Ktismatics

6 July 2007

A Thorn in the Eye?

Filed under: Christianity — ktismatics @ 5:45 am

Paul talks about suffering from a “thorn in the flesh.” Maybe he had trouble with his eyes.

but you know that it was because of a bodily illness that I preached the gospel to you the first time; and that which was a trial to you in my bodily condition you did not despise or loathe, but you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus Himself. Where then is that sense of blessing you had? For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me. (Galatians 4:14-16)

Paul says that he preached the gospel because of a bodily illness. In Acts 9 we learn about Saul’s epiphany, where he encounters Jesus on the road to Damascus.

Suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground… Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight.

Ananias visits Saul and lays hands on him.

And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he got up and was baptized; and he took food and was strengthened. Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”

It was because of his blinding encounter that Saul could see Jesus — nobody else who accompanied Saul on the road that day was blinded or could see Jesus. And certainly it was because of his mystical vision that Saul (who at some point and for some reason changed his name to Paul) began preaching the Gospel. Maybe Paul never fully regained his sight, even after Ananias healed him. Maybe his limited earthly vision enhanced his “second sight,” enabling him to envision Christ more clearly during his ministry. Because of his impaired vision Paul found it difficult to get around in the world, so he always had to rely on others to help him. The Galatians didn’t despise Paul for it; they would gladly have given him their own eyes.

I’m not strongly invested in this theory, and it’s not all that important. What do you think though?

 
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63 Comments »

  1. John, you really are going into the analysis of Paul! He is a fascinating person and as with many important NT matters, I haven’t been entirely satisfied with what ‘the scholars’ have produce to date.

    There is evidence that Paul’s eyes bothered him. It may even have been a condition that predated his temporary blindness. In Galatians it could have been that or perhaps he was just sick and the referrence to being willing to do eye transplants may just be a common expression of great concern.

    I’m not sure where the ‘change in name’ is mentioned. It’s quite possible that he had two names, one Hebrew and one more Roman.

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    Comment by samlcarr — 6 July 2007 @ 7:12 am

  2. The blind theologian John Hull has some extremely interesting things to say about Paul’s blindness and – Hull argues – subsequent visual impairment.

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    Comment by Dominic Fox — 6 July 2007 @ 7:42 am

  3. Dominic, I’ve only read his “Open Letter” and that concentrated on the negative imagery of blindness in the gospels, but it would be fascinating to see what he has to say on Paul. Anything on this available online?

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    Comment by samlcarr — 6 July 2007 @ 9:36 am

  4. “the referrence to being willing to do eye transplants may just be a common expression of great concern.”

    True, but why that particular expression, as opposed to, say, the shirts off their backs or their eye teeth? In the very next chapter we’ve got one of your favorite passages to consider. Paul, in railing against those who preach circumcision, expresses the wish that they would castrate themselves. This too could have been a common expression of great concern, but it’s directly relevant anatomically to the subject at hand (so to speak).

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    Comment by ktismatics — 6 July 2007 @ 9:42 am

  5. I don’t know John Hull, but I found a sermon by some guy named Geoff Cornell who talks about Hull’s thoughts on Paul:

    Paul was himself partially-sighted and uses metaphors from his experience. So his use of the ‘veil’ over the eyes for those who do not see Christ owes as much to his own experience as to the Old Testament: he can write in his famous hymn to love that we see ‘as in a mirror, dimly: elsewhere that we look ‘not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen’ – and so on. John Hull says that a partially-sighted person becomes highly conscious of the beauty of light and also of the limits of vision – to know there are things beyond one’s sight, and to yearn ‘to see face to face’. Paul, he says, does not write of the world of sight and blindness as stark and total opposites but of us inhabiting, working our passage through a world whernot everything is clear but what we can do in it is to live by what we see and to love and trust God and others.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 6 July 2007 @ 9:43 am

  6. “Paul was himself partially-sighted and uses metaphors from his experience. So his use of the ‘veil’ over the eyes for those who do not see Christ owes as much to his own experience as to the Old Testament: he can write in his famous hymn to love that we see ‘as in a mirror, dimly: elsewhere that we look ‘not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen’ – and so on.”

    This makes me think that the bling theologian John Hull is quite loyal to the world of science. But then?…

    “John Hull says that a partially-sighted person becomes highly conscious of the beauty of light and also of the limits of vision – to know there are things beyond one’s sight, and to yearn ‘to see face to face’.”

    So there is he talking about seeing the bushes in his front yard and the wife in his bed “face to face,” or is he talking about the “enigmatic” “person” of Jesus?

    I’ve always read that verse I think (?) more like Borges in his essay “The Mirror of the Enigmas,” who was himself also legally blind. For Borges, we are all blind, and his actual/empirical “blindness” let him see more clearly. I myself wouldn’t take the connotations of that statement but so far, however.

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    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 6 July 2007 @ 11:18 am

  7. I’ve got Hull’s “open letter” somewhere in my comp and woul be happy to dig it out and mail you a copy or post the link if it’s still online. It was good, sharp and full of pathos too! The first part, a sort of preamble Hull talks aout openness to all the other contexts and interpretations of scripture – very PoMo.

