Tuesday, 28 December 2010

This is Why We Call it Arian

In brief, God is inexpressible to the Son.
For he is in himself what he is, that is, indescribable,
So that the son does not comprehend any of these things or have the understanding to explain them.
For it is impossible for him to fathom the Father, who is by himself.
For the Son himself does not even know his own essence (ousia),
For being Son, his existence is most certainly at the will of the Father.
 Arius of Alexandria (context here)

The Son, as a human, couldn't possibly know his own ousia you see.

Monday, 27 December 2010

I Know Just How He Felt

Earlier in the month, Rey wrote a pretty funny send up of the problems with Kenotic Arian anthropology. Read it here:

Was Jesus Upset About Santa?

I realize this is a little late, but I wanted all the KA stuff to point back to one place (ie MY blog) when The Don or The Don's minions stumble across it so that he (or the minions) can then contact me about his excellent forthcoming forward to the book. Mem even gave me a German subtitle: Lehrung der Tools. Or something like that. Hopefully The Don approves.

I bet Jesus was also was super excited about The Don writing a forward to his book so he knows just how I feel and will work to give me what he got! Right?

Monday, 20 December 2010

Modern Guilt

One of our discussions reminded me of one of my many aborted blog posts sitting in the drafts of this blog. Since it's back in my mind, I decided to dust it off a little and post.

One of the things I find interesting about human nature is how adverse we are to anything that might be unpleasant, even that which is good. I think it says a lot about our incurvatus and how pathetically desperate we are to maintain it. So here we are, creating many theories and religions and devices to prove that unpleasantness isn't really real, much less necessary. Even we Christians have our Word-Faith heresies.

I was recently reminded of how we, in our narcissism, now tend to see guilt as a deadly enemy. Guilt is unpleasant evil, and one couldn't possibly feel guilt because they are guilty. Oh anything but that.   That kind of attitude just keeps one from being truly happy. Guilt is no consequence of your wrongdoing-it's the problem. And the solution then is to remove the sting of it, and re-label your sins, yourself.

But this dresses the wound only slightly and proclaims double fold peace when there is no peace at all. How can there be peace when we rip ourselves from our creator and then pretend we can "walk it off" as we bleed out all over the place? So we go through life suffering a vague and unsettling sort of "modern guilt"-like the song says, we don't know what we've done but we do feel ashamed.

This I think is captured well here;
The sad thing here is that this flight from guilt means not only a life of delusion, but a life of spiritual misery. If you are guilty, you are alienated from God, and you flee from Him. Then you are lonely at a fundamental level, because only God understands you deeply and can supply the deep fellowship that you yearn for. Cut off from God, your life is meaningless, because meaning flows from God. In addition, you lose capacity genuinely to befriend other people, because you can't admit your guilt to them. Instead of loving others, you are caught up with maintaining your own self-esteem—your own pride. You are swirling in a downward spiral toward death.

Vern Poythress (see the rest of this article here)

A spiral of death-orbiting around my navel.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

He Put an End to Corruption for All

You may be wondering why we are discussing the origin of men when we set out to talk about the Word's becoming Man. The former subject is relevant to the latter for this reason: it was our sorry case that caused the Word to come down, our transgression that called out His love for us, so that He made haste to help us and to appear among us. 

It is we who were the cause of His taking human form, and for our salvation that in His great love He was both born and manifested in a human body. For God had made man thus (that is, as an embodied spirit), and had willed that he should remain in incorruption. But men, having turned from the contemplation of God to evil of their own devising, had come inevitably under the law of death. Instead of remaining in the state in which God had created them, they were in process of becoming corrupted entirely, and death had them completely under its dominion. 

For the transgression of the commandment was making them turn back again according to their nature; and as they had at the beginning come into being out of non-existence, so were they now on the way to returning, through corruption, to non-existence again. 

The presence and love of the Word had called them into being; inevitably, therefore when they lost the knowledge of God, they lost existence with it; for it is God alone Who exists--evil is non-being, the negation and antithesis of good.

...The Word perceived that corruption could not be got rid of otherwise than through death; yet He Himself, as the Word, being immortal and the Father's Son, was such as could not die. For this reason, therefore, He assumed a body capable of death, in order that it, through belonging to the Word Who is above all, might become in dying a sufficient exchange for all, and, itself remaining incorruptible through His indwelling, might thereafter put an end to corruption for all others as well, by the grace of the resurrection.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Death By Incarnation

More on the KA front; Mem told me to google and see how Rey's post introing mine still beat mine out on Google hits. Which is lame. But it also yielded this (check out the bottom third of the article).

