Friday, December 26, 2014

The Divine Comedy for Dummies

Haven't posted here lately.  Mostly because I didn't want to detract from existing content.  But this post shouldn't detract from the previous content much.  Even if the title says "for Dummies".

But those books for dummies are not all that bad either, y'know.  I read a good one on Islam.  And I know of a good one on playing bass guitar.  So don't just slough them off. And don't just slough this post off.

Now, obviously this post is some select quotes from Dante's classic book.  Quotes distilled from his finest theology in the final third of his book. Quotes that should give cultured pagans significant 'pause for their cause'.  Pause because their cause is so inept.

But before we jump into Dante's inferno, I should add a sermon that I promised to post here-
A classic evangelistic sermon that I promised to post from another blog of mine. From a blog intended for mature Christians only.

Now that above sermon is actually just the final third of one of Jonathan Edwards sermons.  A sermon that should give pagans significant 'pause for their cause' as well.   A sermon with many parallels to Dante- yet superior in many ways...

Not that Dante was a philisophical or theological slouch.  He was brilliant in many ways.  To his credit, he does a lot of piggy-backing on giants like Aristotle (who hated intentionally obscure poets) and Aquinas.  And Aquinas is basically paraphrased in Dante's Statement of Belief:

 I believe in one God, sole and eternal, who moves all the Heavens with love and desire, Himself unmoving. And I do not merely have physical and metaphysical proofs for such belief, but it is shown me also by the truth that flows from it, through Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms, through the Gospel, and through you, who wrote, when the ardent Spirit had made you holy [compelled you to write?].

-Paradiso Canto XXIV:115-154 Dante’s Belief [translation courtesy of A.S. Kline]



Yet Dante is tedious and irrelevant in his history, cosmology and numerology.  With more than a little sophistry to boot:

Then I heard [from "Oh, Eternal Light"]: ‘If everything that is learnt down there by teaching, were understood so clearly, there would be no room left for sophistry-

And Dante throws more than a little Mariology in the mix as well:

Then all the other lights rang out with the name of Mary 
 -Paradiso Canto XXIII:88-139 Gabriel 
An idolatry not too unlike his worship of fellow-pilgrim Beatrice in this Divine Comedy.  A real-life 9 year-old girl that Dante adored when he was already betrothed at the age of 12.  An inaccessible girl that Dante obsessed about.  That Dante was not so disposed to prudence as he claimed to be:

And Beatrice began to speak: ‘Give thanks, Give thanks to the Sun of the Angels, who, in his grace, has raised you to this visible sun.’ The heart of man was never so disposed to devotion, and so eager to give itself to God with all its will, as I was at those words: and my love was committed to Him so completely, it eclipsed Beatrice from memory.

And he says some dopey things too. One of the dopest things he says in this Comedy is:

‘If the world turned to Christianity, without miracles, that would be such a miracle that the others would not rate a hundredth of it 
-Paradiso Canto XXIV:88-114 The Source of Faith

But that claim is kind of dopey, because Dante was almost certainly witness to a prominent religion "without miracles".  Was witness to the sham of Islam.  And that graceless duping is nowhere near the miracle of raising people from the dead.  And is nowhere near the ex nihlo miracle of creating something from nothing.

Yet, let's focus on some cool things Dante says.  Some cool stuff that has been the object of some discussion at a prominent Blog recently.  And the object of the cool picture appended.

At this recent Koinonia post we have some discussion about eschatology (a subject that medieval-Dante was really big on).  A discussion on the Beatific Vision that Christians should actually be cultivating.  A discussion on whether we should be cultivating a vision of Heaven or cultivating a vision of the Creator of Heaven.  Dante rightfully appears to do both here.  Yet unlike Edwards, with inordinate emphasis on the former:

‘But tell me, you who are happy here, do you wish for a higher place, to see further, or to make yourself dearer?’ 
-Paradiso Canto III:61-96 God’s Will

And that is where I think that the author of that Koinonia post is rightfully critical.  Rightfuly critical of a beatific vision of a place- to the exclusion of the placemaker:

where the focus and emphasis falls upon the New Jerusalem rather than her chief occupant

Rightfully critical of a contemporary vision of 'where- rather than who':

forgetting that the best news of Christian bliss is not newness but nearness

So, for all you pagan slouchs out there- be warned:

Christians have a vision (though it may be dull and distracted at times)- while you have none. And your vision will earn you an inferno...


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Married to an Unbeliever

Am following up on a previous post from my Adult blog.  Specifically on the Marriage Treatise of Martin Luther.  Am following it up here because it is more for general consumption.  For the consumption of believers as well as non-believers.
At that blog I recommended reading Luther's  Marriage Treatise, yet surprisingly I do not agree with all of it.

Derek Rishmawy had a good related article about a month ago.  He was responding to yet another good article on this topic by Kathy Keller about two years ago. That Luther treatise would have been a good starting point for both of those articles, though.  So, let's start with that Luther article.

As a polemic against Rome, in Part One of his treatise Luther says-

In the first part we shall consider which persons may enter into marriage with one another.

The particular point we will be addressing in this post is Luther's fifth point. 

The fifth impediment is unbelief; that is, I may not marry a Turk, a Jew, or a heretic. I marvel that the blasphemous tyrants are not in their hearts ashamed to place themselves in such direct contradiction to the clear text of Paul in I Corinthians 7 [:12-13], where he says, “If a heathen wife or husband consents to live with a Christian spouse, the Christian should not get a divorce.” And St. Peter, in I Peter 3 [:1], says that Christian wives should behave so well that they thereby convert their non-Christian husbands; as did Monica, the mother of St. Augustine.

