Divine Meaning (Thomas Torrance)

Complex Background

Athanasian thought would ultimately part with the Hellenistic separation (chorismos) between “kosmos aisthetos” and “kosmos noetos.” 

Gnosticism

Dialectic between pleroma and kenoma.  We can only know what God is not (Basilides). Thus, without a positive epistemological control, the Gnostics were thrown back upon mythology to make sense of God. 

Relatively speaking, the kenoma is a realm of non-existence. How, then, can we offer any account of the way things really are, if we can only think them in a vast vacuum or blank? (Torrance 31).  “If we seek to know God by pushing abstraction of him to the limit of an infinite discrepancy between what he is and what we can think of him, then our thoughts and statements can only be about nothing, and we are simply engaged in empty movements of speech and thought within the kenoma.”

If our knowledge of the descending realms of kenoma are merely shadows, and these realms are shadows, then the Gnostics face a problem: how can shadows cast shadows?  But if the shadows can’t cast shadows, then the idea and paradeigmata in the intelligible world are substantial bodies or essences—then have we not just lapsed back into heathen pluralism” (32).

Irenaeus and Kerygma

It is embodied truth or embodied doctrine (61).  

Hellenism had to have allegory because Hellenism posited a chorismos between the sensible world and the intelligible world, and since they could never touch, allegory allowed one to “jump” from one world to the other.  To this Irenaeus opposed typology.  There is an inseparable relation between word and event (101).  Therefore, “the distinction between aletheia and tupos is not that between intelligible and sensible…but between the preparatory action of God in history pointing forward to…his final action in the Incarnation and Atonement through which all things are changed and brought to their fulfillment” (102). 

“Recapitulation means that redemptive activity of God in Jesus Christ was not just a transcendent act that touched our existence in space and time at one point, but passed into our existence and is at work within it, penetrating back to the beginning in the original creation retracing it and reaffirming it in the divine Will, and reaching forward to the consummation in the new creation in which all things are gathered up, thus connecting the end with the beginning” (121).

Hermeneutics of Clement

“Faith itself is the basic form of understanding and its source” (130).

“Epistemology” is derived from stasis, for it is a standing of the mind upon objective realities.

Athanasius:  Foundation of Classical Theology

Torrance makes the claim that Athanasius came from the episcopal school in Alexandria, and not the catechetaical school. This means he would have absorbed the Hebraic outlook of St Mark

Two kinds of demonstration:

Athanasius came to reject the dualism of “kosmos aisthetos” and “kosmos noetos.” 

His main argument:  while God is beyond created being and all human devising (epinoia), he nevertheless remains being in his own transcendent way.  His ousia is being and activitiy. 

The Doctrine of God

Key premise: he cut the identity between the generation of the Son and the creation of the universe.  In generation there is an identity of nature, in creation there is a disparity of natures (Florovsky).

God in his internal relations: “Since the Logos is internal to the being of God, essentially and eternally enousios in God, truly to know God in and through the Logos is to know him in the inner reality of his own Being” (186).  

The doctrine of the Son

Redemption takes place within the mediatorial life of the Incarnate Son.  Salvation “takes place in the inner relations of the mediator (mesites) and not simply in Christ’s external relations with sinners” (193). 

Theological Language and Method

There is a rigorous knowledge of the inner structure of things investigated (204).  

The Logic and Analogic of Biblical and Theological Statements in the Greek Fathers

