Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Next American "Civil War"?

From time to time in the universe of Internet one may come across some comment or discussion of the possibility or probability of a second American civil war. For some, such comments come from a perspective holding to a romanticized "lost cause" view of the first American Civil War of the 1860's; a view that engages in the vain yearning or perhaps more accurately the vain conceit that the "South" will somehow "rise again..."

For some time now, I have viewed such romantic conceit as totally out of touch with the reality of modern warfare and the changing face of what modern civil war has become. My classic case in point for that assertion is the Spanish Civil War of the mid-1930's. I recently started reading Stanley G. Payne's account of the Spanish Civil War published in 2012 by Cambridge as part of their Cambridge Essential Histories series. The following is an extended quote from Payne's introduction on pages 1-4 in which he deals with how the nature of civil war changed in the 20th century.

"By 1918, civil war had broken out in Finland and Russia, and it was not the traditional kind of civil war in which two contestants engage in a power struggle with equivalent goals and similar values, but a new kind of revolutionary civil war of the sort first essayed in France during the 1790's and in 1871. In the new civil wars, sharply contrasting revolutionary and counterrevolutionary programs vied for power, aiming not merely at political domination, but at imposing totally contrasting programs in society, economics, culture, and even religion--two completely antagonistic ways of life, virtually two different civilizations. These civil conflicts were fought with unprecedented bitterness and violence, extending far beyond the field of battle. Red terror and its counterrevolutionary counterpart during the Russian civil war sought not merely to conquer, but to some extent to eradicate the opposition completely, rooting out antagonists physically as well as politically, as though they represented contending religious or metaphysical principles, forces of absolute good or evil that had not merely to be conquered but completely extirpated. The result was unprecedented political violence in many different parts of the former Tsarist empire, while violent internal conflict also broke out in central and southern Europe..."

"...In this perspective, civil war in Spain was not a complete anomaly, but rather the only massive internal conflict to break out in Western Europe during the 1930's. It would reflect all the tensions, hatreds and ideologies found in these other conflicts, while adding further features of its own, characteristic of Spain and to some extent Europe as a whole during the decade before World War II."

Simply put, a modern civil war in the United States would not look much at all like the Civil War of the 1860's. Further more, we have very ample reason to believe that a modern civil war in the United States would very likely make the first Civil War look like a Sunday school picnic by comparison in terms of the level of violence and terror from both sides of the conflict. Also a modern civil war in America would very likely involve two antagonists of whom both would be repugnant and despicable, but in their extremism, there will be no allowance for any middle ground or moderation. In the Spanish Civil War there was nothing to like in either the Franco party on the one hand or the so called Republicans on the other. Both sides had repudiated the democratic process and both sides engaged in their share of violence and terror.

There may very well come a time in the future when the United States falls again into the scourge of another civil war, but if it does, it will have little or nothing to do with the "South rising again..."

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

tou θeoῦ Λὀγoς (The Logos of God)

" the grace of the resurrection banishing death from them as straw from the fire."

For this purpose, then, the incorporeal and incorruptible and immaterial Word of God (tou θeoῦ Λὀγoς) comes into our realm, although He was not formerly distant. For no part of creation is left void of Him; while abiding with His own Father, He has filled all things in every place. But now He comes, condescending towards us in His love for human beings and His manifestation. For seeing the rational race perishing, and death reigning over them through corruption, and seeingf also the threat of the transgression giving firm hold to the corruption that was upon us, and that it was absurd for the law to be dissolved before being fulfilled, and seeing the impropriety in what had happened, that the very thing of which He Himself was the Creator were disappearing, and seeing the excessive wickedness of human beings, that they gradually increased it to an intolerable pitch against themselves, and seeing the liability of all human beings to death--having mercy upon our race, and having pity upon our weakness, and condescending to our corruption, and not enduring the dominion of death, least what had been created should perish and the work of the Father Himself for human beings should be in vain,He takes for Himself a body and that not foreign to our own.

For He did not wish simply to be in a body, nor did He wish merely to appear, for if He had wished only to appear He could have made His divine manifestation through some other better means. But He takes that which is ours, and that not simply, but from a spotless and stainless virgin, ignorant of man, pure and unmixed with intercourse with men. Although being Himself powerful and the creator of the universe, He prepared for Himself in the Virgin the body as a temple, and made it His own, as an instrument, making Himself known and dwelling in it. And thus taking from ours that which is like, since all were liable to the corruption of death, delivering it over to death on behalf of all, He offered it to the Father, doing this in His love for human beings, so that, on the one hand, with all dying in Him the law concerning corruption in human beings might be undone (its power being fully expended in the lordly body and no longer having any ground against similar human beings), and on the other hand, that as human beings ha d turned towards corruption He might turn them again to incorruptibility and give them life from death, by making the body His own and by the grace of the resurrection banishing death from them as straw from the fire.

St.Athanasius, "On the Incarnation" , (Translation by John Behr)

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Yes, God is Impassible and Impassioned...

Having just finished reading God is Impassible and Impassioned by Rob Lister, I thought about writing a review. I find that other Amazon reviewers have more than covered anything I could say regarding the merits of this work. Below I am posting a link to one of those reviews. All I can say is "ditto". On a personal note I found Chapter 10 "Impassibility and Incarnation: A Concluding Christological Reflection" to be a real "mind-bender" that has helped clarify and sharpen my own understanding of the Incarnation. For this I am humbly grateful.

I first became aware of Lister's book through a passing dismissive comment on another blog. As I have posted in a previous note, the nature of the comment was such that one wondered if the blog writer had ever read Lister's book, but was merely dismissively reacting to the title. I now believe that to be the case. Also I found this book was recommended by Dr. Ardel Caneday, a man whose theological judgement I respect. In reading this book, I found my own preliminary thoughts on the impassibility and passion of God were pretty much headed in the same general direction as Lister's thesis and argument. I have no hesitation in recommending this work to anyone having an interest in the discussion and controversy over God's impassibility and His passions.

A Review of Rob Lister's "God is Impassible and Impassioned".

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Christmas Story in the Apocolypse

And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.

Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.

~ Revelation 12 (ESV)

Monday, October 19, 2015

Those Who Sing About the Resurrection of the Slain Lamb

"The point that apocalyptic makes is not only that people who wear crowns and who claim to foster justice by the sword are not as strong as they think--true as that is: we still sing, "O where are Empires and Kings now of old that went and came?" It is that people who bear crosses are working with the grain of the universe. One does not come to that belief by reducing social progress to mechanical and statistical models,nor by winning some of one's battles for the control of one's own corner of the fallen world. One comes to it by sharing the life of those who sing about the Resurrection of the slain Lamb."

John Howard Yoder, "Armaments and Eschatology"; as quoted by Stanley Hauerwas in "With the Grain of the Universe"

Friday, October 16, 2015

Currently Reading...

"God is Impassible and Impassioned: Toward a Theology of Divine Emotion", Rob Lister, (Crossway, 2013)

I was first made aware of Lister's work by a dismissive passing comment on a blog that will remain unnamed here. The nature of the comment was such that one wondered if the blog writer had ever read Lister's book, but was merely dismissively reacting to the title. I also found that this book was recommended by my friend Dr. Ardel Caneday, a man whose theological judgement I respect. I have heard in recent days the impassibility of God has become such an issue in some quarters that one loose association of churches has actually split over the issue. This is not light reading. There are a plethora of footnotes included with the text. I am now halfway through this work, and so far am satisfied Lister's thoughts on the matter are headed in a direction I would be in general agreement with. I have my thoughts on the whole matter, but prefer to finish Lister's work before attempting an articulation of those thoughts.

"With the Grain of the Universe: The Church's Witness and Natural Theology", Stanley Hauerwas, (Brazos Press,2001)

This publication is the wriitten form of the lectures Hauerwas delivered at the 2000-2001 Gifford Lectures at the University of St. Andrews. In those lectures as presented in this book form, Hauerwas gives an interpretation of American intellectual history with focus on William James, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Carl Barth. It is this philosophical and theological history that I find of interest and value. I am about a quarter or so into this one.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Groaning and Hope of Creation

"For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us.

For the creation,with outstretched head, is eagerly looking forward to the revelation of the sons of God. For it was not by its own choice that the creation was subject to futility, but (it was) because of him who subjected it, in hope, because the creation itself too will be set free from its bondage to decay, so as to share the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation, with one accord, has been, and still is, groaning as in the pain of childbirth."

Romans 8:18-22 as translated by William Hendriksen, "New Testament Commentary: Romans Chapters 1-8"

"And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, And the leopard will lie down with the young goat, And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little boy will lead them. Also the cow and the bear will graze, Their young will lie down together, And the lion will eat straw like the ox. The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra, And the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den. They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord As the waters cover the sea." ~ Isaiah 11:6-9

There will be a day when all creation will once again exist in harmony with itself. The birds that come to my bird feeder will no longer be afraid. The emerald Ash borer attacking my Ash tree, will no longer cause it or any other tree harm. Needle cast will no longer afflict my Evergreen trees. Those animals that are our friends and pets will not get old or sick, nor will they die. The trees will not be splintered by a lightning blast, nor blown over in the storms. All will be at peace and harmony with all else in that New Heavens and New Earth. Such is the promise of God. Such is our hope and the hope and yearning of creation itself. Blessed be the name of the LORD!