Category Archives: philosophy of sorts

Hip to the Jive, Yo!

I’m currently reading Hipster Christianity by Brett McCracken which –so far– has been a thoroughgoing and thoughtful trek through the origins and significance of ‘Christian Hipsterdom‘.  Over the course of the last few days, I’ve made my way through the first two sections, which have covered the history and meaning of the concept ‘cool’ and that of cool Christianity respectively, and I’m soon to make my way out into testy waters of the final section, which seems to be a judgment –so to speak– of both the benefits and detriments of ‘hipness’ in the Church, hopefully offering suggestive whispers of “a way forward” and whatnot.

Up to this point, I’ve enjoyed the book.  I’ve found myself audibly laughing [mockingly?] about some of what I’ve read only to then be insightfully delighted by other portions.  I’m trying to read as objectively as possible, which –as always– is proving to be an impossibly difficult [though nobly beneficent] task when grappling with a concept about which one holds personal opinions.  All in all, however, this book is proving –so far– to be helpful, insightful, challenging, encouraging, and so much more.  Will you like it?  Perhaps.  Will you be annoyed by it?  Perhaps.  Do I recommend it?  Indeed.

In sum, I’m personally working through the following thoughts, some of which are directly attributable to the epically-named McCracken, others of which are perhaps only logically consequential, though that’s probably debatable:

  1. Coolness is dependent upon uniqueness.
  2. The search for ‘coolness’ is a constant search for being non-derivative.
  3. Almost everything is necessarily derivative, for everything under the sun is logically dependent.
  4. One could make the case that only God is, therefore, cool, for only God is logically independent and therefore non-derivative.
  5. However, if God is trinity [And He is!] and if the Son is begotten of and the Spirit proceeds from the Father [And They are/do!] and if the Father is the Fount of Deity [And He is!], then it seems incumbent to recognize that the first Person of the Blessed and Holy Trinity is the most cool — all other coolness being howsoever derivative [really?!] of His soley-original coolness.
  6. And yet, all things bear within themselves the potentiality of coolness insofar as all things are uniquely themselves.  For example, the Son is neither the Father nor the Spirit, nor is there any other eternally-begotten of the Father [Before all worlds!].  The case can then be made that the Son is also truly and uniquely cool [redundant perchance?].
  7. Coolness is indeed a difficult [and profound?] subject, inherently and –therefore– inevitably filled with qualifications and exceptions.

What just happened?

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On the Image of God in Man

Genesis 1:26-27; 3:1-13

In an ultimate sense, all being is dependent upon the Triune God. In an endeavor to explore the radical implications of such a statement, John Zizioulas rightly argues that being is inevitably, then, dependent upon communion. If one is to be (or, even exist), then he must find himself participating, in some sense, in communion. Evidence of such a fact can be seen on a basely human level in that every member of the human race – every man, woman, boy, or girl – has (or, at least, at some point in time has had) a belly button. Though usually taken for granted, the simple existence of a belly button points beyond its bearer to the one who bore that person in her womb. Even further, however, we know that for a woman to bear a child, the involvement of a man – another person – is also necessary. So, in human existence – though we may often forget it – we can clearly see that communion, at least on some level, is absolutely necessary to even natural life.

I am convinced that this fact of human existence – the necessity of another – lies at the heart of the Imago Dei. What did God mean when He said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (1:26a ESV)? Well, it is most certain that there are many implications that such an Image carries with Itself. In fact, Dennis Kinlaw does an exceptional job of pointing to and expressing those implications, when he makes conclusions concerning personhood in the light of personhood as seen in Jesus. In chapter three of Let’s Start with Jesus, he discusses consciousness of identity, relational webs, the reciprocal aspect of relationships, freedom, moral consciousness, openness, and trusting love. Each of these aspects, though, point past themselves to what lies beyond – communion, which lies at the heart of being itself. Therefore, when God freely chooses to make Man in the Divine Image, He chooses to make Man a person – an intensely relational being.

