Joy in Submission

Painting of Jesus Washing Peter's Feet by Ford Madox Brown

Painting of Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet by Ford Madox Brown

“Some things are so important”, wrote Søren Kierkegaard,  “that they cannot be communicated directly.” Joy in submission is one of those things. How would Kierkegaard attempt to indirectly explain this issue? I do not know. But I am willing to attempt an impossible task of thinking in Kierkegaardian manner as I address how serving is reigning in God’s kingdom. The concept I named, ‘Joy in Submission’.

We were made to reign. We were made to reign through serving. We were made to serve. The objects to which we serve define who we are. Some objects bring intrinsic joy and life when served. Others bring despair and death. Those that bring despair and death often promise intrinsic joy and life but deliver despair and death. Fame, sex, and money are objects that often promise intrinsic joy and life. When they serve us, they do deliver what they promised. But when we serve them, they bring despair and death.

Submission, in God’s kingdom, brings intrinsic joy and life. Submission is serving. Serving is reigning. Thus reigning is submission. Submission is a way of life. It is a way of life worth living. A life worth living is a passionate life. A passionate life glorifies God by enjoying Him now and forever. Enjoying God now and forever is a passionate living that rejoices in serving God through serving others. Serving others is submission. Continue reading

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Bonhoeffer’s Solution to The Problem of Pain

BonhoefferDietrich Bonhoeffer saw and experienced the unmistakable face of pain and suffering during the reign of Nazism in Germany. During his time at Berlin-Tegel Bonhoeffer exchanged letters and wrote notes that are now known as Letters and Papers from Prison. It is in these letters and notes Bonhoeffer explored the problem of pain and suffering. His address of human suffering does not flow from a philosophical armchair reflection as a passive observer but rather that of a deeply moved spectator. It is for that reason we do not find any  classical defenses such as of John Hick’s Soul-making theodicy and Alvin Plantinga’s freewill-defense in his writings.

Bonhoeffer’s solution to the problem of pain and suffering, to which I concisely introduced, was crafted  during his solitary confinement ward at Berlin-Tegel Military Detention Center where Bonhoeffer was imprisoned for his participation in a failed plot to assassinate Hitler. Tegel was the place where he spent his last eighteen months. He was executed on April 9th 1945.

What can Christianity offer in times of prevailing evil? God, in Christianity, according Bonhoeffer, is not deus ex machine, a being that mechanical appears to solve our insoluble problems. He is not a being that we evoke as an explanation of unexplainable due to our epistemic limitation. He is not a being that we call upon to offer us strength in are powerless and weakness moments. No. If Christian God was such a being, then He is no longer needed in the world that is “coming of age”. We are beginning to finally solve our problems. Such a God is “pushed further away and thus is ever on the retreat” (Bonhoeffer 2010: 408-9) Continue reading

Kierkegaard: Subjectivity is Truth

Kierkegaard“The subjective thinker is not a man of science, but an artist. Existing is an art. The subjective thinker is aesthetic enough to give his life aesthetic content, ethical enough to regulate it, and dialectical enough to penetrate it with thought.”(1974, 314)

“What is truth?” asked Pontius Pilate. “Subjectivity is truth,”(1987, 203) answered Søren Kierkegaard. For so long I misunderstood Kierkegaard. My love-hate-relationship with this brilliant Danish thinker underwent an existentialistic crisis. Re-reading Kierkegaard’s works in their proper historical background made me realise how I misunderstood him. My “hate” in my love-hate-relationship with him was based on misunderstanding. This article attempts to explore one of the Kierkegaardian ideas, namely subjectivity, which I once misunderstood.

Kierkegaard’s works can easily be misunderstood if not read within their proper context. Two clear examples are:  “Objectively, there is no truth”(1941, 201) and “It is subjectivity that Christianity is concerned with, and it is only in subjectivity that its truth exists, if it exists at all; Objectively, Christianity has absolutely no existence”(ibid. 116). Prima facie it seems that Kierkegaard is denying the objectiveness of truth and Christianity. This article aim to show that this is not the case. It argues that a relativistic understanding of subjectivity in Kierkegaard’s writings, which streamed existentialistic restoration of primitive Christianity from Danish State Church’s Christendom, would be misunderstanding his whole project all together.

Kierkegaard basic rejection of objectivity could be summed up in one  of his sentences; “objective thought has no relation to the existing subject”(1941, 112).  Holding on of objective truths of Christianity does not make an existing individual a genuine Christian. Majority of Danes, in Kierkegaard’s time, did that. The problem was what they believed did not affect them as existing individuals. Their daily lives were undistinguished from pagans.  The Hegelian systematic and objective Christianity did not affect existing individuals daily life. It did not generate passion for Danes to fully commit themselves to. Kierkegaard’s project was purely to address this issue. For him, “Christianity is spirit, spirit is inwardness, inwardness is subjectivity, subjectivity is essentially passion, and in its maximum an infinite personal, passionate interest in one’s eternal happiness.” (1974, 33) Continue reading

The Nietzschean Sinner

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo MiniThe Sinner, in my re-modification of Nietzschean Parable of the Madman*, ran up to the place called Golgotha, and cried incessantly: “I seek Life! I seek Life!” As many of those who did not believe in the accuracy of a mocking but ironically true description placed above the head of a Nazarene hanged on the Roman cross, ‘This is Jesus the King of the Jews’, laughed at the insanity of the Sinner’s words.

