theology which Voltaire, in Candide, mocked rightly, even if he was mostly biblically illiterate. This idea makes a mockery of divine justice, it becomes a court-room that only prosecutes entrapment. It doesn't take serious the weight of sin as the threat of hurtling all creation into the void.

However, this does not mean God does not have providential mastery over all things, but He does in a way that does not conflate God with the stability of the World Order. God cannot be Creator if the Creation disintegrated because it means that either there was a time when God was not the Creator (which means God changed ala. Process theology) or God, as Absolutely Simple, would cease to exist if He ceased to be Creator (as all names and categories are the same in Him). Rather, there's an alternative solution that has remained in the Orthodox energies-essence distinction, one that makes sense between the realist ontology of an analogia entis and a Nominalism that makes God totally alien to all creation.

But I digress. God still remains sovereign over His world without having to change (for that implies imperfect), but it's because the analogia entis is wrong. This is why David Bentley Hart, who I enjoy reading, seems caught between Christian Neo-Platonism, through Gregory of Nyssa, and a sort of Manichaean Dualism of Cosmic Warfare. His saving grace is the incoherence of the two, as it is like jamming two crooked houses together, doesn't seem to come apart except before Calvinist critics who question how his latter emphasis isn't just Manichaeism. In some ways, the charge sticks.

However, and to this is to the point, analogia entis straight-jackets all cosmic warfare in a universe that is fundamentally at peace, but is disrupted by enemies. But Christ has ascended on high, and rules at the Right Hand of the Father, until all His enemies are made a footstool. This reveals a Creation that is not in harmony. St. Paul says the Devil is the god of This Age. Does that sound like the stupid Christian Neo-Platonic synthesis that Hans Boersma discusses? The Middle Ages was not proto-Paradise, but a Hellish display of brutal oppression, with prince and priest hand-in-hand.

This leads to different views of the Christian's place in the World. The Biblical view places us to see a Creation divided which needs the saving reign of Christ, where God will liberate and redeem all those under the chains of the Devil.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Blow Up the Train: A Christological Reading of 'Snowpiercer'

If you haven't seen the movie Snowpiercer, stop reading and go watch it. It's a brilliant movie, one of my top favorites. If you don't care what I say, have already seen it, or are merely intrigued, proceed. This post will be full of spoilers and plot twists, so you're warned!!


The movie Snowpiercer is a bloody action movie. It starts off, seemingly, as a crude Marxist movie. Humanity tried to curb global warming, but accidentally froze the Earth. The only survivors were those who boarded a luxury train which circled the globe along an endless track. Those who had tickets found themselves given a new class identity according to the value of their seat. Those who didn't have a ticket and took to the cargo hold became the poor and destitute. The Train is straightforwardly hierarchical: the rich live at the front and the poor live at the back. The movie begins in the midst of a conspiracy of the poor to take the front and usher in an age of equality.

The rebellion begins and it proceeds at a bloody cost. Gilliam (John Hurt) is the mastermind and Curtiss (Chris Evans) is the heroic proletariat leading the battle. However, as the movie progresses, it gets complicated. The Train possesses an ecosystem where animals are controlled and eat at certain times and amounts to maintain an ever repopulating source. This same logic ends up being applied to the Humans. As Curtiss reaches the front of the Train, he meets Wilford (Ed Harris), the near messianic founder and builder of the Train. Wilford explains how he had been working with Gilliam, the revolution was an intentional population cleanse. Wilford explains how the Human ecosystem also has to be maintained.

Desperation and hopelessness can only exist for so long, and it is dialectically involved with the wealthier members of the train who are indoctrinated to see themselves within the continuum. This is most disturbingly portrayed in a scene where they come across a Kindergarten where these lessons are taught catechetically, in children's songs, and in coloring. These children understand the world as a complicated balance and their place within it as a blessing (thankful they do not exist at the back) and gratitude (Wilford allowed for this form of life). Curtiss learns all of this and is horrified and yet, he bows before the mighty Train. Wilford had intended Curtiss as his replacement, as he, growing in age, knows that the symbolic head has to be replaced.

Yet while violence is near consistent in the movie, it is almost irrationally present. Soldiers and assassins go to great length to control the stages of rebellion, even killing completely uninvolved middle-class people at times. It's not because they're guitless that it is shocking, rather it seems completely unnecessary and the ruthlessness is jarring. The Kindergarten teacher opens fire upon the rebels, killing some of her children in the process. The Train's harmony is sustained through a brutal display of violence, that is constantly cloaked in rationality. Metrics are taken over how many must be killed per the Rebellion's success, even claiming Gilliam. Yet the measurements are completely contrived at the will of Wilford. This is made most manifest in the use of a child to replace a part that had broken years before. This constant sacrifice is immortalized in the strange religious gesture that Wilford's representatives perform: a gesture imitating what the child must do as the replacement part.

Simultaneously, Namgoong, a hacker, assists Curtis with the proviso that he brings his daughter and he is provided with a drug, Kronole. However, as the movie unfolds, Namgoong, who passed as a barely cogent drug addict, reveals the drug is highly flammable and seeks to use it as a bomb to destroy the Train. He reveals to his daughter his theory as the movie progresses: the snow is melting. The Train thus becomes a redundant and brutal system of controls, perpetuated, as long as outside conditions remain. The combination of Namgoong's ingenuity and Curtiss' rejection of Wilford at the sight of the Child end with the two of them dying, along with Wilford, and the rest of the train, only leaving Namgoong's daughter and the Child left. The final scene sees a polar bear stare at them, a sign that contradicts the ideology that all life outside of the Train had died in the catastrophe.

Christologically, this movie is revolutionary. It breaks the boundaries of a simple class dynamic, in that many revolutions against economic oppression function along the same chains of logic. Workers getting the levers of the means of production force people along perceived challenges. Like modern Western societies, the middle-class of the train is the firmest believers and the most moral, living simple day to day lives. The front of the Train, before Wilford, is populated by debauched parties filled with drug-addict youths. The whole Train is a carefully balanced system, where the messianic-technician Wilford holds it all together. Yet the extreme violence, personified in the replaceable part Child, is the key to the Train. The system possesses a hidden-open violence within the strange, quasi-religious, gesture and slogan. Its precise and technological rationalism is fundamentally irrational and based upon fear and ignorance.

