Comments Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse
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I think the answer lies in the limitations of the secular world view, or even worse a secularized mind. Secularism eschews religion. For that reason a susceptibility for utopian false promises emerges, in this case the Arab Spring and its claims for liberty, freedom, and so forth that by all indications Obama, Clinton, and others really bought into. (Both liberal and neo-con foreign policy is expansionist. There is no real functional difference between them.)
From the other direction, taking the claims of militant Islam seriously would compel serious engagement with the Christian foundations of the West; something the secularists are loathe to do because it reveals the inadequacy of much secularist thinking.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On December 9, 2013 @ 9:31 pm
There you go again Michael Stankovich, collapsing the categories of anthropology and existential experience to assert Orthodoxy needs a “new anthropology.” Then the assertion is framed in an arbitrary reading of scripture (it’s called proof-texting) to imply that those who don’t agree with it are no different than the people that bypassed the robber beaten on the road, and that those who do are Good Samaritans.
The new anthropology folks like yourself, Fr. Alexis Vinogradov, and others are implicitly advocating for a different anthropology, one grounded in (and thus limited to) the boundaries of human experience. This formulation is not able to reach the divine dimension in which the living human archetype (Jesus Christ – the Second Adam) is revealed to show man that he is more than animal (the sum of his desires) or machine (a functionary within a system).
All I see here are moralisms; a flurry of scolding words that declare that if one does not agree with the call for a new anthropology, then the compassion that is necessary to bring healing to broken humanity is absent.
In reality however, these ideas ossify man’s broken state and freeze all the hope of redemption out of it. They implicity argue that what is also has to be. That’s what happens when anthropology and experience are collapsed; it leaves us with the false precept that the only thing real is what we feel.
Feelings are real. So are passions. But feelings and passions are transitory (they can change). Moreover, when anthropology is collapsed into experience, anthropology rises no higher than than the placement of a person within a social category because our understanding of sin degrades into notions of political and social correctness.
Care for the person struggling with same-sex attraction or any other passion does not require a “redefining” of Orthodox anthropology. The assertion that the received tradition does not afford the knowledge on how to ameliorate the struggle with the passions is presumptuous and untrue. The experience of you and your cohorts, or more likely, the inexperience should not deter anyone from criticizing these novel ideas no matter how vociferous the defending moralisms might be.
Dr. Siewers’ story above is profound, particularly this:
I asked Fr. Alexis Vinogradov about that at another meeting, after he had spoken of the need for compassion regarding the types of pastoral situations cited on this thread, and called for a “new Orthodox anthropology.”
What about compassion for people trying to raise children in a traditional Orthodox way, knowing those children will be social martyrs at least in today’s American society, in one way or another, or are at ever-stronger risk in our society of not remaining in the tradition?
He nodded, but before the conversation could continue, a mother at the table began weeping, recounting her family’s experience at a parish that had been riven by a priest allowing a member of an ongoing same-sex couple to take communion.
What kind of pastoral example did that set, and what kind of real compassion for an inter-generational community, as opposed to sentimental selfishness?
“Sentimental selfishness” — that’s a good way to put it. What about the person in whom the ideas about a new anthropology foster doubt and mistrust about the received moral tradition? What about the undermining of the parent who wants to teach his child the precepts of the moral tradition?
Don’t you and your friends have a responsibility here? Apparently not. Every ideological movement has collateral damage, right?
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On November 4, 2013 @ 11:45 am
Good evening to you too Mike.
Not parody at all. In a desacralized world, not much reference to the divine or transcendent remains. It just fades from view. When that happens, all that is left is matter — materialism if we want to speak philosophically.
I had a great discussion today, with a professional historian it turns out, a retired university professor. She mentioned that when the Soviet Union fell and the moral and spiritual bankruptcy of Communism was laid bare, she believed the West was finally rid of that heinous and barbaric pseudo-religion. I did too. Alas, it was not to be. It merely morphed from a political ideology to a cultural ideology.
My explanation was that even in de-Christianized Christendom, the only possible cultural forms are those shaped by Christianity. At one time those forms promised to unlock all the secrets of creation, at least the prophets and their followers thought so — Darwin, Freud, Marx — but Freud and Marx have fallen and Darwin will too in due course. The forms however, remain, but are no longer contained by any stable moral framework. As a result they present dangers.
The descramentalization of creation is the thing — secularism. It propels the drive towards seeking a materialist basis for everything (chemical and physical processes are the ground of epistemology). I see much of this rooted in Calvinist anthropology, at least how his ideas played out in cultural history, thus the reference to Calvin.
The notion that we can find a relationship between a gene and behavior as complex as sexuality is a long way off in my opinion. In fact, I don’t think we will find it all and, being somewhat of a historian myself, I look at Stankovich’s approach (and yours too apparently) with a great deal of caution and skepticism. I’ve seen the same assertions used before. They called it Social Darwinism back then.
