A LOVE SUPREME

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Sunday, September 07, 2008

Rebellion

"It's not that I don't accept God, Alyosha, I just most respectfully return him the ticket."
"That is rebellion," Alyosha said softly, dropping his eyes.
"Rebellion? I don't like hearing such a word from you," Ivan said with feeling. "One cannot live by rebellion, and I want to live.
"Tell me straight out, I call on you--answer me: imagine that you yourself are building the edifice of human destiny with the object of making people happy in the finale, of giving them peace and rest at last, but for that you must inevitably and unavoidably torture just one tiny creature...would you agree to be the architect on such conditions? Tell me the truth."
"No, I would not agree," Alyosha said softly.

Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov explores the turbulent lives of a dysfunctional family: a "wicked," "baboon" of a father and the three sons that he neglected. The main characters of the novel struggle to come to grips with their inner demons and the darkness they find within them and in world. To be a Karamazov is to have a thirst and a lust for life; it is to have a fantastic capacity for both good and evil.

The three brothers are united at their father's residence after being separated for most of their lives. They have been completely neglected and ignored by their father and have had to exist on the charity of relatives and benefactors.

For the purposes of my current posts, we are picking up at Book Five chapter 3 and 4, which is somewhere in the middle of the book, right before the crucial twist in the plot--the murder of the old man Karamazov. The title of chapter 4 is "Rebellion."

We find two of the brothers, Ivan and Alyosha, engaged in a discussion. They have met in part through chance and partly by intention. They are both young men; Ivan is 23 and four years older than Alyosha. Ivan is a philosopher and an atheist; Alyosha has been living at the local monastery under the tutelage and care of the very popular and pious Elder Zosima.

Ivan and Alyosha have been curious about each other, but this is the first time they have sat down for a discussion. Ivan is the intellectual; Alyosha is the naive monk-to-be. They quickly settle into a conversation about Ivan's "essence," says Ivan, "that is, what sort of man I am, what I believe in, and what I hope for." (p. 235 of the Pevear and Volokhonsky translation).

The first thing Ivan asserts is that he has a desire to live, at least for the time being, even if life is a "devilish chaos,"

"If I did not believe in life, if I were to lose faith in the woman I love, if I were to lose faith in the order of things, even if I were to become convinced, on the contrary, that everything is a disorderly, damned, and perhaps devilish chaos, if I were struck even by all the horrors of human disillusionment--still I would want to live, and as long as I have bent to this cup, I will not tear myself from it until I've drunk it all! However, by the age of thirty, I will probably drop the cup, even if I haven't emptied it, and walk away...." (p. 230)

Ivan does not believe "in the order of things," and yet he expresses his love for that which is simple in life: "the sticky little leaves that come out in the spring are dear to me, the blue sky is dear to me." (p. 230)

Alyosha says, "I think that everyone should love life before everything else in the world."
"Love life more than its meaning?"
"Half your work is done and acquired, Ivan: you love life. Now you need only apply yourself to the second half, and you are saved."
"You're already saving me, though maybe I wasn't perishing. And what does this second half consist of?"
"Resurrecting your dead, who may never have died. Now give me some tea. I'm glad we're talking, Ivan." (p. 231)

Over fish soup and tea, the brothers begin attending to "everlasting" and "universal" questions: "Some people need one thing, but we green youths need another, we need first of all to resolve the everlasting questions, that is what concerns us." (p. 233)

What are such questions?

"Is there a God, is there immortality? And those who do not believe in God, well, they will talk about socialism and anarchism, about transforming the whole of mankind according to a new order, but it's the same damned thing, the questions are all the same, only from the other end." (p. 234)

So, the discussion turns to belief in God.

Ivan says, "I long ago decided not to think about whether man created God or God created man." (p. 235)

Interestingly enough, for Ivan the atheist, the existence of God is a lofty, heavenly matter. The answer to the question could go either way, it seems. And the answer is irrelevant, anyway. Ivan is a human being; he is of this world, and as such, the question seems to lack significance. And yet throughout his dialog with Alyosha, Ivan invests a good deal of passion and energy into the discussion of such "eternal" questions. It is one of several existential contradictions that Ivan displays: he feels strongly about something, then disavows its importance; or he suggests that something is irrelevant and then later the same matter becomes crucial. I will return to this later. For now, I simply note that it seems to be a part of Ivan's argument strategy, but more than this, it is also a part of the struggle to existentially reconcile features of the world, itself, that conflict.

Ivan is of "an earthly mind," but he then goes on to suggest that we might as well grant that God exists. Whether God exists or not doesn't matter in terms of what occurs in this world.

Ivan has nothing against God, per se, he just rejects God's world.

"I have a Euclidean mind, an earthly mind, and therefore it is not for us to resolve things that are not of this world. And I advise you never to think about it, Alyosha my friend, and most especially about whether God exists or not. All such questions are completely unsuitable to a mind created with a concept of only three dimensions. And so, I accept God, not only willingly, but moreover I also accept his wisdom and his purpose, which are completely unknown to us; I believe in order, in the meaning of life, I believe in eternal harmony, in which we are all supposed to merge, I believe in the Word for whom the universe is yearning, and who himself was 'with God,' who himself is God, and so on, and so on and so forth, to infinity....And now imagine that in the final outcome I do not accept this world of God's, I do not admit it at all, though I know it exists. It's not God that I do not accept, you understand, it is this world of God's created by God, that I do not accept and cannot agree to accept. With one reservation: I have a childlike conviction that the sufferings will be healed and smoothed over, that the whole offensive comedy of human contradictions will disappear like a pitiful mirage, a vile concoction of man's Euclidean mind, feeble and puny as an atom, and that ultimately, at the world's finale, in the moment of eternal harmony, there will occur and be revealed something so precious that it will suffice for all hearts, to allay all indignation, to redeem all human villainy, all bloodshed; it will suffice not only to make forgiveness possible, but also to justify everything that has happened with men--let this, let all of this come true and be revealed, but I do not accept it and do not want to accept it! Let the parallel lines even meet before my own eyes: I shall look and say, yes, they meet, and still I will not accept it. That is my essence Alyosha, that is my thesis." (p. 235)

Chapter 3 concludes with Alyosha asking Ivan to explain why he does not accept the world.

Chapter 4, "Rebellion," opens with a discussion of love: we could love, Ivan says, if not for the face of a person. The love of Christ, for example, is impossible on earth, for "we are not gods":

"Beggars, especially noble beggars, should never show themselves in the street; they should ask for alms through the newspapers. It's still possible to love one's neighbor abstractly, and even occasionally from a distance, but hardly ever up close." (p. 237)

I found the above particularly humorous, especially in light of the tendency for Americans to give to abstract organizations (or churches) so as to be able to give to the needy without the hassle of having to engage the needy face to face.

"But enough of that," says Ivan. He means to speak of the suffering of humanity, and more specifically, of the suffering of children. This is the point in the text where things become quite intense. Ivan speaks in detail of the suffering of the children.

"People speak sometimes about the 'animal' cruelty of man, but that is terribly unjust and offensive to animals, no animal could ever be so cruel as man, so artfully, so artistically cruel."

Ivan goes on to describe several forms and instances of cruelty to children, he then makes some rather bizarre (but telling) observations:

"I know for certain that there are floggers who get more excited with every stroke, to the point of sensuality, literal sensuality, more and more, progressively, with each new stroke. They flog for one minute, they flog for five minutes, they flog for ten minutes--longer, harder, faster, sharper. The child is crying, the child finally cannot cry, she has no breath left....You see, once again I positively maintain that this peculiar quality exists in much of mankind--this love of torturing children, but only children....It is precisely the defenselessness of these creatures that tempts the torturers, the angelic trustfulness of the child....There is, of course, a beast hidden in every man, a beast of rage, a beast of sensual inflammability at the cries of the tormented victim, an unrestrained beast let off the chain, a beast of diseases acquired in debauchery." (p. 241, cf. 584)

Ivan's description of the sadist is telling, not so much for its universal implications but more for what it tells us about Ivan himself. How does Ivan know about the feelings of those who enjoy torturing children? His knowledge seems too precise to have been extracted third-hand. Further, there is other evidence in the novel to suggest that Ivan has sadistic impulses and desires. Now, I don't think this takes away from Ivan's current argument and complaint. On the contrary, it seems to intensify his struggle, because Ivan is sincere about the absurdity of the suffering of children. Ivan becomes representative of the essence of our human-ness: he is both disturbed and stimulated by his depravity.

Ivan turns to a tale of parents who abused their little girl, even forcing their little child to eat her own excrement: "Can you understand such nonsense, my friend and my brother, my godly and humble novice, can you understand why this nonsense is needed and created? Without it, they say, man could not even have lived on earth, for he would not have known good and evil. Who wants to know this damned good and evil at such a price? The whole world of knowledge is not worth the tears of that little child to 'dear God.' I'm not talking about the suffering of grown-ups, they ate the apple and to hell with them, let the devil take them all, but these little ones!" (p. 242)

Ivan then tells a little servant boy whose master had him attacked and ripped up by dogs because the boy had injured the paw of one of his master's favorite hounds. Ivan's response to this is a very important part of his commentary on the world:

"I tell you, novice, that absurdities are all too necessary on earth. The world stands on absurdities, and without them perhaps nothing at all would happen." (p. 243)

The above might just be the most fundamental element to Ivan's existential complaint: In an absurd world, who knows how to respond? Or to feel? Or to think? The underlying absurdity of the world resists a uniform or systematic approach.

Ivan discusses how the idea of freedom and responsibility ties in to his discussion:

"I can understand nothing of why it's all arranged as it is. So people themselves are to blame: they were given paradise, they wanted freedom, and stole fire from heaven, knowing that they would become unhappy--so why pity them....What do I care that none are to blame and that I know it--I need retribution, otherwise I will destroy myself. And retribution not somewhere and sometime in infinity, but here and now, on earth, so that I see it myself....I want to be there when everyone suddenly finds out what it was all for. All religions of the world are based on this desire, and I am a believer. But then there are the children, and what am I going to do with them? That is the question I cannot resolve....Listen: if everyone must suffer, in order to buy eternal harmony with their suffering, pray tell me what have children got to do with it?....Why do they get thrown on the pile, to manure someone's future harmony with themselves?" (p. 244)

Clearly the lack of harmony disturbs Ivan, and wants to be there "when everyone suddenly finds out what it was all for"; but there is something in Ivan that also resists any talk of harmony. The existence of the suffering of children resists harmonization: we long for harmony and yet our sense of justice and harmony also cringes at the idea that any future "resolution" will in fact resolve such absurdity. Is the suffering of the children merely manure for "someone's future harmony?" So, the absurdity of the world stirs up contradictory feelings and approaches to the world: we want harmony (as Ivan clearly does) and we do not want harmony, as Ivan states:

"I do not, finally, want the mother to embrace the tormentor who let his dogs tear her son to pieces! She dare not forgive him!....she has no right to forgive the suffering of her child...