This movie can function as a damning critique of much religion in the West. It condemns the inward-looking focus that helps acclimatize the constituent members to the inherent violence of the Train, the World-System we belong within. This damns neo-Paganism and corporate Buddhism that seek to find peace and meaning through meditation. This also damns most Establishment Christianity. It's for this reason that most Main-Line denominations are near carbon copies of the same self-help, feel-good, Deistic bullshit that one finds in Zen booklets and Wicca. These expressions represent the same open-masked violence of the Wilford cult of the Train. In essence, this is the worship of the global paradigm that we all live beneath, namely global capitalism. This is a salve for the conscience, a means to find meaning in an artificially brutal dominion.

Rather, Namgoong represents the violence of the Christ-Event: he categorically rejects the World. When God took flesh in the World, He came unto those who were trapped in darkness. He claimed to bring fire to the World, to bring a sword of division and judgement upon the god of this age. The presence of the Polar Bear represents, in this reading, the presence of a majestic and terrifying Other, an image of the Real that the Train tried to displace. This is not God per se, but the presence of God manifest, like before Moses in the Burning Bush.

Watching this movie ought to teach us about the radical break between God's invasion of His own creation in the wake of a fallen reign of Sin, Death, and the Devil. The Train represents a Babel, a making a deal with Death and inscribing Sin into the fabric of a social reality. Christ rejects it and it is violently apparent in the literal derailing of this vision through judgement. This is an actual war where real lives are at stake. This is the seriousness of the Spiritual War for liberation in the Scripture. Yet it is a joke. The symbol of decadence and debauchery, the drug Kronole, becomes the very weapon that destroys the Train. Per Kierkegaard, Christ is heralded king who emerges from the caravan as an ugly dwarf. It's a divine joke, an obscene gesture that overtakes the plots and schemes of the Devil. Per Paul, the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of man. The cross is the explosive flammability of the drug, and it becomes the very weapon of liberation. It's no surprise the early Christians depicted a victorious Christ wielding the cross as a weapon. Per Chrysostom, Christ tramples death by death.

Theologies that reject the reality of Spiritual War, whether "orthodox" (they're not) or liberal, are blasphemies. Any theology that attempts to depict the current state of creation as somehow harmonious and beset by external enemies (whether muslims or gays, whether bigots or fundamentalists) is duped. This includes a lot of medieval theology that propped up false visions in order to justify regime violence. Yet they could only claim so much in small feudal territories. Now, global capitalism has put a premium on all heads. Yet even so called "leftist" liberal theologians are at peace with such a vision. The Train is their god just as it is for RadOx reinstantiations of the blasphemous tradition of a Roman theology of order.

God is at war, even as the ultimate death-blow has already been dealt. May we take up our own crosses, acknowledging the same.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Man Lives Not By Bread Alone: Reality, Fantasy, and Following Christ

This post is inspired by reflections in Dominic Foo's piece here

I was one of those people who used to ridicule and denounce the Prosperity Gospel. I would be baffled how this not only held a grip on a large portion of people, but continued to grow and grow. It wasn't just Joel Osteen, but across the continent of Africa, Asia, and Europe, people flocked to hear this message. I would just shake my head and sneer. But I was an idiot.

This is not because the Prosperity Gospel is true, good or right. No, it's mostly demonic doctrine fueled to con people out of money and confuse the Gospel of Christ for the American Dream, whether for people who are trying to reach, or secure, Middle Class status, or people across the globe trying to emulate American fashion and method. The vision of prosperity is intoxicating, and people lust over this stuff.

However, it's easy to judge this when you are a beneficiary of this life style and embrace it unwittingly. This thought is not new to me. Years ago I realized that I had the wealth that many people signed up to acquire. However, I stupidly missed the boat for years, until I recently was able to put the pieces together in a way that is more cogent and shareable.

As I said, I was aware that people wanted some marker of material prosperity, but my solution was stupid. I would claim to have divested myself of my wealth, in terms of attachment (I hadn't), and that they (and I) needed to turn to spiritual worship, a more pure Gospel. Sometimes this meant going on an intellectual quest to properly understand doctrines and turning knowledge of the Living God into a scholastic enterprise. I woke up to this flaw pretty quickly, but the alternative was even worse.

I thought the solution was a kind of spiritualization. I thought that people needed to focus on Christ, and not on material goods. But what does this actually mean? How is this not just a pious platitude? For 2-3 years I couldn't work it out. Following Christ seemed to slowly morph into a collision of moralistic activism, self-hating spirituality, and the occasional existential jolt, accompanied by plenty of reading and learning.

However, what the Prosperity Gospel gets right, in the way that a broken clock is right twice a day, is that man is a material creature who needs material sustenance. Many Evangelicals have completely spiritualized the God of the Bible out of the concerns of living. Most people signing up for the Prosperity Gospel at least know that the God of the Bible attends to physical needs and promises to be present in the miraculous in reality. This is the key. All people, when push comes to shove, will deal with economic necessities of life. When money becomes tight, that is where real pain will be. When nice Middle-Class people are threatened with diminution of their life-styles, they will become vicious and justify in all sorts of convoluted ways (the sacred right of private property being one of them).

This is where God's power must be made manifest, otherwise the Gospel is a pleasant fantasy. Other activities take place. Some turn to stock markets, or job obsession, or other things that are tangible. Spiritualization is, if anything, epiphenomenal.

But while the Gospel preaches a God who cares at the most minute detail about our individual lives, material or otherwise, it also brings the promise of a life where we might come to grips with our dependence on material reality. For Man does not live by bread alone, but on every word from the mouth of God. This means, yes, God takes care of our material state, but its that very fact that we must come to terms with. Following Christ means battling with Satan and overcoming sin's inversion of the flesh, making us turn inward towards serving cravings and desires, instead of turning the body and soul towards glorifying God in all of Creation.

This is not spiritualization, but in counting of cost of material reality. It's knowing that true generosity means giving away, sometimes to the point of depending on God for livelihood. It's knowing the agony of overcoming and rejecting the fantasies we believe to be the reasons for living. It's fasting to re-order our desires (more on this in another post). It's about receiving the power through Christ's work to bring about a new life in the body and the soul. It's not about rejecting the body, but in recovering it for worship. It means being able to walk this earth with peace.

