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Archive for January, 2009

The whole of the modern world is still an outworking of Augsburg and Westphalia. It is now a world incapable of marriage, intimacy, and relationship. The whole of the modern world is terribly, terribly wounded. It gives rise to children who have a variety of dysfunctions. Some of them are brats. Some of them are promiscuous. Some of them are married, but not married. Some of them are committed to what Rosenstock-Huessy says is the representative mental disease of our time…schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia is especially the disease of the academy. It is the disease of a subject who views himself as an object. I make an object of myself: a thing. This is the pain of the academy, and is perhaps the result of the destruction of marriage on the part of the world, refusing her true Husband, and wanting many (pluralism).

Does not a promiscuous woman, or a whore, make of herself an object to be used by others?

What we see is massive incapacity for intimacy and relationship.

Our times are not quite like either Hosea, or like Jeremiah, or Ezekiel. But the point is something like the same. Our times are a dysfunction of relationship.

The woman needs to be a bride. If she refuses or is refused her true husband, then she will have many paramours (pluralism) or be isolated, or divorced. But she is terribly wounded and will strike out at anyone who tries to protect her.

I think this may have something to do with Rosenstock-Huessy’s “grammatical method” of the social sciences.

We think it is cute when a child, or in the cartoons, or Star Wars, or whatever, have a childlike or childish character who refers to himself by his own first name rather than as “I” or “me”. It is cute in a child, or a moron, because when they refer to themselves by their own first name, they are referring to themselves through the eyes of their parents or guardians. Hence, their reference to themselves is still filled with love, and “cuteness”. It still has real but immature healthy subjectivity. But a schizophrenic cannot refer to himself as “I” in any clear sense. Part of the modern world is schizophrenic.

“Objectivity” is a replacement for relationship, especially for marriage. The commonest words in the modern world are “I don’t trust you…” The university, which grew out of marriage (in the medieval settlement of Christ and His Church), and the need to settle marital disputes (every student had to study every subject from at least two different perspectives in two different colleges which made up the university), now leads the way in “objectivity,” and this objectivity is the Enlightenment replacement for trust and relationship. It is built on doubt and lack of trust, it is translated to a further incapacity for trust and relationship. Cynicism is the foundation of modernity and of being “learned.”

Of course the university gives rise to promiscuity, divorce, warfare, whatever.

Post modernity believes in “commitment,” relationship, etc, but with no foundation. If one cannot go back to “objectivity” after a series of pointless, contentless relationships, then I don’t know where one goes, unless it be to the Lord. We are like Hosea’s whore, lead into the wilderness and having her way “hedged in with thorns.”

The modern, and postmodern world, are lost in the adolescent Cartesianism of eternal and “creative” doubt. Doubt can create certainty with “objectivity.” Need to replace this silly doubt with the vision of Rosenstock-Huessy’s “ducta ignorantia”, which was a part of the medieval settlement and a part of the academic settlement. The scholar would place the sword (as a kind of new knight of knowledge) over his books and cross it in two ways, and vow to doubt all that he had learned, in order to relearn it. But this was doubt with a deeper faith behind it. The truth of God was behind it. And the truth is deeper, more mysterious, more wonderful, than anything known to date.

This is very different from Cartesian doubt.

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Marriage and Betrayal

Perhaps the most fearful of all possibilities in the world is the possibility of betrayal on the part of someone who is in a “position of trust.” This, unfortunately, is the first block in what ought to be the foundation of every marriage in the world. Every woman has a far distant memory, and now anxiety, about what Adam did to Eve. And, just as anyone who has ever failed when trusted, every man likewise, has a far distant memory of what it is that Adam did in that first infamous act. Whatever Adam’s motive (curiosity at what would happen if Eve did what was forbidden, or fear at opposing what she wanted) it does not change the fact that Adam betrayed his wife.

The consequence is that now, every marriage has built into it, at the deepest level, the great difficulty of the woman trusting the man. And every man lives with the anxiety of knowing that he is, at least often, not trusted. He lives with anxiety about her anxiety. The constant danger in every marriage is of the marriage existing in a state of a vicious circle of anxiety about anxiety about anxiety. Every anxious response to previous anxiety gives rise to more anxiety, which in turn spawns even more anxious response, and so on down and down to final destruction. Everything is the opposite of trust.