"I don't want harmony, for love of mankind I don't want it. I want to remain with unrequited suffering. I'd rather remain with my unrequited suffering and my unquenched indignation, even if I am wrong. Besides, they have put too high a price on harmony; we can't afford to pay so much for admission. And therefore I hasten to return my ticket. And it is my duty, if only as an honest man, to return it as far ahead of time as possible. Which is what I am doing. It's not that I don't accept God, Alyosha, I just most respectfully return him the ticket.
"That is rebellion," Alyosha said softly, dropping his eyes.
"Rebellion? I don't like hearing such a word from you," Ivan said with feeling. "One cannot live by rebellion, and I want to live."

It is at this point that Ivan asks Alyosha if he would agree to be the architect of a plan to make everyone in the world happy at the expense of torturing only one child. Would he agree? "No, I would not agree," Alyosha said softly.

Thus concludes Ivan's "rebellion."

Concluding Thoughts and Comments

Living in Absurdity and Contradiction

As promised, more thoughts on Ivan's wavering. Ivan's comment about the absurdity in the world is important: "I tell you, novice, that absurdities are all too necessary on earth. The world stands on absurdities, and without them perhaps nothing at all would happen." (p. 243)

In a world that "stands on absurdities," our responses to the world can be equally absurd and even contradictory, as in Ivan's case: he wants harmony because he loves harmony; but he does not want harmony for the sake of those who have suffered. Yearning for harmony and forcing harmony on an absurd world risks trivializng the suffering and injustice of the world. At one point, Ivan tells a story of Richard, a poor sap who was born into poverty and stole. "The savage began earning money as a day laborer in Geneva, spent his earnings on drink, lived like a monster, and ended by killing some old man and robbing him." Richard was arrested and put to death for his crimes. Yet before his death he was surrounded by the religious and the philanthropic. They convinced him he was a wretch and converted him. "And so, covered with the kisses of his brothers, brother Richard is dragged up onto the scaffold, laid down on the guillotine, and his head is whacked off in brotherly fashion, forasmuch as grace has descended upon him, too." (p. 240)

On the other hand, Ivan does not want harmony. Does killing Brother Richard, for example, restore harmony and justice? Will any future damnation "redeem" the suffering of the children? Throughout this narrative, Ivan is existentially divided: he wants vengeance but he does not want more suffering. He says he needs "retribution" (p. 244) and yet questions, "can they be redeemed by being avenged" (p. 245)

For Ivan, as for all of humanity, there is are existential dilemmas and even contradictions when faced with suffering and injustice, and this is particularly true of those who make appeals to God or some ultimate resolution/harmony....which leads to my next query.

Suffering and Evil: Is God the Point?

I think that this text (these two chapters, in particular) takes a fascinating approach to the issues of existence, meaning, and a higher Being (or purpose). For one thing, I take away the idea that reference to an Ultimate Being (God) or to an ultimate purpose seem to only complicate things. If there is no God, then there is merely an absurd world. If there is merely an absurd, godless world, then we human beings are free to pursue the betterment of humanity without worry about resolving the infamous Problem of Evil; namely, the problem of reconciling the existence of evil (the suffering children) with a God who is (allegedly) all-loving, all-good, and all-powerful.

So, if I understand Ivan's "argument" correctly, then I agree: reference to the ultimate, "eternal" questions can sometimes only muddy the waters and make things more complicated than they need be. I say, that those who feel the urgency to create a better world and alleviate the suffering in the world should do so, ultimate questions be damned (so to speak). Those whose tender hearts break over evil already live in the light of transformation. Why do they need to ask the Ultimate Questions? In fact, in The Brothers Karamazov, Alyosha fits the description of just such a person: he simply lives to change and transform the lives of others by his love for them and his sincere and sacrificial goodness.

The transformation of Ivan, on the other hand, are questionable. Ivan is the philosopher, the one who plunges into the depths of eternal query. Now, I do believe that Ivan has a sincere existential and emotional pain when he thinks of suffering. How could he not? He was abandoned by his father. Ivan has lived through a childhood of neglect and abuse. But for all of Ivan's philosophical queries and emotional concerns, what does he actually do to alleviate the suffering of the world? Ivan's love for life consists primarily of enjoying the "sticky little leaves" and the blue sky. He states at the beginning his belief in the impossibility of looking into the face of others and truly loving them. Ivan is complaining as a spectator of life, not as someone passionate about bringing an end to suffering.

In spite of the immense weight of these questions, Ivan displays strikingly little true change. I do not think this is an attack by Dostoevsky on Ivan's atheism.....perhaps it was meant to be, but that's not necessarily how I take it; rather, I find it as an attack on anyone who presumes that a particular worldview can effect true transformative change. The Elder Zosima (Alyosha's mentor), for example, is revered by all but at the end of his life questions his decision to live a life cloistered in the monastery, and he actually sends Alyosha out into the world for transformative change. Hence, in my opinion, the novel does not seem particularly hostile to atheism or overly generous to religion: it is philosophical reflection that seems to take the hit.

Now, I for one, do not discourage pondering more deeply into the deeper questions of life. But philosophical reflection is not transformation, and the two are not necessarily connected. Having a "correct view" of truth (or doctrine) does not bring one closer to love; conversely, having an "incorrect view" (or even no view at all) does not mean that a person does not understand love "in the inner parts."

Eternal questions for the philosopher and theologian can, in fact, turn out to be substitutes for actual change and distractions from the task of transformation. The Rebellion text leaves me questioning whether there is ever a place for raising such questions. Have arguments for and against the existence of God merely distracted humanity from the real work of transformation?

Returning the Ticket and being there

Ivan's language is intriguing and quite telling: he wants to "return the ticket." It is as though life for Ivan is a theatrical performance that he can choose to watch or choose to not watch. The point that I think is implied in the Rebellion narrative and in the whole of The Brothers novel is profound: we cannot choose to be mere spectator's. As human beings we are born always and already embedded in the world. What makes us human is our interconnectedness with the earth and with each other. As such, "returning the ticket" does not really seem to be an option. The questions we face concern how we will choose to engage our interconnectedness.

References and Further Reading
1) There is a good set of mp3 lectures by Hubert Dreyfus from U of C Berkeley called Existentialism in Literature. There are several good lectures on The Brothers Karamazov. It is from these Dreyfus lectures that several of my conjectures spun off of; particularly, Dreyfus makes the convincing case for Ivan's latent sadistic tendencies.
2) The Problem of Evil from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
3) For those interested in existentialism, in general, there is a good article on Existentialism from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

104 comments:

amanda kelley said...

Sounds to me like Ivan drowns himself in the idea that he was neglected and abused without really coming out and saying it. He philosiphizes his life through his 'said atheism' and while his questions are valid, I wonder why else he would ask them unless he had a conscience of God's existence to whatever he extent. He painted a valid arguement against God and the crucifixion of of his son, and why any father would allow his child be tormented for the harmony of others. I think he is clearly trying to argue against God. I am not to familiar with The Brothers K....but one thing I do gather is that Ivan's conscience is in turmoil...he subconsciouly doubts his disbelief...he is trying to justify it.

ktismatics said...

I agree with Amanda that Ivan is questioning the idea of a substitutionary atonement here, of the innocent Son dying for the sins of the fathers. But in this book the father dies, perhaps at the hand of the son -- kind of like killing off God, but also like killing off the source of sin that must be atoned for. One could make a case that a God who not only tolerates but commands the torture of the innocent is a sadist, and that to be sadistic is to be godlike. The Marquis de Sade espoused just this sort of philosophy. So if Ivan K is sadistic, he's not just following the sins of the fathers but also the holiness of the Father.

I thought that "return the ticket" was an allusion to suicide, or some other way of checking out of the world, not just as audience member but as performer. But Ivan loves life, so it'll be viscerally tough for him to leave despite his intellectual misgivings. It's a dualism thing: theoretical disgust with life superimposed on instinctively animal passion for life.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Amanda: He philosiphizes his life through his 'said atheism' and while his questions are valid, I wonder why else he would ask them unless he had a conscience of God's existence to whatever he extent...but one thing I do gather is that Ivan's conscience is in turmoil...

Good point.

Like you, I find Ivan's stated position to be atheism, but he is still very interested in questioning, which seems to imply that he is still doubting: the questions are too meaningful to him to just drop; something is pulling at him.

Ivan's atheistic questioning seems like a theist questioning his/her belief in God: the meaningfulness of the questions and the inability to concretely nail down answers results in a faith process, I think.

Jonathan Erdman said...

K: One could make a case that a God who not only tolerates but commands the torture of the innocent is a sadist, and that to be sadistic is to be godlike. The Marquis de Sade espoused just this sort of philosophy. So if Ivan K is sadistic, he's not just following the sins of the fathers but also the holiness of the Father.

One could make something of a case from the biblical text as well.

Isaiah 53:10 says that it was God's will to crush his son.

(I'm not sure what hebrew word is used for "will" in this instance, but might be an interesting study.)

Also, on the cross Jesus cried, "why have you forsaken me."

That the Father crushed and forsoke the Son is clear. Whether or not the Father gained any sadistic pleasure from such torture is another issue. Did the father "get excited with each lash," as Ivan describes the sadist? I have a hard time thinking that he did.....however, the substitutionary atonement theology is cruel no matter how you slice it. As I understand it (and I could be wrong here), Dostoevsky was not a big fan of substitutionary atonement, so this narrative (and indeed much of The Brothers) might just be his way of expressing his indignation with an absurd theology.

ktismatics said...

"How does Ivan know about the feelings of those who enjoy torturing children? His knowledge seems too precise to have been extracted third-hand."

Haven't you observed parents being mean to their children in ways they'd never do to adults? Am I latently sadistic if I recognize that they're doing it at least partly because they can get away with it, because it's kind of exhilerating to wield power over another human being? Maybe so; maybe it takes a scoundrel to recognize another. But maybe being in touch with my own sadism also sensitizes me to acts of cruelty perpetrated on defenseless victims that might otherwise pass as ordinary parenting.

Melody said...

But maybe being in touch with my own sadism also sensitizes me to acts of cruelty perpetrated on defenseless victims that might otherwise pass as ordinary parenting.

I think so.

I realize that probably neither you nor Jon have read Pride & Prejudice, but I couldn't help thinking about Jane (Elizabeth's older sister).

Jane is so sweet and innocent that she cannot fathom what would motivate someone to be unkind - the end result being that when confronted with cruelty or injustice Jane simply does not see it. In its place she sees good intentions or a misunderstanding. At the very most she sees carelessness.

ktismatics said...

"I realize that probably neither you nor Jon have read Pride & Prejudice"

So Melody, you think I'm an insensitive lout who's out of touch with his feminine side? Erdman maybe, but I'll have you know that not only have I read this earliest exemplar of chick lit, I've seen the movie as well. Anybody calls me insensitive I'll kick his or her ass.

