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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.

Reditus

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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So Why Did God Make the World, Anyway?

003_william_blake_theredlistTo which I can answer only, “Beats me.”  I do think that looking at the question in the title of this post is of relevance in our discussion of the Fall of Man, for reasons that we’ll soon see.  I want to do a bit more detailed followup to this, and to take an interlude before we go on to look at the fall and salvation of bodiless intelligences.

I’ll start by explicitly saying that when I say “the world” I mean the material cosmos.  I’ll also specify that the question of God’s motives is posed in the context of “little-o” orthodox Christianity.  In Gnosticism, after all, the question, “Why did God make the world” is meaningless, since in the Gnostic view He didn’t.  Rather, the material cosmos is a chop-job made by the ignorant and/or maleficent Demiurge.  In the system of Evagrius Ponticus, which we’ve also looked at, the question is meaningful, but it has a clear answer:  God made the world as a sort of rehabilitation clinic for the fallen spirits (angels, humans, and demons) through which they would eventually be re-integrated to the realm of God.

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Insights, Gnostic and Otherwise: I Don’t Wanna Live in This Place (or do I?)

In my “Towards a Gnostic Orthodoxy” series I’ve been exploring similarities and commonalities between Gnostic and orthodox Christianity.  Here I want to talk about a major difference–a difference that in my view is actually more fundamental than the various differences of Scripture, practice, doctrine, and so on.  This difference is a difference in outlook; or, to put it better, a difference of experience or perception of the world.

The first experience is the experience of being at home.  Sometimes we appreciate the beauty of nature; we perceive the miracle of being an intelligent being on a planet full of intelligent beings; we enjoy good food and good friends.  The sun shines, we love others, things seem to be going well, all is right with the world.  Sure, life isn’t perfect; but how wonderful it is to be alive.  In short, we sometimes feel very  much at home in the universe.  For all its flaws and faults, there’s nowhere else we’d rather be.  This is what I will call the experience or intuition of belonging.  This is the fundamental orthodox insight.

On the other hand, sometimes things don’t seem so rosy.  Things are screwed up; we get ill; the stock market dives; wars erupt in distant lands; our finances bottom out.  We look around and it seems that everything is timed to have the greatest possible bad effects.  We see the faults and failings of even those closest to us, and even the things we take greatest pleasure in seem to loose their savor.  We feel, to quote an old Sting song, that “roses have thorns, and shining waters mud, and cancer lurks deep in the sweetest bud”.  To put it as David Byrne did, we look around and think “This is not my beautiful house!  This is not my beautiful wife!”  In short we feel like refugees washed up on the shore of some foreign land, adrift, far from home, not even sure where home is.    This is what I’ll call the intuition of alienation.  This is the fundamental Gnostic insight.   This is what the video above expresses, albeit in an 80’s, Euro-pop kind of way.  Read the rest of this entry

Synthesis, Part 4: Hell Hole

A nice 80’s reference, and a change of pace from Lady Gaga, huh?  😉

OK, so we’ve discussed what I think is a reasonably plausible scenario for understanding how the Fall could affect all humanity even without a primal “Adam and Eve” from whom all subsequent humans are descended.  It also allows us to move away from the penal model of the Atonement towards a more Athanasian view in which the Incarnation itself restores the Divine image in man.  So far, so good.

We are left with a few loose ends, though.  In either the view I posit in “Synthesis, Part 3” or the Evagrian view, one needs to explain the extreme amount of evil in the world.  Recall, Evagrius had the Fall occurring in the Pleroma, with the material world as a sort of Plan B created by God as a way of re-educating the now-incarnate souls so that they can eventually return to the Pleroma–to be once more in God’s presence.  Since the material world is in a sense a cosmic reform school, from the Evagrian perspective, it is somewhat easier to explain the existence of natural evils (earthquakes, floods, etc.–things not attributable to misused free will).  What would one expect from a reform school?

One might still argue, of course, that it’s an awfully sadistic reform school, with much more evil and nastiness than seems necessary.  Thus, a certain amount of exploration of the issue seems appropriate.  The need to do so with my scenario from the last post is even more necessary, since in that case you have innocent humans placed in an already-marred cosmos before their fall.  I will postpone that, however, and reserve this post for discussion of the Evagrian scenario.   Read the rest of this entry