“Where is Life?” the Sinner cried; “I will tell you. We have killed Him – you and I. Death have finally and victoriously won. Hope is lost. It stung and killed Life at the cross. Men forever lost. Wretched men that we are! Who will rescue us from this perishable body of death?”

“O Sinner”, the Eschatological Hope replied,” Do not fall into despair. The death of Life at the cross was the death of Death. It was impossible for Life to be held by Death. The resurrection of Life was the confirmation that you O Sinner and the Church, who are found in Life, would also put on the imperishable body of life. Life has already but not yet rescued His Church. Death was swallowed up in victory by Life.”

“Rejoice and sing praise to Life, O Sinner,” said the Eschatological Hope, ” You and the true Church of God ought to rejoice with this new song: ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’”

“For the death of Life was the death of death.” the Eschatological Hope affirmed, “Rejoice O you who are in Life. Rejoice. Death has no dominion over you. It’s lordship ended at the death and resurrection of Christ, your true and everlasting Lord and God.”

*Friedrich Nietzsche’s The Gay Science (1882, 1887) tran. Walter Kaufmann (1974) New York: Vintage, 1974 p. 181-82)

Explosive Joy & Divine Romance

Gandolfi Allegory of JusticePeace and salvation, Yahweh is King (Isa. 52:7-8). This was and is a victorious proclamation that Yahweh’s kingdom has come on earth as it is in heaven. The God of Israel has return to His people. Here comes the inauguration of the eschatological era. It is the dawn of the new creation. The time of restoration of the fallen world has come. “Behold, your God”, proclaims those who herald this evangelion to God’s people who are anxiously waiting to hear the good news. Waiting to hear that  the time of God’s dominion on earth as it is in heaven has come.

Where this evangelion is proclaimed, there there is an explosive joy among God’s people. This explosive joy is rooted in Christ Jesus. He is not only the bringer of the evangelion but also the evangelion itself. He is the bringer of God’s kingdom in heaven to earth and He is the everlasting King in that joyous divine rule that will wipe away God’s people tears, bring end to morning, suffering, pain and death. He is also the true fountain of the living infinitely and imperishable joy itself.

The Church is called to heralding this evangelion. She is sent to herald God’s redemptive drama. She is sent to behold Christ Jesus as the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the fallen world and as the Lion of Judah, who has triumphed over darkness.

The Church is the last Eve. She is kept pure. She is without stain or wrinkle. For Her last Adam is keeping Her holy and blameless. Her mission, heralding and living in this divine romance, is a reaction. Just like laughter, it is not an action.

This mission is a reaction towards an overwhelming and compelling divine love. She is overwhelmed and compelled to be like Him, and to act like Him. She is overwhelmed and compelled to be holy, loving, patient and kind. She overwhelmed and compelled to protect the weak, to persevere in the darkness, to rejoice in truth, to welcome the outcasts, to heal the wounded and to bring hope in despair. The divine love compels Her to rekindle heaven on earth.

Rethinking Nielsen’s World Without God

CritiqueImagine for a second that there is no God. Imagine God is dead. What would we expect our world to look like if God did not exist? Based on this idea a brilliant, young Irish economist by the name of Robert Nielsen has presented an interesting, but ultimately unpersuasive case in his article World Without God. Nielsen states that this argument in the foundation for his atheism. I hope to test his case below:

I could say many things about Nielsen’s article,  but I would like to focus exclusively on his main argument which is as follows¹:

1. a. If God existed & control the world, then our world would exhibit features A.

    b. If God existed & control the world, then our world would not exhibit features B.

2. a. Our world does not exhibit features A.

    b. Our world does exhibit features B

Nielsen defends premises 1 and 2 as follows: If God controls our world then we would expect our world to exhibit certain features A. These features include those of a perfect world. He argues, “its fair to assume that it would be perfect (assuming God can do anything and loves us).” A perfect world is that  without hunger, without fear, without diseases or disasters. In short it would be the world without pain and suffering. This is not enough for Nielsen. God must also be self-evident, not hidden from His creatures, thus creating no possibility of religious confusion. Our world needs to be a paradise, or something close. Continue reading

Hadrian of Rome: A Pre-Reformed Pope?

Pope Paul IIIPope Hadrian of Rome & Augustinian Predestination Soteriology

During the reign of Pope Hadrian of Rome (772-795) the Church in Spain was going through internal and extremely fascinating controversies. One of the controversies concentrated on what was the proper way of understanding God’s divine choice and predestination. Two major traditions crossed swords. Those who held the Augustinian predestination soteriology led by Elipandus of Toledo and those who rejected it led by Migetius. The clanks and clangs of their swords reached Pope Hadrian of Rome.

In a nutshell Augustinian predestination soteriology stressed the sovereignty of God in electing in Christ Jesus some fallen humans who are in bondage of sin (Jn. 8:34) and hostile towards God (Ro. 8:7) to receive his mercy and compassion while passing over other equally fallen humans to receive his righteous justice (Ro. 9-11). Those whom God the Father elected are given to His Son and they are kept to the end of time (Jn. 6) We, the Church, choose Christ because He chose us first (Jn. 15:16, Acts 13:48, Eph. 1:3-11). Faith is thus not the cause of our election but its effect (Jn. 10:26-28). Augustine expounded:

Let us, then, understand the calling by which they become the chosen, not those who are chosen because they believed, but those who are chosen in order that they may believe. ‘You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you’ (Jn. 15:16). For, if they were chosen because they believed, they would, of course, have first chosen Him by believing in Him in order that they might merit to be chosen.(PS 17.34)

Elsewhere Augustine wrote: Continue reading