But yes I agree about Jane; there's also Miss Mellie in Gone With the Wind, who cannot even see Ashley's spineless wavering or Scarlett's shameless connivances. Do such people really exist, or do they willfully refuse to see certain things in order to sustain their romantic fantasies? It's hard to see into another person's mind.

Melody said...

I'll have you know that not only have I read this earliest exemplar of chick lit, I've seen the movie as well.

Good man. Though the Kierra Knightly version hardly counts. The BBC extravaganza is the real deal.

there's also Miss Mellie in Gone With the Wind, who cannot even see Ashley's spineless wavering or Scarlett's shameless connivances.

That was just painful to watch.

Do such people really exist, or do they willfully refuse to see certain things in order to sustain their romantic fantasies?

To a certain degree I think they exist...but I think it's hard for them to go on being that way.

At the end of P&P, even Jane is not so trusting as she started out being - because experience has taught her that she cannot be.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Melody,

Ouch!!! What's with throwing me and Ktismatics under the bus????

I like to keep up with chik lit and chik flics.....just in small doses.....have seen the real P&P, which is the non-BBC version! Aaaaannnd, although it is probably not happy enough to qualify as a "chik flic," I would direct your attention to the side bar list of upcoming discussions to note The Breakup. I also surprise women with my breadth of knowledge on Sex and the City.

Jonathan Erdman said...

K: maybe it takes a scoundrel to recognize another. But maybe being in touch with my own sadism also sensitizes me to acts of cruelty perpetrated on defenseless victims that might otherwise pass as ordinary parenting.

Yea, I think that's what Dostoevsky seems to be doing: Ivan is experiencing a conflict between his depravity and his sympathy for those who are tortured. It seems to me that such struggles are somewhat typical. To use a slightly altered form of a pop-Christian catch phrase: we hate the sin but love the sinner (ourselves!).

Jason Hesiak said...

Anybody calls me insensitive I'll kick his or her ass.

another true lol moment...Doylomania that was funny!

Melody said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Melody said...

Sorry - I had to correct some sentence structure.

Ouch!!! What's with throwing me and Ktismatics under the bus????

I'm not throwing you under the bus, I just try to keep realistic expectations. Most guys will never read Pride & Prejudice and only view the movie (either version) under duress.

You, for example, only saw the sub-par version because it was battle of the sexes movie night.

Had there not been a promise of watching Die Hard immediately following, I very much doubt if you would have viewed any version. Although, you are friends with Jess (which I suspect is where your Sex & the City knowledge comes from) - so who knows, you might have seen it at some point regardless.

Incidentally, until you read the book you are in no position to be deciding which film best portrays Austin's masterpiece.

Jonathan Erdman said...

No, in fact, my S&C knowledge comes from actually watching the show. It's part of the reason why I understand women so well and am regarded as a highly acclaimed expert on the subject.

ktismatics said...

In your FACE, Erdman!

ktismatics said...

Erdman snuck a comment between Melody's and my comments, so I'll have to change up now...

Your FACE is a highly acclaimed expert, Erdman!

Jonathan Erdman said...

Ha, ha!

I'm a sneaky and clever sumabitch!

Melody said...

No, in fact, my S&C knowledge comes from actually watching the show.

And you started watching the show of your own volition?

It's part of the reason why I understand women so well and am regarded as a highly acclaimed expert on the subject

Please, please, please do not base your "understanding" of women off that show. I enjoy that show as much as anyone can between Carries neurotic fits, but it's not really meant as a guide to women.

Jason Hesiak said...

thank you kindly sirs and ma'ams but I AM the expert here on women, thanks. and its because of my reading of The Five Love Languages. you all are welcome.

:))

Jason Hesiak said...

oh...also because of my reading of Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti

:)

Jonathan Erdman said...

Sure, that's all well and good, Jason, but if you really want to "unveil the mystery of a woman's soul," then you must read Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge.

Melody said...

Women's souls should remain mysteries. Stop trying to unravel it and buy your girl flowers.

ktismatics said...

"buy your girl flowers."

What, no link to FTD? Or is this a more generic viral marketing campaign? What else do girls want guys to buy for them?

Jason Hesiak said...

diamonds. see...told you i know everything :)

wait, wait, wait...the eldridges...CRAP...i thought they had already explained EVERYTHING in The Sacred Romance!!?? DOH! maybe i don't know everything!

**jason scrambles around on amazon to find Captivating so he can know everything AGAIN...AFTER which he will read FinnAGAIN's Wake and really feel like a dumb ass**

maybe Bono has it all figured out. "she moves in mysterious ways, yeah." them irish are smart. Yeates was a mystic.

and...what is FTD?

Melody said...

ktismatics,
Not marketing, I just know a lot of girls who wish their boyfriends would buy them flowers. Instead the silly fellows are wasting their time trying to unveil their souls (or to convince the girl that she really wants an xbox)
No woman wants her soul unveiled. She wants to remain a mystery. And she wants flowers.

Jason,
A lot of girls don't want diamonds. Nearly every girl wants flowers.The ones who don't are allergic. I have a friend who actually got angry with her husband because he bought her jewelry from Tiffany's instead of flowers!

ktismatics said...

What's an xbox?

amanda kelley said...

After reading the battle between some of your friends, Mr. Erdman...
and laughing my ass off, mind you....
I am a woman, who wants a man to know the mysteries of my soul, and gets them.
P&P is my favorite movie, both old and new versions. Especially the one with Kierra Knightly...how provacative the ending...you can view the ending on my myspace page.
As for flowers, forget them. And even though I sell jewelry part-time...forget the diamonds.
I want a man who invests his time, not money, in me.
I want to be able to walk across a room, and have him know exactly what I am saying without even saying a word.
And for the record, S&tC....all witchy women...this is the majority of women...they will not admit that it is, but frankly it is. Women are the most complicated, bitchy, flaky, romantic creatures alive. But there are those of us who really appreciate the fact that there are men like you, who admit to having watched the chick flicks and I actually do believe that because of that, you do have a better understanding of women.
Oh, and lastly...how did we get from Ivan's rebellion to the mystery of women?? LOL :)

Melody said...

It's a game consul. You can replace "xbox" with anything. Big-Book-O-Derrida or whatever you get excited about. Greatest Football Plays of All Time or a new drill...the point is that the guy desperately wants the thing and the girl could live the rest of her life happily never seeing one.

Crystal McCoomb said...

You are a wise woman, Melody. Way to keep all these guys on their toes. We mus' ante allow them to figure us out. Must keep them confused at all times.

Crystal McCoomb said...

Sometimes I appreciate guy stuff, though, Mel. Drills come in handy sometimes...and killing aliens on xbox can really help with your marksmenship.

Melody said...

Amanda,

I want a man who invests his time, not money, in me.

Money isn't the point. Most girls wouldn't care if he picked them off the side of the road. The point is that he thought of you even when you weren't there.

all witchy women...this is the majority of women

Mean people, are the majority of the world. Women are not more disposed to meanness than men.

Crystal McCoomb said...

Erdman- Sex in the City? Seriously. Could it be for the sex more then the understanding of women by chance?
That's a horrible show. I never watch it. Grey's Anatomy is much better- it has romance and people on the verge of death. Amazing.

Hesiak- Keep up on your literature. Captivating is a great book.

Kt-Good for you reading P&P. It took me forever it get through and I can even relate to the main character!

Crystal McCoomb said...

Amanda- this a female rebellion. It has to worked out before more discussion can ensue.

Melody said...

Cyrstal,
Yeah I actually like video games and would almost ever want a guy to buy me jewelry (flowers though, it's hard to go wrong with flowers).

The main idea is just that if the guy gives the girl something she would want he's been thinking of her and that's sweet.

If he buys something he wants - and then tries to pawn it off as a gift for her...it's hard to have nice feelings about that.

Should a guy be dating a carpenter a nice drill might be appropriate. If not, he should do some more thinking.

amanda kelley said...

Melody,
"The point is that he thought of you even when you weren't there."

This is so true. I am happy when a man tells me that he thought of me today and why. I want to know what makes him think of me, the reason why. I don't want flowers or stuff, I want him and his attention.

amanda kelley said...

Crystal,

Good point, tying in the rebellion thing with the current conversation...
And also, about S&tC...everyone watches it for the sex to some extent or another....understanding women is just a cover up... :)

ktismatics said...

"I want to be able to walk across a room, and have him know exactly what I am saying without even saying a word."

I look for signals, like the steam coming out of the ears thing.

"Should a guy be dating a carpenter a nice drill might be appropriate."

Is this a line from Sex and the City?

Melody said...

Amanda,
Ok, clearly gifts don't mean that much to you. But for me - and a lot of girls - they're tangible reminders that the gift giver cares.

For example - my little brother frequently gives me garage sale rejects as gifts. Well, not now that he's older - but for years he gave me things like broken figurines or old stuffed animals - because it reminded him of something we'd talked about.

At first I was kind of baffled, because our other sisters got whatever they'd asked for - but of course I'd smile and say I loved it and he'd get all excited and say, "I knew you would because..." insert conversation.

It's quite sweet.

Melody said...

Is this a line from Sex and the City?

Er...no.

amanda kelley said...

Melody,
A broken toy or stuff animal, would mean very much to me, especially from someone I hold close to my heart. But as I am sure Jason could back me up on this one (since reading the 5 Love LAnguages), we are all different when it comes to language of love. I am a "Words of affirmation" kinda gal, not a "gifts" kinda gal. But I have music boxes and pictures that do not mesh with my home decor well, that I can't bare to part with because of the sentimental value I have placed on them. They are gifts that were given because someone thought of me. I even have the last boquet of flowers(dried) that my husband, who rarely buys flowers, bought me, just because he knew I was having a bad day (about 5 months ago). I also have the card from the first boquet he bought me(8 years ago), when my grandpa died, hanging on my fridge. So in a way, I enjoy the gifts, but to me, and maybe you'll agree, the gifts are just memoirs of that moment he thought of me. The thought is what counted...the gift reminds me of the thought.

Jonathan Erdman said...

I do know that for some women, the way to their heart is via video games.

Regarding gift giving.......

....a friend of mine goes through psychological distress and paranoia every time his wife has a birthday or on Valentine's Day (and even Mother's Day). He is perhaps the worst gift giver on the planet. It cracks me up b/c I tend to be a fairly good gift giver, so I don't see why there needs to be drama....but my friend absolutely melts down on Valentine's Day! His wife's b-day was a few days ago....perhaps last week.....this year he was in better spirits than I've ever seen him. He bought her an mp3 player. He liked the mp3 player and got a really good deal.

"If she doesn't like it," he said, "then I get to use it!"

Great plan, huh???

I need to check in to see how that's working out for him......

amanda kelley said...

On gift giving....
An mp3 player is a great gift if you're an avid music lover like me...so I hope this friend's wife has interest in music and has time to listen to it...
then it should be a great gift for her...

Melody said...

Amanda,
Sure, everyone's different as to waht's most meaningful to them. And yeah, in the end for any of the "languages" it is the thought that count. The action is just how we know they're thinking it!

