Religious Recursion

It does annoy me, on occasion, before I catch myself and remember that the whole Christian project is a project of open futility–

About that: the Second Sunday of Easter is always Doubting Thomas Sunday, so doubt is much on my mind, being a fervent believer, liturgically speaking, meditating on the elements of my faith, which is something else, at my age, having lived through the emergence of a culture which was mostly Christian into one which is mostly not, especially up here in Western New York and the Niagara Peninsula of Ontario. Doubt, right? It’s essential to the Faith.

They were upstairs, behind locked doors, afraid, those Eleven who were with him from the very beginning, and they all saw him die. Thomas, called “The Twin,” puffs his chest out, saying, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

Well, Thomas, can’t you do that to a corpse?

Strange things.

I don’t understand the intellectual hostility to Christianity, especially when people I consider friends publicly wish there were fewer of me, less of my influence in life and culture. Why? Because there are bad Christians? And the half-baked dismissal of the fervent, you know, glib high school angry atheist stuff, always as an aside, never as a grown-up inquiry into this two thousand year old faith with a billion adherents, and growing (despite Europe and North America), which has roots in a strange Ancient Near Eastern blood cult another two thousand years hence.

The Christian project is a project of open futility, though, and I have to remind myself of that.

Nevertheless, I do take a little pleasure in some of the materialist investigations into the Faith, first transforming Christianity into a “religion,” which is a neat intellectual move, making the Faith, which dominates the life and culture of Western Civilization, indistinguishable from shamanistic druidic magicka, only distinguishing by time elapsed. When the materialists talk about ritual, ignoring my own call for distinctions within these hallowed halls

Remember, the Christian Faith is in defiance of ritual and religion. When Christianity develops rituals, it’s always a threat to itself.

This behavior of the materialists, all of them together, namely, wishing there were fewer of me, reducing my beliefs into a primordial pool of beliefs, and talking about my rites and rituals without making proper distinctions, creates in me a sense that a kind of recursion is going on:

The materialist sees the Christian, and comments. The Christian sees the materialist commenting, and comments. The materialist sees the Christian commenting on the comment, and so forth. To me, it’s like one of those wonderfully absurd Monty Python sketches:

Scene: Lower middle-class apartment, evening, husband sitting in comfortable chair reading The Times, wife making efforts at wifely cleaning. Two men appear in the window, dressed in safari clothing, writing in notebooks.

Wife: Herman, they’re watching us again!

Herman: Who are, Margret?

Margret: The Materialists.

Herman: Oh, that’s all right, dear, they’re just researching.

Margret: Researching?

Herman: That’s right, Margret; they’ve come from a long way away just to learn about our behavior in the wild instead of in captivity.

Laugh track

Margret: Well, I don’t like it, not one bit. (closes curtains. The materialist safari move to the other window)

Laugh track

Margret: They won’t go away, Herman!

Herman: Of course not, dear, they’re Materialists.

Laugh track

Herman: Ask them what they want, and maybe they’ll go away.

Margret: What do you want?

Materialists don’t answer. Whisper to each other, writing in notebooks.

Margret: They don’t think we can see them.

Laugh track

Herman: Do what?

Margret: They don’t think we can see them.

Herman: Well, what are they talking about?

Margret: Normativity.

Herman: Normativity? Did you hand them a copy of Proverbs?

Margret: I told you, they don’t think we can see them.

And so forth. The laugh track is to my advantage, but you, O Materialist, have the last laugh, the true laugh.

The whole project of the Christian Faith is a project of open futility, and it is actually encoded in the Faith. Saint Paul–excuse me–the Apostle Paul, after fifteen chapters on the wisdom of God putting to shame the wisdom of the world (that would be you materialists) finishes his exposition by saying in his first letter to the Corinthian Christians, “If there is no resurrection of the body, then we are to be pitied more than all men. Send money.”

So, since miracles = impossible (cf. G.E. Lessing), and since the resurrection of the body = a miracle, then, it follows, therefore there is no God.

The materialist has the advantage in an ever-improving society and ever-progressing technology as a result of Science, material proof. The only way for me to prove my faith is for me to become a corpse.

They called Thomas “The Twin” for a reason, you know.

man-in-the-mirror
Image borrowed from http://menfash.us/styling-tips/am-i-really-looking-good/

 

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Blessed Are the Meek

After last night’s annual bacchanalia, it was a pleasure to awaken groggily to Samuel Hammond’s delightful celebration of materialism, in which he channels The Preacher, known to many as Ecclesiastes, which tries to translate the Hebrew “Qohelet,” the one who calls the assembly.

It is the godless book of the Bible, disturbing in its nihilism, but it became one of the “little scrolls,” those books which are designated for use by the post-exilic Jews for public reading during their own bacchanals. This 2900 year old book was read aloud during the Feast of Booths, that gargantuan outdoor party celebrating the harvest. In short, while you are totally blitzed on new wine, engorging yourself on the fat of the land, and looking lustily upon one another, as commanded by Moses, The Preacher shouts over the landscape: “Meaningless!”

