Wednesday, May 25, 2016

History is Hard

I'm currently working through Origen's Against Celsus, the first serious apology written by a Christian to a Platonic Pagan antagonist. Anyway, this quote stood out:

"We have to remark that the endeavor to show, with regard to almost any history, however true, that it actually occurred, and to produce an intelligent conception regarding it, is one of the most difficult undertakings that can be attempted, and is in some instances an impossibility." (Book I Ch. XLII)

 As an academically trained historian, this is too true. Trying to explain this to most people who still have positivistic notions of historical inquiry (i.e. history just objectively explains what 'happened') is tough. As the Christian faith rests upon the historical inbreaking of the trans-historical and meta-historical (i.e. God exists beyond time and yet, in the Son, enters into time fully through His dealings with man and, ultimately, in the Incarnation). Thus, Christians who are intellectually involved in their faith cannot be lax about history. Origen continues:

"But he who deals candidly with histories, and would wish to keep himself also from being imposed upon by them, will exercise his judgment as to what statements he will give his assent to, and what he will accept figuratively, seeking to discover the meaning of the authors of such inventions [Origen's referring to Greek myths -cal], and from what statements he will withhold his belief, as having been written for the gratification of certain individuals. And we have said this by way of anticipation respecting the whole history related in the Gospels concerning Jesus, not as inviting men of acuteness to a simple and unreasoning faith, but wishing to show that there is need of candour in those who are to read, and of much investigation, and, so to speak, of insight into the meaning of the writers, that the object with which each event has been recorded may be discovered."
This is not to say that Christians ought to merely compromise with whatever the ethos of the day is. However, it requires a kind of divine humility to acutely listen to the complaints of critics and to walk with them through their criticisms. Instead of a stupid God's Not Dead approach that is antagonistic, Origen councils a peaceableness. Origen lived in a time of actual persecution, was the head of a school, and was thorougly entrenched in the intellectual climate of the day. He was a lot more embattled than the idiotic Evangelicalism of America, with its fat-hearted sense of privilege. And yet, Origen is able to remain calm, with a firm confidence that Truth vindicates Itself. He is patient and discerning enough to grant that even what the Pagans believe have fragments of truth, and is willing to take the time to decipher what good may lie underneath!

May all who have an interest in history have the same heart as Origen, a true saint of God.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Christ is Sovereign: Christology as Political

The Moravians who lived communally predicated many of the community's decisions (as community, or pertaining to the community) upon the lot. The community elders would ask God to work through the lot and ask whatever the particular question was (whether to build a fence, a new well, whether Johann and Maria should get married, etc.). This sounds almost insane. Perhaps. Or perhaps it is in fact one of the most logical acts.

This is a brief reflection, but consider what this means:

1) This is a form of the Christian trusting the reign of Christ for one's own livelihood. Yes, this is presupposing God would honor the lot. I'm not arguing for the particular form, but the logic behind it. This is not a theocracy, as theocracy is usually conceived to be. This is a Christocracy. Yes, Christ is God, fully as only-Begotten of the Father. But He is also fully Man. To deny Christ's actual, and sovereign, reign is a form of doceticism. And of course, Christ's own ethics and kingdom vision dictate what this might actually mean for individuals. But if Christ ascended, and sat at the Right of Majesty (as per the Apostolic creed of the Scripture), then this has political ramifications. Again, this does not collapse Christocracy as a political idea into Theonomy, Reconstructionism, Caesaropapism or any other abhorrent wordly Babel. But it ought to govern how Christians think of themselves as a Body, as the Church.

2) Even if one doesn't believe this is true, consider the symbolic output. You've invested sovereignty out of the hands of any normal Human entity. This could turn into a cult like environment, with so-called prophets speaking for God. But, in this scenario sovereignty has been transported out of the community into what appears to be luck. This is bizarre and fascinating. It's what might be called anarcho-monarchism, or perhaps a kind of Red (or Black) King. It certainly removes any sense of absolutism from any particular political organ, whether a State, a Warlord, or any form of Totalitarianism. Of course, this would need to be fleshed out more. In Carl Schmitt's definition of the Political as the dialectic between friend-foe, then Christ has abrogated this in His own death, and subsequently, the death of Death through Christ's trampling Death by death.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Can a Prince be Saved?: Constantine, Zinzendorf, and Constantinianism

A partial confession: I might actually have sympathy for Constantine, Emperor of the Romans. 

