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If everything is holy, nothing is holy

One of my Facebook friends recently shared, with approval, Minnesota folk singer Peter Mayer's song "Holy Now." The lyrics are here.

When I was a boy, each week
On Sunday, we would go to church
And pay attention to the priest
He would read the holy word
And consecrate the holy bread
And everyone would kneel and bow
Today the only difference is
Everything is holy now
Everything, everything
Everything is holy now

When I was in Sunday school
We would learn about the time
Moses split the sea in two
Jesus made the water wine
And I remember feeling sad
That miracles don't happen still
But now I can't keep track
'Cause everything's a miracle
Everything, Everything
Everything's a miracle

Wine from water is not so small
But an even better magic trick
Is that anything is here at all
So the challenging thing becomes
Not to look for miracles
But finding where there isn't one

When holy water was rare at best
It barely wet my fingertips
But now I have to hold my breath
Like I'm swimming in a sea of it
It used to be a world half there
Heaven's second rate hand-me-down
But I walk it with a reverent air
'Cause everything is holy now
Everything, everything
Everything is holy now

Read a questioning child's face
And say it's not a testament
That'd be very hard to say
See another new morning come
And say it's not a sacrament
I tell you that it can't be done

This morning, outside I stood
And saw a little red-winged bird
Shining like a burning bush
Singing like a scripture verse
It made me want to bow my head
I remember when church let out
How things have changed since then
Everything is holy now
It used to be a world half-there
Heaven's second rate hand-me-down
But I walk it with a reverent air
'Cause everything is holy now

Compare them with his even more pointedly titled "Church of the Earth" lyrics linked from here.

Here's a little info.:

PETER MAYER is a well-known American singer-songwriter. His song "Holy Now" has become a beloved standard in liberal church contexts and was the title entry of the 2006 Songbook of the Association of Unity Churches. Peter's "Blue Boat Home" gained a place in the supplementary hymnal of the Unitarian Universalist Association.

In 2006 Peter began collaborating with photographer/videographer Connie Barlow to render the particular songs that highlight evolutionary and ecological themes into captioned video formats ideal for contemplative viewing or sing-along in churches and spiritual centers.

I trust that is clear enough, if you didn't get it from the song lyrics themselves. (Interesting terminological note: Evidently some liberals use "liberal" as a term of approval among themselves.) If you are curious, earth worship features prominently in the above-mentioned universalist "hymn," "Blue Boat Home." Lyrics linked from here.

Why do otherwise sensible and orthodox Christian people occasionally fall for this kind of "everything is a miracle, everything is holy, nothing is any more special than anything else" universalist shtick? What is it about a kind of spiritual egalitarianism of things and events that is so attractive that blatant, in-your-face pantheism and anti-Christianity goes unnoticed in the same lyric? (Gotta love the reference to orthodox Christianity as "heaven's second-rate hand-me-down.")

It's only fair to admit that Mayer is a talented lyricist, so there's that. I think, too, that many Christians are looking for profundity and mysticism, and saying that "everything is holy" seems to answer that need. And saying that a little red-winged bird shines like a burning bush could be taken in isolation to mean that the creation manifests God's glory.

The problem is just that the sweeping, profound-sounding statement is false. Everything is not holy. A Black Mass is not holy. A demon is not holy. Methamphetamine is not holy. An instrument of torture is not holy. A murder is not holy. There is good and bad and right and wrong. Some acts are holy and some are evil. Some symbols stand for good and beautiful things while others stand for evil things. Some objects or substances have no function or point but the bad function for which they were deliberately made.

We can even take it up a notch by moving away from acts and symbols of evil to things that are neutral in themselves. If you insist on saying that every bit of dirt is holy, you should at least have the theological capacity to say that a bit of dirt is not holy in the same sense that the Blessed Sacrament is holy. The dirt is also not holy in the same sense that a saintly human being is holy. And the saintly ordinary human being, not being God Incarnate, is not holy in precisely the same sense, or at least not to the same degree, that Jesus Christ is holy. Even Christian mysticism must be held together and made coherent by hierarchical structure.

Furthermore, if there is not God, who is absolutely holy, and who is strongly Other than and separate from His Creation, then nothing can be holy at all. A radical anti-egalitarianism, a radical separation between Creator and creature, is a necessary condition for the possibility of meaningful holiness. The "holiness" of pantheism is merely everything-ness. It's a faux holiness that actually turns all theological categories into a giant egalitarian mush. Mayer, being an artist, can dress it up pretty nicely, but he can't make it other than what it is. God's presence can infuse glory into the smallest grain of sand only if God is God, if God is a real, personal Being (not "the All" or the Force), and only if the sand is part of God's creation. The omnipresence of the Judeo-Christian God is sharply different from the pantheist universalism of Peter Mayer's lyrics. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that the two concepts are opposed to each other.

Now, about miracles: However sweet it may sound to say that everything that happens is a miracle, that is also false. And again, as with holiness, so here: If everything is a miracle, nothing is a miracle. The concept of a miracle is meaningful only if there is a contrast class of events that form the natural order, i.e., not miracles. (See also the discussion in this comment.) Every drop of rain that falls is not a miracle. Every flower that grows is not a miracle. Though it is true that we wouldn't have drops of rain if God had not made the heavens and the earth and all that is in the beginning by the Word of His power, and though we wouldn't have flowers if God hadn't made the first flowers, the growth of the flower now and the fall of the raindrop now are not miracles now. When Jesus rose from the dead, that was a miracle. When Peter was released by an angel from prison (today's Scripture reading for the Feast of St. Peter), that was a miracle. When Christians were martyred and their bodies decomposed and formed soil for the crops to grow, that was not a miracle.

Sometimes the only way to guard true mysticism and profundity is to seem to run in the opposite direction. I make no claim to be a mystic; far from it. But it seems to me evident that somewhere along the road to a true understanding of God, even by that way of darkness, lies clarity, not vagueness and muddle.

There are crossroads that come up in our thinking about God, and woe betide us if we take the wrong turn. If we are to honor God with our minds, we should see always at those crucial places where the ways part between truth and error an angel with a burning sword held aloft. And from his lips there comes a cry:

"Distinguo!"

Comments (55)

The movie "The Incredibles" is one of my all-time favorite movies. It's an animated superhero movie, but also one of the most conservative movies of the last twenty years, with brilliant dialogue.

One of the best lines of the film is spoken twice, first in a conversation between a mother and son (superheros, two of the main characters), and once by the villain: If everyone's special, noone is.

Why do otherwise sensible and orthodox Christian people occasionally fall for this kind of "everything is a miracle, everything is holy, nothing is any more special than anything else" universalist shtick?

Probably because they understand orthodox Christian beliefs, namely divine simplicity as Being Itself.

There is good and bad and right and wrong. Some acts are holy and some are evil.

True, but even the wrong and evil things are sustained in existence by God. Presumably because God can draw a greater good out of them although that is a lively point of contention.

Every drop of rain that falls is not a miracle. Every flower that grows is not a miracle.

Only because of a failure of poetic imagination or as Walker Percy nicely phrases it - when a signified “has disappeared into the sarcophagus of its sign.”

If everyone's special, no one is.

Ah, sounds like the Incredibles have been listening to Gilbert & Sullivan: "If everybody's somebody, then no one's anybody." I believe it's from The Gondoliers.

