Ktismatics

13 July 2007

Everything is Permitted

Filed under: Christianity, Psychology — ktismatics @ 8:00 am

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities , strife, jealousy , outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness , faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. (Galatians 5:18-25)

Desire is perplexing. On the one hand, if we don’t have something like desires animating us then we’re inert matter. It’s hard to believe that we’re motivated primarily by thought, which in turn creates emotions and intentions and the will to act. We are animals after all, and other animals seem to move themselves around in the world apparently without the benefit of consciousness. On the other hand, the New Testament seems antagonistic to desires, regarding them as the source of sinfulness. So what’s the Christian praxis for dealing with desires? Does the Spirit give you the strength to suppress desire, enabling you to live by thought or morality or some other higher motive force? Does the Spirit redeem desire, removing its corruption and restoring it to its natural and good function? Or does the Spirit replace desire with some other motive force?

So far in Galatians 4-5 Paul has been contending that the Law as a list of dos and don’ts was meant to function as a kind of nursemaid. But it’s essentially a slave morality, an outside force that restricts freedom. When Christ sets people free then the Law becomes pointless. Paul even contends that the Law is counterproductive, instilling an awareness of what isn’t permitted which stimulates the desire to do the forbidden thing.

Paul frequently contrasts faith with works, where “work” (ergon in Greek) means effort expended for the purpose of making oneself morally good. Paul regards these efforts at self-sanctification not only as useless but as contrary to the Gospel. Here in Galatians 5, though, “deeds” (ergon) refer to recognizably sinful acts: immorality, impurity, sensuality, etc. If these are the things people do when they’re out of control, then why does Paul call them “works”? I think Paul is saying that, within the slave morality of the Law, moral and immoral acts are equally unnatural and non-spontaneous. The Law simultaneously stimulates the desire to self-justify and the desire to transgress. The resulting sense of conflict and futility makes everything an effort. It’s the life of a slave.

But, says Paul, this futility isn’t necessary. Christ set the Galatians free; they’re no longer slaves but heirs. In Dostoevsky’s famous novel Ivan Karamazov concludes that if God is dead then everything is permitted, that all things are lawful. Curiously, Paul contends that just the opposite is true: if the Spirit sets you free then all things are lawful (I Corinthians 10:23). Has the Spirit put God to death? No, but the Spirit did put to death the slave morality of law-desire-transgression that had come to be identified with God

So now you have a free people, heirs with Christ of the Kingdom. What moves them? The Spirit, says Paul. So again, does the Spirit renew the desires and passions, freeing them from their enslavement to the futile moral economy of the Law? Is the Spirit an alternative means of controlling the inner animal passions, replacing the outer Law with an inner restraint?

Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Based on this statement it sounds as though the Spirit kills off the animal wants and passions, replacing them with a different “engine.” And that engine is the Spirit, God Himself. Whatever once motivated the person to feel and to act and to decide is now gone, replaced by an outside force that takes possession of both body and soul. And this is freedom? Sure, it’s easy to do the right things now: goodness just happens, like fruit growing on a tree. Still, it sounds more like complete slavery to me, like the Borg, the pod people, zombies, the undead. No thanks. I think I’ll stick with Ivan Karamazov’s path to freedom.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll see if Paul is able to redeem himself and his version of freedom in chapter 6.

About these ads

44 Comments »

  1. if we read Galatians from our post-christian, modern, PoMo, Freudian, or whatever stance, the implication seems to be the crucifying the flesh and all the desires and passions that emanate from ‘the flesh’ is ineed just to replace one sort of slavery with an even worse and more absolute master.

    But this is not how I understand Paul. i think that the ‘flesh and spirit’ dichotomy is in actual fact Paul’s way of summarising Jesus teaching on not being self-ish, or rather to be properly selfish by valuing others more than one’s own self. I take heart from the actual list of evidences that Paul adduces in contrast to the fruits of the spirit all of which could be considered ‘relational’.

    Comment by samlcarr — 13 July 2007 @ 8:28 am

  2. We do have the injunction to serve one another through love here in Galatians 5. The question persists, though: under what energy do we serve. Is it a desire to serve, the will to overcome selfishness, or the Spirit serving through us?