Know therefore that marriage is an outward, bodily thing, like any other worldly undertaking. Just as I may eat, drink, sleep, walk, ride with, buy from, speak to, and deal with a heathen, Jew, Turk, or heretic, so I may also marry and continue in wedlock with him. Pay no attention to the precepts of those fools who forbid it. You will find plenty of Christians, and indeed the greater part of them, who are worse in their secret unbelief than any Jew, heathen, Turk, or heretic. A heathen is just as much a man or a woman-God's good creation-as St. Peter, St. Paul, and St. Lucy, not to speak of a slack and spurious Christian.

Now, it seems that Luther kind of slipped in that treatise.  Seems to have misunderstood that Paul was actually only speaking of divorcing an unbelieving wife (as had been the case in the "abominations" introduced by foreign wives in the final chapter of Ezra).  Indeed, in Luther's polemic zeal- Luther seems to have misunderstood Paul to be talking about engaging in marriage with an unbelieving wife.  And Luther seems to have misunderstood Peter to be speaking of proselytizing through marrying.  Yet, it seems to me that both passages are speaking of divorcing an unbelieving wife.  Both are speaking of divorcing the foreign, abominable wife.

Unfortunately, Luther neglects to mention a pertinent passage in the subsequent book of Corinthians as well (2 Cor. 6:14).  I find that puzzling.
It seems that Luther only considers such restrictions on unequal yoking as good advice at best.  Luther seems to consider the yoke of marriage as little more than "an outward, bodily thing".  I wonder if his position changed when he got married a couple years later.

However, Luther actually has a very good point about marrying a "slack and spurious Christian".  That too can cause you much grief.  Indeed, many are baptized but few are chosen.  Many say, "Lord, lord" when their belly is actually their lord (cf. John 6).  When they just want to have sex.  When they just want to have children.  A motivation which Luther seems to consider quite sufficient for marriage.

Then almost as an aside, Luther boldly suggests (an endearing quality) that many unbelievers have more Common Grace than slack Christians.  True enough, yet it should be understood that Special Grace is not to be under-rated as it appears Luther did (in fact, Special Grace is to be X-rated :) .  And it should be understood that no true Christian is spurious.  That there is a committed, indwelling-Spirit in Christians rather than the infused, spurious spirit of unbelievers.

As I recall [Haykin?], Jonathan Edwards was asked by a suitor for the hand of his eldest daughter.  Yet Edwards refused the suitor.  The suitor then asked, "Why, is she not in grace?"
"Yes", Edwards replied.  "But you can't handle her grace..."

And as numerous comments in those above articles suggest, though you may be able to handle his or her particular grace for a while... it often doesn't end well.  Yet, with Special Grace  there is a supernatural commitment to end well.  And there is far less "slack and spurious". 

In my own particular situation, I married a girl who was baptized as an infant.  She believed in God and went to church with me both before and during our marriage.  She was very complementarian.

Yet as I grew less "slack and spurious" things changed dramatically.
As I grew in supernatural grace and knowledge, my spouse grew far more distant.
What started very well grew very, very ugly.

What once was complementarian soon became quite egalitarian.
And what once was our "bodily thing" became my "bodily thing".

Where once there was tremendous passion, there evolved passivity and disinterest.
Where once there was joy and peace, there evolved hostility and suspicion

Suspicion and jealousy displaced love and trust.  And that displaced our marriage.

In the final days of our marriage I was reading J.I. Packer while she was reading Deepak Chopra [unintentional alliteration].  I was knowing God while she was knowing self.
I recall reading an article of a Christian married to a Jehovah Witness around that time, and thinking, 'My marriage really sucks but his must be much, much worse... he is seeing overt hostility and anarchy in his marriage while mine is merely surreptitious.  Mine is merely slack and spurious'.

As things evolved, my wife became increasingly "slack and spurious" (despite suggesting some conversion experience some years earlier).  She would take long baths instead of "putting on a face and attend church" with me.
After several years of "slack and spurious", her lightly veiled suspicions and jealousy eventually got the better of her- and she left with the kids.  Indeed, my wife 'couldn't handle my grace'. 

Was there Special Grace in her?  Was she a believer? I doubt it.  Too many contraindications.

Yet, there was still some measure of sanctification infused in her by our marriage (she was not as corrupt as she would have been).  And that seems to be the point that Luther is promoting in his treatise.  That marriage to an unbeliever is 'neither a sin nor a total waste'. That there is 'still some measure of sanctification in such a marriage, even if it is only for chastity or procreation purposes'.

Now, the arguments of those other articles referenced above seem to revolve around 'a severe compromising of your worship' when married to an unbeliever.  That was not true in my particular case.
My worship life was reasonably rich.  And I supported the church that I was attending reasonably well.  In fact, I helped form a worship team at my church around that time (I played bass).
And I supported that church without spending an inordinate amount of time away from my suspicious wife- even though her love had turned quite cold (for all you allegedly pious people, such compromises of time and worship are biblically mandated).
Yet, as the argument suggests- 'fewer worship compromises would be made in the case of two believers'. And as the argument suggests- 'the purposes and the sanctification is likely greater if you are married to a believer'.

However, I am more inclined to consider Inspiration as a better argument against marrying an unbeliever.  I am more inclined to consider Paul as being inspired by God.  To consider 2 Cor. 6:14 as inspired by God.  To consider it as more than just good advice from Paul.

As a result I am currently married to a less-than-spurious Christian.  Married to a Christian because I believe in Inspiration.   And because- to coin a popular phrase, my belief that Christians are supernaturally inspired to "do it better".

So, come on you "slack and spurious" Christians-  do not be yoked with unbelievers (but if you are, here is a very helpful site).  Because contrary to skewed statistics, eager believers are inspired to do marriage far better  than spurious unbelievers!

Indeed, inspired to love Christ and love each other better... because He loves believers better.