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    Comment by samlcarr — 6 July 2007 @ 11:34 am

  8. “bling theologian”…hhmm…Tupac maybe…

    I meant “blind theologian,” of course. More occasions for stumpation do I hope to avoid.
    :)

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    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 6 July 2007 @ 11:36 am

  9. Is some sort of trauma needed before we reorer our lives, priorities, and to realise truth?

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    Comment by samlcarr — 6 July 2007 @ 12:29 pm

  10. I am learning that the trauma sort of becomes the priority.

    http://jasonhesiak.blogspot.com/2007/07/twilights-of-tears.html

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    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 6 July 2007 @ 12:35 pm

  11. Doyle…are you a musician? Do you know a “Jesse Burns” in Boulder? How about Jon Sousa?

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    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 6 July 2007 @ 12:46 pm

  12. I don’t know the local musicians — what’s their story? This month we’re renting the apartment of a guitar player and his wife; his band (hippie jam music, by the sound of the stuff on their website) is on tour through the west this month. The apartment is decorated with Buddhist prayer flags.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 6 July 2007 @ 1:30 pm

  13. Oh I don’t know their story, really. I thought maybe you had secretly started a funny myspace page. I went looking for you, found your name listed on a couple of Boulder myspace musician pages…figured I’d ask.

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    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 6 July 2007 @ 2:57 pm

  14. Ktismatics:
    It was because of his blinding encounter that Saul could see Jesus

    If you and I happen to connect when I go out to South Dakota in the coming weeks we may decide to saunter into a bar or a local pub to have a brew and discuss hermeneutics. Perhaps I say, “John, do you see that man over there in the stripped shirt?”
    You peer in the general direction of my gesture, but do not see the man in the stripped shirt.
    “Where?”, you ask.
    I gesture more emphatically and say, “There. See. See, right there.”

    We all would seem to have a good grasp on what “seeing is in the above scenario. In fact, we could describe the physiological and biological process of seeing something. It is likely that we could all come to some sort of agreement on what it means to see with the physical eye. We can understand the eye.

    Question: Can we describe what it means to “see Jesus”?

    Would each of our descriptions differ? Perhaps seeing Jesus means understanding what kind of “eye” we are dealing with.

    John, what did you mean when you used the phrase “seeing Jesus” in your post?

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    Comment by Erdman — 6 July 2007 @ 5:58 pm

  15. P.S. The story ends by John getting so frustrated that he empties his brew on my head and storms away. Jason and Sam walk in in the middle of the exchange and Jason hurries after John to confront him, while Sam helps me clean up.

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    Comment by Erdman — 6 July 2007 @ 6:00 pm

  16. “John, what did you mean when you used the phrase “seeing Jesus” in your post?”

    It’s a good question, isn’t it, based on the Acts 9 text. Did Saul see Jesus with his eyes while Jesus hid himself from the others’ view? Given that Paul was blinded after the encounter I’d be tempted to say that Paul saw something that physical eyes couldn’t see — more like a “vision” in the mystical sense.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 6 July 2007 @ 6:41 pm

  17. Jonathan, is this scenario and dialogue the beginning of a play you’re scripting? I like the pouring the beer over the head bit. Working title: Blind Drunk. Will Derrida and Gadamer be BSing amicably at the other end of the bar?

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    Comment by ktismatics — 6 July 2007 @ 6:44 pm

  18. Regarding seeing, we need to hear from Jason, who claims to see color in an “empirically” B&W film.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 6 July 2007 @ 7:51 pm

  19. “Regarding seeing, we need to hear from Jason, who claims to see color in an ’empirically’ B&W film.”

    Alas…my grand entrance. You guys usually don’t converse this late?

    “P.S. The story ends by John getting so frustrated that he empties his brew on my head and storms away. Jason and Sam walk in in the middle of the exchange and Jason hurries after John to confront him, while Sam helps me clean up.”

    Right, because I’m not mad anymore. Because I had already dumped my beer on my head earlier.

    Regarding “seeing Jesus”, the verse about his being “enigmatic” indicates that we will also BECOME as we “truly are.” There is apparently some connection between “seeing” and “being.” As with our various “views” on George Bush, our various “views” on Jesus will differ. But Jesus is still the same dude. On top of that, part of what I see when I “see Jesus” is the dude through whom I was made. That means that, although you and I will both see different with our differnet eyes, we will both “become” “like adults” when we “see him face to face.”

    “Did Saul see Jesus with his eyes while Jesus hid himself from the others’ view?”

    The Rennaissance paintings depict “Jesus” as a Light. Like at the foot of Mt. Sinai, they also simply portray Paul/Saul as the only one with the balls to look. Paul was blinded, Moses “glowed.” And I don’t know if I’m getting this from the text or elsewhere, but I’ve been under the impression for quite some time that everyone there HEARD the voice of Jesus.

    “P.S. The story ends by John getting so frustrated that he empties his brew on my head and storms away. Jason and Sam walk in in the middle of the exchange and Jason hurries after John to confront him, while Sam helps me clean up.”