Prayer and fasting free you from the snares of the Devil and relativizes the cravings of the belly. This is less about a fetishization of an inner-life rather than directing one's outward life. This is the power of the Gospel that gave martyrs strength, the promise that the Spirit of God would provide the words to speak when dragged before courts and crowds. This is a way to take account of the material world that God creates and maintains, while also deriving what life in a darkened age looks like.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Wise as a Serpent, Innocent as a Dove: The Politics of the Holy Fool

Slavoj Zizek, in a lecture, told a story of when he was a boy in college in Ljublijana in the former Yugoslavia. It was time for local elections, and, as it was in many Soviet bloc countries, the resulted were rigged for the Communist party. Zizek was working for the college newspaper and he and his editorial staff thought about what to do. Should they publish an article about the elections were rigged? They thought that was futile, as it was a reality everyone already knew, and it would only get their paper censored. Rather, they decided to publish on the election results that took them at their word. The front page read that it seemed the Communists might actually win this year. This article got them brought before a party bureaucrat who threatened them, but, when asked for a reason, only repeated his threats. The unspoken secret was put on the table, and everyone had to pretend to ignore it.

As I heard this story, I considered the role of Christians in our imperial society. America pretends to be the bastion of freedom, but it really is not. There are all kinds of liberties that are offered, but their enactment is an understood falsehood. One example might be how the courts and the police function. We know if the police ask for evidence, we have every reason to refuse unless a court of law mandates it. But we know if we refuse, it will only bring suspicion and increased investigation, even if there is not enough evidence to get a warrant. We also know that a trial by jury is supposed to be a fair trial, where justice is to prevail. But we know that the jury system is supposed to produce convictions, and the ill accommodations, the interruptedness of their lives, is a kind of whip to produce a verdict for the prosecutor.

There are many other forms of forced choice present in the American concept of freedom. It's a false offering, and most people have accustomed themselves to this. The high-minded principles of liberty, justice, democracy, whatever are slogans that never live up to the reality. To question this, to even speak about it, is to let the cat out of the bag. It's to invite accusations of being a lunatic, someone who just doesn't know how things works.

The Church of Jesus Christ does not have a mission to take control or transform the kingdoms of the Earth. Babylon will remain Babylon, in whichever form it takes, until Christ returns and destroys it once and for all. But Christians remain in the city as they remain in Christ. They look for a City not made with hands. Rather, as sojourners in This Age, we are to actively promote peace and justice, even as we remain a tenuous loyalty. Nothing is worth more than the Kingdom of Jesus Christ and the Life of the Age to Come.

The Apostolic advice to honor the emperor, to submit to the governing authorities, to live peaceably with all if able, and to work with our hands quietly has been at times miscontrued as a kind of passive engagement with government. This construal of these texts have made Christians into arch conservatives of any/every regime they've been under. However, if we understand these as proof-texts, removed from the rest of the text, then we will imbibe this same understanding.

What if these commands are, in fact, subversive in the same way Zizek's story is? The kingdoms of This Age remain enthralled to the demonic, slaves to the power and function of death. They are built on lies, murder, theft, and delusions. But, following Christ, Apostles Paul and Peter knew that standing up, resisting, shouting out accusations, mobilization will do little in the end. What if the ultimate embarrassment for any regime is to engage in a crafty naivete? What if all it takes to make the powers that be nervous is to take them at their word, to hold them to their promises and ideology?

It's in this way that the foundations are laid bare. This intentional simplicity will get you killed much faster than being loud-mouthed and enraged. It's the work of showing the emperor has no clothes, to use a cliche. For the Church, this isn't to gain power, but to do the work of the prophets. The spiritual darkness that reigns has to hide as an angel of light. The simple truth, the obvious question, is all it takes to destabilize an empire and find oneself a martyr.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Christ, the Conquering Conqueror: The Universal Struggle of Spiritual Warfare

As I've written elsewhere, the original monastics differed wildly from what would later become identified as monasticism, particularly in the Latin West. The former did not seek to run from the difficulties of the world, needing tranquility and support to seek Christ in earnest. Rather, these monks sought a crash-course in the fundamental realities of a Created Earth besieged. The Desert was not a place of tranquility, but the haunt of demons. The monks were training and battling for Christ's Kingdom, overcoming the lusts of the Flesh, turning their flesh into instruments of spiritual war.

Warfare is a reality that scars the pages of the Bible. While the Creation of all things was a speaking into being, and not a warfare narrative, the Fall of Man represents a departure into violence and chaos. In a way, without the light of divine revelation, this was a reality that the Pagans saw and understood, yet they retrojected it back into the ontology of Creation itself. The workings of Life are scarred by violence and the threat of it. The Snake's mission is to see all engulfed by darkness, a return to the primordial nothing of non-being.

This warfare narrative continues throughout the Scripture, whether in Abraham and the Patriarchs, Israel's struggle against the magic and slavery of Egypt, Moses' battle for faith in a trying Desert, the Israelite conquest of Canaan, the many wars of the Judges, the kings of Israel completing the driving out of Canaan, or the many other occasions. The New Testament unveils that this battle is not really against flesh and blood, but against spiritual darkness and wickedness in high places. This is the darkness that not only destroys the lives of the oppressed that flock to Jesus, but a darkness that bolsters the reigns of Herod, Caiaphas, and Pilate. As St. Paul repeatedly says and warns: the Christian's life, following in the footsteps of their master, is a life of war.

Quite clearly, this is partially what it entails for Jesus to be the Christ. As God and Man, He represents the Christic figure of David who slayed the serpentine Goliath, and also the Angel of the Lord, Captain of the Armies, who heralds Joshua into battle. In Christ Jesus, the figure of the Angel of the Lord, as Captain of Angels, and the figure of Joshua, as Captain of Israel, God's Nation of Men, become one. Christ goes to war with His band of disciples. Even the cross, the moment of ultimate despair, is actually a triumph, the moment where He tramples death by death.

Yet this victory is not yet complete. Christ conquered death, sin, and the devil, triumphing over the corrupted elements of This Age, resurrecting from the dead on the third day, according to the Scriptures, and ascending into Heaven at the Right Hand of God. But that's not the whole story. Quite explicitly, the Scripture tells us that Christ will reign until He places His enemies under His feet.