Step2, I will only say that you are trying to defend the indefensible. Miracles, for example, cannot be a sign if there is no order of nature as a backdrop against which they stand out. If everything is a miracle, then, when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, everyone should have said, "Yes, yes, that's wonderful, but no more wonderful than the flowers growing in my back yard. Well, gotta be moving along now."

First, I'm not "defending" it I'm merely explaining it. Second, miracles can still be ranked, even among the miracles of Jesus you no doubt have greater and lesser ones. Third, psychologically the claim is rooted in the idea of enchantment, I believe David Bentley Hart has written extensively about the need to re-enchant the world. Fourth, the motif of a resurrection deity began with the Egyptians and their deification of the harvest cycle, so flowers growing the the back yard is under that view a heavenly sign of new life.

Very, very unconvincing. The precise relevance of your last sentence is unclear. Is it supposed to mean that you are biting the bullet on my attempted reductio?

In any event, I maintain that the world cannot be enchanted if these crucial distinctions are not maintained. A phrase like "re-enchantment of the world" sounds nice, but if it has anything to do with the theological mish-mash advocated in the lyrics, it doesn't actually work. I, too, believe that the "world is charged with the grandeur of God," to quote Hopkins, but that is possible only because God is God and the world is the world, only because the two are different.

Surely the song lyrics are presented ironically, and the joke is on the liberals.

Surely the song lyrics are presented ironically, and the joke is on the liberals.

You think the folk singer, Mayer, is being ironic? I don't think so. I think he's a would-be-profound flake. The U.S. and Britain are full of people who want to have "spirituality" without Christianity. This is just one variety thereof.

I had the same impression as Titus through the 3rd stanza. Then I read the 4th and following. It's not irony, sadly. Neither is it particularly good poetry since it confuses its theme.

If everything is a miracle, then, when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, everyone should have said, "Yes, yes, that's wonderful, but no more wonderful than the flowers growing in my back yard. Well, gotta be moving along now."

A counter response might be if everyone properly appreciated the importance of a single weed growing in their back yard, raising Lazarus from the dead would have been unnecessary.

This may tie a bit into the previous discussions of evolution...there is a certain strain that seems to run through some arguments that amount too a feeling of "if it's not a miracle, then it's not important...it's 'just atoms' or 'just randomness' or 'just physics' or whatnot". As if any of those things could really be understood without comprehending how profound they really are.

Boonton, it's important to remember that both Jesus' miracles and Jesus' own resurrection were intended, and taken, to confirm not some sort of generic theism but Jesus' own status as a messenger from God--indeed, as God Himself. This, in turn, confirmed a lot of heavy theological content that, according both to Christian doctrine and according to most atheists (I would assume) could not be known by natural theology alone. Hence, even if there were some natural theology argument from "Why is there something rather than nothing" or some teleological argument from the flower's growth to the existence of a God who is the creator, this would not tell us how we could be forgiven from our sins, that wouldn't tell us that Jesus is God, that wouldn't tell us that Jesus died for our sins, etc., etc. In other words, it wouldn't give us Christianity. Christianity is a revealed religion, not merely a philosophical or generic religion. In Scripture God uses miracles as signs for various purposes. If everything is a miracle, then nothing can be a sign, and a revealed religion with detailed content becomes impossible.

It's fair enough to say that the mere fact of being, or even the fact of biological being in the void of space, is itself evidence of the miracles of God. It's stultifying nonsense to present the ordinary reasonable operation of that portion of being which is our observable universe, as likewise as miraculous as being itself. The urge to flatten the extraordinary interventions of Everlasting into the physical world, because even the normal physical world is amazing, is indeed a mere urge and no reasoned argument at all.

A flower growing out of the decay of its ancestors is like a unique and indivisible human being? Seriously?

Lydia,
Like I said I am not inclined to defend the POV. If you aren't convinced by it, so what? Neither am I. However I will recommend that if you don't want anyone to even attempt to answer your questions you should continue to demand all answers adhere to your belief structure.

Step2, I just disagree with you, strongly, that the POV of the song is that of orthodox Christianity, while you appear to be under the impression that it is orthodox and indeed that it is spelling out the consequences of regarding God as the Ground of Being. I was not rough with you in the slightest. Telling someone that he's trying to defend the indefensible (in this case, the compatibility of Mayer's lyrics with the orthodox Christian worldview), and buttressing this with brief argument are known as discussion and conversation, which is what blogs are for. My "why" question in the main post was pretty evidently rhetorical, though, as my discussion with you and also my answer to Boonton's comment shows, I'm quite willing to _answer_ those who disagree with the presupposition of the rhetorical question.

Titus, at first I thought the song was tongue in cheek also, but by the end I couldn't keep that up. And looking at the other stuff on the list, that confirms it.

Boontoon and Step2, here's an argument against your theses:

See another new morning come
And say it's not a sacrament
I tell you that it can't be done

By the word "sacrament" we mean something that is a sign of something else. In Christianity, it is precisely a non-noble thing being a sign of something better, nobler, higher. But if EVERYTHING is better, nobler, higher, then nothing can be a sign of something else better. Same issue goes for the next part:

It used to be a world half-there
Heaven's second rate hand-me-down
But I walk it with a reverent air
'Cause everything is holy now

If this is as good as heaven, then our hope is in vain. For St. Paul's great testament to Christ's redemptive act is that it is a pointer to something BETTER. If my acts as engendered by union with Christ in me acting "to will and to do" are not something better than they were without that, then holiness is meaningless. If life without the prospect of death is no better than life with the prospect of death, then Christ's triumph over death is nonsense. If heaven is not better than this current life, if heaven is not the place where we can breathe the free air of love without temptations and the crabbed constraints of interior defects holding us back, then Paul's preaching is in vain.

if heaven is not the place where we can breathe the free air of love without temptations and the crabbed constraints of interior defects holding us back, then Paul's preaching is in vain.

Imagine a man came home one day and your wife told you she didn't love him and was having an affair. The reason? Because the home isn't a McMansion and she isn't driving a new Cadillac. I don't think your response would be "this marriage can only be saved by a good real estate agent and car salesman!"

Your description of heaven sounds like it's trying to solve a problem that's squarely centered inside the person (interior defects, subject to temptations, unable to 'breathe' love) and purports to solve them by upgrading the place which doesn't seem quite right.

Using the above analogy imagine a healthy marriage asserting something like "we love our 5 yr old Honda and two bedroom home with the drafty windows". It's not quite saying new cars and nice homes aren't more enjoyable than their opposite, but it is saying the larger 'defect' in a person is a failure to appreciate the true value of what actually exists here and now and that doesn't get solved by tossing them a much nicer version of here and now.

Your description of heaven sounds like it's trying to solve a problem that's squarely centered inside the person (interior defects, subject to temptations, unable to 'breathe' love) and purports to solve them by upgrading the place which doesn't seem quite right.

Actually, in Christian theology a _huge_ part of the glory of heaven is that "we shall be changed." This comes up repeatedly in Scripture. Heaven _does_ solve all the problems that are squarely centered inside the person. Heaven should not be regarded as just an exterior place. It involves our freedom from sin and temptation, our perfect union with God, our freedom from being the kind of people who are discontented, our sanctification.

That sounds less like a place and more like a state of being. If it's a state of being then indeed someone in that state may indeed see everything as a type of 'holy' even if it's just things we consider mundane everyday things like blades of grass.

