Did Mary Sin?

When I was looking sympathetically into Eastern Orthodoxy, statements like this bothered me.  It could have been because I was an evil Western logical Protestant, but still.  Logic and Augustino-Paul aside, something just seems off with this:

The ‘middle wall and barrier of enmity’ were of no account to her; indeed, everything that divided the human race from God was abolished as far as she was concerned. Even before the common reconciliation, she alone had made peace with God; or rather, she was never in any need of reconciliation, since from the very beginning, she was never in any need of reconciliation, since from the very beginning she stood foremost in the choir of the friends of God.” –

St. Nicholas Cabasilas (Homily on the Annunciation)

O victorious leader of triumphant hosts! We your servants, delivered from evil, sing our grateful thanks to you, O Theotokos! As you possess invincible might,(that kind of language is usually used about divinity; yikes) set us free from every calamity so that we may sing: Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

-from the Akathist to the Mother of God, although not part of the original. This First Kontakion was added after the siege of Constantinople.   The language of unwedded bride is simply bad.  She was wed.  With Joseph.  The Bible intimates she had sex with Joseph.  God’s law said one could divorce the other if one refused sex.  Hebrews would have wanted to have married sex.  Unless they were influenced by Greek Alexandria. 

The Life-Giving Font”

http://ocafs.oca.org/FeastSaintsViewer.asp?FSID=32

“O most favored by God, you confer on me the healing of your grace from your inexhaustible Spring. Therefore, since you gave birth incomprehensibly to the Word, I implore you to refresh me with the dew of your grace that I might cry to you: Hail, O Water of salvation.”

What does the hymn mean by “inexhaustible spring?”  Anchorites are quick to say that even though they invoke Mary for salvation, it’s really Jesus that saves.  Even if that distinction holds, this line weakens it. I’ll assume that inexhaustible Spring means Jesus, and what’s really at stake is that Mary was the economia of bringing salvation into the world.  That interpretation could work, but if that’s true then why isn’t it in the past tense?  Economia is historical language.  Why are they invoking it now?  Secondly, it seems to place Mary in a hierarchical scheme between us and Jesus.  This validates Tillich’s charge that the saints replaced the Forms in ancient thought.

Re Reading Bible as Tradition

The more I read Anchorite apologetics, the more I realize they never deal with Reformed Presbyterians, but Baptists. That’s cool. Baptists are ubiquitous. The problem is the subconscious projection of Baptist mentality upon Magisterial Presbyterianism.

Reading the Bible as Tradition by Andrew Stephen Damick.

Interestingly, I had this same thought yesterday.  Question:  is the LXX translation also a tradition?  It most certainly is, since translations are tradition. I’ll come back to that.

I recently came across a conversation online in which someone insisted that he didn’t need tradition at all, because he had the Bible.

This statement is universally rejection by our confessions (though it is the American mindset, sadly).

If you are reading the Bible for yourself at home , then you are unlike most Christians in history, most of whom could never afford a Bible and many of whom could not read.

I agree 100%.  This is why our confessions say that especially the preaching of the Word of God.  This reinforces the Verbal Ontology that is from God’s revelation.  So I say “amen” to the good father.

If you believe that the Bible’s meaning is simply apparent to you without anyone’s help, then you are discounting everything you have learned about what the Bible means from other people and even what language itself means

Again, I agree.  The above mentality, typical of American evangelicals but firmly rejected by Confessional Protestants, is simply Greek autonomy in new dress.  The desire for unmediated truth.

If you are reading a translation of the Bible, then you are trusting someone else’s word about what it says. The Bible never says it’s okay to use translations, and it doesn’t endorse one over another.

This is a good rebuttal to King James Onlyism.  I would like to add my own thoughts.  We see the apostles using both the LXX and the Hebrew traditions.

If you are reading the Bible in the original languages, then you not only had someone teach you Greek or Hebrew, but you also made a choice or accepted someone else’s choice when it came to which version of the Biblical text you would read. There are multiple manuscript traditions, and they’re not all the same.

See above.  I took years of textual criticism and this is old hat.

If you are reading the Old Testament in Hebrew, then you’re not using the Old Testament most often used by the apostles in their writings, which was the Greek Septuagint, a translation of the Old Testament made by Greek-speaking Jews completed perhaps as early as the late second century BC.

I dispute that it’s overwhelmingly so.  What we don’t see from the apostles is a clear endorsement of the LXX over the Hebrew, nor does it vindicate a lot of the LXX’s goofiness as a whole.

If you are reading the Old Testament at all, then you are benefiting from the Jewish community’s traditions of textual transmission and editing—and not just the Jewish community in general, but particular parties within Judaism, which as a whole had several different incipient canons all by the time of Christ. And within the text itself, there are clear signs that not everything written under someone’s name is from that person. For instance, the Books of Numbers and Deuteronomy, both attributed to Moses, include the details of his death and burial. How could Moses have written that? He didn’t. Those details were included in a process of tradition.