The first few centuries of the Church saw this doctrine as a difficult one to understand. The Apostles stood as warriors, facing death in many ways similar to their Master. They overcame the threat of the sword through a courageous and difficult faith. Yet, a Neo-Platonism wedded to a vision of Pax Romana complicated the Christian Church as it became tolerated, and established, in the Roman Empire. Quite a few influential converts turned their gaze to the motionless perfection of Plotinus' One and read that back over the Christian God. They reconceptualized the world into a stable hierarchy, the great Chain of Being, that transformed the nature of Christian warfare.

Warfare was revised into, to put it crudely, a game of chutes and ladders. The goal of the Christian was to attach to Christ and ascend the Chain of Being, being more and more perfected, becoming even greater to the Angels. The end goal, as I've said elsewhere, is a vision akin to death, much more similar to Buddhistic notions of Nirvana than the Resurrection of the Dead. Along these lines, a monasticism formed that sought to overcome the fraility of the Flesh, a quest to triumph over finitude.

This completely negated the original intention of the monks (starting with Anthony) who saw the Desert as a real warzone. There, alone and in the dark, the demonic assaulted the Christian more forcefully. The problem in Creation was not the threat of individually falling down the ladder of Being, but to be seized upon by Devils. Their assault would drive you into madness, eviscerating our Humanness. In Human society, this process usually is slower and more subtle. But the war of the Serpent is to drag Mankind out of its intended Nature, attempting to transform Man into a beast or a bearer of the demonic.

The liberation of Christ is not a liberation to transcend our finitude, but to become more fuller and more truly Human. This implies a state of being that is open to the transformative light of God, but there is a subtle difference between this vision and the Platonized vision of the Origenists. The functions and faculties of Humanity were not to be overcome, but to be fully realized.

This is the glory in St. Athanasius' metaphor of the effects of Christ's Incarnation. Imagine a village where a great and glorious king takes up residence within. The individual body of the King is small and individual, but radiates glory. From this the whole village is transformed into a lush capital, expanding and revealing the majesty of the figure who resides within. Christ is this King and the village is the whole collective of Humanity, where individual villagers represent individual men, and the village as a whole representing Human Nature. As the Image of God by nature, Christ reactivates the same image, activating Man's destiny by grace.

But more importantly, this realization should unproblematize the warfare texts that many Atheists and Christians are embarrassed to deal with. This is because tranquility and stasis have become prized values, but this is certainly absurd. We live in a world where people are broken over the wheel of self-interest and manipulation, crushed under economic inqequities and spiritual bondage. In the US, it was the strange circuit preachers, Fundamentalists, and Pentecostals that, at times, were awoken by the Spirit of God to see the cosmic battle afoot. Those fully situated into the comforts of Middle Class values were unable to comprehend the battles.

But lest this become mistaken for a form of Social Gospel, the purpose is not to transform the social structures that we see around us. This is fundamentally mistaken. Rather, the Kingdom of God comes not to clean up what is, but to set fire to the Earth. The warfare of the Gospel is much more radical than this. The Social Gospel was a liberal reform effort, an attempt to clean up Christendom, the convoluted compromise between Christian convictions and Pagan structures.

No, a much more radical notion is required. Firstly, this is the process of mortifying the flesh. It is chopping off the unfruitful roots of the soul. It is struggling to gain mastery over the insane desires that constantly plague us. The Desert Fathers spent many years memorizing Scripture, reciting, singing and praying it, to learn Christ's commands as a salve for the wounds of sin. It was through rejecting the cravings of the body that the flesh might be healed. The objective was not to erase the body, but to restore sanity and health to the flesh. The same goes for the mind. Spiritual warfare meant a restorative for the Christian, and a following of their Master in fighting off the demons that assault mankind.

Secondly, it is reflective of the early disciples giving up claims to private property, giving their money to the poor and to the Apostles to redistribute, and allowing themselves to live together. But the fact is that this passage embarrasses many, or is misunderstood to be merely a kind of proto-Communism. This passage does describe economic redistribution, but it was for the purposes of relinquishing false claims upon the Earth. God owns the Earth and yet He gives it to Man to live upon and rule. The kings of Israel had claim upon all of Israel, and yet their claim was as vice-regent to God, and their design was to consistently redistribute landholdings for the needs of Israel. The practice of relinquishing owenrship is a spiritual one and a material one, for it teaches how man is to relate to God, fellow man, and the Earth. God is the Master, not Man; all men have equal claim to the Earth under the kingship of Christ; the Earth is not for plunder or enrichment, but for sustenance and rest.

In our times today, this is a difficult and radical move. Many who claim the name of Christ would rather live with an impoverished soul than feel the liberating light of the Gospel. The darkness clings tight and many Christians, including myself, struggle to get free. But that is why it is written that Christ will reign until all of His enemies are placed under His feet. Christ has conquered and Christ is conqueror, but He is still conquering. The demons are not done with. He is still waging His War.

The universal claims of Christ upon the Earth are claims that have yet to take effect. As John Howard Yoder argued, Christianity makes Universal claims, but unlike the Platonized forms that Post-Modernism attacks, Christianity begins from the particulars, namely God's incarnation, and is a movement of conquest. Christianity is a peculiarly imperial mission. The violence of Christ is the awakened man seeking to rip off his chains. Or, per Charles Wesley's hymn, the peace of the man coming to wake in his unshackled chains is followed, inevitably, by the struggle to escape the dungeon.

But I must argue that all of this must be understood in the much more radical (as in at the roots) sense than many worldly iterations. The above readings of Scripture have been twisted to justify the figure of the Crusader, a reinstantiation of Saul, the worldly king who misunderstood the point of Canaan's conquest. This figure has appeared all over history, harshly in the actual Crusades or in the extreme slaughter of the "Holy War" of the First World War, and softly in the Social Gospel. This is an attempt merely to scrub the pillars of the Devil's domain, rather than reject the Serpent's trick.

May the holy light of the Gospel awaken you to this reality, dear reader.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

To Live by The Words of God

A proverb from the Desert Fathers goes as follows: A young man seeks out his elder and complains to him, "Elder, I am afflicted with lust and horrid thoughts! I am overcome day in and day out!" The elder responds to him, "You must continue in reciting Scripture". The young man, exasperated, shouts out, "I've tried! It's no good! I keep reciting the Scripture, but I don't feel any different. None of it makes any sense to me". The elder replies, "Perhaps it is true none of it makes sense to you, but it makes sense to the demons who afflict you. They understand the words and they shall flee".