Yes, I realize you don’t agree. You’ve made that abundantly clear time and again. Yet you keep turning the volume progressively higher and tend to shout, while Stankovich tempers it with stories about encounters with prison psychopaths and the like cast in the prose of high drama. I think the stories would be good source material for Law and Order: SVU (voyeurism for Grandma) but I would not craft Church policy by them.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On October 28, 2013 @ 9:43 pm
Don’t forget the initial context of the statement Your Grace. Pederasts will want the law eliminated using the language of orientation and rights. You can see it on the NAMBLA page.
Judith Reisman (Reisman exposed Alfred Kinsey as a fraud) has a good bibliography on this topic.
Whether others want the law eliminated might be true but none are as vocal as the pederast lobby.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On October 27, 2013 @ 1:55 pm
Biological predispositions towards certain behaviors may exist most likely by the effects of genetic inheritance in the shaping of personality. But biology is not destiny and it certainly is not the foundation of anthropology. We have to be very careful here not to assimilate the common misconception that materiality is the ground of existence; that chemical processes define existence. That leads, in the end, to a kind of determinism, even fatalism.
(As an aside, some of the sharper gay activists agree with me on this point. They understand that if indeed a “gay gene” is ever discovered — which I don’t think is likely – or even if the argument prevails that homosexual attraction is genetically determined, then the belief that biology is destiny can come back to bite them hard if social attitudes shift against homosexuals.
Be careful here. If materialist determinism justifies compassion, then it can just as easily justify brutality. Look no farther then recent history, particularly the eugenics movement early in the last century, ostensibly justified by “science.” )
Moving on, introducing sin into question of ontology and orientation muddles the issue. The question is not about sin, it is about the grounding of desire. If same-sex desire is a fixed “orientation” grounded in biology and granted ontological status, then on what basis do we exclude other “orientations” such as bestiality? There is none.
The pastoral dimension is of course important, but to be effective it requires the correct understanding of some basic anthropological concepts lest harm be done. This discussion is about the concepts, not about pastoral practice. Look at the Fathers and the tone and language they used concerning abortion. Do you think that they counseled the woman who had an abortion in the same way? Of course not. Why did they use such harsh language then? My hunch is that is was necessary to break through the din of confusion that prevailed during their time.
Sin is volitional, but sin is sin when a person acts on desire (understanding of course that some of the acting involves the interior life). But we have to remember too that the Fathers taught the ground of all desire — even inordinate desire — is the desire for God. (Sin, the Fathers teach, arises when the natural desire of the soul for God is directed through the energy of the body.) Sin, in other words, is looking for Life in places where Life is not. Thus it leads only to death.
Further, a spiritual father (or counselor, guide, or priest) does not “change behavior.” Each person is responsible for his own behavior and only he can change it.
Rather, the spiritual father first engages the struggle alongside the person stuggling. This means the first and highest calling is to pray with and for the person. If the counselor is faithful, then the Lord in his mercy provides knowledge, much of it given through the discernment of the counselor.
That knowledge is by its nature transformative (it heals). It fills the space that opens in the struggle against sin. The Lord is the healer of the soul, no one else, although that healing is often (not exclusively) mediated through the prayer and word of the counselor. And often, when the soul experiences healing, behavior changes because the passion that a person struggles against lessens in its severity and grip.
So the counselor is concerned with morality in this sense: morals, properly understood, define what a person was created to be. They serve not only as judge, but also as guide. Reducing the Christian life solely to good behavior however, misses the point entirely because it dims the deeper vision of our divine calling and destiny. It reduces morality to moralisms and thereby denies the power and thus possibility of real, existential, healing.
Sometimes, when I read Stankovich’s ideas closely, I wonder if his behaviorist trajectory is nothing more than the cultural effluence of a collapsed Protestant anthropology — Calvinist rationalism without the pietism. There is a correspondence between the divorce of morality from the divine and the effort to locate the ground of desire in the created order — a kind of materialistic morality.
But when religion has collapsed, what else is there? Man, after all, cannot live by bread alone and this is as true of the non-believer as it is the believer.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On October 25, 2013 @ 10:45 pm
Not bizarre at all Your Grace, although I can see where I could have been more clear with the term “moral devolution.” I should have said the “moral devolution of culture” but your suggestions work just as well. My point is that efforts to normalize pederasty is just round the bend.
Yes, the laws on the age of legal consent are a couple of centuries old, but then the USA isn’t much older than that. The point is that the attempts to lower or even eliminate that age is a marker in the effort to change the cultural consensus against pederasty. Why do pederasts want the law eliminated? They don’t want to get arrested.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On October 25, 2013 @ 9:02 am
Carl, you are missing some critical points.
You use the term “orientation” without understanding what Mr. Stankovich means by it.