    Comment by ktismatics — 13 July 2007 @ 11:24 am

  3. If I were to hazard a guess, it would be that the relationship, whether overtly or insiiously, is the vector that moves us out of ourselves and into the relationship of freedom to serve, to be a gift, to be transformed and to actively seek our ministry of reconciliation.

    i am happily picking out Paul’s metaphors from elsewhere but I think that there is a temendous consistency to Paul’s expression of this difficult but juicy concept.

    Comment by samlcarr — 13 July 2007 @ 12:04 pm

  4. The persons of the Trinity are interesting in a sort of “dialectical” movement through history. Yahweh the Big Other, keeper of the Law, all-seeing but never seen. Jesus the solitary and crucified man. The Spirit, a force for freedom that is both internal and interpersonal.

    Comment by ktismatics — 13 July 2007 @ 12:15 pm

  5. Ooooh, we’re getting dialectically trinitarian now.

    A free interaction within our own selves between the me and God, and as equals; that’s synthesis!

    Comment by samlcarr — 13 July 2007 @ 12:38 pm

  6. “Ooooh, we’re getting dialectically trinitarian now.”

    I was hoping you might enjoy that, Sam.

    Comment by ktismatics — 13 July 2007 @ 12:47 pm

  7. “Whatever once motivated the person to feel and to act and to decide is now gone, replaced by an outside force that takes possession of both body and soul. And this is freedom?”

    A) But that “outside force” created me!
    B) I agree, this is the Christian idea of freedom. My professor once said…in the context of talking about artistic mastery…that in Medieval times there were no master archtiects. And he did not mean to disparge medieval architecture, either.

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 13 July 2007 @ 1:14 pm

  8. Why would a creator go to all that trouble to make a self-propelled being, redeem it, then pull the engine out and start pushing it around himself?

    Comment by ktismatics — 13 July 2007 @ 1:30 pm

  9. God decided that using automated machinery was an anti-labor policy.

    Comment by samlcarr — 13 July 2007 @ 1:55 pm

  10. Or the machinery decided that it was so well made that it could continue without the maker, who got mad and pulled the plug.

    Comment by samlcarr — 13 July 2007 @ 3:15 pm

  11. I think maybe the mechanical metaphor of the engine is somewhat incompatable with the metaphor of a forbidden tree at the center of a garden.

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 13 July 2007 @ 5:04 pm

  12. Okay, use an organic metaphor then. Or forget the metaphor: why would an autonomous creator create a being in his image, then rob that being of its ability to motivate itself as an autonomous being?

    Comment by ktismatics — 13 July 2007 @ 5:15 pm

  13. I’m not saying that I can’t think, “hhmm…I like pizza…I’ll go have some pizza.” Nor recognize the pizza as such. Or, I’m not saying that some hormones can’t make me feel certain things. I’m just saying that my freedom is different from my ability or decision to do whatever I want.

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 13 July 2007 @ 7:36 pm

  14. …even if “whatever I want” might happen to be lots of good stuff. Meister Eckhart says that for that person without God, everything, whether good or bad, is no good.

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 13 July 2007 @ 7:38 pm

  15. But what about Galatians 5-6? That’s the topic at hand. What does freedom mean in this text?

    Comment by ktismatics — 14 July 2007 @ 4:47 am

  16. Based on this statement it sounds as though the Spirit kills off the animal wants and passions, replacing them with a different “engine.” And that engine is the Spirit, God Himself. Whatever once motivated the person to feel and to act and to decide is now gone, replaced by an outside force that takes possession of both body and soul.

    But Ktismatics, what if you instead of imagining alien abduction here you simply do not get into the details like ”the Spirit enters me” (a literal reading indeed) and just say ”something irrational happens”. You would get the same picture as comes out of Lacanalysis. No analyst in the world knows exactly why, how, and when some people do end up realizing there’s no Big Other, and others don’t. For all they know, it could be God or Devil. Furthermore Lacan’s structural position, like in religion, places this something outside of the subject. I really don’t see a dramatic conflict, even though for anally retentive materalists it’s extremely important to underline that it’s an idealist position and one which also dabbles in UUUUUH the magical and the supernatural. This feels like a language trap, actually. The moment one capitalizes Spirit and speaks of Spirits penetrating bodies, one gets images from Friedkin’s EXORCIST in the head.

