Monday, September 27, 2010

Simone Weil's Original Kenosis

In the Foreword of his book Jesus Rediscovered, Malcolm Muggeridge, referred to the French philosopher Simone Weil (1909– 1943) as "the most luminous intelligence of our time". Despite her brief life, much constrained by ill-health, she made important contributions to the field of philosophy and philosophical theology.

One key concept of Weil's philosophy of God was "Absence". I quote from Wikipedia:
Absence is the key image for her metaphysics, cosmology, cosmogeny, and theodicy. She believed that God created by an act of self-delimitation—in other words, because God is conceived as a kind of utter fullness, a perfect being, no creature could exist except where God was not. Thus creation occurred only when God withdrew in part.

This is, for Weil, an original kenosis preceding the corrective kenosis of Christ's incarnation (cf. Athanasius). We are thus born in a sort of damned position not owing to original sin as such, but because to be created at all we had to be precisely what God is not, i.e., we had to be the opposite of what is holy.

This notion of creation is a cornerstone of her theodicy, for if creation is conceived this way (as necessarily containing evil within itself), then there is no problem of the entrance of evil into a perfect world. Nor does this constitute a delimitation of God's omnipotence, if it is not that God could not create a perfect world, but that the act which we refer towards by saying "create" in its very essence implies the impossibility of perfection.

However, this notion of the necessity of evil does not mean that we are simply, originally, and continually doomed; on the contrary, Weil tells us that "Evil is the form which God's mercy takes in this world."[14] Weil believed that evil, and its consequence, affliction, served the role of driving us out of ourselves and towards God--"The extreme affliction which overtakes human beings does not create human misery, it merely reveals it."

More specifically, affliction drives us to what Weil referred to as "decreation"--which is not death, but rather closer to "extinction" (nirvana) in the Buddhist tradition—the willed dissolution of the subjective ego in attaining realization of the true nature of the universe.

The chief underlying concept that compels this view of reality is the view of reality as substance. Divine infinity is viewed as substantially infinite, and the kenosis or withdrawal is imposed to accomodate creation of an "other", i.e. the world. The "other" is neither the same nor the opposite, to keep on the via negativa tangent. Evil, therefore, is almost synonymous with contingency.

However, this concept doesn't accord with the Biblical declaration. The Genesis record declares that when God created the world He declared it to be "good". The term "good" certainly means "perfect".

Also, we have philosophical complications. If God withdrew to accomodate the finite and contingent, the substantial view would force even the finitude and contingency of God, which is logically inconsistent with the notion of necessity.

However, there is a path-breaking notion in seeing contingency as a thrust towards the absolute fulfillment in God. Only God can satiate the human existential void.

With regards to the concept of Original Kenosis, there wouldn't be a need to infer an accomodative withdrawal if Divine perfection were regarded as transcendental and non-spatio-temporal. That certainly assumes apophatic terminology; however, that also shows that infinity isn't contingent on space-time-matter. It is infinite as it is.

Domenic Marbaniang, Sept 2010.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Faith is the Cement

To walk by faith means to never react to doubts or conjectures: faith is the cement of all relationship; love, the foundation.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Sinful Nature and Eternal Security (Hamartiology Notes)

Lectures in Hamartiology

The Sinful Nature

'Nature' here must not be understood as similar to that in 'human nature' or 'feline nature'. It is the principle of sin, which Romans 7 talks about, the law of sin. In essence, it is selfishness, covetousness, the end by which 'good' or 'evil' is defined. When Adam sinned, the choice broke him off from the Life of God and mankind became autonomous. Man could decide what was right or wrong by reference to himself. [Even philosophers have referred to happiness as the desired end]. That is the principle of lawlessness that is internal, intense, and universal. Therefore, the condemnation hangs over the head. Man is not compelled by the sin principle, he chooses to walk according to it in his condemned state of separation from God, in his state of Spiritless carnality, and thus subservience and enslavement to sin. He is now flesh (in the sense of not having the dominance of the law of the Spirit, Rom 8:2) and walks according to the flesh in a world that is Godless and self-serving.

Eternal Security

Salvation is not a gift that is separable from Christ or faith in him. Salvation is in Christ.

Calvinism commits the fallacy of being closed to falsification. If I say that there's a unicorn outside and you say you want to see it, and I say you can't because it disappears the moment someone other than me tries to see it, I offer no way of disproving me. Similarly, Calvinism says that to be once saved is to be saved forever, but if you point out someone who had faith earlier but had now fallen, they say that that was so because he wasn't saved in the first place. How do you disprove them?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Hamartiology: Comment on Human Body Indestructible

There is, however, no indication that the fruit of life could render the human body indestructible (as if even God could not destroy it).
Hamartiology, p.11


Indestructibility will be a quality of the spiritual body given to the believer on resurrection or glorification: the source, Christ (1 Cor.15:42-49).

