Thursday 26 July 2012

Doodlings: more mirth and mischief

by Kim Fabricius

I see the quest of the historical Adam segued into the question of what did Jesus know and how did he know it. The discussion – with comments like “he probably didn’t know the Pythagorean theorem” (better cognitive odds, I reckon, on the “God particle”), and “even with mistakes, he was a good carpenter– raises another question, one that exercised the Schoolmen: Did Jesus laugh?  And answers it too.

Here are another couple of questions. Could Jesus forget things?  Like to water the plants, his girlfriend’s size, or where he left his keys?  And could he anticipate the future – not his parousia, he admitted the unpredictability of that one (though one interlocutor avers that modal logic allows the ignorance to have been temporary), but, say, the roll of the dice (was he barred from Roman casinos?), or tomorrow’s weather (did he know there’d be a sunny day for the picnic of the 5,000, or was it “Red sky at night, Good Shepherd’s delight”?)?  Above all, do you think he saw Apollinarius coming?

One commentator complains, very nicely, that I have an “american-hating, gay-marriage obsessed, cussing persona”. Though it might speak to his own pathology that he omitted Barth and baseball.

Still on baseball, do you think the Lamb could give us a seventh-seal stretch before all hell breaks loose (Revelation 8:1)? 

And speaking of pathology: If Freud was so great, how come he never wrote The Interpretation of the American Dream? (Maybe for fear of the American id?)

I wish I had it in me to write two books:  A Theology of Bullshit Detection and LMAO on the Way to the Kingdom. Make that three: My Life in the Big Leagues. I would then die a happy grumpy old man.

I’m about to become a grandfather, so I’m planning ahead for some bedtime reading, to send my little dumpling off to sleep with happy dreams.  I’m thinking Blood Meridian and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Oh, and for a Bible story, Revelation 8-9. Any other suggestions?

Finally, after centuries in denial over ὀργή issues – Sodom and the Flood, Korah’s Rebellion and the Massacre of the Midianites, the pyrotechnics at Mount Carmel and the sack of Jerusalem – God used the inter-testamental period to take a course in anger management. The doctrine of penal substitution suggests it didn’t work. Or worse, that it did. 

Basel’s favourite son. The very embodiment of genius and grace. His work a charism, a thing of beauty, a divine manifestation of his vocation. His energy and work-rate, his eye for detail, the variety and comprehensiveness of his interventions – legendary. In fact, people who have seen him in action have described the experience as a kind of epiphany. The greatest of all time (a phrase he would modestly decline), yet his work unfinished. No, not Karl Barth, silly – Roger Federer!

So the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, published a prayer for the Wimbledon final:  “Loving God, … Guide Andy Murray in the choices that come to him with every ball.” Dumb, or what? I mean praying such a prayer to Murray’s actual opponent.  (See David Foster Wallace’s wonderful essay “Federer as Religious Experience”.)  And the inanity of it. This guy could be the next Archbishop of Canterbury – and American Anglicans think ECUSA’s got problems with its episcopal leadership.

I see that ECUSA has repented of the heresy of speciesism (though I presume that in the proposed funeral rites , cats [“I did it my way”] and dogs [“Amazing grace … that saved a bitch like me”] are a zoological metonymy, and we can expect rubrics for hamsters and canaries, turtles and goldfish).  I suppose the next heresy up will be Christianity.

The Anglican Diocese of Sydney, the C of E, and ECUSA: Moe, Larry, and Curly.

If according to biblical anthropology, a human being is a psychosomatic unity, a unity of soul and body, then you could say that according to biblical soteriology, a recreated human being is a pistergonic unity, a unity of faith and action. Pace James, faith without works is not dead, it was stillborn. The idea that we are saved by something that happens in our heads is not so much wrong as unintelligible. Wittgenstein asked: “Does it make sense to ask ‘How do you know that you believe?’ – and is the answer: ‘I know it by introspection’?” No and no. Francis begged, Martin nailed, Dietrich conspired, Rosa sat – there is faith.