Stankovich argues that “orientation” is a ontological category although he is a bit cagey on how he uses the term (I’ve pressed him on it before). In Orthodox anthropology the term “ontological” means essential to our being. Stankovich means something more along the lines of ‘existential” — something we feel and experience as part of our human existence. The difference is that he believes that homosexual “orientation” — people really feel and experience same-sex attraction — is fixed and unchangeable simply because they feel and experience it.
The reason he loses his cool with me is that I question his fundamental assumptions, the ideas he holds before the research even starts. I believe his assumptions direct his research. He believes his assertions are derived from the research. That’s why his only responses to my challenges are that I am ignorant, right-wing, reactionary — the usual stuff.
The problem is that if we take Stankovich’s assumptions about homosexual orientation as true, then they have to be be applied to all “orientations” across the board. That presents a problem. Do we really want to affirm that, say, bestiality, is a legitimate sexual “expression” (God-created and approved) because some people feel and experience an attraction to animals? If we extend Stankovich’s reasoning to its logical end, the answer is yes.
That’s why I argue that passions effect an orientation. How we deal with our passions affects thought and thus behavior. “Orientation” in other words, is not limited to same-sex desire alone. It applies to all passions, even though our focus is almost exclusively on sexual passions because they are more powerful for reasons we can talk about another time.
Stankovich’s ideas, if followed, will have two outcomes: they will 1) diminish our understanding of the power of Jesus Christ to transform and heal the inner man; and 2) justify a cultural shift where social arrangements that violate the Christian moral tradition will become normalized, including in the Church.
Your confusion occurs I think because you mix up “passion” with “orientation.” “Orientation” is not even a legitimate theological/psychological category in Orthodox anthropology unless we mean by it the distortion of thinking and behavior caused by passions not controlled. In that case proper therapy begins with learning how to manage the passions. In our current culture we have to take the even more elementary step of teaching what the passions even are.
Stankovich’s approach muddies the water but then he is not a priest. I have never detected in any of his writings a sense of the harm that our sexually licentious culture inflicts on the souls of people, especially our teens and young adults. Healing requires (to put it in theological language) a basic understanding of ontology because ontology determines morality, and the management of the passions — which includes the concrete experience of Christ who enables interior healing — and moral sobriety go hand in hand.
This is why whenever I teach morality to young people, I start with Genesis. People first have to understand who God created them to be in order to know how to grow into the person that He created them to be. For the same reason whenever I talk to a man coming to terms with his same-sex attraction, one of the first things I tell him is that he is not homosexual. I can talk about this dimension some other time.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On October 24, 2013 @ 4:49 pm
Carl, you are essentially making my point. If every unchecked passion effects an orientation, then why single out homosexual orientation as a fixed anthropological category? If it were, then there is no reason to treat other sexual “orientations” — pedophilia, pederasty, bestiality, and others that may exist — any differently.* That’s why I argue that elevating homosexual orientation to a special class or status is arbitrary.
(The next step in our moral devolution will be an attempt to either lower or remove the age of legal consensual sex by pederasts. It will be justified using the language of “orientation.”)
Also, as you correctly concluded above, once homosexuality is perceived as a fixed anthropological category, then the distinction between sin and sinner collapses in on itself. When this happens any criticism of homosexual behavior is perceived as a personal attack on the homosexual. Obviously this is exactly how the broader culture perceives it today, although I think this may change in four or five years.
Thus, it is not that my distinction has no meaning; it’s that the distinction applied only to homosexual orientation is arbitrary. Either it applies across the board, or it does not apply at all.
Yes, this logic could apply to all passions, but sexual energy is more powerful than the rest and thus the focus of the activism.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On October 23, 2013 @ 8:33 pm
Dr. Kentigern Siewers provides a short but insightful critique of Stankovich’s assumptions about homosexuality.
Dr. Siewers wrote:
The absolute essentialism of sexual identities (of all kinds) is perhaps the biggest example of self-objectification in our libertarian consumer culture. And so he walks into the cold embrace of Ayn Rand.
What Dr. Siewers means here is that Stankovich makes the modern mistake of defining people in terms of their sexual desires. What a person feels is what he is. Take this far enough and man self-identifies solely in terms of his appetites and the neighbor exists solely to satisfy them. The culture that emerges will have no more soul than a parking garage.
Note Stankovich’s reply to Anonymous by Necessity above:
…it is possible to be homosexual and live one’s life in repentance, abstinence, purity, chastity (σωφροσύνη, meaning “singlemindedness”), piety, and obedience in the fullness of the Church
The question to ask is: if a person struggling with same-sex desire is living a life of chastity, is he a homosexual? Stankovich would say yes. I say no.
The way I see it, Stankovich arbitrarily elevates “sexual-orientation” to a special status and class, a point I have argued with him before. My response then and now was that every passion, if left unchecked, effects an “orientation” — a way of seeing and feeling that shapes behavior around the passion.