Melody said...

Jon,
Hopefully your friend will figure out the gift thing eventually.

My Dad bombed his first gift to my mom (a stretched out Coke bottle) and my first memory of valentine's day is of my dad polling my younger sister and I as to what he should buy our mom - but after...what...thirty years? of marriage he's started actually enjoying the search for good gifts.

As for you - all I know is that you gave poor Janene 30 memory loss pills for her birthday - not so impressive.

Jonathan Erdman said...

You've got to admit, though, that it was a memorable gift.

tamie said...

Prepare thyselves. Sometime this afternoon I'm going to do my damnest to return this discussion to Ivan and his ticket.

amanda kelley said...

Thank you Tamie, and now that we have come full circle...let's talk about that Ticket...you know the gift, that Ivan is "respectfully" returning...hmmm...maybe we had this dialogue for a reason....

Jason Hesiak said...

(a stretched out Coke bottle)

LOL!!! WOW! melody your dad had obviously not read any jon or staci eldridge by that point. wow.

amanda - i haven't actually read either the book about the love language nor the book about waffles and spaghetti, men and women. i've just heard all about them b/c i run in evangelical circles. i actually already knew that women are "like spaghetti"...but i'm kinda a bit spaghetti-ee myself.

as for the love languages...and how the action is just a sign that someone was thinking of us..."the medium is the message" :)

erdman...LOL that WAS a "memorable" gift. memory loss pills...LOL. you ARE a really good gift giver!

Melody said...

LOL!!! WOW! melody your dad had obviously not read any jon or staci eldridge by that point. wow.

I don't believe the Eldridges were writing books when my parents were in highschool.

He bought it to remind her of their first date. Apparently they were selling these suckers at the fair they went to...but my mom hadn't noticed them so the whole thing fell kinda flat.

tamie said...

Time to leave behind questions of flowers and diamonds--as utterly fascinating as they are--and delve back into fish soup and tea.

Sorry it took me a while to get here--I started at the beginning of the book, and then around page 80 I realized it was going to take longer than I suspected to get to Book V, Chpts. 3-4. So I just skipped ahead. I'm sorry to say that I haven't read the whole book. Yet!

I agree with John--that the returned ticket is a reference to suicide; my impression is that Ivan is planning to kill himself at the age of 30. His whole bit about suicide & suffering reminded me a lot of Camus, who says that the first question that has to be settled, once one becomes conscious, is the question of suicide: ought one to go on living? And why?

Jon...you mentioned in your original post that bringing God into the question of suffering muddies the waters. Well, yes, but what if God does exist? If God does exist, then the problem of suffering really is a problem, and can't be bypassed by taking God out of the equation. If God does not exist, I'm not sure that we really make all that much headway, in terms of why there is suffering. Ivan points out that animals would never torture each other like humans do; evolutionary theory doesn't seem to have much explanatory power when it comes to the human capacity for cruelty.

This really brings us into questions of consciousness: we are able to torture, and suffer, because we are conscious. How did consciousness happen? Why did consciousness happen? Ivan talks about this some in chapter 4, and more in chapter 5. The capacity to understand good and evil, the capacity and freedom to choose--these all have to do with consciousness. Of course, one explanation is that God created us such that we could have the capacity for relationship; without consciousness and freedom of choice there's not much capacity for relationship. But: is it worth the price? That's Ivan's main question. Is life, happiness, relationship, worth it if even one child has to suffer in order for all of that to be possible?

I think that for the purpose of discussion we should assume that there is a God. Not all of us here believe that there is a God, but it seems like the majority of us do. Why the hell did this God create the world thus? Why did God think it was worth it--worth it for children to suffer horrifically? In what delusional universe is it worth it? What makes it worth it?

And yes, of course Ivan's questioning substitutionary atonement. Which, in my humble opinion, is indeed a sick and sadistic idea. Why is it so prevalent? Why are we so hungry for scapegoats? Why was that movie "The Passion" so popular?

I think that if we accept Dostoyevsky's--or at least Ivan's--notion of God, then we will find ourselves precisely where Ivan, and apparently the Marquis de Sade, do. But what if that's not who God is?

One last thing before I bring this scattered comment to a close. Jon--I think you're right, that just sitting around talking philosophy and theology can be a whole lot of intellectual masturbation. Which, there's nothing wrong with masturbation, but if that's all you do, your life will be rather thin and dull. However--I do believe that theology and philosophy matter. If they didn't matter, we wouldn't be so frustrated with mainstream evangelical culture. Sure, there isn't a one-to-one correlation between someone's theology and their actions, but there's more of a correlation than not. Theology/philosophy can be liberating, or deadening, and it can make a real, substantial difference in how we live our lives.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Tamie,

Here's my first question for you.

When confronted with human suffering and pain, one either responds with love or one does not respond with love. The loving response is to be concerned for one's neighbor and care for them as we would care for ourselves. This means having a broken heart and taking action: the idea of laying down our lives for others.

So, here's my question: does our responding to suffering and pain depend in any way upon the great metaphysical questions of evil?

In my opinion, we either love or we do not love, and this is the most fundamental question; it is a question of heart, will, and also a question of action (actually doing something). I'm not suggesting that theology and philosophy are not important, but what I meant by "muddied the waters" is that I just don't know that I see how our love for others is directly connected with the ultimate origin of suffering and pain. One might have the "wrong" answers and still love; one might have the "correct" answers and have no love.

If the whole of Scripture and life can be summed up as "love God and love your neighbor," then the most important thing about life is how we respond and act when we are confronted with people in need.....which essentially means that "returning the ticket" is not an option. That's the point I took away from these chapters....I guess I wouldn't go so far as to say that the questions of the origin of evil and goodness are not important, just that it seems like being transformed by love and then transforming the world with love has a pride of place.

I could be wrong, though, and I'm certainly open to objections. That's kind of what I took away from Dostoevsky, and it kind of made sense to me. The point is our orientation as individuals. Ivan is someone who does very little to actually love others, while Alyosha lives to transform others. Ivan, however, is the one who has the philosophical hangups. If he solved these hangups, would it transform him? Or does he need to be transformed first, and then he can revist the philosophical questions?

tamie said...

Hm. Good question.

Coupla things. First, on what basis ought we to choose to love? Why not choose, instead, to do everything we can to be personally happy, to decrease our own suffering as much as possible? If our personal happiness increases the suffering of others--well, why does that matter? Trying to love others may in fact increase one's own suffering, and why should I put the happiness or well-being above my own?

Secondly, I think that you're only dealing with one aspect of the problem of suffering when you address how one ought to respond to the suffering of others. Even if we can agree that one ought to respond to suffering by trying to love, and trying to alleviate the suffering as much as possible...what about one's own suffering? For example, what about the children that Ivan talks about--how should they come to terms with their own suffering? How should they understand that their parents/tormenters did to them? Should they turn to God? But where was God when they were being tortured? Should they somehow believe in the goodness of humanity? But how can they possibly believe in the goodness of humanity? Should they try to forget about their own suffering, and work to alleviate the suffering of others?

And--what about suffering that can't really be alleviated? What about suffering that you are powerless to stop, because it is systemic, or because you're powerless, or because it is just going to take a long time to get it stopped? Where is the hope in situations like that? And how do we love when we are powerless (which we often are)?

Even if we all put our whole hearts and souls into stopping the child sex trade, for example, it wouldn't stop immediately. If we were confronted with a child who was in that situation, and we knew that we could not stop that child's suffering immediately, what hope could we offer that child? If the child looked us in the eye and asked us why this was happening, what would we say? If the child begged us to help her, and we could not (which is essentially the situation we are all in *constantly*--it's just that we can't audibly hear those children's cries), what would be the place of love then? What hope do we have to offer?

This, I think, is where theology & philosophy come in. And ontology, metaphysics, etc. It is certainly where they have come in historically. For those in desperate and seemingly hopeless situations, God can seem pretty damn relevant. The belief that God is with them, that God suffers with them, that there is more to existence than what we can observe, etc. etc.

Thoughts?

Jonathan Erdman said...

Tamie,

You asked, First, on what basis ought we to choose to love?

I think love should come from within and demonstrate itself in the world. Jesus loved because he was love. Similarly, we should love because we are love, because we have an orientation of love. I think that love should come from an impulse and instinct to love.

I honestly don't know how much time it is worth spending debating with someone who is not a loving person, trying to convince them that they ought to love......which leads to your next thought/question:

T: Why not choose, instead, to do everything we can to be personally happy, to decrease our own suffering as much as possible? If our personal happiness increases the suffering of others--well, why does that matter? Trying to love others may in fact increase one's own suffering, and why should I put the happiness or well-being above my own?

Here is my rejoinder question: is it our job to obligate others to love? To tell non-loving people that they ought to love? If a person acts out of obligation and duty, then they are acting not out of (or from) a spirit of love but out of guilt.

If I were to ask myself whether love is "worth it" and if I were to debate whether or not loving others would cost me too much, then I know at that moment that I am not loving; in the very asking of the question, I know that my disposition at that time is not a loving one but a self-centered one. If such is the case, then I need a change in my orientation, not necessarily an obligation to love. I think that Ivan represents someone who does not love, but who nonetheless wants to debate the essence of humanity.....actually, he reminds me a good deal of myself. Ivan is the character I relate most with.

So, I ask: am I on this earth to obligate people to love who have no love within them? Or am I here primarily to change the world through loving others, acting out of love, and being open and vulnerable enough to receive love (which imo is just as important)?

The next point you raise is about dealing with personal suffering:

What about the children that Ivan talks about--how should they come to terms with their own suffering?

And how do we love when we are powerless (which we often are)?

This, I think, is where theology & philosophy come in. And ontology, metaphysics, etc. It is certainly where they have come in historically. For those in desperate and seemingly hopeless situations, God can seem pretty damn relevant. The belief that God is with them, that God suffers with them, that there is more to existence than what we can observe, etc. etc.

It's a good point. I believe 100% that one can find hope when one reflects on the suffering of Christ and the love of God. But here is what I see as the existential (and spiritual) challenge: why would one who is suffering not conclude that God is evil?

Why would one who is suffering believe that God is loving and cares for them when all they have experienced in this God-created world is pain and suffering? Should they believe in love b/c someone like you and I says so? It's easy for me to believe in love b/c I've experienced it. But what if I hadn't? Would I still believe in a theology of love if I never experienced it?

amanda kelley said...

