Friday, June 30, 2006

Too Funny Because It's True


Biretta tip to Perry Robinson over at Energies.

13 comments:

dmartin said...

That is priceless.

lexorandi2 said...

On second thought, I have to agree with the recent insight of the rector of my parish, who suggested that the sexuality issue was but a proxy war, like Vietnam during the Cold War, and that the REAL war was over the Trinity. In this light, the anti-Trinitarian forces are advancing faster in the PCUSA than in the ECUSA (oops TEC) with their recent approval of the trial use of neo-pagan modalistic monstrosities.

Yes, I know that such anti-Trinitarian liturgies are in the pipelines of TEC, but nothing has yet been given the imprimatur of the GC. (I know, I know, it's only a matter of time). But oddly enough I'm more optimistic for the future of the Anglican Communion today (post GC2006) than I was after GC2003. Our proxy war over sexuality, (which is still important), has slowed down the advance of the anti-Trinitarians a bit. Hopefully long enough to re-shift the lines.

Dan

Steve Blakemore said...

As I recall, the Unitarians emerged from the Congregationalists, the Calvinist vanguard. Could it be that a Reformed view of sovereignty as essential WILL leads to a unitary view of God and thereby modalism. Of course my (slightly) tongue-in-cheek suggestions break down since PCUSA hasn't even been really reformed in quite a while.

Jason Loh said...

It's intriguing how Unitarianism emerged both in Britain and New England - it's rise post-dated the "demise" of confessional Protestantism which theological vacuum was replaced by Arminianism (the so-called liberal, as opposed to the rigid scholastic, Reformed tradition, and by extension Amyraldianism - i.e. the French version) and Latitudinarianism. In Britain, the Civil War destroyed the broad predestinarian (ante merita praevisa) consensus of the English Church and the Restoration marked the beginning of the so-called comprehensiveness that would eventually be identified with Anglicanism today.

Revivalism, which pretended to act as a bulwark against rationalism destroyed (i.e. delivered the coup de grace on) the Augustinian epistemology of the Reformed tradition. Unitarianism in the mainline rosefrom the threshold of Lockean philosophy and the "New Divinity".

It was precisely the deviation from authentic Calvinism that led the emergence of Unitarianism within it (i.e. Reformed) ranks in the first place. Prior to that, the Socinians were a separate church.

Barth was not Reformed, yet he was considered a "modalist".

lexorandi2 said...

Nice stab at Barth. ;-) His accusers charge him with lots of things because they don't really understand him. I've heard the modalist charge before. It's baseless.

It's the weakness of Augustinian Trinitarianism itself which leads to deviations from it. I would never suggest that classical Calvinism or Reformed thought is outright modalistic. But we do have to ask why it is that modalism is a persistent heresy in and peculiar to the West, and why it specifically rears it ugly head within those western movements with a strong scholastic strain, like Calvinism.

Unitarianism may be a DEVIATION from Calvinism, but remember it is a deviation FROM CALVINISM.

Acolyte4236 said...

It is interesting to me that Barth notes that at the end of the day, Calvin's Christology is essentially Arian. Barth is not alone in that assessment either. There is consequently good reason for seeing Unitarianism not as a deviation from Calvinism, but nascent within it and only brought out as the Calvinist dialectic continued.

lexorandi2 said...

Perry,

Your last sentence is a better crafted and more precise statement of what I was trying to suggest in my last sentence. Well put.

Dan

Acolyte4236 said...

Lex,

It is a favorite rant of Horton, under whom I sat for a bit more than a few years, that our theological problems today stem from moving away from Calvinism to Arminianism. "See! See what happens when you move to Arminianism! You get Open Theism, TBN Quackadoxy and the Borg!" If Horton actually read and spent some time outside of his Calvinist ghetto, he wouldn't put forward this kind of stuff. Calvinists always scream about "man centered religion", but just pick up any biblical or systematic theology by them and see how much space is spent on Christology and theology proper compared to anthropology and soteriology. Talk about man centered religion! Nothing beyond the strictly historical economia, the domain of man, is an accepted topic of faith. It is relegated to the "speculative." This is because of the latent Manicheanism, the hatred of the natural, implicit in Calvinism-reason can't be divine. (Notice the sin/grace dialectic.)

The decline from Calvinism line seems plausible from a Calvinistic perspective, only if you ignore Christology and the degree to which Calvinism is dependent on Hellenism. If people read Origen's First Principles, prior to reading Calvin's Institutes, there'd be a lot fewer Calvinists around.

