Wednesday, December 11, 2013, 10:18 AM
Lopez (Gift and the Unity of Being) ends a discussion of the home as a paradigm of giving with this lovely summary:
“In spousal love, the husband gives himself and, in giving himself, receives his wife, who, in receiving the husband, gives herself. Through the parents, the child is given to himself, and in so doing they accept him as given to them. The child receives the gift of himself in giving himself to the parents and others. Since the original evidence of being given to oneself remains the permanent determination of the gift that the person one is, one does not grow out of childhood. To be sure, infancy fades away in adolescence, which disappears into adulthood. Yet childhood, as indicating the identity of the gift that acknowledges the priority of its being given, grows ever deeper. Leaping out of childhood not only represents a denial of the gift but also calls forth its opposite: chaotic being” (34).
Wednesday, December 11, 2013, 10:10 AM
Again drawing on the work of Luigi Giussani, Lopez (Gift and the Unity of Being, 29-30) discusses the centrality of birth, the retrieval which is “the crucial cultural problem today.” According to Giussani, “every evil originates with the lie according to which man theoretically and practically attempts to define himself, forgetting, erasing from his memory his own birth.”
Wednesday, December 11, 2013, 9:43 AM
Lopez (Gift and the Unity of Being, 25) makes the crucial point that “give is also a logos, ‘a word, an invitation,’ that speaks of another.” This is essential to the gift: Quoting Luigi Giusanni, he writes that “the gift whose meaning is not also given is not really a gift.”
This has important implications for understanding gifts: “To say that the gift has its own logos not only means that truth and goodness are coexistent in the singular as it is given to itself and to another. It also means that originary experience, to discover the meaning of any given being or circumstance, must listen carefully to the logos that speaks within and through the gift. Man must not impose an aleatory meaning on his own experience. Just as life is larger than our experience of it, so the logos that speaks in the gift cannot be enclosed in a human concept. . . . The inseparability of gift from its own logos indicates that the mystery pronounces himself to man in infinitely different ways without repetition. Every finite being-gift is a whole, an integral singular being, a word infinitely other than the mystery and yet a word that communicates this mysterious other on which it constitutively depends.”
The connection of gift and logos means that “finite being is a sign, a word-gift” and a communication “that brings man to the transcendent ground of both reality and the human being.” “All is gift” means also “all is sign.”
Wednesday, December 11, 2013, 9:36 AM
Antonio Lopez argues in his Gift and the Unity of Being for the priority of reception to creativity. This is not, he insists, “a diminishment of man’s greatness,” but rather “indicates his true stature.” He explains using the analogy of a traveler and the way:
“The traveler begins to walk because, in a certain sense, he has already been given what he has yet to find. The initiative to look for the meaning of one’s own enigma is a response to the invitation of the land where one hopes to find the sense of existence. In fact, after having gained some experience, one realizes both that he has been put on the path and that existence itself is always this already-being-on-the-path. For this reason, although one is involved in the discover, the logos of what is seen is not imposed externally by the traveler. The content of experience is greater than the experience itself; rather than being produced or predetermined, this content is also welcomed” (16). In short, reality “precedes the traveler and gives itself to be known” (21).
It’s precisely in receiving this gift that we are the creative discoverers and travelers that we are.
Wednesday, December 11, 2013, 9:21 AM
I affirm, and explain at the Trinity House site.
Tuesday, December 10, 2013, 7:08 AM
I find Gorman’s definition of justification in terms of the restoration of right covenant relations less than convincing, mainly because, though he recognizes a legal/forensic aspect to the language of justification (Inhabiting the Cruciform God: Kenosis, Justification, and Theosis in Paul’s Narrative Soteriology, 54) he minimizes it in Paul. Justification is, as Gorman says, closely linked with reconciliation, nearly identical in some passages, but justification still retains the connotations of the courtroom. It highlights the judicial dimension of reconciliation, God’s judgment against sin and His judgment in favor of His people, a judgment that is necessary for the achievement of reconciliation.