    Right, because I’m not mad anymore. Because I had already dumped my beer on my head earlier. Somehow that TOOK AWAY my anger. This makes me qualified to confront the angry Jon, possibly being socked in the mouth…as, alas, he has no more beer to dump on my head.

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    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 6 July 2007 @ 8:35 pm

  20. More doubling from me. I must really like beer, particularly when dumped on the head.

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    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 6 July 2007 @ 8:36 pm

  21. “The Rennaissance paintings depict “Jesus” as a Light… Paul/Saul as the only one with the balls to look… everyone there HEARD the voice of Jesus.”

    Hearing the voice but seeing no one, it says. Now that I look more carefully, I see that Acts 9 never actually says that Saul saw Jesus either; it just says that he heard the voice. So maybe the scenario being described is this: a bright light flashed, blinding Saul; a voice claiming to be Jesus spoke to Saul; everyone there heard the voice but no one, including Saul, saw who was speaking. Empirically saw, that is.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 6 July 2007 @ 8:48 pm

  22. “More doubling from me.”

    Not only a repeat of the beer spillage incident, but a replacement of John with Jon. Are you saying that maybe Jon is the angry one here, not John? Or is it doubling?

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    Comment by ktismatics — 6 July 2007 @ 8:51 pm

  23. I have a sexy date with my church friends. I must exit now. By all of the various Jo(h)n’s and Sam and Everyman.

    I would like to see Jon get angry at Jon and dump beer on Jon’s head and then have Jason run out after John in his anger while Sam consoles Jon. Sounds like a good Surrealist joke for a movie scene.

    I would like to see Jon get angry at Jon and dump beer on Jon’s head and then have Jason run out after John in his anger while Sam consoles Jon. Sounds like a good Surrealist joke for a movie scene.

    Like

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 6 July 2007 @ 9:43 pm

  24. Have two beers for me.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 6 July 2007 @ 9:59 pm

  25. i have said good byE to my church friends.

    “Hearing the voice but seeing no one, it says. Now that I look more carefully, I see that Acts 9 never actually says that Saul saw Jesus either; it just says that he heard the voice. So maybe the scenario being described is this: a bright light flashed, blinding Saul; a voice claiming to be Jesus spoke to Saul; everyone there heard the voice but no one, including Saul, saw who was speaking. Empirically saw, that is.”

    I’m with this reading, pretty much. But “empircally saw”…well…he did see the light…”empirically.” The relation between seeing Jesus the person and this light, however…is probably a tricky one, which I don’t fully understand. I did just learn today over at churchandpomo that God is the only “person” whose being and essence are the same.

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    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 7 July 2007 @ 1:55 am

  26. “I did just learn today over at churchandpomo that God is the only ‘person’ whose being and essence are the same.”…at least that’s what Aquinas says.

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    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 7 July 2007 @ 1:56 am

  27. I guess God’s being and essence aren’t related very closely to appearance, as evidenced by the various ways people saw Jesus after his resurrection. Or was that Jesus’s human being/essence rather than his godly being/essence? I’m not sure I understand what being and essence are.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 7 July 2007 @ 5:20 am

  28. “I did just learn today over at churchandpomo…”

    I’m curious, Jason: did you read Cynthia’s series of posts and/or the article by Schindler on which her posts were based?

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    Comment by ktismatics — 7 July 2007 @ 6:22 am

  29. I did read Cynthia’s posts. I did not read Schindler’s article. I kept hearing references made to the article as if a link to it had been provided, but I don’t remember seeing such a link. Maybe I’ll go back and look. But I’ll be honest…the article didn’t sound interesting enough to read. Although I really respect everything I’ve seen from Cynthia, I resonated with your reaction to the series of posts.

    It seemed like lots of unnecessary hoop jumping just for the fun of it. It sounded like he/she was/were trying to make a bunch of technical academic distinctions for their own sake. Which could easily lead back to larvalsubjects observation that academia can sometimes be a bit of its own world.

    Its als interesting to me that the wole darn discourse started as a way to try to solve “the Cartesian problem.” Call me old fashioned, but I just don’t see the need to even react to or solf “the Cartesian problem.” I hear about “the Cartesian problem,” and I think, “no wonder we have the ‘problem’ where academia becomes its own little/big world.”

    Although…the world of Academia is obviously somewhat interesting to me. I haven’t studied “the Cartesian problem” as much as Cynthia; and it was interesting to, from those posts, get a bit of an indirect take on how Kant depends upon and is reacting to Descartes.

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    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 7 July 2007 @ 10:30 am

  30. …more on being and essence in a moment…

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    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 7 July 2007 @ 10:31 am

  31. I agree fully with your evaluation. I think Balthasar’s argument resonates with your friend Aquinas’s notion of participation: the mother’s loving smile participates God’s proactive gesture of love toward humankind.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 7 July 2007 @ 10:45 am

  32. On being and essence…

    OK, blog comments aren’t usually the place for quotes that express complex ideas…but that’s what I’m going to do.