Wow, I was looking up the lyrics to this song and came across this dissection and evisceration of them instead. If this song doesn't speak to you, fine, if the songwriter's personal beliefs don't fall in line with yours, okay, if his use of poetic license with certain terminology isn't what you would do when you wrote your folk song, whatever. But "woe betide you"? I think you guys are needlessly vilifying this song and stretching the very simple theme to extend it to ideas it's not meant to address.

God can be miraculous in big and small ways, and you don't have to look far to find it. Miracles don't just happen in Heaven or the Bible. The miracles you can witness right in front of you can testify and teach you about God and his nature as much as a miracle you read about in church. That's the point of the song. Regardless of whether you agree with the songwriter's personal faith, there's not anything wrong with the song itself and it might actually cause a secular thinker to consider looking at nature in a more spiritual context, which might lead to deeper questioning and seeking. If God reaches you through non-natural miracles, or stories of miracles, great. If He reaches you through intellectual, emotional, or philosophical means, wonderful. He reached me through high school biology. When I first heard the song years ago, I loved it because it honored and described some of the big stones in my personal faith foundation.

Every day a sunrise serves as a sacrament, a symbol or reminder, that this Earth is making its constant, life-sustaining, rotation. Each season is a reminder of the climate regulating tilt and revolution of our perfectly positioned planet. Each grain of sand is a reminder of the billions of diverse organisms in the sea, and if we read that the birds and rocks glorify God, why not the amazing organisms living in a common piece of dirt? All of these things testify and remind us (in the way that formal religious practices also serve as reminders, metaphor here) of a Creator who is all powerful, perfect, who delights in beauty and detail. To me, the diversity of life on Earth or billions of galaxies is pretty impressive on the miracle scale, if there is such a thing. Knowledge of God isn't confined to a church, a ritual, an ancient time. His fingerprints are everywhere!

“For the invisible things of Him [God] since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity” Romans 1:20

I loved the Lazarus/flower comparison. The miracle of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead was important and affected several people directly, and many people indirectly through hearing the story. I personally learned a lot about God's compassion through studying that story. The flowers in Lazarus's yard? They along with all the other plants on Earth convert energy from a giant star into food and carbon dioxide into oxygen, allowing every human and animal to live, for as long as life has been and as long as it will be. So yeah, those flowers are actually incredibly impressive acts of God. I'm not saying worship them, but you can be led by them to a greater understanding of God and His nature.

I can't believe people would be so up in arms about this song! The songwriter thinks nature is holy, so he must think meth is holy? This is what's wrong with society, as supported by a quote from a Disney cartoon? Thanks, though, for quoting Hopkins, a poet who truly believed that "everything is holy". Thanks, also, for making me like this song even more!

I don't usually post comments like this, I just found this all particularly off track and had to throw in my two cents!

Emily, this isn't about "miraculous in a big way" versus "miraculous in a small way." This is about miraculous versus non-miraculous, full stop. Rain is not a miracle. A growing flower is not a miracle. It's a very cool natural process. Of course, God's initial act of creation was a miracle, but once he established the cycles of nature, they have continued to spin in a non-miraculous way. That's why the analogy to Lazarus is so bad. Resurrection from the dead is a SUSPENSION of nature's laws, while photosynthesis is the exact opposite.

It is simply an illusion that Mayer is saying that God is manifested in his creation in the sense that Christians mean that. Mayer is definitely teaching earth worship and pantheism. Read not only these lyrics but the lyrics to his other songs with a clear eye. He is directly blurring the distinction between creature and creator. It's not like he's hiding it.

Boonton,

That sounds less like a place and more like a state of being.

It's both. Why couldn't it be? That seems to be the scriptural view--we will be in a different place than we are now and in a different spiritual state than we are now. Both will be much better.

If it's a state of being then indeed someone in that state may indeed see everything as a type of 'holy' even if it's just things we consider mundane everyday things like blades of grass.

I notice you use the phrase "a type of holy." But exactly that sort of distinction-making is what the song is attacking. Again, I affirm that God fills the world with His glory. But that doesn't make a blade of grass holy *in the same sense that* God is holy or that the Sacrament is holy or even that a human being can be holy. Moreover, that doesn't mean that *everything* is holy. The saints in heaven don't go around singing "Holy, holy, holy" to Satan! But if everything is holy, presumably they should. So if one is in heaven experiencing the beatific vision, that doesn't mean that one's consciousness turns to mush and that one sees everything as all the same. Quite the contrary, in fact. The beatific vision will bring extreme clarity of understanding.

Mayer could always claim that he's just making an analogy, not literally saying that Earth = God. But he edges too close for comfort on numbers like "God is a River" and "O Sun," which I think are even worse than "Church of the Earth" (because he could say "Well Earth is just the place where we WORSHIP God"). Check out this lyric:

In the ever-shifting water of the river of this life
I was swimming, seeking comfort; I was wrestling waves to find
A boulder I could cling to, a stone to hold me fast
Where I might let the fretful water of this river ‘round me pass

And so I found an anchor, a blessed resting place
A trusty rock I called my savior, for there I would be safe
From the river and its dangers, and I proclaimed my rock divine
And I prayed to it “protect me” and the rock replied

CHORUS:
God is a river, not just a stone
God is a wild, raging rapids
And a slow, meandering flow
God is a deep and narrow passage
And a peaceful, sandy shoal
God is the river, swimmer
So let go

Still I clung to my rock tightly with conviction in my arms
Never looking at the stream to keep my mind from thoughts of harm
But the river kept on coming, kept on tugging at my legs
Till at last my fingers faltered, and I was swept away

So I’m going with the flow now, these relentless twists and bends
Acclimating to the motion, and a sense of being led
And this river’s like my body now, it carries me along
Through the ever-changing scenes and by the rocks that sing this song

CHORUS:

God is the river, swimmer
So let go

Or this one:

You are the sun
I am the dew
Gifted with life for a moment or two
That I for my time
May sparkle and shine
O Sun, come fill me with you
O Sun, come fill me with you

You are the wind
I am the sail
You are my strength and without you I fail
Breathe but a sigh
And I’ll open wide
O Wind, come fill me with you
O Wind, come fill me with you

You are the wine
I am the cup
I can yield nothing till I am filled up
Hold me upright
And pour forth your life
O Wine, come fill me with you
O Wine, come fill me with you

O Wine, come fill me
O Wind, come fill me
O Sun, come fill me
With you

The saints in heaven don't go around singing "Holy, holy, holy" to Satan! But if everything is holy, presumably they should. So if one is in heaven experiencing the beatific vision, that doesn't mean that one's consciousness turns to mush and that one sees everything as all the same.

I thought I recall reading somewhere that it's an Orthodox belief that even Satan at some point will be reconciled back to God....if that's correct then if the saints do indeed sing whenever a sinner reforms he may yet get his song.

Regardless if holy is a quality then it doesn't require that everything that holds that quality 'be the same'. 'Fat' is a quality yet I can tell the difference between Jackie Gleason, Orsen Wells and Fat Albert. If everyone in the world was fat I'd still be able to see vast differences between people. And no if everyone in the world suddenly ballooned up to 300 lbs it wouldn't somehow turn 300 lbs into 'thin'

If everything is holy, then Satan should be able to be described as holy even if he is unrepentant. This is pretty straightforward.

