Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Predestination

This is part of a book that I had been working on. Perhaps one day I will complete it, but perhaps not. While it was intended to be partly autobiographical, it was also intended to convey some of my theological thought. I didn't do much in this regard except lay a bit of groundwork.

The book was to be in the context of love letters to my wife with a symbolic system of dates. These dates have a number of meanings, but this is not apparent unless seen in the full context.


The Twenty-Sixth of December in the Year of Our Lord Nineteen Hundred and One

Für meine liebste Elise,

Now that I’ve explained how I understand things that can never be truly understood, I will begin to explain how I understand predestination. I trust you realize that no matter how correctly I understand this subject, everything I say will be incorrect, even if it is correct from a certain perspective. Not only that, there is also the possibility that some, if not all, of it is incorrect from all perspectives. I hope this is not so, but if it is, I’m not worried. I will stand before God’s dread judgementseat without shame, and humbly say, “Yes, Lord. You are right. You are just. You are charity (i.e. caritas or ἀγάπη). Peccávi nimis cogitatióne, verbo et ópere: mea culpa, mea culpa, mea máxima culpa. Δέομαι ουν σου, ελέησόν με και συγχώρησον μοι τα παραπτώματά μου, τα εκούσια και τα ακούσια, τα εν λόγω, τα εν έργω, τα εν γνώσει και αγνοία, και αξίωσόν με ακατακρίτως μετασχείν των αχράντων σου μυστηρίων, εις άφεσιν αμαρτιών, και εις ζωήν αιώνιον. Κύριε, ἐλέησον. Господи, помилуй. Domine, miserere. Γένοιτό μοι κατὰ τὸ ῥῆμά σου. Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum. Amen, amen.”

Nonetheless, until I have a better understanding, I will assume that this is a rather good understanding, if not actually correct. Perhaps some of it needs improvement, but this is all I have at this time. I am quite comfortable in knowing that I will never fully understand for all eternity what I am about to explain as if I do understand it. This may seem as a paradox, but it is only in being comfortable with such a paradoxical perspective that one can be comfortable with a mystery. When a person is not comfortable with such a paradoxical perspective of a mystery, the result is either an erroneous and even heretical view of that mystery, or an indifferent view of that mystery, neither of which is desirable.

Now as I explained a couple of letters ago, God is outside chronological time, or rather, outside chronos. God is in eternal time, that is to say that He is in kairos. Kairos does not have a beginning or end, nor any thing that we can really relate to in regard to time, place, or even substance. Somehow, and there’s no point in trying to understand how, this world in chronos is within the world of kairos. From the perspective of chronos, we can only see chronos. But from the perspective of kairos, not only are both kairos and chronos seen, chronos is seen from the perspective of kairos.

Chronos did have a beginning, and it will have an end. When our time in this world of chronos is over and we are in kairos, we will eternally see chronos. I do not say that we will see chronos from beginning to end because we will see it from the perspective of kairos, in which there is no beginning or end. We will see all of chronos. I don’t even say that we will see all of chronos at once because the words “at once” also rely on our perspective from chronos. The words of the Miserere come to mind: “… my sin is ever before me.”

This is how men are afforded a great privilege that angels are not. Until a man is no longer in chronos and has entered kairos, that is to say, until he dies, he has the opportunity to humbly admit that he was mistaken of any and every error. However, once he has entered kairos, there is no change of time, place, or even substance. All is eternal. All is permanent. Once he has left this world of chronos, a rejection of God, like that of the angels, is eternal. This is why men can be redeemed and angels cannot, nor can angels fall at a later time because the only time they know is kairos, in which nothing can change. Satan and all his minions of fallen angels (i.e. demons) are damned forever, but we have time (i.e. chronos), so we must use it wisely.

When François de La Rochefoucauld said, “The only thing constant in life is change,” he was absolutely correct. However, when this life is over and we are in eternal life, whether with God or without God, everything is constant and there is no change.