Consider Sam:

“Status competitions are our main, if not only, source of meaning in the universe.”

and

“So meditate if you have to, but don’t be afraid to day dream a little, too. It may fill you with anxiety, and it definitely won’t make you happy, but later in life you just might find yourself building a spaceship to Mars.”

And The Preacher:

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going. (Ecclesiastes 9:10 ESV)

Adam Gurri has been pestering me to write a defense of Christianity here in the hallowed halls of Sweet Talk, but I have thus far demurred, being unmotivated to do so in the midst of those who are so certain, but Sam’s stimulating post has evoked a little something irresistible.

If I may categorize (naturally, drawing distinctions simplifies, and the elements of this taxonomy will, in real life, overlap):

There are those who see the world as it is and celebrate it. Thus Samuel Hammond.

There are two classes of those who see the world as it is and mourn over it as broken.

Class One copes, meditating.

Class Two will not cope, continuing to mourn, in the hope for a restoration of what is broken. Christians define this class.

For Christians, the brokenness of the world is best mourned in the body of Christ, who stands crucified, in which Christians participate by means of the mystery of the sacraments.

This mystery is articulated by one Paul, formerly Saul of Tarsus, who persecuted the Body of Christ with all his might until he had a vision of the Crucified One, and he writes about him whom he saw:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities– all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:15-17 ESV)

It is important here to note a few boundaries. This is not a refutation of the science of evolution, but it is a declaration of pre-eminence, which is offensive. Note carefully that the Christian view of creation is cast not in terms of material manifestation, which Christ says is vapor, but in terms of dominion, rulers, authorities, i.e.,  that rascally elusive normativity.

More than that, since the universe is held together in, with, and under a human body, the material world is transformed into a world of relational interaction. To wit: love the Lord your God with all your heart, and equally (because God is a human in Jesus, and we are in him and he is in us), love your neighbor as yourself.

A rocket-size measuring contest is the epitome of pursuing meaninglessness. Meaningfulness is measured in interpersonal relationships, beginning with the male-female relationship, which perpetuates the species, and also embodies thrones, dominions, rulers, and authorities, beginning at home, which is broken and should be mourned. Normativity dominates; it does not love, nor does it allow for distinction, only ruthless conformity, as evolution teaches: we adapt to strength, not weakness.

The relationship of a man to a woman is hopelessly weak.

 

One Is The Loneliest Number

More advent musings

John Derbyshire, who sometimes injudiciously shares naughty thoughts with the world, has notoriously wagered alongside Pascal, oscillating irregularly between a deistic agnostic and a fully materialistic atheist.

He chafes against the charge of “materialistic,” as I recall (and I can’t be bothered to look it up, but I know I’m not being unfair), offering as an argument that there is no alternative. On at least one occasion he criticized his well-meaning critics with this observation:

Those who appeal to Natural Law–some sort of appeal to the complexities of the cosmos–in an effort to re-convert him to Christianity commit a logical sleight of hand (and here the information is relevant that Derbyshire is a popularizer of advanced mathematics), that is, when they say, “How can you deny there is a Creator-God when the world is so magnificent? O John Derbyshire, you especially should know that there’s almost no mathematical probability that all this could just happen,” –when they make this argument, they are stumbling mathematically.

Au contraire, he would say. It did just happen. Those who argue that it cannot be have deftly removed the numerator from the probability.

Indeed, when I look at the work of God, and all its majesty and wonder, I come at it from a basis of faith. Of course I see the hand of God. But if I do not come at it from the basis of faith, I see the improbabilities having come to pass. It doesn’t matter the improbabilities of the physical world, both cosmic and quantum; it doesn’t matter the improbabilities of the emotional world of familial relationships and psychology; it doesn’t matter the improbabilities of laws of thermodynamics over against natural selection. They all, by all reckoning, just happened. It cannot be elsewise.

In other words, the numeral one is still atop the denominator, no matter how vast the denominator should happen to be. A chance of one in two is a chance of one in two. A chance of one in seventeen billion is still a chance, no matter how infinitesimal. Materialists rejoice as ones who walked into a casino once, and only once, placed a single chip upon a random number at the roulette wheel, and won. By chance, not miraculously. By chance.

Indeed, it is necessary to  maintain the numerator in order to remain a person of faith, i.e., a person of The Faith, which includes a Creator-God. If faithful people remove the numerator, they become fundamentalist materialists themselves, denying the confession of The Faith which includes a Creator-God. The Faith demands belief to be completely suspended, surrounded in its entirety by doubt. From that position of utter weakness, The Faith does its work.

That is to say, if there is not a one atop the denominator, there is no longer a declaration of The Faith; instead, adherents are reduced to arguing probabilities. From there, it’s a short slope to slide down into the denial of the Redeemer-God, when we bow our heads on Christmas morning, reciting that impossible thing, the number zero above the denominator, namely that, somewhere in between “Very God of Very God,” transcendent beyond apprehension, and “He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate,” there is the phrase which earns a hearty chuckle from our coevals who surround us entirely in the maelstrom of the agora, “He came down from heaven, was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man.”

There’s where the zero belongs: zero chance, not even a table upon which to place your bet. Let Pascal rot, or burn, whichever.

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