Not sure how old it is, but this guy nailed it-and in a much more succinct manner than I was able to do. Especially this:
this version of kenosis is presenting incarnation by subtraction rather than by addition. Indeed, kenosis is incarnation by deicide!

Incarnational deicide. Man I wish I'd thought of that one.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

The Blog Post That Launched a Thousand Blog Posts

I've noticed that some theological errors are very much born out of the specific milieu in which they fester. There are former baptists who become Reformed and become enamoured of Federal Vision or Arminians who go all out in Open Theism. They're pretty specific to their respective groups, and those groups spend a lot of time battling their own flavour of heresy. But sometimes errors come along that are wide-reaching and amorphous enough to touch many people and denominations in many ways.

One I'm seeing crop up from several different angles is something I've dubbed Kenotic Arianism. Kenotic because it has to do with the nature of Christ's lowering himself in the incarnation, and Arian because it ultimately strips him of his divinity at some point, even while it paradoxically struggles to affirm that he is God.

Because some people keep bothering me, I'm going to try to trace this trend and hopefully refute it (and maybe Don Carson will pick up the torch and edit a massive tome on it with a German subtitle). The doctrine has many implications, and the antecedents in known kenotic theology are proving a fascinating maze. It branches out all over the place really, especially given the diversity of positions amongst those who hold to some variation of it. And I'm a terrible intuitive and non-linear thinker.  But to get the theo boys off my back, I'm providing a brief(ish) overview here, with the possibility of fleshing it out later.

From what I'm seeing, Kenotic Arianism starts out as an anthropological error that leads to graver theological problems. That is, in most forms I'm familiar with, it begins with a mistaken notion of what it means to be human.

Rey asked once "is the statement 'to err is human' an ontological one?" That is, are errors an essential part of our created nature as humans, or are they an acquired characteristic? I think the question is apropos-it's one the kenotic Arian will ultimately answer "yes" to in one way or another. And from this springs many of his problems. He, in typical idolatrous human fashion, looks at himself in order to see God. But it's done in a very different manner than the idolator might. He will say he looks at himself to describe the human nature of Christ. The logic is, "I am human, and Christ was made in the likeness of sinful flesh, so what I am as a human must be what Christ also took on in the incarnation." That only makes sense doesn't it? Surely Christ was one of us-that's scriptural. But the conclusion is bass-ackwards. It also fails to take into account the effects of the fall on the human race-which has left us irreparably damaged and something less than fully human. Several church fathers (especially my favorite, Athanasius) refer to the effects of the fall as "corruption," and I think this is the most useful term for us to keep in mind. 

  Corruption suggests a deterioration of soundness, particularly through a destructive or contaminating influence. It is especially used for those falling from a high position as those made in the image of God must be. Sin entered, and I died. The Torah concept of "uncleanness" is in essence, a temporal picture of corruption. We were made for communion with God, as branches receiving life from the vine. At the fall, the branch was chopped off of the vine and began to die. Now, the branch, humanity, displays the effects and stench of slow decay. We are now something less than human. We are contaminated. We are corrupt.

Christ on the other hand was and is not corrupt in any way. He is fully man-more fully man in fact than any of us have ever been. I would say the Kenotic Arian emphasizes the man part of that phrase (even as they insist marks of corruption are what make us fully human); I would however emphasize fully. There is no deterioration or contamination in the humanity of Christ. This is why he is in the likeness of sinful man, but is not himself a sinful man. This is why he as the high priest does not make atonement for himself. Part of our redemption is the restoration of our full humanity via union with Christ-a grafting back in to the life-giving vine.

But if Christ is truly human in a way we know nothing about, looking at ourselves to determine what Christ must be like as a human is like looking at a dead body and wondering why living people aren't so blue and stiff and smelly. Can they really be human if they're not blue, stiff and smelly? Does being pink and active mean one is super-human?

I will say in the KA's favour that many of them seem to want to avoid docetism (the super-human argument in essence). I'm no fan of it myself. But the KA swings hard the other way in emphasizing the humanity of Christ-and unfortunately it's this flawed view of humanity they emphasize rather than his actual perfect humanity.

