Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Nicene Creed a Parable? continued...

THE NICENE CREED A PARABLE? It was intended, I think, to set a boundary, and provide a criterion of exclusion. But what if we were to perceive it as a “parable”? Conference Leader Rob Voyle told the clergy of the Diocese of Michigan this past week that Jesus’ teaching in the gospels was calculated to “create confusion” in people’s minds, to introduce a “new map” for understanding reality. He said nothing about the Nicene Creed… that is a rambling of my own creation. Rob Voyle did say that the interpretation/application of parables varies greatly from one context to another. In contrast, creeds are supposed to always mean the same thing. But do they?  

The Nicene fathers did not, I assume, think of themselves as tellers of destabilizing anecdotes. But is it possible God regards them as such? Is it possible God looks upon them the same way God looks upon us, as bumbling but loveable co-conspirators on a mission to reinvent the world?
Who says God looks upon us as such? Who says God “looks upon” anything in any which way? After all, the Nicene Creed says nothing about God’s having “eyes”. It does say, however, that God “enanthropesanta”, that is, “became truly human.” I guess that imputes a version of “eyesight” to God, and would constitute, in my eyes, the last word in parables, except that, when it comes to parables, there is no such thing as a “last word”.  

Friday, April 5, 2013

A new phase in teaching "The Problem of Evil"

With my Cranbrook students I have just finished talking about David Hume and his conclusion re the “original cause of all things…has no more regard to good above ill than to heat above cold…”. This in stark contrast to Augustine, Artistotle, and Aquinas, subjects of our previous studies, all of whom saw “being” as a wondrous gift of radiant beauty, and “evil” as a poor sad ringraith, skulking furtively in the shadows, clinging pitifully to a demi-existence on the fringes of even the humblest object to claim the high honor of being real.   
I get Hume, who is the father, or at least midwife, of that fecund skepticism that has spawned all scientific and technological achievement in the 250 years or so since his death. But his bleak outlook on the natural world strikes me as particularly forlorn today. It is trying to be spring in Michigan, and I am longing for the first of the frog-choirs to reveal their presence in the woods. Their absence, to Hume and his lot, is simply a random function of climatological factors, but to me, it is an incipient blessing, like the interior of a church on Good Friday, or the last moments of darkness before sunrise in the woods.
With my class I am eager to press on into more pressing concerns, such as the various postures one can assume toward the presence of evil. I want to explore collusion, the impulse to “use evil to fight evil.” I am thinking of the Ring Trilogy, and of Anakin Skywalker, and of Robert Oppenheimer. Among those whose strategy is always that of resistance I have already had them read Letter From a Birmingham Jail, and I am going to show them a short video of Cornell West calling down non-violent fire on the “terrorism” of institutional racism. I also want to reenact the Seven Arrows story of Coyote and How the People Learned to Camp in Circles. Can we come to perceive the earth as a gift, and a blessing, and a song?
All the while knowing, of course, that it is also a bunch of tectonic plates, drifting hither and yon like red-and-white bobbers floating hopefully over a molten sea.