    For one thing, lets start with the question or issue of appearance. Hannah Arendt, on pgs. 24-25 of my edition of The Life of The Mind, says the following: “The primacy of appearance is a fact of everyday life which neither the scientist nor the philospher can ever escape. Against this unshakable common-sense conviction stands the age-old supremacy of Being and Truth over mere appearance, that is, the supremacy of the ground that does not appear over the surface that does…the truth is, not only do appearances never reeal what lis beneath them of their own accord but also, generally speaking, they never just reveal; they also conceal – ‘No thing, no side of a thing, shows itself except by actively hidning the others’ [apparently a quote from Aristotle’s Metaphysics – my note]…The elementary logical fallacy of all theories that rely o the dichotomy of Being and Appearance is obvious and was early discovered and summed up by the sophist Gorgias in a fragment from his lost treatise On Non-Being or On Nature…’Being is not manifest since it does not appear [to men: dokein – Arendt’s note]; appearing [to men – Arendt’s note] is weak since it does not succeed in being.’ [from De Anima].”

    Now, Jesus seems to be aware of the issue. “No one has seen the Father except the Son.” And: “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” Two contradictory statements, it seems. But first of all, Jesus seems to be making the two contradictory statements from a place of awareness of the question of appearance; he seems to just sort of be presenting the question or issue to us…in my mind as a simple statement or truth of the structural or relational makeup of the cosmos.

    Second of all, to me the contradiction seems to be addressed and resolved by the doctrine of the Trinity, which holds that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are three persons in one. “…the formula ‘Three Hypostases in one Ousia’ came to be everywhere accepted as an epitome of the orthodox doctrine of the Holy Trinity. More on that in a moment.”
    from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypostasis_(religion)
    More on that in a moment, but…

    Then, though, to me there is still this quetion of the “supremacy” of Being and essence over appearance. On p. 25 of the same book, Arendt says: “…the supremacy of the GROUND that does not appear over the surface that does. This ground supposedly answers the oldest question in philosophy as well as of science. How does it happen that something or somebody, including myself, appears at all and what makes it appear in this form and shape rather than in any other? The question itself asks for a CAUSE rather rather than a base or ground, but the point of the matter is that our tradition of philosophy has transformed the base from which something rises into the cause that produces it and has then assigned to this producing agent a higher rank of reality than is given to what merely meets the eye. The belief that a cause should be of higher rank than the effect (so that an effect can easily be disparged by being retraced to its cause) may belong to the oldest and most stubborn of metaphysical fallacies.”

    And that’s why, in my mind, Jesus with his two seemingly contradictory statements, was making “a simple statement or truth of the structural or relational makeup of the cosmos.” To me this is also why Revelations is a revelation simply about something that will appear as a fulfillment of simply what is, as much as or moreso than its currently being a secret, superstitios or religious imparting of some great and supreme secret, like how to cook the best lasagna that no one really and actually knows how to cook.

    At the same time, of course, I do believe that part of that structural makeup of the cosmos is that there IS such a thing as a ground. From the website on ‘hypostasis’ again: “In Christian usage, the Greek word hypostasis (ὑπόστᾰσις) has a complicated and sometimes confusing history, but its literal meaning is ‘that which stands beneath’. (See Liddell and Scott’s Greek Lexicon [1]). It was used by, for instance, Aristotle and the Neoplatonists, to speak of the objective reality (as opposed to outer form or illusion) of a thing, its inner reality. In the Christian Scriptures this seems roughly its meaning at Hebrews 1:3. Allied to this was its use for ‘basis’ or ‘foundation’ and hence also ‘confidence’…”

    “It was mainly under the influence of the Cappadocian Fathers that the terminology was clarified and standardized, so that the formula ‘Three Hypostases in one Ousia’ came to be everywhere accepted as an epitome of the orthodox doctrine of the Holy Trinity. This consensus, however, was not achieved without some confusion at first in the minds of Western theologians, who had translated hypo-stasis as ‘sub-stantia’ (substance, and see also Consubstantial) and understood the Eastern Christians, when speaking of three ‘Hypostases’ in the Godhead, to mean three ‘Substances,’ i.e. they suspected them of Tritheism. But, from the middle of the fourth century onwards the word came to be contrasted with ousia and used to mean ‘individual reality,’ especially in the Trinitarian and Christological contexts. With regard to the doctrine of the Trinity, hypostasis is usually understood with a meaning akin to the Greek word prosopon, which is translated into Latin as persona and then into English as person. The Christian view of the Trinity is often described as a view of one God existing in three distinct hypostases/personae/persons. It should be noted that the Latin ‘persona’ is not the same as the English “person” but is the same as the English ‘persona.'”

    And from what I hear about Aquinas, his teaching is that God’s Being is His essence. God IS “Being.” In Him “we live and move and have our being.”