KAs also usually affirm that Christ didn't sin-they understand that to say otherwise is incorrect. But then that is turned on its head when they say he did show evidence of corruption by becoming unclean or affirming falsehoods, because they see elements of corruption as an integral part of the human person rather than what it really is: a result of the fall. If this is so, then a de facto sinning Christ enters in from the back door. 

Here is where we would cite sin as a result of corruption (note sin is not the same thing as corruption). Sin is the natural end state for the corrupted, and in one sense I think it could be argued that when the KA denies Christ sinned, it is he who makes him into a super-powered man because he is capable of doing something no other man can do-act against nature. As an analogy: if you have unsterile conditions in a surgery, infection and then illness are the inevitable results. That's easily understood. But the KA reverses the logic of this understanding and in essence argues Christ was unsterile and infected (corruption) but never actually presented the signs of the illness (sin). This seems incredible.

More incredible yet is that scripture actually presents Christ as something of a "sterilizing agent". When he touched the unclean, they were cleansed. But that then leaves no room for corruption at all. How can bleach harbour the bacteria it kills? How can Christ harbour the decay that he kills?

So what corruption? There are all kinds of ways it plays out in our minds. Did Christ really share all of my experiences or risk losing his humanity? Perhaps Christ didn't know this or that because I don't. Yet in terms of his knowledge of his Godhood, Christ is never portrayed as anything other than fully aware of it (and even as a human being he knew what was in a man). We all make errors in judgement, yet Christ is presented to us as the one who always makes right judgements. The unclean could not be part of the assembly, But Christ was always in communion with the Father. In terms of error, uncleanness, sickness and so on, these apply to us because of our corruption not because of our humanity-we can see this in how he, as God, destroyed uncleanness, sickness and ultimately death.

 That error is, as stated, basically anthropological. It first mistakes what humanity really is or should be, and then secondly applies that to Christ as human (usually to avoid docetism as mentioned). Whatever form it takes, as soon as the error is applied to him, troublesome theological implications arise. Besides making Christ ironically less human rather than more (as we are repainting him corrupt as we ourselves are) Christ is suddenly also less God. In order for him to become this more "real" human, the KA strips away many divine attributes from Christ and replaces them with contradictory human aspects that exist because of our corrupt and Godless state. Aspects that are at odds with the character of God. So none of these would or can apply to him, and are not applied by scripture but by human speculation.

Some do this in a self conscious manner that is ultimately Nestorian. Generally the "kenosis" passage of Phillipians 2 is cited. This, it is argued, shows that Christ divested himself of his divinity in the incarnation. It's almost as if his divinity was a nicely pressed suit that he didn't want to get dirty, so he left it hanging in the closet of heaven. But it leaves us with a Christ who during his incarnation on this earth, was essentially not God. It is the only way that the application of error or ruined dna or uncleanness can be applied to Christ. These things can not be applied to God surely. But then Christ loses his divinity for the scheme to work. An essentially Arian scheme is created, even if unwittingly. All because of a mistaken notion of what it means to be human.

This is, of course, only the tip of the iceberg and various parts of Scriptures--specifically Hebrews--would address it. Because it is such a maze, that's going to take some heavy duty posts from people better than me (ie Don Carson) and not in battleaxe school. But since rey and mem are bleating piteously and incessantly about it like my cat used to do directly outside my window when I threw him outside because he had worms (and probably looking all sad and big eyed too), I am posting what I've got if only to stop the whinging.

Now, what is The Don's email??

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Theological Domination

As you all know, I totally think John Owen was an ENTJ. When I am conversing with his books (yes you have to converse with Owen in his books or you'll miss things) I see him ambitious, brilliant and trying to take over the theological world (Richard Baxter notwithstanding). His intuitive powers make him both difficult and fascinating. And now that he's enjoying a renaissance, I imagine he's probably ribbing Richard Baxter in heaven every time someone mentions him as England's greatest theologian, or the greatest Puritan theologian or greatest whatever.

When I decided to make John Owen as brother for Athanasius, I knew that as with Athanasius I had to choose a descriptive mood. Athanasius I had wanted to look indomitable, but I felt John Owen should be vested with a rather imposing sense of gravitas (though in real life he was much more jovial) to match his argumentation. Like a juggernaut, he's not stopping to ask you if you managed to hop on. If you don't get it, it's just going to run you over and crush you into pieces. And that's your problem you silly person.