I could question why God does things or ask why he allows them...the latter would be more correct. One thing that I feel must be said, maybe b/c I believe it with all my heart, is that God created this world to glorify Himself...NO other reason. We as humans see this as a very selfish act. We blame Him first when things go wrong, or question His true existence for that matter.
Ivan is giving back the gift of life...the ticket. He chooses not to change, he chooses not to love. He is the one who has put himself in this postion....NOT God. He was given the ticket...he rejected it. We forget sometimes that as humans God gives us the ticket and we "most respectedly" hand it back. We slap God in the face.
Why do we go through suffering whether as adults or children? Again, I believe it is for His glory. This is how it works.
We are just walking along, making ourselves happy, doing as we please and while we have a sense that there is more to life than this, we ignore it. Or on the other extreme we are so in love with God, and exude the very essense of His Spirit to everyone we meet through our love towards others. Along comes evil, and tempts us, brings hardships on us, causes us to fall into so much pain, because we give in to it, and we have two choices as this point. We can either choose to take the ticket and have Faith that we are spared in the end, the judgement, or reject it and turn back the ticket, blaming God or not belieive in a god at all.
One thing that it is key here is that there are three elements that exist in life that are unseen: faith, the Holy Spirit, and free will. We have free will, but when the Holy Spirit intervenes on our behalf, as I believe that he does, we have faith. Ivan had no faith. Maybe from the lack of love. But without faith, our free will would have us returning the ticket just like Ivan did.

tamie said...

Amanda: Why do we go through suffering whether as adults or children? Again, I believe it is for His glory. This is how it works.

Let me get this straight. A child who is being tortured to death is being tortured to death for the glory of God?

Melody said...

I believe the general idea is that when we see the total depravity of man without God...yes, God is glorified.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Let's say I had a puppy. And the puppy ran out of the house and into the cold cruel world. And then the puppy got attacked by a bigger dog and barely survived, only to return bloodied and nearly dead.

Would the puppy's suffering bring glory to me because it represented his life without me?

Melody said...

You'd look better by comparison.

I could misrepresenting the everything is for God's glory crowd. That's just how I understand the theory to work.

amanda kelley said...

Again, I will point out that in our hearts as humans, we think this to be so unfair...but that is what seperates us from God...we are human. God is to be glorified and the sacrafice of his Son, Jesus was the means. Let's remember that the Bible clearly speaks of the Father, God, the Son, Jesus and the Holy Spirt being one. Let's also remember that Jesus rose again. He died, but He is Alive. Anyone who believes this, lives by faith. And because of the depravity of the world, God created a means to save it, a sacrifice to save it. And a miracle to prove that He is God, after all. Tamie, God is very real...I believe it with all my heart...This is God's way of giving us a way, we are sinners, saved by his grace....the ticket is grace, Tamie...grace is love. God is full of grace and love...when Ivan gave the ticket back, he did commit suicide in a sense...he sentenced himself to death in eternity...But through a sacrafice, Jesus, grace, and atonement, we can arise with life...we just need to accept the ticket.
When we do, God is standing there with open arms to welcome us in, and he is ultimately glorified by this...we need Him. It seems selfish, but it's not....He loved us that much, to make a plan for us.

ktismatics said...

Ivan says: It's not God that I do not accept, you understand, it is this world of God's created by God, that I do not accept and cannot agree to accept. Ivan goes on to say that he believes in a final restoring of justice and alleviation of all suffering, but he wants to see it now.

If God is peace and love and justice, and if God made the world, and if the world is rife with violence and cruelty and injustice, then either: (1) the creation doesn't reflect the nature of its Creator (contra Romans 1); or else (2) the cruel world does reflect the nature of the cruel Creator. But no: Ivan is expected to believe option 3: it's all man's fault, and that this cruel world is a necessary stage on which man must come to renounce the cruel world and to accept his own complicity in this all-encompassing cruelty. If he accepts option 3 he has to accept that human existence is cruel by God's will, in order to work out some longer-term objective, and that no amount of human effort will change the cruelty of the world. Why? Because it's important to God that the world remain cruel until some future apocalypse when He suddenly transforms it.

One is left in a permanent state of passive futility and loathing both for a human race that caused such tragedy and for a God who allows it to persist. Under any of these 3 options Ivan is not permitted to question the wisdom of God or the terrible state of the world, nor is he permitted either to enjoy the world or to change it.

ktismatics said...

...and in a related story...

Crystal McCoomb said...

God allows evil so that He can show His power over it.

This is not very Calvinistic, but it makes more sense then saying that a God who is all-loving, all-good, and all-powerful is the cause of evil. If God were the cause of evil, then He would not be all-good.

In the Matrix-the one glitch in the system was choice. Does God give us a choice? Do we really have free-will, or is it just a will under His plan and authority? If we did not have some kind of choice, then our “relationship” with Him would not really be out of love because it would be forced. But God is over everything and He has determined so many things in the universe. There are absolutes, Tamie. When you said there were none, that created one.

There has to be some kind of choice, or our existence with God is simply one of robotics instead of relationship between God and man.

Suffering has many reasons. It can help people grow. It can help them sympathize with others who are hurting. It can make people look to a higher Power then themselves for help. And it can show God’s power over something incredibly wrong.

If we could handle evil on our own, just make it go away, then we wouldn’t need God.

amanda kelley said...

I couldn't agree with Crystal more...
Also,
Coming from a Calvanisitc backround it is hard to differentiate the line between "free will" and what God controls. But it goes back to what His purpose is, and what glorifies Him. He does give us choices, he just knows what we are going to do beforehand, it's never a suprise for Him. Personally, and because of faith, I take joy in knowing that. I wasn't created just because, and I don't suffer without having a reason, or lesson as an outcome. I am not here wandering on this earth without a purpose.

ktismatics said...

"If God were the cause of evil, then He would not be all-good."

Yes, that's certainly one possibility. Another is that God is the cause of all good AND all evil. Both of these have been quite popular beliefs in various places and times.

"Suffering has many reasons."

So in theory I could inflict suffering on somebody else and in so doing I'd be helping God accomplish his purposes.

"If we could handle evil on our own, just make it go away, then we wouldn’t need God."

One of Ivan's points is that God doesn't seem very successful in making evil go away either. Or is it that God needs evil in the world in order to get people to need him? That's kind of sick.

tamie said...

I'm sort of tongue-tied here. I'm shocked at the theology being expressed. Several of you have claimed that "God is love," but in what sense, in what universe, is it love to torture your children (we are all God's children, no?), or to passively allow them to be tortured? And not only to allow them to be tortured, but to be glorified by their anguish? I can't even find a polite way to say it. That is just so sick, so disgusting.

Following this logic, I think Ktismatics is right: we could torture people, and claim that we were just helping to glorify God. Actually, I'm pretty sure that this logic has been used throughout history. It's called the Holocaust, the witch trials, the Crusades.

If you were confronted with a little girl being raped, brutally raped, could you look into her eyes and tell her that she was being raped to the glory of God? Because that is what this theology is espousing.

I absolutely refuse to accept a God like this. If I found some kind of indisputable evidence that God was like this, I would say, fuck you, God, and I would indeed devote my life to rebelling against this God. But here is what I differ with Ivan, I suppose (but agree with Camus!). Because--rebellion against this kind of cruel and sadistic God does not entail returning the ticket of life, at least I don't think so. Rebelling against this kind of God means resisting the evil, resisting the cruelty, doing everything we can to alleviate torture, anguish, suffering.

This is what Camus' book, "The Plague" is all about. In the book, the two atheists are the heroes--they are the ones who refuse to believe in a God who would cause plague, and they dedicate their lives to alleviating the suffering caused by plague.

Lucky for me, I don't believe in that kind of God.

amanda kelley said...

Reread the following few pargraphs by Ivan:


"I have a Euclidean mind, an earthly mind, and therefore it is not for us to resolve things that are not of this world. And I advise you never to think about it, Alyosha my friend, and most especially about whether God exists or not."

"I can understand nothing of why it's all arranged as it is. So people themselves are to blame: they were given paradise, they wanted freedom, and stole fire from heaven, knowing that they would become unhappy--so why pity them....What do I care that none are to blame and that I know it--I need retribution, otherwise I will destroy myself."

"And now imagine that in the final outcome I do not accept this world of God's, I do not admit it at all, though I know it exists. It's not God that I do not accept, you understand, it is this world of God's created by God, that I do not accept and cannot agree to accept."

Ivan even admits that this is of our doing!


Here is the punchline: Sinful pleasure does not come without consequences!
WE started the sin because we are selfcentered creatures who only think about hoe we can fill our senses and we walk around thinking there is no consequence to actions! God gave us a perfect world...Eve allowed herself to be interrupted, giving into the pleasure of the forbidden. Even if she hadn't, someone down the line would have...it is because of our sinful depraved state! Jesus was God in flesh, and this is why when Satan tempted him he resisted. Christ came as not only an example, but the sacrifice that redeems our deravity.
To not accept that is the ultimate rebellion.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Amanda,

I'm not getting the sense that Ivan is putting forth human error as an explanation for suffering. He seems to be suggesting that he finds no satisfactory solution, and this is his stated reason why he does not accept the world.

Ivan is difficult to really get a handle on because he moves back and forth on things. He seems indifferent toward God, and then on the other hand, he is clearly using God's world as an indictment against God....Ivan's complaint moves along an interesting axis....

Crystal McCoomb said...

Kt-
Another is that God is the cause of all good AND all evil. Both of these have been quite popular beliefs in various places and times.

Maybe you should compare these various beliefs to the character of God given in Scripture. How can a Being that is all-good be the cause of evil?

So in theory I could inflict suffering on somebody else and in so doing I'd be helping God accomplish his purposes.

Discipline comes to mind, but discipline really isn't evil. Maybe God would inflict punishment on you for causing suffering to another.

One of Ivan's points is that God doesn't seem very successful in making evil go away either. Or is it that God needs evil in the world in order to get people to need him? That's kind of sick.

God doesn't need us. Maybe He just wants a real relationship with us that requires He give us choice between being with Him or not. I mean, Adam and Eve didn't HAVE to eat the fruit God told them not to. They pretty much screwed that one up themselves.

God will get rid of evil one day. He promises it Himself. Until that day, He's allowing it so we can still have a choice and know real kind of love.

Crystal McCoomb said...

Tamie-
God isn't the one torturing and He's not being passive. He actually does everything in His power to have people be with Him. He sent His own Son to die for us. This might seemed cruel too, that he would send His own son to die, but given that the Son was one with Him and the son gave his life willingly to conquer death for us, this seems even more like love to me than any form of cruelty. Who else would do that?

And not only to allow them to be tortured, but to be glorified by their anguish?

Yes, why would God do that? Good question.

If you were confronted with a little girl being raped, brutally raped, could you look into her eyes and tell her that she was being raped to the glory of God?

No, hopefully I would do something about the rapist.

ktismatics said...

It's problematic to argue with a fictional character. If Ivan had gotten converted then the whole story would have fallen apart. I suspect that Dostoevsky could occupy the point of view of both Ivan the atheistic philosopher and his brother Alyosha the monk.

ktismatics said...

Does Dostoevksy the author exhibit traits that Ivan the character attributes to God? E.g., Dostoevsky kills off the father, keeps Ivan from converting, lets him go mad, etc. without intervening to stop it. Did Dostoevsky feel impotent to change the course of the story as it unfolded beneath his pen? Was he venting his own sadism on his defenseless characters, who are in a sense his own children? By sacrificing his characters did he hope to redeem his readers? And so on.

evan said...