Differences in degree are not the only differences there are. Theology thrives on distinctions. A tree literally cannot be holy *in the same sense that* a sanctified human being can be holy. Hence "fat" is not a good analogy.

The thing about Mayer is that he is _trying_ to market his songs to the earth-worship universalist camp. His photographer has "ghosts of evolution" as her handle and is _explicitly_ trying to promote an eco-religion. She didn't even demur when a Youtube commentator suggested that images of lions devouring zebras would be just as much images of "holy" things as peaceful pictures of streams and rivers. This isn't a matter of being charitable or something in trying to make Mayer come out orthodox. That is his intended audience, and their understanding is his intended understanding. He doesn't intend to be orthodox.

Fat does allow differences in degree and you seem to be making differences in degree when it comes to holy as well....a repentant Satan would be holier than an unrepentant one...so you could say 'everything is holy' while still permiting some things to contain or be 'more holy' than others.

Mayer is that he is _trying_ to market

Who cares? This is an academic distinction. The work is entitled to stand or fall on it's own merits regardless of its authors intentions. We have no idea, for example, what Homer was like or what his motives were (or even if he was a single person), that doesn't mean the Iliad lacks meaning or value. It's possible 10,000 years from now this song will remain but all information about its author or his customerss 'camp' will be forgotten.

Yeah, actually, if you find out that someone is promoting eco-religion, then that forms a _context_ for interpreting a text. For example, similar words may mean different things if uttered by a Buddhist as opposed to being uttered by a Christian. Context is relevant to textual interpretation.

Fat does allow differences in degree

That's my point. There are also differences of kind. Which are not represented by differences of degree of fatness.

a repentant Satan would be holier than an unrepentant one.

To refer to an unrepentant Satan as holy is theologically nuts. And it certainly isn't orthodox Christianity.

I guess we should include Tolkien among the would-be profound flakes. An enchanted forest, that’s pure crazy talk.

I tried to make sense of Tony's comment given what he's written previously about God, but I got nothing. I don't know how you reconcile a perfect God who creates and sustains all reality moment to moment that could create a perfect world with a God who allows a diseased world to spin mindlessly on with broken creatures made in his image.

I tried to make sense of Tony's comment given what he's written previously about God, but I got nothing. I don't know how you reconcile a perfect God who creates and sustains all reality moment to moment that could create a perfect world with a God who allows a diseased world to spin mindlessly on with broken creatures made in his image.

Step2, the problem you are pointing to is not any difficulty raised by what I said up above:

If this is as good as heaven, then our hope is in vain. For St. Paul's great testament to Christ's redemptive act is that it is a pointer to something BETTER. If my acts as engendered by union with Christ in me acting "to will and to do" are not something better than they were without that, then holiness is meaningless. If life without the prospect of death is no better than life with the prospect of death, then Christ's triumph over death is nonsense. If heaven is not better than this current life,

What you are pointing to is just one version of "the problem with evil". If this world (absent heaven and an afterlife) is the sum total of reality, then the problem is insoluble. But that insolubility hasn't anything to do with what I said, for I certainly invoked heaven and the afterlife.

Nor is the manner in which heaven and the afterlife contribute to the solution of the problem of evil something special to my particular take on the theme of these songs. God apparently loves FREE acts of love more than he detests defective free acts of love, and created a universe in which the possibility of moral defects actually plays out in real evils. Whatever the solution to that evil, it isn't in pretending that they are not actually evil, for crying out loud. Saying this natural order is beautiful doesn't in the least bit solve it either, and pretending that the solution to the problem can be found ENTIRELY in natural goods found in this natural order is relying on an impossibility. And isn't Christianity at all, which is all I was pointing out. If you want to propose that the singer isn't Christian, and that he believes rather some new-agey version of pantheism or whatever, that's fine with me.

a God who allows a diseased world to spin mindlessly on with broken creatures made in his image.

Christianity DOES respond to this: it isn't mindless, it won't continue that way forever, He does have a plan, He did start to unwind the broken-ness with the Incarnation and Redemption, and He will finish the work in the end. I can't help it if you think that this answer is wrong, but please don't pretend that Christianity doesn't even address the matter.

I guess we should include Tolkien among the would-be profound flakes. An enchanted forest, that’s pure crazy talk.

I don't think you know Tolkien as well as you obviously think you do. It's not even clear here whether you are talking about Lothlorien, the Old Forest, or the Entwood.

To the first: Lothlorien is Edenic and is thus subject to different physical laws. It does not support any nonsense such as "everything is holy," precisely because it is _different_ from other parts of Middle Earth. (See, if it's different, then everything is not like it. See?) It is not strictly speaking holy but is magically preserved under the influence of the ring worn by the Lady Galadriel, which prevents the ravages of climactic extremes and death. Galadriel, being an elf, is an immortal, though elves can be killed in battle. Eventually Galadriel goes over the sea to Elvenhome, and Lothlorien is no longer protected. Then the leaves of the mallorn trees fall even though spring has not yet come. Under the power of Galadriel, the beautiful golden leaves would fall only when the blossoms arrived in spring.

To the second: The Old Forest contains semi-sentient trees which feel animosity towards man. They are hostile except when controlled--e.g., by Tom Bombadil, who is of a lesser angelic order and is able to command them.

To the third: The Entwood is full of Ents and trees. Ents are rational, sapient, tree-like beings which can, however, turn feral and become highly dangerous. The Ents apparently have some power of "waking up" some trees and making them semi-rational and to that extent Entish. The Ents' special task is to guard the trees from wanton killing.

All of this is part of a clever, detailed world-making, full of distinctions and clarity, which does not in the slightest support the pantheistic nonsense being purveyed by Mayer.

What you are pointing to is just one version of "the problem with evil". If this world (absent heaven and an afterlife) is the sum total of reality, then the problem is insoluble. But that insolubility hasn't anything to do with what I said, for I certainly invoked heaven and the afterlife.

First, as I’ve already stated there is no reason to assume that all miracles or sacraments are equal, which is critical to understanding my point. If you refuse to grant that possibility, don’t even bother trying to make sense of the rest of it. If you do grant the possibility, the singer is saying that the ordinary, the mundane, the things we overlook as merely routine in our knowledge has become devalued and it is this lack of wonder and appreciation at the small miracles of God’s designs for and within the world that explains The Fall as a self-imposed distancing from the omnipresence of God.

Saying this natural order is beautiful doesn't in the least bit solve it either, and pretending that the solution to the problem can be found ENTIRELY in natural goods found in this natural order is relying on an impossibility.

The point isn’t that natural beauty, or official sacraments, or holy relics “point to something better” to use your phrasing, it is that everything points to something better. How could it be otherwise if God is ultimately the alpha and omega for everything? It’s weird to me that you accept, philosophically, the all-encompassing nature of God’s purpose, and then are blind to it when you try to fit things into your categories of good and evil (what the apple represents).

I can't help it if you think that this answer is wrong, but please don't pretend that Christianity doesn't even address the matter.

Christianity addresses the matter in a more profound and complete way than you think it does.

All of this is part of a clever, detailed world-making, full of distinctions and clarity, which does not in the slightest support the pantheistic nonsense being purveyed by Mayer.

So what part of clever, detailed world-making, full of distinctions and clarity, doesn’t apply to God? Keep in mind that orthodox sometimes refer to God as The Author. Would you say LOTR had an overall purpose and meaning, that each character “played its vital part” in the ultimate arc of the story? With your hermeneutics of suspicion you want to dismiss many of those characters as unnecessary, when of course they aren’t.