This is how far I've gotten. He's coming along okay though some more contrast work has to be done. The hook in his nose was ANNOYING as anything. At least I think I've finally got everything where I want it, so it's mostly down to building up the highlights (which of course is the most time consuming part). Hopefully soon I'll be adding local colours and thinking about the background.

I mentioned previously that I liked Greenhill's portrait and mostly used that with imput from others. The eyes in Greenhill's work belie a certain weariness that his drivenness coupled with seeing every one of his children die must have imposed on him. Hoping I did that justice.

Still not sure about what to do with the background yet. I'm going to have to do some homework on that. I've been working a fair bit, but I do have more time now to make stuff. I put up shelves in my room in the apartment so that at least some of my art schtuff can be available-where I'm going to use it is another issue unfortunately.

Also I hate my flash because it's making the colour bleh.

Anyway it's coming along. Athanasius has returned home after his exile at SIAST, so he is currently staring at me and waiting for his brother. I'm working on it!

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

School's Out

I made it through my first year of university without killing anyone! (Only because I didn't have clinicals). Well, Mama came really close to not making it through April but I don't want to talk about that.

Some random things I've taken away from my first year:

I've learned that I am even less suited for nursing than I thought given the philosophical basis of the program in Saskatchewan (and I know--NTs usually become doctors, which is why all doctors are jerks. I don't need another person telling me I would be a good doctor so just don't) but I'm persevering.

 I'm still too intuitive and unconventional in my thought processes. Sometimes that actually worked really well for me (English), and sometimes it backfired pretty badly (113 paper). Nurses aren't big on unconventional thinking unfortunately. Though many of them do try to be considerate of ideas they really think are just weird.

This is also the most marxist nursing program probably ever. I'd have no problem breaking down some of their status quo.
I'd prefer the program if it contained more hard science and less development of self junk. I don't even like hard science--but at least it has value. That said, I've always resisted the basic attempt of most educational systems to make me over into some other person anyway. Ask my kindergarten teacher who was the only child in like 25 years that she couldn't "bring around to her way of thinking" by the end of the year. Hint: it was me.

In order to pass my drug calculations, I bought a book for math retards and twenty years later than everyone else in the world, learned to do fractions. I found the method of teaching to be really important, because I started with a remedial math book from SIAST which made me thow it then sob melodramatically for at least two hours after about how I'd wasted all this time and money just to FAIL. But the retard book finally made it all make sense. So maybe there's still hope for my driving (though probably not since people in Regina drive incredibly stupidly). I admit it'd be nice not to have to take the bus, and I am going to have problems with clinicals. But man. Most drivers are terrifying. I've seen one huge accident and four almost-accidents on my corner since moving in April because people rip down the street at 70 and ignore stop signs.

I also took and passed statistics! I got an 81, the highest mark I think I ever got in any math ever. I've already completely blocked the trauma from my memory so please don't ask me any questions on stats.

When I was in school, I was okay with 70s. Now that I'm paying for my classes and I actually have to work at it, I hate them.

I started losing my hair. Mama thinks it's because of the stress of work and school, which means it might grow back. I hope so. Of course that would also mean it probably won't grow back for another three years. My hair was always the only non ugly thing about me, so I can't help being vain about it.

It's surreal to be going to university at my age. When the teachers talk about using typewriters "which none of you would know about" or other things I frickin remember, it makes me feel even older. At one point I realized the year I graduated, my youngest classmates were in kindergarten. Man. That said, I'm not the oldest person in the class, and lots of people are taking second degrees (because their first degree is pretty much useless in getting a job).

All in all, I still really love learning new things. I had to remind my self to stay focused on what I was supposed to be researching as I started reading journal articles off of CINAHL just because they looked "interesting" and had nothing to do with my papers. I LOVE having complete access to EBSCOhost! I have also downloaded the entire catalogue of a number of theological journals...

I also discovered just how fearfully and wonderfully made we really are. And I've shared that with everyone.

I've also learned that Providence is totally crazy.

You know how people do things they thought would be difficult and once it's done say "that wasn't so bad"? I am not one of those people. It's been hard (and I've still got three more years of it). I'm being forced to do a lot of things I don't want to do and am not good at. God knows how I am about things I'm not good at. But he still seems to want me to do them, even after all this time. He still puts my hand to plows that don't fit. I think it's all part of his restructuring plan.