Take the alcoholic. As long as he remains captive to his passion for alcohol, his behavior will always be oriented around it. Only when he confronts the passion will his behavior change. Did God create him to be an alcoholic? Of course not. Should he elevate that passion and claim it as a fundamental characteristic of personhood and thus self-identity? No. Yet that is exactly where Stankovich’s ideas lead if we applied them to other passions beyond same-sex attraction.
Why same-sex attraction deserves special consideration over any other passion Stankovich won’t say but Dr. Siewers gives us a clue: Stankovich’s ideas are captive to identity politics.
If the assumption is true that same-sex attraction is a fundamental characteristic of human personhood and thus self-identity; then the satisfaction of that passion represents a noble calling, even a moral achievement. Gay activism takes the shape of a civil rights struggle in this framework.
However, a contradiction emerges when Stankovich asserts that the “homosexual” should live a life of celibacy. Why would a “homosexual” live a life of celibacy when same-sex attraction defines human personhood and self-identity? That makes no sense. This idea would get laughed off the stage at the nearest gay-rights convention, as well it should.
Man is not defined by his passions, sexual or otherwise. Man is not defined by his sins, sexual or otherwise. A man struggling with same-sex desire is not a “homosexual.” We might use the term to describe a man engaging in same-sex genital activity, but here we are describing behavior, not anthropology. Stankovich denies this distinction.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On October 23, 2013 @ 9:10 am
Who Knew, sure was a laudatory piece on Spong — Courageous Progressive crusader and all that. Trouble is, once theology becomes liberalized, churches decline. Some facts about Spong and his parishes in the Newark Diocese:
Between 1978 and 1999, the number of baptized persons in the diocese fell from 64,323 to 36,340, a loss of 27,983 members in 21 years. That’s a disastrous 43.5% decline. The Episcopal Church, by contrast, saw a decline in the number of baptized persons from 3,057,162 in 1978 to 2,339,133 in 1997, a loss of 718, 499, or a substantial 23.4%, according to the 1998 Church Annual.
The Diocese of Newark under Spong, thus, has declined at a rate 20.1 percentage points higher than the rate for the entire Episcopal Church. This rate of decline is 86% faster than the Episcopal Church, whose losses are considerable in and of themselves.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On October 19, 2013 @ 9:14 pm
It’s true that American involvement in Egpyt and Libya opened up a rift in conservative circles, but the neo-cons grew silent only after democratic structures did not spontaneously appear as they thought it would. The liberals are still interventionist as we saw with Obama and Syria where only public outcry and some deft diplomacy by Putin stayed his hand.
As for the IRD, there are probably some neo-cons on board but conservatives are the safer bet as Obama’s near miscalculation in Syria makes clear (neo-con and liberal foreign policy is virtually identical). Faith McDonnell, a staff member of IRD for many years, was one of the first in Washington to sound the alarm that American interventionism would bring great suffering to the Christians in the mid-east. She deserves credit for this and events have proven her correct.
My involvement with the Orthodox Peace Fellowship and Iraq began when they attempted to marshal opposition to the effort with moral reasoning drawn exclusively from liberal anti-war ideology. I argued then that OPF opposition to the Iraq war was too dependent on the reasoning of the secular left, particularly moral relativism.
Maybe I made an impression because OPF’s reasoning for opposing American involvement in Syria was free of the moral relativism I critiqued several years ago. I signed their petition.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On October 16, 2013 @ 1:04 pm
George, Carrie Buck was not even “feeble minded” — the justification that eugenicists (and the Supreme Court) used to justify the mass sterilization programs (Buck v. Bell). Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes:
It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes. Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11. Three generations of imbeciles are enough.
Holmes, speaking for the majority, adopted eugencist reasoning in the Supreme Court ruling that held that the forced sterilization of Carrie Buck was legal.
The Terri Schiavo case exhibits its own arbitrary reasoning that centered on several questions: 1) Michael Schiavo’s interest in removing the feeding tube and cutting hydration; 2) Terri Schiavo’s expressed wish which is vague by anyone’s standard and allegedly uttered only to Michael; 3) the medical condition of Terri Schiavo (that she was a “vegetable” is largely a fiction of the pro-euthanasia lobby); 4) the rulings of the judge about what evidence was admissible.
Stankovich, I don’t intend to re-argue the Schiavo case here. If justice is “blind” however, there would never be split decisions, the romanticism of Frank Rich notwithstanding.