Language can be a beauty, but it can also be a witch (cf. Wittgenstein) whose most evil spell is to turn us into liars.

The Oprahfication of contemporary spirituality means that today’s Pilgrim must fight the giant of High Self-Esteem, the hobgoblin of Inner Belief, and the foul fiend of Feel-Good, all of whom will be encountered in the Hills of Hopelessness.

The devil is at his most dangerous not in the wilderness but at the oasis.

WWJD? The one-size-fits-all answer is: get himself into trouble.

It’s the 60th anniversary of Mere Christianity. Conservatives are in a celebratory mood. Yet Lewis was decidedly thin on several staple evangelical doctrines. Tom Wright himself admits that Lewis “was wary of penal substitution, not bothered by infallibility or inerrancy, and decidedly dodgy on justification by faith,” nor was Lewis’ doctrine of hell hot on the traditional climatology. Jeez, how “unsound” can you get and still be an evangelical icon? So I’m looking for an honest critical appraisal of the theology of C. S. Lewis by the evangelical literati to mark this diamond year – say a festschrift entitled Near Christianity.

After two episodes in the UK, you can’t hate how The Newsroom sticks it to stupid (though I see that after bad reviews, Sorkin has sacked his writing team). But let’s be under no illusion: The Newsroom is no exception to the media captivity to American exceptionalism. The overture sets the theme: “It isn’t” – there is, yes, a hiatus in the unique greatness of the US, but it’s only a glitch: “It isn’t – but it can be” – and we know it can be because it was. The fantasy of the nation with a noble past and a glorious destiny goes all the way down and, from right to left, all the way across.

As a lover of felines, I much prefer analytical philosophers to quantum physicists. The former quietly observe cats on mats, the latter lock them in steel boxes with a 50:50 chance of a cruel death from hydrocyanic acid. Of course, I appreciate that the famous thought-experiment requires an animal of intelligence: with no uncertainty, Schrödinger’s dog would leap into the box, roll over, and then wolf down the poison capsule with a drink from a portaloo.  

“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” There’s another irretrievable loss to global warming: it will eventually render the seminal Berkeleyan thought-experiment incomprehensible to Philosophy 101 students.

According to modernist theology, there are three kinds of falsehoods: lies, damned lies, and patristics.

Awesome landscapes, mythopoeic characters, a narrative relentlessly driven by greed and brutality, powerful plot-embedded social commentary, moments of mordant farce, tiny nuggets of grace (maybe excavatable, maybe not) in a nihilistic cosmic imaginary – one critic writes that “plans to make a movie out of Blood Meridian are career-ending.” Step up, brothers Coen. You’ve done the preliminary sketches for it in No Country for Old Men (author) and True Grit (genre). Now for a career-climaxing masterpiece. John Huston had the guts to film the unfilmable American epic Moby-Dick. Have the chutzpah to film its problem-posing but surely filmable contemporary equivalent. Just don’t screw up the ending as Huston did.

I always feel sorry for Canadians living in the UK: they are often mistaken for Americans. In fact, whenever the US is waging a war, I tell people that I’m a Canadian. So only my wife and kids know I’m a Yank.

People sometimes ask me, as an ex-pat of 40 years (London, Haslemere, Oxford, and for the last three decades, Swansea), (a) what I miss about the States, and (b) were I to return to the States, what I would miss about the UK.  Let’s see … (a) Big warm soft pretzels and good chunky peanut butter. Chipmunks and bluebirds.  New England falls. Proper cussing. The energy. The sun. African-American and American-Jewish culture. Whiffle ball. Mennonites. Mom. (b) British beers and ubiquitous access to Indian cuisine. The NHS (back home to barbarism). Unarmed police. Unarmed neighbours. Unarmed children. Generally sane conservative evangelicals. Rugby Union. Roundabouts. Democracy. British irony.

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