Allow me, so late, to introduce myself into the discussion.

[About suffering accomplishing God's will] Discipline comes to mind, but discipline really isn't evil. Maybe God would inflict punishment on you for causing suffering to another.--Crystal

The idea that discipline and suffering are the same (or even similar) is exactly that which Ivan is so passionately railing against! Have you all read the stories and newspaper clippings he collects? About children being torn apart for a mistake made while playing? About five year olds beaten, bloodied and covered in shit at the hands of their parents? These are little kids, those still within "the age of innocence" who are being condemned not for inflicting suffering on others, but for their "angelic trustfulness."

Discipline is not suffering. Once again, discipline is, in no way, equivalent with suffering. This distinction is the reason that self-flagellation and hair shirts have waned in popularity--it is also the reason why the CPA exists.


God will get rid of evil one day. He promises it Himself. -- Crystal

That's a hope for which Ivan, too, awaits fulfillment. He believes in the "future harmony" of the world, an event all of space-time has been working towards. But what it comes down to with Ivan is that the "future harmony," even if achieved, will be an ill-gotten gain, it will be harmony established by war on innocence on God's part--and such a harmony is unacceptable.

"And if the sufferings of children have gone to replenish the sum of suffering that was needed in order to purchase the truth, then I declare in advance that no truth, not even the whole truth, is worth such a price."--Ivan

Jonathan Erdman said...

K: Does Dostoevksy the author exhibit traits that Ivan the character attributes to God?....Did Dostoevsky feel impotent to change the course of the story as it unfolded beneath his pen? Was he venting his own sadism on his defenseless characters, who are in a sense his own children? By sacrificing his characters did he hope to redeem his readers? And so on.

Ha, ha! That's an interesting perspective.

Presumably, Dostoevsky's characters do not have actual consciousness.....or do they?

What if world's are created where "fictional" characters have consciousness? What if Dostoevsky unknowingly created a "real" world with an Ivan who is conscious of his own existence? What if D unwittingly created a world of more suffering?

Enough postmodern sci-fi.....more to your point.....the creation of Dostoevsky certain serves some purpose for Dostoevsky; probably multiple purposes. One could suggest that Dostoevsky wrote the story in part for the purpose of bringing glory to himself. Also to illustrate suffering and ask questions about pain and the human psyche, to question God, religion, etc. Yes, the creation of Dostoevsky certainly seems to mirror its creator, and also to accomplish some of the things he wished to accomplish.

But here is the interesting thing: once Dostoevsky's book is created, it becomes it gets set loose, and once it gets loosed, then it's out of the hands of the creator. Dostoevsky is dead, but his work lives on to be discussed in universities, in book clubs, and on blogs.

Similarly, did God create a universe that he had to let loose?

Jason Hesiak said...

doylomania...that jaguars video on chance was funny. on the issue of chance, however: who here has seen No Country For Old Men? that is far and away one of my most favorite movies ever. it left me in a state of silent awe.

also...from John 9

1As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
3"Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. 4As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5While I am in the world, I am the light of the world."


So, first of all, Jesus actually does heal the guy and restore goodness and rightness to the world in this instance. It was noted that one of Ivan's complaints was that Jesus doesn't do that. I am noticing, btw, that Jesus is doing that in my life, too. Secondly, notably no one necessarily did anything wrong to cause the blindness. Now I'm guessing that without "original sin" there would be no blindness, if we are going to speak w/in the biblical framework. But the point is its not like this dude's blindness is God's punishment for someone's sins. Instead, it is a means for God to be glorified.

Also...now I don't know the Greek here, but I'm going to guess, too, that God did not NEED the pain darkness of the man's blindness to be glorified, but instead the blindness was a means for God to show his power and desire to heal us. I mention this because Doylomania mentioned the idea of God's "needing" evil...for redemption.

One of Ivan's points is that God doesn't seem very successful in making evil go away either. Or is it that God needs evil in the world in order to get people to need him? That's kind of sick.

OK so what Doylomania actually said was a bit different, but similar. And I would stick to a similar line of argument against it. Well...I don't know. In a sense "need" belongs in the language of slavery. So yeah maybe God does "need" evil in order to show our "need" for him. But I dunno...to me I guess it depends on how you look at it. What is "need"? Did we "need" God in the Garden? No. We had everything we "needed", and we enjoyed God's presence. But after sin we were weighed down with sin and death...and I think its then when "need" entered the picture..."toil by the sweat of your brow." So its then that we "need" God, as well, I think. But you could just as well say that in these days a "need" for God just comes with the territory of living in a place of "need" after the fall. In which case God doesn't "need" evil for us to see that we need him. But I can say that my vain searching for fulfillment in things other than God has lead me to a realization of my need for him.

God gave us a perfect world...Eve allowed herself to be interrupted, giving into the pleasure of the forbidden. Even if she hadn't, someone down the line would have...it is because of our sinful depraved state!

That sounds to me like a bunch of hog wash. We have no "sinful nature", and we most certainly didn't have one before sin. We were created and God said "and it was good." Duuhh. Now - I think amanda - you didn't say "sinful nature", but I'm pretty sure that's what you were referring to based on what you were saying. It seems implied.

This might seemed cruel too, that he would send His own son to die, but given that the Son was one with Him and the son gave his life willingly to conquer death for us, this seems even more like love to me than any form of cruelty. Who else would do that?

Uuhh...I think this is why it is called an atoning SACRAFICE. God gave a sacrafice, meaning that he gave himself. sounds more loving than cruel to me. and speaking of sacrafice, I think this is why PETA is a bit rediculous. well...sort of, but not really. what i mean is...i think that the cruelty we display to animals is symtomatic of a deeper underlying sickness other than simply indifference or cruelty to animals. before science and modernity drowned out all vestiges of the holy, men would pray before "killing"...eerr, SACRAFICING, an animal. praying doesn't occur to anyone now in the daily working of anything in society, much less the killing of the animals we eat. no wonder we treat them like rag dolls.

now to the meat of why i came here to comment in the first place. the personal part. i can say without a doubt that i have suffered a lot in life. most likely more than your average white suburban 29 yr. old. i'm not kidding. i was born with cleft lip and pallette. meaning i basically had no upper lip and no roof in the top of my mouth. you can imagine that feeding was not an easy task as a small baby. and although all that was repaired, i still had trouble eating right as a baby. as a result i was very little my whole life. i think as a result weighing so little, i hit puberty like 3 or 4 yrs. after everyone else, give or take. its hard to describe the alienation i went through, that i "suffered" through as a result of this. plus, i was in speech therapy in primary and elementary schools. i was out of speech therapy by high school, but "snickers" was still one of my diminutive nick names, which yes i did hear to my face as late as my senior year. i could keep going, but you get the picture. i was also, btw, born with a hole in my heart the size of a quarter.

now fast foward. just last week a friend of mine contacted me on myspace because she was in great emotional pain and felt very very alienated and...well, not really like living. without knowing all of that information, she contacted me on myspace simply becasue she wanted someone to talk to and because she felt comfortable talking to ME. i shared some of my story with her, and she said it made her tear up and that it inspired her to believe that it is in fact worth it to keep on living.

similar things have happened to me lately, and i expect them to continue. so no one can convinve me that God doesn't use suffering - MY SUFFERINGS (not some other person's abstract sufferings in some intellectual theological conversation) - to His glory. you simply cannot convince me of that. the Cross really is the Glory of God. i don't care what anyone says, its true. and its true not because its doctrine, its true because its written into the text of the world...into man's heart...its true because of that young woman who contacted me on myspace.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Jason: Did we "need" God in the Garden? No. We had everything we "needed", and we enjoyed God's presence. But after sin we were weighed down with sin and death...and I think its then when "need" entered the picture..."toil by the sweat of your brow."

Jason....your thoughts reminded me of the line in the Matrix, so I started a new post.

Did you know that the biblical text itself never mentions enjoying the presence of God? It's one of those assumptions we never question. American Christians seem to just assume that God and Adam and Eve had regular walks in the cool of the Garden, etc. But there is actually no such inference in the text.

The first mention of God personally interacting w/ Adam and Eve is to confront them with their disobedience.

Jason Hesiak said...

erdmanian...actually the first personal interaction with God that is recorded is when God tells "the man" not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil - which we later learn is in the middle of the garden - "or you will surely die."

anyway...also...the first thing that happens after eating the fruit is: "later they heard the voice of God walking in the garden about the breezy part of the day"...("and the man and his wife went into hiding from the face of God...").

yes its true, when i have studied the story in the past, i took the whole breezy part of the day bit to mean that they (man and wife and God) enjoyed each other's company - minus the hiding - prior to the disobedience. seems a fair assumption to me. i don't see the problem with it. kind of like how it also doesn't come out and just say it that man "had everything he needed", but then didn't in the same way after the fall. although it does say "in the sweat of your face you will you will eat bread until you return to the ground." it also doesn't explicitly connect "need" with that "ground" from when the bread emerges and is cultivated sweatily (slavery, gravitas, death). but the connection is there, i think. i think its similar to this "presence of God" stuff.

Jason Hesiak said...

and while i'm at it...i think that...further...the unsaid presence, kind of embedded or implied in the text...belongs to the general way that meaning is often woven into ancient texts, and then too Jewish ones in particular. with ancient stuff everything isn't exposed and dissected and left out in the open like in a glass vacume leaving us with an existential angst.

Jason Hesiak said...

but in ancient texts what is present and absten are woven into the presence and absence of the actual reader in an actual moment in time...that actual moment of the actual reading occuring after "the fall" that the story describes. the story is read from that side of the veil, and i think that this position of the reader structures the text.

similar how an action that serves as a response to the love of the cross makes present an event and a person that is "absent."

tamie said...

Am I the only one here who doesn't believe in the literal Adam & Eve story?

I want to back up to a couple comments made a little while ago.

Jon, you wrote, So, I ask: am I on this earth to obligate people to love who have no love within them? Or am I here primarily to change the world through loving others, acting out of love, and being open and vulnerable enough to receive love (which imo is just as important)?

Yes, it does seem better and more persuasive and more whole to focus on changing the world through loving and being loved. Do you believe there are people with no love within them?

You also wrote, why would one who is suffering not conclude that God is evil? Which it seems to me is part of what Ivan struggles with. And it seems like a legitimate question. Why do we conclude that God is not evil? Should we conclude this?

Where evil came from....this is a question I'd like to have answered. Where the heck did it come from? If God is all-good, as we understand goodness, then how the heck could the universe contain evil? If matter is neutral--neither good nor evil--then where did consciousness, self-consciousness, kindness, cruelty, etc. come from???

Evan, it was very appropriate for you to point out the difference between discipline and suffering. Intentionally inflicting suffering is called abuse. In which case: the theology that says God sent Jesus to die for the sins of humanity portrays an abusive God. I worry about this for a number of reasons, and one of the reasons is that that sort of theology seems to legitimate violence and abuse, so long as one is on the "right" side.

