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Chasing the Incarnation

This post from Reditus perfectly makes the point that I have discussed, but less effectively, in my series on dualism.


A haunting image that has been etched into my mind manifested itself to me in a Russian Orthodox church during the All-Night Vigil for the Feast of the Annunciation. At a certain point during Matins (I won’t bore you with the context too much), the bearded priest stood before the icon of the Annunciation and chanted one of those old leftover ancient Slavonic chants with censer in hand. I am not sure why this made such an impression on me: it was a good hour into the service, and I know little Old Slavonic (I can sort of muddle my way through understanding what is going on.) The priest wore a sky blue phelonion gilded in gold, the robust baritone voice echoed through the church, and the melismatic chant reached back into time and grabbed from it some hidden reality that gleamed like the clouds at dusk…

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The Downside of Dualism: Body and Soul

I have been arguing for a more positive view of dualism over the course of the last several posts, while heading towards the larger end of describing my mode of Biblical interpretation, and discussing what I accept, what I reject, and why. My thesis is that Christianity has been traditionally more strongly dualistic than is acknowledged to be the case in modern times, and that a return to a more dualistic attitude would redress a current excess in the other direction, return Christian thought to its roots, and have salutary effects in many areas.  Having said that, I have to come out and say that dualism (appropriately enough!) is a two-edged sword.

The type of dualism I’m talking about there is not the dualism of Daoism, in which the opposition is not between good and evil or spiritual and material, but between opposite principles (dry/moist, hot/cold, male/female, etc.).  It is the dualism that has been prevalent in the West (by which I include North Africa and the Iranian Plateau, since ideas from these areas circulated in the Mediterranean world), that is, a dualism of spirit world/material world and good/evil, the spirit being seen as good or predominantly good, and the material as evil, less good, or at least inferior.

One obvious shortcoming of this form of dualism popped up on the discussion thread at Vox Nova, which I’ve referred to before.  One of my interlocutors, A. Sinner, had the following things to say, my emphasis:

Ah, how tragic it is to see so many people today exalting the life of the body over the life of the soul. Christ Himself says “And if thy right hand scandalize thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is expedient for thee that one of thy members should perish, rather than that thy whole body be cast into hell.”

A society does not need to criminalize everything (indeed, I WOULD in fact argue for the decriminalization of prostitution, etc). But, at the same time, in given circumstances, it CAN criminalize. And certainly it sends a weird message if killing people’s bodies is a crime, but killing their souls (which is what heretics do; their crime is Objectively much worse than any murder) is not.

Given a certain perspective, this is a fair point. Read the rest of this entry

Polygenism, Human Origins, and the Soul: Index

This is actually part of an extended addendum to the “Legends of the Fall” series.  However, it’s taken on a life of its own and is now almost a third as long as the original series (and counting).  Thus, just as I gave the series on dualism its own index, I thought that this deserves as much.  It stands on its own, I think, but I’ve left it on the larger “Legends of the Fall” index, too.

Update 6 March 2018:  I have changed the name of this series from “Polygenism Revisited” to “Polygenism, Human Origins, and the Soul”.  This is for a few reasons.  One, I have come to the conclusion that some form of “hard” polygenesis–i.e., the evolution of Homo sapiens at different places, at different times, and from different local populations of precursor species, is very likely true.  Even if one still wanted to debate this–and the evidence is still not totally clear–I think it’s a useful heuristic, since, as I’ve said many times in the course of this series, I think it’s best to take the position most difficult to reconcile with one’s theology, as a way of avoiding the problem of the “God of the gaps”.

Two, I think the issues involved here cast a wider net than polygenesis per se; and I want to be free to look at the broader issues of human origins as they related to notions of the Fall of Mankind and the intimately connected issue of the Atonement.  Finally, recent research has increasingly painted a picture of animals as far more intelligent than previously believed, and of higher mammals as amazingly close to us in surprising ways.  I think this has implications for any theology of human souls and the supposed uniqueness of the human race.  Rather than starting a separate series for posts on that topic, I intend to place them here as I write them.  There is, after all, some logical connection.

Thus, in summary, stay tuned!  More to come in this space!

Polygenism Revisited:  Terminology

Polygenism Revisited:  The Theology of Cavemen

Polygenesis:  Breaking News

More News on Polygenesis

Adam, Eve, and Monogenism:  More Perspectives (and more of the same)

Another Article on Polygenesis

Plants, Animals, Humans, and Souls