Origen's apokatastasis in the eschaton is the Puritanical state of Cromwell. The Puritans are to Origen, what Marx was to Hegel. Is it any wonder then that American thinking is stuck in a dialectic of the natural (family, reproduction, self preservation) and the personal (freedom of speech, expression, activity)? The modern dialectic of freedom and equality (either everyone will be free or everyone will be equal) is none other than Origen's (and Augustine's) dialectic of freedom and Goodness. If the Good is simple, then either people will be free, but not Good, or Good but not free since freedom requires plurality. To be Good but not free requires an apokatastasis, predestinarianism and the modification and subordination of freedom and consequently persons to the one end, namely the Good. Persons are subordinated to nature lest they be abosorbed into it. This is why Aquinas' gloss on deification has to be causal and not entitative.

To be free but not Good, subordinates nature to person so that human existence is glossed only in terms of historical change and altertion. Stability is the enemy, which must be constantly overcome by repeated waves of change. Sin is therefore integral to being a person (hence atheism) since freedom is always a choice between objects of opposing moral value, good and evil and never between a plurality of Goods, for the Good is simple.

This is why neither Protestant nor Catholic theologies have really been able to come to grips with and assimilate Dyothelitism and the Passion of Christ, for in the Passion, Christ actually chooses contrary to the divine will, yet WITHOUT SIN, indicating that both choices were Good and therefore that the Good is NOT simple and Hellenism is false.

The doctrine of absolute simplicity found in various flavors is endemic to all of Protestantism and Catholicism. This is why the debates about Freedom and Providence never end and why they ended Orthodoxy.

round and round and round...

Steve Blakemore said...

acolyte,

Help me here. When you say that Christ, in the Passion, chose contrary to the Divine Will, what do you mean by contrary? Do you mean in opposition? That does not seem to be what you mean, but I don't want to assume. Or do you mean that his choice was not a choice by the Divine, but a choice by Jesus of Nazareth. Or perhaps you will be amused by my question, thinking it is indication of my lack of subtlety in negotiating diothelitism. At any rate, it is a genuine question, because I found your post intriguing.

Acolyte4236 said...

Steve,

I mean that Christ chose with his human power of operation other than what he willed with the Father and the Spirit with their one divine power of operation. Christ the divine person wills to preserve his life. I could only mean that Christ willed in opposition to the will of the Trinity if willing to preserve his life and not go the Cross was an act of willing other than the Good. That is, that to will to preserve his life was to will something other than the Good. And I could only maintain THAT, if the Good were simple. But since I reject the latter, I reject the former, so no, I don’t mean in opposition to God. The simplicity of the Good is an essential element to monothelitism. This is why for Augustinians, including the scholastics, they have to gloss the passion not as a genuine willing by Christ and as some kind of mere desire. Just look at how Aquinas for example glosses the passion.

But that creates more problems, for now human nature, perfect human nature, is intrinsically opposed to God so that either God is evil and human nature is good or God is good and human nature is intrinsically evil-Manicheanism either way you slice it.

Here is part of the secret, God also wills Christ to preserve his life for this will or predestination is integral to human nature, which is why all men recoil from and fear death.

I couldn’t possibly mean that it was a choice of Jesus since what does the choosing is a person by the power of a nature. Natures don’t choose anything, persons do. Since Christ is a divine person and not a human person, it is one and the same divine person choosing two different things and both things that he chooses are good. As St. Maximus says, there are a plurality of Goods in the Good. The Good isn’t simple but complex. Consequently, Christ in choosing other than the Father also chooses a good, which is why Christ doesn’t sin in choosing otherwise. Just like the saints in the eschaton and God logically prior to creation, they are fixed in Goodness but that doesn’t imply a single available choice and a single end, because Goodness isn’t simple. Being able to choose between alternatives doesn’t imply always being able to choose between moral opposites. All that is required for libertarian freewill for God in creation, Christ in the Garden and the saints in the eschaton is a plurality of options. Just so long as there is a plurality of goods to choose from the alternative possibilities condition on free will can be met, without also implying the possibility of evil. This is how God, Christ and the saints can be free and be fixed in Goodness without removing their freedom. This is why Dyothelitism cuts against Augustinianism.

Does that help?

Steve Blakemore said...

It seems to me, acoltye, that when you say that Christ "willed" to preserve his own life, you are not exactly correct. His "will" was to do his Father's will. Hence, the focus of his prayer. Perhaps the Augustinians do try to reduce any cognitive dissonance we might perceive between Jesus drive to avoid suffering and the will of the Father. However, I think we might better push the question about two wills squarely into Jesus's own prayer. We could, then, say that he "desires" not to suffer, if he need not "drink the cup," but nevertheless he would do it. When he says not my will but thy will be done, we see that behind the issue of his "will" (as you put it) not to drink the cup we see at work an ultimate orientation in his prayer -- a will to do the FAther's will.