Whenever an angel, whether good or evil, has appeared to men, the angel has not actually entered chronos. Scripture gives a rational answer to explain how this is possible, which even our nature can easily comprehend, in the words of the Archangel Raphael to Tobit and Tobias: “All these days I merely appeared to you and did not eat or drink, but you were seeing a vision.”

The same is true of God when He appeared to men, such as St. Stephen as he was being stoned, Moses on Mount Sinai and with the burning bush on Mount Horeb, when God gave Abram the name Abraham, and when God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden. However, with the Incarnation, kairos was married to chronos. The God of kairos became a man in chronos. This gives cause for much pondering, particularly regarding the Body of Christ being both the Eucharist and the Church, but I will remain with the topic at hand.

From God’s perspective, He knows if you spend eternity with Him or not. Note that I didn’t say that God knows if you will spend eternity with Him or not, because it is incorrect to say that God will know anything, only that God knows. He does not know if you will do something, and He does not know that you did something, He just knows. (I could say, “He know,” since from a trinitarian theological perspective this would be grammatically correct, but I don’t want to get carried away.) The word omniscience could be used to describe this providing we realize it doesn’t actually define the true reality of what we’re describing.

Thus, from our perspective, there appears to be something we call predestination. However, from God’s perspective, there is no such thing since the root word destination only belongs in this world and not in a world without time or place. All God sees is (is here is both an auxiliary verb and a noun).

This was the easy part to explain. The hard part to explain is whether someone, from our perspective, is predestined to be with God in heaven, or without God in hell. I do have a way of explaining it, and it does work quite well for me, but I don’t know about anybody else. We can be sure that it is a mystery and we will never, even in heaven, understand it.

Nothing is random. This is obvious in working with computers, but it is the same outside the easily definable limits of computers. Outside of computers, the variables seem almost infinite, which gives the appearance of randomness, but if all variables are accounted for, nothing is random.

With God, everything actually is infinite; however, since God is also infinite, even true randomness in infinity is impossible from God’s perspective. Hence, it appears that God really does create someone to be destined for heaven or destined for hell. Since He is love, this is also impossible. Perplexing, no?

Love is an important part of the equation here because without free will, that is, the ability to accept or reject God, there can be no real love between God and His creature. So God gives us free will, men in chronos, and angels in kairos, and He knows. To us in chronos, He appears to know what we will do with free will, but from God’s perspective, He just knows.

How is this possible? With God, all things are possible, and I could just leave it as a mystery without explanation, but I have a, perhaps silly, answer. Of course, this answer does contain a seed of mystery, so it doesn’t actually define it.

To give the appearance of randomness in computer programming, algorithms have been devised to arrive at something that is pretty much impossible for us to predict. An important part of these algorithms is what is referred to as a seed. If this seed is kept secret, it is, if the algorithm is adequate, impossible for anyone to ever predict the outcome of that algorithm.

When God creates a creature with free will, that free will functions on a randomized algorithm. The seed in this randomized algorithm is an infinite one, one that is not in chronos, but in kairos. That seed is God Himself. Since this seed used in this randomized algorithm is infinite, it can be truly said that God does not, from our perspective, predestine anyone. And yet, because God even knows what He does not know, it could also be said, again, from our perspective, that He predestines everyone.

As I mentioned before, my love, I am quite comfortable with paradoxes. This is why I’m comfortable with mysteries.

You are a paradox. Don’t be offended, I just called you a mystery, and mystery is all I live for. I live for you.

In Liebe,

Dein Russell Jonah

P.S. Ich liebe Dich.

Word Are All I Have

This is part of a book that I had been working on. Perhaps one day I will complete it, but perhaps not. While it was intended to be partly autobiographical, it was also intended to convey some of my theological thought. I didn't do much in this regard except lay a bit of groundwork.

The book was to be in the context of love letters to my wife with a symbolic system of dates. These dates have a number of meanings, but this is not apparent unless seen in the full context.