    To me that jives OK with the above stuff from that website on hypostasis, but I am not entirely clear on the terminology for and relationship between being and essence. Also from that website on hypostatis: “In Early Christian writings it [the Gk. term for hypostasis] is used to denote ‘being’ or ‘substantive reality’ and is not always distinguished in meaning from ousia (essence); it was used in this way by Tatian and Origen, and also in the anathemas appended to the Nicene Creed of 325. See also: Hypostatic union, where the term is used to describe two realities (or natures) in one person. The term has also been used and is still used in modern Greek (not just Koine Greek or common ancient Greek) to mean ‘existence’.”

    To me, though, the basic point of the matter is that I don’t fully know myself or who I am or what. I don’t really know my own “essence.” God, however, knows Himself, myself and all of the universe in space and time, fully and in its full “essence,” whatever it is.

    Back, interestingly, to Borges essay “The Mirror of the Enigmas,” which is on Paul’s “now we see in darkness, as if in a mirror…but three things shall endure…” text. Borges quotes from elsewhere: “‘Every man is on earth to symbolize something he is ignorant of and to realize a particle or a mountain of the invisible materials that will serve to build the City of God.’…’There is no human being on earth capable of declaring with certitude who he is. No one knows what he has come into this world to do, waht his acts correspond to his sentiments, his ideas, or what his real name is, his enduring Name in the register of Light…History is an immense liturgical text where the iotas and the odts are worth no less than the entire verses or chapters, but the importance of one and the other is indeterminable and profoundly hidden.”

    Also from Borges’ essay: “We now see, St. Paul maintains, per speculum in aenigmate, literally: ‘in an enigma by means of a mirro’ and we shall not see in any other way until the coming of the One who is all in flames and must teach us all things.’…We see everything backwards. When we believe we give, we recieve, ect. Then (a beloved, anguished soul tells me) we are in Heaven and God suffers on earth.”

    The wikipedia site on Hebrews 1: 3 interestingly says, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” Regarding being and appearance, “glory” there seems to indicate – not what or who Jesus represents a philosophically “higher cause” – but as the simple apparent radiance of the Being that IS.

    Make sense?

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    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 7 July 2007 @ 11:34 am

  33. “I think Balthasar’s argument resonates with your friend Aquinas’s notion of participation: the mother’s loving smile participates God’s proactive gesture of love toward humankind.”

    I would agree.

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    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 7 July 2007 @ 11:41 am

  34. “I guess God’s being and essence aren’t related very closely to appearance, as evidenced by the various ways people saw Jesus after his resurrection.”

    That the disciples didn’t recognize their master on the road to whatever-village before he “opened the scriptures to them”, broke bread with them, they recognized him, and then he disappeared…I also take that to be “a simple statement or truth of the structural or relational makeup of the cosmos.” I also take the fact that they did not recognize him, in itself, as a kind of personal statement from Jesus of who he was (kind of like his healing of the guy with the deformed hand with the “healing authorities” – the Pharisees – on hand in the audience). I don’t know myelf; God knows me and Himself and everything else. But He wants to “break bread” (an act of friendship) WITH me.

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    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 7 July 2007 @ 11:49 am

  35. It’s a bit like the serious question of how many angels can fit on the head of a pin or, if you talk to a string theorist, of where and what all those other dimensions really are.

    I think there is a relationship to mathematics where one begins with efining axioms and everything logically flows from there, in other words, however fascinating, it is all tautological anyway.

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    Comment by samlcarr — 7 July 2007 @ 12:19 pm

  36. I just found the John Hull letter link an here it is:
    http://www.johnmhull.biz/letter%20from%20a%20blind%20disciple.htm

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    Comment by samlcarr — 7 July 2007 @ 1:44 pm

  37. “And from what I hear about Aquinas, his teaching is that God’s Being is His essence. God IS “Being.” In Him “we live and move and have our being.””

    I think this is the “essence” of Balthasar’s position: God IS love; the mother HAS love for her children. So a loving mother embeds this Godly essence in an existing, material, individual person. The individual points toward the generic, the existent toward pure Being. The child learning about the natural world through the mother participates humanity learning about the supernatural world through God. Anyhow, the whole thing in Balthasar seems like a red herring, because he’s making an empirical case for the mother’s smile as the basis for a child’s knowledge about the world, but he makes no case for it other than dressing it up in mystical-sounding words. I think he’d be better off actually understanding how the existing parent-child relationship works existentially, then drawing the analogy to God. It could be done, but he doesn’t do it. But that’s a whole nother discussion (i.e., the latest Church and Postmodern Culture post, toward which Jason and I contributed comments).

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    Comment by ktismatics — 7 July 2007 @ 4:52 pm

  38. Thanks, Sam, for the link to the John Hull letter — and thanks too, Dominic, for linking this Galatians passage to Hull. In his letter Hull talks about being a blind person reading the Bible. Here are a few passages from the letter that struck me:

    When I hear Jesus saying that the blind cannot lead the blind because they will both fall into a ditch, is that the word of God to me? When the Bible as a whole and the gospels in particular, every one of them, tell me that as a blind person I represent disobedience, unbelief, ignorance and sin, am I to take that as God’s word to me? This is not a word of acceptance, of forgiveness and of liberation, but a word of rejection, of oppression.