That last quote from Ivan--the one you quoted at the bottom--is the crux of the matter. The suffering of children isn't worth it--that's what Ivan is saying--and in saying that, he's on the side of love, compassion, justice, self-sacrifice. He wants to "return his ticket" precisely because he wants to rebel against a God of violence, a God who wagers that God's own glory is worth the suffering and torture of innocents.

Jason Hesiak said...

Am I the only one here who doesn't believe in the literal Adam & Eve story?

for clarification...i just don't really question it. that doesn't mean that i do believe in adam and eve story literally. it just means...the literalness or non-literalness of it isn't soemthing i really think about too much. i'd say i don't think of a man and a woman in a garden bla bla yada yada when i read the story. but then when i read the story that actually goes through my imagination. but then my mind also when i think of the story thinks of countless other things from my own life or the life of others.

why ask the question tamie? what effect does the answer have on our lives or our beings or our decisions (moral or otherwise) if the story is or is not meant to be taken literally?

Where evil came from....this is a question I'd like to have answered. Where the heck did it come from? If God is all-good, as we understand goodness, then how the heck could the universe contain evil? If matter is neutral--neither good nor evil--then where did consciousness, self-consciousness, kindness, cruelty, etc. come from???

uuuhhh........uuhh....eerrr...eeehh...uuhhh....isn't that the adam and even story we've been talking about all this time? the story isn't literal so then it doesn't actually answer where evil comes from? wait...i said "comes from." you said "came from". btw i think the story talks about where evil comeS from, moreso than where evil "came" from. i say that because it relates to my previous question to you, tamie, about why the literalness of the story is important...about what imact the literalness or non-literalness of the story has on us.

i guess the fact that i think of it as "where evil comeS from" rather than where evil cAme from means that i DON'T take it "literally", but then that gets into a whole differeent question: "what do you mean by literal?"

Jason Hesiak said...

amanda i'm sorry i didn't mean to bash you with the hogwash thing, but it certainly came across that way i'm afraid. but i do think you were heading in a funky direction...
:)

ktismatics said...

Jesus Christ, you Christians are impossible. It's as if the whole world were a mission field, including that part of the world populated by fictional characters. This is a freaking travesty of readerly good faith, thrusting these characters into your own moral universe rather than letting them occupy the one the author set them in. Now say 3 Hail Marys and 3 Our Fathers and promise you will TRY not to do this any more.

Hesiak, I feel your pain and I hear your theological interpretation of its value to others, but Ivan wouldn't look at it the way you do. I don't think he'd deny the possibility of fellowship in suffering on a purely human level. He can empathize with another's suffering, just as he can empathize with another's sadism. These experiences and emotions are part of the shared human condition, regardless of how we got this way or whose fault it is.

And certainly people have different responses to their own sufferings. My mother, e.g., got polio when she was in her twenties, leaving her quadriplegic and dependent on a respirator to breathe. One of her mottoes: suffering is overrated.

Jason Hesiak said...

doylomania...lol i dont' think your conversation partners are catholic :)

on ivan and my pain...thanks for saying that (seriously). i was hesitant to comment here at first b/c of the tension between simply inhabiting the text via comment and using the text as a mission field...i kinda saw that one coming. i just sort of went with where the thread went. and sorry to hear that about your momma.

crap at work gotta go...

amanda Kelley said...

OK...so I have sat back and read a while...
Jason...no offense taken. everyone is entitled to his/her opinion.
tamie...you do not believe in adam and eve's story, because you choose not to have faith that it "literally" happened. It's not a question of whether it happened or not,it's a question of whether you believe it did or not.
kt...I do not hail Mary, or take speaking to the one I call Father(God) to be a ritualistic chant.
But I do not say any of this you any of you in a harsh tone or ill dimeanor. Contrary, I tell you this with compassion.
Ivan, questioned God and his purpose, he questioned God's existence. He has a heart, but it is merely skn deep. He "cares" about the children, yet does nothing to help them. He likes to talk about it,and not believe in it...no take action in it...he passively returns the ticket so he doesn't have to be involved. I still think his conscience is in turmoil. But so was Judas' before he commited suicide, b/c he could't bare the fact that he was the one who turned Jesus in. God was perfect. Evil is not perfect. We are created in the likeness of him, not just like Him. So yes, we are imperfect...but of our own doing...
another thing...to answer the question about evil's beginning:
Evil didn't start in the garden!
It started with a fallen angel, Lucifer, who was the one who tempted Eve.

tamie said...

kt: the observation that suffering is overrated is perhaps one of the greatest--and perhaps ironically, one of the most humorous--insights i've heard in a long time. merci.

Jason Hesiak said...

and tamie...i really was curious to hear what you mean by "literal"???

tamie said...

by 'literal' i suppose i am trying to mean the same thing most people mean when they talk about a literal interpretation of the bible. they don't actually mean that they take everything in the bible literally of course. metaphors in the psalms, for example, are not taken literally. but things like the earth being created in seven days, starting with light and darkness and finishing up on day six with the creation of one man and one woman--that's taken literally. i myself do not take that literally.

the reason why it seems like this matters in light of the current conversation is: if evil did not come from an angel named lucifer rebelling against god, and then luring the man and woman to rebel against god....then where did it come from? (although, even if it did come from lucifer, this still doesn't really answer the question of how and why evil exists in the universe, how lucifer had that capacity, why god created things to be such that evil is possible.)

it feels to me like people often jump to this simple and easy conclusion: oh, evil comes from satan/the temptation in the garden. the man and woman chose to eat the fruit, really bad things ensued. that explanation seems simplistic as a literal answer, though perhaps powerful as a figurative and mythic answer. but either way, ait doesn't work very well for me.

Jason Hesiak said...

oh. thanks tamie for the explanation. well...lol that sounds like a complicated mess, doesn't it? well if that's what you mean by literal, then no i don't think of the story "literally." or...maybe i do. i don't even know. to me there are too many other questions wrapped up in the issue to be able to answer. what is a myth? what is the relation between tbe literal and the actual (speaking phenomenologically, maybe, to a degree at least)? what is the relation between experience and theoretical doctrine (between spectacle and action, basically)? how has that changed through history? ect. i think every one of those questions - and the "answers" i have come to - influences how i think of the issue you are raising. but i will say, though, that i think, for example, that the creationism vs. intelligent design debate is a useless waste of time (for the most part, at least).

it all comes down to signifier and signified :) what/who does this term "lucifer" ACTUALLY MEAN, for example? :)

anyway...thanks for asnwering my question :) i understand better now what you meant.

PEACE and goofiness!

jason

Jonathan Erdman said...

Another often glossed over fact: the Genesis account does not link the serpent with Satan.

I think this is important because the intention of the Genesis text is NOT to assign evil to Satan. There is a wily serpent who gets punished, but the primary responsibility for gaining the knowledge of good and evil comes from elsewhere.

I think we can make a good case from the text that God set man up to gain the knowledge of good and evil......and maybe that's not such a bad thing. Maybe we should avoid using terms like "the fall." Did humanity really "fall" when they gained the knowledge of good/evil? Or did it just usher them into a new mode of existence and open their eyes.

22 And the LORD God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever." 23 So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

The so-called "fall" was merely becoming God-like in our knowledge of good and evil. Is knowing good and evil such a crime?????

Jason Hesiak said...

what about the simple fact that God had explicitly told man not to eat the fruit of that tree, and "the serpent" was trying to (successfully) convince man to disobey "The Lord God"?

The LORD God commanded the man, saying, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die."

And what about the consequences? The shame (they went into hiding, and covered themselves up, realizing they were naked)? Are you saying its just worth it to "know good and evil", even with such consequences? Consequences such as enmity between various parts of creation, pain in childbirth, people ruling over others, a cursed ground and sweat to get anything up from it, and not to mention the degradation of one of God's creatures, the serpent ("on your belly you will go, and dust you will eat")?

And anyway...if God did "set man up" to gain "knowledge of good and evil", is this another way that God embedded into the structure of the universe a say for man to "need" God?

Jason Hesiak said...

Btw...the following...

Maybe we should avoid using terms like "the fall." Did humanity really "fall" when they gained the knowledge of good/evil? Or did it just usher them into a new mode of existence and open their eyes....The so-called "fall" was merely becoming God-like in our knowledge of good and evil. Is knowing good and evil such a crime?????

...although in plain english, when taken at face value, has roots in scripture ("[the serpent] you surely will not die...will just become more like god...[then God speaking]having become like one of us")...that sounds very very much akin to the language of a gnostic.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Well, whether or not you think that the knowledge of good and evil is "worth it" depends on who you are. I think it's worth it...but Ivan obviously does not....and, I suppose, on certain days I might be less convinced of its worth.

Jason: if God did "set man up" to gain "knowledge of good and evil", is this another way that God embedded into the structure of the universe a say for man to "need" God?

I don't think so. The reason is this: I think humanity is moving forward into a time where our need for God is being drastically reduced. We still have our knowledge of good and evil, but our need for God seems to be non-existent.

Do you think human beings need God in the 21st century? How so?

Jonathan Erdman said...

Yes. The Gnostics loved Genesis 1-3. They had a good time eisegeting the text!

Jason Hesiak said...

well at least this guy has a sense of humor about "eisegeting"...

http://talkingdonkey.wordpress.com/2005/09/07/eisegeting-scripture/

lol.

anyway...the thing is your interpretation of the text...eisegeting or exegeting or what-the-heck-ever...is a lot like that of the gnostics...in this instance. although since i know next to not much about calvinism, it may be that too...i dunno????????????

Do you think human beings need God in the 21st century? How so?

yes i think they do. at the least i am quite positive that I do. to first address nietche's commentary on modern science and the need for God...i think that just because we take for granted the "advantages" of modern technology, it doesn't mean that there aren't gifts or at least things from God behind all that. or even...the Laws of nature by which those technologies operate. i think its in Job: "without the breath of God, then all things would just disappear like a puff of smoke"...lol that was definitely a paraphrase.

and on for me these days a deeper level. like that poem i shared previously. when i am RULED OVER by my lust (or other character issues that feed it), i NEED the (Spirit of the) LORD to regain self-control (one of the "fruits of the Spirit")...self control over that part of myself that is weak. i say that out of experience. i seriously simply don't know the theology of it. i just know - from experience - that i simply need God for that. i can't do it myself, i just can't. trust me - i've tried.

tamie said...

Here is what I think about Genesis. I think it is a record of how people tried to understand the world, the human condition, God, evil, toil, relationships, the ordering of the universe, etc. etc. It's not written by God, it's not the inerrant word of God, and it may or may not bear much relationship to how we want to choose to understand God, evil, etc. It is the record of how some people chose to understand those things, once upon a time. In some places, I think they got it right--or, their understanding accords with my own. In some places, I take departure. I try to do this with humility, because I also take seriously the wisdom of generations, my own smallness, and the fact that I do believe God breathes through the text (like God breathes through just about everything). But still. The whole Adam and Eve story, and everything else in Genesis, was an explanation that made sense to people at one time. Maybe they missed a few things. Maybe, for example, pregnancy or working has nothing to do with the consequences of sin. Maybe their understanding of sin was a bit off.