The Twenty-fourth of December in the Year of Our Lord Nineteen Hundred and One

Für meine liebste Elise,

Have you had time to think about and understand what I had written about in my last letter? I hope it has sunk in a little as this letter will be more of the same. Again, these are only words, and it is difficult to convey what I really mean by them, but words are all I have to take your heart away from this fleeting world of chronos to the everlasting world of kairos.

There are a number of words used to assist in theology to describe mysteries, but that is all they do, assist. They do not actually define the mystery they are describing. There is a tendency, particularly in the West, especially with and after the development of scholasticism, to feel overconfident with these words. Such overconfidence has led some to believe that they actually understand mysteries that we can never comprehend, even in heaven. This is what has led to a great deal of heresy and even apostasy in the West.

Not that there haven’t been such problems with words in the East. But the approach in the East often allows for more acceptance of mystery. There is much that the West can learn from the East. Of course, the contrary is true as well.

This is how I had the difference between East and West explained to me. The West takes something, dissects it into the smallest parts, studies them under a microscope, and gives each part a scientifically specific label. The East puts a veil over it, incenses it, and calls it a mystery.

It is important to veil mystery and reverence it due to its holiness; however, it is also beneficial to logically use our intelligence to better understand what is under the veil. By doing this, we can better appreciate the mystery without taking anything away from it, but in fact, see how even more mysterious it really is. How could anyone even suggest that by exploring the infinite, he risks discovering it is finite?

If we actually believe that we do understand what is under the veil, we begin to feel there is no need for the veil because there is nothing mysterious to reverence beneath it. Once the veil is off, we have no hope of ever understanding the mystery because we no longer have any respect for it. The truth is that we think we have removed the veil when we have only removed the symbolic veil of respect, leaving the terrible dark veil of true mystery that is so dark that we see nothing at all. Thus, we become blind to the mystery of the Faith; blind to the mystérium Fídei.

I would like to give you a few examples of some of these useful theological words to describe some mysteries.

The first word is ὁμοούσιος (homoousios), which was translated from Greek into Latin as consubstantiálem. From this we get the English word consubstantial, which is also sometimes translated as “one in being.” The Greek homo (it means something different in Latin) and the Latin con part mean “the same,” which is something we can understand. However, the Greek ousios and Latin substantiálem part describe a mystery that can never be truly understood. It refers to the “being,” “substance,” or “essence” of something. Can we honestly say we comprehend what that really is? Anyone who says he can is either a liar, an idiot, or God Himself.

Even an iota of difference can change the concept altogether, and I’m not speaking figuratively here. The Greek letter iota (ι) is the smallest pen stroke of all the Greek letters, and it was actually added to the word homoousios to try and make a heresy seem orthodox. The resulting word was ὁμοιούσιος (homoiousios). In essence, it suggested that the Father and the Son were of similar substance, but not of equal substance because the Son is subordinate to the Father. It is true that the Son is subordinate to the Father, but the Son is also of equal substance with the Father, whatever that mysterious substance is.

Actually, the word ὁμοούσιος (homoousios) was used before the Fathers of the First Council of Nicaea used it in the Creed. It seems to have first been used by Gnostic heretics, which made some Christians feel a bit uneasy about it at the time. I don’t want to confuse you by trying to explain it to you, but it has more to do with generation, and the substance between things generated of the same substance, and even the substance between a male and female pair called a συζυγίαι (suzygiai). There is good reason why I’m not going to try and explain this to you as it would not only be trying to explain something we cannot understand, it would be trying to explain something that doesn’t exist. It’s easy to see why some would have misgivings about using this word in a different context, but understanding that different context made all the difference.