  1. The Spirit and Knowledge of God
    1. Athanasius and Paul: Only the Spirit knows the things of God.
    2. Our minds are directed away towards the proper object in God to be governed by his Word.
  2. Homoousion: basic logical economy which governs theological grammar in accordance with the pattern of God’s own self-communication in the Incarnation.
    1. it breaks up the radical disjunction between kosmos aesthetos and kosmos noetos.
    2. It keeps our thoughts from being imprisoned within themseles, but directs them dianoia in God, kata physin kai alethos.
  3. Ana-Logical Reference
    1. What God is to us in Jesus Christ he is eternally in himself.
    2. If we know via the Logos, then all true theological statements will be consistent with one another in so far as they have the Logos as their center of reference.
    3. Oikonomia
      1. Later on this was changed to mean “in reserve.” Only economical, where God is to us not quite what he appears to be.
      2. Rather, because of the Incarnation of the Logos God really imparts knowledge and himself to us.
  4. Logos as Person
    1. He is God’s self-communication
    2. If he were Word only, we “would be thrown back upon our own resources to authenticate him; if he were Person only, we would be thrown back upon our own resources to interpret him…
    3. “But because he is both Word and Person, he interprets and authenticates himself”.
    4. As self-communicating, he is self-authenticating

Barbarians in the Saddle: Biography of Richard Weaver

Scotchie, Joseph.  Barbarians in the Saddle: An Intellectual Biography of Richard M. Weaver.  Transaction Publishers: New Brunswick, NJ, 1997.

There aren’t many biographies of that late agrarian man of letters, Richard M. Weaver.  While this isn’t a traditional intellectual biography (and so the title is misleading), it is a fine survey of Weaver’s thought.  It ends by examining the evolution of late 20th century American conservatism.

Weaver saw the encroaching welfare state (which in its industrial form he terms “Megalopolis”) as a direct threat to the natural rhythms of man’s life.  The Old South, on the other hand, provided Weaver with a foil against which to attack Megalopolis. For Weaver, the Old South was “an aristocracy of achievement” and the last nonmaterialist civilization.  We will examine that claim at the end. 

Strictly speaking, I think Weaver’s claim is a half-truth.  On the other hand, it does provide him with a counter on how to live against such a technocracy that we face.  Weaver wanted a society where “manners, morals, and codes of conduct mattered more than mere moneymaking” (Scotchie 17). The heart of this was aristocracy. Men aren’t equal in talent, intelligence, or strength.  Some will always rise to the top.  There are social distinctions (and even today’s democracy hasn’t fully erased them).

The aristocrat has the responsibility of maintaining the order in society while the yeoman is able to enjoy the stability.  Of most importance, it was the Civil War that showed the dynamic relationship between aristocrat and yeoman: “the aristocrat and yeoman farmer lived, fought, and died together” (29).  The yeoman didn’t scorn the leader in the field.  He took pride “as a fighting man in Lee’s Army or riding with Old Jack.  That the aristocrat was in the field, leading his charges into battle, only increased the yeoman’s respect for the idea of a hierarchy” (30).

Weaver’s most famous book was Ideas Have Consequences.  The consequence he feared was that the total state might finish the job that total war started (43).  This isn’t simply statism–any libertarian might make that critique.  Rather, it is the totalization of industrial life that turns man into an abstraction (ever heard of “human resources”?). 

Against this, Weaver sought to cultivate a humane rhetoric. This is a view that “presents us with a proper view of man and a pleasing vision of culture” (62). Rhetoric is a cultural cipher that allows us to see the “poetry, songs, religion and codes of conduct that shape” culture (64).

The ultimate opposite to Weaver’s vision of Agrarianism is not urbanism or even industrialism per se, but Gnosticism. The Gnostic cuts off man from any roots of place, tradition, memory–these three summarize Weaver’s vision of hierarchy and aristocracy.  Such a society doesn’t have to become static, for as Weaver was fond of saying, “things are and are becoming” (131).

Was Weaver correct about the Old South? In some ways. Let’s leave slavery aside for the moment, for the question is not the morality of slavery, nor does it concern over what causes the war was fault. Weaver is asking, rather, did the South possess an aristocracy that embodied chivalry and an anti-materialist culture? I say yes to the first two claims and “kind of” to the last one.

God of Israel and Christian Theology (Soulen)

Soulen,  R. Kendall. The God of Israel and Christian Theology. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1996.