Gorman does recognize the wide-ranging consequences of taking “pistis christou” subjectively, as the faithfulness of Christ in the cross rather than as the human response of faith to the gospel message. If the subjective genitive is correct, then passages in Paul that have been traditionally taken as “application of redemption” passages are actually “accomplishment of redemption”; passages often used for ordo salutis are really abut historia salutis. As Gorman says, it implies that “Christ’s faithful death embodies the righteousness of God (Rom 3:22), constitutes the means of justification (Gal 2:16; 3:22; Phil 3:9) as well as the mode of justification (Rom 3:26), and somehow even provides the manner of living in the present (Gal 2:20)” (59). The cross is not merely the foundation of justification; it is the accomplishment of justification. Justification – for Gorman, the restoration of right covenant relations, God-ward and man-to-man – happens on the cross. We share in that justification – that restoration of right covenant relations – by union in Christ’s death and resurrection, by sharing in the justification accomplished by Jesus on the cross.
Gorman’s conclusions regarding pistis christou seem to work even if we emphasize the forensic dimension of justification, though it’s necessary to stress more fully the role of the resurrection in justification. What happens on the cross is the condemnation/judgment of sin (Roman 8:1-4); in the resurrection God and His Messiah are vindicated/justified. That act of “justification” takes place extra nos, and we share in it by union with the crucified and risen Messiah.
Tuesday, December 10, 2013, 6:54 AM
Michael Gorman makes the interesting suggestion (Inhabiting the Cruciform God: Kenosis, Justification, and Theosis in Paul’s Narrative Soteriology, 73-4) that “the first half of Romans is essentially an expansion of Galatians 2:15-21,” moving from “justification” to “participation.”
From that he concludes that, contrary to common treatments, Romans 5-8 is not about the consequences of justification, but are, like the latter verses of Galatians 2, a filling-out of the meaning of justification. As he says, “Romans 6 does not supplement justification by faith or merely explain its effects or consequences; rather, it defines justification by faith. . . . Following 5:1-11, Paul provides three sets of quite fully developed antitheses that contrast pre- and post-justification existence: life in Adam vs. life in Christ (5:12-21), slaver to sin vs. slaver to God (6:1-7:6), and life in the flesh vs. life in the Spirit (7:7-8:39). . . . The first part of ch. 6 is an extended definition of justification by faith as resurrection by co-crucixion that explains what happens in baptism when one moves from Adam to Christ, from sin to God, from the flesh to the Spirit – that is, when one is justified by faith, restored to right covenant relations, and crucified, buried, and resurrected with Christ.”
Tuesday, December 10, 2013, 6:30 AM
It’s typical for Protestants to criticize Catholics for “objectifying” the sacraments and making them purely mechanical channels of grace, where faith is irrelevant. That’s a caricature of genuine Catholic teaching, but put that to the side. There’s a case to be made for the opposite view, though, that Catholic sacramental theology is not objective enough.
Consider two statements by Catholic theologians on the relation of sacraments and its effects, the first from Karl Adam’s The Spirit of Catholicism: “The effective cause of grace is exclusively Christ himself, who proclaims and effects his gracious will through signs determined by himself. Primarily, therefore, and in actu primo, grace is a free gift and favor, a thing already guaranteed by the sacramental act apart from all personal effort. But whether I shall effectively grasp this grace which is thus provided and profit by it, that is to say, whether it will set up in me the state of justification or perfect that state, that depends on the earnestness with which I have opened my soul to the grace offered me and prepare myself for the reception of the sacrament. Therefore the Catholic conception of a sacrament, so far as regards the personal appropriation of the sacramental grace, presupposes the ethico-religious cooperation of the recipient” (26-27). Adam’s statement, obviously, reflects a Catholic understanding of justification not as a forensic status before God but as a transformation of the person that involves a synergism of grace and pious effort.