The second Greek word is Θεοτόκος (Theotokos). It is often translated into English as “Mother of God,” but it can also be translated as “God-bearer,” or “the one who gives birth to God.” It may become apparent how easily this could be taken out of the intended context to suggest that Our Lord’s divine nature originated from Our Lady. This, of course, is quite erroneous and heretical. However, the suggestion that the better term is Χριστοτόκος (Christotokos), or “Christ-bearer,” while entirely correct, could also be put in the context to suggest Our Lady was only the mother of Christ’s humanity and not His divinity that is consubstantial with the Father. Such a suggestion would imply disunity in the person of Christ, even to suggest that He is somehow two persons in one person.

Here we have two theological terms that are entirely correct given the correct perspective and context, but viewing them from a slightly different perspective and context, we have heresy. While the vast majority of the Church adopted the use of the word Theotokos, a smaller part of the Church rejected this term and used the term Christotokos. In truth, we believe the same thing, but couldn’t agree on the right word. Hence, although there has been some unitive healing, there is the Assyrian Church of the East who has been separated from the rest of Christianity since the year of Our Lord four hundred and thirty-one.

Something similar happened a little later in that same century. It was difficult to define how Christ was both human and divine without mingling, or implying confusion or alteration of, the human and divine, but still maintain complete unity of the human and divine. This is so mysterious that no matter what words or phrases we use, there will be some way to interpret it as heretical. In fact, an understanding of the definitive formula adopted by the vast majority of the Church in the year of Our Lord four hundred and fifty-one, was later condemned by the pretty much the same majority of the Church a century later. The original definitive formula wasn’t condemned, but a certain understanding of that formula was. Unfortunately, since the defining of that formula, the Oriental Orthodox Church has been separated from the rest of Christianity. However, it is generally accepted that we have actually believed the same thing all along, but just couldn’t agree on the definition.

Remember when I said in my last letter that we must be able to laugh at ourselves in taking such stuff so seriously, but it is, and must be taken as, serious? The above two examples clearly show this. Rather than condemning each other because what the other believes can be interpreted in a heretical way, it would be better to acknowledge that it can also be interpreted in a correct way. When we do this, it is easier to see how what we believe can also be interpreted in a heretical way. By looking at both perspectives correctly, we can be better assured of having a clearer understanding the Nativity of something we seem to be on the Eve of understanding, but are incapable of actually doing so.

Doesn’t this seem a lot like marriage counselling? Far too many couples give up on their marriage simply because they are too proud to even try to understand the other spouse’s perspective. This is really at the root of every problem we have: pride. After all, it all began when Lucifer said, “Non serviam,” and then taught us to do the same. Thankfully Our Lady untied this knot by saying, “Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.”

I’m so glad Our Lady taught me to pray these words. If I had not, I may have lost my Faith. I may have lost you. I may have lost everything.

You are everything to me. I love you. I will serve you.

In Liebe,

Dein Russell Jonah

P.S. Ich liebe Dich.

Time: Chronos vs. Kairos

This is part of a book that I had been working on. Perhaps one day I will complete it, but perhaps not. While it was intended to be partly autobiographical, it was also intended to convey some of my theological thought. I didn't do much in this regard except lay a bit of groundwork.

The book was to be in the context of love letters to my wife with a symbolic system of dates. These dates have a number of meanings, but this is not apparent unless seen in the full context.


The Twenty-Second of December in the Year of Our Lord Nineteen Hundred and One

Für meine liebste Elise,

Perspectives

This is part of a book that I had been working on. Perhaps one day I will complete it, but perhaps not. While it was intended to be partly autobiographical, it was also intended to convey some of my theological thought. I didn't do much in this regard except lay a bit of groundwork.

The book was to be in the context of love letters to my wife with a symbolic system of dates. These dates have a number of meanings, but this is not apparent unless seen in the full context.


The Ninth of January in the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Thirty-Eight

Für meine liebste Elise,

In my first letter, my love, I mentioned a type of martyrdom. It is different from that of the First Martyr and Archdeacon Stephen, but it is a martyrdom nonetheless as I bear witness to something that seems to have been forgotten today. It seems I was predestined for this.