The Desert Fathers practiced a form of meditation that is hardly what anyone would consider: they recited Scripture from memory. They were from oral societies where such is normal. They would recite phrases, lines, entire books, sometimes single words. They believed that the words of Scripture were none other than the very words of God. This was true power.

At the risk of sounding like a magician, these men got it right. The Scripture itself testifies when St. Paul tells us that he came not with craft and cunning, but with very power, in his speech. The words of Scripture are of such power that they lay bare the very scope and shape of the cosmos. There's a story attributed to Charles Spurgeon: he was preparing for his sermon when he bellowed, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world"; a janitor heard this and was converted at the very sound. There are plenty of other conversion stories at the very words of Scripture: Anthony, Augustine, Martin Luther, John Wesley. And of course, there are the simple words to St. Matthew: Come Follow Me.

The fixture upon Inerrantism that one finds in conservative Evangelicalism is completely wrong-headed. Most articulations of this doctrine seem content to lock the Bible's pristine form into texts that may or may not even exist anymore. They've given up the battle to theological liberals and, even as they drown in the swamp of Postivistic notions of authorship, they will slowly fade away as most people cannot understand the strange nuances of their argument. But of course, this operates not upon faith in Christ, but upon the latest findings in archaeology and the structures of textual criticism.

The Christian position on the Scripture as the very words and commandments of God will not find any place in the academy, nor should it. The Bible is not a text like any other, but we claim divine editorialship. The Bible is not a divisible collection of books, it is not a library, nor is it a mess of internecine theological battles as revelation, with one contradicting the other. If it is so, then Christians are without hope.

What if the Bible reflects the very shape of God's intended will for the Creation? What if the Scripture is God speaking to us now, today? What if it is the very garment of Christ, seamless and undivided? As He is the Word, this is further testimony that every word of Scripture belongs to Him and yet He is more than merely their collection. This is St. Maximus' Logos/logoi distinction played out in a more Biblicist form. The very words and commandments over Creation are the uncreated adornments of Christ Jesus, the Lord.

Ponder this next time you open your Bible. Even if you don't understand, the Word is still sharp enough to divide spirit from soul, bone from marrow. Such a power even the demons fear, and tremble.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Every Capitalist Needs His Niggers: Race as a Means of Economic Exploitation

One of the things that this recent election has revealed, as it is circulating around the web, is the failure of the New Left. But I'm not sure most people understand this as well. Sure, the Alt-Right has had some influence among emasculated white men reacting. No one wants to be told that they're going to be on the ash-heap of history, a group whose stains far outnumber contributions, and who need to be wiped out. This was a part of the progressive, and somewhat vindictive attitude, that swirled around the Clinton campaign.

But the reality is different. More than half of white women voted for Trump. He also secured the Republican metric of at least 30% of the Latin vote. He also won in Michigan and Pennsylvania, whose labor vote tended towards Trump. He also secured many voters who voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012. Why? I think it's because Trump capitalized on something Clinton not only failed to do, but could not: he postured himself as for the working class. His protectionist rhetoric did not need an actual plan for it to be attractive. I think many people were glad to hear that someone was willing to say (perhaps even lie) that he intended to bring jobs back no matter what. Trump at least created some jobs in his vain and absurd real-estate schemes. Clinton was backed by the big banks and financial captains who were, rightfully, blamed for destroying huge segments of American industry. For them, there was more profit in turning a profit from shipping industry elsewhere, and turn the US into a different sort of nation.

Despite all the claims of white racism and nationalism, all of which exists, I am confident to say that most people did not vote in Trump because they wanted to reinvigorate the KKK or make America some fascist empire. They went out to get jobs and incomes that promise some level of security, dignity, and living wage. It's for this reason that Bernie Sanders almost took the Democratic Primary even as the DNC was rigged for Hillary. No one expected that a "socialist" (he's hardly one) would reveal the corrupt party mechanics due to his massive popularity.

This sort of thing was not part of the election results, it was primarily so. The problem was not that the Democrats did not listen to the voice of white men, it's that the Identity politics that is part and parcel to the Democratic (and the Republican) party is non-sense. It's an absolute distraction from reality. The hard and cold truth is that things operate according to power, and power comes from functional operations. Money is the liquid and transferable form power takes, a claim upon the resources of the Earth, whether land, food, weapons or labor, production, soldiers. This is where the heart and soul of the issue lies. Identity politics according to race, gender, religion etc. is worthless to explain anything at its root.

Am I saying race is unimportant? Yes and No. It's a question of origins. One must ask where the origins of whiteness and blackness (and all the intermediary states in between) come from. And it's a pretty simple, and disturbing, reality. The mass-slavery of Africans was the major factor in the creation of racial distinction. Whiteness had to be inscribed upon Human bodies, with the correlate of Blackness, to justify an exceptionally exploitative form of labor. But this was done less to soothe the agitated consciences of planters on American colonies. Rather, it was many times a social hierarchy to separate working poor of European stock from colluding or sharing with the Enslaved. It's about the shattering of different subservient peoples from seeing their interests as fundamentally the same. It's about creating a social hierarchy that was radically new: now the wealthy can rule a social polity that lacks the myth of royal patronage and blood.

The formation of social hierarchies has, at its core, a desire for stability. If it is unclear why those on top should remain on top, there's a greater chance for agitation and possible toppling. The purpose of ideologies and founding myth is to prevent these structural shocks. If one wants to seize greater and greater power, one needs greater and greater resources. Thus, it makes sense that any new or established elite would seek to secure a stable population of peons able to provide the raw power of bodies to build an empire upon.

As clear in American history, many Europeans and Asians have suffered racism in the United States for periods of time. Yet the effects of this linger in increasingly diminished forms. Those of African descent, particularly those imbued with the American legacy of slavery, have struggled to overcome this racial hierarchy? Why? Because for most parts of the country, the machinery of the previous system was still in place. It was easier to convince white people that the "nigger" was stupid, lazy, and treacherous and deserved to be kept in functional slavery. Racism become an easy justification to keep a stable class of workers who were paid almost nothing, whether share-cropping in the South or factory work in the North among many other things.