Criticisms of supersessionism must be anchored in Romans 9-11.  Unfortunately, liberals, while rightly condemning the church’s treatment of Jews in the past, tend to posit dual covenants with Israel and the Church.  A better criticism of supersessionism acknowledges that God’s call is irrevocable and the church’s future is anchored in God’s covenant to Israel, not the other way around.

Thesis: Christians cannot claim to worship the God of Israel by making God indifferent to Israel (Soulen 4).  The question of supersessionism hinges on whether baptized Jews must negate their Jewish heritage in order to be Christians?  The post-Constantinian church said yes. The book of Acts appeared to say no.

Israel and Election

Soulen makes the argument that corporate election is just as offensive as “individual election.” What sense does it make for a universal God to elect a minority people?  This is the scandal of particularity. Soulen counters by noting that love can’t be merely abstract. A pure “agape” love abstracted from any particularity is meaningless.  

This determines whether the church will seek an “abstracted” divinity behind God’s election of Israel. Soulen frames his discussion around what he calls a “canonical narrative,” an understanding of “the inner configurations” and “interrelationships” of the canon (14).  All such construals, as in our example of supersessionism, contain their own promises and problems. They have their own “grammar.”

The standard model’s main problem is that it makes God’s dealings with Israel largely irrelevant for how God will deal with creation.  Soulen’s main problem with the standard model is that it makes Israel obsolete (29). This involves hermeneutics as well: on the standard model, do you need the Hebrew scriptures to make decisive judgments on how God deals with creation? Take the four points of the standard model:

1) God creates
2) Adam and Eve fall
3) 1st Advent
4) 2nd Advent

All four of these propositions (or if they are stated in propositional format) are true.  However, with the exceptions of Genesis 1-3, you can formulate this system without regard to the Hebrew Scriptures. We see this early on with Justin Martyr, who advocates what is sometimes called (fairly or unfairly) replacement theology (Dial. 11). 

How biblical is Justin’s Logos-theology?  Despite a surface-level similarity with John 1:1, it doesn’t have much biblical support.   It is “the principle of divine revelation that sprung forth from the transcendent God” at the moment of creation (35).  What it isn’t is the life-giving, creative Word of the Covenant God. To oversimplify, cosmic history replaces salvation history.

Irenaeus’s perspective, on the other hand, is a bit more ambiguous.  He championed the unity between the Old Testament and the New, yet Israel still functions like a 5th wheel.  Missing from Irenaeus’s account, however, is the center of the Hebrew scriptures: God’s covenant dealings with Israel (45).

Christian Divinity without Jewish Flesh: The Legacies of Kant and Schleiermacher

Schleiermacher saw only three true monotheisms.  Of the two, Judaism and Christianity are the better ones.  Since Judaism, though, is still committed to non-spiritual things like land and Torah, they can’t fully develop their “God-consciousness.”  Judaism and its doctrine of election is too particular.

Schleiermacher’s project removes the inner connection between Judaism and Christianity and leaves only an external relation. If Jesus were truly Jewish, he could never bring about our universal God-consciousness (76).

Consummation at the End of Christendom

Barth and Rahner do well to expose the semignosticism within the classical model, yet they never fully escape gnosticism. Barth begins on a promising note as he replaces Schleiermacher’s “God-consciousness” with “creation and covenant.”  Unfortunately, Barth never fully lets the covenant model rescue him.

God’s covenant actions, for Barth, “summon the human creature beyond the dynamism of its natural being” (Soulen 85).  Covenant is the internal logic of creation.  

Barth goes on to say that Israel’s election is the medium for God’s consummating work in the world.  This is a vast improvement over Justin and Irenaeus. Because of God’s fidelity to Israel, we believe he will be faithful to us (89).  

