To My Children

To my children, when you’re old enough, a phrase which here means “when the community which is raising you determines you are wise and knowledgeable enough to comprehend and digest this in a meaningful way,”

Today is June 18, 2017, and it happens to be the day our nation celebrates Father’s Day, an otherwise meaningless marker of time to highlight our Dads’ importance to us (I use the term “Dad” in the hopes that it is broad enough to capture the scope of all people who are celebrated in the role for someone, regardless of age, sex, gender, or genetic lineage). We had planned to go to the lake today and yall were super excited. Unfortunately, today’s weather was hot, two of our group were menstruating, I was going through some depression, and only the kids wanted to go, while the four adults in our group did not. While we were on the way there, we adults decided not to pay the entry fee for all of us to go to the state park for a day out most of the people and statistically all of the life experience did not want. Qarayah was in my car with Liv and me, and Azariah was with your mom, grandma, and aunt, in another car. When your mom called me to discuss this decision, I asked Qara if she would be ok going home and playing in an inflatable pool your mom had recently bought. Qara wasn’t ok with it, but understood that everyone else really didn’t want to go.

Then, she did something that amazed and touched me. She started crying, but tried so hard to contain it. She tried to be tough, but she couldn’t contain the disappointment and started to weep. Even still, she did her best to keep it quiet and hold it back. I called your mom back and told her that Qara was trying to be tough. She assured me that she could make it better when we got home, so we turned around and went home. When we got home, I pulled Qara aside and set her on the trunk of my car. I told her how proud I am of her, that she’s good and smart and beautiful and strong. On the drive back, I had been planning to tell her more, but when I told her how proud I am, she smiled so big that I could barely speak anymore.

I had planned to tell her that as long as I’m around, it will be my solemn oath as your Papa to do everything in my power to keep back the horrors that life throws at so many people in our world. I won’t always be able to stop bad things from happening, but I will do my best to make sure that a missed lake day is one of the worst things about your childhood. You’ve already experienced loss; you will experience more. That’s just how life goes, and time will ultimately take people away. A missed lake day will not be one of the worst things in your life. That’s just reality. There are seven billion people in this world, each one with the power to make the world better or worse. Those are odds we can’t beat. But as long as I’m alive, I can use all my Papa powers to keep you two safe and healthy. You are loved. You are beacons of hope in this world. I am so proud of my kids and the force of good they are in this world.

I had meant to tell her all of that, but then she smiled. And I shut up. Life is rough. She is going to be slammed, trampled, and utterly decimated at some point in her life. The odds that she will never know tragedy and hardship are not in her favor. If I tried to explain all of that to her before it happens, I would spend more time trying to define experiences for which she simply does not have the capacity to understand. Some things are like that. I could no more make an adult who spent their entire life in a city understand the feelings and scents and sounds one finds in the middle of a pine forest, nor the Mediterranean for a farmer who has never left the family homestead.
But it was her smile, not her inexperience, that shut me up. When the horrors of life crash against my kids, when they are confronted with the torrents of pain and tragedy, it will not be my tales from experience or shared wisdom born of pain that will get them through, but their own loveliness and grace. The best I can do is help cultivate them goodness and surround them with love. They may not know the lexicon of hatred, but they will be fluent in love; they may not be acquainted with evil, but good will know them as kindred spirits.

A Crisis of Intellect

Lent, 2014, I read Darwin’s classic, On the Origin of Species. I had a brief crisis of faith while reading it which I have chronicled elsewhere (https://trinitashominis.wordpress.com/2014/04/26/a-lenten-diary/). In that chronicle, I mentioned a question that has plagued me in recent years, namely how those of my friends who consider Christian (or any) faith ridiculous reconcile their knowledge of my intellect with their knowledge of my faith. Out of fear of offending them, I have not worked up the nerve to ask anyone directly, so I am left to wonder. The only answers I can think of are either I’m crazy (not sure I can argue there), I’ve been fooled or coerced by my native culture (though I would hope that my often heterodoxy proves well enough that I own my faith), or that I am just wrong on this topic (on which I’ve focused my life’s study; I suppose this could be the common opinion but the fact of my life’s work would make them want to avoid offending me).

