Psalm 36 (Mother Maria, trans.)

An oracle for the impious
Is the sin in the deep of his heart.
He regards himself
With an eye too flattering
To discover his guilt
And hate his transgression.

Perfidy and misdeed
He plots upon his bed,
He sets his steps
Upon an evil course,
Heedless of his sin.

The words of his mouth
Are fraud and deceit,
He can no more act
Wisely or well.

There, see how the wicked are fallen,
They can rise no more.

Gerard Manley Hopkins on the Keontic Hymn (Phil 2: 5-11)

Photo by Rowan Gillespie

From The Letters of G. M. Hopkins to Robert Bridges (Letter xcix)

Christ’s life and character are such as appeal to all the world’s admiration, but there is one insight St. Paul gives of it which is very secret and seems to me more touching and constraining than anything else:  This mind he says; was in Christ Jesus–he means as man:  being in the form of God—that is, finding, as in the first instant of his incarnation he did, his human nature informed by the godhead—he thought it nevertheless no snatching-matter for him to be equal with God, but annihilated himself, taking the form of a servant; that is, he could not but see that he was, God, but he would see it as if he did not see it, and be it as if he were not instead of snatching at once at what all the time was his, or was himself, he emptied or exhausted himself so far as that was possible, of godhead and behaved only as God’s slave, as his creature, as man, which also he was, and then being in the guise of man humbled himself to death, the death of the cross.  It is this holding of himself back, and not snatching at the truest and highest good, the good that was his right, nay his possession from a past eternity in his other nature, his own being and self, which seems to me the root of all his holiness and the imitation of this the root of all other moral good in other men.

A Few ?s on Climacus

The relationship between Climacus’ Fragments and Postscript is unsurprisingly surprising and complex.  For example, Climacus treats Part One of Postscript as the proper (promised) sequel to Fragments, while he treats Part Two as “a renewed attempt on the same lines” but not as the proper sequel.  I suppose this must be one reason why the speculative side of the objective problem (in Part One) is treated in such a brief, comparatively off-hand manner–it had really been done already in Fragments.  The historical side is what was not done there.  Right?

The argument for the ignoratio elenchi of historical inquiry into Holy Scripture (to help or hurt belief in faith) puzzles  me.  The general form of the argument is perfectly clear:  Assume that historical inquiry has culminated in a set of the happiest results any theologian could wish.  Still, that assumption does not aid the believer in faith.  Assume that historical inquiry has culminated in a set of the unhappiest results any theologian could have dreaded.  Still, that assumption does not harm the believer in faith.  The believer is untouched by either assumption since only if he were an unbelieving believer (in other words, someone who has turned Christianity into something objective) would he be bolstered by or vulnerable to these assumptions about objective results.  Conclusion:  historical inquiry into Holy Scripture is beside the point for the believer in faith; it can neither aid nor harm the believer in faith.  But here’s a question about the detail of the argument.  How far into the content of Holy Scripture do the assumptions penetrate?  The happy results supposed to be of this sort: These books and no others belong to the canon; these books are authentic; these books are complete; the authors of these books are trustworthy; these books are logically consistent.  The unhappy results are the denials of the happy results.  So–is the following among the happy results?

Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding feast.

Or is the result supposed to be like this?

A  trustworthy author wrote, in an authentic, integral, and canonical book that Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding feast.

I take this last to be such that it is not supposed to allow the detachment of ‘Jesus turned water into wine’ from it.  (The prefix is not like ‘It is true that’.)  –Maybe another way of putting my worry is to ask just about the trustworthy happy-result:  If the authors are trustworthy, does that mean that they are accurately reporting events or does it mean that they are sincerely reporting them?  The first putative happy result looks like something that would be believed in faith; the second not.  I lean toward the second.  –One other reason this is so tricky is that the first putative happy result looks like it is open to an objective/subjective ambiguity; it can be believed in faith or objectively believed (or so it seems to me).  But if that is true, why can’t the first putative happy result be an actual happy result, assuming it is objectively believed (as it would be, given that it is to be an objective result)?  Gah.  Help.  (Thanks to my students, Greg and Megan, for pushing me on this worry.)

Climacus on The Reason and The Paradox

I’ve been puzzling over Johannes Climacus’ handling of “the Reason” and “the Paradox”.  Part of what is puzzling is what Climacus means by the Reason.  Clearly, he is echoing Kant in various ways, particularly the famous opening lines of CPR:

Human reason has this peculiar fate that in one species of its knowledge it is burdened by questions which, as prescribed by the very nature of reason itself, it is not able to ignore, but which, as transcending all its powers, it is also not able to answer.

One feature of those famous lines that must have attracted Climacus is that they concern human reason.  What Climacus discusses in Philosophical Fragments as the Reason is human reason.  For Climacus, human reason is created reason, not uncreated reason.  That is, that human faculty is itself creaturely in the way that all human faculties, indeed humans themselves, are.   Although the point can be muted by the way in which the Teacher is contrasted with Socrates, and the way in which the Teacherly Moment is contrasted with the Socratic moment, Climacus believes that, from the point of view of Christianity, the notion of human reason as divine, and the (related) notion of human immortality, are pagan.  Immortality is not something given in human nature as such; it is a loving gift of God, made possible by Christ (the Teacher).  Human reason is given in human nature as such, but is not divine, is not of itself immortal.

The Paradox, we must keep in mind, is the Teacher himself:  he, the God-Man, is the content of his Teaching.  And the Teacher provides the condition for the content of his Teaching:  Faith.  (The way is prepared for Faith and for the Paradox by our discovering our own error, that is, Sin; and, having discovered it, having taken leave of it, that is, Repented.)  But among those things for which we must repent is the arrogance of the Reason, of its complacent assurance that it is all-in-all, that it is divine, immortal.  We have to come to see it as limited; its powers can be transcended.  –If the Reason views itself correctly, it will see that in fact it asks questions which outstrip its own competence–Climacus will say that the Reason wills its own downfall, that the Paradox is its passion.  The Reason will be able to set itself aside, to humble itself before the Paradox.  If that happens, then the Reason and the Paradox relate happily to one another in Faith.  If the Reason does not view itself correctly, if its sees itself as unlimited, as all-in-all, then the Paradox will be an Offense to the Reason, and the Reason’s relationship to the Paradox will be unhappy.  (For Climacus, the Paradox offers the Reason only one of these two relationships–Faith or Offense, tertium non datur.  The Reason cannot be indifferent to the Paradox.)

I guess that most of us, and most of Climacus’ readers, have a tendency to fall into a picture of the Reason as divine, as immortal.  The philosopher-in-us-all is decidedly pagan.  And that makes the relationship between the Reason and the Paradox seem fated for unhappiness, as if it were a collision of the divine with the divine, the immortal with the immortal.  Understood that way, it is hard to see why the Reason should set itself aside so as to make room for the Paradox in Faith.  Indeed, it is hard to see why the Reason should tolerate faith at all.  But if we think of the Reason as creaturely, we can more easily understand that it might need itself to repent, so to speak, that it might be such as not to be all-in-all, that it could set itself aside so as to take its place alongside the Paradox in Faith.  Faith then could be seen as that which allows creaturely reason to cast off the burdensomeness of unignorable but unanswerable questions.  Not because the Paradox is the answer to those questions, exactly, but because the Paradox reveals that the point of the questions is not to find answers, but rather to allow the Reason to discover what it is (and to keep discovering it):  human reason, creaturely reason–call it the Reason, Ltd.  In making room for the Paradox, it casts off the burdensomeness of its questions, and accepts a new burden, a new yoke–but this yoke is easy, and this burden is light.

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