Relationality lies at the heart of Who God is; He is the eternally free and blessed Father, Son, and Spirit. This is alluded to in the simple fact that God even chose to make Man in the first place. Why would He? Because, it is His very nature to give love, share life, and desire others. Even further, though, the relationality of God is hinted at in the phraseology of the text. Dr. Kinlaw would urge us to not take lightly the fact that God appears to be in dialogue as He chooses to make Man in His Image (Let’s 31). In dialogue with whom? With Himself, as the three Divine Persons freely choose to give, share, and desire even beyond Themselves. It should also be noted, though, that in the Hebrew the subject in this dialogue (“Us”) is plural and personal, while the verb (“make”) denotes singular action. Now, while it would be dishonest to place upon the text a false idea of how much Israel might have understood about the triunity of God, it is also unnecessary to plainly dismiss any implications of the text whatsoever simply because early Israel did not share with us in the benefits of the Creeds.

What I would like to do is delve into what the Image of God in Man looks like. To do so, it is my present desire to take a snapshot of that Image as it is seen in Man, but, for a balanced look, I would like to explore two aspects related to that Image in some depth and, then, make some concluding remarks related to a final related aspect. The first these aspects I would like to explore is the Heart of the Image. The second is the Corruption of the Image. Then, to wrap things up, I would like to make some comments regarding the Redemption of the Image.

But, first, the Heart of the Image – Man is, by nature, a relational being. In the movie Castaway, Tom Hanks plays a character who ends up stranded on an uninhabited island. After only a couple of weeks, he becomes so desperate for communion that he goes so far as to turn a volleyball into a “person” named Wilson, though it remains obvious that he knows this ball is, indeed, not a real person. Nevertheless, he decorates Wilson, talks to Wilson, even argues with Wilson. Hanks’s character vividly captures a basic human need. The fact is that Man simply cannot avoid living in relationships – the most necessary of these relationships being that of parent to child. We know that a child cannot even exist without his parents. But, even after birth he still cannot persist without another, for he is initially incapable of self-provision and self-protection.

It would seem plainly assumed by our text that before the Fall (and even after) Man depended upon God. In the Garden, he freely and innocently lived under divine-provision as well as divine-protection. His Creator was the personal Source who met all of his needs. Even after this relationship had been marred by sin, though, we find that God continues to provide and protect – preparing skins for the couple, continuing the ability for work and childbearing, and even shielding them from the disaster that might ensue upon a reentry into the Garden.

The relational aspect of God’s Image in Man clearly lends itself to at least two relationships of self-giving, self-surrendering love – that with God and that with neighbor. In his book Created for Community, Stanley Grenz argues that a relational aspect lies at the heart of the created order. He makes it quite plain that Man was created to be in communion with God, fellow Man, and even nature itself (in an appropriate sense). Please allow me to spend some time looking at a couple of these relationships – what are clearly the two most important and foundational.

Prior to the Fall, it appears to be quite clear that Man enjoyed a relationship of love with God, as he was the apex of creation itself. Man enjoyed the benefits of being one who was made in the very Image of God – an Image of relational, self-giving love. For the couple’s reaction to the coming of God in chapter three to carry its shock-effect, it must be seen that they had experienced a unique friendship with their Maker. We are told that they heard God walking in the Garden in the cool of the day, and nothing is said that would lead one to believe that this was an unusual occurrence.

Man is also seen experiencing a deep and fulfilling relationship with a neighbor – namely, his wife. With joy, Adam declared, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (2:23a ESV). God Himself, even saw that it was not good for Man to be alone, but that he should have someone suitable for himself (2:18). There existed, in the relationship between the man and the woman, a unity like no other in the created order, as we are told that husband and wife become one flesh (2:24). Further, there seems to be complete freedom in Man’s relationships, for we are told that the couple was naked and, yet, unashamed (or, free from fear). It is quite interesting to note that in verse 27 of chapter 1, while expressing the creation of Man in the Image of God, the text makes it a point to express that Image in terms of maleness and femaleness – “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Man without Woman is incomplete. In the midst of all the goodness of creation, God declares that one thing is not good – for the man to be alone – without the woman, another free person who is personally like him, yet physically different and distinct in every way (2:18).

Let’s now look at a second aspect related to the Image of God in Man… the Corruption of the Image – As is man and reflective of the nature of God, sin is, by nature, relational in character. Sin is not some eerie substance floating in space but is, rather, a loss of relationship (class notes, page 62). Such a loss assumes that the one who sins and the one sinned against are relational beings. In the Fall, we find that Man made a free and conscious choice (i.e. Wesley [class notes, 63]) which terribly marred his share in God’s Image. Where sin is present, this is always the case, for the heart of the Image is relationship; therefore, sin being relational itself is destructive to that Image and, ultimately, to relationship as well.