That does not reduce the impetus behind your observations (with which I do concur -- and have thought the same for some time). But, it does nuance the issue of Christ's own will a bit more. Indeed, phenomenologically we can see that even humans are capable of dual willing of simutaneous goods, but there is still (in many important choices) an ultimate willing that is decisive.

But, I thank you for making clear to my reading your intended focus.

Acolyte4236 said...

Steve,

It could only be incorrect to say that Christ willed other than the Father if the will were hypostatic rather than nature. But given dyothelitism, it is natural and not hypostatic. Jesus clearly had willed other than his Father when he says “not my will.” If we reduce his statements to a desire we first of all do violence to the text which says will and not desire. Second, we remove the significance of Christ freely willing the salvation of humanity, that is, that humanity desires union with God. And the “to do the Father’s will” line won’t work either, since preservation of his life and to save the world are both things the Father wills, indicating that Christ chooses freely because he chooses between alternatives.

I think what you mean with respect to human volition is that humans will a plurality of things in one act of will. That much is true, but I am not saying that that is what Christ is doing. Christ is willing two contrary things at the same time with two different faculties of will-human and divine, yet without sin. This shows that the Good isn’t simple and that free will isn’t characterized by a choice between morally opposed options. Free will doesn’t mean always being able to choose evil or good, but just choose between alternatives.

Some salient points to remember is that I am not advocating the idea that the strongest desire wins out and that desires determine the will. I firmly reject that Edwardian line for it implies all kinds of heresies. Second, the will, like the intellect is a natural faculty or power that is used by the person so it is somewhat misleading to say that there is an ultimate willing that is decisive. The person makes the choice with a specific power of will, in Christ’s case there are two free powers of choice, human and divine. The divine does not determine or trump the human. Christ by willing with his human power of will the salvation of humanity and being consubstantial with all men, effectively recapitulates human nature and turns it around back to God and eternal existence, which is why even the wicked exist forever. The persistence of the wicked is not due to some need by God for punishment to manifest his justice (Origenism) but is based in Christology. Everyone is united to Christ by nature and from Christ there is no escape. He loses nothing that the Father gives him. (jn 6:39)

Steve Blakemore said...

Acolyte,

I am sure that the issues you present are part of a larger debate you engage in. I have benefited from the exchange.

You said:

"If we reduce his statements to a desire we first of all do violence to the text which says will and not desire. Second, we remove the significance of Christ freely willing the salvation of humanity, that is, that humanity desires union with God. And the “to do the Father’s will” line won’t work either, since preservation of his life and to save the world are both things the Father wills, indicating that Christ chooses freely because he chooses between alternatives."

My only concern is that in the discussion of will that a mistake of anachronism not be made, importing a rather Enlightenment voluntarism into the Johannine concept of will. But, I see what you are really driving at in insisting that a capacity for free choice is rooted in the actuality of alternatives in the Father's own "willing." And yet, the text (to which I hope not to do violence ;))at least leaves on with the impression that in choosing the "cup" Jesus is doing the Father's will. So, is it not correct to say that God the Father has a purposive will in the "cup" that Jesus chooses to drink freely. The will was not just the cup, but the free choosing of it, no?

YOu said:

"Second, the will, like the intellect is a natural faculty or power that is used by the person so it is somewhat misleading to say that there is an ultimate willing that is decisive."

Yes, the will is a natural faculty, just like the intellect. And just like the intellect it has its proper object. The intellect is "dependent" upon that which is known (or to be known) for its exercise. Likewise, the will (if it is not to be subsumed under the intellect, ala Socrates and Plato) will have an object of "desire." Aquinas (sorry) calls it The Good. The interaction between intellect and will is, of course, complex, but to stake out a role for "desire" is not inescapably to foment heresies.

You said:

"The divine does not determine or trump the human. Christ by willing with his human power of will the salvation of humanity and being consubstantial with all men, effectively recapitulates human nature and turns it around back to God and eternal existence, which is why even the wicked exist forever."

I don't see how anything I have said is a rejection of anything that you said. The semantic distinction between desire and will (at least in human beings) that I pointed to is only meant to indicate that the human will is ordered toward something other than itself. In Christ's case, his will is ordered perfectly (and absolutely freely qua human) to the Father's will in relation to laying down his life for the sins of the world. That does not reduce the Father's will or the Son's freedom, but it does, I think, suggest that there is an overarching purposiveness in the Incarnation -- to redeem us. That is the Father's and the Incarnate Son's will together. I guess I don't see how that endangers either freedom or the possibility of plural orientations of willing in either.

As I said above, I have enjoyed the interchange greatly. If you desire to interact further I would love to be in email contact (sblakemore@wbs.edu). I could learn a great deal more from you about the whole diotheletism vs simplicity debate.