Friday, January 21, 2011

Tchaikovsky!

Today was a day for the Piano Concerto #1 in Bb minor. It is a lovely piece, and I think I noted for the first time how much the second movement is a flirtation between the winds and the piano. They circle each other, shy, then coy, then playful, then dancing, until they fall in love and hold that chord until the end of the movement.

I also came across an unsent old letter to my wife (I think it was from 2004). It caused me to reflect on 1) how bad of a writer I am, and 2) how grateful I am to God for his grace in giving me my wife, because it was really a pretty selfish letter. Therein, I wrote of my missing her (she was away), my frustrations at work, and how I was sad that she hadn't written in a few days (probably only one). Love letters are rightly used to express longing, self-disclosure, and desire for communication, but I had twisted all three, sinful man that I am, until they were entirely self-serving.

Thinking about the Bible as God's open letter to His people, all three elements are there, and more. God wants to be in relationship with us (marvelous grace). He tells us about Himself (but of glory and majesty and mercy, not petty venting), He tells us to call on Him early and often, and (thankfully I have not had to write this) He warns us off of other guys (quit running around with idols of the heart!). But it is at once not self-serving and completely for His glory. It is uniformly for our good, if we are truly His beloved (but woe to us if we coquette with God!). And God makes His glory, grace, power, justice, etc. known through His dealings with man.

Turns out Vick and I each read Perelandra over the break, and both actually read all the poetry at the end. She quoted a section that seems to apply here, about how wonderfully superfluous we are, which was one of the best stanzas of that song. God is not made more by loving us, and He has no need that we should love Him. But if such a God has made us, we have every need of His love! It is, after all, our only comfort in life and death.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

On feeling the wind upon my skin this afternoon

Have you set foot outside
of late,
or early,
and lifted up your heart
in praise
to the God who made
the sun, the seasons,
and the mountains
-from whence cometh thy help?
O soul,
be still
and know
that He
is God.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Pontification on Ontology and Faciology

(NOT the study of faces, you people who write science-y books but don't use Latin roots)

So, as I occasionally do, I am riffing off of a post by Vick, and without having done specific research on the issue, I am splicing together a large number of small threads.

The cosmological argument for (a) (g/G)od seems to be faciological, that is, something got done, therefore, somebody had to do it. The universe exists, the universe is temporal, therefore, some a-temporal being had to have kicked it off. However, I note that I cannot very well make a statement about doing without positing a being.

The true God's self-revelation in Scripture is both ontological and faciological. Gen. 1:1 is a sentence of action. John 1:1 is a sentence of being. God's self-identification to the patriarchs tends toward the ontological, but is mixed with covenant action (Gen. 15:1, 7; 26:24, 28:13-15, 31:13, 35:11, 46:3), but note that when God begins to act out his redemptive plan, his self-revelation to Moses in Ex. 3 is heavily ontological. 'I AM WHO I AM' (as the ESV puts it, or אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה in the Hebrew), is a repetition of the verb 'ehyeh' (as Wikipedia transliterates it), or "I will be". So, when God decides to pull out the stops and stomp on the keyboards and pedals of redemption, he emphatically declares his (eternal) existence. And that's supposed to convince the Hebrews to pack up and leave Egypt.

Vick uses a graphing metaphor, with an existential axis and an action axis, noting that Marx wants a one-dimensional universe, but it really is two-dimensional. Carrying on with that notion, I see fair evidence in Scripture to say that God lies fully along both axes, possibly because his actions are bound up in and driven by his being, and what with being a-temporal, it's hard to parse this exactly.

What I do note as relevant to us temporal creatures is that our actions flow from our nature. This is made very clear by the standard Pauline structure of "You are this, that, and the other in Christ, therefore do this, that, and the other for Christ", and it is the logic given by our Lord, who said "All authority in heaven and on earth is given to me, therefore go and make disciples...". ie- I have been made King of kings and Lord of lords, and as a result, you are to evangelize. This structure is seen in some of the previously quoted patriarchal passages, in the form of "I am your God, the God of your fathers, now I will do this thing for you...". So it seems that when God deals with us, he declares the facts about his/our ontology, then declares action, either his or ours.

Consequently, I cannot help thinking that ontology precedes faciology, but I am also leery of pinning down whether God's actions consist in his being, or his being consists in his action (since he glorifies himself, per Jn. 12:28), or if it's even a wise distinction to make. I lean towards the latter option, but I wonder if this might not be a bad place to invoke intra-Trinitarian roles.

Anyhow, I am reminded of a postcard my sister-in-law kept in the glass-topped coffee table that read:

Socrates - 'To be is to do'
Sartre - 'To do is to be'
Sinatra - 'Do be do be do'

Happy New Year!