Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The other side of pain.

My heart, half-sleeping, drawn out,
warm and softly beating
Full of every good gleaned from the other side of us
You are hope rung with joy – the best of dreams
I used to hold my breath for you, as if on holy ground
Oh small Heaven! Laying out your modest space on earth!
But this sickness, this god-forsaken leech
Hateful earth
Oh God! This pit turns me hollow now and now-
It touched you with its shadow - my son!
My arms reached for you in desperate prayers
Eyes turned quick from God to son
I would have stood between
Oh God!
But that monster had no taste for me
And no answered prayers blocked its path
My soul drained like urine to the floor
life scraped whole from out my ribs
Tearing from me screams of hollow hell
As it robbed you of your precious breath
My arms hung worthless, worthless
With darkness closing in.
Now you are present on the other side of pain
Those hands of Christ from whence you came
And the weight of you pulls me harder
than all things created
With sweeter weight
Than any roots here in the tortured earth
My weakness now a hungry hope
Someday the beast will taste after me
and winning in death’s jaws
I will rush through that defleshing door
When it cracks for me I’ll drink its pain
In willing gulps
to hold you in my arms again.
My son, my son!

Thursday, July 05, 2012

A Circle and a Tangent.

"Just trust in the Character of God!"

But how are we to know His character? By nature and experience?
If Nature and experience, than which shall we choose?  the flowers? sex? sparrows? tasty dinners?
Or maggots? stubbed toes? vultures? poisons? Shall we interpret his character by babies dying of flesh eating strep?

The Westminster Confession says that the Scriptures teach "...what man is to believe concerning God..."

Scripture is supposed to help, but it feels sometimes as if it is part of the problem.

How to interpret it, that is. It seems almost as difficult as interpreting nature.

There is no principle, or set of principles, that can be applied to the scriptures universally and make them speak with a unified voice. Many books try to tell us that there are. I read a book yesterday that tried to say that Jesus often spoke in hyperbole, and this is how we are to understand his words concerning faith.  He said that when Jesus says something that sounds outlandish, he is using hyperbole. Yet this is not always the case. When he spoke to the rich young ruler, he told him to sell all he had, give the proceeds to the poor, and come follow Him.  This sounded outlandish, but everything in the story indicates that Jesus did not mean this as hyperbole.

The Catholic church of the west objected to the Reformation's position on scripture, because they contended that much of scripture was confusing and doubtful, and the people needed the Church's authority to interpret it rightly for them, or else they might start chopping off their hands and gouging their eyes, or become so uncertain and skeptical as to wander off into insanity or infidelity in droves.

The Reformation countered fairly enough that The Catholic Church's interpretations had often contradicted themselves, and were therefore obviously not infallible. Scripture could explain scripture, and even better, each individual believer has the Holy Spirit, who they can trust to lead them into all truth as far as scripture is concerned.

Long after the Reformers were dead, the Neo-Orthodox replied that no believer can guarantee at any time that he has the Holy Spirit's consent to his interpretation.

It would be an extreme understatement to say that the Reformation has brought about no greater unity of interpretation than the system it destroyed, but had fulfilled much of the prophecy of the Catholic church.

And of scripture interpreting scripture, how is this to be done? Which scriptures shall we start with? There is much disagreement here, but no one ever picks out such (gems? open sores?) as Exodus 21:20-21 (and there are many such scriptures). Why not?  Because we pick the scriptures that are favorable to explain the ones that seem unfavorable.  We interpret the scriptures that might make God seem horrible by the scriptures that make Him seem Good.

But how are we to know what is "favorable"? Do we measure what is favorable according to our individual sentiments? To the fashion and feelings of our generation?
Some do.  They say that since it would reflect too unfavorably on God to take at face value his words about an infinite conscious torture for the disobedient as punishment for infinite sins, they overrule these passages with verses about a God who is the "savior of all men..."  They feel and say that it would reflect unfavorably on God to take at face value his words about homosexual offenders being wicked and not entering the kingdom of God.  So they overrule these scriptures with ones about the overruling superiority of "love" and contend that homosexuality is simply an expression of that love which conquers all.
They do this to make God seem good, and measure what is favorable by the spirit of their age.

Is it possible though, to measure what is favorable according to what the majority of Scripture states clearly as favorable?  Then we could give these scriptures the preeminence, and use them to interpret the unthinkable.

God commands babies, infants, to be killed, not spared.  He orders his people not to show them pity.
He tells his people not to kill children for their parents sin, yet all Adam's children die, and David's baby boy was killed by God because of David's sin.  There is no getting around these. Try and read a commentary on these scriptures. If you have an honest heart, you will feel embarrassment for the writer.

