Friday, August 18, 2017

A beautiful Radnerian reading of Jeremiah

"We have to think of [Jeremiah], therefore, not merely as the one who stands magnificently alone in opposition and resistance to this people, but the one who is [like God himself] together with this isolated people, the representative of its election and calling, in solidarity with its being and status as a sinful people, sharing with it—and with a greater severity of suffering than that of any other member—the destruction which has come upon it in consequence of its sin.  Jeremiah is the man who with this people suffers all that is threatened, the sword and famine and pestilence, and finally disappears with it into the unknown, because he himself can and will be only one of this people, a man of this people in the truest and fullest sense, because his election and calling as a prophet is nothing other than the election and calling of this people in nunce."

     Karl Barth, CD IV/1, 476 (underscoring mine) =KD IV/1, 529 (note the emphases lacking in the English translation, in part because the last two have been translated out of it):
Man sehe ihn also gerade nicht nur als den diesem Volk gegenüberstehenden und widerstehenden großen Einsamen, sondern mit diesem ja ebenfalls einsamen Volk zusammen, als den Exponenten seiner Erwählung und Berufung, in seiner Solidarität mit seinem Sein und Stand als sündiges Volk und mit ihm – schwerer leidend als alle seine anderen Glieder – auch dem daraus folgenden Verderben verfallen. Jeremia ist der Mann, der alles diesem Volk Angedrohte, das Schwert, den Hunger und die Pest, darum miterleidet und schließlich darum mit im Dunkel verschwindet, weil er selbst nichts Anderes als einer der Seinigen – ja im eminentesten Sinn: der Seinige, der Mensch dieses Volkes sein kann und will, weil seine persönliche Erwählung und Berufung zum Propheten nichts Anderes ist als in nuce die Erwählung und Berufung dieses Volkes.
"And this time Jeremiah, too, . . . . disappears into the darkness" (473) | "And so they disappear and Jeremiah with them" (474):
Even at the end of all his years of conflict, [Jeremiah] could not alter the fact that those who had been saved in the catastrophe only appeared to have been saved in order to returnand he himself had to go with themto [Egypt] the house of bondage. . . . A circle againback to the zero point which had once been the bleak point of departure at which the election and calling of God had found his people, or rather made it a people [(475)].
I have not been able to determine whom to credit for this graphic rendition of the photograph.
     (And by "A beautiful Radnerian reading of Jeremiah," I mean the entire excursus covering pp. 468-478.)

Not a puzzle, not even a problem, but a mystery

"A culture whose very view of reality is technological, with all the assaults on human dignity that inevitably follow, will have every incentive not to think about the profound questions of human existence that for so long animated Western culture.  Education will largely consist in learning not to ask them, and so will be scarcely distinguished from ignorance.  But more worrisome still, the inhabitants of such a culture will be unable to think deeply about such questions, because there will be no depths to think about; for they will have already reduced [1] reality to an assemblage of superficial 'facts' and [2] thinking to the arrangement and manipulation of those facts.  For such a society there would simply be no such thing as a profound question, only problems awaiting technical or managerial solutions.  A society whose members are thus unable to think cannot ultimately be a free society, because they can never see beyond and thus transcend the fate which their powers have unleashed.  Their only consolation, and this is also their curse, is that they might never know the difference."

     Michael Hanby, "The gospel of creation and the technocratic paradigm:  reflections on a central teaching of Laudato Si'," Communio:  international Catholic review 42, no. 4 (Winter 2015):  738 (725-747).  The heading comes from pp. 18-19 of Mystery and philosophy (1957), by Michael B. Foster, though the burden of that book is a very different one.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

"The almighty power of [God's] grace does not do despite to the freedom of man."

"The almighty power of [his] grace does not do despite to the freedom of man [(tritt ja der Freiheit des Menschen gerade nicht zu nahe, does not in any way encroach upon the freedom of man)].  On the contrary, it is the basis of it.  The God who is almighty in grace distinguishes Himself as the Creator from the creature, and therefore the being of the creature from his own being.  He does not deny but gives to man his proper place in relation to Himself.  He elects and calls him to be His partner, to an obedience which is not forced but free."

     Karl Barth, CD IV/1, 467 =KD IV/1, 519.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Responsible judgment

     "This should teach us never to judge the actions of our neighbor without having reflected very well beforehand.  Even then, of course, we are only entitled to make such judgments if we are responsible for the behavior of the people concerned, that is, if we are parents or employers [(pères et mères, les mâitres et mâitresses)], and so on.  As far as all others are concerned, we are nearly always wrong."