    Dr. Sinthome was a bit biased when he spoke of Lacan’s materialism; I had the impression that Lacan came very close to faith and was very much tempted to believe what he saw, it’s perhaps that he didn’t have the guts, or the will, to continue.

    Comment by parodycenter — 14 July 2007 @ 7:59 am

  17. Jason, another question that arises is how we know whether we are with or without God? can we know? If the answer is yes then how? What are the identifying characteristics of knowing God?

    It’s interesting that Paul reverses the question in 4:8,9: “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. 9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?”

    Comment by samlcarr — 14 July 2007 @ 8:03 am

  18. “you simply do not get into the details like ”the Spirit enters me” (a literal reading indeed) and just say ‘’something irrational happens”.”

    As I recall, this was how Dominic Fox explained to Ivan how he as an intelligent person could believe in God.

    “Lacan’s structural position, like in religion, places this something outside of the subject.”

    The Other is already outside the self. And then something else comes in from outside, revealing that there is no Other? If there’s only the other with a small “o,” then maybe we’ve got continuity with Paul’s word of “love your neighbor as yourself.” Now instead of the self-other dichotomy there’s an interpersonal field of engagement. Maybe that interpersonal field is the Spirit.

    “The moment one capitalizes Spirit and speaks of Spirits penetrating bodies, one gets images from Friedkin’s EXORCIST in the head.”

    Exactly. There is no Big Other; maybe there’s also no Big Spirit. Capitalizing Spirit is a maneuver of the English translators, who want to insert Trinitarian theology wherever they can. The word isn’t capitalized in the Greek original. (It’s like Genesis 1:2 — “the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters.” Sounds like 2 of the 3 persons of the Trinity. And then as soon as the Big Other speaks we get the Word, the Logos, the third person. But in the Hebrew neither Spirit nor God is capitalized, and god is plural. So you could just as easily translate the passage as “the breath of the gods was moving over the water.”) So it would definitely be worth reading this passage of Galatians substituting spirit for Spirit and see what happens.

    “a literal reading indeed”

    Maybe its my enslavement to the British fatherland that makes me want to read the words as they’re written. This is a distinction between Lacan and Derrida: Lacan looks for alternative revelations outside the words, while Derrida looks for alternative structures inside the words. So I guess I’m playing a Derridean game here.

    Comment by ktismatics — 14 July 2007 @ 12:22 pm

  19. There’s another angle here that’s worth exploring. This looks like one reality when we treat “desire” as an absolute. But what happens when we consider the *object* of desire? I am reminded of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s work in his book *Creation and Fall*. Desire can be holy bit it can also be the essence of sin. Bonhoeffer insists that we are created to desire God, to understand that human nature lives within limits but that God places the limit in the center of being, not at the periphery. This is Bonhoeffer’s understanding of what “image of God” means. But opposed to this imago dei way of being there is another option – the option the serpent offers the Man and Woman, the offer to be sicut deus – “like god.” Sicut deus existence turns desire inward, no longer focused on the need of God-at-center but rather fosucing upon myself-as-god – desiring everything because we ourselves have become gods. No longer able to accept life as gift it needs to be desired and grasped, like a piece of fruit we need to take into ourselves. Sicut deus existence clutches life, grabs it, rather than holding it gently in our hands. This creates the kind of cannabalistic desire ktismatics discusses in the 7/14 entry.

    Desire is not one thing but many things depending upon what it is that is desired and why it is desired. To desire something for itself is one thing; to desire something to possess or control it is vastly different.

    Comment by Ron — 14 July 2007 @ 12:58 pm

  20. “how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?”

    Good point. Why replace one enslavement with another? Any sort of self-zombification seems contrary to Paul’s position. So it seems we need some way of understanding Paul’s idea of the Spirit (or spirit) replacing fleshly desire in a way that doesn’t turn into something like being possessed.

    Comment by ktismatics — 14 July 2007 @ 2:03 pm

  21. “replacing fleshly desire”

    Paul’s language borders on this but is this what e understands as the process?