There is a lot of stupidity in American evangelicalism, but this borders on insulting their intelligence.  Anyone with even a mediocre study bible knows all of this.

And the Bible you read may have a different Old Testament than the one the apostles did, i.e., not just different in language but with a different list of books (the Septuagint includes books like Tobit, Baruch and the Maccabees).

But in his above point he conceded that the Judaisms had multiple canons.  How does he know that the apostles are using the Hellenized Alexandrian canon and not the Hebraic Palestinian one?   Textual scholarship is by no means leaning towards the former view.   After Beckwith it is hard to even countenance it.

But what I try to tell anchorites is that Protestants hold to tradition in a ministerial sense.

It’s impossible to read the Bible without tradition. Tradition gave you the Bible. So the question really is: Which tradition?

I’ll take it a step further:  how do you know which tradition in a non-circular manner? This problem is by no means limited to sola scriptura.  It is the heart of every claim to authority.

Argument: The Apostolic Church teaches it, therefore it must be so.

Dilemma: This is 100% circular reasoning. In order to accept this, you have to first accept the presupposition that the “apostolic” church in question is infallible, which is in and of itself circular reasoning. It should likewise be noted that I have heard this argument made even when all previous evidence already stated in this post has been brought forward. At this point, it’s just appealing to authority of the individual church group, despite evidence that this group is in error.

Beer Journal: Abita Abbey Ale

There is this Arab gas station in town that sells quality beers for well under the retail price (I’m pretty sure something illegal is involved, but I can’t prove it and I don’t want to know). I went there today to get a pint of this Chocolate Stout that has a relatively high alcohol content (but won’t get one drunk) and a rich taste.   They were out of that.  There was the Abita Andy Gator, which is an okay brew, but I wanted something more.

I saw they had an Abita Abbey Ale.  While I was initially wary, it did promise a “liquid bread” experience, and I love thick beers.  That’s what I left with. 

Review:

Opening:  Strong, bold opening taste.  Very fresh and clean. It promises a caramel taste but I didn’t notice it.

Finish:  Have you ever tasted an overipe fruit or strong tart taste?  That’s what it reminds me of, yet it wasn’t unpleasant.  

Overall:  4 out of 5 stars.  Will purchase again if there isn’t the chocolate stout available.  Not the best beer I’ve ever had (still partial to Nevada Stout) but superior to the Samuel Adams’ varieties.

Notes on Ricoeur

I am not going to do a chapter by chapter analysis of Figuring the Sacred.  Not every chapter was equally good.   Some of his musings on Heidegger and Kant were interesting but not germane to narrative theology.

“Philosophy and Religious Language”

Understanding a text is always something more than the summation of partial meanings; the text as a whole has to be considered as a hierarchy of topics” (Ricoeur 38).

This makes me think of chiasms.  The structure of a chiasm reinforces meaning.  Meaning unfolds from narrative.

“Not just any theology whatsoever can be tied to narrative form, but only a theology that proclaims Yahweh to be the grand actor of a history of deliverance.  Without a doubt it is this point that forms the greatest contrast between the God of Israel and the God of Greek Philosophy” (40).

I’ve long expected the above paragraph to anger Anchorites.  I was surprised when it started angering Reformed folk.

Manifestation and Proclamation

This is the most important essay in the book and the one that causes much offense.   Ricoeur opposes a philosophy of manifestation (ontotheology) with a philosophy of proclamation (Yahweh speaks).

Manifestation

The “numinous” element of the sacred has nothing to do with language (49).  Another key element is theophany–not moments in the biblical narrative, but anything by which the sacred shows itself (icons, relics, holy places).   This means that reality is something other than itself while remaining itself.

There is a correspondence between macrocosm and microcosm (54).  This brings to mind the Luciferian “as above, so below” dictum.  In short, ontologies of manifestation always focus on “reality/grace/etc” emanating from the thing or the place.

Proclamation

There is a rupture–violent in the case of the prophets’ war against Baalism–between manifestation and proclamation.  The word outweighs the numinous (56).  Israel’s whole theology–and identity–was formed around discourses.

Per idols and icons:  “We may say that within the Hebraic domain they (hierophanies) withdraw to the extent that instruction through Torah overcomes any manifestation through an image.  A Theology of the Name is opposed to any hierophany of an idol…Hearing the word has taken the place of vision of signs” (56).  God’s pesel is the Ten Words. It is the only pesel he commanded.

Communal Readings

In “The ‘Sacred’ Text and the Community” Ricoeur gives a neat deconstruction of the concept “sacred,” especially when applied with a book.

