Posted on: April 30th, 2007 Gilson to de Lubac: Scholastics vs. Humanist Theologians

"… [Scholastics] understand only univocal propositions and those that seem univocal. [Humanist theologians], by contrast, are more interested in the truth the proposition attempts to formulate and that always partly escapes it. Then the latter no longer understand; they become restless, and, because they cannot be certain that what escapes them is not false, they condemt it as a matter of principle because that is more secure." Étienne Gilson in a letter to Henri de Lubac, quoted in Hans Urs von Balthassar, The Theology of Henri de Lubac

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Posted on: April 26th, 2007 Orthodoxy & Synergy / Participation

If one were to summarize the differences between the eastern and western traditions in a single word, that word would be "synergy." For the East the highest form of communion with the divine is not primarily an intellectual act, but a sharing of life and activity. This seems to have been true among both pagans and also Christians during the fomative period of late antiquity, stretching back to the magical papyri and Hermetica, as well as to the New Testament and early church Fathers. It led to a tendancy to think of earthly, bodily existence as capable of being taken up and subsumed within the life of God. Emphasis was placed, not on any sudden transformation at death, but on the ongoing and active appropriation of those aspects of divine life that are open to participation. Naturally this aspiration took on different forms in different authors, and there were marked differences between its pagan and Christian forms. But the underlying belief in synergy as a form of communion with God remains as clear in Gregory Palamas as it is in St. Paul. It influences the entirety of the eatsern outlook, not only in the explicitly religious and philosophical areas was have discussed, but in others we have scarcely touched upon." David Bradshaw, Aristotle East and West, p 265.

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Posted on: April 25th, 2007 Doctoral Statement of Intent

As some of you know, I am planning on applying to PhD programs in the fall of ’08 (the five programs — two of which are ancient philosophy and three of which are theology — I intend to apply to are: Texas (joint program in ancient philosophy and classics), Kentucky (David Bradshaw), Durham (Andrew Louth), Nottingham (John Milbank), Cambridge (Catherine Pickstock)).

If you held a gun to my head and said, "Right now, give me your statement of intent," here is how I would respond:


Social, economic, and political order rests on a prior moral or metaphysical order. Virtue is the craft of bringing the former in line with the latter. Hence fundamental metaphysics, especially an informed understanding of its history, is as important today as ever.

One recently attempted way of getting at this is by way of reverence, “schematized” by Paul Woodruff as “the well-developed capacity to have feelings of awe, respect, and shame when these are the right feelings to have.” Reverence is what Socrates experiences before the good and what, in the Phaedrus, his interlocutor (and all modern representatives of philosophic sophistry, including Jacques Derrida, as shown in his reading of this dialogue) lacks. Reverence is in short supply today, as Woodruff observes. The result is that “we don’t really know what we are doing in much of our lives, and … we are in no position to think about how to do it better.” If this is so for the individual, how much more so for the multifarious communities which dot the lanscape of our radically pluralistic society?

The source of our confusion? Layered and complex though the story be, it nonetheless seems to me that Nietzsche’s reduction of antique virtue (with its ultimate principle of logos or reason providing order to a chaotic world) to difference (the overarching principle of modernity, subsuming both reason and chaos in violent conflict) plays a central role.

Nevertheless there is something greater, something beyond, these two alternatives. If modernity (a la Nietzche) has, in fact, called antiquity’s bluff, then what will succeed modernity? What can get us beyond the emotivistic nature of moral disagreement (to use Alisdair MacIntyre’s phrase) in our day? Only a construction of reality which denies the necessity of violent difference, something which can provide an account of difference (groped toward by MacIntyre himself) which is truly beneficent and peaceful.

To put things another way, I suspect that, the validity of his move notwithstanding, Nietzsche does not have the last word (no matter how clearly his voice is still perceptible today across the dominant spectrum of philosophy, both continental and analytic). I suspect that, deep within the layers of antique virtue itself, there is always already a tendency to deconstruct what some (following Nietzsche) perceive as the ancient and pervasive hegemony of an allegedly neutral logos.