Fundamentally, Capitalism is about hierarchies of wealth, of those individuals who have succeeded in owning the means of production. It's not necessarily about markets, that's a smokescreen. It's about the creation of a ruling-class that is dependent on wealth, and wealth defined not in dollars or gold bullion, but on abstract claims, backed with the threat of violence, over the very means of life and features of the Earth. For those who stand at the top of the pyramid, Capitalism requires a stable base of workers, essentially wage slaves, trapped in meaningless and powerless jobs, where they are treated more and more like replaceable cogs, meat-bag machines, that can be reduced to cost-benefit analysis.

While Taylorist-face of Capitalism has faded away, it's still at the heart of things. It's why many manufacturing jobs have become mechanized and shipped abroad. There is no single doctrine of Capitalism, it has many faces, but is fundamentally about a merchant-people gaining control of the bounty of the Earth and doling it out in accordance with necessity and social polity. It's not about "trickle-down economics" except as a means of throwing bread and circuses to people getting fed up with nothing. The kind of industrial wage slavery of ages past has moved on elsewhere, joblessness and unskilled labor has trapped many others. It's a juggling game of interests and division.

The interests of social control and power is not a monolithic entity, there are many sectors and factors, there are many ambitious willing to cut down their competitors. The lust for more many times overcomes sensible policy of control. It's for this reason many Empires are brought down, and the Empire of Capital will, one day, have the same happen to it. Identity Politics is one factor of this, keeping people wasting their time with trivialities and feelings. It's, as Don Draper put it, not catering to the interests the people have, but creating those interests by making them appear self-generated and then offering to meet those needs. It's a complex game of manipulation and brain-washing.

The so-called "Neo-Liberalism" of people like the Clintons channels this approach into a means of social reintegration. It's about trying to reconfigure the racial hierarchical justification of years past into something else. It's meritocratic colorblindness, as well as gender-blindness and sexuality-blindness, that is "egalitarian" by putting women and minorities into the structures of power. Supposedly "racial equality" is met when we've integrated blacks, Asians, Latinos, gays, transgenders etc. into the class that controls Capital. For some, that's all that they want, with hardly a question about the functional enslavement of most of the globe. It's just as evil, as it waves a rainbow flag and has a smiley multiculturalism.

The wage-slaves remain wage-slaves, whether they're retail workers in the US or the legion of factory workers elsewhere. They've become the new niggers of the Capitalist superstructure. And just as times before, they're set in a form of entrapment where their own slavery is heaped upon them as their fault. The prevalence of mind-numbing entertainment, mind-altering drugs, and mind-structuring advertisement keep people down.

People are given impossible standards (whether of beauty or respectability or whatever) to live according to, and many times find themselves wrapped up in an infinite cycle of debt trying to live up to the standard of American living. People try to soothe the burdens of back-breaking work, sapping the limited financial resources they have, and then criminalized. I have no doubt that the American government has, seemingly paradoxically, orchestrated the means of drug trafficing while also cracking down in the War on Drugs. And people become involved in trivial entertainments that ease the burden of psychic overload if they were confronted with their situation. Marx might have said religion is the opiate of the masses, but if that is so, than the entertainment-complex is heroin. All of these become mechanisms to stabilize in ways that race-war structure could only barely accomplish.

Inter-ethnic hatreds have always existed, but this is not what I'm talking about when I say race. Rather, it's an artificial system based upon skin-color and, many times, non-existent or fabricated "cultural identities". At it's root, it's about the the creation of a class of people to be exploited for their labor. It's about creating a social stability where those who own may continue to gain more power.

In the Bible, this is primarily reflected in the Phillistines, an empire built upon plunder and merchandising people. Capitalism is really just the philosophy of Phillistine conquest, feeding upon host peoples and draining them dry. These are a people that the People of God were locked in endless war with, always being tempted with lures. Ultimately, the Phillistines, like Egypt and Assyria, are component parts of the Biblical figure of Babylon the Great. Not all empire is Capitalist, but every Empire finds its roost in becoming Babylon, the whore city that spills the blood of the saints. Every foul beast finds it rest in the evil city.

I am not a Communist, even if I am making similar critiques. However, there are many Christians who unthinkingly abandon the commands of Christ for a place in building a kind of Babylon. They don't understand that Christ very specifically meant that there was an eternal incompatibility between serving God and Mammon. Wealth inequity is all over the Bible as a mark of the Devil's domain. And yet many prop up the system as they have secured a place near the top of the pyramid or have been lured to think they can achieve such a thing.

Christians should practice a different form of sociality, rejecting the allure of money, and relativizing it before the Power of God. This might mean living a life where the forms of security that we're told we need will not exist, rather we will trust in the Hand of God to deliver the poor. But it also means seeing the exploitation of labor and the false divisions of mankind. Race must be overcome as a category if one is to see the actual balance of power.

This post is sweeping in its claims and simplifies a lot of complex issues, but I want to cut through all the shrouds to present what's at stake. It's a wake-up call to resist the process of seeing others as mud-people, degenerate semi-Humans who deserve their fate. Capitalism is one form of this and it's the pervasive American form. Overcoming racism is about overcoming race and seeing the power structures at play. And it's also knowing that Christ has struck the fatal blow. Babylon the Great may reign for a time more, but it will be consumed by fire from Heaven.

This ought to be a moment of self-reflection. Repent of how you may have joined with the Great Harlot who beds the kings of men. Her ultimate fate is destruction and the saints will rejoice.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Athanasius, Arius, and the Role of Dialectics

In a previous post, I wrote about the mediated nature of experiencing God. In reflection, I think my major point was sound, but I don't think I understood why as well. This post is an attempt to readjust my point.

In that last post, I critiqued Augustine and Thomas through Chauvet's work. The criticism was valid, but I misunderstood where their work stood in terms of historical theology. Augustine (Thomas merely as an heir to the underlying problem) sought to follow Nicaea's fundamental teaching about the full integration of the Godhead, one which could say that Christ was indeed true God of true God. He fully understood the battle, but did not take the right path in combating it. Hence, he finds things like language and mediated realities as creaturely problems, helpful roadblocks, on the path to a Beatific vision of glory everlasting.

But I begged the question: why did Augustine find mediating such a problem? Augustine was Platonic, but he, like Origen, were Christians trying to escape and/or reevaluate Plato. This includes the problem of experience and communication. If God is mediated, this comes through a being(s) that are beneath Him, but stand somewhere in between God and the creature being communicated to. For Platonism, this was the doctrine of the Chain of Being, Emanations, involving a creation/eschaton that follows the exitus/reditus pattern. This is the fatal flaw that is at the heart of the Arian controversy.

