I Dream of a Reality to Escape Reality or, The Futility of Consumption


DSC02097Tumbling down the hole of existence

What is the point of it all

Information overload and told a purpose

Still I stumble, tumble, and fall

 

Do I exist simply to exist

Is there a point beyond pleasure

Oh for simpler times I long

To return to a life without measure

 

The simple summer days of youth

Innocence uncorrupted by life

Free from the struggles of today

Free from an adulthood of strife

 

A gilded view of my past I see

A utopia that never was

Life is a fight against the absurd

Perhaps we exist just because

 

“Hear me!” my generation cries with a roar

And yet we have nothing to say

To live is our dream, our goal

But we are afraid to seize the day

 

We are educated for jobs and not callings

To become better consumers and not humans

The life of consumption is not worth living

Personal peace and affluence but a numen

 

I set off into the unknown

I reject your world of consumption

I cannot spend my life spending

I must look past corporate assumption

 

A rebellion of peaceful creativity

Against it all my soul remains

But I awake and look around

I am still in my cultural chains

 

Into the woods I wish I could go

To offer up a greater resistance

Yet, I find myself consumed by the machine

Tumbling down the hole of existence

The Teacher


Originally posted on Truth is a Man:

Here is another sneak peak from the book The Diary of a Despairing . . . I Mean Aspiring Author I am currently writing.  You can find the first two installments here and here.  Please keep in mind that this is only the first draft.


The Teacher

Growing up in a devout Christian family I heard the stories of the great biblical heroes numerous times and could recite most of them by heart.  It wasn’t until I was twelve, however, that I dedicated time to personally studying Sacred Scripture.  Naturally, I was immediately drawn to the more exotic, and often overlooked, books; the “black sheep” of the canon.  The first to grab my attention was Ecclesiastes, in which, to my great dismay, I read the following passage for the first time:

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”

says the Teacher.

“Utterly meaningless!

Everything is meaningless.”

What do people gain from all their…

View original 922 more words

Penal Substitution, Sola Fide and the New Docetism


Isaac Gutiérrez Pascual ©2010

Earlier this month I spoke about the cosmic importance of the Incarnation.  Today I’d like to build upon this reflection.  As I noted before, many Christians fail to see the Incarnation as the cosmic destiny or telos of Creation and, likewise, fail to see the work of Christ as including the sanctification, redemption, and renewal of the body and the physical/material world in general.  For many, the work of Christ is narrowly construed.  It was merely to satiate the wrath of God the Father so as to take away the punishment necessitated by sin (i.e., Penal Substitutionary Atonement).  This popular view of the atonement is accompanied by another important doctrine classically referred to as Sola Fide or “salvation by faith alone.”  It is this doctrine which teaches that belief—often understood as a sort of mental assent—in Jesus’ work on the cross is the sole means of our salvation.

I submit that both Penal Substitutionary Atonement (henceforth, PSA) and Sola Fide represent a form of “Neo-Docetism.”  Unlike classical Docetism, which explicitly denied the Incarnation (that the Word actually became flesh), Neo-Docetism places such little significance on the Incarnation, and such heavy emphasis on Sola Fide (i.e., a mental assent to the propositional truth of PSA) it implicitly denies the Incarnation as being absolutely necessary for our salvation.  Unfortunately, when we fail to view theology, and especially soteriology, through the lens of the Incarnation we run into major problems.  Before we elaborate on this point, however, let us first take a closer look at Docetism as it was originally espoused.

Classical Docetism

Classical Docetism rejected the Incarnation outright and, in consequence, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist (which was overwhelmingly accepted by all orthodox Christians for over a thousand years).  Evidently, the original Docetist’s also rejected works of mercy as being crucial or necessary aspects of true faith in Christ.  We learn this from the letters of St. Ignatius—who, consequentially, knew St. Peter and was installed as the Bishop of Antioch after St. Peter traveled to Rome .  In his letter to the Smyrnaeans these three common threads of Docetism–the rejection of the Incarnation, the Eucharist, and works of mercy—are made very clear.  St. Ignatius writes:

“But look at the men [i.e., the Docetist’s who deny the Incarnation] who have those perverted notions about the grace of Jesus Christ which has come down to us, and see how contrary to the mind of God they are.  They have no care for love, no thought for the widow and orphan, none at all for the afflicted, the captive, the hungry or the thirsty.  They even absent themselves from the Eucharist and the public prayers, because they will not admit that the Eucharist is the self-same body of our Savior Jesus Christ which suffered for our sins, and which the Father in His goodness afterwards raised up again.  Consequently, since they reject God’s good gifts, they are doomed in their disputatiousness.  They would have done better to learn charity, if they were ever to know any resurrection.”