Orcs are evil. They aren't unnecessary. But they're evil. So is Sauron. How hard is it to get that "everything is holy" is just unhelpful at best and pantheistic at worst? And it is _intended_ to be pantheistic, by the way, in the song. Trying to fit it into an orthodox context is simply strained.

First, as I’ve already stated there is no reason to assume that all miracles or sacraments are equal, which is critical to understanding my point. If you refuse to grant that possibility, don’t even bother trying to make sense of the rest of it. If you do grant the possibility, the singer is saying that the ordinary, the mundane, the things we overlook as merely routine in our knowledge has become devalued and it is this lack of wonder and appreciation at the small miracles of God’s designs for and within the world that explains The Fall as a self-imposed distancing from the omnipresence of God.

It seems that you are backing off from trying to pull the problem of evil into this discussion, which is good. It was a red herring to begin with.

I grant not only the possibility but the reality that not all miracles and not all sacraments are equal.

The ordinary, the mundane may well be undervalued by many of us most of the time. This lack of wonder and appreciation of small "miracles" (small "m") is a lack and wonder at things that are wonderful. Obviously, failing to see the wonderful in things that are wonderful is a defect. Or at least a way of being less than optimal.

The point isn’t that natural beauty, or official sacraments, or holy relics “point to something better” to use your phrasing, it is that everything points to something better. How could it be otherwise if God is ultimately the alpha and omega for everything?

Certainly I agree that everything is directed to God. Every thing God makes He makes with a nature whose positive goodness and being is to approach toward Godliness, according to the mode of its nature. To BE a natural being is to BE ordered toward God. Through its nature. A flower points to God the infinite, but the flower's pointing is not an infinite pointing since it has a finite nature: it points to God according to the mode of the flower's own being, not according to the mode of God's own being.

But "Miracles" (capital M) are ordered to and point to God in a distinct way from that. They are directed to God in a super-natural way, as well as in a natural way. Thus they have a mode of specialness, of wonderfulness, that is superimposed on top of their already existing wonderfulness that exists by reason of their natures. Thus we can wonder at, and be in awe of, Miracles in a new way in addition to being in awe of their wonderfulness that comes from the way their natures are received from God (as agent cause), imitate him (as exemplar cause), and directed to God (as final cause).

It’s weird to me that you accept, philosophically, the all-encompassing nature of God’s purpose, and then are blind to it when you try to fit things into your categories of good and evil...

Fit things into my categories of good and evil? I am not the one bringing up evil here.

Interestingly enough, the all-encompassing nature of God's purpose with respect to man includes raising man up above the limits of his own nature, and give him an end that he could never approach to, nor even actively pursue, without supernatural assistance. That purpose as such has nothing to do with being good as separated from evil, it was as true of Adam and Eve before evil entered the world as it is true of us.

Even if sin had never entered the world, men would need to set their sights on a good greater than any earthly or natural good, on a mode of willing and loving that exceeds any mode of loving that is natural to man, in order to be what God intended for him. So, no matter how wondrous and uplifting he perceived and accounted all of nature, nothing in that would allow him to fulfill his ultimate purpose without supernatural grace. The need for something higher than the natural order of man's perceptions and the natural capacities for man's faculties even when pursued perfectly (naturally) is certainly part of the Christian message. Thus, God chooses to supernaturally impose on things of nature not only their natural ordering to Him (with all their natural wonders), but also a distinct role in bringing to fulfillment His supernatural goal for men, a role not implicit in their natural good, their natural beauty, their natural wonders: Miracles and supernatural signs of supernatural ends (Sacraments).

To undervalue the way in which the supernatural order exceeds the natural order is to diminish the extent to which God transcends the finite, indeed transcends creation itself. Which is one of the typical errors of pantheism.

I suspect that I am the target of Lydia’s post here or at least it seems like an awfully large coincidence. Even though Lydia didn’t pick me out by name for skewering, I think it is only fair that I am allowed to make myself clear. I am posting now because I just became aware of Lydia’s comments.

I am not now nor have I ever been a Unitarian or a Universalist or any combination of the two. Nor have I ever had any theological sympathy with those positions. I’ve spent countless hours defending Trinitarianism and given interviews where I argue why universalism is a pseudo solution to the problem of evil.

Nor have I ever been a theological liberal in any meaningful sense of that word. That should be clear from my regular postings on Fb, my blog (Energetic Procession), postings in other venues, all the way back nearly 25 years ago to my panel discussions when I was a late teenager with the Episcopal bishop of OC, Fred Borsch.

Whatever Meyer’s errant intentions were with the song, I didn’t post it because I agreed with everything in it, but because I thought that with most error, there is a significant truth present in it. I think Lydia’s post misses that truth.

It might be true that many Christians fall for simplistic thinking along the lines of “everything is a miracle” but this still seems to paint rather broadly and ignore a significant theological truth. For myself, I am not looking for “profundity and mysticism” as my regular church liturgies are spilling over with them. Here there be icons.

There is a legitimate Christian sense in which everything that is, is a miracle. This is a consequence of two Christian doctrines, the first being creation ex nihilo and God’s power in upholding all things in being. These truths do not compromise or undermine or aren’t otherwise incompatible with, the belief in moral goodness or moral vice.

I don’t find Lydia’s counter example of demons, black masses and such to be real counter examples precisely because they do not constitute anything natural but rather personal. That is, their status as evil turns on a hypostatic orientation. In short, evil is personal and not natural. Strictly speaking, there are not evil “things” as such, pace Gnosticism. God has no opposite.

Speaking of things “neutral” in themselves doesn’t make much sense to me. Part of the legitimate truth I think that Meyer picks up on (though his latent Pelagianism warps) is that nothing in creation is neutral. All is God’s and there is no other story. All other stories are pseudo-stories, both in the explanatory and justificatory sense. This is a truth that Christian apologists often fail to see by granting some kind of neutral ground (common and neutral ground are not the same concepts) to their atheist interlocutors. It is Christ or Nihilism. This is becoming more apparent in fields like contemporary meta-ethics with the rise of moral fictionalism.

It is quite true that the eucharist is holy in a way and to degree that dirt is not, but that might have something to do with the eucharist being Christ’s body and blood (rather a symbol of it or an instrumental vehicle for the transfer of Christ’s power contingent on the belief of the recipient-Pelagian schemas is ever there were). But it should not be forgotten that God created humanity good and from the dust of the ground. Christ himself used mud to heal blindness. I think Lydia is giving dirt short shrift.

As for saints, I sure hope we get the holiness of Christ seeing that the scriptures say we become partakers of the divine nature itself. People can choke on that any way they wish but any account that ends up having us become something that is not the divine nature, but rather some perfecting of something created is not going to be biblical. It s true that such deification is derivative for us, but that doesn’t imply that we lack the potency for it particularly since human nature itself is a divine logos.

While I agree with Lydia’s denial of pantheism and panentheism, Christian theology constraints us to not to make the contingency of creation oppositional to divinity. God doesn’t require a mediator in terms of something semi-divine and semi-created to access and act in creation, pace Arius. The incarnation makes this clear, for human nature is not opposed to the divine which is why there is a synergy and harmony between the two in the one divine and eternal person of Christ. Human nature as such is an eternal logos or predestination. As St. Maximus the Confessor expressed, God wilsl at all times and everywhere the mystery of his incarnation.

I for one do not know whether Meyer is a pantheist. I do know that he is a universalist. And while I agree with much of what Lydia says about the deficiencies of pantheism but I think she misses the real problem. The moral upshot of the problematic view is not really grounded in pantheism, but Pelagianism, the idea that nature is intrinsically graced and related to God primarily through an extrinsic relation of law. Without the moral upshot, pantheism is dull. I find it then somewhat ironic that a Protestant such as Lydia would protest so loudly given that protestant view of the sacraments are fundamentally pelagian. Objects of nature which intrinsically cannot participate in divine salvific power but can only really be extrinsic instruments for the conveyance of divine power. At best the natural and the supernatural are contiguous related thru an act of will, God’s or ours. Much the same goes for Protestant views of deification, cough, I mean glorification where humanity doesn’t become what God is, but only a perfected humanity which renders the Transfiguration on Tabor inexplicable or a Disney light show. We could add the implicit Pelagianism of Protestant prelapsarian anthropology with first parents that are intrinsically righteous falling into an intrinsically altered nature rather than a fall from grace.

It should come as no surprise that I think Lydia also misses the boat on miracles. There is a legitimate sense in which everything that is, is a miracle. This falls out of the doctrine of creation ex nihilo and divine concurrence. I confess that I find the idea that a miracle is meaningful only if there is a contrast class of events that form the natural order where the natural order means “not miracles” to be wrongheaded. This seems to imply that there is a somewhat autonomous and autonomously running creation. What else am I to make of Lydias statement that the frowth of flowers “now” is not a miracle? Is this the operation of some other power than the divine? How is this not deism? And might deism and Unitarianism share not only a temporal period but a substantial conceptual overlap? I think Lydia and Meyer have more in common than she suspects.

I think what Lydia confuses is the idea of secondary causation where things “run” on their distinctive principles yet by divine power with the idea of an autonomous operation. What is significant about the Gospel miracles on the former thesis is that their operating principles and degree of divine power transcend those we are accustomed to. They simply go further up the chain and intensity of divine power. As a consequence we do not live in a two story universe but a one story universe where God is everywhere present and personally and intimately related to his creatures. This is not a question of “sweetness” but rather thinking through the implications of the core Christian doctrine, the incarnation.

Perry, I've heard Bishop Kallistos and some other Orthodox theologians advocate a species of what might be called Christian panentheism, based on the thought of the Cappadocians, St Maximus, and others. Do you believe this to be incorrect, or is it more a matter of terminology? I sometimes think that the term panentheism is adequate, but also that it could be too easily misunderstood, as if God were immanent "in" everything in his essence.
Thoughts?

Perry, I am not going to debate all of Eastern Orthodox theology with you.

If you don't know whether Mayer is a pantheist, I think you don't know how to read nor how to use blatant and screaming context clues to the meaning that a poet intends in his lyrics.

I don't think you are a theological liberal, and I assume with charity that you are not a pantheist, but Mayer clearly is, and it looks being cluelessly duped by a happy evolution-earth-worshiper who (by the way) is deliberately holding up the middle finger to the very notion of the the Sacraments (if that matters to you) to say that his lyrics contain deep and important truth.

If you prefer to use the phrase "secondary causation" for what I call "the natural order," that's fine with me. To what extent secondary causation is or is not autonomous is not something I'm terribly interested in debating. The fact remains that secondary causation and direct miracle are not the same thing and that there could be no miracles if there were not what I call a natural order--that is to say, the order of secondary causes that we see operating around us all the time and to which real miracles are an exception. The growth of flowers now is not the same type of event in its relation to the world of nature as God's raising Jesus Christ from the dead. If that statement is contrary to your understanding of Eastern Orthodoxy, and even if your understanding is correct (I make no pronouncement on either of these propositions), so much the worse for Eastern Orthodox theology.

Lydia,

Yeah, that’s probably a good idea nor to debate all (any?) of Orthodox theology with me. ;)
As you yourself acknowledge, he could be speaking metaphorically. I don’t know but either way, I don’t care much. I thought I made it clear that I carry no water for his heterodox positions. Then again, that was the point, I don’t hold water for yours either. But since I know people who know him personally, I’ll have them ask him personally. I just thought the song had some good content, even content that I don't think he recognized.

As I tried to make clear, secondary causation is not the same concept as the one you articulated. You seemed to be articulating a form of deism or at least were.

If there could not be miracles if there were not what you call natural order, then either creation ex nihilo is not a miracle or it is not possible, for there as no “natural order” antecedent to it. Perhaps you think the cosmos is eternal tho? I dunno. But you seem to be modifying your position, which is a good thing, bringing it into line with Christian teaching. Previously you conveyed the idea that the growing of flowers now is not by divine power. (If creation is a miracle, why isn't concurrence?) That’s strikes me as implicit deism.

I suppose part of this depends on whether you believe God is the formal cause of creatures, as I articulated previously or not. I am betting not. So much the worse for your theology I suppose. ;)

As far as holding the middle finger up to sacerdotalism, I simply note that your Protestant theology must share that finger with Meyer. If I should reject his position for that reason, then I should reject the classical Protestant position as well, since they are based on fundamentally the same view of nature. I am happy to reject both. I invite you to do the same.

Nice Marmot,

It is true that Ware and others use that terminology at times. I think what they mean to convey is that God is the formal cause of creatures. But since the Orthodox do not think that the term divine nature exhausts or denotes the divine essence per se, there is no panentheism. That thesis is precisely a thesis about deity creating the world out of its own essence. For Maximus, the divine plans or logoi are eternal activities of God’s, of which creatures created according to them are contingent instances. In this way, Maximus avoids and precludes Origen’s views as well as panentheism while upholding creation ex nihilo. So yes, I think its not a great choice of terms.

Perry, I'm not entirely sure what position on the Sacraments you are attributing to me under the heading of the "classical Protestant position," but I would encourage you not to jump to conclusions. I've had a somewhat unusual position concerning Holy Communion for some years now, though I think it may have been Thomas Cranmer's position. Perhaps you would still dub it Pelagian or what-not, but it is a Real Presence view and nothing like memorialism (for example).

http://lydiaswebpage.blogspot.com/2012/08/why-protestant-believes-in-real-presence.html

As for Mayer's disdaining sacramentalism, it is explicit in his song, and I would completely disagree with it. He is explicitly rejecting the idea that there is anything specially holy about the sacrament as confected by the priest. He disdains that as heaven's second-rate hand-me-down and the notion of kneeling at the sacrament and venerating it as part of the benighted orthodox view he was exposed to in his childhood but now rejects--a view which held that the bread was made specially holy by being consecrated.

I am not a concurrentist. Are you then saying that anyone who isn't a concurrentist is a deist? Maybe you are. I certainly disagree.

I don't believe that I said that the natural order must have existed temporally before any event that is a miracle but that it stands in contrast _to_ a miracle. Obviously, the creation of the natural order itself (which in my opinion is also the creation of time) is in contrast to the _existence_ of the natural order despite the absence of such a temporally prior natural order. And for all subsequent miracles, the natural order is both logically different from them and temporally prior to them.

If there could not be miracles if there were not what you call natural order, then either creation ex nihilo is not a miracle or it is not possible, for there as no “natural order” antecedent to it.

Perry, I understand that you don't like Lydia's theology, but don't go casting stones at non-existent problems. Nothing in what Lydia said suggests the foolishness of denying creation ex nihilo. And accepting creation ex nihilo does not require an abjuration of a natural order - which Thomas (and all Thomists) rely on, precisely WHILE they advert to secondary causation.

Thomas says that God not only causes the _effects_ of secondary causes, and that he causes the causality of secondary causes, but also he also causes those secondary causes to operate as causes according to the mode of their natures. But for an entity that is a created being, something with a nature, to operate and act and cause according to the mode of its nature, is just what we mean by the order of nature. Natural beings are causes through the operation of their natures, so their causality is real causality, though derived and received from God.

Certainly God is the ongoing source of the being of a natural entity, and the ongoing source of its operation, and thus he is the ongoing cause of its operating naturally. To say that a natural being cannot be the cause of its own continued being, or the ultimate cause of its operating according to its nature, is NOT to say that it cannot *operate* according to its nature. And to advert to the fact that it needs something more behind its operating according to its nature is not to say that when it operates according to its nature, that operation is a miracle.

If there is absolutely no difference between the extra-natural power and act that creates and maintains a natural being, and the above-nature power and act that allows a natural being to achieve a good either beyond its nature or to achieve a natural good in a mode of act beyond its nature, then there is no such thing as the "signs and wonders" that the saints and prophets relied on to attest to God's approval of their words. Which is clearly un-Biblical.

"For Maximus, the divine plans or logoi are eternal activities of God’s, of which creatures created according to them are contingent instances. In this way, Maximus avoids and precludes Origen’s views as well as panentheism while upholding creation ex nihilo."

Yes, that's my understanding as well, and I imagine Ware, etc., would agree. In that sense the term "panentheism" is inaccurate. I think, though, that the word is sometimes used in a rather simpler way to combine, as it were, God's immanence and omnipresence: God is everywhere, so necessarily He is "in" everything -- the world as "charged with the grandeur of God," and not just metaphorically.

Lydia,

Forgive my delay. I am attributing to you the view of the sacraments that you claim for yourself, which is fundamentally Calvinistic and Cranmerian. On that view, divine power comes through or occurs with the receiving of the elements when the recipient has faith. Cranmer’s view consequently as Virtualism denies that Christ’s body and blood are present in the elements and so it doesn’t in fact qualify as a species of the doctrine of the real presence. It is fundamentally Pelagian in exactly the way I suggested previously, namely that nature is related to God extrinsically and instrumentally through an act of will. As to your comment about kneeling, do you mean to imply that you venerate a symbol that isn’t what it signifies? Do you venerate icons as well I wonder? Hmm.

If you are not a concurrentist, do you mean to say that you are an Occasionalist of sorts or do you claim some other position? If Occasionalism, I don’t see how you can maintain your position on the miraculous, though I will have to wait to see what position you do claim.

If natural events stand in contrast to miracles then we are back to my original point. Creation ex nihilo is a miracle and yet stands in no contrasting relation to anything else. Consequently, the definition of a miracle must not entail a constrating relation, but something else. To say that the natural order is logically different from miraculous is just question begging.

Tony,
I am not casting stones at non-existent problems. I never claimed that anything Lydia wrote denied creation ex nihilo. Your saying so indicates that you didn’t actually follow my argument, which is why your remarks do not engage my argument.

Second, I am not a Thomist, but a Palamite. That said, I don’t deny your gloss on Thomas, but that pretty much ignores my point, namely that it is all miraculous or by grace and divine power. Second, it just expands the problem to Thomism with its nature/grace dialectic, which is no small point of dispute among Thomists, namely whether human nature for instance has a natural desire for God or not. If so, how then is nature not the same thing as grace and if not, how is this not Pelagianism with human nature sufficient unto itself?

You write that if there is no difference between the supernatural and the natural, then there is no such thing as signs and wonders. But I am not the one denying concurrentism. Lydia is. Second, your conclusion doesn’t follow. Rather what follows is that everything is a sign and wonder. To put the point apologetically, it is not the case that some facts are evidence for God, but rather that every fact is evidence for God. And that seems entirely biblical.

Is not every creation of our Father DIVINE and have not our Father created ALL?

Is not every creation of our Father DIVINE


Nope.

So you and only you get to determine what is Holy?

It is not pantheism, it is panentheism--a sacramental rather than an inconoclastic worldview based on faith in the Cosmic Christ, Savior/Redeemer of the world/universe that is still believed and taught in the Orthodox Churches of the East. It is a very early Christian Tradition, implicit in Pauline theology and explicit in the writings of the Fathers (and Mothers) of the post-Apostolic Patristic era.

Christ as Reconciler is the natural doctrinal soteriological development following Jesus as Justifier.

The dualistic mentality that prevailed in the Western Church and the unfortunate confusing of Tradition with traditionalism that resulted in opposing Scripture to Tradition separated the Latin/Western Church(es) from its Wisdom Tradition resulting in many turning to non-Christian Eastern religious Traditions.

Whosoever wishes to know about the world must learn about it in its particular details.
Knowledge is not intelligence.
In searching for the truth be ready for the unexpected.
Change alone is unchanging.
The same road goes both up and down.
The beginning of a circle is also its end.
Not I, but the world says it: all is one.
And yet everything comes in season.
– Heraklietos of Ephesos

“And you may depend upon this fact, that paradoxes are not strange things in Scripture, but are rather the rule than the exception.” – Charles Spurgeon

Ken Wilber says that he believes the function of religion is to grease the wheels of history so that we can move toward non-dual consciousness, or what I would call the contemplative mind. Quite simply, we are supposed to move toward love. Mature religion’s function is to make us
capable of compassion, mercy, forgiveness, nonviolence, and care for others. When religion is not creating people who can reconcile things, heal things, and absorb contradictions—then religion isn’t doing its job.
When we stopped teaching the contemplative mind in a systematic way about 400 to 500 years ago, we lost the capacity to deal with paradox, inconsistency, and human imperfection. Instead, it became “winners take all” and losers lose all. Despite all our universities and churches in
Western Christianity, we learned to choose one side over the other and if possible, exclude, punish, or even kill the other side. That’s dualistic thinking at its worst; and it’s the normal mind that has taken over our world. It creates very angry and often, violent people. Peace and happiness are no longer possible, because there is always a crusade to be waged and won. That is ego at work and surely not soul. ~Richard Rohr

Four Walls Separating Us from the New Testament
Four crises separate Western Christians on the one hand from the New Testament writers and Eastern Christians on the other. If we understand these crises and the effects they had, we can attempt to “roll them back” in our minds and understand the New Testament more clearly.
The New Testament is in Greek, which has a large philosophical vocabulary that Latin lacks. Ecumenical councils used Greek as the working language; then they made an official translation into Latin for use in the West. Many of the most heated debates were about which Latin words best conveyed the meaning of the Greek resolution they had already agreed on. Because Greek philosophical concepts had to be translated into Latin legal concepts, theology in the West took on the character of codified law after the West lost Greek. To this day, Orthodox theologians reason like rabbis, while western theologians reason like lawyers.

West
Pelagianism
Augustine accused Pelagius of teaching salvation by works
• Western Christians are obsessed with not being saved by works
• Western Christians deemphasize ascetic disciplines and exercises
• Spirituality becomes a set of mental acts
• Salvation is rescue from hell, rather than transformation into glory
• Determinism enters some parts of western theology from Manichaeism through Augustine

Scholasticism
Theology moved from the monastery to the university
• Western theology is an intellectual discipline rather than a mystical pursuit
• Western theology is over-systematized
• Western Theology is systematized, based on a legal model rather than a philosophical model
• Western theologians debate like lawyers, not like rabbis
Reformation
Catholic reformers were excommunicated and formed Protestant churches
• Western churches become guarantors of theological schools of thought
• Western church membership is often contingent on fine points of doctrine
• Some western Christians believe that definite beliefs are incompatible with tolerance
• The atmosphere arose in which anyone could start a church
• The legal model for western theology intensifies despite the rediscovery of the East

Enlightenment
Philosophers founded empirical sciences
• Western theologians attempt to apply empiricism to theology
• Western theologians agonize over the existence of God
• Western theologians lose, deemphasize, neglect, marginalize, or explain away the supernatural
• Western theologians no longer have coherent answers for many practical religious questions
• Western churches outsource the treatment of religious problems to secular therapists

East and West
West
• Western Christians are obsessed with not being saved by works
• Western Christians deemphasize ascetic disciplines and exercises
• Spirituality becomes a set of mental acts
• Salvation is rescue from hell
• The emphasis is on the cross
• Determinism enters some parts of western Christian theology

East
• Works express faith, faith gives birth to works
• Eastern Christians engage in fasting and other spiritual disciplines
• Spirituality involves both mind and body
• Salvation is transformation into glory
• The emphasis is on resurrection and transformation
• Determinism never entered Christian theology


West
• Western theology is primarily an intellectual discipline by professors
• Western theology is over-systematized

• Western theology is based on a legal model
Western theologians debate like lawyers

East
• Eastern theology is primarily a mystical pursuit by monastics
• Eastern theology is not as strictly systematized; for example, the number of sacraments is not set and is not controversial
• Eastern theology is based on a philosophical model
• Eastern theologians debate like rabbis


West
• Western churches became guarantors of theological schools of thought
• Western church membership is often contingent on fine points of doctrine
• Some western Christians believe that definite beliefs are incompatible with tolerance
• The atmosphere arose in which anyone could start a church


East
• Eastern theology, while holding more strictly than western theology on basic dogmas, is tolerant of differences of opinions on finer points
• Eastern church membership is contingent on commitment and behavior
• Eastern Christians have no difficulty maintaining definite beliefs while remaining tolerant.
• There was nothing corresponding to the Protestant Reformation and there is no proliferation of sects within the mainstream


West
• Western Christians see a dichotomy of spirit and matter
• Western theologians attempt to apply empiricism to theology
• Western theologians agonize over the existence of God
• Western theologians have lost, deemphasized, neglected, marginalized, or explained away the supernatural and miraculous
• Western theologians no longer have coherent answers for many practical religious questions (such as during bereavement)
• Western churches outsource the treatment of religious problems, such as bereavement, to secular therapists


East
• Eastern Christians see a dichotomy of God and creation
• Eastern theologians are largely unaffected by modernism
• Eastern theologians do not agonize over the existence of God
• Eastern theologians systematize the transcendent, the miraculous, and the mystical into their theology, without a concept of ‘supernatural’
• Eastern theologians have coherent and helpful answers for most practical spiritual problems (such as during bereavement)
• Eastern clergy, monastics, and lay for spiritual direction, moral direction, and bereavement counseling; thus they do not outsource religious problems to secular experts.

Most of what I learned about Christianity from this post is that it reeks of unmitigated arrogance, telling other people what they can perceive as holy. Christianity does not have a trademark on the word.

the ignorance displayed on this site is breathtaking.

There was no historical person named "Jesus" who lived during this time. "Jesus" was a name made up by the greeks because a proper Greek name couldn't end in the feminine vowel sound "a" - the person's name would've been Yesua.

To characterize the greek language as a spiritually sophisticated language is a stunning inaccuracy. Asking greeks to interpret the nuance of this teaching is like asking kindergarteners to explain quantum physics. the words and concepts do not exist in those minds.

a person who lived in this place, during this time, would've spoken ancient aramaic - perhaps the most nuanced and developed spiritual language that has ever existed on this planet. That's what the common people spoke in the region of the world where Yesua lived. Translating the teaching into the limited understanding of the Greeks, not to mention the wholesale blasphemy introduced by the King James version, is in large part how we've gotten to the unfortunate state of affairs so called christianity is in now . . . where the entire substance of the teaching has been lost in favor of this judgmental drivel.

He beseeched us to follow him. He showed us the path to union with God. But we made him into a religion of believing and belonging. We ignored the love part, and made it a religion of dogma and conformity instead of a path of transformation.

and in their total lack of understanding, they shout and yell, sounding like gongs and cymbals . . .

"There was no historical person named "Jesus" who lived during this time. "Jesus" was a name made up by the greeks because a proper Greek name couldn't end in the feminine vowel sound "a" - the person's name would've been Yesua."

I suppose you should take up the matter with Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, oh, and St. Paul, who all wrote their Gospels and epistles in koine Greek - oh, and the early Church Fathers who accepted the Greek texts. Okay, there were other languages occasionally used, but if some who knew Jesus, personally, considered Greek to be good enough to transmit His Gospel, then I fail to see your point.

The Chicken

Oh, dear.

Well, if this old thread keeps being used as a tabula rasa by a Jesus myther, I'll just close comments on it.

I went looking for the lyrics of Peter Mayer's wonderful song so I could sing it for our congregation. The song speaks to me in quite a different way, apparently, than it does to Lydia. But I must thank Lydia for her protests because it did generate some great discussion and provided some useful clarification of several theological concepts, particularly those from Perry Robinson and Carol.

On first hearing Peter's song last month, it seemed fairly obvious, to me anyway, that he was not making literal statements about the holiness of things, but rather describing a change in his own existential attitude. He is describing an individual change of heart and mind from the highly ritualized institutions of religious traditions of the past to the personal, subjective experience of the sacred in the here and now. The song is about a personal mystical experience more than it is about defining religion.

Lydia's criticism seems to be centered on the view that Peter's song is making literal statements about the external world, hence the references to pantheism and panentheism. But in my opinion, literalist understandings invariably miss the point. Poetry and songs do not use language in the same way lawyers and engineers do. I would think this point would be more widely understood by now.

I'd say that other information is relevant to the interpretation. Viz.

In 2006 Peter began collaborating with photographer/videographer Connie Barlow to render the particular songs that highlight evolutionary and ecological themes into captioned video formats ideal for contemplative viewing or sing-along in churches and spiritual centers.

And "Church of the Earth." "O Sun." "Magical World."

It is also relevant that his songs show no awareness of any clear, orthodox Christian theology or of God as a person. He clearly experiences nature and its beauties quite pointedly and, perhaps lacking real Christian catechesis (also relevant is the popularity of his music in specifically liberal, mainline Christian denominations) takes that awareness and writes lyrics that identify God with the universe, the sun, the beautiful world, etc. This is a pretty old theme in human history. The only reason that people are reluctant just to consider him a (well-intentioned) pagan outright is *because* so many churches like his stuff, because he evidently regards himself as some kind of Christian, and because it's thought to be mean to say, "Ah, a confused earth lover who has never properly understood the relationship between a transcendent Creator and his Creation." But that's clearly what he is.

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