Cartesianism, and the whole of the Enlightenment Project, could be understood as an attempt to flee the anxiety of a fallen world that has betrayal of trust at its heart. Or conversly, it could be understood as a headlong rush into destruction and death that result from the first, ancient, and basil incapacity for trust. Doubt and impersonal “objectivity” (the very opposite of trust) are at the heart of the Enlighenment Project.

Karl Stern, the Roman Catholic psychoanalyst, has demonstrated how so many of the Enlightenment figures, and notably Decartes himself, had dreadful relationships with almost all of the most important women in their lives. Their entire lives appear to have been controlled by anxiety over anxiety, and are either straightfoward or paradoxical reworkings of the Original Betrayal and its consequences.

“Decartes’ celebrated friendships with women were lofty, intellectual, and platonic. But he kept a life-long affection, and attachment of the heart, for his wet-nurse, to whom he paid a yearly allowance and for whom he secured in his will continued support after his death. And the only woman with whom we know he had an affair, Helena Jans, seems to have been a domestic servant. From her he had a daughter, Francine, who died at the age of five. Thus we see in his life something which we shall encounter again in Goethe, something not infrequent in the lives of great men– the apparently total cleavage between the carnal and the spiritual image of woman. Psychoanalysts speak of the ‘prostitute-madonna’ conflict when they refer to such inability to combine sexual relation and ‘higher friendship’ in the same person. In Descartes we encounter the seemingly paradoxical: it was not in sexual adventure that danger lurked, but in the platonic woman friend, the cool goddess with whom he discussed matters of metaphysics and geometry. All these women-the Dutchess of Aiguillon, Anne-Marie de Schurmann, Princess Elizabeth, Queen Christina of Sweden-were highly ambivalent in their relationship with him. (This comes out most clearly in Mlle. de Schurmann and in Queen Christina). To this kind of woman he was lured magically, as though to his perdition, and paradoxically enough she, while not the sexual object of his love, was his femme fatale. As a matter of fact, Christina became his fatal woman in the literal sense of the word…Schicksalsneurose, neurosis of destiny [first spoken of by Nietzsche, as das typische Erlebnis, (the typical experience) and later by Freud]. What appears as a clinical label becomes the expression of a haunting reality. That this motherless, roaming spirit would finally succeed in manoeuvring himself inextricably into the hands of the Anti-Mother! Christina literally deprived him of the maternal triad, warmth and sleep and the proper food, and thus, with the uncanny sureness of her own unconscious, caused him to die. What made him seek this end? Why did he not, like Goethe, find a compromise in staying with that maidservant? He might, like Goethe, have settled down and reached a ripe old age. However, it is wrong to approach past lives with ‘ifs’ and ‘mights.’ Finished lives are like the physiognomies of the dead: one feels the end is not an arbitrary break but a fulfillment.” (Flight From Woman, Noonday Press, New York. 1965, pp.92-93, 98-99)

The entire Enlightenment period could be termed by Stern’s book title, The Flight From Woman, the era controlled by the anxiety of men of that age fleeing from the accusation of “betrayal” and the destruction of the possibility of trust. The aim was a world that could be built without faith, or hope or trust as a foundation, and a neutral objectivity that could be accessed by of all things, the opposite of trust: doubt. It was an age that either marginalized, or used women, or enthroned the femme fatale, as in the case of Queen Christina.

Part of Luther’s great achievement has been lost in the avalanche of the Enlightenment. Perhaps the two most notable things that Luther did were one, to restore trust as the most central fact of all of human intention, and secondly, he married Katie. Luther’s marriage to Katie is one of the most important relationships in the history of the world and is the complete opposite of all that Stern relates above. Luther and Katie, for all of their human weaknesses, recreated the central reality of trust on both a vertical and horizontal level. It was a recreation of the world. Now, after almost 500 years of Descartes’ clash with Luther, other figures, like Van Til, Polanyi, and the Thomist renewal figures, are all reasserting that the most fundamental epistemological act is not doubt, but belief and faith and personal risk. The most foundational acts in the scientific realm are not to be found in some objective and impersonal realm, but in acts of personal trust. Trust and belief are more basic than doubt. One must believe something more basic than anything one can finally doubt. And, the final background to all belief is in God Himself, who offers Himself to us not impersonally, but as our Father in His Son, Jesus Christ.

Luther and Calvin both gave a place of honor to Mary, the Mother of Jesus. She is not a goddess to be worshiped, but a central figure in the recovery of trust. She believed God in the message through the angel Gabriel, and trusted God and surrendered to him. Joseph later did not surrender to his anxiety about her “stange condition”, but likewise in trust, believed God both for her, and with her. In a situation where every possible condition for anxiety was present, it all was overcome in recreating acts of faith and trust.