I am still very uncomfortable that people who hold a low value of pre-born life will make decisions about what treatments the infirm and elderly will receive. Rationing is inevitable under Obamacare (if the HHS spent nearly half a billion dollars on a failed sign up system — essentially just forms and a database — and could not get that right, then chances are they won’t get much else right either). The private values of the decision makers drive public decisions. Nothing you have said challenges this.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On October 14, 2013 @ 7:14 am
No court determined that Ms. Schiavo “should die.” The court upheld her husband’s contention that she had expressed the opinion that, if she were living in the vegetative condition in which she ultimately was determined to exist, she would choose to terminate external support that artificially maintained that vegetative state. Ultimately, the court upheld her expressed wish, rather than make any decision in her regard.
Kinda, sorta, but not really. That was the legal justification, but it hinged on who had legal standing to proffer the “expressed wish” which was ambiguous to almost everyone. The fact that that Schiavo’s parents were willing to take legal custody of their daughter and had the means for continued medical support was not allowed in the deliberations. State troopers were called to prevent the parents from seeing her daughter as she died from her forced dehydration until after she was dead.
The judge certainly wasn’t Solomon. He held up the child and had her cut in two anyway.
Why not err on the side of the life? Should we justify Schaivo’s death simply because it was legal? And what happens when decisions on funding are centralized and pressure emerges to cut costs and ration services if the leaders and decision makers not only defend abortion on demand, but justify its most heinous forms? Do we believe that their low view of pre-born life will not spill over onto the terminally ill and aged? This is a reasonable and necessary question to ask.
Do you really believe the moral outlook of our leaders and decision makers will not influence decisions about life and death of other people? Better look at the history. See: Who loves abortion more than Obama and Sebelius?
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On October 11, 2013 @ 10:13 pm
This is one of my chief concerns about Obamacare. People who are morally confused about the inviolability of human life will be creating committees that determine the extent of other people’s care. If they see abortion as enlightened social policy (Gov. Brown clearly does), then it’s a short jump to the elimination of the terminally ill and other ‘non-productives’ especially when rationing starts.
If this sounds alarmist, remember Terri Schiavo. The court decided she should die.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On October 11, 2013 @ 9:08 am
Michael, most of the extrapolations are mine and I am struggling with trying to find the right language. But my interest in the topic was spurred years ago by various events and experiences that crystallized into an understanding that developed as I grew older which I expressed here: One Word of Truth Outweighs the Whole World and later turned into a talk I gave at Acton University this summer titled, “Why Solzhenitsyn Matters” (below):
All this is a long way of saying that what I discovered from the religious/cultural side, scientists are discovering from the scientific side, i.e.: language, information, words, The Word, however it is characterized is the ground of epistemology, indeed all of creation.
Yes, the term “residuals” is clumsy but by it I don’t mean static. All the ideas about why the GOA and OCA are undergoing demographic decline are mine of course.
Gilder is an economist, not a theologian, and most of the language is mine, not his (except for the part about information, entropy, and the health of systems).
Kentigern, thank you very much for the offer of the book if you do indeed get extra copies. I would be very grateful to get a hold of a copy.
Trudge, I had no idea about the Musica Universalis but in a world not yet shorn of all sense of the sacred, I can see how they saw it.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On October 1, 2013 @ 7:37 pm
Gilder defines information as the “surprise;” the data that does not fit into expected categories and thus introduces entropy into the system.
Creativity and the introduction of new information go hand in hand. Creativity is a high entropy activity (it introduces new information) but it depends on low entropy carriers in order for that creativity/information to have any beneficial effect in systems (economic, institutional, etc.).
Very compelling stuff. Take Obamacare. If the government, which is actually a low entropy system (it is supposed to ensure order, property laws, remove barriers of entry to markets, etc.) becomes a high entropy system (which it has by becoming the nation’s sole insurance carrier), then innovation on the high entropy end (the risk takers and creatives) will diminish because there is no low entropy carrier to take the new ideas to market. My prediction: Israel will surpasses the US as the leader in technological innovation in the medical field.
It applies to the Church as well. Parishes are high entropy. It is where the work gets done. If information is centralized, that is, if the attempt is made to shift the locus of creativity from the parish to a central administration, then creativity stops. Power is exercised (low entropic centers have institutional power, high entropic centers don’t) to prevent the new information (the creative ideas that nourish the systems) from being disseminated.
That is what we see happening in the GOA and OCA. If the low entropy administrators perceive the high entropy creatives as a threat (dynamic priests and lay people), then creativity stops and so does the flow of information necessary for the vitality of the system. The creatives get pushed out so that the system becomes completely low entropy. This type of stasis however, results in diminished results, breakdowns, and even death. Look at Xerox, Kodak, the Episcopal Church, inner cities with a welfare economy, and so forth.
In ecclesiastical structures where stasis prevails, the Gospel is perceived as a commodity rather than the Word of Life that it is. A mythology has to be constructed that supplants the Gospel but claims to be true to it (the Episcopalian preoccupation with homosexuality presented as a fundamental question of Christian justice for example). This is a prescription for failure. Put another way, the Gospel by its very nature is highly entropic in that it will obliterate any created contrivance that seeks to contain it — including ecclesiastical structures if necessary.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On October 1, 2013 @ 11:42 am
I agree, a very good question.