    I still cringe when people talk about ‘needing to be needed’, not that it is untrue but that this is supposed to be an improvement on just needing.

    There is also a very strong sense that the new relationship, the new spiritual covenant, raically changes the rules of engagement. This is now a whole new ball game.

    Comment by samlcarr — 14 July 2007 @ 2:28 pm

  22. Ron, how’ve you been? Last time you commented I was still living in France. Are you still in Romania?

    What does it mean to desire God in Bonhoeffer? If imago dei means the desire for God, does that mean that God too desires himself or that he desires those he created? And if, as Paul says, the Galatians are heirs of the king and co-heirs with Jesus, isn’t he encouraging them to think of themselves as godlike? What I continue to wonder is how one desires in a godlike way. In this Galatians passage I’m seeing a distinction between “desire” on the one hand as something corrupted by servitude to flesh and Law, and “what you want” on the other hand, which is something more like natural instinct. But it’s not completely clear to me. In any event we end up in the same place with Bonhoeffer’s characterization of sicut deus as a possessive and consuming desire.

    Comment by ktismatics — 14 July 2007 @ 4:28 pm

  23. Hinduism’s highest ideal is detachment. Paul and Jesus both go the other way – embrace.

    The inividual does not disappear but becomes a part of the other so that there is no ‘other’ there is only the us. Cain’s ‘am I my brother’s keeper?’ will have to be a yes and a no, no because the two have become one and this leads in turn to Paul’s one body, being grafted into one vine… and of course without the vine itself, there can be no oneness!

    Comment by samlcarr — 14 July 2007 @ 5:58 pm

  24. “The individual becomes part of the other so that there is no ‘other’ there is only us.”

    Sounds like another system I’d like to avoid. It seems a shame to lose individuation to the collective, when individuation has been such a struggle to achieve both for humanity as a species and for each one of us.

    Comment by ktismatics — 14 July 2007 @ 7:02 pm

  25. In Bonhoeffer, creatureliness is good. The goal of imago dei existence is not to desire as God desires (that would be sicut dues again – that little word “as” gives it away!) but to know that one’s being is cenetered in receiving life and everything else as a gift from the Creator. Our “fleshiness” is good. Flesh becomes a problem only when we bend in on ourselves, denying our creaturly existence and, instead, want to become autonomous and godlike – out of relationship and independent rather than interdependent. This is a rather schizophrenic kind of life! What does it mean for a person to “need to be independent” (“I gotta be me”)? This is a strange kind of neediness!

    There’s a wonderful scene in C.S. Lewis’ *Peralandra* where “Eve” comes upon Ransom looking at himself in a pool, trying to see his reflection. “Why are you looking in the water?” she asks.

    “I’m not looking in the water,” Ransom replies. “I’m looking at my reflection.”

    “What’s a reflection?” she asks.

    “It’s the image of myself I see reflected in the water.”

    “You can’t see yourself in water,” she replies. “That’s absurd!”

    “Don’t you know what a reflection is? Haven’t you ever tried to see an image of yourself?” Ransom asks.

    “I already know how I look,” she replies; “God tells me. I’m beautiful!”

    That feels like a radical alternative way of “being” – a way that trusts a definition from beyond oneself. Whatever I would dare to allow to define me in this way would have to be God for me.

    BTW I am not “Romania Ron.” Sorry. I have changed my name to avoid confusion.

    Comment by Ronnie of Boulder — 14 July 2007 @ 9:17 pm

  26. Ah, you’re Boulder Ron — sorry for the misidentification on my part. You can go back to being Ron; since Romanian Ron has gone missing he must reassert his own identity if he ever returns. I did wonder about the Bonhoeffer reference, since Romanian Ron is of the Wesleyan persuasion.

    Why would “image and likeness” not include being “like” God? Or, alternatively, is it possible to assert that God too is interdependent? Be that as it may, Paul is establishing interdependence as the better alternative to independence and, more pointedly, to the codependence of desire and prohibition, of flesh and Law.

    “Whatever I would dare to allow to define me in this way would have to be God for me.”