Unfortunately, what Barth gives with one hand he takes away with the other.  His “Christomonism” swallows up his emphasis on God’s particularity with Israel.  Christ isn’t just the center of Barth’s theology. It is the whole field. With the person of Jesus Christ, carnal Israel comes to an end.  So far that’s standard covenant theology. Barth then takes it in a bizarre direction: not only does Israel’s history in particular come to an end, human history in general ends (CD III/2, 582).

Soulen makes the poignant criticism that models of Barth and Rahner (and any such model that downplays “historical particularity”) finds itself unable to speak a new word.

Summarizing the problem: the traditional model makes God’s identity as the God of Israel largely irrelevant.  If Israel is just transient, why does God make a big deal of being the God of Israel?

Constructing a New Model (Or Finding an Older One)

Working Conclusions

1) “The God of the Hebrew Scriptures acted in Jesus for all the world” (178 n3).

2) Consider how the terms “Old Testament” and “New Testament” reinforce the standard narrative.  The apostles used the term “Scriptures” for the Old Testament. We could probably say something like “apostolic witness” for the New.  While Soulen doesn’t explicitly make this point, neither of these terms threaten issues about infallibility or authority.

3) Israel is the form of God’s intercourse with history.  God’s “history with Israel and the nations is the permanent and enduring medium of God’s work as the consummator of human creation” (110).

4) Instead of an “economy of redemption” where everything is subsumed under “getting saved,” Soulen posits an ‘economy of blessing,’ where Israel will bring shalom to the nations (however we want to frame that around Christ’s mediatorial work).  This blessing is anchored in Yahweh’s gifts to Israel of People, Torah, and Land.

5) God’s historical fidelity to Israel is the narrow gate that opens to the New Creation (133).

Isaiah 19 posits an economy of blessing where the distinctions between Israel, Egypt, and Assyria are maintained, yet all experience Shalom.

Criticisms

While we acknowledge that the standard model has big flaws, Soulen needed an extensive analysis of Galatians 3.  How do we tie in the blessing of the nations from Abraham to the promise of the Seed in Galatians 3? Further, he completely avoided Romans 11, which would have only strengthened his case.  This is baffling. He should have spent more time on Romans 11 and less on Bonhoeffer.

Eric Voegelin: In Search of Order

Image result for voegelin in search of order

Voegelin, Eric. In Search of Order, Volume V of Order and History. 5 vols. Baton Rouge, La.: Louisiana State University Press, 1987.

This is Eric Voegelin’s unfinished conclusion to his Order and History series.  He gives us just enough clues as to what he probably meant without a complete explanation.  While little more than 100 pages, this is a dense read.

A note on language: “Beyond” for Voegelin and Plato is similar to what Christians mean when they say God is hyper-ousia.

Man participates in being not in the sense that there is an object “man” and an object “being,” but rather “a part of being capable of experiencing itself as such” (OH 1:1-2).  Man’s participation in being is a reflexive tension in his existence (is this what Maximus means by the expansion/diastolic and contraction/systolic of being?).

Voegelin’s thesis hinges on the dynamic interplay between It-reality and Thing-reality.  Thing-reality is fairly obvious: it is the world as object. It-reality requires some Platonic metaphysics: it is the methexis, the participation.  It is the reality that comprehends partners-in-being (Voegelin 16).

Let’s unpack that. The enemies in metaphysics are those who take legitimate symbols (e.g., Plato’s nous) and absolutize and hypostatize them.  In other words, they treat reality as an object of consciousness rather than the event of participation. This will make more sense when we discuss Hegel and Marx.

“The order of history is the history of order.”  

Gnostics, our enemies, either try to abolish reality altogether and escape into “the Beyond,” or they try to bring the Beyond into our reality now.  The first is ancient Gnosticism. The latter is post-Hegelian, Marxist, and Cultural Marxist gnosticism (37).

Philosophical symbols either shed light on our quest for order, or they are manipulative and turn metaphysics into a deformative task.  Some of these symbols are nouse, amamnesis, etc.