Arius sought to fall on one side of this problem. If Christians are to talk about relating to God at all, it only makes sense along this diagram. The resultant feature is that Christ becomes a creature, though the highest and most resultant being on the Chain. In Platonic metaphysics, this was the Nous, the Soul/Mind, emanating out of the One, who alone is perfect and without beginning. Eventually, paradise is the ultimate return, where all the emanations fold back into the One, where eternal bliss awaits.

Obviously, this Platonic metaphysic didn't go away with Arius. Augustine didn't deny this, as much as he did a better job squaring the theology. For him, the One still remains such, but Christ and the Holy Spirit are included into this configuration. Hence Augustine's defense of the Trinity, where the three Persons exists as God's relationships to Himself. Augustine includes Christ into the metaphysic without the same heretical conclusions of Arius.

But this doesn't solve the problem of mediators, and the implication that a mediator implies the grades along a chain of Being. This is where discomfort over mediatorship comes from, trying to make sense of real communion with God without degrading God. Along this scale, direct experience is truly heretical as it is akin to saying that one cannot ever experience God or that such experience is literally erasing. Hence, Platonic Salvation can often sound like the experience of dying, an absorption back into the One.

But Athanasius' attack upon Arius did not depend on Platonic metaphysics, but on a strange metaphysic derived from his reading of the Bible. Athanasius insisted that the Son was fully God, but that God was not bound to the dialectics of the Chain of Being. God is beyond both affirmation and negation, which, in the Platonic metaphysics, is to say that God is beyond Being. God may make this, He may even make things along a chain of being, things that possess a greater or lesser share of glory. But God Himself does not belong along this. God is not equivocal with Being (ens), and things to don't exist in a merely analogical way to God.

The root is in the simple, and radical, doctrine of Creation from Nothing (creatio ex nihilo). God can make the World, and yet it is not an extension of Himself, an Emanation. Yet it is also not alien to God either, for to deny such is to affirm, functionally, a kind of deism or atheism. If Creation was framed according to the Wisdom of God, that is to say Christ, then it somehow belongs to God. This was later developed along the lines of the logoi of God, eternal ideas that reflect God, and yet do not constitute God. This is to say that God made the World, and yet it was not necessary. God is truly free, and yet He is truly in relation to all of His creation.

What this does is undermine the entire problem of mediated presence. God can be fully present in any of the things He made without it collapsing the distinction between the thing and God. Nothing is alien to God, and hence direct experience of God is possible without annihilation. Paradise is not the void. Athanasius saves us this sweet truth in his battle with Arius. Sadly, the way Athanasius fought was not as important as the victory he secured. Affirming Christ, and the Holy Spirit, as God is not enough. We have to understand why this is true, not merely that it is true.

Most people do not consider the Chain of Being any more, but, then again, neither do most people consider a Creator. In fact, I'd wager most people, even many Christians functionally, are either deists or pantheists. Either the Universe is God, whether as the sum of the parts or in a more Platonic way, or God is somehow irrelevant to the functions of this ticking clock. But Athanasius explains the deep intuition that many Christians who've been soaked in their Bible sense: God is present, even though is not any of the things that surround us. They might not be able to explain it well, but it's the haunting supposition in the Scripture. God manifests Himself in many things, and yet those things still retain their integrity as things. The Burning Bush does not cease to be a bush even as the Glory of God burns and speaks to Moses.

Therefore, I must admit that philosophic sophistication can at times lead astray, even if it truly can be useful and helpful. May God truly be with you, readers, in the radiate glory of His kindness and mercy.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Grace Activates Nature

Carl Schmitt, a notorious political theorist, is most famous for his concept of political theology. That is to say that the concepts that we in the Secular West use for politics are actually transformed theological concepts. It is the secularization of God that created Modernity, manifested most viscerally in the climactic days of the French Revolution, but existing before and after this.

One major concepts of the French Revolution was 'regeneration', a perfect example of Schmitt's Political theology. While originally a theological term, explaining the transformation of Man when brought to God's grace, it became a serious political concept. Regeneration took on the fiber of the World, including man, that required the christic grace of civilization. Thus, Revolutionary advocates saw the mass-mobilization of an army of citizens, fanning out across Europe, as a missionary endeavor. The Declaration of the Rights of Man was a liberative doctrine. Those who were caught in its radiance and bathed in its light would be reborn a man, free from superstition and the corruption of layers of tradition.

Regeneration was also applied to the debate over slavery in France's colonies. Even the most ardent abolitionists framed their enthusiasm in terms of Regeneration. The transformative effects of the Revolution could enlightened even the sons of the Dark Continent. However, this doctrine allowed the violence of chattel slavery to continue. These men were still ignorant and if freed they might reject the Republic in vain stupidity and superstition. Even worse, they might ally with France's nemesis, Britain, acting upon selfish desires. Though some agitated for immediate abolition, most agreed that there had to be some transitive step between the life of the slave and the life of the free citizen.

The fate of the Africans, and all People of Color, in the French colonies reflects the true nature of Regeneration. When secularized, the term reveals a kind of violence. Overseers need to remain present until enlightenment might gradually occur, a kind of conversion experience. Perhaps donning the tri-color and reciting the Rights of Man is a form of baptism, but, like children, these slaves must await confirmation until they can partake of the sacrifice of the Republic, namely the full rights of citizenship.

Granted, a lot of self interest went into these rhetorical exercises. Clearly, some were afraid of losing a lot of money if slaves went off the plantation and shut down the coffee and sugar markets. But, I'd argue that even so, the frame of their argument, even if manipulated, reveals a kind of idea at play. This is clearly a theological concept that has been deployed in a new form to reap new results. Instead of God regenerating the blind sinner into someone holy through the rites of the Church (Rome), Nature regenerates the ignorant peasant into a citizen through the rites of the Nation. These parallels are not contrived, but derivative. The Enlightenment owes a lot to the intellectual underpinnings of the Roman Catholic Church.