My thought is that Constantine is not as problematic a figure as the Anabaptistic (though not exclusive or originating with them) account of the Fall of the Church. The reading goes as such: The Church existed in peace as a non-state, or even antagonistic to the State, entity until Constantine suckered the Church with the Edict of Milan (313), where the Empire's government would no longer persecute Christians. This was followed by Constantine's slow ingratiation into the Church, convening councils (most notably Nicaea), enforcing doctrinal decisions, and pouring money and prestige into the Church (there was a sweeping building campaign, and Eusebius of Caesarea had influential places in the court). From there, the Church spiraled into a place of dual compromise, either existing Erastianly (as an organ of the State) or Caesaropapally (Church absorbing the role of the State, or controlling the engines of government). This was the deathblow that drove discerning Christians underground.

I don't believe in this story, though I am sympathetic to the major themes involved. Power, as the World holds and defines it, is corrupt and corrupting. Confusing the Church with a political program is bad and destructive for the Church, even if it can buy benefits in the short run. Erastianism and Caesaropapalism are sinful heresies. However, I do not believe Constantine is the problem.

Peter Leithart wrote a book called "Defending Constantine" which attempted to rebut John Howard Yoder's mainstream defense of the Anabaptist narrative. It's a stupid premise. Leithart's book completely missed the point and wasted time actually trying to defend Constantine the individual. That was not Yoder's point. And it's not my point either.

Constantine was not the problem. In fact, his reign was probably one of the most just in the entirety of Roman history. This is considering how much power the Roman emperor could exercise at this point. He was not the restrained dictator of the Julio-Claudians or the rule of the five wise emperors (Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius). He was, as they say, an oriental despot, possessing full control and fully able to basque in his own cult (Diocletian portrayed himself as Zeus in the flesh).

I am not vindicating all of what Constantine did. He misunderstood Christ's commands, and he should have been much more skeptical of wearing the purple. He ought to have left Pagans keep their temples and not harass them. This is more shameful considering he used money to build houses of worship for the Church on top of bulldozed temples.

However, I am joyful that Constantine ended the persecution. I don't mind that he convened ecclessial councils, even though he contaminated some of the decisions with imperial concerns. However, contrary to the mythologizing of Nicaea, the council was not considered much of a success by most bishops attending. Most went home without a second thought. Constantine, here, was not the problem.

However, the problem is when Constantine is turned into a symbol. The historical contingency surrounding Constantine's reign is unique and belongs to its era, and its era alone. The problem is when Constantine becomes a systemic program, where the Church seeks to control the levers of power. It's when a Christian emperor becomes a Christian empire. This was Yoder's main concern. 

This is when the Church becomes wed to a particular politics, abandons its Heavenly commissioning, and becomes a Satanic institution. I have little problem with Eusebius' statement that God brought Constantine to the throne in order to vindicate the Church from persecution. But a reflection on God's care is not the same as a forward looking constructive approach. This is the sin of Constantinianism, that Constantine unfortunately represents.

Unlike Tertullian, Yoder believed that princes, or high political figures, could indeed be saved. He was just unsure whether this had occurred yet. I think Constantine actually qualifies under this header. I've read that he was a genuine, though confused, Christian, I have also read that he was a cynical manipulator. I don't know. But we can't blame Constantine, or even the almost obsequious Eusebius for what would later become written into the constitution of the Roman Empire, and build the vile beast that was/is Christendom. The Church ought to have awakened to the provisional nature of this arrangement when the following emperor was an avid Arian, and brought persecution upon the orthodox.

Fast forwarding, another fascinating figure is the Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf. He was a nobility of the Holy Roman Empire who became a devout Christian. He turned his estate into a home for the persecuted Unity of Brothers (who would become known as the Moravians). He studied theology, he abandoned most of his princely prerogatives, and took to becoming an avid proponent of missions. He even helped form Bethlehem (Pennsylvania), a Christian commune that abolished poverty and maintained social harmony without a cultic apparatus. He was a deeply profound theologian of his time and is oft neglected in the history of Christianity.

Zinzendorf had his own sins. His commanding personality overwhelmed the functioning of the Church. His own royal upbringing blinded him from certain realities that were all too present to the mostly peasant/worker base that formed the Unity. As extreme as he was in his own milieu, he conformed to some of the deepest prejudices of his day (colonialism/slavery/European cultural form confused with Christianity proper). Yet, despite this, he is a prince who was saved.