Now there’s a word that has cause much confusion and arguments: predestination. Would you like me to explain predestination to you? It really does seem quite simple to me. But first, there are other things you must understand before I try and explain it to you.

An important thing in understand not just predestination, but most other things as well, is to see everything from different perspectives. I will explain this in regards to religion with a simplistic example. This example will demonstrate how two perspective may appear vastly different, but still have the same underlying belief.

Let’s say that there is an object and, for now, that everyone agrees that this object exists. In fact, they dogmatically define that this object exists. They even go so far to dogmatically define that this object has a shape, but they do not, in this dogmatic definition, define what that shape actually is. The true reality of this object’s shape is that it is a perfect cone, but depending on one’s perspective, that may not be apparent.

Although there could be many different perspectives, let’s say that the environmental context eventually divides everyone into two main groups: one group is only able to see the object looking down at it from the top (this is assuming that the pointy end is facing up), and the other group is only able to see the object from the side. This side group is very interesting because it has the same perspective 360˚ around the cone. It is not possible to view the cone from the bottom because it is permanently fixed to the floor.

The top group eventually dogmatically defines that the shape of the object is a circle, which is entirely correct from their perspective. However, their definition is not so definitive that it would exclude the possibility of other dimensions; although, some could interpret it that way.

The side group refuses to accept such a definition as dogmatic because from their perspective the object appears to be almost a triangle. They even acknowledge that they could define the length of the two sides leading to the top, but since the curved side at the bottom seems to change length depending on if one moves up or down, they never attempt to dogmatically define anything beyond what has been agreed upon before the top group dogmatically defined their Circle Doctrine.

For this reason, the two groups are suspicious of each other as heretical and grow farther apart in their traditions and beliefs. They both have great respect for the mystery of all curves, but the top group’s dogmatic Circle Doctrine seems to take away some of the mystery to this mystery. This is such a dividing issue that the two groups eventually excommunicate each other.

While the side group is content with the mystery that they are aware of from their perspective, there is growing controversy in the top group concerning the dimensions of circumference, diameter, and, most especially, radius. Eventually, the top group dogmatically defines the circumference of the circle, but in a way that would not deny the possibility that the object is a cone. Some take this to the extreme and see this has a justification to define the diameter and radius, and they do so in such a way that it denies that the object is a cone but rather is only a two dimensional object. Seeing the error in this, some define the object as a three dimensional cylinder. To clear up this controversy, the central authority of this group also dogmatically defines the diameter and radius of the circle by using careful and new language that would be compatible with the fact that these are just the dimensions of the cone’s base. Nothing in this definition indicates these dimensions only apply to the base leaving room for mystery, given that from their perspective they are unaware that it is the base. The two-dimensional and cylinder factions, however, had become so entrenched in their error that they refuse to accept this new dogma. The central authority has no option but to excommunicate them for their heretical views.

Having been excommunicated from the top group, they each declare that they are the true top group. They even approach the side group, whom they don’t really understand due to having been separated for so long, to see if they could become united in their separation from the central authority of the top group. The side group has never had a central authority and has been able to agree that their perspective is the same 360˚ around the object. Of course the doctrines of these offshoots from the top group are completely incompatible with the doctrines of the side group, and the dialogue between the side group and those who were excommunicated from the top group only reinforces the belief of the side group that the entire top group is heretical.

Eventually, some from both the top group and the side group start moving around and see the object from each other’s perspective. They even begin to agree that they have believed the same thing, only from different perspectives and using different language. If they begin to agree on everything while maintaining their respective emphases and traditions that have developed due to their different perspective and language, it would be more likely that the parts of the top group that split away from the central authority of their group would return to the orthodox belief in the object.

While I only mentioned the two groups, there are others. There are those that believe in many objects; those that believe in one object, but it is vastly different from the true cone; and, those that don’t believe in the cone or any other object. Some believe in the object, maybe even the cone, but don’t believe that we can really know much about it. If the top group and the side group unite and truly begin to understand the cone, there is a much greater opportunity to teach all of these other groups the truth about the cone.