Neo-Docetism

By minimizing the soteriological importance of the Incarnation, and, in fact, failing to make it the measure of their theologizing, the Neo-Docetist’s appear to follow the same pattern as their ancient predecessors.  They reject the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist—and, thus, renounce the Sacramental Worldview held by the earliest Christians.  In so doing, they fail to see how the love of neighbor (in tangible ways) is of soteriological importance.  In point of fact, Sola Fide flatly rejects the idea that works of love and mercy are necessary for authentic faith and, thus, for salvation.  For some the Neo-Docetist attitude has morphed into a full blown Gnosticism which views the human body as superfluous (e.g., we’re just “spirit-beings” waiting to escape the body), considers matters of social justice of secondary importance, and almost completely ignores the environment.  Interestingly, these Neo-Docetist/Gnostic tendencies play a major roll in why Millennials seem to be drifting away from evangelicalism.

Incarnational Theology 

In contrast, theology viewed through the lens of the Incarnation recognizes the broader implications and importance of, “the Word [who] became flesh and dwelt among us . . . full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).  It recognizes Creation as being essentially good (Genesis 1:31) and as originally intended to be in full communion with God.  It knows that nature is ultimately designed to direct us to its Creator.  It thus maintains a Sacramental Worldview which acknowledges the Holy Spirit works in and through the Created world to sustain and renew it.

It further understands that sin has subjected all of Creation to futility because sin estranged the Creation from its Creator.  Affirming with St. Paul that:

“The creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now” (Romans 8:20-22).

Incarnational theology understands that, by taking on a real body, the Word of God, through whom and for whom all things where made (Colossians 1:16), sanctified the flesh and ushered in the renewal of Creation.  As a real man Christ lived a life of perfect faith—obeying the will of the Father, healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, feeding the hungry, turning men away from their sin— admonishing us to do the same.  Saying, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15).  Thus, showing us that to have a living faith is to be like Christ; to love the world as He loved it; to obey the will of the Father; to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  This is why St. James says:

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?  Can that faith save him?  If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?  So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:14-17).”

Thus, salvation understood in light of the Incarnation is holistic–encompassing the whole of man.  Jesus requires we give God everything we are.  It is the first and greatest commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:36).  Mental assent given to a set of propositions about Jesus (i.e. Sola Fide) is not enough; for, “even the demons believe–and shudder” (James 2:19).  Faith certainly has a knowledge component but is not merely knowledge.  Faith is tangible–it is played out through us as we live our lives in the corporeal world.

The Eucharist 

In accordance with everything that has been said, Incarnational theology also recognizes the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  It embraces the most controversial of Jesus’ teachings because it knows that He desires to draw us—in our entirety, body and soul–into full communion with Him; for this is the very point of the Incarnation.  Thus, it understands what Jesus means when He emphatically states:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.  For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.  Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (John 6:53-56).

The Word became flesh to give his flesh for us; to transform us; to redeem us; to restore us to what we truly are: men and woman made in the image and likeness of God.  What amazing grace this is–that the God who formed the universe would unite Himself to it in order to preserve and keep it.  This is the Gospel message–the kingdom of God is at hand!  The Almighty God who created the heavens and the earth draws near!  Intimately and, some might say, uncomfortably near.  It is the most provocative message ever proclaimed by any teacher in all of history.

 

Millennials Need Worship that’s Been Around for Millennia


Joel:

I would highly encourage our readers to head over and read this post. Why look to create new worship when true worship has existed for 2,000 years?

Originally posted on Hipsterdox:

DSC01969 Thom Rainer, the current CEO of the Southern Baptist LifeWay story chain, recently wrote about what type of worship the so-called “Millennials” like. He defines a Millennial as anyone born between 1980 and 2000, essentially those who grew up watching the rise of the internet and technology, or the pre-9/11 generation. The entire article is very much worth the read and I believe he is accurate. All of it is summarized by one statement toward the end:

And you will hear Millennials speak less and less about worship style. Their focus is on theologically rich music, authenticity, and quality that reflects adequate preparation in time and prayer.

In other words, what young people want is a real worship experience, something that really strikes at the heart. The above statement is really unpacked earlier in the article, where Rainer states,

  1. They desire the music to have rich content. They desire to…

View original 1,333 more words

Jesus, the Poor, and Commandments or, How Conservative Evangelicals Jumped the Shark


IMG_0260For those who haven’t paid attention, World Vision – a Christian organization that allows people to sponsor a child, giving money to ensure the child receives proper aid – recently stated they would allow homosexuals to find employment with their organization. The parameters applied to homosexuals were the same ones applied to heterosexuals, namely that anyone involved in a sexual relationship had to also be married. Their justification for this change is that their employees come from over 50 denominations, some of which allow same-sex marriage. In an effort to broaden who they can hire (as it is hard work), they decided to allow for alternative definitions of homosexual marriage.