I began this train of thought because of an article I saw on my Facebook news feed about how such-and-such practice causes the brain to function improperly or shrink or in some other way be impaired. I intended to come to this keyboard to confess that whenever I see such articles, there is a part of my conscious mind that considers the practice as a possibility of unburdening. It’s a small part of my mind, one which is easily dispatched. There is plenty of argument for an evolutionary purpose of intellect, but of what purpose to the propagation of our species is intellectual privilege, guilt, or burden?

I’m concerned for Azariah, in this regard. I was concerned for Qarayah when she was his age, but she’s socialized well and has been intellectually developing at an accelerated, though not freakishly so, pace. She also experienced a major cultural shift right around the time she probably would have started talking, which may have retarded her development slightly. Azariah has not had any such experiences and has had an advanced older sibling start school before him. He knows the alphabet and numbers 1-10, written, verbal, and conceptually, colors, and shapes. At 26 months, he is able to form coherent sentences verbally, can follow complex directions, and has already demonstrated highly complex learning structures. It will not surprise me if he starts reading even earlier than I did. If he does show a level of intellect similar to mine, I hope to catch it early so that I can help him deal with it. Even the nursery workers at church have noted it, the more experienced of them even noting that he is going to have a hard life because of his intelligence (that was an awkward conversation; hard not to interrupt her and scream, “Yes, I’m quite familiar with that particular struggle, thank you.”) And this is not ruling out Qarayah’s possible needs, but she is already showing a social aptitude I think I lacked as a child. I have persisted in tracking her development; she’s highly advanced, but we’ve been fortunate in her education thus far and so I’m not sure I have an accurate baseline.

The Conscious Mind and the Begottenness of the Son

You may find this page useful reading if you feel you’re missing something while reading the following.

Working within the context of my theory on trinitas hominis, the trinity of human, has led me into several discussions with the concept of human consciousness. Is there a separate ‘thing’ we can call consciousness or is it just a construct (or delusion) produced by chemical-electric interactions within the human brain? Do we have a mind separate from but interactive with our physical brain or is do the neurons in certain groups of apes fire in such a way that it produces an odd sensation some of those apes call ‘consciousness’?

(I’m sure once I’ve re-read that paragraph I’ll recognize that I’ve presented this as a powerful either-or scenario and only spoken to the two extremes, but as I have been pulling hard against the materialist stance, it is important for the presentation of how I’ve arrived at my new thought.)

I see now that it should not matter if the conscious mind is a construct of the physical brain; even so, my conscious mind is ontologically real, is ontologically ‘me,’ and is as necessary as the physical body for the totality of the person writing this article. To put it another way, even if my mind is begotten of my physical brain does not devalue it as an integral part of my being. Let us proceed with the assumption that the construct theory of mind is accurate so that we can see what it teaches us.

Back-tracking over the bridge of quid docet nos trinitas hominis de sancta trinitas dei (what does the trinity of man teach us about the Holy Trinity of God) as my theory so often does, why does the Creed say that the Son, physical hypostasis of God, is begotten of the Father, the willful hypostasis of God, if the reverse is true of humanity? Here we see a place where my theory limits itself in the comparison between the Trinity of God and the trinity of man. My conscious mind may be a construct of my physical body, which was conceived without respect to my will; but it is foolish to say that the will of God was produced by that which interacts with the non-divine. Indeed, it shows an important way in which God is greater than us: the one who wills the all that is into existence also wills God’s own ability to interact with that which is not God. This does, however, give us an insight into the weight of begottenness (I originally wanted to write “the meaning of begottenness” but that seemed to imply something of the mechanics of divine begottenness, which is probably beyond human comprehension, and I only mean to show that begottenness does not make the Son less divine), namely that the eternally begotten Son is, in every way, God just as much as the Father. The difference between them is in some way similar to the difference between my body and my mind.

As I’m writing this, I am wondering if there may not be a further step to take. Continuing under the assumption that the conscious mind is a construct of the physical brain, when does this construction occur? Is there a point at which the brain exists without a mind? If not, then that would surely fit with the classical Trinitarian model of “eternal begottenness,” that the Father was never without the Son or that the Son as always been begotten of the Fath, obviously not that the human body or mind is eternal, but that there has never been a time when my body was without my mind. Has my body ever existed without begetting my mind? Unless there is another breakdown in the parallelism between the Divine Trinity and the human trinity, the answer may in fact be a surprising, ‘no.’

I am not entirely convinced of the idea that the conscious mind or human consciousness is ‘merely’ a construct of the physical brain, though that model does seem to have a more stable stance from which to approach the idea of the origin of consciousness and of course is wrapped in the intellectually-comforting cloak of current scientific inquiry, but that is another matter entirely. Whether the conscious mind is an illusory fiction which the human animal has developed in its struggle for survival or some ethereal other material like the spirit, my theory of the trinity of man will fit into either, and if the former is true, may in fact tell us more about the nature of God.

El Shaddai and the Gender of God

Read her words and hear her message, folks. This woman could beat you to death with her mind.

Scribalishess

El Shaddai and the Gender of God

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In the last few weeks, a debate has been raging on the Internet, and particularly on Twitter, about the gender of God. It started when Owen Strachan called out Rachel Held Evans for using a feminine reference to God and called her a heretic (see also this). And thus began a twitterfeud.

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The Order of the Irreverant Brethren

I’ve been thinking for quite sometime that I should start a holy order to fill an apparent need in the church.

This holy order would be for people who ask those questions that have been pushed to the back burner of church focus, brushed under the rug of eccumenical embarassment, or flat-out ignored for sheer ludicrity, yet should be asked just to push the bounds of Christian thought and to squeeze every last drop of wisdom and truth from the spongy grey matter of Apostolic orthodoxy.

This holy order would be for people who wear comfortable T-shirts and blue jeans to traditional services (possibly because we aren’t allowed to be naked) and gladly hug our more formally-dressed brethren and sistren, especially if they give us dirty looks for dressing scuzzy.

This holy order would be for people who understand the three drink pairings of Theology: Coffee for eccumenical history, Lager for biblical studies, Ale for theology and philosophy. Or wine for any of them.

This holy order would be for people who read certain parts of the Bible and get the dick jokes.

This holy order would be for people who confess their unrighteousness and acknowledge God’s providencial activity in making us more holy by the Spirit’s power, through the sacrifical love of Christ, and in the timeframe of the Father, even if that discludes our present, transitory life.

This holy order would be for people who see the beauty and truth, the grotesque and false, the human and the divine, in all cultures, all peoples, all faiths (except *insert irreverantly humorous exclusion of your choice*).

This holy order would be for people who…. on second thought, this holy order probably shouldn’t be formed right now. The church may not be ready for us.

 

Trinitas Hominis: doctrina imago dei demonstrato doctrina trinitas divinus

My first thoughts on this concept began when I was roughly 18 years old, and I think this primal form of the theory should be the entry place for its explanation. Only three years had passed since I submitted to Christ’s lordship, but in that time I had deeply embedded myself in the study of the Bible and theology. I was baptized in a Southern Baptist church; Trinity was a mysterious doctrine we believed, but not a central part of our worship as it is in many other churches, including the Episcopal Church in which I was recently confirmed. While it bothered me that the Trinity was not a central part of the worship I encountered, I just chalked that up to the incomprehensible mystery being too much for liturgical use and focused on the theology. I had already encountered basic trinitarian theology early on (being baptized in the Triune name will have that effect), but I was dissatisfied with the analogies used by many pastors to describe and/or explain the Trinity. The wisest of these always ended with a disclaimer that all analogies break down at some point, but I felt that there must be something more apt to explain what seemed such a central concept to our understanding of God. Continue reading