Saturday, October 22, 2005


For a good reason. I've been very very busy. But fear not--my busy-ness has given me a lot of interesting thoughts to spout here in traditional Guggian fashion.

Here's something I only just bumped into. I don't know if I and my sort were intended to like this article, but I do. Goldblatt's philosophical promenade down the knife-edge of the denial of the "existence" of the Divine reads as a dance (unwitting or not) with ancient Christian mysticism.

Love it!


Anonymous said...

I didn't like the article for a variety of reasons. Mostly, because it puts Aquinas center stage and I never cared for his theology to begin with. He doesn’t need anymore exposure –his theology has already created enough trouble.

Then it takes the usual slant on bashing Christianity...maybe in a way, what it does more than that, is to elevate man's philosophy over that of the divine inspired story of creation; therefore, replacing God with man in the long run. It seems to me that satan tried that too and failed. Men have the ability to do such beautiful things but yet we spend so much time on masturbating our own minds...this never ceases to amaze me.

Mr. Gugg said...

I don't really know where Goldblatt is coming from, and to what degree he is actually arguing that God does not exist. What surprised me was how frequently he repeats pretty much word for word things the Fathers of the Church say about the rational approach to God. Stating, for example, that whenever we say anything about God, we have to simultaneously un-say it, that it is impossible to philosophize in any coherent way about God, however, is precisely in line with the apophatic theology of Christian mystics.

Any rational construct we make in our minds about God is precisely that--an image of God that we have made. It easily becomes an idol. There is a reason that masters of Christian prayer insist that the mind must be emptied of all images and ideas--and it impresses me that this fellow got to that conclusion coming from the opposite direction.

Which is to say, I don't know whether or not Goldblatt intended to bash Christianity. But in fact he didn't bash Christianity--he simply demolished (or tried to demolish) intellectual/philosophical Christianity. It is we who have been mentally masturbating, thinking that our lofty syllogisms about God can say anything true about Him. We are the ones who have re-made God in our own image. And if philosophers are ready and willing to help in demolishing that image, then good for them.

Anonymous said...

I don't agree with you on your last point. He did bash God. Also the Fathers of the Church spoke to the rational construct of God for specfic reasons. Many at the time had to do with the personhood of Christ issue, the Holy Trinity and similiar issues. Even Gregory's writings on the energies of God dealt with some of that imagery and non-imagery.

There is one thing that we must remember however and this is what I meant when I spoke about us masturbating mentally. We are a cretion of God and as human (and fallen ones at that) we need symbols, phsysical and otherwise, to comprhend and understand God. The reason the Fathers speak about emptying the mind is so that the devil cannot temp us during prayer with the preversion of an image or thought.

You are right to a point about us remaking God in our image. The post-modern world is great at that. But having make a rational construct about God in our minds isn't a part of that process. It is simply a part of being human.

To me the crazy part is that everything must be explained to the Nth degree, which is partly why I don't like Aquinas. I don't know the authors intent but I did send him an email and I asked the question: If I could ask you a question about your article “Talking About God” it would be this; is it Christianity you don’t like or just Aquinas?

I will let you know what he says.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the errors in the last post I just finished my Greek homework and my English is suffering. To quote Jake Allen, Madness!

Mr. Gugg said...

I'm very curious about what he says in reply. But I do disagree with you about your other point--the technicians of prayer insist that there can be no image in true prayer. It may be a human tendency to use our imagination to heighten our so-called "experience" of God, but such experiences are of our own making--and we are called to transcend this.

I'll dig up some quotes to prove my point, if you like. But on a different note, it is precisely this constant thread in Orthodox spirituality which is, to my mind, the fundamental distinction between the Orthodox and the Roman faiths. The Catholics encourage use of the imagination in prayer. Our mystics eschew it. I don't know if the importance of this distinction can be over-stated.

Daniel Silliman said...

Someday, I'd like to see an Orthodox defend their dismissing (and sometimes even slandering) of Augustine, Aquinas and Anselm.

TeaLizzy said...

Daniel, it's really more from a practical point of view than anything else. The East got on just fine without really being aware of his existence for a millenium or so, and is consequently stunned by the way in which the theological attentions of Westerners always revolve around him, either in agreement or disagreement.

Anonymous said...

I would be interested to see the quotes that you come up with.

Daniel: ??? I don't understand your remark. The Western Fathers you mentioned go against the grain of what the Eastern Fathers said from the begining. I don't like Aquinas because his theology is very problematic, at best, and that is my opinion. Now mind you I am viewing him through Orthodox glasses.

I also didn't slander Aquinas in my statement I just said I didn't like his theology and I thought it has caused enough trouble. (i.e. it is problematic)

Daniel Silliman said...

Pete, wasn't refering to you when I mentioned slander, but I've seen it done. I guess, thought, I'd be interested in seeing an explication for how and where these Western fathers are problimatical, rather than just hearing them being thrown out.

Tealizzy, yeah but 1) you're in the west now and are going to have to engage these guys if you want to talk about theology in a way we understand and 2) dismissing things you "got along fine without" seems a really strange method. Can't we consider and learn from stuff we were until now unfamiliar with and might even perhaps be more comfortable without?

Look, I'm not Greek or Eastern, so you're either just gonna not talk to me, convince me I ought to dismiss the Western fathers, or engage them. I haven't seen much of the third option.
I'm opposed to protestant fundamentalists demeaningly dismissing (and sometimes slandering) Church tradition or Eastern saints or Orthodox practices because of their unfamiliarity, even when and where I personally disagree with the person/practice/idea being dismissed. Am I wrong to do so? And why do the Orthodox act like fundamentalists?

TeaLizzy said...

In part because, although in the West, many of them are in denial about that. If you've ever been to a Greekfest you probably know what I mean. While I can't speak for the Russians, it seems that it's only in the last generation that, even though the Greeks have been here awhile, they're actually coming out of ethnic enclaves and engaging/being engaged by the rest of the world.
I agree that Augustine, at least, should be engaged. His Confessions have a lot of good to them. They're written to the rhythm of prayer. I am told by a Greek priest that the Confessions are actually fairly popular in the East.
The real problem is really two-fold. A) the historical problem: Augustine was not just a great theologian, but THE theologian in the West for quite awhile, and so when Eastern theologians encountered the West again it was speaking a strange vocabulary, arguing about dichotomies we've never drawn and distinctions we feel are false. The natural response, historically, was to blow it off.
I happen to think this was a very, very bad idea. I agree with you that now we're in the West, many of us are from the West (i.e., converts, or just raised in the West in a manner more Western than Eastern) and if the Church is not going to fall apart, we must engage. That doesn't mean, however, that we need to spend a lot of time re-hashing for ourselves debates we've never had, like free will vs. predestination. We need to understand where that debate came from, but if our theology flatly denies its premises...
Engaging Western fathers is happening, just very slowly. Be patient with us. Everything still runs on Greek time.

TeaLizzy said...

Hmm. I never got around to B. I meant that problem B is that so often we simply disagree with the premises. We don't want to waste time on arguments we feel are pointless, yet we need to engage this culture, if only to reclaim the youth, who are largely slipping between the cracks and out of the Church.

Anonymous said...

Daniel --I understand and perhaps I will post something about this on my site at some future date.

It looks like I got in trouble with this webmaster however for my last few post. I am really sorry if I offended anyone.