Unlike Constantine, Zinzendorf was so eccentric and abnormal for his time and place that he was never replaced. Anti-Constantinianism was woven into the Unity's bones, from its time back in the Hussite revolt. However, both Constantine and Zinzendorf open up a window of possibility that God may indeed be convert even princes to his own. I'd count both of them saints.

All of this might come as a shock for those who've been reading me or know me. But this is not much of a change. I am just simply less ideological about God's working and presence. I thank God for St. Constantine, even if his legacy is (and continues to be) a veil of tears. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Idolatry of Nature is the Rejection of Creation

The Psalmist sang that the Heavens declare the glory of God. St. Paul wrote that the attributes of God, His eternal power and divinity, are apparent in the Creation to all. Christ utilized things as simple as a flower or a bird to illustrate God's providence. St. John rests his apostolic authority on having seen and touched the flesh of the very Christ. The Scripture has a very high opinion of created things, whether animate or inanimate, rational or irrational. A continual theme throughout the Psalms is that all flesh will praise God, all things will give glory to the Lord who made them. 

Yet it seems like this is very far from how we tend to see things. Instead, creation is only for its utility in being molded and shaped. It is dead and lifeless. Hence the pervading modern sensibility of living in a dead and cold universe. "Nature" seems to be only component pieces to be assembled into machines.

Of course, a lively cosmos is not necessarily any better. H.P. Lovecraft, better than any, turned any stupid Romantic notion of "Nature" on its head. Yes, the universe may be teeming with life, who said it's friendly or benevolent? Like the pagans of old, the world was a haunted and horrifying place. There were vengeful spirits and petty gods around ever tree or river. Sacrifices were necessary to placate angry, numinous entities. Contrary to angry Romantic poets, the Pagans did not rejoice and delight in nature. Rather, it was a terror to live beneath the reign of Nature.

What if neither is the right solution? What if they are resultant from the same impulse?

Personally, I'm drawn to the notion of living in a cold-dead world. It's my de facto operating system when it comes to thinking things through. In some ways it's the offspring of certain forms of thinking spawned from the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Enlightenment. I am not valorizing the Medieval period, that was equally horrible for different reasons. But what I am saying is that I am an heir to a "disenchanted" world, but not quite.

I put disenchanted in quotations because I do not believe Weber was correct. Man didn't evacuate the world of spirits and enchantment, rather, we moved them to different locations. Instead, Mankind became divinized in an evil form in some instances. In others, "Nature" became a divinity.

But of course, when I say Nature I am not talking about the creation, the Heaven and Earth or anything that dwells in them. What I am talking about is this unified, essence that hides beneath the folds of material things. Scientists have many times become horrible excavators, doing so for whatever god or self-same deity, trying to rip creation apart to find Nature, the law or pseudo-divine ordering which, when understood, grants universal understanding. Nature is a kind of World-Soul, the functional heart of the cosmos.

Thus it was Deists who were the most avid industrialists. Nature-worshipers are not hippies, they are mad sorcerers. As Carl Schmitt would describe in his excursus on Hobbes' Leviathan, unlike modernity that followed him, Hobbes, as many in his generation did, held machine as a mythic symbol. The machine functioned as Humanity discovering the magic beneath creation, transfiguring itself into a god. The Leviathan was a mythic machine-beast, forged from the souls of men. Unlike Schmitt, I don't think Modernity misunderstood Hobbes, but only surpassed him.

What I've been misled to believe is that the created world is a source of idolatry. Not exactly. The Created world is actually a preacher, but it's Mankind's twisted desires that squelch the voice of God bounding through blades of grass and grains of sand. It is in fact a hatred of creation that manifests into the idolatry of Nature, a demiurgic World-Soul that one must either crush or slavishly obey. In the former, it is Man becoming a god, as per the Satanic lie, in the latter, it is a return to Pagan terror. But, even in the former, if man is becoming a false god, it is a worship of Nature as the source of magic and sorcery. Man becomes the measure of all things, the rightful dwelling place for the World-Soul. The rest of creation suffers under this arrogance.

What is a possible Christian solution?

In a sense, it is reaffirming and praising the Created world, ourselves included. This is not worship, but giving glory to God, the Creator and Savior of all Creation. The problem among Protestants tends to be the very opposite. In fact, it's a devaluation of creation that, in a sense, leads to an evacuating (perceived, not actually) of divine glory. This only opens the void for our attempting to fill it with our destructive lusts. Per Paul, we replace the truth with a lie. Christianity drove away the evil spirits of Pagan religions and freed man to worship the God who made all. But the "disenchantment" of the world only invited these unclean spirits in through the back-door.