    Lacan would agree with that assessment: whoever I allow to define me is the Big Other. For Lacan the end of analysis comes with the realization that there is no Big Other, that the important consideration is that I have allowed myself to be defined by the Other. It seems that Paul is trying to break the Galatians from their addiction to the Law, which they construe as the Big Other’s desire for them simultaneously to obey and to disappoint his expectations. But the Big Other doesn’t really define you in terms of prohibited/guilty pleasures, sadomasochistic punishment, and ass-kissing — all that sort of enslavement has to be done away with. Presumably the alternative is some sort of interdependent pleasure and satisfaction called “love.”

    Comment by ktismatics — 14 July 2007 @ 10:07 pm

  27. Now I’ll shift gears again! Moltmann sees the essence of God as interrelatedness. God is not some magnificent self-sufficient monad but an interdependent co-existing, Trinitarian relatedness – a complex dance of self-giving that is both internal to God and external toward the world. I like that. It hooks creation and Creator in this wonderful synergy. If God has desire, this would be a part of it. And God’s desire for Godself is also expressed in God creating and giving Godself away in creation. In this understanding, God cannot or does not will to live apart from this extrnalization that is creation.

    Is there room for transcendence in Lacan? What is it? What does it look like? Is it simply me transcending my gullibility to be taken in by the Big Other? How does one avoid narcissism?

    Comment by Ron — 14 July 2007 @ 10:20 pm

  28. “Moltmann sees the essence of God as interrelatedness.”

    That’s the direction we seem to be heading here, with the Spirit being the force enabling “love your neighbor as yourself” as something more like mutual enjoyment and fulfillment rather than obedience to a totally external mandate.

    “Is there room for transcendence in Lacan?”

    I’m a novice in the study of Lacan. To answer this question we would need to wait for Dejan of parodycenter to make his pronouncement. Or until I finish Fink’s book, at which point I might be prepared to risk castration at the hands of the Master by offering my own opinion. And if transcendence requires avoiding narcissism, I’m not sure if either Dejan or I is qualified to respond.

    No, dammit, I WILL SPEAK! If there’s a transcendence in Lacan, it’s related to my prior comment: that God plays a role other than Lawgiver and Enforcer and Definer of all the categories that force us into predetermined identities and fates. It’s doubtful that Lacan himself accepted this sort of transcendence, but I think it’s compatible.

    Comment by ktismatics — 14 July 2007 @ 10:36 pm

  29. “Bonhoeffer insists that we are created to desire God, to understand that human nature lives within limits but that God places the limit in the center of being, not at the periphery. This is Bonhoeffer’s understanding of what ‘image of God’ means. But opposed to this imago dei way of being there is another option – the option the serpent offers the Man and Woman, the offer to be sicut deus – ‘like god.’”

    COOL! Doyle – you may notice that this sounds awful similar to much of what I’m always harping on!

    “Sicut deus existence clutches life, grabs it, rather than holding it gently in our hands.”

    A friend of mine was once describing his plan for how to go about doing something after some prayer. One of our partners in the whole shebang kept being like, “but, but, but…how’s that gonna…wait…” Finally, my friend was like, “HEY! Hold out your hand. She did. He placed a pen in it, and said, “this is what I’m asking and hoping of you.” Then he told her to make a fist, grab the pen, and turn her hand upside down. Her hand was now in the position of a jab in boxing, except it had a pen in it. He said, “This is what you are doing.” Then he said, “Open your hand.” She did, and the pen fell. He said, “That’s not going to happen if your hand is open with its face to the heavens.”

    “What does it mean to desire God in Bonhoeffer? If imago dei means the desire for God, does that mean that God too desires himself or that he desires those he created?”

    I don’t know about Bonhoeffer, but…
    http://simplegodstuff.blogstream.com/v1/pid/229856.html?CP=
    This doesn’t follow the theory of “interdependence” between God and man, though.

    I feel like the various Ron’s have done a good job of getting at the “replacing the engine” or the “forbidden tree at the center of the garden” metaphors that were in question…

    “‘I already know how I look,’ she replies; ‘God tells me. I’m beautiful!’ That feels like a radical alternative way of “being” – a way that trusts a definition from beyond oneself. Whatever I would dare to allow to define me in this way would have to be God for me.”