There is nothing in scripture that tells us that retributive punishments such as the lake of fire are in principle bad (though we are told God loves his enemies, and that we shouldn't exact these punishments), and nothing in scripture that tells us that homosexuality is love - these ideas must be imported from the Spirit of the Age.

But God himself tells us many times in scripture that Lying is bad, killing the innocent is bad, that babies are innocent, that all men are created in His image, and that He is disturbed by these things.

So when we read His scriptures and how He seems to contradict Himself (i.e. lie), he kills innocent babies, and says that one man made in the image of God is another man's "money" and can be beaten to death so long as it takes him more than a few days to die, we are right to be horrified.

It occurs to me to ask a question, and a particular figure comes to mind.  A lonely figure, a pilgrim and sojourner.

What did Abraham do, with a situation like this?

Abraham had a series of revelations from God, a "scripture", if you will, that he would have a multitude of children, and that these children would come from his son Isaac.
Then God gives him another "scripture". God tells him to kill Isaac.
So, Abraham speculates.

As far as we know, he had no revelation from God about resurrection from the dead, especially regarding Isaac. But rather than running from God because he turned out to be a monster, or deciding that God was after all a very powerful monster who must be obeyed anyhow,
Abraham comes up with this speculation.

"Maybe God will raise Isaac from the dead..."

God has said to Him over and over again that a favorable thing, a reward, was to come from Isaac.
Then there is this abomination of a command, a monster of divine revelation telling him to kill his son.
They both came from the same "book"-the same voice- and so he couldn't pick and choose which could be divine and which were merely the products of the devil or a fevered human mind.  He could have done this, and believed in the blessings, while ignoring the command to kill his "only son".  But he didn't choose which to believe. He believed both, and speculated how they could both be true, how God could still be viewed "favorably" by God's own revealed standards.  He did not interpret all the previous promises for good, all the blessings, by the new revelation about the stabbing to death of his young boy.  If he had, he would have withered them all.  He chose to interpret the horror by the previous and persistent revelations that were given as blessings. He may have come to this principal of interpretation instantly, it took at most no more than three days. So perhaps it is not so difficult after all to interpret the revelations of God.  Maybe this is the Holy Spirit, the "faith" which justified Abraham. Abraham did swiftly what has posed problems for centuries.

And he came up with resurrection.

So do I.

And if your right hand subverts you, cut it off, cast it from you, for it is profitable for you that one of your members be lost, and not that your whole body fall into Gehenna.

I have tried to write something here three times in the last week or so, but each time what oozes out of my mind onto the keyboard ends up being horrible blasphemy. I tried to put a positive spin on a few efforts after I realized this, but then, is it really possible to put a positive spin on blasphemy?
"The things that come out of a man are what make him unclean" - and I've felt that uncleanness when I read my own words, like a black biofilm creeping swiftly over my skin.  So I haven't posted them, since I'd prefer to remain in quarantine until I'm clean; as it is written: "He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp."

And why is this?  I think (I think, I don't know) that it's because I speculate in an effort to understand. Perhaps some abysses are not open for speculation, as Nietzsche said, unless you don't mind the abyss speculating inside of you.

But the abyss has opened a hole in my living room, and I must walk around it every day.

So if I cannot speculate as to why it is there or why there are such things without being sucked into it myself, I suppose I can just walk through the kitchen to get from one side of the room to the other without resorting to walking past IT.

But the abyss is there when I open my bible, and when I get on my knees.  How can I avoid these?

I call to God, to my God, but I cannot exercise my mind towards Him, without it exercising swiftly against Him, pointing out exhibit A, exhibit B, calling me to the stand as a material witness against Him so that it can proceed quickly on to the concluding argument which I can't bear.

I look up to the judge to be excused, and who is the Judge?

So I choose to be silent, in contempt of court,
and am dragged off to remain in custody.

If the Judge is dragged off, then who will give me justice? Who will restore what has been stolen?
If the Maker were cast off into outer darkness, then from His destruction all would unravel, and every good and beautiful thing along with Him - including those things which He is accused of having used amiss, and then what of the lawsuit? The court would be dissolved, the aggrieved would have no loss, as they would never have possessed, neither would they have existed themselves.

I look to the right, a lion
I look to the left, a bear.

Yet I cannot be a sluggard, and remain in bed.
I refuse to say He's a hard man, reaping where He hasn't sowed,
and so I won't bury the talent in a handkerchief.
So I am left as always with only one option:
"Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him"
And knowing that I am not noble or brave for this
but desperate, and damaged, and wrong.