Be warned, the following is speculation. It is not the Logos that interpenetrates creation but the logoi — the word of the His power. Information is the interface between energy and matter, the mediating grid that gives energy material form and impregnates it with meaning and purpose.
Moreover, since information is necessarily hierarchical, the Darwinian (materialist) creation story doesn’t work here. If information is hierarchical, it has to preexist the the “big bang.” Darwinian notions of creation preclude this because a random universe requires that the information (the underlying logic that governs material processes) arises out of the matter itself. This simply cannot work. It is illogical.
The only thing that makes sense is the Genesis narrative. (Data needs to be collected and framed in a larger narrative in order to find its proper meaning; Genesis is narrative, not science.) If God spoke the world into existence then 1) the ontological distance between Creator and creation is maintained (monotheism vs. polytheism); and 2) the power of those words still penetrate and hold the creation together and gives it the marvelous coherence and interdependence that as stewards of the creation we are meant to discover and comprehend.
So the starting point of creation (call it the big-bang if you want) was not necessarily an explosion but something more like music; words spoken that still ring through the universe like the pure tones that emanate from a tuning fork, the meaning of which is comprehended through the examination of the material universe as well as the spoken words of the prophet and apostle.
The closest analogy I can draw is music. Think of a full orchestra opening with a crescendo. That’s what the big bang was really like. It is coherent and beautiful and the meaning of the piece stays with you long after you leave the concert hall. That meaning is its power, why the piece still has life long after the notes in the concert hall were played. With creation of course, more is created than meaning although everything that is created is meaningful.
The logoi are the residuals — the power inherent in God’s speaking, the power that exists in His spoken words long after they were spoken — that still ring through the universe and hold it together like the tones of the tuning forks that never waver in energy or clarity. It provides the coherence, the marvelous and complex interrelationships between all things and holds it all together.
Even more stunning is that we can comprehend those relationships which proves 1) we are indeed created in the image of God, and 2) human creativity is a gift to be used for His glory, that is, in accord with His purposes for speaking the world into existence in the first place.
St. Paul writes:
For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.
For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross (Colossians 1:16-20).
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On October 1, 2013 @ 10:03 am
Have you checked out information theory? I’ve been reading George Gilder’s new book “Knowledge and Power” which deals with information theory applied to economics. Gilder is chiefly an economist but he is other things as well including the co-founder of the Discovery Institute (much maligned by the scientistism establishment) which is ground-zero for much of the new thinking on the philosophy of science.
Basically the thinking is that analyzing systems as process orientated (creation is a process of chemical interactions) misses the big picture. Creation is directed by an informational structure. The notion that the complexity of creation evolved from simple to complex organism arises from the “materialist superstition” (Gilder’s term) that has come to hinder the expansion of knowledge (and thus science) because of the a-priori assumption that only matter exists; the ground of epistemology is material processes — chemistry. It just isn’t so.
Gilder argues the ground of epistemology is information, and that material processes are the carrier of that information. My example: think of the sperm and egg. One sperm cell penetrates the egg and then dies. What was its function? To deliver information, in this case one half of the genetic code which begins the process of cell multiplication that creates the human being guided completely by the code that is now self-contained and complete. Informational structures direct the material processes. Material (matter) is merely the carrier of information.
Science itself is discovering the informational basis of all material processes which is why there is such great battle between Darwinist and non-Darwinist political and cultural forces. Information theory challenges the Darwinian (materialist) hypothesis at its foundation. My thought (looking at it from a cultural history point of view) is that the fall of Darwin is inevitable. Of the three great materialist prophets, Marx and Freud have fallen and Darwin is next. The Darwinian creation myth will fall along with it. (This is not to say that the ideas promulgated by the materialist prophets still don’t hold considerable influence over the larger culture. Clearly they do.)
I had the good fortune of meeting some people at the Discovery Institute a few weeks ago — quite by accident as it turns out or perhaps it was the hand of God through the consideration of a friend. A 45 minute visit ended up being twice as long. I mentioned to them that some of their ideas were already expressed in the Orthodox tradition — primarily St. Maximos the Confessor. That too, might have been fortuitous. You might remember the the story of Richard Sternberg who was drummed out of his job at the Smithsonian for daring to publish an article that questioned Darwninian orthodoxy (Ben Stein featured him in the movie “Expelled”). It turned out that he has since become an Orthodox Christian and was giving at lecture at Discovery that afternoon on St. Maximos.