In this way, the machine is equally a part of creation as the organically grown plant or animal. The division between "natural" and "unnatural" is absurd, semantically. Therefore, even the machine, the artificial, the Human inventions, are redeemed. However, in our world of "technique" (as per Jacques Ellul), we worship the machine as the synthesized Nature. Thus, machine worship is a form of Nature worship fused to the genius of a corrupted Mankind. Instead, the Christian ought to embrace even the made object as something giving glory to God, yet evacuating it of the evil spirits that plague it. Today, in our world of Global capitalism, that means driving out Mammon. Instead, a phone is an inanimate creature worshiping God along with trees and rocks.

Of course, this is not a facile return to seeing creation as creation. We have to appreciate a world in disarray that is bound under chains yearning for the revelation of the sons of God. We have to see that we live in a world filled with enmity between man and beast. Just like us men, all of the created world suffers under sin, death, and the devil. It is only stupid Romantics who forget this and fall subject to Lovecraft's damning critique (a lot of Evangelicals who have music lyric slides with a man with his hands up in a field fall under this ban). And yet, the hope is not a return to some pure, naive, state. As per the Revelation of Jesus Christ to John, the abode of the resurrection is a Heavenly Jerusalem, a City. The creation will not only be purified but perfect, a city made, yet not by Human hands.

As Maximus says, Man is a microcosm of the creation, the priest of all created things. That's our vocation and our approach to the created world. May we shun notions of "Nature" or "Humanism" and return to seeing world as a place, though subject to manifold evils, where God's glory dwells and pulsates. The inbreaking of the Logos, in the incarnation, was not an alien invasion, but an alienated homecoming. In the same way, Earth is man's home, and it is where God will dwell. We are strangers to this world-order, full of national divisions and economic disparities. But, in the resurrection, the Kingdom will become fully present and the whole of Creation will be liberated.

Thus, as the Psalmist says:

"For He is coming, for He is coming to judge the Earth. He shall judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with His truth"

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Surface is Everything

A major dualism located within Western philosophy and theology is that between inner and outer. As it goes, there are two primary worlds, one that is exterior and one that is interior.

In Platonic metaphysics, that the West has primarily inherited through Augustine and Renaissance Neo-Platonism, the outer world is one of change and flux. Matter is ontologically inferior. It is either on the low scale of a chain of being, a defective product of a not wholly competent demiurge, or some ugly putty that the forms have pressed themselves into. The inner world is the world of the soul, the pure aether where the Forms can be recalled or sought after. The inner life can become corrupted by being in love with the outer, but when the soul is directed to its own image, it is saved. The soul is divine and is itself a reflection of the One, or has, in itself, knowledge of the Forms, the really Real. Ultimately, Platonic philosophy is to strongly demarcate the realms and pursue true knowledge.

Kantian metaphysics follows Plato in affirming the demarcation, but does so by overthrowing the metaphysical basis. Kant, in order to save Philosophy (which means Plato, "all of Western philosophy is but a footnote to Plato"), eradicated the metaphysics and postulated a synthetic a priori instead. We can't really know the realm of the Forms, or any kind of notion of the Real, but it's the only thing that makes sense of what we see. We cannot lean on Reason alone, as it will not provide the deep answers Philosophy seeks. Our reason cannot peer behind the surface, we can only see things-as-they-appear, and not things-in-themselves (phenomenal/noumenal). So we must start by assuming the existence of God, freedom, and the immortality of the soul. Only then will we be able to protect the inner life from the acid of Postivistic Science from completely eradicating the soul. This is the kind of horror that the novel 'Frankenstein' sought to address. Science might grasp all the mechanics of the outer world, but the inner world remains safe and real. This is the first necessary step towards Existential philosophy.

I want to question that demarcation between inner and outer, but not abandon the spirit of it. If I was to abandon it entirely, one has to affirm materialism and such is the absurd conclusion of Positivism. Life, consciousness, and the plethora of transcendentals cannot be made sense of in such a framework. Kant was right to begin his project in order to guard against the absurdity of the Enlightenment's mechanizing of Man.