To return to the above example, consider the attitude of Socrates in the Phaedrus. In contrast to the impious stance of his sophist-sympathizing interlocutor, Socrates stands in reverence before myth. Not only does this posture save erotic love from reducing down to some kind of utilitarian (and therefore nihilistic) transaction, it instructs us on the ecstatic nature of the good, which, unlike Phaedrus’ ideal, is particible in time.

What is it about myth (specifically the three myths invoked by Socrates in this particular dialogue) which commands his devotion?

This participatory aspect of the ancient Greek philosophy, (deepened by neoplatonism in such developments as the theurgy of Proclus and Iamblichus), has been  utterly lost in the West. How? Perhaps it was Augustine’s injection of divine simplicity (inherited from the god of Plato’s middle dialogues) early on into the stream of western thought. Giving rise to an incipient realm of autonomous human reason, this trajectory includes Aquinas and the scholastics, early modern philosophers such as Leibniz, Spinoza, and Descartes, on down to Nietzsche, who truly heralds a new and secular age.

With the advent of the “death of God” western philosophers no longer pretended to work within the horizon of Christianity, and the path of a truly post-Christian world was blazed.

The merits of this genealogy notwithstanding, classical Greek participation (especially that of Socrates) in all its modes (the ecstasy of the good, the dialectic of community, the concept of _energeia_ already latent in Aristotle’s thought) provides rich resources for the future of philosophy and culture in the West.


Any comments anyone has are greatly appreciated.

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Posted on: April 20th, 2007 Irrational Drinking (GK Chesterton Style)

“The free man owns himself. He can damage himself with either eating or drinking; he can ruin himself with gambling. If he does he is certainly a damn fool, and he might possibly be a damned soul; but if he may not, he is not a free man any more than a dog.” – Broadcast talk 6-11-35

“Man is always something worse or something better than an animal; and a mere argument from animal perfection never touches him at all. Thus, in sex no animal is either chivalrous or obscene. And thus no animal invented anything so bad as drunkenness – or so good as drink.” – “Wine when it is red” All Things Considered

“… The one genuinely dangerous and immoral way of drinking wine is to drink it as a medicine. And for this reason, If a man drinks wine in order to obtain pleasure, he is trying to obtain something exceptional, something he does not expect every hour of the day, something which, unless he is a little insane, he will not try to get every hour of the day. But if a man drinks wine in order to obtain health, he is trying to get something natural; something, that is, that he ought not to be without; something that he may find it difficult to reconcile himself to being without. The man may not be seduced who has seen the ecstasy of being ecstatic; it is more dazzling to catch a glimpse of the ecstasy of being ordinary. If there were a magic ointment, and we took it to a strong man, and said, “This will enable you to jump off the Monument,” doubtless he would jump off the Monument, but he would not jump off the Monument all day long to the delight of the City. But if we took it to a blind man, saying, “This will enable you to see,” he would be under a heavier temptation. It would be hard for him not to rub it on his eyes whenever he heard the hoof of a noble horse or the birds singing at daybreak. It is easy to deny one’s self festivity; it is difficult to deny one’s self normality. Hence comes the fact which every doctor knows, that it is often perilous to give alcohol to the sick even when they need it. I need hardly say that I do not mean that I think the giving of alcohol to the sick for stimulus is necessarily unjustifiable. But I do mean that giving it to the healthy for fun is the proper use of it, and a great deal more consistent with health.

“The sound rule in the matter would appear to be like many other sound rules–a paradox. Drink because you are happy, but never because you are miserable. Never drink when you are wretched without it, or you will be like the grey-faced gin-drinker in the slum; but drink when you would be happy without it, and you will be like the laughing peasant of Italy. Never drink because you need it, for this is rational drinking, and the way to death and hell. But drink because you do not need it, for this is irrational drinking, and the ancient health of the world.” –“Omar and the Sacred Vine,” Heretics

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Posted on: April 19th, 2007 zizek: documentary

Slajov Zizek is at his best when he comments on late capitalism and the perverse and socially constructed nature of our desires.

"How do we account for the paradox that the absence of Law universalizes prohibition? There is only one possible explanation: enjoyment itself, which we experience as "transgression," is in its innermost status something imposed, ordered. When we enjoy, we never do it spontaneously; we always follow a certain injunction." — from "For they Know Not What they Do: Enjoyment as a Political Factor."

Commenting on this universal prohibition (beer without alchohol, dessert with no fat, coffee with no caffeine, etc.) he reverses Dostoevski: "If God exists, then all things are prohibited." — from the documentary Zizek!

"… if Freud in his theory, in its traditional configuration, was appropriate to explain the standard capitalism which relied on some kind of traditional ethic of sexual control, etc., then Lacan is perfect to explain the paradoxes of permissive late capitalism."  — from the documentary Zizek!

“… capitalism, which can survive only by incessanlty revolutionizing its own material conditions, ceases to exist if it stays the same, if it achieves an internal balance. This, then, is the homology between surplus-value: the “cause which sets in motion the capitalist process of production, and surplus-enjoyment, the object-cause of desire.” –from The Sublime Object of Ideology

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Posted on: April 18th, 2007 Philippians, Paul, & Participation

As I have written on this blog, the idea of participation is huge for both the theological movement Radical Orthodoxy but also for that ecclesial tradition (some would say "that one true church") called Eastern Orthodoxy.

Now, the usual Greek word for "participation," going all the way back to Plato and Aristotle, is the word methexis. That word does not appear in the New Testament, much less in Philippians. However, I do think that concept is there in droves.

In fact if I were to summarize the book of Philippians, I would have to put Paul’s emphasis on (various forms of) participation near the top of my list of his main points.

Three words in particular make this point: kiononia, politeuma, and phronesis.

 Kiononia (cognates appear in 1:5;1:7;2:1;3:10;4:14;4:15): "fellowship, participation, an association involving close mutual relations and involvement." In these verses Paul describes Christian kiononia as a participation in "the gospel," "in grace," "in the Spirit," "in [Christ’s] sufferings," "in my troubles," "with me." 

Politeuma (1:27;3:20): "state, commonwealth, place of citizenship." In these verses Paul teaches that Christians should "live as citizens" (or perhaps "conduct your political life") in a manner that is "worthy of the Gospel of Christ" (1:27) and also that our citizenship (or our political identity / rootedness) is in heaven with Christ (3:20).

Phronesis (1:7;2:2;2:5;3:15;3:19;4:2;4:10): "to be wise; to have a specific attitude toward other people." The meaning of this word is not include the explicitly participatory, but in 2:5 Paul suggests that he is thinking of it in terms of the community: "complete my joy by participating in the same "wise frame of mind," having the same love, being in full accord and of one "wise frame of mind."

As we participate in each other (in fellowship, and in the same "political city") we are also participating in Christ himself.

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Posted on: April 17th, 2007 In Dialogue with a “Paleocon”

In Rod Dreher I have found a fellow pilgrim who is grappling with many of the same issues which motivate me to blog, to be a pastor, and to pursue doctoral studies in philosophy and theology. In so many ways it can be summarized under the label of "political theology."

See this insightful, relevant post on Rod’s blog.

Here are some comments I made to his post:

Rod and others,

I need to educate myself more with respect to the "Benedictine option," however, I am persuaded of a couple of things which (I am willing to bet) are utterly consistent wtih it:

1. The center of the Benedictine communities was the Eucharist. Eucharistic theology has all the resources needed to address the issue of how the church can "lead" in this individualistic, materialistic, consumeristic, narcissistic, nihilistic culture in which we live. Put another way, we must ultimately resist all secular means and tactics, including participation in "the culture wars." To the resources of the Eucharist is where we must look for answers, and for Christ’s approach to civilization building.