The second is from Piet Fransen:
Tuesday, December 10, 2013, 6:03 AM
A remarkable statement from Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics on the necessary, incessant development of doctrine:
“We need to overcome our astonishment over the fact that the New Testament nowhere explicitly mentions infant baptism. . . .The validity of infant baptism does not lapse on that account . . . For also that which can be deduced from Scripture by legitimate inference is as binding as that which is expressly stated in it. This is how the church acts every minute of the day in the ministry of the Word, in the practice of life, in the development of doctrine. It never stops with the letter but under the guidance of the Holy Spirit deduces from the data of Scripture the inferences and applications that make possible and foster its life and development.”
Sunday, December 8, 2013, 7:40 PM
Tom Lodge’s Mandela: A Critical Life does a good job of explaining the mythical, iconic attraction that Mandela attained, and finds its roots in Mandela’s upbringing, his legal training, and the deliberate effort to present him as the face of a new Africa.
Lodge writes, “Mandela’s childhood was unusual because of his early departure from his mother’s household and his subsequent upbringing as the ward of a royal regent. Mandela’s emotional self-control as a personality, as well as his receptiveness to new ideas, is, I think, attributable to his upbringing in highly institutionalised settings. Both at court and at school, Mandela absorbed principles of etiquette and chivalry that remained important precepts through his public life. They were principles that were reinforced by a sophisticated literary culture that fused heroic African oral traditions with Victorian concepts of honour, propriety, and virtue. From his boyhood, Mandela’s life was shaped by ideas or values that were shared by rather than dividing his compatriots, black and white. In this context, the absence in his early life of intimidating or humiliating encounters with white people is significant.”
This tradition of courtliness and chivalry came into play in his post-apartheid political conduct:
Sunday, December 8, 2013, 6:37 PM
Sharing a meal seems like an egalitarian, democratic sacrament. Alice Julier thinks not, and argues in her Eating Together: Food, Friendship and Inequality that food practices have built-in hierarchies. In her TLS review of the book, Fran Bigman points out that “Although affluent hosts talk about wanting to make guests feel comfortable, a formal dinner party – “trial by fork” – furnishes an excuse to show off; Julier employs Margaret Visser’s argument that ‘conspicuous competence,’ or the ability to prepare sophisticated global food, has replaced ‘conspicuous consumption’.’ Some of Julier’s less affluent interviewees react against these ‘snob dinners’ by hosting nights such as ‘beanies and weenies’ at which no dish may have more than three ingredients. Others, including one young, gay African American man, produce burlesques of the dinner-party form at which they cook elaborate meals, such as ‘Crepe Purses Mushroom Duchelles [sic]‘, a parody of the seventeenthcentury French dish.”
Potlucks come closer to an egalitarian model: “Rather than enforcing social exclusion, potlucks honour difference and symbolize cultural blending.” Even with potlucks, though, “hierarchies remain; hosts generally provide the main dish, and the meals often foster community within, not across, social groups. The custom seems unlikely to catch on in Britain. Julier explains that when an English couple who had studied in California threw a potluck dinner after their return, their guests found the idea stingy and inhospitable.”
Even when everyone has a place at the table, some places are more equal than others.
Sunday, December 8, 2013, 6:31 PM
After his early death in 1960, J.L. Austin was nearly forgotten,. In recent years, there has been something of an Austin revival, as philosophers have given renewed attention to the issues of ordinary language and epistemology that Austin raised. Writing in the TLS, Duncan Pritchard notes that Krista Lawlor’s Assurance: An Austinian view of Knowledge and Knowledge Claims is an important contribution to this revival.
Lawlor focuses on “a ‘relevant-alternatives’ account of knowledge: to know something does not require the knower to rule out all possibilities of error, but only those that are ‘relevant’. To this account of knowledge she adds an account of knowledge claims: to claim that one has knowledge, on this view, involves presenting one’s audience with an assurance that what is claimed as known is true.”
Austin used this sort of argument against skepticism, and Lawlord follows.
Sunday, December 8, 2013, 6:20 PM
Virginia Postrel is the insightful author of a number of works of cultural analysis, including The Substance of Style: How the Rise of Aesthetic Value Is Remaking Commerce, Culture, and Consciousness and The FUTURE AND ITS ENEMIES: The Growing Conflict Over Creativity, Enterprise, and Progress. Leslie Camhi reviews her latest, The Power of Glamour: Longing and the Art of Visual Persuasion in the current issue of NYTBR. Postrel wants to formulate a theory “that explains, in her words, ‘how Jackie Kennedy is like the Chrysler Building or a sports car like a Moleskine notebook, or why some audiences might find glamour in nuns, wind turbines or ‘Star Trek.’”