Instead, I want to offer the idea that there is no inner or outer, and thus reality is truly on the surface. However, reality is also folded. Surface realities can be compounded upon one another to create folds within reality that are not perceptible to the outward searching of the eye. This is where the soul dwells. Like a dog under a sheet, we see movement, but we do not see an animal. The Greeks used to speak of the soul as being seen in the flash of the eye. There's some beautiful turns of phrase in Homer's poetry that convey this. We see life in the flicker in eyes, the twitch of the body, the graceful movements of the flesh. It's what separates life from a-life, and bios from zoon. In the former distinction, one sees a difference between a plant and a rock. In the latter distinction, there's a difference between the life of a beast and the life of a man. Reality possessed more folds from which things dwell.

Why does this matter?

Firstly, this corrective to Plato's revolutionary philosophy makes sense of the earthiness of the Biblical witness. The Scriptures clearly affirm the reality of the soul. Man is not merely a brute beast, but something else. I'm with the early Patristics that affirm the soul is the Image of God in Man. However, if we read this in terms of Platonic metaphysics then we will be misled to what this means. We ought to avoid the inner-outer distinction. Otherwise we denigrate the body, and the material world, as inferior or worthless. Instead, the soul is the folded reality of experienced life. The soul is infused in the body, a kind of aura that permeates. It's not merely nerve endings, or bio-chemical reactions. However, it is coexists in such forms. So, I feel pain and I act accordingly. I am a creature, like the other animals, but I am something else, made in the Image of God, destined to His likeness.

Secondly, this affirms the objectivity of Beauty. Particularly here I'm drawing on D.B. Hart's work. Beauty can be an objective reality if the soul's subjective experience is not a buffered off zone. Beauty is found within the folds. Of course, there's many angles of Beauty, but it's found in the complexities and intricacies of folded reality. This avoids subjective derangement into an aesthetic of "whatever". However, one must be careful not to imperialize this fact, and narrow the eye of the soul. This occurs when a culturally contingent metaphysical demand becomes a universal criteria. Participating in reality is enough to allow a plethora of experiences and developments of the soul. The soul becomes open to seeing the intricacy of folds and many meanings be opened or kept veiled.

Thirdly, this affirms some of the weird postulates modern science has offered. I'm not a physicist, but as I've heard, the firm line between matter and energy, particles and waves, is fuzzy. I've heard that all matter is really just energy. Weirdly enough, some early Christians affirmed the same (c.f. Gregory of Nyssa in 'On the Soul and the Resurrection'). Thus, a dualism of inner and outer begins to fade if this is in fact true.

Fourthly, this makes sense of a particular kind of theology of revelation. We cannot merely think in terms of discarding a husk of contingency and getting to the kernel of eternal truth. The garb truth wears is itself apart of the truth. Thus, the affirmation of the Incarnation is, in a sense, saying God has eternally said Yes to His redemption of Mankind, full-stop. Now, whenever we say God, we must think Jesus Christ. The garb the Eternal Word wore is now everlastingly present. The same is with the Bible. We must not read literalistically, vis. modernists or fundamentalists, nor can we read allegorically or existentially, vis. some Patristics or Bultmann. The history of the Bible is the garb God has chosen to wear in speaking to Man, and it's something that must be taken into account.

Fifthly, similarly, this alters our interpersonal ethics. Sometimes I think it'd be easier if I had superpowers like The Purple Man (c.f. Jessica Jones) whose commands are irresistible. If he asks someone to tell him the truth, they obey. However, what this power misses is the actual truth. The fact someone might lie, or hesitate, or tell the truth in a riddle, is itself apart of the truth. If someone never believes me, and I intentionally lie so that he does the opposite, and thus I indirectly tell him the truth, then this is itself apart of the reality of the situation. To maintain an inner and outer dimension ignores the mediating moment between thought and word.

Augustine maintains the same, but his inner/out distinction forces him to put lying into strictly metaphysical terms. Instead, this misses the larger point of the foldedness of the mind and the spoken word. The twists and turns of the body, in fact, reveal flashes of the soul. As per the above illustration, one might understand a dog's temperament by watching it squirm under a blanket, rather than merely tearing it off to the scrutiny of the curious eye. Lying is not unethical because the inner-life is a vestigia trinitatis. Lying is unethical because it's many times an assumption of the ability to command reality and forge it into your own image. You distort the folds of reality for your own purposes. However, the discerning eye can still see the truth in spite of a lie.