Hamartiology (Philosophical Theology of Sin, 2006) - God Created Humans As Mortals


God created humans as mortals. Mortality was known to Adam, or else reference to it in the command would have meant nothing to him....
...through Adam’s disobedience and choice of autonomy (physical well-being), mortality reached finality in Adam...."

Hamartiology, p.10


(1) If man were created immortal, death could not be predicted of him in any condition. For “immortality” implies inability to die (physically). (2) If man were created immortal, the Tree of Life would be a meaningless addition to the Garden. Perhaps, a safer proposition might be “God created humans as neither mortals nor immortals” because of the condition of non-finality.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Guarding Intimacies - Kempis



Cover of "The Imitation of Christ (Dover ...

SHUNNING OVER-FAMILIARITY

DO NOT open your heart to every man, but discuss your affairs with one who is wise and who fears God. Do not keep company with young people and strangers. Do not fawn upon the rich, and do not be fond of mingling with the great. Associate with the humble and the simple, with the devout and virtuous, and with them speak of edifying things. Be not intimate with any woman, but generally commend all good women to God. Seek only the intimacy of God and of His angels, and avoid the notice of men.

We ought to have charity for all men but familiarity with all is not expedient. Sometimes it happens that a person enjoys a good reputation among those who do not know him, but at the same time is held in slight regard by those who do. Frequently we think we are pleasing others by our presence and we begin rather to displease them by the faults they find in us.

From Imitation of Christ by Thomas A. Kempis (trans. Aloysius Croft & Harold Bolton), Chapter 8.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Self-Evident Word of God - The Bible

Anyone reading the New Testament will immediately be able to observe a few distinctive things:

1. Variety. There is a great variety of styles by different authors. It is not just the perspective of one person. We find here the united testimony of several authors from various backgrounds and perspectives, doctors, government officials, theologians, and fishermen. Yet, they all share the same faith.
2. Sincerity. Not only the tone and the appeal is sincere, but the testimonies of life are also outstandingly genuine. Luke writes about the life of Paul and Peter also mentions him. Then, Paul himself speaks a few times about how he came to know Christ, about the spiritual revelation, about the presence and power of Christ through the Holy Spirit. What a testimony! What a sacrifice! Would anyone, and such intellectuals as Paul and Luke, dare to forsake everything to live such lives unless they were really encountered by God? Every word they spoke bore marks of sincerity. The words themselves prove them.
3. Unity. There is one uniting theme throughout the New Testament, the Gospel of the Cross of Jesus Christ and His resurrection from the dead. "Christ died" was not just a secular phenomenon; it was a divine rendezvous. "Christ rose again" was the pinpoint where all history blended with the reality of the final purpose of God. The death of Christ puts an end to the Old Covenant; the resurrection of Christ liberates us into the new world of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. They all look back at the cross and draw their energy from it.
4. Certainty. All the Biblical writers are fully convinced of the truth they proclaim. We may have doubts about it today; but, they had seen Christ, touched Him, and gazed at Him intently (1John 1:1). There was no mistake about this. The hundreds of these believers, and in no way behind in intelligence and sensibility, were completely assured of the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. Faith was rock-certain.
5. Cogency. The proclamation of the New Testament is consistent and clear. The Gospels, the Book of Acts, the Epistles, and Revelation all evince unity, intelligibility, credibilty, and strong proofs for the points being made. Luke refers to Christ's testimony as grounded on many irrefutable proofs. Christ's teaching is rational against the superstitious and false interpretations of the religious leaders of the time. Paul's writings are not only full of experiential proofs but also attestations from the Old Testament and use of rational interpretation. Cogency is woven into the very fabric of Scripture.
6. Practicality. The Bible never just theorizes or gives out hypotheses or speculative formulations. It calls us to belief and action in conformity to the Truth it proclaims. It calls us to not just sit and immerse in some philosophical or metaphysical meditation. It calls us to a living faith in Jesus Christ. For instance, in Mark 16:17 Jesus says that they who believe will have these signs following: "In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover." Of course, that doesn't mean that believers can now go and play with serpents and drink poison; for that would be falling into the kind of temptation that the devil brought to Jesus, the temptation that tries to use God at one's whim. But, it means that the believer has a faith that is not without substance. It is not a castle in the air. It is not made of "such stuff that dreams are made of". Faith is the substance (Hebrews 11:1). This is the living faith that the Bible calls us to and that will be manifest in the lives of believers. Every promise of the Scripture is true. And, so if anyone believes the words and acts according to them in sincerity and purity of heart, he/she will experience the presence and power of God in his/her own very practical day to day life. If this is not so, the boldness of the Scriptural calling is annulled. But, it is so that while there are many theories and goals in the world that people fantastically strive at (every time, the goal only appears farther), the Bible calls to a simple faith in Jesus Christ by which one can receive every promise given for the believer therein, in reality and without any speck of doubt.