The German Revolution

The Germans wanted to access being in a purely subject-object mode. They created a new symbol, speculation, in order to do it. Speculation allowed the observer to stand outside the field of historical consciousness.  Whereas each man had to participate (or not) in the “Beyond” as himself, now man would be forced to participate in the new observer’s own speculation. In other words, you have to participate in the structure of my own thought.  As Hegel noted, “once the realm of perception [Vorstellung] is revolutionized, reality cannot hold out” (quoted in Voegelin 51).

The second half of the book explores various Hellenistic accounts of Being. Voegelin died before he finished this part, so the arguments aren’t always focused or in context, erudite they may be otherwise.

Mnemosyne: the dimension of consciousness of the Beyond (72).

Review: The Scandal of the Incarnation

by Hans urs von Balthalsar.

This is the most accessible treatment of Irenaeus’s works. Hans urs von Balthasar provides a fine introduction, discussion, and brief critique of Gnosticism–showing how Irenaeus’s theology is relevant today. Further, von Balthasar provides a matrix for interpreting St Irenaeus (von Balthasar 9ff):

saint_irenaeus_oflyons
(1) Unity of Old and New Testament: God’s Logos.
(2) The crossbeams are the world’s true center–it is here where creation is renewed (13). The four points of the cross match the “four corners/dimensions” of the world (Irenaeus 16).

Doctrine of God

By God’s simplicity, Irenaeus means he is non-composite. God is “wholly mind, wholly thought, wholly reason, wholly hearing, wholly seeing” (Irenaeus 19, quoting AH II 13, 3). Since God is rational, he produces things by his Logos and orders them through his Spirit. The Spirit manifests the Word (Defense of Apostolic Preaching, 4-10). God’s thinking is His Word and the Word is Mind (AH II.28.5).

God is not a Groundless Void, for where there is a Void and Silence, there cannot be a Word (II.12.5). Irenaeus offers several reductios: can a void fill all things? How can he be a spiritual being if he does not fill all things? (II.13.7)

Irenaeus affirms the analogia entis

“He is rightly called the all -comprehending intellect, but he is not like the intellect of man. He is most aptly called light, but he is nothing like the light we know” (AH II 13, 3). God confers proportion and harmony on what he has made (II.25.2).

Incarnation as Recapitulation

“The second Adam is the repetition, in divine truth, of the first Adam…The second Adam repeats the whole natural development of man at the higher level of divine reality” (von Balthasar 53). Indeed, “what was bound could not be untied without a reversal of the process of entanglement” (AH III.22.4).

Anthropology

(Redeemed) Man is body, soul, and spirit (AH V.6.1). Without the spirit man may have the image of God but not his likeness. The Spirit saves and forms the flesh and the soul finds itself mid-point between the two. The breath of life (ruach) is not the same as the life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45). The former makes man a psychic being; the latter makes him spiritual (V.12.2).

Conclusion:

I think this is the best entry point for Irenaeus. True, the complete text of Against Heresies (such as it is) is too important to ignore, but most beginning readers will get lost in the Gnostic genealogies. Until, of course, one sees their modern counterparts, listed below:

Gnosticism today:
(a) Hegelianism
(b) Marxism
(c) Idealism
(d) Romanticism
(e) Freemasonry
(e) The American University System
(f) Hollywood (the symbolism is there, if you know where to look)

 

You might be a gnostic, if…

You might be Gnostic if you think that full time Christian ministry is superior to Artists who paint landscapes.

You might be a Gnostic if you allegorize the parts of Scripture you find embarrassing.

You might be Gnostic if you think that the reason you make money is so that you can give most of it to really important things like Missionaries and the Church.

You might be Gnostic if you think that the most holy things you do during the day is pray, read your bible and share the 4 spiritual laws with somebody.

You might be Gnostic if you think the pastor shouldn’t Preach on anything that isn’t “Spiritual.”

You might be Gnostic if you think the New Testament is a more “Spiritual” section of the Scripture then the Old Testament.

You might be Gnostic if you think that the Church in the NT is more “Spiritual” than the Church in the OT.

You might be Gnostic if you think that theonomists are heretics.

You might be Gnostic if you think that there is no such thing as Biblical culture.

You might be Gnostic if you think that Water, Wine, and Bread are only effective as you think the right thoughts about them.

You might be Gnostic if you watch closely for the arrival of an Israelite Red Heifer.

You might be Gnostic if you have read more than one of the Left Behind series.

You might be Gnostic if you think communion isn’t one of God’s means of Grace whereby He nurtures His people with Grace.

You might be Gnostic if you think that the essence of the Christian faith is only complete with the proper propositions.

You might be Gnostic if you think that inside of you are two men, named Mr. Spiritual and Mr. Carnal that are fighting for control.

You might be a Gnostic if you think Plato, and not Paul, was correct on time.

You might be a gnostic if you don’t think we will drink wine on Yahweh’s mountain.

You might be a Gnostic if you would rather think about right triangles in heaven.

You might be Gnostic if you don’t find this amusing.

The Scandal of the Incarnation

This is the most accessible treatment of Irenaeus’s works. Hans urs von Balthasar provides a fine introduction, discussion, and brief critique of Gnosticism–showing how Irenaeus’s theology is relevant today. Further, von Balthasar provides a matrix for interpreting St Irenaeus (von Balthasar 9ff):

 

The Scandal of the Incarnation: Irenaeus Against the Heresies
(1) Unity of Old and New Testament: God’s Logos.
(2) The crossbeams are the world’s true center–it is here where creation is renewed (13). The four points of the cross match the “four corners/dimensions” of the world (Irenaeus 16).

Doctrine of God

By God’s simplicity, Irenaeus means he is non-composite. God is “wholly mind, wholly thought, wholly reason, wholly hearing, wholly seeing” (Irenaeus 19, quoting AH II 13, 3). Since God is rational, he produces things by his Logos and orders them through his Spirit. The Spirit manifests the Word (Defense of Apostolic Preaching, 4-10). God’s thinking is His Word and the Word is Mind (AH II.28.5).

God is not a Groundless Void, for where there is a Void and Silence, there cannot be a Word (II.12.5). Irenaeus offers several reductios: can a void fill all things? How can he be a spiritual being if he does not fill all things? (II.13.7)

Irenaeus affirms the analogia entis

“He is rightly called the all -comprehending intellect, but he is not like the intellect of man. He is most aptly called light, but he is nothing like the light we know” (AH II 13, 3). God confers proportion and harmony on what he has made (II.25.2).

saint_irenaeus_oflyons

Incarnation as Recapitulation

“The second Adam is the repetition, in divine truth, of the first Adam…The second Adam repeats the whole natural development of man at the higher level of divine reality” (von Balthasar 53). Indeed, “what was bound could not be untied without a reversal of the process of entanglement” (AH III.22.4).

Anthropology

(Redeemed) Man is body, soul, and spirit (AH V.6.1). Without the spirit man may have the image of God but not his likeness. The Spirit saves and forms the flesh and the soul finds itself mid-point between the two. The breath of life (ruach) is not the same as the life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45). The former makes man a psychic being; the latter makes him spiritual (V.12.2).

Conclusion:

I think this is the best entry point for Irenaeus. True, the complete text of Against Heresies (such as it is) is too important to ignore, but most beginning readers will get lost in the Gnostic genealogies. Until, of course, one sees their modern counterparts, listed below:

Gnosticism today:
(a) Hegelianism
(b) Marxism
(c) Idealism
(d) Romanticism
(e) Freemasonry
(e) The American University System
(f) Hollywood (the symbolism is there, if you know where to look)

Origen and the Life of the Stars

Alan Scott sheds light on key problems in Hellenism by focusing on Origen’s view of the stars’ souls.  Ancient Greece certainly discussed the possibility that the stars are alive (and we will use the phrase” alive,” “intelligence,” and “souls” interchangeably in this review) but there was no consensus.

Plato

The presence of intelligence is the presence of a soul (Scott 9, cf. Soph. 249a4) and a mind must exist in the soul.  The universe, accordingly, must be ensouled since “mind was present in it.” aether: the body in which the soul operates.  The astral soul and aether co-operate.

A problem for later Platonists: if the “divine” is incorporeal, and if stars are divine, how can we see them in the heavens?  Jewish and Christian thinkers exploited this weak point.  The only way to respond to this criticism was to weaken the “divine claim” and see them rather as intermediate beings.

Origen

Scott argues against reading too much of any single school into Origen’s thought.  While he is close to Middle Platonism, for example, he was also very familiar with Jewish Apocalypticism and Gnosticism (54).

Philo

Philo’s sometimes wooden borrowing of philosophy allows us a “snapshot” of the Hellenistic classroom (63-64).

  • Earth is centre of cosmos
  • Yet Philo rejects the somewhat Stoic claim that the mind is material. The mind is neither pneuma nor matter.  
  • Stars are definitely living beings.
    • Ontologically superior to angels.
    • Not surprisingly, Philo was tolerant of those who worshipped heaven (something no biblical writer could say!), but elsewhere says it is wrong to do so (74).

“Philo is too good a Jew and too good a Platonist to take these arguments to their logical conclusions” (74).  Origen advances beyond Philo in seeing the possibility of evil in heaven.  

Heavenly Powers

Problem: how does the soul enter into the generative powers of the world?  Phaedrus said because of evil, whereas Timeaus said because of a good demiurge.  “The belief began to slowly evolve that the soul was joined to the body through the medium of an ‘astral body’” (77).  This became a major theme in Platonism after Iamblichus (79).

At this time Oriental sources entered Hellenistic thought, notably Mithraism, which taught that a gate corresponded to a planet (82).

However, once the idea of fate was firmly attached to the stars, and given that people have “bad luck,” many began to question whether the stars were truly benign.  This meant, among other things, that the neutral “daimons” in the heavenly realms could now be seen as demons in the traditional understanding (90-93).

Toll Houses (!)

A common theme in later Platonic and Gnostic thought is the soul’s traveling through planets after death.  The Apocalypse of Paul (Nag Hammadi Library) has Paul passing through toll collectors (98).  Granted, there are huge differences between this and the later Russian Orthodox teaching of toll houses.

Clement

Clement believes there are angels who oversee the souls’ ascent (106). Clement holds that stars are governed by their appointed angels (55.1; cf. p. 108).

Origen and the Stars

Origen divides the soul with a highest sense–mind (nous).  This is fallen and capable of sin.  There is an unfallen portion called “spirit” (pneuma).  Origen is aware that many of his views are speculative, and he is not setting them forth as doctrine (122). He is “thinking out loud” in the face of very difficult problems.  And compared to the current Alexandrian cosmology, Origen’s is quite restrained (124).

Are the stars alive?

Origen tentatively answered “maybe.”  But before we judge him, we must see that his answers are based on terminology that both Christians and pagans accepted.  For example, only rational agents are self-moving.  This would appear that the stars are in some sense rational agents.  But Origen was also aware of Jewish Apocalyptic and he would have been on better ground had he said that “angels move the stars.”

This really isn’t that problematic.  Scientifically wrong, to be sure, but that’s all.  The problem came when Origen had to account for why some stars are greater than others.  And is answer, of course, was of some pre-temporal fall.  And that is problematic.

The Stars and the resurrection body

Origen is actually very careful on this point.  He affirms the resurrection body, but he knows, as does Paul in 1 Cor. 15, that it isn’t the same type of body we have today.  But perhaps he gets in trouble with his discussions of the “astral body.”  All Christians have to believe in the post-mortem existence of the soul.  This is a mode of existence that isn’t bodily yet which the soul is in one place at one time.  

Given both Scriptural teachings, logic, and the experiences of wise saints, we posit that the soul has an existence after death.  But how does it exist?  Does it recognize other souls?  Surely it does.  Is it omnipresent in the spiritual world?  Certainly not, for not even angels (who are bodiless) are omnipresent.  Therefore, there must be some sort of identifiable mode of existing that is bodiless.  Origen called this an “astral body.”  

Conclusion

Does Scott fully vindicate Origen?  Not quite, but he does alleviate a lot of problems.  Origen was very reticent about using philosophy.  He didn’t innovate but rather held to established, conservative opinions in the intellectual world (even if they were wrong in hindsight).

You might be a gnostic, if…

Somebody made up a joke like this ten years.  I decided to give it my own spin.  I’ve tried to make it funny and not just mean-spirited.

  1. You might be a gnostic if…you think demons only exist in the Bible and not in real life.
  2. You might be a gnostic if…someone quotes Isaiah without citing it and you accuse them of carnal eschatology.
  3. You might be a gnostic if…you think that connecting bodily habits with spiritual disciplines denies the gospel.
  4. You might be a gnostic if…you think liturgy denies the gospel, even though the Holy Spirit uses that word in Acts 13.
  5. You might be a gnostic if…you deny the free offer of the gospel.
  6. You might be a gnostic if…you are a hyper-Calvinist.
  7. You might be a gnostic if…you don’t realize (5) and (6) are the same thing.
  8. You might be a gnostic if…you have the same view of angels as Immanuel Kant but you know your presbytery will never call you on it.
  9. You might be a gnostic if…when I ask that singing the doxology literally invokes angels in worship but you respond by saying, “That’s just words.  We don’t really mean it.”
  10. That means you are also a nominalist.
  11. You might be a gnostic if…you confuse the intermediate state, which is necessarily dis-embodied and rightly in the presence of God, with the eternal state which is resurrected and drinking wine on Yahweh’s mountain.

You better do more than just agree

I told some on Puritanboard that I was not necessarily committed to premillennialism and I was ready to deal with other systems.  In short, I was going to give amillennialism (nota bene: that may be the ugliest term in all of systematic theology) a chance.

So, if amillennialism were true, the following conditions had to obtain:

a) Revelation still had to be anchored in history.  A denial of history is gnosticism and must be violently hated and resisted by Christians at all times.

b) Antichrist is real.  Frankly, I don’t think this is up for debate.  In any case, it doesn’t make any sense to speak of a darkening of culture (which the NT does) without an antichrist figure.  Yes, I know it doesn’t actually say that, but you get the idea. Further, I am not committed to whether it is an individual or a system.

c) There must be a flooding of history and creation with God’s glory.  On earth.  Doesn’t have to be a millennial reign. But it must happen on earth.  If you disagree, you are closer to Valentinius.

And I was told I was closer to Left Behind.  I said “No, the church fathers.”  You see, for the past seven years I have been steeped in the church fathers. Particularly the Eastern ones.  Mainly Irenaeus (yeah, he ministered in France but he was still Eastern).  TRs just don’t know anything about the church fathers beyond a few snippets from Augustine, so they really can’t contribute to this discussion (which is probably a summary of TRs in general).

And then to top it off, a magus then told me that “carnal views of the millennium” are not acceptable.  Whenever this guy comments the discussion always reaches Monte Python levels.

So what did we learn on the internet today? You can’t just agree in general with TRs. You need to line up on the specifics.  It’s a hyper-overreaction to Roman Catholicism.  Medieval Catholicism said you had to have an “implicit faith” to be saved.  That was because Rome had a million small doctrines that no one could keep count of, so they covered it by saying “just implicitly believe that.”  I’m not attacking Rome at the moment, but hyper-Reformed have a microscopic doctrines that you better line up on.