Of course, there are some things we can never know about the cone. The side that is fixed to the floor is not visible to us yet. As well, even when the base is visible to us, we will only ever see the exterior of the cone. We can never see the inner mystery of the cone. But since curves are so mysterious, we can spend eternity marvelling at the mysteries that are visible to us.

You’ve probably guessed now that the “cone” is an allegory for God. I have always believed in the one true God. It has been difficult to find the correct perspective to view this God, but I am certain that I have found that perspective; or rather, perspectives.

God became man and dwelt among us. He did not leave us orphaned and alone. He left us His Mother, the Church. I will describe my journey in finding this Church in later letters, but I will describe my conclusions to this journey right now. In establishing His Church, Jesus the Christ, God incarnate, ordained specific men to have authority over this Church in this world of time. These men, in turn, ordained other men, who eventually took their place. Both the original men ordained by Christ and their successors did develop the Bible under the guidance and inspiration of God the Holy Spirit, and nothing, not even the resulting product of such Divine inspiration, can usurp the authority Christ ordained in the specific men He left to lead His Church in this world of time.

These men exist today, and are found in two main groups: in the west, what is referred to as the Roman Catholic Church with Her central authority in the papacy; and in the east, what is referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Eastern Catholic Churches in union with the Roman Catholic Church, the Oriental Orthodox Churches (i.e. non-Chalcedonian Churches), and the Assyrian Church of the East (i.e. Nestorian Churches, though incorrectly referred as heretical). The Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Church of the East do not have a central authority but agree, within their three respective divisions, in belief among their autocephalous Churches. All other Christian groups have either abandoned the successors of those Christ ordained to have authority over the Church in this world of time, or have somehow lost the succession of these men. Thus, these other Christian groups, while maintaining some truth, have lost, in varying degrees, the fullness of the truth Christ revealed.

However, the divisions between East and West prevent the fullness of the truth Christ revealed from being better known and accepted, even within those maintaining the succession of Christ’s ordained authorities. I would even go so far as to say there are erroneous beliefs among those under, and including, Christ’s ordained authorities; however, none of these have been dogmatically defined. Even the most prevailing doctrines are, for the most part, correct. It is only when the prevailing doctrines, among the Churches in which God has maintained the successors of Christ’s ordained authorities, are not in conflict that one can be sure of true belief.

I do have opinions on how these doctrines are compatible and how there are errors on all sides. But again, I know that I can be wrong on a great many points. Since none of these points have been dogmatically defined, there is nothing wrong with me being wrong until I am corrected with dogmatic definitions. I can even give the examples of Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, both Doctors of the Church, of how this can be so. I even feel a bit of confidence in some of my beliefs because if dogmatic definitions were made to show that my opinions are heretical, it would also show that either East or West is heretical and facilitate a complete breakdown in ecumenical relations. The Eastern Catholic Churches resulting from the Union of Brest could even break union with the Roman Catholic Church. It would be a disaster that I think is not possible, so I will be bold enough to state my opinions. There may be better solutions to seemingly conflicting teachings, and when they present themselves, I will adopt them. Until then, I’ll continue to do the best I can with what is available to me. Additionally, the fact that God has maintained what is called Apostolic Succession in these Churches since the time of Christ’s ascension into heaven leads me to believe that I can trust them when viewing them together as the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. That there has been this much history without losing Apostolic Succession demonstrates that God has maintained the True Faith in them.

This is enough for now. I’ll come back to this topic later.

You know, you have helped me see the world this way. Ever since I started teaching you drum lessons, I’ve been trying to see things from your perspective. Perhaps I was very poor teacher at first, but I think I have improved a great deal. I owe it all you to. I owe many other things to you as well. Thank you.

In Liebe,

Dein Russell Jonah

P.S. Ich liebe Dich.