The Temptation itself challenged Man to dare to grasp for himself rather than receive from another. The man and woman traded divine-provision for self-provision, divine-protection for self-protection. They once freely received, and in their Fall they found themselves greedily grabbing and taking for themselves, as their hands reached for the forbidden fruit. This self-assertiveness would inevitably lead to a perversion of all relationships in which they participated.

As relates to his relationship with God, Man found himself freely exchanging his love for God for a perverted and inappropriate fear of God. It is one thing to stand in awe of one’s Maker, but it is totally another thing to hide one’s self in fright as his Provider and Protector reliably comes to meet in fellowship. The problem of his relationship with the One in whose Image he had been made was an issue of separation. Sin had distanced his heart from that of God. And Man’s answer to God’s question concerning where he was is so revealing – he had heard God coming, was gripped by fear, and in shame had hidden himself from the only One who could ultimately redeem his condition (3:10).

And what about his relationship with his wife – the woman? No longer did he find love and joyful fulfillment in her. No, now would find himself using her for self-provision and self-protection. When questioned about whether or not he has eaten of the forbidden fruit, the man immediately passed the blame off to the woman. She had, indeed, offered him the fruit, but he had freely chosen to take and eat it for himself. And now, in order to protect himself, he points to her as the one who’s to blame. As a result of sin and its relational nature, Man has turned inward upon himself. He is radically self-centered, no longer finding fulfillment in another but, now, setting himself up as his own source of fulfillment. And the woman’s response, when asked the all-searching question, “What is this that you have done?” (3:13 ESV) – Oh, she places the blame off on yet anotherj created being – the serpent. So, you see, all of the created order, it appears, finds itself in desperate tension. Fingers are pointed; blame is placed; everything is someone else’s fault. And, why? Because Man now fends for himself, being gripped by the deadly clutches of self-centeredness. The outcome of such self-centeredness is vividly depicted in C. S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce. In the opening chapters, Napoleon is mentioned as an example of the inhabitants of the depressingly gray town – a town in which no one lives anywhere near another in a desire to be left to one’s self. For, you see, others can impose.

Even in these opening chapters of Genesis, it is clearly seen that Man is, by nature, radically relational in character – the central mark of the Image of God. Further, we can see that, subsequent to the Fall and as a result of sin, Man finds that relational Image terribly damaged and deeply perverted. His affections have changed; his fulfillment is skewed; and his relationships are devastated. However, rather than ending with such a grim tone, let’s end on a positive note… the Redemption of the Image.

The good news of Scripture is that God never leaves Man where He finds him. In fact, as is seen in the provision and protection given to Man after his grave sin, God meets Man in his deepest of needs. As John Wesley argued in his sermon “The One Thing Needful,” Man’s greatest need of all is the restoration of the Image of God. His relationality is central to who he is and is also the central front of sin’s attack; therefore, this is where God meets Man – in this the highest of his needs. His relationships, chiefly with God and neighbor, have been destroyed and are in great need to reconciliation. Therefore, it is only obvious that God’s salvation will, at its core, bring a restoration of these relationships, as He redeems His Image in Man.

In a time when Evangelicalism’s message often pictures salvation simply as an acceptance despite utter sinfulness and a passageway into heaven after one breathes his last breath, it is of utmost importance to remember that in redemption, God always meets needs, especially the greatest of needs. Therefore, an understanding of salvation that does not encompass a restoration of the Divine Image in Man is plainly lacking. Heaven and the joys of the afterlife are pictured in Scripture as bonuses, not the issue itself. C. S. Lewis cleverly asked how one could not but continue to live after death, when he has been infused with the life of God – eternal life. This puts things in a fair perspective – eternity is the outflow, for the issue is the Image and its redemption. However such a redemption might look, it is certainly fulfilled as God gives His life to those who bear His Image. And whatever we might say about redemption, we must, of necessity, involve the Image of God in the discussion, for redemption (or salvation) itself implies a restoration of what was intended and what was once experienced. May it be so!