And, these are what zoom out of the Bible when we read it. It is impossible to cast it aside saying that all of them were either deluded or were imposters or were misled. No one can challenge their experiences, none can accuse them of falsehood or of credulity. Their words prove their sanity, their credibility, and their sincerity which is also repeatedly attested by testimonies by others. One cannot read the New Testament, and at the same time keep doubting it. The Scripture is self-evident.

© Domenic Marbaniang, 2010

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Studies in Daniel - Outline

OUTLINE

Daniel can be divided into two parts:

PART I: DANIEL THE INTERPRETER
A. The Test of Dainty (Ch.1)
B. The Vision & Interpretation: The Great Image Broken (Ch.2):
The Four Kingdoms:
Babylon (Golden Head): 606-538 BC
Medo-Persia (Silver Breast & Arms): 538-333 BC
Greece (Brass Belly & Thigh): 333-63 BC
Rome (Iron & Clay Legs): BC 63-AD?
C. The Test of Devotion: Shadrach, Meshech, & Abednego in Fire (Ch.3)
D. The Vision & Interpretation: The Great Tree Cut Down (Ch.4)
Nebuchadnezzar’s Pride brings him to the fields, perhaps zoanthrophy or lycanthropy
E. The Writing & Interpretation: MENE MENE TEKEL UPHARSIN (Ch.5)
Belshazzar and Babylon’s Fall (538BC)
F. The Test of Decree: Daniel in Lion’s Den (Ch.6)

PART II: DANIEL THE SEER
A. The Four Beasts: The Four Beasts-Four Kings (Ch.7)
B. The Ram, the Goat, and the Horn (Ch.8)
Medo-Persia, Alexander, Antiochus Epiphanes (Anti-Christ)
C. Daniel’s Prayer & the Revelation of the 70 Weeks (Explained below) (Ch.9)
D. Daniel’s 21 Day Fast & the Vision of an Angel (Ch.10)
E. The Angel Reveals the Events Soon to Come (Ch.11)
From Cambyses to Antiochus Epiphanes (BC 530-164=366 Years)
F. The Time of Great Trouble and the Sealing of the Prophecy for Latter Days (Ch.12)

DANIEL’S 70 WEEKS (DAN. 9:24-27)
Formula: 1 Week = 7 Years (Gen. 29:7)

“Going forth of the commandment” – March 14, 445 B.C. (Neh. 2:5)
“After 62 weeks shall Messiah be cut off.” – April 06, A.D. 32 (Mat. 21)
62+7 = 69 Weeks (Dan. 9:25) x 7 x 360 days = 173,880 days (Jewish Calendar)
March 14, 445 – April 06, 32 = 173,880 days (Our Calendar)
The Final Week (7 years of Tribulation) when the Anti-Christ will be revealed is the 70th week (Dan. 9:27).

© Domenic Marbaniang, 2010

Friday, September 3, 2010

Daniel - Lecture 2



Hanging Gardens of Babylon


The next key verse is 2:44 which talks about the coming everlasting Kingdom of Jesus Christ.
And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. (Daniel 2:44)

Daniel, unlike his contemporary Ezekiel, is more concerned about the political future of the world and emphasizes on the Kingdom of God. He hailed from Judah and the Lord had chartered his course into the palace of Babylon.

Ezekiel, on the other hand, was of a priestly family and his visions were primarily related to the religious life of the people.

Ezekiel's visions relate to the TEMPLE - the Glory of God, the Cherubim, etc.

Daniel's vision is about the THRONE - the Kingdom of God.

Ezekiel envisions a coming world to be filled with the presence, knowledge, and glory of God.

Daniel envisions a world ruled absolutely by Jesus Christ.

© Domenic Marbaniang, Sept 2010.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Studies in Daniel: Key Verses - Lecture 1

The Book of Daniel was written sometime between 606-530 BC when Daniel prophesied through the times of Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Darius the son of Ahasurus in Babylon. The Book contains dreams, visions, and prophecies related to global politics revolving around the Jews whose nation Israel/Judah was snatched from them through conquests, first by Assyria and then by Babylon in 586 BC. The dreams, visions, and prophecies declare that though Israel was suspended as a nation from the realm of politics, God‘s sovereign rulership over world politics had not come to cease. In terms of ethno-religio-political locus, the Book portrays one center: The Messiah who is the Son of David (the next immediate circumferential center being the Jewish people to whom He first belongs, ethno-religio-politically speaking). In terms of geo-political locus, the center is Jerusalem, the City of David (the immediate circumferential center being Palestine). Jerusalem is destined to be the Capital of the future political world. The Land (Palestine) is a subject of many prophecies in this Book. Though now seemingly forsaken, it has a central place in God’s charter of world politics.