    Rather than a symbolic Other that does not exist, this sounds like a real God that is the Ground/cause of existence. Obviously, Doyle…in your next comment you picked up on the connection, there.

    Does Moltman actually reject Aquinas’ notion that God doesn’t “need” us? I’m going with, “no,” but I’m not sure. I doubt Moltman would let go of the notion that God is the only Being without contingency.

    “…with the Spirit being the force enabling ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ as something more like mutual enjoyment and fulfillment rather than obedience to a totally external mandate.”

    From “The Cube and the Cathedral,” by George Weigel, recommended to me by Doyle’s favorite academian, James K.A. Smith:

    “The law and freedom are not opposites. Law can educate us in freedom. Law is not something imposed on us externally; ratehr, law is a work of wisdom, and good law makes it possible for us to achieve the human goods we instinctively seek because of who we are and what we are meant to be as human beings….Philosophers consider Ockham the chief exponent of nominimalism, a powerful philosophical movement which taught that universal concepts only exist in our minds – that don’t exist in reality. Thus, to take an obvious and crucial example, nominalists contend that there is no such things as ‘human nature.’ ‘Human nature’ is simply the description, the name (hence ‘nominalism’), that we give to our experiences of common features among human beings. The only thigns that exist are particulars…Nominalism had a great influence on Christian moral theology. And because politics, as Aristotle proposed, is an extension of ethics, nominalism’s impace on moral theology also had a tremendous influence on politics, via political theory. How? Go back to our earlier example. If there is no such thing as human nature, then there are no universal moral principles that can be read from human nature. That means that morality is simply law and obligation, and law is always somewhere outside me. Law, in other words, is always coercion – both divine law and human law, God’s coercion of us and our coercion of one another” (pgs. 82-83).

    And FYI – Sir Doyle – I’m in Virginia, and am having email issues.

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 14 July 2007 @ 11:29 pm

  30. Sam, you said:

    Jason, another question that arises is how we know whether we are with or without God? can we know? If the answer is yes then how? What are the identifying characteristics of knowing God?

    It’s interesting that Paul reverses the question in 4:8,9: “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. 9 But now that you have come to know God, OR RATEHR TO BE KNOWN BY GOD, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?”

    ————————

    To attempt a bit to actually answer the question…I’ll say the we don’t “know” God the way we know that our computer screen in front of us. And not just because we can see the computer screen, but because the computer screen is outside of us and we loot AT it. But then I’m not satisfied either with the “God is in me” explanation. Then I’m still left wondering what thought or hormone was or was not from God just now.

    But because “We love, because He first loves us” (or because He “knows” us and/or is persuing us), I don’t have to be in such a state of divine confusion! God is Being itself, in whom we live and move and, of course, have our being. I do think, too, of “faith” as question of perception, rather than as a kind of cognitive assent, like exercising a muscle that is always there to be used because it is always IN the God of which (or “in whom”) it is the perception.

    But then, of course, we still end up having to discern when “the enemy” is trying to come up and kick us in our own hand-made golden arse. Or maybe speak gently to it, is probably more often the case.

    Uumm…that’s funny. I just cast Satan as the character in the film who speaks to asses. I imagine he must spend a lot of time pinching his nostrils together.

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 14 July 2007 @ 11:57 pm

  31. “It seems a shame to lose individuation to the collective”

    In Paul’s construction, as in the beginning of Acts, there is no loss of the indiviual, it only looks that way. It is the combination of anarchy with mutuality, a strange brew indeed!

    Comment by samlcarr — 15 July 2007 @ 3:40 am

  32. Jason, Acts 17, one of those really enigmatic texts!

    Aahh So, your blog title has a not-so-hidden double meaning???

    Comment by samlcarr — 15 July 2007 @ 4:07 am

  33. Yeah, my blog title has a number of meanings
    :)

    http://jasonhesiak.blogspot.com/2006/01/golden-ass.html

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 17 July 2007 @ 2:40 pm

  34. I’ve been getting a lot of spam comments on this post lately. Let me clarify: everything is permitted except spam comments.

