Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Roman Catholicism and Church History

Roman Catholics often appeal to the church fathers to support their ecclesial framework. However, the lens by which they read the church fathers often involves assuming their conclusions prior to the investigation.

For example, in his Letter to the Prelates and Clergy of France in September 8, 1899, Pope Leo XII wrote "Those who study it [history] must never lose sight of the fact that it contains a collection of dogmatic facts, which impose themselves upon our faith, and which nobody is ever permitted to call in doubt." Or again, Cardinal Manning wrote, "The appeal to antiquity is both a treason and a heresy. It is a treason because it rejects the divine voice of the church at this hour, and a heresy because it denies that voice to be divine." Elsewhere Manning commented, "The appeal from the living voice of the Church to any tribunal whatsoever, human history included, is an act of private judgment and a treason because that living voice is supreme; and to appeal from that supreme voice is also a heresy because that voice by divine assistance is infallible." In other words, you person must begin your study of history assuming that Catholicism is already true. This circular approach makes it difficult for Roman Catholic theologians to come to an objective assessment of the history record, though they frequently make appeals to the church fathers for polemical purposes.

When one reads church history without Roman Catholic lenses on, one finds the church fathers actually challenge Roman Catholic teaching on a number of key points. For example, a survey from Roman Catholic scholar Jean de Launoy found that only seventeen Church Fathers thought of the rock as Peter in the iconic Petrine text of Matthew 16:18-19, whereas a full forty-four believed the 'rock' referred to Peter's confession, while sixteen thought that Christ himself was the rock and eight thought that the rock represented all of the apostles. The significance of this should be obvious: 80% of the Church Fathers did not recognize that Peter was the rock on which Christ was building His church! Commenting on this in his book his book Two Paths: Papal Monarchy - Collegial Tradition, Michael Whelton points out

Many Roman Catholic apologists ignore the writings of the Early Church Fathers, who were equally well versed in scripture, and focus solely on their interpretation of Matthew 16:18-19. "And I say unto thee: That thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church.... And I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven...." To them it is so clear, what else could it mean? They will even delve into the Hold testament to find supporting evidence for the imagery  of the 'keys.' In doing so they lapse into the practice of 'Sola Scriptura' (by scripture alone) that they accuse Protestants of committing - by ignoring the mind of the Early Church in favor of their own subjecitve judgment. In addition, they anticipate their own conclusion in their initial premise when they associate any reference by Early Church Fathers to Peter as head of the apostles, the seat of Peter, Peter and the keys, etc., as pointing to evidence of Rome's supreme universal authority.
Michael Whelton's book shares similar examples of discrepancies between the teaching of the Catholic church and the teaching of the church fathers. He shows, for example, that even though the see of Rome was always believed to have special honor, the early church fathers believed that judicially Rome was on the same standing as the other patriarchal sees. Whelton also shows that Rome shed many of the traditions of the early church which have been preserved in the East, such as using leavened bread for the Eucharist (a custom the Roman Church kept for the first 800 years) and allowing children to partake during communion. His book is worth reading in full because it establishes that Protestants are not the only ones who constantly innovate: Roman Catholicism itself is one of the greatest innovations of church history.
Further Reading 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Gnosticism at Work

Those who have been following my ongoing series on evangelicalism and Gnosticism will be interested to know that I recently published two more articles in this ongoing series. Both articles deal with attitudes towards work. I show that many of the assumptions that modern evangelicals hold about work are actually more Gnostic than Christian.

Should a Christian consider his secular job to be a zone of spiritual neutrality, or can even the most menial work be offered up to God?

In order to fully serve God, must a person go into full time ministry, or can we pursue our ordinary callings in a way which renders it as a ministry?
I have explored these and other questions in these two articles. In the process, I discuss the doctrine known as 'The Protestant Work Ethic' - an idea that can be found throughout the writings of the church fathers. To read my articles, click on the links below:

Friday, December 20, 2013

Jesus, Junk Food, and Christian Charity

Douglas Wilson’s writings are incredibly helpful, and on this blog I have often had occasion to quote him. But I do sometimes weary of Wilson continually defending junk food and stereotyping those who try to be healthy.

It is clear from Wilson's writings and statements over the past decade that he has an animus against any health care practice that is not mainstream, whether health food, chiropractic, naturopathy, home birth, etc.

Keep reading...

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Argument of Tears

by Terrell Clemmons, guest blogger

 A typical crowd of tourists, seniors, and schoolchildren on field trips was mulling around the large lobby of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. when a young man, wearing full military dress and carrying a cello, walked toward a chair curiously placed in the center of the large room and sat down. He took up his bow in one hand, stretched his other arm to adjust the sleeve, and began playing with calm, expert finesse.

After the opening measures, another soldier musician approached with a standup bass and joined in. A small riser was brought out, and a graying maestro removed his overcoat and accepted the conductor’s baton from an assistant with a cordial salute. An oboe came in with the melody, followed by strings, brass, clarinets, flutes, even a harp.

Friday, December 13, 2013

How Attentive Reading Helps Relationships

In my article, 'Hollowing out the Habits of Attention (3)' I pointed out that when we read books, especially quality fiction, we empathize with the characters in the book so that their experiences become our experiences. We enter into a world very different from our own but which, through imagination, begins to feel just as real as our world.

A study conducted at Washington University’s Dynamic Cognition Laboratory found that attentive readers mentally simulate each new situation encountered in the narrative as if it were really happening. This type of imaginative engagement with other people—in this case, fictional people—enriches the readers’ experience of the world outside the book. This is because the patient attentiveness required to read a literary novel, a play or a long poem requires us to exercise some of the same mental muscles that are employed when we are attentive to real people. In both fiction and healthy relationships, we need to be able to extend ourselves into the thoughts and feelings of others, no matter how different those thoughts and feelings may be from our own. We also need a capacity to accept complexity and tolerate ambiguity. This requires the same type of imaginative attentiveness that reading literary fiction can help us to cultivate.  

For relationships to be healthy, we need to know how to suspend what we think and put ourselves in the mind of our friend, even when we think our friend may be wrong. This doesn’t mean we have to pretend to agree with what the other person is saying, but at a minimum we should be able to appreciate where they are coming from, to listen to their heart, to imaginatively relate to experiences that may be far removed from our own. Empathy enables two people who are vastly different to share experiences, to participate in each other’s struggles, sorrows and joys. To be empathetic requires imagination, creativity, and what psychologists call emotional intelligence. 

In other words, healthy relationships require patient attentiveness. Healthy relationships require opening ourselves up to another, getting outside of ourselves and entering into the other person’s mind. How many divorces could have been prevented if the parties had only been willing to slow down and work at listening, really listening, to what their partner is trying to say? Such attentive listening is hard work. It is hard work because it requires attentiveness, just like the rewards of reading poetry, listening to classical music, or learning Latin require a similar type of patient attentiveness.

The general loss of attentiveness in our culture affects the set of expectations we bring to relationships, eroding our ability to empathize in this way. From fast food to immediate downloads to instant messaging, immediate gratification has become the norm. This makes patient and attentive listening a cognitively unnatural activity. Instead our brain enters into a condition that some researchers have described as “continuous partial attention.” The result is that our listening skills become significantly atrophied.

Media such as the i-touch, the i-phone, the android and even the internet itself, encourage distractedness, impatience and the kind of hurried and scattered focus that finds attentiveness to anything—including people we love—laborious and boring.

Developing the habits of mind necessary for reading good literary works reverses the tendency of our digital distractions and cultivates some of the same cognitive muscles we use when empathizing with others. 


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Liberation from Embodiment

A number of writers have recently been alerting evangelicals to ways in which their thinking has become captive to Gnostic-type ideas about the body. Instead of treating the body as something good, which is in the process of being redeemed (Rom 8:23), it is easy for Christians to slip into the trap of talking about the body as if it is a prison from which we must ultimately escape. (See the ongoing series we have been doing on Gnosticism and Evangelicalism.)

But it is not only in religious communities that we find these types of pessimistic approaches to embodiment. A theme that keeps reemerging in the wider secular culture of the West is an underlying angst concerning the body. Indeed, if current trends in transhumanism, technohumanism and postgenderism continue, Christians who understand about the goodness of creation may soon represent the last hold-out in affirming the goodness of the body.

This realization has led me to begin a series of articles with the Colson Center on some of the ways that Gnostic-type ideas towards the body have infected secular thinking. The first article in this series, 'Liberation from Embodiment' looks specifically at some of the ways that the goodness of the female body has been under attack from forces as diverse as radical feminism and modern advertizing. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

On Christendom

"The life of the nation, no less than the life of the individual, needs to be regulated by Christ’s lordship. The Bible is not simply a devotional manual for our private lives, but a template for bringing all of culture into subjection to Christ… “Christendom” is not simply a collection of Christians living together in society, but it comprises the institutions, literature, manners, works of arts, educational values—in short, the entire fabric of culture—which emanate from Christian civilization. A moment of time is all it takes for a person to turn from unbelief to faith in Christ, but it takes hundreds of years to build Christendom out of a previously pagan society." Saints and Scoundrels, page 87-88


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Friday, November 22, 2013

Attentiveness and People

Does the proliferation of virtual communities make it harder to be attentive
to each other in real-life communication? This is a question that I have been
addressing in my ongoing series about attentiveness.
On Monday I published the third installment in my ongoing series of articles for the Colson Center on attentiveness. (The earlier entries can be read here and here.)

Whereas my previous articles looked at attention from the standpoint of our reading habits, this latest article explores the importance of also being attentive to people.

What does it mean to attend to someone as a real flesh-and-blood body?

Does the increasing hegemony of online social networks encourage us to escape from the embeddedness of our humanity, masking over the vulnerability and fragility that is necessarily presence in 'real' relationships? 

And what is the relationship between reading books and reading people?

These are all questions I have attempted to address in this latest article. To read my thoughts, click on the following link:

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Privileging the Ear

In his book Reformed Theology and Visual Culture, William Dyrness makes some interesting observations about Calvin which echo some of the points I made in my earlier blog post 'Are Calvinists Also Among the Gnostics?' In commenting on a quote from Calvin's Theological Treatises where the reformer noted that "it is not necessary that Christ or for that matter his word be received through the organs of the body," Dyrness writes,

No bodily organ is necessary, Calvin wants to claim, but of course some organ must be used. For apart from actual hearing (in the actual performance of worship), one could never receive the truth of the preached word with or without a believing heart. So in fact the ear is privileged over the eye (the function of which has been reduced to a cipher for comprehension). And it is the word that becomes especially joined to the work of the Holy Spirit. But one wonders: why should the ear be any less capable of mishearing or falling for obstinate superstition than the eye? Or contrariwise, if faith involves a special kind of perception, why must the Holy Spirit be joined only to the aural word of preaching and not to some parallel word made flesh (visible)? After all in the earlier history of the Church such a relationship found ample support in the biblical doctrines of creation and incarnation. One could argue of course that Calvin, along with the other reformers, is recovering an emphasis that is biblical and which results from his own careful rereading of the texts. But clearly his own reactions to medieval practices, which we have reviewed, provided an important component of the context in which he did his exegesis.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Remembering a President

by Terrell Clemmons, guest blogger

Soviet R-12 intermediate-range nuclear ballistic missile in Red Square
On the morning of October 28th, 1962, Nikita Khrushchev, First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, received a cable from Anatoly Dobrynin, the Soviet ambassador in Washington. For nearly two weeks the Soviet Union and the United States had been engaged in a nuclear standoff in the Atlantic Ocean over Soviet missiles in Cuba. Cold War tensions were as high as they had ever been. The cable relayed a message handed to the ambassador by US Attorney General Robert Kennedy, the brother of the President.

The message was direct and clear: Time is running out. The United States is prepared to take strong and overwhelming retaliatory action by the end of the week if Moscow does not immediately agree to withdraw its missiles from Cuba.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Introducing Esther new Daily Diary

My wife, Esther, has started
a daily diary about our family
My lovely wife, Esther, has begun doing a daily diary, about our family and the various essential oils we use in our home. The diary entries will be appearing on my other blog, 'Grasping the Essence.'

Esther started the diary last Friday with a post introducing our family and talking about an adventure I had in the kitchen making a Lavender and Orange oil custard.

Her second installment told about my trip to visit my twin brother after six years without seeing each other. She has included some pictures of me and my twin, Patrick.

Esther's third installment, published earlier today, describes our family's adventures with mice in the downstairs of our house.

I anticipate more interesting posts in the days ahead, with lots of pictures of us and our children. The link to all her diary entries is here.

Darwin was wrong...again!

"For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason,” wrote Robert Jastrow in God and the Astronomers, “the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.” 
Jastrow’s words come to mind whenever I hear about professional scientists being obliged to abandon, or at least to seriously modify, their Darwinian assumptions. From cutting-edge work in genetics to the latest discoveries in astrophysics, the evidence is increasingly pointing to one fact: Darwin was wrong. 
This has been impressed upon me recently, as I have been studying the way culture affects the human brain. Contemporary neuroscientists have been making some fascinating discoveries about the way our cultural preoccupations and artifacts alter the physiological structure of our brains, and, once again, Darwinian orthodoxy is being compelled to yield to new findings.

Dogs, Pigeons & Beethoven 

Let’s begin with a fact that no one disputes: different species have brains suited to the demands of their kinds; brain structures differ among species according to need. The brains of dogs, for example, have a greater facility than human brains for processing smells, because dogs need a high level of olfactory acuity to survive in the wild. Indeed, the odor-processing region of the canine brain is about four times the size of the one in your brain or mine. Or again, the brains of pigeons have the ability to process magnetic information, which they use to navigate vast distances accurately, whereas our brains do not have this faculty since we don’t need it; we can create and use navigational instruments. 

On the other hand, human brains possess structures that allow us to do all sorts of things that dogs and pigeons cannot, such as to reason analytically and to appreciate art. It isn’t that no one has ever tried to teach a pigeon how to do calculus or to relish the glories of the way Beethoven expanded the sonata-allegro form; it’s that no one ever could; the pigeon’s brain is structurally incapable of apprehending these things. 

Sea Gypsies & Taxi Drivers 

Interestingly, what is true as regards the brain structures of different species is also true regarding the brain structure of different groups of human beings—though only up to a point. Still, this fact raises some questions. 

Take, for example, the Sea Gypsies, a maritime tribe of people living off the coast of Thailand. These people have brains that facilitate exceptionally keen underwater vision. Not only can their brains override the reflex that normally controls the shape of the pupil, enabling a Sea Gypsy to constrict his pupils by 22 percent, but they can also accurately compensate for the refraction that occurs when light passes through water. To expect a non-Sea Gypsy like myself to exhibit the same facility would be like expecting a dog to deliberately bark in F major or a pigeon to coo in D minor. 

So how is it that the Sea Gypsies have this amazing ability? According to standard Darwinian theory, the explanation goes something like this: over thousands of years, our genetic makeup gradually changes to conform to the demands of our environments, leading to appropriate changes in the structure of our brains. Genes that have survival value will be perpetuated through succeeding generations, while those that do not will tend to die out. 

Thus, according to the Darwinian narrative, ­because Sea Gypsies spend much of their lives around the water and survive by diving to great depths to harvest food, their genetic makeup gradually came to include these unique capabilities, just as the genetic makeup of dogs came to include exceptional odor-processing faculties. In both cases, we are observing the results of gradual adaptation spanning thousands of years. 
But, as I suggested earlier, this evolutionary narrative has recently had to be abandoned by professional neuroscientists. We now understand that these types of variations in the brains of different people groups have nothing to do with genetics at all. The physiological structure of our brains, including hundreds of thousands of neuro-connections, do evolve to adapt themselves to our natural and cultural habitats, but this evolution occurs within a single lifetime without leaving a footprint on the genetic code. 

This was demonstrated through a study of brain scans done on London taxi drivers in the late 1990s. Researchers found that, in the cabbies, the posterior hippocampus, a part of the brain that stores spatial representations, was considerably larger than in non-cab drivers. Now, clearly, a London taxi-driver’s genetic make-up is not fundamentally different from a London mechanic’s or a London web designer’s, yet there are very clear structural differences in their brains. 

Keep reading...

Friday, November 08, 2013

Is it Real, or Is It Disinformation?

by Terrell Clemmons, guest blogger

The Great American Church Fire Hoax  

The Campaign 
In the spring of 1996, a spate of news reports about black church fires in America dominated airwaves and inflamed decent people both at home and abroad. The World Council of Churches (WCC) flew thirty-eight pastors to Washington, DC, to provide government leaders with more information about this racist tragedy. In a June radio address, President Clinton spoke with emotion about his own “vivid and painful memories of black churches being burned in my own state when I was a child.” Charging that “racial hostility is the driving force,” he pledged the full power of the federal government to the crisis and put two hundred federal agents on the case.

By late summer, more that twenty-two hundred articles in the press had condemned what the Center for Democratic Renewal (CDR) called “a well-organized white-supremacist movement.” The Church Fire Prevention Act of 1996 was signed into law in July, making church arson a federal crime, and $12 million was appropriated for combating fires at churches with black congregations. The National Council of Churches (NCC), the national affiliate of the WCC, took out full-page ads in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and several other outlets soliciting donations for its new “Burned Churches Fund.” It reportedly raised nearly $9 million in two days, with contributions continuing at about $100,000/day.


by Terrell Clemmons, guest blogger

It has been just over a year since I last posted here. I didn’t fall off the face of the earth, though anyone who pays attention could be forgiven for wondering what happened. The short answer, honestly, would probably be equal parts life changes and inertia.

Life changes: For me, last fall brought an unexpected disruption, including a long aftermath, which caused me to have to rearrange a lot of things, schedule-wise. Those things happen. To do what priorities demand, one must adjust, which I did. It had to do with one of my children, and I’m a mom first.

Inertia. Things began to settle down somewhat long about April. That’s when inertia settled in. I kept up with commitments and ongoing assignments, but the longer I went disengaged from the other outlets, the bigger the “block” that stood in the way of reentry. Procrastination breeds procrastination, does it not?

So given that it’s been a while, I thought I should (1) give a big shout of thanks to Robin, who’s kept this outlet open for me with no complaint and (2) give you a little explanation of why I abruptly disappeared. (Here’s the intro Robin gave when I first came on.)

That said, I hope is to get back to regular posts here. I would love to hear from you, too. Healthy two-way dialogue keeps us thinking.

Terrell Clemmons

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Daylight Savings Time

Short History of the Prayer Book

I've just finished reading an excellent little overview of the history of the Book of Common Prayer. Titled 'Archbishop Cranmer's Immortal Bequest' and written by Samuel Leuenberger, the article explores the evangelistic and reformed influences (which Leuenberger, rather confusedly calls 'revivalism') on the Prayer Book. Click on the following link to download the article as a pdf:

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Series on Attention

Earlier in the year I began a series for the Colson Center on ways that new technologies are training our brains not to be attentive in ways necessary for reading. I pointed out that the real challenges brought by the internet are easily overlooked, since it has nothing to do with what actually happens when we are engaged in activities like web-surfing, Facebook or Twitter, but what happens when we are not engaged in these activities. 

Indeed, just as the problems caused by pornography sometimes only become evident when a man tries to have a relationship with a real woman, so the problems caused by social media may only become evident when one actually tries to read a book or engage in a normal conversation.

I also suggest that in a society that values efficiency over depth and productivity over quality, it is becoming increasingly hard to let books work their slow and strange magic on us, to let them change us into richer and deeper people. Indeed, reading soul-enlarging old books becomes one of the chief casualties in this cultural shift to prioritize what is functional over what is beautiful, what is transitory over that which is permanent and what is entertaining over what is enriching. To read my articles on this subject, click on the following links:

“voluntary elimination of gender in the human species”

“The heart of women’s oppression” Shulamith Firestone commented in 1970, “is her childbearing and child-rearing roles…To assure the elimination of sexual classes requires the revolt of the underclass (women) and seizure of control of reproduction…so the end goal of the feminist revolution must be unlike that of the first feminist movement, not just the elimination of male privilege but of the sex distinction itself; genital differences between human beings would no longer matter.”
Welcome to postgenderism.

Keep reading...

Saturday, October 26, 2013

On the Weapons of our Warfare

"We remember Wilberforce for what he achieved. Yet the most valuable lesson from his life comes not from what he accomplished, but how he accomplished it. Unlike in America, where abolitionists were willing to use violent force to achieve their ends, in England abolition remained a peaceful movement. This was no accident, for Wilberforce steadfastly refused to pursue revolutionary means for achieving his goals. This is because he recognized that the slave trade was not itself the root problem but merely a symptom of a society that had rejected God’s laws. It followed, he believed, that spiritual rather than revolutionary means were necessary in the fight for justice.” Saints and Scoundrels, page 193


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Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Body and the Self

The Spirituality of Smell, Part 8

This ongoing series of posts on the spirituality of smell has morphed into a series of broader observations about the body in general. In my earlier article ‘Body Odor and Personal Identity’ I discussed the way modern life can often foster an anti-material impulse in which the realities and processes of the physical body are looked upon in a negative light. This is the topic of a fascinating book I am currently reading Lilian Calles Barger titled Eve's Revenge: Women and a Spirituality of the Body. Despite the book’s subtitle, it isn’t just about woman’s issues, but about a theology of the body that men, as well as women, would do well to heed.

Wendell Berry on Health and Beauty

The Spirituality of Smell, Part 7

The grinding uniformity of synthetic cosmetics is only one of the ways our culture continually depersonalizes both men and women. Another way we do this is through unrealistic notions of beauty. As Wendall Berry observed in his essay ‘The Body and the Earth’:
Wendell Berry argued that we need a holistic
understanding of health that attends to all
aspects of our creaturely embeddedness:
Girls are taught to want to be leggy, slender, large-breasted, curly-haired, unimposingly beautiful. Boys are instructed to be "athletic" in build, tall but not too tall, broad-shouldered, deep-chested, narrow-hipped, square-jawed, straight-nosed, not bald, unimposingly handsome. Both sexes should look what passes for "sexy" in a bathing suit. Neither, above all, should look old.

Part of the problem, Berry explains, is that we have bought into a wrong paradigm for health. He urges us to return to a holistic understanding of health that attends to all aspects of our creaturely embeddedness:

Smell, Love and Emotion

The Spirituality of Smell, part 6

In her book Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage, and Why We Stray, Helen Fisher shares that during Elizabethan times, it was typical for a girl to put apple pieces under her arm until it absorbed her scent. She would then offer the fruit to her boyfriend as a gift so that, when she was away from him, he could continue enjoying her unique scent.

Even today “in parts of Greece and the Balkans,” Fisher explains, “some men carry their handkerchiefs in their armpits during festivals and offer these odoriferous tokens to the women they invite to dance; they swear by the results. In fact, sweat is used around the world as an ingredient in love potions.”

Body Odor and Personal Identity

The Spirituality of Smell, part 5
Our modern world is pervaded with a materialism that denies all non-physical realities. Yet it is a great paradox of modern life that, despite this materialism, we are also constantly pressured to detach ourselves from our material bodies, as if our bodies are a prison.

This irony was articulated by Kurt Schnaubelt in his 1999 book Medical Aromatherapy: Healing With Essential Oils.
“Our age is materialistic, yet ironically it begets spiritualist teachings that describe the human body as a burden with no intrinsic value, as if our bodies have no relationship to who we really are.”
We see this anti-material impulse in the pervasive assumption that we need not be bound by the fixities of our material bodies and physical processes. Our physical appearance, aging processes and even our gender need not be constrained by the limits of our physicality, or so we are told in a myriad of different ways.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Expunging Gender from Toy Stores

Earlier this year when I read that London’s most popular toy store, Hamleys, was undergoing a complete overhaul. In a monumental move that was full of symbolic significant, the shop did away with separate girls and boys sections. From then on, there would be no such thing as separate categories for “girls toys” and “boys toys.”

Keep reading...

Monday, October 14, 2013

What is a 'Spiritual Body'?

Paul opened chapter 15 with a defence of our blessed Lord’s resurrection against those who were denying it (1 Cor. 15:1-19; 29-34). But Paul’s mind moved naturally from Christ’s resurrection to the resurrection of all believers (15:20-28; 50-58). Thus, the chapter ends with the famous promise that we will be changed in the twinkling of an eye at the last trumpet (15:52).

In the middle of this discussion about resurrection, the apostle applied himself to a question that some people had apparently been asking, namely, what will the resurrection body be like? His answer to this question occupies the middle section of the chapter from verses 35-49. The tricky words occur in verse 44 when Paul is contrasting our present bodies with our future resurrection bodies. Paul writes, “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.”

Given the associations we have with the term “spiritual”, it has been easy for many people to assume that the antithesis Paul is talking about here is between a physical body and a non-physical body. For example, in their book "Heaven: A History," McDannel and Lang contend that

“The resurrected bodies of Pauline thought are not material but ‘spiritual.’ The bodies of those Christians who happen to be alive at the time of the resurrection will be changed ‘in a twinkling of an eye’ into spiritual beings that are immortal....The physical body (in contrast to the resurrected body) may be compared to a tent or garment where the ego, the soul, lives. According to Paul, God will prepare another home or garment for the soul after the death of the body.”

Many of our translations of 1 Corinthians 15 do make it seem that Paul is contrasting a natural physical body with an incorporeal spiritual body. For example, the Revised Standard Version even makes this assumption explicit when it translates verse 44 to read: “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” However, this is to completely misunderstand the Greek.

Keep reading...

Scent and Spirit

The Spirituality of Smell, part 4

We live in a culture that has drunk deeply from materialistic notion that the visible world is all there is. According to this narrative, human beings are simply collections of matter and energy.

Aromatherapy, which acknowledges the importance of the human soul, goes against this reductionistic view of the world. As Kurt Schnaubelt writes in Medical Aromatherapy: Healing With Essential Oils:

“Modalities such as aromatherapy, which acknowledge the phenomena of the soul, will be vastly more successful in treating the real problems of our times than conventional medicine….Fragrance has always transcended the material planes of consciousness (science) and communicated directly with those of the soul (the psycho-social plane).” (Schnaubelt, pp 15-16)

Recovering the Spirituality of Scent

The Spirituality of Smell, part 3

In our previous posts, ‘A whiff from which to benefit’ and ‘Scent and the Christian Church’, we began to explore the important role that fragrance plays in spirituality in general and the Christian church in particular. I ended the last post by suggesting that some of these truths have been lost in contemporary religious experience.

It is true that the Christian church has never ceased to use smell in its liturgical piety. In the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Anglican traditions, incense made from Frankincense and other odor-producing plants forms an important part of their worship. Nevertheless, it is still safe to say that the spiritual importance of scent has been largely eclipsed in the Western world, especially among evangelical Protestant.

Scent and the Christian Church

The Spirituality of Smell, part 2

In the first post in this series, I cited the 4th century Saint, Ephrem the Syrian, who taught that God conveys His love to us through the smells of our world, which he referred to as “A vast censer exhaling fragrance.”

Saint, Ephrem the Syrian was not alone in his high view of fragrance. When the Church Father Origen (182-254) needed a metaphor for Christ’s love, he turned naturally to the world of smell and perfume:

A Whiff from Which to Benefit

The Spirituality of Smell, part 1

Earlier this year when I wasn't as busy, I took a few days to read about the interface between spirituality and smell. What follows is the first installment in a series of posts drawn from the notes I took during this reading.

A vast censer
St. Ephrem the Syrian
     exhaling fragrance
impregnates the air
     with its odoriferous smoke,
imparting to all who are near it
     a whiff from which to benefit.
How much the more so
     with Paradise the glorious:
even its fence assists us,
     modifying somewhat
that curse upon the earth
     by the scent of its aromas

St. Ephrem the Syrian
Hymns on Paradise, 11:13

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Georg Lukacs

In my Salvo article on the sexualization of children, I talked about Wilhelm Reich, an early pioneer of the sex education movement. But I might equally have mentioned Georg Lukacs. In Linda Kimball's article for the American Thinker titled "Cultural Marxism", she notes that
In 1919, Georg Lukacs became Deputy Commissar for Culture in the short-lived Bolshevik Bela Kun regime in Hungary.  He immediately set plans in motion to de-Christianize Hungary.  Reasoning that if Christian sexual ethics could be undermined among children, then both the hated patriarchal family and the Church would be dealt a crippling blow. Lukacs launched a radical sex education program in the schools.  Sex lectures were organized and literature handed out which graphically instructed youth in free love (promiscuity) and sexual intercourse while simultaneously encouraging them to deride and reject Christian moral ethics, monogamy, and parental and church authority.  All of this was accompanied by a reign of cultural terror perpetrated against parents, priests, and dissenters. 

Hungary's youth, having been fed a steady diet of values-neutral (atheism) and radical sex education while simultaneously encouraged to rebel against all authority, easily turned into delinquents ranging from bullies and petty thieves to sex predators, murderers, and sociopaths.
The educators of today are more subtle, yet their objectives remain the same.

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