Jon....I'm trying to understand where you're coming from in terms of us coming to a time when our need for God is drastically reduced. What elements do you think comprised our need for God in the past, and how our those elements absent now. More importantly, I'm trying to understand why you're defining relationship with God in terms of need. It sounds to me a little like an adolescent who says to his parent, "I don't need you anymore!" Okay yes well true, but there's a lot more to relationship than needing someone in that physically dependent way. But perhaps you're getting at something else?

EveInterrupted said...

A couple things I have picked up here:
First as I was reading again the text in Genesis, where God speaks about us being like Him, once we knew Good and Evil..
He put a stipulation on that one tree, we wrecked, so he set a new one: "He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever."
So in a sense, He basically condemed us to death in hell.
How, Jon, may I ask, is this a good thing then, to know Good and Evil??
Also, Tamie, to say that Genesis is just a story, or that's it's just someones record on how good and evil may have started and no the Word of God, is literally a slap in God's face, and well, mine too...with all do respect. Again, it goes back to the faith thing.
I believe it happened, just as we read it written. There are things that don't make sense, but that is not for me to worry about. God put in there what was most important.
As for us no longer needing God, I would have to agree that this is the generational "twist" these days. The era's "need" for God has changed. But our NEED for HIM is still the same, in fact, more desparate than ever, imo. We THINK we don't need Him as much, thanks to technology and the business world, building and moving at the speed of light practically. Everything you could want, you can have. There is little deprivation anymore. Even with the current recession at hand.
People don't think they need God, Erdman. I hope that this is what you meant... But our lives are dependent upon HIM, soley! Would you not agree, Jon?

Jonathan Erdman said...

Amanda: He put a stipulation on that one tree, we wrecked, so he set a new one: "He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever."
So in a sense, He basically condemed us to death in hell.
How, Jon, may I ask, is this a good thing then, to know Good and Evil??


Not living forever is to be condemned to death. But the Genesis text says nothing about hell. That would be yet another example of reading something into Genesis that isn't there.

And why is not living forever such a bad thing?

Here's a bit from the script of the movie Troy spoken by Brad Pitt as Achilles:

I'll tell you a secret-- something they didn't teach you in your temple. The gods envy us. They envy us because we're mortal, because every moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful for the doomed.

He stares at her with such intensity she must look away.

tamie said...

I'm simply not sure how to respond without it just becoming a kind of quiet shouting match. One person believes one thing about what the Bible is; another person believes another. But we are both believing. I see no rock-solid evidence for the Bible being handed down as if from on high. It's not like it's written into the rocks and trees, whether the Bible is the inspired/inerrant Word of God. We're guessing here, one way or another. My experience, education, and reflection has led me to guess in a certain way. Why this is a slap in God's face, or anyone else's, is a mystery to me.

This dialogue no longer feels like dialogue to me. It feels like fighting, and sometimes it feels like evangelism. I don't want to fight, and while I really value honest dialogue, I don't value being preached at.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Tamie: Jon....I'm trying to understand where you're coming from in terms of us coming to a time when our need for God is drastically reduced. What elements do you think comprised our need for God in the past, and how our those elements absent now.

Historically, here are a few needs that God has been used for.

Science and nature
Humans used to need God to explain the world. Now we have science, and although it is far from perfect, we all kind of understand that there are naturalistic explanations for things. Hence, we don't need God to explain the strange actings of nature.

Morality
People used to believe that without God or gods, there would be no morals, and without morals, everyone would be completely evil and would have no reason to do good. But that's kind of absurd. People just do good out of the goodness within....or sometimes they do good because of non-good reasons (to look good in other's eyes or to feel good about themselves). The point is, we don't need God to be good, or even to explain goodness in the world.

The Jesus of the well-adjusted
We used to believe that we needed God to "fill the void" inside. This is where I believe current American Christianity is most heavily invested. It can be summed up on a bumper sticker:
Know Jesus. Know peace.
No Jesus. No peace.
I think it's ridiculous. First of all, there are plenty of well-adjusted folks who don't have God or Jesus in their lives. We can have peace and contentment without God. Conversely, there are plenty of faithful believers who are not psychologically well-adjusted. Jesus said many disturbing things about carrying one's cross; Paul had a death to self theology; and then there are disturbing examples like Job. I think most Christians in American today tell themselves that they need Jesus to feel good, but in reality they don't. But regardless, the point is that Jesus and God are now sold as a cure for our psychological blues, i.e., it is the latest example of a need-based approach to God.

T: More importantly, I'm trying to understand why you're defining relationship with God in terms of need. It sounds to me a little like an adolescent who says to his parent, "I don't need you anymore!" Okay yes well true, but there's a lot more to relationship than needing someone in that physically dependent way. But perhaps you're getting at something else?

Seems like you're coming from a similar perspective as Ktismatics, in terms of questioning the idea of whether "need" is such a good thing.

Question: Do you feel like you need God? (Perhaps that's a bit too personal.) Or, how do you view your relationship with/to God?

I think that a lot of American Christianity has invested itself and legitimated itself upon this alleged need for God. (Remember the hymn, "I need thee every hour.") Pop evangelism seems based almost entirely on needing God for something or other. (The famous "God shaped hole" of Billy Graham....goes back to Augustine: "our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.") I'm curious about exploring other relations to God that are not need-based.

EveInterrupted said...

Tamie, I never meant to sound like I was fighting or arguing, just stating that I believe the Bible and it's writings to be true through and through, whether I understand it all or not, or for that matter follow it exactly(I am human, after all)...I say it with passion, not loudly in a judgemental way. Sorry if it sounded that way.
Jon, "Need" has it's different meanings as well as degrees, I think.

Jason Hesiak said...
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Jason Hesiak said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jason Hesiak said...

Also, Tamie, to say that Genesis is just a story, or that's it's just someones record on how good and evil may have started and no the Word of God, is literally a slap in God's face, and well, mine too...with all do respect. Again, it goes back to the faith thing.
I believe it happened, just as we read it written. There are things that don't make sense, but that is not for me to worry about. God put in there what was most important.


Amanda - not to jump on you - but...if "Word of God" means that "it happened exactly as its written", in the way I think you mean that...then I do think its a bit rediculous to say that its a slap in God's face not to think of it as the "Word of God." Now I do think that the Bible is the "Word of God", but I don't, in the way that you think of it (I think), necessarily think "it happened exactly as it says it happened."

now, Amanda i feel like i'm running the risk of being misunderstood and sounding like i'm being judgemental towards YOU. but what i'm really trying to do is sort of calm the waters a bit...hopefully in what i, at least, would consider a truthful way (take that for what its worth, lol). so to hopefully explain a bit of what i mean, which i hope will also get across the message that i'm not being judgemental...i'm just sharing where i'm at while also trying to observe where i percieve the stormyness is coming from here...i am going to quote brian mclaren at lengh, rather than try to just explain it myself...

When Alice recalls a talk I gave at our contemplative service about how 'everything in life has meaning,' she is referring to a brief talk i gave on what Christians would call 'the doctrine of creation.' It is significant that this talk impressed her so profoundly, because one of the streams of Christian belief that nearly disappeared during the spiritual drought of modernity was creation. Sadly, over the last few centuries, creation became 'nature,' and as such became the domain of physics, chemistry, astronomy, and biology. When Christians tried to talk about creation, it was usually an ill-concieved (in fact, I would say disastrous) debate over evolution, one of our many tragic adventures in missing the point.

So, in teh talk - it was more like a brief meditaiton really - at Anam, I simply tried to help people imagine what it would be like to live in a world that really was God's creation. In such a world, I suggested, there is nothing purely 'objective' - meaning there is nothing that does not have a personaly value attached to it. Why? Becasue if God is Creator, and God has feelings for everything God has made, then every atom in the universe is not a neutral object,
[in other words - Tamie - he is saying that observable phenomenon are not not a pieces of evidence that prove or disprove a scientific hypothesis...I'm not sure if that's what you were getting at previously when you mentioned "rock solid evidence" for the truth of the creation account in Genesis] rather it is the artwork - beloved artwork - of a Creator who values every square centimeter of space, every moment in time, every quark, muon, gluon, neutrino, and proton; every whale, sparrow, chipmunk, and child. In other words, as we wander through the universe, we are not just encountering meaningless stuff; rather, we are wwalking through an art gallery, filled with objects full of meaning, expressiveness, revelation of the Creator's heart, intelligence, compassion....

This view of things, I suggested, would result in a diferent attitude towards every part of life - toward ecology and endangered species, toward manufacturing (is this a good use of God's precious elements?), toward architecture (would this design do honor to the precious space that God has created?), toward leisure and work and recreation (are we honoring God's gift of time through workaholism or laziness or half-heartedness or boredom?), and certainly toward our treatment of one another. After asking everyone to imagine such a world, I suggested that this is the world that actually exists.
[i.e. - the scriptures of Genesis are "true", it is in fact "the Word of God"] This is basically all I said. I simply stated that in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, and that fact means that everything has meaning.

That this made such an impace on Alice tells us something amazing and exciting: In our postmodern world, the simple elements o four Christian belief mosaic are unspeakably precious and profound again. They aren't "oh, yes, of course" - but rather, "it was incredible...I'll never forget it." This wonderful new situation, wehre the simple and basic elements of our faith suddenly become magical and valuable again, explains why I find theological quibbling over theological esoterica in such bad taste and such a sad…waste of time. The beauty of "in the beginning God created" should make us giddy with joy and speechless with wonder for decades, leaving us little time to argue over...over stuff I don't even want to dignify by mentioning here....

In this light, it is worth noting that Alics's kind words about my speaking are overshadowed, just as they should be, by her words "WAHT YOU SAY is so incredible." Maybe you will agree with me that much of our preaching feels pumped up, inflated, like a sales pitch, as if we are trying to make mediocre news sound really, really good. And that is becasue too much of the time we are preaching points of our belief system that are only peripherally related tot he heart of the real and ultimate good news. If we would rediscover teh substance, the essence, the heart of our good news, we would have to work less on how we say because what we say would in itself be so powerful.


:)

jason

Eve.........Interrupted said...

Blogging comments are so hard when you really don't know the person you are talking to..
With that said, anyone who knows me now, will know that I am the last to judge and the first to listen.
I take no offense at anything that has been said regarding my comments. So no worries there. And also in retrospect, I judge no one for thier opinions. Sometimes on the comments, because I am typing them, it sounds like I am ridiculously "witchy", but I am only stating my opinion.
I think we have come so far off the subject of Ivan, that we need move on. So, I am not going to comment any longer in this entry. Wish I could speak to some of you in person, so you could see & know how awesome I think ALL of you are, everyone with thier own perspective. I think it's great! Talk with you soon in other entries...and giving this one a rest. :)