Holy violence

17 10 2019

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As a supplement to my review of his book, I also present a reflection on a response that Hart himself made to another critical review of That All Shall Be Saved. In reviewing Hart’s book, Peter Leithart referred to all of the atrocities that God asked His chosen people to perform in His name, namely, annihilating entire cities and towns, including the children and animals. Leithart asks how one could reconcile this Biblical history to the idea of a good God. Hart states bluntly in Good God? A Response:

You ask if I think the YHVH of the Old Testament was “good.”  First of all, there is no single YHVH in the Hebrew corpus.  The various texts that the Second Temple redactors collated into the Torah and Tanakh emanate from various epochs in the development of Canaanite and Israelitic religion, and reflect the spiritual sensibilities of very different moments in the evolution of what would in time become Judaism.  Most of the Hebrew Bible is a polytheistic gallimaufry, and YHVH is a figure in a shifting pantheon of elohim or deities.  In the later prophets, he is for the most part a very good god, yes, and even appears to have become something like God in the fullest sense.  But in most of the Old Testament he is of course presented as quite evil: a blood-drenched, cruel, war-making, genocidal, irascible, murderous, jealous storm-god.  Neither he nor his rival or king or father or equal or alter ego (depending on which era of Cannanite and Israelitic religion we are talking about) El (or El Elyon or Elohim) is a good god.  Each is a psychologically limited mythic figure from a rich but violent ancient Near Eastern culture—or, more accurately, two cultures that progressively amalgamated over many centuries. Read the rest of this entry »

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David Bentley Hart’s End of History

11 10 2019

When thinking of the problem of Hell, I recall one of the only sermons that I remember from my time in the Society of St. Pius X seminary. It was an anniversary Mass of one of the priests where he began stating that the one thing that motivated him to be a priest was the idea of Hell and that people go there. This was one of the only instances when Hell even entered into my religious considerations. As a teenage hanger-on at my mother’s Legion of Mary praesidium, I remember being recounted the vision of Hell shown to the children at Fatima in connection to that apparition’s message of penance. As with many modern people, Hell is sort of always in the background but never at the forefront of what I think concerning the meaning of human life. But for many, such as that priest, it is very much front and center of who they are as followers of Christ. Read the rest of this entry »





The anti-transfiguration

5 10 2019

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In one of the most dramatic episodes of the Bhagavad Gita, Krsna’s friend Arjuna asks to see Krsna’s universal form, the visva-rupa. The universal form is how Krsna, who is Bhagavan or the Supreme Personality of Godhead, interacts with the world. The original form of Krsna, the source of all of His expansions and avatars, is just as Arjuna sees Him on the Battlefield of Kurukshetra: blueish-black, two handed, and appearing no older than a sixteen year old boy (even though by then Krsna had been on the Earth well over 100 years). Having been instructed by Krsna, and knowing Him to be the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he asks to see the visva-rupa to know better who his friend is. Srila Prabhupada translates the manifestation of the universal form as follows:

Arjuna saw in that universal form unlimited mouths, unlimited eyes, unlimited wonderful visions. The form was decorated with many celestial ornaments and bore many divine upraised weapons. He wore celestial garlands and garments, and many divine scents were smeared over His body. All was wondrous, brilliant, unlimited, all-expanding.

If hundreds of thousands of suns were to rise at once into the sky, their radiance might resemble the effulgence of the Supreme Person in that universal form.

At that time Arjuna could see in the universal form of the Lord the unlimited expansions of the universe situated in one place although divided into many, many thousands. Read the rest of this entry »





Do universalists want to make the Church into ISKCON?

28 09 2019

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I hate to keep writing things about a book I haven’t read, but as I listen to a lot of podcasts online, recently I listened to Pentecostal theologians discussing David Bentley Hart’s latest book on universal salvation. They were very positive about the book and Hart in general, and one of the theologians stated that the idea of people being tortured in Hell for all eternity was a heresy, full stop. In their view, the rejection of Hell is based on the idea of a loving God. The very meaning of who God is excludes the idea of souls being tortured for all eternity. Universalists are now coining the pejorative term “infernalists” to define those who hold the Christian orthodox position on Hell. Read the rest of this entry »





The Lefebvrist theology of the body?

20 09 2019

An old blogger acquaintance recommended the mandatory reading of an interview by the Society of St. Pius X’s new superior, Father Davide Pagliarani. It is an informative interview but it doesn’t really break new ground. In general, it represents the same entrenchment of the SSPX against “modernist Rome”. Read the rest of this entry »





On universalism again

13 09 2019

The summer has been busy so keeping up with blog posts has been difficult. In June, the Church Life Journal published Taylor Ross’s reflection on Origen’s doctrine of salvation in The Severity of Universal Salvation. Here the premise is that the doctrine of universal salvation is far from a “walk in the park,” that the process of purification by which a soul is ready to go back to God is difficult and, more often than not, very long. Ross writes:

It should not require a theological treatise, much less the anxious methods of psychoanalysis, to recognize that the human will is capable of a seemingly endless charade of avoidance. Origen infamously entertained a seemingly endless proliferation of ages because he knew, presumably firsthand, that very often the soul would rather journey on with its false attachments than be transfigured. So, if he countenanced the idea of a God patient enough to make time for fallen creatures to willingly repent, it is because Origen knew, presumably firsthand, that there is no shortcut to reformed desire. Read the rest of this entry »





A crisis of presence

4 09 2019

I had this odd dream where I was in the parking lot of the Catholic church in my hometown lecturing a couple of women about Origen and the Real Presence. I think the gist of what I was saying is that Origen perceived the presence of the Lord more in the Word than in the species of the Eucharist. As I was fast asleep, I don’t quite grasp the logic here. But I did read recently Jean Danielou’s book on Origen where Danielou states how Origen wanted to remove his listener from the carnal understanding of the Word of God and focus him more on the spiritual understanding. In that context, the traditional (modern?) understanding concerning Catholic piety of the Eucharist being the sole or only important presence of God would be something that Origen would object to. Read the rest of this entry »





Escaping the material world

28 08 2019

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Materialism is mistaking your own limited ideas of reality gathered from the senses for reality itself. In reading the Srimad Bhagavatam, Srila Prabhupada comments the following concerning contemplating the Universal Form of the Lord (virat rupa):

Some of them think that to hear about the pastimes of the Lord means to hear about His activities with the gopīs or about His pastimes like lifting the Govardhana Hill, and they have nothing to do with the Lord’s plenary expansions as the puruṣāvatāras and Their pastimes of the creation, maintenance or annihilation of the material worlds. But a pure devotee knows that there is no difference between the pastimes of the Lord, either in rāsa-līlā or in creation, maintenance or destruction of the material world. Rather, the descriptions of such activities of the Lord as the puruṣāvatāras are specifically meant for persons who are in the clutches of the external energy. Topics like the rāsa-līlā are meant for the liberated souls and not for the conditioned souls. The conditioned souls, therefore, must hear with appreciation and devotion the Lord’s pastimes in relationship with the external energy, and such acts are as good as the hearing of rāsa-līlā in the liberated stage. A conditioned soul should not imitate the activities of liberated souls. Lord Śrī Caitanya never indulged in hearing the rāsa-līlā with ordinary men.

In the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, the science of God, the first nine cantos prepare the ground for hearing the Tenth Canto. This will be further explained in the last chapter of this canto. In the Third Canto it will be more explicit. A pure devotee of the Lord, therefore, must begin reading or hearing Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam from the very beginning, and not from the Tenth Canto. We have several times been requested by some so-called devotees to take up the Tenth Canto immediately, but we have refrained from such an action because we wish to present Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam as the science of Godhead and not as a sensuous understanding for the conditioned souls. This is forbidden by such authorities as Śrī Brahmājī. By reading and hearing Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam as a scientific presentation, the conditioned souls will gradually be promoted to the higher status of transcendental knowledge after being freed from the illusory energy based on sense enjoyment. Read the rest of this entry »





Poor people’s religion

7 08 2019

There is a difference especially in the First World between religion as concern for the poor and religion of the poor. In my experience, especially in Mexican-American barrios in the United States, when people get religion or return to religion, they often never stray back into Catholicism but instead go to evangelical churches in storefronts or megachurches. These churches often lack a “social conscience”. Though most of the people who attend them are poor or working class, that’s not the focus of their identity or mission. While they are often built on social aide or prison outreach, the focus isn’t on the societal causes of their condition (think Archbishop Camara’s idea of helping the poor vs. asking why there are poor people), but rather on how Jesus can help people out of their condition, how their condition was caused by bad or sinful decisions, and so forth. Read the rest of this entry »





On Pascal

13 07 2019

Again, the problem is not simply things as they are but, unlike the body/matter-loving Christians of the 20th/21st century, things are bad. For God had created this age to be an imperfect one of growth and transfiguration. There’s a typological parallel between Eve birthed from sleeping Adam’s side and the dead Christ’s pierced side pouring out blood and water, the elements of His bride, the Church. The difference in types truly shows how horrifying sin truly is, and what the curse had contained through a brutal regime of hard-work, suffering in life-giving, and mortality cut off from immortality. But more importantly, God had chosen to hide Himself in a peculiar form. Why not simply make things perfect? And once fallen, why not just fix it? Christ created rational creatures that He draws into the most peculiar relationship. All of heaven and earth sing of their Creator, but the Creator shrouds Himself in darkness. He speaks, but in riddles. The creation bears this mark, the sign of wisdom, but wisdom now crucified. There is a difference between programming and self-discovery. The latter does not mean, or require, a human autonomy in contrast or in differentiation from divine providence. Man plans in his heart, but God directs his footsteps. Advocates of free-will like to contrast God’s creation of humans, as rational and willful creatures, not robots. So far, that’s basically true, but that is totally irrelevant if God is accountable for the salvation of these creatures. Those who use these arguments to argue for a powerless God who can’t stop or intervene in affairs know nothing of the Bible. In Scripture, humans are simultaneously open and free, while never outside God’s will. Luther’s deterministic pessimism, bordering on the manichean, is as equally delusional as the Jesuit’s Molinistic optimism in Human rationality and the integrity of creation.

The rest here.