Postrel distinguishes between style and beauty, which are about people and objects, and glamor, which she claims is “inherent in our perception. One of the main components of glamor, she says, is mystery:
Sunday, December 8, 2013, 6:12 PM
Caroline Webber reviews Alisa Solomon’s Wonder of Wonders: A Cultural History of Fiddler on the Roof in the NYTBR. You thought it was just a musical? Think again. Solomon’s book “explores not only the making of the musical, but also the way the show reflects evolving Jewish cultural identity in America and around the world. It’s about how gentiles see Jews and about how Jews see themselves. It’s about a particular moment in American history when identity politics, feminism, generational rifts, ethnic pride, concerns about authenticity and an interest in immigration history came together in a rich cholent. It’s about a particular time in Broadway history when the musical was changing from something stagy and stilted to something more musically and formally challenging. Oh, and it’s about ‘Fiddler’ productions across cultures and time periods, and ‘Fiddler’ in pop culture — from ‘The Simpsons’ to an ultra-Orthodox novel that ‘reads like a kosher version of the evangelical Christian ‘Left Behind’ series to the Amazing Bottle Dancers (a troupe of fake Hasidim for hire at bar mitzvahs, doing Jerome Robbins’s astounding wedding dance choreography with paste-on payes , hats with holes cut into them and shatterproof bottles on their heads).” I want to hire those guys.
It’s also a parable about the irresistible power of American pop culture. Solomon recounts struggles of Tevye’s creator, Sholem Aleichem, “to adapt his own work for the stage presaged the troubles Robbins, Joseph Stein (book), Sheldon Harnick (lyrics) and Jerry Bock (music) had in creating ‘Fiddler.’ They worried endlessly about creating a work that was too sentimental, too much like old Second Avenue Yiddish theater. And the creator of the original Tevye once vowed, ‘I will never permit myself to give in to American taste and lower the standards of art’ . . . until he needed money badly enough, relented and sentimentalized his play ‘Stempenyu.’ ‘What can one do when America commands?’ he asked helplessly.”
Sunday, December 8, 2013, 6:05 PM
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Michel Delon’s recently translated The Libertine: The Art of Love in Eighteenth-Century France examines one of the main cultural values of eighteenth-century France. It documents, in the words of the NYTBR reviewer, “the dazzling breadth and depth of the 18th-century obsession with pleasures of the flesh. In the final decades of ancien régime France, an unsentimental, frankly hedonistic brand of thrill-seeking called libertinage — an enterprise in which, according to the playwright Pierre de Marivaux, ‘one still said to a woman: ‘I love you,’ but this was a polite way of saying: ‘I desire you’ — infused every genre from fiction to poetry, theater to philosophy, memoir to popular song (all well represented in short, artfully selected excerpts). It also preoccupied Frenchmen and -women from every walk of life — as Delon emphasizes in his introduction when he compares his book to ‘a ball attended by seducers and seductresses from all levels of society.’”
Philosophes put their minds to rationalizing sexual liberty: “Some characters, mouthpieces for radical freethinkers like Denis Diderot and the Marquis de Sade, extol debauchery as a political statement, a defiant challenge to the oppressive pieties and gross hypocrisies of the Catholic Church. (The word ‘libertine’ derives from libertinus: Latin for freed slave.) Other libertines, empirically oriented philosophes , class the joys of sex among nature’s ‘most striking phenomena,’ as arresting — and morally neutral — as sunsets and moonbeams. Still others, like the jaded, aristocratic roués of Choderlos de Laclos, suggest that the moral bankruptcy of France’s preposterously idle, pampered and self-indulgent nobility is leading nowhere good.”
Sexual liberation was one of the not-so-secret agendas of the Enlightenment. It still is.
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