    Comment by ktismatics — 24 June 2008 @ 11:05 am

  35. I thought I might repost the above comment/quotation by Hesiak that didn’t seem to have been addressed:

    From “The Cube and the Cathedral,” by George Weigel, recommended to me by Doyle’s favorite academian, James K.A. Smith:

    “The law and freedom are not opposites. Law can educate us in freedom. Law is not something imposed on us externally; ratehr, law is a work of wisdom, and good law makes it possible for us to achieve the human goods we instinctively seek because of who we are and what we are meant to be as human beings….Philosophers consider Ockham the chief exponent of nominimalism, a powerful philosophical movement which taught that universal concepts only exist in our minds – that don’t exist in reality. Thus, to take an obvious and crucial example, nominalists contend that there is no such things as ‘human nature.’ ‘Human nature’ is simply the description, the name (hence ‘nominalism’), that we give to our experiences of common features among human beings. The only thigns that exist are particulars…Nominalism had a great influence on Christian moral theology. And because politics, as Aristotle proposed, is an extension of ethics, nominalism’s impace on moral theology also had a tremendous influence on politics, via political theory. How? Go back to our earlier example. If there is no such thing as human nature, then there are no universal moral principles that can be read from human nature. That means that morality is simply law and obligation, and law is always somewhere outside me. Law, in other words, is always coercion – both divine law and human law, God’s coercion of us and our coercion of one another” (pgs. 82-83).

    Comment by Erdman — 24 June 2008 @ 7:44 pm

  36. The point I take away from the above Weigal quote is that “If there is no such thing as human nature, then there are no universal moral principles that can be read from human nature.” And this leaves law as a matter of obligation and coercion.

    We have discussed this in various other contexts, but law is usually grounded in “human nature” in some way. If law is given because it is “good for you,” then we can link law with goodness and even with freedom (as Weigal suggests). So, the law enforcers are no longer coercing or obligating, they are merely helping the subject understand (what the subject apparently does not understand themselves) what is best for them: true freedom, goodness, and beauty only come from the law.

    It all just strikes me as another form of coercion and manipulation by the lawgivers!

    Is there perhaps a sense in Paul’s theology of grace/freedom that we have the freedom to do the things that are “bad for us”?

    Also, if we apply Weigal’s line of thought to Christian theology, then are we not fulfilling the law merely because we want what is best for our own selves? That strikes me as rather self centered, rather than Spirit centered. It is the Spirit, after all, that appears central to Paul’s theology of sanctification; that and the death/resurrection of Christ.

    Comment by Erdman — 24 June 2008 @ 7:58 pm

  37. Hey Erdman. Interesting that the spamistas landed on this post about Galatians, bringing it back into awareness. Is God using the pornslingers now? I think we’ve moved the ball down the court aways since then. Plus I’m not as pissed at JKAss any more, which was probably why I declined to respond to the Golden Ass at the time.

    I agree with your assessment here Erdman. I for one wouldn’t regard it as part of my nature to desire to get circumcised. Now I suspect if Parodycenter were here he might disagree, regarding circumcision as a sublimated desire for castration, an instinct to give up some of my freedom in order to gain access to the Big Other and the power he wields. But the goal of Lacanian analysis is to realize that there is no Big Other standing behind the law, to break free of law so you can figure out what it is you really want, what you think really is good for you. I agree that this notion of the lawgivers telling you what’s good for you is a kind of coercion that Paul says in Galatians 4. Being a child under the Law is like being a slave, but now you’re freed from this bondage to live the life of a fellow-heir by the Spirit. Not law, not self-absorption, but faith working through love (Gal. 5:6).

    Comment by ktismatics — 24 June 2008 @ 10:00 pm

  38. K: Is God using the pornslingers now?

    It wouldn’t be the first time!

    K: the goal of Lacanian analysis is to realize that there is no Big Other standing behind the law, to break free of law so you can figure out what it is you really want, what you think really is good for you.

    From a Structuralist perspective, though, we might suggest that we do not know “desire” if there is no law; Paul hints at this. Our grasp always exceeds our reach. We are never satisfied; we always want more than what we have. There is no fruit that satisfies like the forbidden fruit. And once we’ve had it, we are on the lookout for the serpent’s next tree of temptation.

    So, is it possible to find “what we really want”? Is there such a thing? Are there things that are good for me?