2. I understand that there are wonderful metaphysical and moral roots in "paleoconservatism" (Burke’s insistence that economic / political / social order rests on a fundamental moral / metaphysical order), however, I still think that at the end of the day "conservatism" and "liberalism" are both secular and therefore ideological (and perhaps even distinctively modern) half-truths. This is consistent with such theological thinkers as NT Wright and John Milbank (who, as the founder of "Radical Orthodoxy," interprets Alisdair MacIntrye in a way that is consistent with what I am suggesting here).

Why hold on to the (secular) label "conservative?" St. Paul’s gospel, I am convinced, is a true tertium quid which defies the false dichotomy of liberal versus conservative.

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Posted on: April 15th, 2007 Benedictine Crunchy Con?

I had the joy and honor of hanging out with Rod Dreher yesterday at a conference in Indianapolis. I have yet to read his Crunchy Cons (but I have read the book which seems like original voice of which this book is the echo, Bobos in Paradise by neocon David Brooks). Rod’s wife, Julie, is an old friend of Bouquet’s and mine from the University of Texas.

The primary discussion I had with Rod was basically, "In just what sense are you a conservative, and why do you like to think of yourself as a conservative?"

The next time I speak with him I also want to ask him if, in light of his conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy, he considers himself an evangelical.

I also wonder if crunchy conservatism is anything more than another in a long string of "special interest," demograpic permutations of our postmodern, radically pluralistic culture. (It is the subtitle of the book which makes me wonder about this.)

Suffice to say that I am thrilled to meet Rod and consider him to be one of the best Christian leaders around. Thanks be to God.

The most radical, and the most encouraging, part of his lecture was about the Benedictine approach to community building, something which he also discusses in his book, and something about which I will be blogging in the near future.

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Posted on: April 12th, 2007 Theurgy

Theurgy, a “[neoplatonist] system of ritualized interaction with the gods” (Bradshaw, Aristotle East and West, 97), is first introduced into the stream of philosophical thought by Porphyry, although it is really his disciple Iamblichus who establishes it in the tradition.

In contradistinction to certain gnostic streams of thought, Iamblichus stresses that it is not “thinking” or intellectual activity which unites man to the divine. He writes that union is attained

“by the efficacy of the unspeakable acts performed in the appropriate manner, acts which are beyond all comprehension, and by the potency of unutterable symbols which are comprehended only by the gods…. Without intellectual effort on our part these tokens accomplish their proper work by their own virtue.” (Robert Wilkin, The Chrsitians as the Romans Saw Them, 167)

What interests me about theurgy:

First, its participatory nature. I am just now cutting my teeth on this ancient practice, but it seems that here the neoplatonic emphasis on participating (methexis) in the divine here takes on a physical or embodied nature. It is becuase of the “overflow of the good,” in such forms as energeia and ecstasis that man has access to the divine via a shared realm of activity.

Second, it seems to me that theurgy is important for understanding Radical Orthodoxy (though I have yet to read Milbank’s article on theurgy: stay tuned). Radical Orthodoxy, which extols the virtues of neoplatonism, constantly emphasizes the participatory nature of the Christian life. My experience is that when you interrogate an RO proponent on the precise meaning of this participation, they are at a loss to really explain it. It seems that here is where to begin: with the neoplatonic understanding of theurgy.

Third, as will be apparent from the above, this is a rare area of overlap between the diverse fields of theology (including moral, political, and sacramental theology) and social history. That John Milbank and Robert Louis Wilkin both write about theurgy makes it unique and important indeed. This is one area (it seems to me that Dionysius is another) is a potential area of interdisciplinary fruitfulness.

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Posted on: April 10th, 2007 Milbank on Christology (Atonement, Historicity) & Violence

I would have loved to be at the Calvin College conference on Radical Orthodoxy in 2003. To my mind it demonstrates the rigor and vitality of both Reformed theology and Radical Orthodoxy. I am reading through’s notes on the round table portion of the conference, and here are some (the first of many) highlights for me (w.r.t. Milbank):

·I love this quotation from Milbank: “To begin with, I want to emphasize my appreciation for this kind of conversation. This is real theology: engaging with real issues from the past as if they are important today. This is what is most important: seriously having to think in our situation and in the terms of tradition. This is good.”

·Milbank on atonement. "I see no penal substitution in Aquinas. Yes there is double predestination in Aquinas. (Aquinas is wrong on this; it’s horrific to believe in double predestination.) There is a difference between satisfaction and punishment in medieval usage. The father doesn’t punish the son or the son’s humanity, but Jesus offers satisfaction by suffering the consequences of sins, omits the punishment we deserve because of our sin, and satisfies the divine honor (this is different from the Reformation model). So, there is no divine affliction in violence or transaction in God. That would be the most ridiculous mythology. If that’s Christianity, I want nothing to do with it! I dislike it intensely."

·Milbank on Paul’s nomism (perhaps Milbank wd say “legalism” or “moralism”). “Yes, there is a big difference between me and the Reformed tradition. I want to push the antinomian tradition of Paul more than the Reformed (there is something about the Muggletonians and Blake I want to appreciate)–something about an insistence in going on beyond the law. Calvin is completely inadequate in terms of the radicalism of Paul on the law.”

·Milbank on fiction versus “the real.”  “The meaning of the Incarnation is that it surpasses our usual distinctions between fiction and reality. Like a true fairy story, it is the arrival of a realm beyond our distinction of real and imagined. A recreation of the world, a restoration of a pre fallen order, bound to seem like an entry to the magical– like in Shakespeare’s late romances.”

Some questions I have for Milbank:

– How does Milbank’s "ontology of peace" deal with the violence of the cross?

– Does Milbank overidenitfy Christ and the church? Does he inappropriately  subsume Christology under ecclesiology (the doctrine of totus christus notwithstanding)?

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Posted on: April 9th, 2007 “Undocumented Citizens” & the Church

Undocumented Citizens & the Church, by Matt Boulter

This essay is an attempt to bring biblical teaching to bear on the thorny question of how Redeemer Presbyterian Church (as an example of a local church body) should treat the undocumented citizens in our midst (both those who, to whatever extent, are already involved in our church community, such as Luis Moreno, and those undocumented citizens who are simply our neighbors in Austin), in light of modern American immigration policy. In so doing it relies heavily upon a certain analogy, specifically that modern American immigration is like ancient Roman slavery.

Before we develop this analogy, however, we should consider what many scholars (both modern and pre-modern) take to be the Magna Carta of the new social order which comes about because of and in Christ: Galatians 3:28. (Already I am assuming that, at the very least, modern American immigration and ancient Roman slavery are similar in that they are both social issues – or social realities – respective of each time and place.)

We must, however, read Gal 3:28 in its immediate context. Verse 26 and 27 of chapter three tell us that all those in the “churches of Galatia” (cf. 1:2b) – and by implication, all those in Redeemer Presbyterian Church of Austin – are “children of God through faith in Jesus Christ” because of their – our – faith in Christ and common baptism into Christ. This teaching on the Church’s common faith and common baptism sets us up for the climax of this passage, verse 28: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

Paul is instructing us that the old cleavages which formerly characterized human social life have passed away; they have become obsolete. Furthermore he is telling us why these cleavages have become obsolete: they have been replaced by the new reality of oneness in Christ through faith and baptism. And, hearkening back to verse 26, this “oneness” is not some generic unity; rather, it is the oneness of sonship. We (those of us in the Church) are all brothers and sisters, with God as our Father.

Further, this new social order is decidedly eschatological. We know that Paul’s teaching here includes this eschatological aspect because of the pairs of binary oppositions he employs in verse 28 (Jew / Gentile, slave / free, male / female). If there is now no Jew nor Gentile, then certainly this is a new development in the history of redemption. Even a cursory reading of the Old Testament (not to mention the Gospels) shows us that, prior to the advent and work of Christ (which, in Paul’s mind, is a fundamentally eschatological event-complex), there was Jew and Greek. Prior to the coming of Christ, in fact, this distinction was central to God’s working out his plan of redemption.

Paul’s use of the male / female pair also points to an eschatological reality, in that the obliteration of this distinction in Christ is the fulfillment of the only original human difference of creation: the distinct sexes (“genders”) of the Man and the Woman, Adam and “Eve.”[1] In a real sense, it may be said that in Christ we are all female, his Bride, the Church.[2]

As for these two pairs of opposites, so also for the one at issue in this paper: slave and free. The obliteration of this category in Christ is a development that, somehow, occurs in the new order which Jesus inaugurates. And just as the other two obliterations require God’s people to walk by faith and not by sight (just think of a first century Jew breaking bread and sharing a cup of wine with an “unclean” – because uncircumcised – Gentile), so also this new reality, the social equality of enslaved people and free people, requires us[3] to walk by faith. In other words, we believe that this unity in Christ characterizes true reality (even though we often fail to see it) and therefore we live now as we know things will be someday, when this eschatological reality becomes “sight.” In terms of slavery, this is how God wanted ancient Christians (like the Galatians) to live, it is how he wanted 18th and 19th century British and American Christians (who lived during a time of institutionalized slavery) to live, and it is how he wants us to live today.

The Scriptures are so rich and efficient! Not only do they give us this “revolutionary” teaching in a discursive way here in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, but they also show us a concrete example, an application, of this new social order, this new eschatological reality. This example we find in Paul’s letter to Philemon. Here in this letter we witness Paul, the author of Galatians, practicing this kind of Christian charity, the kind that breaks down social barriers for those who are members of the church (by faith in Christ and baptism into Christ). This letter, the very correspondence of Paul to Philemon on behalf of the runaway slave Onesimus, is itself an instance of the law of Christ, which is true Christian love, in action.

Importantly, though, Paul upholds not only the law of Christ (which, again, is love), but he also upholds the law of the land.[4] He submits to the established authority by sending Onesimus back to his master Philemon (Philem 12). The authority in view here is both that of the slave master and that of the state. We know from other Pauline passages[5] that the former was indeed considered by Paul to be an established authority to whom submission was required. In addition, we know from extra-biblical sources[6] that institutional slavery was regulated and enforced by the state. It is crucial to recognize that Paul in this way “fights on two fronts.” He both upholds God-ordained authority (by sending Onesimus back to his master) and practices Christian love (by asking Philemon – who, in all likelihood, was converted by Paul – to give up his legal rights by releasing Onesimus from slavery).

We will, however, miss the value of this letter if we fail to recognize the radical character of Paul’s plea to Philemon in light of his historical moment. First, in the Roman society and culture of Paul’s day, the practice of slavery (or, perhaps, better would be “the industry of slavery”) was foundational to corporate life. As Everett Ferguson points out, slavery was so “basic [an] element in Roman society” that a proposition in the Roman senate that slaves be required to wear distinctive clothing was defeated, lest the slaves learn how numerous they were. It has been estimated, in fact, that one in every five Roman citizens was a slave.[7]

The second way in which Paul’s relativizing of slavery proves to be a radical move has to do with one particular implication of his stance: the resultant possibility that a slave might then hold office in the church, which would then require the submission of a free man to a slave, and possibly to his own slave.[8] In contrast to Judaism, which required a quorum of ten free men to establish a synagogue, Christianity has always held slavery to be a matter of indifference.[9] As James Hurley points out, in fact,

The requirements for elders and deacons make no mention of bondage whatsoever. Slaves could be elders of their masters, as tradition has suggested in the case of Onesimus. Paul’s letter to Philemon suggests directly that he free Onesimus, who has become a brother and been such a help to Paul.[10]

At this point in our reflections it is appropriate to develop the analogy suggested above, that, for the purposes of this paper, the modern American immigration situation is like ancient Roman slavery. First, Paul’s appeal to common sonship (based on faith and baptism) is just as relevant here, in the immigration situation, as it is in the case of ancient Roman slavery. In both cases the oneness in Christ which the Gospel brings transcends the differences between us. Is there any reason why this would hold in the case of slavery and not in the case of immigration? Even in the Old Covenant, before Christ, the covenant bond transcended ethnic nationality. How much more is this true in the New Covenant of Christ’s blood! In this current age of redemption, Christ has broken down the barrier of the wall of division, as Paul tells us in Ephesians 2. If there is now no distinction in the Gospel between Jew and Gentile, then how could there possibly be any distinction between Gentile and Gentile, between Mexican and American?

A second point of analogy (between modern American immigration and ancient Roman slavery), is that, just as Paul “fights on two fronts” with respect to slavery, so also it is quite feasible for us (the modern church) to do the same with respect to the issue of immigration. In God’s providence, he has made it fairly easy for our church to adopt such a posture. That is, just as the apostle Paul found a way to remain faithful to earthly authority and to the law of love in the church, so can we. How can we, the twenty-first century American church, “fight on two fronts” in this Pauline sense? The short answer is that, in the eyes of the state, we as a church may fully integrate Luis Moreno into our community.

To support this claim, I appeal to the electronic correspondence which I have had with an immigration attorney, David Simmons, who lives in Denver, Colorado. The first relevant point which emerges in this correspondence is simply that current immigration law is exceedingly difficult to understand, largely because it seems itself to be confused and convoluted. To quote Mr. Simmons:

[Immigration] is one of the most complex area of U.S. law – so much so that it takes an entire wall chart to list all of the possible scenarios under which one would be considered a United Statescitizen.[11]

Secondly, Mr. Simmons believes that we as a church have no legal obligation to report individuals who are in the U.S. without documents. (Such reporting would be compromised by the fact that we lack the expertise needed to determine who is legal and who is not. Mr. Simmons even stated that many immigrants who believe themselves to be illegal are actually legal.) The church should not pretend to be enforcers of the civil law. Spiritually admonishing an individual to comply with the law (which, as a pastoral issue, will ordinarily take place over an extended period of time), is a very different thing altogether.

Third, many forms of assistance to undocumented citizens are permitted by law. One important form of this is to combat the many forces which oppress undocumented citizens, such as, for example,

“employers who do not comply with federal wage and working conditions requirements, individuals who promise to ‘arrange papers’ for a fee, and spouses who use an individual’s lack of documents in order to dominate and control.…”[12]

A fourth consideration in our attempt to fight on these two fronts is that the law (whether the Ten Commandments, or the law of the civil government, or whatever) must never be applied and enforced apart from Godly wisdom. Along these lines the responsible church will recognize that the I.N.S. has enforcement priorities. As we seek corporately to submit to our God-appointed civil magistrate, we will share these priorities, and work in concert with the I.N.S. to implement them (assuming that they are righteous priorities, which I think they are, given all of the factors with which the I.N.S. has to deal). According to Mr. Simmons the following concerns are at the top of the I.N.S.’s list of priorities: the removal of aliens who commit crimes, the prosecution of alien smugglers, the prosecution of false document manufacturers, and the prosecution of those who employ undocumented workers to the detriment of either those workers themselves or American workers. A realistic approach to this complicated problem of ministry to undocumented citizens will take this set of priorities into account.

