Saturday, November 24, 2007


The first comment left on this post asked, "In favor of or in fear of?" Rather than responding inside, I will respond here. Here goes:

and neither.

first, both.

in my experience fear comes from the following: (a) a threat; and (b) a sense of hopelessness in light of the threat.

that pretty much sums up reprobation, no? it is the perfect marriage of the most awful threat imaginable coupled with perfect hopelessness. because god chooses the elect as he chooses, and he chooses the damned as he chooses, and one's volition in that calculus is about as meaningful as 15 spf sunblock at ground zero of a nuclear blast.

so fear, for sure.

"in favor of,' well, i suppose that doesn't matter. reprobation-- or whatever name one wants to give it--is a thread that runs throughout the bible from genesis to revelation. those who wish to deny it may do so, but they must deny the bible along with it. or at least deny one of its central themes. so insofar one holds (a) the bible to be a work that is to be read plainly and, where at all possible, literally, and (b) the bible speaks truth, then the real question isn't so much of approval as assent to truth. i suppose if one adds (c) that the god behind the bible is a good god and worthy to be loved, then it should prompt us to see reprobation, finally, as good.

but i do not. i see it as twisted and sick. At least I do today.

so, for me, neither is also true.

as far as fear goes, reprobation releases one from fear in a way. calvin and edwards both speak of the assurance that the doctrine of predestination gives to the elect. one need not trust in one's goodness because the victory has been won on one's behalf. the victory is secure because god's grace is efficacious. but the reverse holds true as well. if one is not saved, then there is nothing one can do about it. being dead unto one's sins means, well, that the deal has been sealed. why fret? enjoy with abandon the earthly moments that you have.

easier said than done, of course. hell's a pretty hard thing to block out of one's mind.

and as for being in favor of it in the sense of finding the doctrine agreeable to my simple sense of ethics or in the sense of recoginzing in it the attributes of a glorious god worthy of my love, well, that's a whole 'nuther ball of wax. i feel like were i put on the spot to represent calvin or edwards (or even Thomas) on the doctrine of repropbation, i could provide a pretty convincing intellectual tap dance: I’d speak of god's unimaginable and ineffable holiness; I’d speak of his perfect sense of justice; and of our own grotesque "throats as open graves"-level of wickedness; and how god's sovereignty demands his utter control over the entire arc of history and how giving humans a share in their salvation would necessarily thwart god’s plans; and how justice requires (demands!) punishment of the wrongdoer; and how by our nature we hate god with the burning hatred of a thousand suns and how we want nothing remotely as much as to harm him and to live apart from him in the slime of our wickedness; and how our sin against an infinitely good god requires eternal punishment as recompense; and how god's grace cannot be squandered on those who would choose damnation.

and on and on.

and on.

i know the drill.

but i don't feel it. I mean if god is our father. If…

when my children err or sin against me or against others, i do not cast them out. I punish them insofar I think they can benefit from that punishment. but the universe does not capsize when they are left unpunished. They may learn a bad habit from lack of discipline, but I mean, come on. i do not have one child to cast away and another to lavish with tender affection.

of course the analogy is imperfect.

of course.
no, i'm not perfectly holy like god, who cannot abide the tiniest mote on the end of a hair's worth of sin in his kingdom.
but neither am i perfectly loving like god, but i love my children enough to keep them within the fold of my love.

christ's parable of the prodigal son strikes me as truer to the model of a worship-worthy god than the god depicted in the more reprobation-friendly parables. the son sins against the father and his brother. he comes back in shame. the father runs to meet him. no punishment. I don’t know about the justice in that story, but I can see the love.

that's what i want to believe. if ours is a god who relishes and delights--and GLORIES--in the torment of his creatures for the sake of justice, well, that's certainly his divine prerogative. but insofar what he wants is to be glorified for his attributes, well...

Nietzsche says that when people do harm to him, the beauty and merit of justice is that it providee him the sublimely pleasurable gift of allowing him to inflict harm back on them in its name.

Is it surprising that before Nietzsche studied philosophy he first studied theology?

blue swirls and red sphere


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Monday, November 19, 2007

without form, and void

Alcohol Wonderland

I couldn't think of what to call this picture. I asked my middle child to look at it and come up with a title. This was what she came up with. She said it looked very "wintery and nice."