    Comment by Erdman — 25 June 2008 @ 7:09 am

  39. And this ties back in with mimetic desire. Can we know desire without others, without desiring what the other has (coveting)? If there were no other beings but myself, would I desire? Interesting: Adam was alone, and he desired one like himself.

    Comment by Erdman — 25 June 2008 @ 7:14 am

  40. “Can we know desire without others, without desiring what the other has (coveting)?”

    No, without the free market we couldn’t keep buying new satisfactions. And I don’t mean just using traditional money as the only form of exchange, although you need a certain amount.

    “If there were no other beings but myself, would I desire?”

    I know I wouldn’t, even though such a thing may not have even existed as privilege for primeval soup, much less souls-in-bodies.

    “Interesting: Adam was alone, and he desired one like himself.”

    And he didn’t get it either. Just look at Eve–the worst advertisement for feminism in history! I know I desire one exactly like myself, and I have to settle for just this one. I do like to do some moonlighting with some who are not exactly like me, but at least have some of the same priorities.

    Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 25 June 2008 @ 9:17 am

  41. “So, is it possible to find “what we really want?”

    It’s a good question. Is it so terrible to want something just because someone else wants it? As long as there’s enough to go around it shouldn’t be a problem, since we are a social species and learn everything else of value from other people. Scarcity is what turns mimetic desire into rivalry. The prohibition of law can create the feeling of scarcity even if it’s not there in the first place — you can’t have it because it belongs to the Master. Sinthome at Larval Subjects was just talking about this issue relative to Lacan, who is a scarcity/lack theorist of desire, and Deleuze, who sees desire in terms of plenty and fulfillment.

    “without the free market we couldn’t keep buying new satisfactions.”

    That’s Zizek’s argument for capitalism: if the market didn’t dangle these things in front of us we wouldn’t desire, so we wouldn’t work to be able to pay for our desires, and the whole society would stagnate. Of course he doesn’t say it in so many words, but that’s the gist of his critique of Hardt & Negri’s Empire. I think I’ll write more on Badiou’s book about Paul and his take on desire.

    “And he didn’t get it either.”

    LOL — I hadn’t thought of that reading before. Adam wants someone like himself, but Eve wants to turn herself into someone more like Yahweh — stepping up in the world.

    Comment by ktismatics — 25 June 2008 @ 10:41 am

  42. if the market didn’t dangle these things in front of us we wouldn’t desire, so we wouldn’t work to be able to pay for our desires, and the whole society would stagnate.

    oh my fucking God what a REVOLUTIONARY THOUGHT. It’s one of those platitudes like ”people like nice things” and ”stars shine”. You know people buy satisfactions because the satisfactions SATISFY them. Because you know most people aren’t masochists. And besides the socialist market, run by the state, as well, provided satisfying things, and we had advertising as well. But it was not nearly as good and efficient as what came from capitalism. That Zizek is really full of shit.

    Comment by parodycenter — 25 June 2008 @ 1:12 pm

  43. Yes but Zizek thought it was a good thing that consumers remained UNsatisfied, that le petit objet a remained elusive, that consumers would continue to pay prices beyond use value in endless unsatisfied pursuit of satisfaction, that the economy needed a Big Other capitalist class to keep collecting those profits, that if the unattainable fetish value were ever revealed for its essential unattainability and unsatisiability then consumers would no longer have any motivation to buy, and as a result they wouldn’t want to work either. I.e., Zizek believes that people really are masochists of the obsessive type, and that the whole system depends on their staying that way.

    On the other hand you have Deleuze and Guattari, who see an immanent desire TO WORK as the engine of the societal dynamo, with capitalism artificially installing false objects of desire and false obstacles to their attainment as a way of inducing this obsessive masochism on a wide scale.

    I think St. Paul’s distinction between the flesh and the spirit corresponds to this obsessive masochistic desire to covet and consume versus the free desire to create and to attain satisfaction.

    Comment by ktismatics — 25 June 2008 @ 2:13 pm

  44. I would be interested in hearing more on Badiou’s take on Paul and desire.

    Comment by Erdman — 25 June 2008 @ 4:17 pm


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

The WordPress Classic Theme. Blog at WordPress.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 94 other followers

%d bloggers like this: