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H.R. Macintosh used to remind his students that, “Jesus was not a Christian”.  For a Christian is a broken sinner with no excuses left for him/herself, whose sins and have been saved by Christ. But Christ was not a sinner who needed forgiveness.  Our approach to Christ must be a Christian approach, namely that we must not try to look at Jesus in such a way as to gain entry into His religion, that is in His own private relation to God the Father. We can only approach Jesus as desperate sinners who need the mediation of Christ in order to go to the father; we can approach Christ only in acknowledging his uniqueness and sinlessness on the one hand, and on the other in yielding ourselves to Him, in obedient conformity to His saving grace and as sinners desperately in need of Him.

Paradox-Contradiction

Perhaps it is because so much of our language is phenomenological that we encounter so many paradoxes. The term paradox is well suited for such language. In its etymological derivation the word comes from a Greek prefix and a root. The prefix para- means “alongside of,” as in paramedical and paralegal. The root comes from the Greek dokein, “to seem, to think, or to appear.” A paradox is something that “seems” or “appears” to be something else that is placed alongside of it. What is this “something else”? It is the contradiction or the antinomy.

In the fluid use of language, we sometimes encounter what Jaki calls “linguistic confusion.” In current customary usage the terms paradox, contradiction, and antinomy often are interchangeable, functioning as synonyms. In classical terms, however, there is a crucial distinction among them.

Classically the words contradiction and antinomy are synonyms. Antinomy comes from the prefix anti- (against) and the Greek noun nomos (law). Etymologically an antinomy is something that is “against the law.” What law? The law of noncontradiction. Antinomies are statements that violate the law of noncontradiction.

The term contradiction means virtually the same thing. It comes from the Latin prefix contra- (against) and dicio (to speak). Contradictions are statements that speak against each other and also against the law of noncontradiction.

Contradictions and antinomies involve nonsense statements that provoke no small degree of linguistic confusion. One philosopher described contradiction as “a charley horse between the ears.”

On the other hand a paradox differs significantly from contradiction and antinomy. A paradox is something that seems like a contradiction but under closer scrutiny can be resolved. Herein lies the difference: paradoxes can be resolved, contradictions cannot.

It is one thing to say that reality is paradoxical. It is quite another to say that reality is contradictory. If it is paradoxical, we can hope for resolution. If it is contradictory, there can be no resolution and science is reduced not only to linguistic confusion but to unintelligibility.

Bohr retreated into an epistemology of contradiction. Had he stopped at the level of paradox, a lot of linguistic confusion could have been avoided.

It is time for scientists to stop speaking in contradictions. They are as confusing as they are meaningless. In struggling to reconcile problems of quantum physics Roger Penrose discusses the problem of light as particle or wave: “How is it that light can consist of particles and of field oscillations at the same time? These two conceptions seem irrevocably opposed.”18

We notice that Penrose says that the two concepts, wave and particle, seem irrevocably opposed. Later he adds: “What does this tell us about the reality of the photon’s state of existence …? It seems inescapable that the photon must, in some sense, have actually travelled both routes at once!”19 Again he says: “This puzzling feature of quantum reality—namely that we must take seriously that a particle may, in various (different!) ways ‘be in two places at once.’ … ”20

Penrose’s struggle to avoid actual contradiction in his statements is almost tactile. He proceeds with admirable caution, as strained as it may be. He uses the word seem as a qualifier. Then he adds other qualifiers. He says that “the photon must, in some sense, have actually travelled” and that the “particle may, in various (different!) ways be in two places at once.”

The words “in some sense” and the “different” (with an exclamation point) enable him to escape contradiction. If he said the particles were at two different places at the same time and in the same relationship rather than “in some sense” or in “different ways,” he would slip over the edge. As it is he leaves us with a paradox of phenomena, not a contradiction.

We use similar language in a far more simple sense every day. For example, I might say, “I looked at myself in the mirror this morning.” What am I saying? Do I mean that I was both in front of the mirror and in the mirror at the same time and in the same relationship? Was that really “me” in the mirror? It sure looks like me with some revised images. (I have a mole on my right cheek that looks like it’s on the left cheek of the guy in the mirror.) I “appear” to be in the mirror. It is as if I exist in three dimensions outside of the mirror and am somehow recapitulated in two dimensions in the mirror.

Is my mirror image an illusion (like the magician’s hat that, although only half empty, appears totally empty when a mirror is used), or is there really something there in the mirror? There is something in the mirror, just as there is something in the mirror of the magician’s hat. The reflection may create an illusion, but the reflection itself is not an illusion. There really is a reflection there. What is illusory is the idea that I, rather than my reflection, am in the mirror.

I am not suggesting that the paradox of quantum activity can be explained by reflections. (Perhaps some people do. I am not qualified even to speculate about it.) My point is not about light, reflections, or mirror images. It is about language. I say that I “saw myself” in the mirror. This language is an example of the language of appearances, which is not designed to defraud but to speak merely in phenomenological terms. No one faults me for speaking in such paradoxical terms. No one hears me saying that I am in the mirror and not in the mirror at the same time and in the same way. That would be a contradiction, and the contradiction defines the limits of intelligible speech.

By R.C. Sproul

Christ-our Freedom

carryingBeyond all other rival creation narratives proposed throughout time, there is one that permeates the fabric our consciousness at its deepest levels; one story which we cannot run from, as it is the truest story I have ever heard. At the dawn of creation, Humanity was given limitless freedom in which to participate with joy and completeness in a relationship with the Creator and the resplendent goodness of creation itself.  We were meant to enjoy not only an intimate relationship with God, but we were also to enjoy the good creation, which reflected the holiness and majesty of so great a God.

The first sin of Adam and Eve was instigated by the hubris of Satan, for it changed the course of our human destinies forever.  However, this is a repetition of an older, more ancient defection against the holiness of God perpetrated through the one in whom God at one point named “the light-bearing one.”   He was beautiful and full of wisdom, but in the end, he loved himself more than the One who had given him the beauty in the first place.  Did not Lucifer know that even his beauty and wisdom, were a reflection of the even greater glory and power of the one true God; that to defect against God was steal and rob what he most highly praised—himself.  He would from that point on cease to be himself—a shadow self.  Know the first sin, and you will know where the problem lies for all subsequent sins–Hubris;  all the others are merely variants of the first. “You shall be like God,” Satan tells us! This was Lucifer’s own wish fulfillment, and the consequence of his own self-aggrandizement was to be cast down, forever expunged from the presence of God, only to be defeated finally in the end by the heels of Christ’s peace. And so, Lucifer seeks to devour us by having us defect from God’s own purpose for our lives, and to engage us with lies about who we truly are and what God’s destiny is for us.  He only offers counterfeits to God’s will, half-truths that come neatly packaged with a pretty bow, but once opened, brings death and captivity.

God crafts the human story, knowing full well what it will look like given a very specific set of instructions—obedience to His will which and the fear of the Lord which leads to true sustaining life. We chose to narrate and listen to a counter story, instead of the one that God had predestined our lives to grow into–one built for intimate relationship with Himself and others, and never self-promoting.  God has been giving Himself to the universe throughout time, for He is a God who eternally gives.  Our lives are mutli-faceted, time-bounded stories, which of themselves mean something—but what?  We seek meaning, as we are meaning-making creatures, but until we find our story subsumed by the greater story of God in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, our smaller stories will not make much sense.

This freedom and birthright we traded like Esau did with Jacob, for a shadow life of our true selves, an alien life, an anti-life, a life of seconds, we were not ready to take our sonship seriously, and now we live with a nagging conflict of “the knowing” what we ought to do, but having our flesh sabotage our efforts at a courageously authentic life. Christ died to give us freedom out of enslavement to our selves because of his work on the cross and his living resurrection. Both events break the bonds of death from sin and the promise of new life in him. Freedom of the soul is marked by a person who believes that he has been set free by a God who makes freedom a reality by the price of Christ’s blood.

 

Brother Lawrence (c. 1614 – 12 February 1691) was a lay brother in a Carmelite monastery, who is today most commonly remembered for the closeness of his relationship to God as recorded in the classic Christian text, The Practice of the Presence of God.  These are pithy axioms and pearls from his conversations in the book.  May they bless you.

 

  • All things are possible to those who practice faith, hope and love
  • Is God the center and substance of every moment of your life?
  • To be free for God asks for discipline and the practice of the presence of God asks for the determination to let go of many daily worries. To be wholly God’s own possession–YES!
  • Live as if there is only Him and me.
  • It is God in us, who finds God in people

 

First conversation:

  • The closer we come to God, the closer we become to others—God is the hub, we are the spokes—stay to the hub with other spokes and the wheel will move
  • Continually talk to God—do not allow trivial things to break that conversation
  • Surrender all things—temporal and spiritual—to God, with complete abandonment, and consider it all happiness whether it be consolation or suffering; to a soul fixed on Him, they are the same
  • In the wilderness and winters of our faith journey, hold fast to faith, as God is refining our love for Him
  • Our impulses and daily activities shape our spiritual life—watch out

Second conversation:

  • Don’t worry about being damned or saved, as long as the love of God is the end of all your actions
  • May this be our prayer, “ I cannot do this lord, unless you enable me”  “If you leave me to myself I will fail, correct what is wrong in me”
  • Confess all your faults to the Lord, for his mercy and forgiveness are yours
  • Our thoughts spoil everything; We ought to await without anxiety the remission of our sins through the blood of Jesus while trying to love Him with all of our hearts—God chose the greatest sinners, so that he could give his greatest graces and show his ineffable goodness
  • Seek in this life not offend God

Third conversation:

  • Skill nor knowledge was needed to go to God—only a heart determined to devote himself to love Him only

Fourth conversation:

  • Renounce all things that do not lead to God—so that we might accustom ourselves to a habitual conversation
  • Knowing God intimately present in us; addressing ourselves to him at every moment; ask his aid and descernment in doubtful things
  • Engaged in praising, adoring, and loving God for His goodness and perfection
  • Ask for his grace continually despite our sins!!!  God will not fail to grant grace at each action even when we mistake the means for the ends
  • Do things for the love of God without attachments of human praise or perception because of them
  • God sends suffering when he believes that there is an opportunity for you to endure it.
  • It is not the grandeur in which the works we do please God, but it is the love in which we perform them.
  • That in the end we ought to be propose to ourselves in this life to become the most perfect adorers of God we possible can, as we hope to be his perfect adorers throughout eternity
  • Consider—who am I?  Worthy of all contempt! Full of fluctuation, unworthy of the name Christian; Submit to these sufferings and bear them as long as God wishes us to
  • The greater perfection a soul aspires to, the more dependent it is upon grace
  • My God here I am, all yours,—make me according to your heart!
  • May I not be content with passing treasures of this life, but feast upon the infinite wealth of your love
  • Time presses in upon us and we are responsible for ourselves; He will soon calm the sea
  • The heart must be emptied of all other things—for God wishes to possess it alone.  He cannot possess it without emptying it of everything that is not himself—so that he can act and do his will in and through you
  • Conversation with God—a preacher ought to preach nothing else
  • We need to know at all time how much we need God’s grace and assistance—we ought never forget this!
  • Do not be discouraged by your natural inclinations—persevere until death
  • He is nearer to us than we think
  • Have courage—we have little time to live
  • Say and think only what would please him
  • Simple attentiveness and a loving gaze upon God—a habitual, silent and secret conversation of the soul with God
  • Block of stone before a sculptor image:  Sculpt me Lord into what you would have of me, chisel away imperfections of the ways I have defaced your image in me, entirely perfect in me what I cannot do; form me God into an image of your desire so that I may be entirely live for you
  • God is of infinite goodness and knows what we need
  • Training in wandering in our thoughts:  Confess our faults and humble ourselves before God; present yourself like a dumb person or a paralytic beggar and a rich man’s door;
  • With his grace in abundance we can do all—without it, we can do nothing but sin
  • The glorious business of the Christian—to live and die with him; do not leave him alone; keep fastened to the cross
  • Ask for strength to suffer through trials
  • Think of myself as a criminal before the feet of his judge
  • God often permits us to suffer a little to purify our souls and bring us to him—We must ask for strength to endure them.
  • He sometimes allows the body to suffer to cure the illness of our souls—abandonment and trust is needed—strength to suffer courageously as long as it pleases him
  • Let us devote ourselves to entirely knowing God; the more we know him the more we want to know him; knowledge is the measure of love—the deeped and wider our knowledge, the greater will be our love

The Day that God Died

The day that God Died.  Incarnation/ Crucifixion. It seems that this is a double death, for in the incarnation–God actually becoming flesh in Jesus Christ–was the most involutive act God could have ever done on behalf of humanity; He literally turned Himself inside out, and made it possible for Himself to taste death, and yet overcome it. Comparatively, our births are an awakening to life, but for God, His birth was a free election of His choosing death for Himself in Christ. From the moment of the Messiah’s birth, He was marked for the way of derision, suffering and death for the penalty of the estrangement of the world because of sin.   Yet God refused to allow our human limitations and insufferable weaknesses inhibit His purpose of love and redemption. He condescended in incredible humility to find a way of entering within our beggardly weakness and poverty to find a mode of divine entry into our finite and moral existence, in order from within as creator and savior to restore us to complete fellowship with Himself, both in knowing and being. These events recount the historically magnificent and inglorious exchange of how God humiliated and confined himself to time and its limitations, its sufferings and temptations (yet without sin), substituting and wearing finitude instead of the infinite nature of the qualities of His eternal and changeless being.  God spoke this through his prophets and foretold this ad nauseum to His beloved people–this is still a stumbling block to our Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters.  God in Christ, the God-Man, abrogates the debt that we owe through His grace on the cross, and through faith in Him, he completely and utterly brings us contemporary with Himself because of His Spirit, if we should choose this.  He wants free lovers and not automatons, and cannot overcome our freewill by making us love Him and choose Him; It would override his justice and his love for his creatures. We are all accepted and must come; He has chosen us all to be reconciled in His Son and God gives exactly what the creature wants. We must go through the magnificent exchange as well—death to self—so that we can begin to take on what Christ has won for us by his incarnation, death, and yes, His glorious resurrection. from the dead! May we be crucified with Christ!  Christ did not die to self, as He was perfectly obedient to the will of the Father, but He did die as a substitution on our behalf.  We may become infinite-minded by trust and faith to say that Christ is mine and I—His. Those who choose to be free, may be free—just at the asking.  God is a good giver of gifts—He is constantly wooing us to himself in his love.  He can only do so much to intervene without interrupting the flow of our human freedom to make choices.