Such as expected, the change caused an uproar in evangelical circles. Al Mohler was quick to condemn the action, even though – ironically enough – World Vision’s justification is based on a belief in local church autonomy, a cornerstone in Mohler’s Southern Baptist beliefs. The American Family Association went even further calling for a boycott of World Vision. In other words, the American Family Association would rather starve children in need before capitulating on the issue of homosexual marriage. Such a reaction from conservative evangelicals caused World Vision to reverse its decision within two days. In a way, conservative evangelicals just won a major battle in the cultural war, but in so doing they lost the war. This is the equivalent to the Tet Offensive; it was a surprise attack, taking place behind our own lines, one that was easily thwarted, but will forever change public opinion on an already unpopular war.

Christ made multiple commandments to help the poor, but never once did he make a command to boycott morally suspect businesses. While sometimes a boycott is called for (especially when a company engages in practices that openly oppresses people), it’s hardly called for in this case where a company changed hiring policies in the name of hoping denominations would get along. Whether or not what World Vision did is sinful is irrelevant – ultimately, that’s up for God to enact – what matters is that evangelicals opted to drop sponsorships to children in the name of a cultural war. How sickening is that? Or, as one of my friends put it: “Someday I hope the church will be as incredulous about the treatment of the poor, oppressed, and hungry as they are about organizations who hire gay people who care about and serve the poor, oppressed and hungry.”

At the point Christians have to commit a sin (neglecting the poor is a sin, no ifs, ands, or buts about it, it’s quite clear in Scripture) in order to protest a sin, they’ve jumped the shark. Are we saying that God is so anti-homosexual that he’s willing to starve children before letting homosexuals help these starving children? How much sense does that even make?

Conservative evangelicals would do well to take a step back and realize that they’ve gone too far this time. By doing what they did, they essentially lost any and all public support they might have still held. At the point they were willing to withhold aid and food from children in order to score points in the culture war, they gave up the true Gospel of Christ. There is one overarching common theme in Scripture that evangelicals tend to forget, that with the exception Jesus Christ, every single Biblical hero is a horrendous sinner. David, a man after God’s own heart, has an affair and then makes a series of decisions that collapses his kingdom. Abraham, a friend of God, decides to have sex his wife’s handmaiden in lieu of God’s promise of a child. Noah survives God’s judgement and immediately gets black-out drunk. Judah chooses to have sex with his widowed daughter-in-law, only he thinks she’s a prostitute at the time. What’s interesting about all of these perpetual sinners is God used them for His purposes and for his ultimate purpose (all of them were involved in bringing Christ into the world). God apparently doesn’t object to using sinners to accomplish his goals, so why do evangelicals think they can have a standard higher than God?

One of the biggest concerns among evangelicals today is how to address their plummeting numbers, especially among young people. Many want to turn to apologetics, thinking that kids don’t have enough answers to questions (and they don’t). Others think they need to make the church more “relevant,” an attempt that began in the 1980s and has yet to be realized. Each generation has collapsed further and further away from the church, walking away and evangelicals left wondering why, realizing that these students are in search of a real faith, not an embattled faith. While Christians must stand up for social issues, when such stands become the centerpiece of the faith, Christianity becomes nothing more than a political party. People are leaving the church because they fail to see the Church, they fail to see the Gospel properly lived and enacted and instead see a list of “dos” and “do nots.” In short, people leave the church not because they lack answers or because of some moral failure, but because they’ve yet to find Christ within the walls of the church.

If evangelicals want to win back society, then they’ll have to serve society, not wage war against it. The early Christians existed in a time where orgies were a part of pagan worship, men had regular sex with their male slaves, Christian morals were not only despised, but persecuted. Yet, not once do we see them call for a boycott, we don’t see them withholding aid from those who need it, and we don’t see them ceasing to preach the true Gospel, not some moralistic Gospel. After all, the gospel of the modern conservative evangelical isn’t the true Gospel, but a false one, one that is a type of social gospel, believing that if we can eradicate homosexual behavior, elect good Christian republicans, and get our way on every political matter the world will be saved.

The true Gospel calls for support of the poor no matter what and, more importantly, calls for Christians to love sinners and serve them, not condemn them and segregate against them.

Some Thoughts On Don Juanism


What is Don Juanism?  It is, perhaps, most easily expressed by this simple Latin phrase made famous by the film Dead Poets Society: “carpe diem!” or “seize the day!”  Loosely defined, it describes a certain disposition or attitude toward life which is explained by the French existentialist Albert Camus in his influential book The Myth of Sisyphus.

According to Camus, Don Juanism is not a system or a formula but a general outline suggesting a way in which the “absurd man” might proceed in a world devoid of intrinsic meaning or value.  Who is the “absurd man” you ask?  The man who acknowledges the world is meaningless—and, that there is no hope of a life after death—yet, seeks to ascribe or, at least, search for meaning anyway.    The absurd man, when faced with the dilemma of nihilism, may choose (following the manner of that famous womanizer Don Juan) to suck the marrow out of each moment of his existence.  He does not dwell upon the past nor does he worry about his inevitable fate (i.e., death, dissolution, and non-being) but seeks to experience as much pleasure (not necessarily erotic pleasure; but typically so) as possible here and now.  He is driven by passion, desire and self-love.  He chooses not to limit himself—to narrow himself—to the love of but one creature but to share himself with all.  As Camus explains:

“Don Juan, as well as anyone else, knows that this [i.e., love which limits itself to but one creature] can be stirring.  But he is one of the very few who know that this is not the important thing . . . A mother or a passionate wife necessarily has a closed heart, for it is turned away from the world. A single emotion, a single creature, a single face, but all is devoured. Quite a different love disturbs Don Juan, and this one is liberating. It brings with it all the faces in the world, and its tremor comes from the fact that it knows itself to be mortal. Don Juan has chosen to be nothing.”

In short, Don Juanism suggests we adopt a god complex. In the face of the void it calls for us to create meaning and value in accordance with our likes and dislikes (we, thus, become the truth). It further challenges us to extend ourselves–our vitality–as far as possible; to transcend limitations and take in as much of this life that we can. Yet, ironically, under the impetus that one day we shall no longer exist and, thus, no longer experience.

It is safe to say that this is a way of approaching life many in our culture–especially those in Hollywood and the music industry–have embraced and enthusiastically promote. We are constantly told to live in the moment; to be true to ourselves (i.e., to passively allow our irrational instincts and biological impulses to dictate who we are); to release our sexuality; to hold nothing back. We are told to liberate ourselves from the shackles of traditional mores and moral constraints. This means moving away from longterm, monogamous relationships and diving headlong into unabashed–unrestricted–eroticism. We hear this ever so loudly in the music industry (Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, or Beyoncé are but a few examples).

The lines become increasingly blurred as we seek to extend ourselves and to experience as much as we can: oral sex with members of both genders, multiple sex partners, bisexuality, polygamy, androgyny, threesomes, orgies, unrestricted masturbation, sex toy’s, hooking up with strangers, pornography, beastiality–the sky’s the limit! All this in an effort to establish our identity; to authenticate ourselves.

Note, however, the basic premise underlying Don Juanism (inadvertently expressed in the quote I shared from Camus): individuals or persons become nothing. There is no intrinsic value or dignity to the person–in the world according to Don Juan we are but brief irrational manifestations of the monolith that is the cosmos. And, the cosmos is unconscious, unaware, uncaring, and purposeless. You and I are, thus, non-being; because we (whatever “we” designates) are temporary, unidentifiable, meaningless blips, in a long series of meaningless blips, destined to fade out and be utterly forgotten. There is nothing concrete or eternal about us. We have no essence and, thus, no identity. And, to renounce identity is to renounce existence.

So I ask myself: What kind of freedom is this? The answer comes quickly: It is a freedom without hope; and, hence, not true freedom. It is a freedom built on an illusion; and, hence, not true freedom. What silly and pathetic little god’s we have become! God’s incapable of changing our fate; god’s with only the illusion of self; god’s with the mere illusion of being able to shape the way things are. Don Juanism requires the impossible–it requires something to come from nothing. It requires the unidentifiable to create identity; the non-existent to bring forth existence.

But, from out of nothing, comes nothing. The “absurd” man is far more absurd than Camus dared to imagine.

10 Movies Every Man Needs to See or, Really, Everyone (Men and Women) Needs to See These


IMG_0084Too often a “guy movie” has some action hero shooting stuff up, blowing stuff up, and then having his way with whatever women he happens to see. Or it’s just a collection of stupidity which is supposed to be a comedy. There are movies out there, however, that while good for everyone to see, tend to play well with the male psyche. They play well with the idea of hope, an epic struggle for fulfillment, or the battle close to every man, that of father and son relationships.

Being someone who loves to watch movies, especially good ones, I have a few movies in mind that I think play well off the male mind, though anyone and everyone ought to see these movies. This list is in no particular order, just a list of ten really good movies worth watching: Continue reading