     St. John Vianney, Sermon for the Eleventh Week after Pentecost, On rash judgment.  The sermons of the Curé of Ars, trans. Una Morrisy (Chicago:  Henry Regnery, 1960), 40.  =Sermons (Lyon:  1883), vol. 2, pp. 409-410, italics mine.
Ce qui doit nous porter à ne jamais juger des actions de notre prochain sans avoir bien réfléchi auparavant, et encore, seulement lorsque nous sommes chargés de la conduit de ces personnes, comme pères et mères, les mâitres et mâitresses; mais, pour toute autre personne, nous faisons Presque toujours mal.
That's clearly the passage in question.  And yet the translation has to be doing some unmarked selection, as the rest of the surrounding text in English isn't just right there.  (The closing prayer of King David on p. 41 appears, e.g., a full three or four pages later, on p. 413 of the French.)
     But in any case, note that Vianney speaks only of the extreme difficulty ("nearly always") of judging accurately in cases for which we bear no responsibility.  It would be interesting to see how this gets fleshed out in the larger context of the whole of his sermons, e.g. in his opposition to dancing and such.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Homo artifactus/a; or Made, not begotten

"This [technocratic] conflation of what were once called the speculative and the practical orders means that technologically generated exceptions and possibilities now largely govern how we think about what is true.  This is difficult to see from within the paradigm, as we have largely grown accustomed to it, but once it is noticed, it appears to be a constitutive feature of contemporary thought.  Again the examples are endless.  The so-called sexual revolution, for instance, is most fundamentally the technological revolution turned on ourselves, not only in the deep sense that the canonical dualism of sex and gender presupposes a more basic dualism between the affective part, usually thought to be the locus of personal identity, and a meaningless material body regarded as a kind of artifact, but also in the more mundane sense that the technical conquest of human biology is its practical condition of possibility.  Just as same-sex 'marriage' would have remained permanently unimaginable were it not for the technological conquest of procreation, so too would it have never been possible to think that a man might 'really' be a woman if we did not think it were technically possible to transform him into one.  And yet these technologically generated exceptions have occasioned a radical rethinking of the whole of human nature, sexuality and embodiment."

     Michael Hanby, "The gospel of creation and the technocratic paradigm:  reflections on a central teaching of Laudato Si'," Communio:  international Catholic review 42, no. 4 (Winter 2015):  735-736 (725-747).

Friday, August 11, 2017

"be doers of the word, and not hearers only"

"for Gregory, this process of sanctification is one in which a kind of 'trinitarian' structure intrinsic to human existence becomes an ever purer mirror of the Trinity.  The Spirit meets us, successively, in our practice [(praxis)], word (logos), and thought (enthymion), the last of these being the principle (archikōteron) of all three; for mind (dianoia) is the original source (archē) that becomes manifest in speech, while practice comes third and puts mind and word into action.  Thus the Spirit transforms us, until 'there is a harmony of the hidden man with the manifest'; and thus, one might say, the Spirit conducts the Trinitarian glory upward into our thought, making our own internal life an ever fuller reflection of God's own 'circle of glory.'"

     David Bentley Hart, citing Gregory of Nyssa, De perfectione at GNO 8/1:210-212 =PG 46, col. 284A =FC 58, trans. Callahan, pp. 120 ff., as well as Adversus Macedonianos at GNO 3/1:98-99.  "The hidden and the manifest:  metaphysics after Nicaea" (2009), in The hidden and the manifest:  essays in theology and metaphysics (Grand Rapids, MI:  Eerdmans, 163 (137-164).  Cf. Hart on Augustine's somewhat different trinity (and, by comparison with Gregory's "'from glory to glory'," "rather homely" sense of continuous transformation "throughout eternity" (revelation as sanctification (154))):  "it is only thus that the coinherence within us of memory, understanding, and will is raised to the dignity of the divine likeness":
Insofar, says Augustine, as we know God, we are made like him, however remotely; and when we know God, and properly love this knowledge, we are made better than we were, and this knowledge becomes a word for us, and a kind of likeness to God within us.  And it is only thus that the coinherence within us of memory, understanding, and will is raised to the dignity of the divine likeness; the mind is the image of God not simply when it remembers and understands and loves itself, but only when it is able to remember and understand and love him by whom it was made [(162, underscoring mine)]....

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

"one single law, the unchangeable will of God"

     "We believe, teach, and confess that, although people who truly believe in Christ and are genuinely converted to God have been liberated and set free from the curse and compulsion [(Fluch und Zwang | maledictione et coactione)] of the law through Christ, they indeed are not for that reason without the law.  Instead, they have been redeemed by the Son of God so that they may practice the law day and night (Ps. 119[:1]).
". . . the proclamation of the law is [therefore] to be diligently impressed not only upon unbelievers and the unrepentant but also upon those who believe in Christ and are truly converted, reborn, and justified through faith."

     Formula of Concord (1577) Epitome VI (Concerning the third use of the law).1-2, trans. Robert Kolb.  There is much more of value here, and even more in Article VI of the Solid Declaration.  The headline is from Epitome VI.6:  "for both the repentant and unrepentant, for the reborn and those not reborn, the law is and remains one single law, the unchangeable will of God."