So now I'm going to work and take some time to do what I'm best at--as little as possible. Read John Owen. Fix my blog (I finally re-added the header picture, yay). Pine for a kitteh. I do have some junk to do for the summer: earn money to pay for second year, take CPR, write that wretched blog post to get theo boys to quit badgering me (mem is the worst badgerer--he encourages. What's with that?), stress about Assessment, and other assorted things. But mostly I'm just glad I made it this far.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Did anyone else notice

Blogger has deleted all comments from older posts. I find this annoying. Heads usually roll when I get annoyed (for the record blogger).

Monday, 29 March 2010

B Team

As you all know, I enjoy history of theology. Usually when we study the history of faith we like to emphasize the stalwart heroes. Those are good and inspiring stories after all. We all know how much Athanasius suffered and how brilliantly he fought both the Arians and the progressive Originians (at least you should if you've ever read this blog). Luther was a lighting rod with the strength to withstand the charge that began the reformation that was years in the making.

Yet we know that for every Athanasius there's a Liberius and for every Luther there's a Melanchthon. The ones who fell down a few times. Hard. I find that people with no experience of such pressure and a Donatist streak in their hearts like to reach through the ages to push them down all over again. Yet in many ways, they exemplify the struggles of the faithful better than their stronger contemporaries. Not everyone has the strength to stand contra mundum. Not everyone is meant to. We repeat the story of Peter's betrayal, understanding he was forgiven, but often do not extend the same to those who followed after him.

So I love Athanasius and Luther, but I understand Liberius and Melanchthon. And I think if most of us were honest with ourselves we would. We aren't Athanasiuses (as much as we would like to pretend we are while arguing with losers on the internet). We don't have his brilliance or his foresight or his ability to know which battles to pick and how to pick them. Most of us are b team with the other rejects.

Liberius had both the weight of exile and of his flock back at home on his shoulders. In the end it proved too hard to be separated from them all. His lapse was certainly a disappointment and it seems he tried hard to forget it. He capsized in humiliation and weakness.

I have often thought Philipp Melanchthon was a man in some ways out of his own time, faulted for lacking conviction and being too conciliatory (today he'd probably be commended for his irenicism). He seemed so unsuited to the role foistered on to him-the scholar now following around in Luther's wake like a clean up crew of one, apologizing for all the destruction. He tried hard to build bridges--but too often those bridges led to nowhere and he wavered and foundered in trying to build them. While he did show weakness of conviction, he struggled to do what he thought was best. It turned out it wasn't.

As much as I'd like to hang with Athanasius, this sounds like my team.

In the end I think we need to give the less than heroic brothers a break. They have much to teach us. If the Christian life really is one of repentance as Melanchthon's great friend said, it requires some ugly and abject defeats. But our failures could not give up on the faithfulness of God even when they had to give up on themselves as sunken wrecks and disappointments. They, not the heroes, are the ones who remind us of the faithfulness of God in Christ to the faithless, to the broken. When one is sinking in the sea, one can only reach out in one direction. In weakness, they can only point to him.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Already but Not Yet

The early months of the change of year always strike me as a micro version of the already and the not yet. This little parenthesis celebrating newness impresses that tension we still live in. A new year, a new decade-it reminds us of the time when all things will be new. But tragedy and failure quickly rush in to remind us that we're not there yet. Soon resolutions will be broken or forgotten (if they aren't already) and the bite of our "sameness" will be felt.

Things are different now, yet things are predictably the same. The old is still following along behind us. It's still the middle of winter, it's still cold and dark. But then we are reminded by these things that there is "new promise in the night". Even now, wheels are slowly turning. And we know instinctively that the new will one day come and with Christ has already begun. So with creation, we continue at times like this to groan for that final arrival.

Though the expectation that things will be different just by the change on the date on the calendar seems arbitrary I think it reveals our longing for the reality of a truly new year, one where all the hopes and dreams made for it are going to come to pass. We, as sojourners in the world, look at new beginnings and see the place we started out, and the place where we are going. So we wait for the time when all things are made new as we are. We live in our tents and await our kingdom, hoping with each passing year this will be the one.We wonder how long we will have to live with the old, the broken promise, the quickly spoiled year, the ravages of our flesh. God alone knows. So even while we see this age, we look past it to the age to come.

It is another time to say even so, Come Lord Jesus.