>A Brief Critique of Part 1 from an Interview with Ayn Rand (1959)

>

This is very interesting and quite telling. Where I think she’s missing the conception of self-giving love in Christian thought is in that love -if it is to be LOVE- is in it’s very nature free and uncompelled. What’s more: the Christian Faith certainly recognizes varying degrees, origins, and characteristics of love. There is certainly erotic love, love for one’s self (i.e., the lover) to be satisfied by the object of love (i.e., the beloved). There is common love (i.e., brotherly love), by which there is a unity of interest and intention. There is, further, self-giving (as she’d call it, self-sacrificing) love, which is free and personal, rooted certainly in the value of the other, whether it’d be a virtuous sort or (as in the case of the imago Dei) an intrinsic sort.


>To Make God Perfect?

>During the Sunday morning sermon a few weeks, I made a statement along these lines…

“Until the Cross, God was not perfect.”

To be perfectly honest, I don’t quite remember the wording, but these words at least capture the emphasis that I was certainly making. Fair enough?

At the time, I was wrestling with the passage in Hebrews that says:

For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. (2:10)

In several other places, the writer of Hebrews makes mention of the concept that our High Priest -Christ, the Son of God (God incarnate), that is- has been made perfect (i.e., “being perfected”, “having been perfected”, etc.).

Here’s where we run into the seeming problem… If Christ is the Son of God and no less God than the Father, wasn’t He already “perfect”? In what sense does the Cross of Christ perfect the One it bore?

First, the idea of being perfect, here, is the Greek idea. The Hebrews author isn’t speaking to the perfection of the divine attributes of God. Rather, it seems, he’s engaging us with the idea of perfection as the goal-oriented concept that the Greek term telos captures. The purposed goal in the heart of God was that the Son, the One through whom we were created, might redeem us by stepping into our predicament. Until -in the realm of time and space- that happened, the goal had not been met.

Second, even in the realm of eternity, it seems that in keeping with the divine nature, it is only fitting for the triune God to bear in Himself the sufferings of Man made in the divine image. Christ, being the very image of the Father, serves as Mediator between God and Man, becoming the theanthropic Person (lit., the God-Man) so that He might redeem those made in said image. Having been created in the image, they should be redeemed in the image. Were it not for the Suffering of the Son, for the Cross of Christ, God’s heart and mind it seems would fall short of what it truly is. In other words, if God intends to save through suffering and then does not save through suffering, He is less than what He intended to be.

Please do bear with these thoughts, for they are weeks old and haven’t been well-developed. Please also feel free to challenge, critique, or rebuke.


>omni-

>An interesting thing to note…

How we typically define a few terms related to God:
omniscience – God knows all things.
omnipresence – God is present to all places at all times.
omnibenevolence – God is all loving and good.
omnipotence – God can do anything.

* QUESTION #1 – Did you notice anything of interest?

* QUESTION #2 – Is there possibly a better way to think of these terms, are they wholly unnecessary / unbiblical, or are they just fine as they here stand?


>on Pain and Death

>Let’s face it – LIFE IS A BIT RISKY…

Everyone who has ever lived has inevitably faced risk. Risk is not merely for extreme sports enthusiasts; it’s a part of life. Every moment that your blood pumps through your body, you run the risk of it failing to do so. Every time you try out for the team, you run the risk of not making the cut. Everyday of your life -and everyday of mine- you risk pain and suffering.

Though the situation seems in retrospect to be quite trivial, I vividly remember the first time I went to a chiropractor. I had been experiencing a good bit of back / neck pain, but on that day, it became unbearable. I could hardly stand up straight, so during my planning period, I ran to see the father of another teacher’s student, a chiropractor. He did a bit of work and assured me that it would take several days for the discomfort to let up considerably. Though I was truly thankful that I would feel better not very long from then, I remember getting in my car and being hit squarely by the thought “All I want is for the pain to be gone – right now… at this very moment.”

The more I live, the more I am convinced that life comes with its share of pain. Part of the risk of living relates to pain – physical, emotional, mental, etc.

Likewise, death is a risk we all face in life. Just as the risk of pain is inevitable, so also is the risk of death necessitated merely by our living. It’s a bit discouraging to recognize the fact that we must all eventually lose our lives to death. No one wins that battle… In the end, we all lose.

* NOTE: merely some thoughts