But as I've highlighted above, this concept of regeneration contains violence. I think this exists within the theology itself. Regeneration is a word found in the Bible, but the version I'm talking about is a particular concept. It is, in a nutshell, fundamentally that grace restores nature. Now, Rome and many Protestants have agreed to this, but have argued over what this means. Rome, following Augustine, argued that Man is not fully Man without grace, the overabundant gift (donum superadditum). The Reformed tended to argue for the perfection of Man in the Garden. But both explain a catastrophic fall. Both accounts reveal man who has, in some shape or form, lost the image of God.

I argue that such is not in the Bible, and is an inferred concept that fails to explain the shape and flow of the Bible. This primarily my beef, but its secular political outworkings reveal a secondary issue: regeneration is violent. The process involves taking man, who is deficient and broken, and bringing him to a new nature. Yes, it is the nature that rightfully belongs to man, but it is a nature that is foreign to the children of Adam. In Protestant theologies, one sees this in a constant ascription of one's good works beyond oneself. Per Augustine, the good we do belongs to God, while the evil we do belongs to us. Rome is perhaps even more bizarre and contrived, with the doctrine of created grace, meaning that God creates in us a spiritual resource from which we might do the good set out for us. It is our acts, but it originates not from Humanity, but Humanity plus, Man given the necessary donum.

What is violent in these theologies is in the implications of how God relates to Man. Calvinistic theologies that accept this premise are relatively comfortable with the violence of God afflicting Man, dominating and crushing his sinful nature and will to recreate it in new form. Augustinian Roman theology tries to pass this off as in a different manner, highlighting the freeness of the Human will forming the deposit of grace into a habit. But the deposit itself is alien to Human nature qua nature. The donum is always something other than Man, but deemed necessary for Man. This can sound liberal, unless one appreciates the magnitude of insufficiency for Man to be Man. This kind of theology ultimately denies that Man's creatureliness is sufficient for the Image of God. The Fall must be catastrophic and yet a Felix Culpa, a round a bout ways to achieve the donum we never had.

In theology, a certain violence surrounds this, perhaps rightfully, and it fits within certain trajectories one sees in secularized, or pseudo secularized variants. I am not arguing for a causative connection, only an intellectual comfortability. In the same vein as above, I think the slaves and slave catechism reveals this phenomenon. There was a sense of tutorage between the missionary and the enslaved. This phenomenon existed in Jesuit and Anglican plantations, where freedom was a far off goal, perhaps never achievable, whereas the state of slavery may be a place for the instruction of Christianity. If Man is fundamentally broken and not truly Man, this might appear in a way to denigrate those who lack regeneration. This might involve a kind of alienation from the community of the righteous, defined along political terms. Or this might say that Man is never good enough as Man. Torture, beatings, sleeplessness, anything is necessary to push Man beyond himself in activating the donum the Church may administer. The Slave is encouraged towards freedom, even as his body is under the domain of another.

Fundamentally, Grace restoring Nature may be a problematic, if subtle, teaching. It might be a font of justifications for torture, brain-washing, and all kinds of coercive transformation.

I want to consider an alternative. Following Athanasius, perhaps it might be theologically richer to discuss grace activating nature. The problem is not in Human nature, but in a person's inability to enact it. Theoretically, this means Mankind is in fact Mankind, even if we are not capable of being transformed into such. This is fundamentally what is accomplished in the Incarnation, where Jesus Christ takes up Human nature, not to restore it,as if it was ontologically damaged (though perhaps epistemically unverifiable). Rather, Christ fulfills it, being fully Man and, in doing so as the Son, unleashes the Human image from the Devil's clutches. This is a cosmic victory that is true, today, tomorrow, forever, ever since the day when Christ took up flesh.

This is not an atonement theory, and thus is nowhere Pelagian or Abelardian. I am not explaining how Christ vanquishes our sins and overcomes the Devil, but how He, in doing so as Man, restores to us the ability to live in light of this. What this does is make sense of the Fall in terms that better befit the Bible. Nowhere does it say Man lost his status as Image of God, yet we hardly see men revealing such an Image. Instead, we see Mankind behaving as if they were beasts. Romans 1 is the gamut run of Human history. Human nature doesn't need fixing or add-ons, instead it needs to be freed to be Human Nature. And this is victory is not something anyone else can instantiate or accomplish. It's already done.

What the grace of God does, being as that is the presence and working of God in all the facets of our life, is open up paths to fulfill the fundamental desires of being Human, which include being a royal priesthood, living a life of virtue. The difference from Grace restoring Nature is subtle, but the major point is that the redeemed life comes from within Humanity's capacities, rather than outside. Again, this is not talking about salvation, but how one does the good works that God had set out for him to do. Righteous living is not alien to Human nature, nor is it something in addition to Human nature.

There is violence in this account, but it is the violence of the person waking up. This approach is not so different than Charles Wesley's hymn where, awaking in a dungeon flamed with light, chains drop off, and the man is free to go. I am not saying the Wesleys, Methodism, or Anglicanism possessed this Athanasian twist, or understood it, but it might have. But unlike the hymn, to come awake in a prison-break is a frightening ordeal. There are many demon captors, there sins and fantastical desires that seek to re-enslave. It's a warzone to get out alive. But the crucial point is that God had ordained us to escape the prison, He took flesh to be the Stronger Man to overcome the Strong Man and plunder his house.

How this cashes out is the difference of a person becoming a person as a process of inner enlivening, or an alien force bringing life. Is my righteousness activate by grace, or does grace have to strip me and rebuild me, brick by brick, from something (however diminished) familiar to something alien?

How one answers this is how one explains how moral reforms actually work. When secularized, the latter approach must be a continually alien encounter, where brain-washing and propaganda makes sense, in certain extreme scenarios. The former approach sees moral reform in terms of self-mastery in the image of Christ. Again, the difference is subtle. In today's prison-moral mentality, the external constraints have been internalized to become indistinguishable. But, to claim an Athanasian approach, no matter how internalize the external approach, such is and will always be an idol and cannot stand indefinitely in the chamber of the heart.

As I've said, these are reflections upon subtle meanings and movements of particular doctrines. I am not collapsing thought-patterns with Human intention, the two remain distinct. I hope only to highlight historical episodes where secularized and institutionalized uses of the doctrine show the flaws I think exist within it, but remain invisible to a dogmatician. If we better understand Human nature and the saving work of Christ, perhaps it will give us a discerning eye for social phenomena that have become warped deployments of doctrine.

Thank God for St. Athanasius, and may we learn from this great father of the faith.