However, what this means is that in my relationship with people, I ought to respect their alterity. I am not trying to strip through whatever surface appearance and figure out their inner character. A lot of therapy, Christian and not, functionally does this to people. The therapist is the scientist watching some categorically different thing react to a procedure. Instead, we ought to learn discernment and watch the folds of a person's life and see how that tells us about who they are. The goal is not to take off the masks' people where. In fact, the mask they wear can tell a lot about the person underneath. Sometimes the mask is itself a form of communication when other means don't work. Exaggeration is shouting in a world that is mostly deaf (Flannery O'Connor).

All of this is not to say Plato is an idiot, or that Western theology, since Augustine, or even in the Kantian revolution, is bankrupt or worthless. But there's a way to move beyond and return to a better way of seeing things. Let's take what's good and move on in our journey towards the glory of God.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Ontological Difference Between Dusk and Dawn

Recently I came across the conceptual frame of "twilight". I'm not sure of its origins, but it sounds Nietzschean and existential of origin. It's an interesting and fascinating framework, in as much as it calls the explanatory power of any framework into question. "Twilight" is the dark haze of being-in-between, inhabiting being and non-being, living in the shadow of death. The framework is to call into question all positivistic notions of certainty. This of course is a sledgehammer against Enlightenment epistemology and pretensions to universalized understanding.

I like this framework for its iconoclastic function. It gives the lie to all kinds of deep bifurcations and claims to subjective appropriation. Instead of the light of reason, Humanity is stumbling in the darkness. Instead of the immortality of any particular Human feature (whether soul or spirit, or neo-Roman notions of glory, prestige, and memory), "twilight" emphasizes Human contingency, dependent upon a whole host of factors.

However, for the purposes of this framework, the concept of "twilight" is supposed to level the field of Human inquiry and bring it down to a basic, universal function of life. In other-words, "twilight" is supposed to reveal the fundamental question of death. The framework is to force the question to be dealt with realistically, forgoing idolatrous notions, and coming to terms with mortality. We all die, how can we live with that?

Again, I appreciate this emphasis. However, the notion of "twilight" carries with it the sagacity of the best Pagans: we live in the dusk. The twilight we inhabit is directed down into the grave. It's this fundamental notion that existential philosophy, in most forms, seeks to deal with. It's in this light that Camus would argue for the assertion of life through assertion, nothing less.

However, the Gospel tells another story. It's not in contradiction to a conceptual framework of "twilight", rather it questions the direction that twilight takes. In this, the resurrection of Christ marks a radical, ontological, departure for the state of Creation. We live not in the dusk, but the dawn.

What does this mean? Fundamentally, from Adam's Fall to Christ's enthronement, and from Pentecost to now, things are the same. That is, they appear the same. We still live in a cloud, where Human knowledge is mixed and confused, epistemologically without certainty. But the direction of Human destiny lay not in facing death as a slide into non-being, finally swallowed up in the embrace of shadow. Instead, death is something faced with courage of triumph. Christ has dealt the deathblow, and we confront the Beast as empowered to conquer this final enemy, awaiting the day of our Resurrection.

Yet, we should assert this reality with caution, humility, and wisdom. Why? Because the Gospel has been distorted into evil and malignant forms. Lest you assume I am merely an "anti-Modernist", condemning the Enlightenment as absurd and arrogant, it runs deeper than this. These anti-Gospels have articulated something more wretched: they've attempted to erase Death.

With roots in certain Platonic traditions, death is transformed into immortality and eternity. It is shrouded and eclipsed by linguistic constructions. For many professing Christians, Heaven is a word to mask death and deny it. The language of death is covered up in silly euphemisms of tranquility. Life in the body loses its beauty as death as its antithesis is collapsed into facile notions of paradise.

Notions of Paradise as a "suburb of the present life" or as Beatific Vision, a static suspension of becoming, provide different visions, but operate out of a shared notion of denial. In the first death is denied, in the second death is disguised. In the Christian vision, the grave is a horror that can only be transcended through God's death on the cross and resurrection. It is only the pouring of Divine Life into the abyss that gives men the ability to overcome, to learn how to face death, and conquer.

While some many deny, this world is radically different before Christ, and yet requires the same fortitude. But instead of sorrow, we can approach death, as the joined Body of Christ, with courage and hope. This provides an epistemology of hope, and forgoes both nihilism and the absurd pretensions of mankind. "Twilight" may be a fitting framework to appreciate socio-cultural life, but the rays of light poking through reveal a Human destiny beyond. Human contingency and finitude are not final, but open before the infinite transforming glory of Jesus Christ. In Him, the sick are healed, the shackled set free, and the dead raised. Amen.