For us, manifestation is not be necessity linked to language.  The word ‘sacred’ belongs to the side of manifestation, not to the side of proclamation, because many things may be sacred without being a text (71)

Ricoeur the Hermeneut

His reading of Genesis 1:1-2:4a is interesting, but more for the method than the conclusions. His essay on the Imagination is quite valuable in showing what “goes on” in a narrative.   Many narratives in the Bible, particularly Jesus’s parables, employ intertextuality which always forces an expansion of meaning from the text. In other words, it is “an object with surplus value” (152).  Assuming that the Holy Spirit didn’t write chaotically and randomly, isolated texts are now seen in a pattern and signify something else, something more (161).

Ricoeur then moves to a section on biblical time, which is useful for meditation.  He summarizes von Rad, Cullman, and others.  I won’t belabor the point.

His essay “Interpretive Narrative” offers his famous distinction between “idem” identity (the god of sameness, the god of Greek metaphysics) and ipse identity (the God who is constant to the Covenant).  He expands this motif in “Naming God.”  God’s identity is seen in his historic acts.

Conclusion

While magnificent, it is in many ways a difficult read.  He assumes a familiarity with Continental Philosophy (itself a daunting task) and even then some essays don’t seem to have a point.  But when he unloads on narrative he truly delivers.

Which came first: God’s speech or the church?

Anchoretic apologists often ask Protestants, “Which came first, the church or the Bible?” This question is misleading on a number of levels (and really reflects sophomore apologetics than anything else) but what they are trying to elicit is the recognition that church communities preceded the final recognition of the canon.

So what if they did? The Protestant can equally turn back the question: Which came first, God’s speech or the church? Obviously, God’s speech. And if God’s speech came first, and God’s speech is the Logos-Word-Debar, and Jesus created the Church (or more precisely, spoke it into existence), then God’s speech created the Church.

God’s speech is therefore over the church.

Convict Conditioning 2 (review)

by the eponymous Paul Wade, whether he exists or not.

 

Wade’s first book, Convict Conditioning, was an awe-inspiring classic.  Because of his teachings, I can do things now at 32 than I could at 18 when I was bench pressing almost 300 lbs (not a lot, I know, but I’m a little guy).  This book is awesome, too, but not in the same way.

In the first CC Wade taught you how to work the big muscle groups using body weight training.  This book focuses on the unseen, yet in some ways more important aspects like tendon strength, vertebrates, joints, and smaller and harder to train muscle groups.

cc2

And he succeeds.  

Yet a few warnings:

1)  In the first CC if you were already reasonably strong at the beginning (say, you could easily do ten chin ups or even a one arm push up), you could skip the intermediate steps.   With these exercises you can’t do it.  I have strong arms and a strong back, yet I tried some of the advanced forearm exercises without building the tendons up first and I tore some fibers in my forearms.   When he says you need to build up your tendons he means it.

Should one get this book or C-Mass?  This book gives you more specific advice on some exercises, and C-Mass assumes you have read this book.  C-Mass will help you build towards mass, but CC2 has some invaluable advice as well.  I would probably say get this book.  Among other things, this book teaches you how to build up to a flag post, which may be the apex of strength training.

Wade ends the book with some mental coaching.  This was the neatest part of the book because he describes what it takes to mentally survive prison and how to apply that to training.  

More on the so-called Hellenic divide

I’ve never said that the Hebrew language is ontically different from the Greek language, and hence superior. Apostle Paul delivered the most devastating criticisms of Greek philosophy in the Greek language.

Rather, I am thinking in more of–hmm, I don’t want to use the term “worldview.” That is a bit overused and I suggest even “Greeky.” For some reason the phrase “social knowing” is coming to mind (I think it is the title of Pinkard’s book on Hegel). It’s not perfect and I can think of a few flaws, but it is okay enough. Keep in mind that Descartes said to get to truth he had to isolate himself in his apartment.

Below I want to offer some observations.

1. The Hebrew word for “knowing” can also be used of sexual intercourse (yada). Is knowing communal and interpersonal? Rossenstock-Huessy thought so. Jewish thinkers like Buber and Heschel picked up this as well.

1a. If knowing is communal in general, then is proper knowing also covenantal? Michael Horton suggests that the proper response to the Speaking Covenant Lord is “Here I am.” (The Christian Faith, 86-87, 95)

Excursus: Did Vos really say there was a difference between Hebrew and Greek thought? Not really. Vos simply quoted Plato and compared it with the prophets. He writes,

According to the former, “to know” means to mirror the reality of a thing in one’s consciousness. The Shemitic and biblical idea is to have the reality of something practically interwoven (Biblical Theology, 8).

Abraham Heschel writes,

Plato lets Socrates ask: What is Good? But Moses’s question was: what does God require of thee? (God in Search of Man, 98).