The Key verses are 2:20-23, 44
Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding: He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him. I thank thee, and praise thee, O thou God of my fathers, who hast given me wisdom and might, and hast made known unto me now what we desired of thee: for thou hast now made known unto us the king’s matter. (Dan 2:20-23)
And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. (Dan 2:44)

We’ll look at verses 20-21 today:

The Sovereignty of the LORD (YHWH)

The verses declare the Sovereignty of God over the world. Israel’s ceasing as a nation didn’t mean the cessation of divine activity. God is Sovereign forever “Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever” and He governs the world with His wisdom and His might “for wisdom and might are his”.

1. Sovereignty over World History

“he changeth the times and the seasons”

Whether we speak in terms of historical time-shifts or major historical events, God’s hand is over history. Be it the Aryan migration or the Mughal invasion, the British conquest of the quest for freedom, God’s hand was over the history of our country; so over every country and nation, globally and territorially. Whether one speaks of great transitions from the Stone Age to the Iron Age, from the Classical Age to the Renaissance, from the Dark Age to the Age of Industrial Revolution; whether one speaks of Ashoka’s edicts or the Great Depression, of Nebuchadnezzar’s Golden Age or this Great Recession, Daniel declares that it is YHWH, the Sovereign Lord of the universe, who “changeth the times and the seasons”. His hand is upon the panorama of all history.

2. Sovereignty over World Politics

“he removeth kings, and setteth up kings”

The Bible declares that all political and judicial authority is divinely ordained (Romans 13:1-2). The men and women in authority are called ministers of God for good (Romans 13:4) though they might not acknowledge themselves as such. Their placement in political history is by divine determination (cf. Esther 4:14). Whether it is a monarchy, an oligarchy, or a democracy, it is God who removes leaders and sets up leaders. The devil himself may inspire certain leaders, but he doesn’t have permission apart from God’s judicious determinations; even the anti-christ will not appear until God allows him to appear. Then, it will be God alone, no mortal hand, that will put an end to the reign of the beast.* It is necessary for all people to honor authority, though the one in the position may be evil. Remember Paul, the great missionary, almost a household name in his day, when he stood before the magistrates and the governors, how he conducted himself with boldness and sincerity of faith, but with great humility and respect for authority.

3. Sovereignty over Education and Propagation of Knowledge

“he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding”

Schools and Universities rule the world. Information is power, someone said; and, the world has seen an awakening out of superstitious slumbers into the dawn of Reason.** The Universities are getting increasing and intensely secular. Harvey Cox had suggested four decades ago that this was to be Biblically anticipated. The unshackling of the ecclesiastical from the secular is the act of God. In this manner, man was liberated from dogmatic tutors to freedom of thought and expression. Research has become more scientific, if not totally bias-free. This has enabled greater strides in the area of civilization and culture. The world has grown smaller in our age of globalization and information explosion. We are exposed to more information than ever. Yet, it is God who gives wisdom and knowledge. Despite the surge of anti-theistic tendencies in the field of education, for instance, Schools and Universities throughout the world are filled with believers in God; which indicate that the secularity and liberality of thought has little to do with the motivation or discouragement of faith. Education can never overpower God because God’s holds scepter over the domain of knowledge and education.

_________________

* It is said that the Beast will recover from a mortal wound (Revelation 13:3). Perhaps, there will be an attempt to assasination; but, that attempt will not prevail because God’s order has ordained the Beast’s destruction only at the hands of the Messiah.
**At whichever age, however, cynicism and credulity, both opposite tendencies, were never totally dismissed.



Notes from Lectures, CITS, September 2, 2010.
© Domenic Marbaniang, 2010.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Charles Finney's 5 Rules of Biblical Interpretation

From Finney's Systematic Theology, Lecture 39

(1) Different passages must be so interpreted, if they can be, as not to contradict each other.
(2) Language is to be interpreted according to the subject matter of discourse.
(3) Respect is always to be had, to the general scope and design of the speaker or writer.
(4) Texts that are consistent with either theory, prove neither.
(5) Language is to be so interpreted, if it can be, as not to conflict with sound philosophy, matters of fact, the nature of things, or immutable justice.