    This is the stark choice facing the Biblical literalist: if you accept the Bible literally you will be more likely to accept uncritically the negative image of blindness in our culture.

    Jesus used the metaphor, or the New Testament tradition attributed the use of the metaphor to Jesus, because the metaphor not only illustrated the truth but was believed to contain the truth. It was believed that blind people tended to be foolish, ignorant and inconsistent. If Jesus had said “The blind cannot lead the blind because they will both fall into a ditch but they don’t really, I’m only trying to make a point”, the whole impact of the saying would have been lost. It would be like saying that the salt would be no good if it lost its saltiness – but it would be really.

    When I studied the New Testament as a sighted person, it did not occur to me that you, Jesus, were yourself sighted. We were in the same world, but it did not occur to me that being sighted was a world. I thought that things were just like that. When I became blind, then I realised that blindness is a world, and that the sighted condition also generates a distinctive experience and can be called a world. Now I find, Jesus, that I am in one world and you are in another.

    There is another question which I want to ask you, Lord. Do you believe that there is a connection between disability and sin? Or, if not you yourself, then did your early followers believe this? When you had healed the lame man who lay on the steps besides the pool of Bethesda, you said to him “Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you” (Jn 5:14). To my mind, that clearly indicates that you thought there was a connection between his lameness and some sin or other, and when I read in Jn. 5:3 that in the portico lay a multitude of invalids, blind, lame, paralysed I cannot imagine that this comment applied only to the particular man or to lame people in general, but would also have been said if the healed person had been blind. Similarly, when you healed the lame man lowered through the roof (Mk. 2: 1-12) you first said to him “your sins are forgiven”. It was only when the implications of this comment were challenged by those who heard it that you continued with the physical healing of the lame man. It is difficult to resist the view that it was necessary first to get the sin out of the way before the disability could be healed.

    On the road to Emmaus, the eyes of your two disciples were constrained, so that they were not able to recognise you (Lk. 24:16). You walked the road with two disciples who were in effect blind. Only when you broke the bread, were their eyes opened so that they could recognise you, and then you vanished from their sight (Lk. 24:31). Again, they became blind as far as you were concerned, but now it is the blindness of recognition, no longer the blindness of a failure to recognise. Sight has become more paradoxical.

    The Gospel of John foresees the end of the sighted culture. ‘I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer’, and later in the same chapter ‘a little while and you will no longer see me; and again a little while, and you will see me’ (Jn. 16:10,16). This awareness of the limits of sight is vividly expressed in the story of Thomas, who doubted your resurrection. You said to Thomas, ‘have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe’ (Jn. 20:29). Most people think you were speaking to second and third generation Christians, or those living far away from Israel, who never saw your earthly ministry. However, these words can be regarded as a particular blessing upon your blind disciples.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 8 July 2007 @ 9:20 am

  39. I printed out Hull’s thing-bob. Look foward to reading it…

    Like

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 9 July 2007 @ 10:18 am

  40. I’m part-way through the John Hull piece…

    He talks about how sighted people don’t notice that sight is or constitutes a world. Thing is…I’ve noticed. As has McLuhan. So far as I’ve seen, though…Hull and McLuhan mean it in two very different senses.

    He also talks about the “scientific grounds” upon which we can now critique the Bible. Uumm…yeah…mabye not…no. Science is not a Ground. Modern empirical science happened as the Ground was falling away. Just because science and revelation ought well to match doesn’t mean that revelation owes it to science to match up with it!

    So yeah…so far as I’m concrend…I was right when I said: “This makes me think that the bling theologian John Hull is quite loyal to the world of science. But then?…”

    Borges didn’t take the “disparging” blind talk in the Bible as such…and write an angry letter to Jesus abou it. He celebrated his blindness. What are we to make of this? Does Hull just have emotional issues? Was Borges just numb to his own? Or maybe Borges “saw” the world a bit differently.

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    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 10 July 2007 @ 4:47 pm

  41. more bling theologians again. how about Akon this time.

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    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 10 July 2007 @ 4:54 pm

  42. “Modern empirical science happened as the Ground was falling away.”

    Irrespective of John Hull, it’s also clear that modern empirical science happened as a direct result of the Reformation, which was an attempt to ground the Christian faith in the written revelation that was available to all, rather than letting it either float free in spiritual “insights” of officially recognized church leaders or get mired in the traditions of men. Modern empirical science was an attempt to ground natural revelation in what could actually be discovered in nature, rather than relying on what Aristotle declared nature to be through insight and rational deduction. If you regard these attempts at grounding actually to be evidence of the ground falling away, then I suppose it becomes just a matter of opinion.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 10 July 2007 @ 5:03 pm

  43. OK. So before we were in the bad situation of having bad human leaders. Now we are in the bad situation in which there are no human leaders, nor even a physical world really…and all we have are programs and niche markets.

    So then for me the main point of contention becomes Aristotle’s animated cosmos. Or you could say it antoher way…whether or not the “spiritual” has “substance.” Or rather are we just IN a physical world that is notationally placed within vacumous “outer” “space”?