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There is a young man (under 35) who sometimes stops and speaks to me
at my “office” (the coffee bar at the Wild Oats Grocery Store). He is
very articulate and highly intelligent, and I always enjoy my
conversations with him. In our last few conversations it has become
apparent to me that he is homosexual. He has been very anxious for me
to read a particular book. The other day, he had it with him. It is
John Boswell’s SAME SEX UNIONS IN PREMODERN EUROPE (Villard Books,
1994)[i]. He left it with me to peruse while he did some shopping.
Boswell is a Yale historian, and obviously a scholar. Probably
homosexual himself, and the book, and his body of work (several other
published books), probably has the homosexual agenda as a driving
force. Never-the-less, still a real scholar. I only had to peruse the
book for about 5 minutes to get the gist, and a whole lot of things
began to fall into place for me. Boswell has dug up a whole host of
rituals used in premodern times (prior to 1500) to, in one way or
another, seal same sex unions. Some of them, he claims were used in
the church.

Now, at the moment, I am not even interested in accuracy of his
research. What this set off in me was a recognition that
the “Barfield thesis” (original to final participation) has
application to gender and sexual orientation issues. It is clear that
that the ancient world was more pan-sexual than the modern world. The
Roman antipathy to homosexuality (in the Republican era) was
exceptional. The Greek-Oriental situation was far more common. It is
also true that homosexuals of the Oscar Wilde type, as a distinct
class (queers, gay, faggots, etc. etc.) as a distinct and completely
self contained group is only about 200 years old. Prior to that,
human beings appear to have been more androgynous. I would suspect
that through most of human history, not only homosexual, but also
bestial contacts were not uncommon for many people who were also
heterosexual and married. Marriage was far more a “business”, a
matter of estates and generational line than of love or
companionship. Not that love and romance did not exist before. After
all, one of the most famous stories in the world is based on “the
face that launched a thousand ships” with Helen of Troy. But it was
quite rare, and an aristocratic luxury, and probably did not exclude
other sexual behaviors in principle.

The Reformation put marriage at the center. I suspect that Luther’s
marriage to Katie is one of the most important and central
relationships in the history of the world. Beyond Luther and the
Reformational emphasis on the centrality of marriage, C.S. Lewis
makes the case that it was the Puritans who virtually “invented” or
made normal the very idea of “companionate marriage.” Indeed, the
affection and love between husband and wife in Puritan and Reformed
households was quite remarkable. Jonathon Edward’s famous marriage is
only one outstanding example.

But, with a new emphasis on marriage, in one more area the monism
(here the sexual monism) of the ancient world began to recede, and
human connection began to be redefined in terms of Christ instead of
the cosmos. This is Barfield’s move to “final participation.” This
would also begin to completely oust bestial contacts, and marginalize
homosexual behavior. Hence, with the closer definition of sexuality
within marriage, the redemptive theme would move forward. The
progress of redemption seems to be from child in the early OT to
young adult in the later OT now prepared for marriage (Ezekiel 16).
The progress seems to be from the church often being referred to as
a “son” in the OT to the bride in the New. Hence, marriage is a
defining reality in the history of redemption.

As this is defined and progresses historically, homosexuality becomes
increasingly rigidified and cut off from other androgynous behaviors,
and becomes more and more a pathology to itself. So, the rise of
the “queer” class is a result of the sharper definition brought about
by Protestantism.

If all of this is true, it throws and interesting light on the
current “homosexual agenda.” It is always presented as a
revolutionary thesis, a step forward. Christians usually fall into
the very trap of its own self definition, and we often end up
combating it in a reactionary way. We want to go back to the way it
used to be before the sexual revolution. But this is backwards. The
homosexual agenda, along with the whole of the “sexual revolution” is
itself reactionary, and a futile attempt to return to the
undifferentiation of the ancient and pagan past. The homosexual
agenda is certainly not interested ultimately in defending homosexual
liberty in a narrowly defined way. It is an attack on sexual
definition, and a desire for pansexualism. Marriage defined as a type
of Christ and His Church is the unstoppable model of all of future
history. All else is reactionary.