Sometimes I think we are at the end of Western culture. Our philosophies, institutions, indeed many cultural structures are clearly spiritually exhausted. Then, at other times, I think that were are on the edge of discovery that is as significant as the discovery of Newtonian physics. I wonder if some of the materialist based thought so prevalent in culture (Social Darwinism, Progressivism, etc.) is just the last gasp — a reactionary lock-down — of an ideology and false hope that promised progress but delivered confusion and in its more radical forms massive death.
Ever notice that some of the most creative thinking in the Orthodox world is being done outside of the established institutions? That would fit in with Gilder’s thesis extrapolated to other systems and structures. New information expands knowledge, and it always enters systems from the outside. Systems that cannot incorporate the new knowledge die (Xerox and Kodak in the business world, mainstream Protestantism in the religious world). Instead of being open to the new information, they instead exercise power over those who bring the new information hoping to banish it and thereby blindly ensure their own end. Maybe they sense their own impending death and are react against it like a trapped animal.
Watch the outliers. That’s the future.+ + + + + + + + + +
A clip of Ben Stein and Richard Sternberg from the documentary “Expelled” (view full movie).
A short essay by Gilder published years back the first introduced me to information theory and the paucity of insight in the materialist superstition.
Evolution and Me by George Gilder
Below is the book I am reading by Gilder.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On September 30, 2013 @ 11:20 am
Liberal and neocon foreign policy, particularly the “Arab Spring” has been catastrophic for mid-east Christians.
Putin outmaneuvered Obama by giving Obama a face-saving way of getting out of the corner he painted himself into. Obama took it and the liberal/neocon destabilization of governments in Egypt and Libya will not be repeated in Syria and the Christians will be safer.
Obama’s speech last night was bluster for American consumption and embarrassing to watch, nothing more. Putin won because Russian influence in the region has increased which is good for the Christian population there. America has been weakened but its current policy is indefensible.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On September 11, 2013 @ 3:47 am
George, Planned Parenthood marketing targets Black communities. Most of their abortuaries are located near inner-city, poor, neighborhoods. It’s a cynical enterprise. The people who pushed the policies that undermined the Black family are the same that profit from its demise.
The legacy of Progressive Boomers: abort half of their posterity, saddle the other half with the debt from their profligate spending, and make money doing it.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On August 27, 2013 @ 3:42 pm
That’s the kind of thing we will see more of Tim. Interesting that it was a coalition of gay activists and liberal clergy although not surprising. We will see more of that too.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On August 27, 2013 @ 7:47 pm
Marginalization will happen by redefining freedom of religion to mean freedom of worship. All non-worship activities a Church does will fall under the purview of the State and thus increased regulation. Shrewder activists wont try to force traditional churches to hold gay marriages because the symbolic power is still too great to risk defeat. Food festivals, rentals, and so forth are fair game.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On August 27, 2013 @ 5:34 pm
Peter, the fact that a discussion about gay marriage crystallizes around churches already tells me that persecution will come, first as legal challenges forcing churches to perform gay marriages and so forth, but down the road more difficult barriers emerge (zoning regs, building permits, etc.), and after that even more.
The reason for the crystallization is because everyone knows that the source of the morality that teaches homosexuality is sinful is the Christian faith. The only way to root out the traditional teaching is to root out those who still teach it. Not a pretty picture.
I’ve argued for a while that homosexual rights will become the legal ground for the persecution of Christianity. The culture is not far enough along yet to where it seems reasonable to silence Christians but we are moving closer to that threshold. The only thing that might stop it is if the cultural washout becomes too great a burden to bear (increased disease rates, increases in the rate of young men becoming homosexual, pressure towards pedophilia, and so forth). That will take at least four to five years to play out however.
I’ve argued elsewhere that for homosexuals, the normalization of the homosexual life-style is a double edged sword. As soon as the victim status dissipates, the relationship between the homosexual and the larger culture will have to be redefined. The State will be in charge of that redefinition because citizens acquiesced to the State’s arrogation of moral authority when it decreed that gay couplings constituted a morally licit marriage (gay marriage is solely a creation of the State). If the State ever decides to scapegoat homosexuals (a distinct possibility when times get tough and resources need to be reallocated), then homosexuals will realize that their earlier role as outsider was the safest place to be.
For Christians these changes may come too late because by then the State may have already become Leviathan. Christians lose, but so will homosexuals. The only winner is the State.+ + + + + + +
Here’s the unvarnished truth. The State does not really care about gay rights. It only cares about eliminating the barriers that prevent it from accruing more power. Gay rights, because it strikes at the heart of the Christian teaching about freedom as the outflow of moral self-integration, becomes the means by which the State can first de-legitimize and finally silence the Church. Why? Because the Church is the only authority that challenges the State’s claim to complete hegemony over the individual.
The American Founding Fathers knew this. That’s why the Constitution is a circumscription of State power. Christians should know it too but unfortunately too many have become lazy and dim witted.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On August 24, 2013 @ 10:12 pm
Misha, this is an excellent essay.