    And that quickly becomes a question of essences and metaphysics. Does the fact that we see dimly as if in darkness by means of a mirror mean that we have no essence, or that we don’t know it? And is that a question or issue of sin or of intellecutal recognition (or opinion)?

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    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 10 July 2007 @ 5:56 pm

  44. You can still have an animated cosmos even if you reject Aristotle’s earth-centered cosmos and his levitas-gravitas and all the rest of it. Empirical observation doesn’t deny that the phenomena under observation might be suffused with or participate some sort of metaphysical or spiritual essence.

    The point of my comment was that even within Christianity, even among the spiricually enlightened, one person’s ground is another person’s fog or quicksand. So how definitive can you be about your own interpretation of ground?

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    Comment by ktismatics — 10 July 2007 @ 6:25 pm

  45. On gravitas-levitas. I can’t reject them. When I was “Standing In The Door,” I met them, said, “Howdy, how ‘ya doin.'” They said, “Fine, as usual.”

    One “earth-centered cosmos”…the line between Galileo and Descartes is a bit too thin for me, at this point. That’s not to say that the earth is the center of the universe. That is to say, “Hey, what about the relation between the logical and the sensible?”

    To answer our question, then, about how definitive I can be about the ground…I can bend down and touch it. I can stand on it. I can till it. But what to do once we’re working off of theories and hope to support them with empirical evidence?

    On the other side of the coin, I can say definitively that I am not the authority on what the Ground is, and nor am I myself a Ground. I finished Hull’s letter; on numerous occasions he blasts Jesus’ interpretation of reality. And not even just the disciples’ interpretations of Jesus, either. I can say definitively that that’s whacky. Jesus is my friend, but the he wears the pants. The relationship ain’t “mutual,” as Hull indicates. It is revealed to me; I don’t reason my way onto it.

    At one point, Hull even speaks of the God of the blind world as a different one from the God of the sighted world. I can say definitively that there’s some Same Ground, and we all see it different in our different worlds. But Jesus was around when it was layed, or he layed it, or he is it…or something of the sort.

    And I can say definitively that Jesus, whether he “would have been” or not, IS John Hull’s “companion” in his suffering, which weighs us “down” with levitas in the direction of the ground. Jesus is with me as well in my suffering; as then I am with Jesus at the Cross…where it is possible to break through to the Ground upon which things (re)stand.

    AND…I can say definitively that Jesus gave eyes to John Hull. Its therefore “natural” for him to want to see. If Hull did not now or ever have eyes, I would believe him in saying that he did not want to see.

    Like

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 11 July 2007 @ 2:42 am

  46. For clarity…

    My…”I can say definitively that there’s some Same Ground, and we all see it different in our different worlds.”

    …was in resonse to your…

    “one person’s ground is another person’s fog or quicksand.”

    A) That’s what Paul said about Jesus, and B) I’m saying there’s some Same Ground upon wich I and some other person who lives in some world on earth that is as different from mine as you can imagine stand. Whether we recognize it or not is another question. Whether we fight wars because we are so “blind” to each other that we can’t even communicate straight is also another question.

    But the reason such miscommunication is unfortunate is because it is COMMUNIcation…its a reconcilation of sorts every time two people speak to each other. To speak is to return to our Origin as well as to make our future (and not just one or the other). In communication we are making the togetherness that already was, Really.

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    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 11 July 2007 @ 3:14 am

  47. So in your view it’s Jesus who is the Ground. Not the animated versus inanimate cosmos, not mysticism versus empiricism — these were overstatements on your part, strong opinions and personal convictions rather than firm dividing lines? The next question would be this: is Jesus the ground, or is it awareness of Jesus as ground, or perhaps in Jesus? Or is it God rather than specifically Jesus who is the Ground?

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    Comment by ktismatics — 11 July 2007 @ 7:32 am

  48. “The next question would be this: is Jesus the ground, or is it awareness of Jesus as ground, or perhaps in Jesus?”

    Jesus himself. Not my or our our awareness of him. Two different things. Altough we still make something when we speak, and its still craft or praxis when we think. I’m not saying that the Ground and our awareness of it are entirely separate. I’m just saying that they are distinct, and that its “Jesus himself” that/who is the Ground. And I’m saying that its an important distinction precisely because I am not a god. To go there is to take away my freedom. That sounds backwards, but I’m not in charge here.

    “Or is it God rather than specifically Jesus who is the Ground?”

    I’d say I think of it more as Jesus, but that gets a bit hairy and I’m not sure exactly how to articulate that…and I’m not entirely sure I understand it fully.

    “Not the animated versus inanimate cosmos, not mysticism versus empiricism — these were overstatements on your part, strong opinions and personal convictions rather than firm dividing lines?”

    Well…yes and no. I mean, the thing is…if now one asserts that the physical/presently sensible world, as well as “outer space,” is filled or imbued or whatever with the substantial presence of spiritual stuff…or, rather…if one asserts that the physical world exists within the spiritual substance of something “greater” than itself…then that one is automatically considered a mystic. But that view, in reality, isn’t that far off from either Aristotle’s or Aquinas’, but they weren’t dubbed mystics. So I’m not sure how to convey where I stand on that.