In conclusion, I believe that, in God’s providence, it is possible for us as a church to follow the astonishing example of the apostle Paul, who understood (and passes down to us his understanding) that the church’s unity (as expressed in our common faith in Christ and our common baptism into Christ) transcends the divisions which result from the Fall. At times the living out of this deeper unity is exceedingly challenging to the church. At times it results in awkward situations, such as a free church member submitting to his slave who is also his presbyter. In the situation at hand, however, the road ahead seems relatively clear, for such a life of unity in Christ is always possible, challenges notwithstanding. Indeed, it is always necessary.

[1]Her true name before the Fall was “the Woman.” The name “Eve” was given to her only after the Fall. (It is, thus, a redemptive name.)
[2] See C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength (New York: Macmillan, 1965) p. 316.
[3] This is required of us in a somewhat different way than it was of our ancient fathers in the faith, since for us explicit, institutional slavery is not so fundamental an aspect of society, although modern forms of slavery are still with us. Some examples of this include economic bondage to credit card companies and bondage to the well-fare state or to neighborhoods infested with drugs and gang violence.
[4] Of course, an authentically Reformed ethics will insist that there is no ultimate tension between the law of Christ (rightly understood) and the law of the civil magistrate (rightly understood).
[5] I Cor 7:21 and Eph 6:5-8 are just two examples.
[6] See Everett Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), pp. 56-58. [7] Ferguson, p. 58. [8] Writing in the context of Galatians 3:28, evangelical biblical scholar F.F. Bruce states, “This could mean for example, that someone who was a slave in the outside world might be entrusted with spiritual leadership in the church, and if the owner of the slave was a member of the same church, he would submit to that spiritual leadership. There is sufficient evidence that this was not merely a theoretical possibility.” F.F. Bruce, The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians: a Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), pp. 188-89.
We should at this point also note that church history (specifically, a letter of Saint Ignatius) has it that this slave Onesimus actually ended up in the office of Bishop of Ephesus. Some modern scholars even maintain that, as Bishop of Ephesus, Onesimus proceeded to collect and publish the letters of Paul, “including the one to Philemon in which he had such a personal stake.” Ralph Martin, Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon (Louisville: John Knox, 1991), pp. 139-40.
[9] James Hurley, Man and Woman in Biblical Perspective (Leicester: IVP, 1981), p. 158.
[10] Hurley, pp. 158-9.
[11] Taken from personal correspondence with Mr. Simmons.
[12] Mr. Simmon’s wording.

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Posted on: April 9th, 2007 apocatastasis (doctrine of universal salvation)

I appreciated this post from Benjamin Myers’ Faith and Theology blog:

In Barth’s own words: “The proclamation of the Church must make allowance for this freedom of grace. Apokatastasis Panton? No, for a grace which automatically would ultimately have to embrace each and every one would certainly not be free grace. It surely would not be God’s grace. But would it be God’s free grace if we could absolutely deny that it could do that? Has Christ been sacrified only for our sins? Has he not … been sacrificed for the whole world? … [Thus] the freedom of grace is preserved on both these sides” (Barth, God Here and Now, pp. 41-42).

For Barth, then, we can neither affirm nor deny the possibility that all will be saved. So what can we do? Barth’s answer is clear: we can “hope” (see CD IV/3, pp. 477-78). And as Hans Urs von Balthasar has also shown, there is all the difference in the world between believing in universal salvation and hoping for it.

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Posted on: April 2nd, 2007 Heidegger (and Lewis) on the “Religious Uses of Atheism”

"To this God (of rationalism or utlitarianism) man can neither pray nor offer sacrifice. Before the causa sui man can not fall on his knees in reverence, nor can he hymn or worship such a God. For this reason atheistic thought that denies the God of philosophy, the God as causa sui is perhaps closer to the divine God." — Heidegger, Identity and Difference.

This reminds me of the passage in Mere Christianity where CS Lewis says that it is better for a boy who does not really believe in God to stop going to church than to continue to attend. When he does this he is actually closer to God than he is when he continues his charade.

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