Let me expand on a point:
How does one accomplish the re-invigoration and ascent of patriarchal Christianity? From within the Church.
Yes, but even here people have fuzzy ideas. It begins with faithful prayer to God, adopting the discipline of morning and evening prayers for example, walking as a disciple of Jesus Christ in obedience to the living voice of God that is heard in the events of everyday life.
That’s how the Saints lived. That is what the Scriptures instruct. Forms such as the daily prayers, when prayed with full awareness and a heart that struggles against those things that would thwart the prayer, is what is called for. Nothing less. That’s our only hope.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On August 27, 2013 @ 11:01 pm
Walter Russell Mead:
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On August 2, 2013 @ 3:12 pm
Fr. Reardon expanded on the point I already made here (and elsewhere):
Creation, then, is affirmed, not denied; natural and sacramental marriage are complementary. Moreover, the fact that natural marriage can be ‘sacramentalized’ at all helps us see the full meaning and authority of natural marriage that is first revealed within creation and affirmed by Holy Scripture.
Different context, same principle.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On July 16, 2013 @ 7:26 pm
Michael, maybe instead of ignoring Nietzsche altogether since he is in a class by himself, I should include him with an explanation that he differs not in his materialist assumptions but that he was no believer in the Myth of Progress. I can say this: No dreams of a temporal New Jerusalem for Friedrich!
This discussion reminded me of Robert Hughes’ fine series “The Shock of the New” that chronicles how these ideas filtered into the larger culture.
Duchamp painted “Nude Descending a Staircase” in 1912 — two years before the onset of WWI. The killing fields of WWI also killed faith in the Myth of Progress. We see that with the rise of Existentialism that followed. But you can already see the erosion of meaning in the creative class long before it. Listen closely to Duchamp. Note the depesonalization of the the human form; its reduction to mechanical being.
Then listen closely as he describes his “The Large Glass” later on in the interview (painting here and background here). Note how he describes sexuality as erotic mechanics and the insatiability of human passion. Note Duchamp’s dependence on Freud. It’s raw but it is where culture is today.
My point is that the deconstruction of human personhood that floods popular culture today has a discoverable pedigree. The ideas informing “Bride and Bachelor” for example are the same that inform our pornographic culture today especially the loneliness and estrangement when there is no possibility of divine love.
This is the world into which we must bring the Gospel.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On July 16, 2013 @ 5:55 pm
Michael, yes, but…
Marx, Freud, Darwin were the chief apostles of the myth of progress. They really believed they were unlocking the secrets of the universe (so did their disciples).
Nietzsche wasn’t. He just laid bare what Christendom would become if Christ was rejected.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On July 16, 2013 @ 10:51 am
Well said, Trudge.
I look at evolution/materialism in the framework of cultural history. Of the three great materialists, Freud and Marx have already fallen. Darwin is next. It’s inevitable. Philosophical materialism/naturalism can’t bear the weight of man’s need to understand himself and the larger world.
If you liked the Nagel article you might also like this:
George Gilder: Evolution and Me
I came to see that the computer offers an insuperable obstacle to Darwinian materialism. In a computer, as information theory shows, the content is manifestly independent of its material substrate. No possible knowledge of the computer’s materials can yield any information whatsoever about the actual content of its computations. In the usual hierarchy of causation, they reflect the software or “source code” used to program the device; and, like the design of the computer itself, the software is contrived by human intelligence.
[ . . . ]
Like a sheet of paper or a series of magnetic points on a computer’s hard disk or the electrical domains in a random-access memory — or indeed all the undulations of the electromagnetic spectrum that bear information through air or wires in telecommunications — DNA is a neutral carrier of information, independent of its chemistry and physics.
[ . . . ]
After 100 years or so of attempted philosophical leveling, however, it turns out that the universe is stubbornly hierarchical. It is a top-down “nested hierarchy,” in which the higher levels command more degrees of freedom than the levels below them, which they use and constrain. Thus, the higher levels can neither eclipse the lower levels nor be reduced to them.
One question I like to ask dogmatic Darwinists: If a randomness preexisted the emergence of matter, then where do the laws that govern the processes of matter come from? The only possible answer is from the matter that they govern. That makes no sense. (Theistic evolution is a non-starter; it denies the universe is random.)
This materialist superstition seeps into human anthropology as well. Marx believed ideas arise from brain matter and thus have no independent existence. How can there be intelligence in the universe if the universe started out as a formless void? That’s what happens when you borrow the teleology of Genesis but extract God from it.
These superstitions can’t stand and men like Nagel know it.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On July 16, 2013 @ 6:34 am
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Mike, click “View all comments” at the top right of this box and read through my comments again. That should clear up your confusion.
» Posted By Fr. Hans Jacobse On July 15, 2013 @ 6:13 pm