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[i] This is one contra Boswell article:

http://www.firstthings.com/ftissues/ft9411/articles/darling.html

“Boswell’s approach to the historian’s craft has hallowed antecedents
in the pious partiality and distortion that marked the writing of
modern
church history from its beginnings in the sixteenth century. While
Boswell clearly aspires to influence the current American debate
about such issues as the nature of marriage and the rights of
homosexuals, his tendentiousness in the use of evidence is
depressingly old-fashioned. In fact, for all its topicality, its
commercial sales appeal, and its political timing (hardly by chance
was it released on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Stonewall
protests), the book’s methods fairly creak with age. To be sure,
Boswell’s documents are real, but he uses them in a way that would be
quite familiar to church historians of the era of “confessional”
church history, famously represented by the Magdeburg Centuries among
the Reformers and Caesar Baronius among the Catholics. Those writers,
responding to certain pressing ideological needs of their own day,
created a history to serve the purpose of their employers, whether
the patrons of the Evangelische Kirche or Roman prelates. Like them,
Professor Boswell has set out to create a usable past.”

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Jesus and Confusion

What began at the Tower of Babel has increasingly become a global affair. All of
world history is a project to become a “tower to the heavens” as a self
contained and self sufficient world, but this is increasingly judged everywhere,
and more and more, crisis is introduced and interjected into history.

Jesus and His church speeds and spreads this faster and faster, until now in the
modern world whole cable channels are devoted day and night to announcing
constant judgment (crisis) 24 hours a day, coming upon us. We are anxiety ridden in constant response to constant announcement of judgment. We still try to make a self contained virtue of what is coming upon us by writing books like,
“Thriving on Chaos” and “The One Minute Manager” (he has to manage his
enterprises here in one minute because has to rush next door to keep his towers
from collapsing over there as well–no one has enough time to stave off all of
the crisis of a judgment ridden life). But, we keep trying harder and harder to
be “self contained.” Whole enterprises, like Harvard University, are devoted
with billions of dollars, to figuring out how to build better towers that will go higher and stand up longer, but they keep falling down.

Modern ministry in a pluralistic world is one of “screwing up the pluralism” by having increasing crisis to come into every enterprise that we are a part of, and then trying to cooperate with just how it is that God is bringing crisis to where ever we are.

Jesus said that he came to bring Judgment, to make the blind see and those who see blind. If one lives amongst the self proclaimed “brights” in a “smart town” (a place like Boston or Cambridge, or Manhattan for example) Christians will have a ministry of “striking people with blindness,” just like Elisha did with the Syrian army. Whenever Jesus walks in the room, the old ideas stop working.
Suddenly, nothing makes sense any more, and whatever it is that He does creates confusion. It is rather an update on the medicine man’s powers no longer working after the Gospel begins to be preached. All of Jesus miracles in the Gospels create disruption and trouble. It is no different now. The Tower of Babel stops working whenever God shows up. All the smart people get confused. It is only after they are stricken with blindness that there is a new search for sight, and that is what one hopes for.

And there does seem to be a time element. Somehow, the old ideas used to work better than they do now. Increasingly, it is only as the old ideas are laid at Jesus feet that something new is given that once again brings consistency and harmony. Homer’s world worked better in Homer’s time and is today impossible. But oddly, that world is also a world that gets redeemed, and everything is made new. I suppose that even includes Aristotle. But even he will have to submit to conversion and to Babylonian Captivity and death before he is resurrected.

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Outside the Box

At the always marvellous Auburn Avenue Pastor’s Conference this past week the inimitable Douglas Wilson complained that he is tired of hearing of the need to get out of the box.  He said that some people need to stay in the box. Indeed.

 

Who can disagree? The so-called “Federal Vision” controversy showed that a lot of people are stuck in tetrahedra and could use a few more facets. If they could get out of mere four-sided thinking into something more, like a six-sided box, that would be good. For those of us more mature in our understanding, it might be good to try to think outside the dodecahedron and begin to think in the icosahedron.

 

There is more in heaven and earth than is dreamt of in pseudo-traditionalist “Reformed” thought.

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Now available from Wordmp3.com…

An unbelievable James Jordan audio collection with lectures on Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, 1-2 Samuel, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zechariah, Ezekiel, Zephaniah, Esther, Intertestamental Period/Apocrypha, John, Romans, Acts, Revelation, and much more. The set  includes Word documents of virtually all of Jordan’s writings from 1977-2007 and notes from all Bible book series. Also included is the Education Through New Eyes Conference and the 2008 Biblical Horizons Conference.

Four disk set, on sale now for $129 plus shipping.

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