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    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 11 July 2007 @ 11:01 am

  49. “So I’m not sure how to convey where I stand on that.”

    Keep in mind that I wish I were more expert in these things, and I could probably explain it better where I stand…if I were more expert in these thing. In that sense, I apologize if I’m confusing you. Hope that doesn’t sound masochistic, lol.

    Like

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 11 July 2007 @ 11:02 am

  50. And I hope I’m not being sadistic by asking for these clarifications *winks and smiles*. Part of what I’m wondering is, if Jesus himself is the ground rather than your subjective awareness of Jesus, then does it open up possibilities for you interpersonally. Jesus is ground not just in your mind but in the world. So there is no unequal yoking between the Christian rationalist and the Christian mystic and the Christian empiricist. There may not even be unequal yoking between Christian and non-Christian if Jesus is the ground regardless of subjective awareness. Just trying to see if there’s some air to breathe in your grounded structure.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 11 July 2007 @ 11:25 am

  51. OK Marquis du Sade…lol…what do you want from me? What do you mean by “unequal yoking.” If I believe in a “spiritual substance” or in “essences”…whereas others may not or may not center their world view on it as much…and if they are “real”…does that make me a “beast of burden” yolking a bunch of hapless saps to me? Or…are you suggesting that the fact that I myself am not the ground, in and of itself, free me from trying to yolk a bunch of folks to me?

    Like

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 11 July 2007 @ 11:38 am

  52. To be explicit: if the ground is Jesus and not conscious awareness or acknowledgment of Jesus as ground, could you in good conscience marry a non-Christian?

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    Comment by ktismatics — 11 July 2007 @ 12:08 pm

  53. Shit, man…”yolk”…lol. OK. Well, I’m going with a semi-tentative “no.” But for me its not so much an issue of “conscience” as of practicality. I’d simply be afraid that it was a more-painful-than-necessary disaster waiting to happen. But then I was just recently having a conversation with a good Christian friend of mind…one of the senior guys at one of the biggest marketing firms in the world and a bit more promiscuous than myself, if you will…we went to Africa together…and we were saying how I err in the direction of looking for “Mrs. Right”, whereas he errs in the direction of looking for “Ms. Right-Now.”

    ??…although I see how what you are asking relates to the more intellectual content of our conversation…you are asking me about two of the fuzziest aspects of my existence all in one question!

    Like

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 11 July 2007 @ 12:20 pm

  54. Crap, in pursuing my program of unremitting torture I failed to acknowledge the lolitude of your prior comment.

    Two fuzzies in one question — good for me! Just some little nudges is all. Your answer sounds sound to me, but what the heck do I know, I’m groundless. Mrs. Right versus Ms. Right Now — good one.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 11 July 2007 @ 12:47 pm

  55. Umm…FYI…you just said “lolitude.” What heck is that!? Dictinoary.com was “stumped.” Google seems to indicate its being french, but that doesn’t help me much. And…”prior comment”…which one? Things seem to be getting only fuzzier!

    FYI…you didn’t ask me about “dating”…nor “concubinage”!
    :)

    Like

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 11 July 2007 @ 12:56 pm

  56. Lolitude: a state of persistent loliciousness. Used here with reference to the lol generated by the word “yolks.” Although perhaps this was an inadvertent misspelling, in which case lolitude wouldn’t apply and I retract my apology.

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 11 July 2007 @ 1:04 pm

  57. aahh…the “body language” of internet communication!

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    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 11 July 2007 @ 1:13 pm

  58. “FYI…you didn’t ask me about “dating”…nor “concubinage”!”

    No, I figured that marriage was closer to “ground” in your structure. Marriage :: Jesus

    Like

    Comment by ktismatics — 11 July 2007 @ 2:30 pm

  59. I was being slightly “viciteous.” But I do think that some of this “dating”/”concubine”/marriage stuff is cultural. But at the same time…there’s something “intrinsic”…that intimacy stuff…as well as our – each and every one of us – “value”…that makes “concubinage” dangerous.

    Like

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 11 July 2007 @ 3:32 pm

  60. I suspect you have something in you that pulls you toward monogamous commitment but that at the same time repels you. Dating moves toward monogamy; concubinage moves away from it; both are centered in monogamy.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 11 July 2007 @ 4:44 pm

  61. Interesting. The O.T. does seem to take it for granted that important men with many wives “loved” one the most, so to speak…whatever that means, lol.

    Like

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 11 July 2007 @ 4:58 pm

  62. On the Ground and perception of it…

    http://theology.nd.edu/people/research/yoder-john/documents/THEMETAPHORSOFCLANANDCULTUREDONOTWORKTOCHARACTERIZ.pdf

    J.H. Yoder is like theological duct tape, dude man! :)

    Like

    Comment by Jason Hesiak — 12 July 2007 @ 12:07 pm

  63. very interesting, but I don’t agree with you
    Idetrorce

    Like

    Comment by Idetrorce — 15 December 2007 @ 5:13 pm


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