does the 2nd Person of the Trinity tell us about the sacred worth of others?

Tertullian

Tertullian (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My interest in the concept of personhood is multifarious as I believe it will help in building a proper theology for various elements in our society and Church. In reading Vincent of Lerins, I happened upon this chapter from his Commonitory (ch14). Unlike Tertullian’s less defined, or unrefined, persona in describing the Father, Son, and Spirit, Vincent (a proper Saint) uses persona differently.

BUT inasmuch as we often use the term person, and say that GOD in a person was made man, we must take very great care, lest we seem to say that GOD the WORD took on Him our properties merely in the way of imitative acting; and that whatever made up His human conversation was done by Him not as a true man, but in adumbration, after the manner of theatres, where one individual represents in quick succession several personages, of which no one is his own.

Sed cum personam sæpius nominamus et dicimus, quod Deus per personam homo factus sit, vehementer verendum est, ne hoc dicere videamur, quod Deus Verbum sola imitatione actionis, quæ sunt nostra susceperit, et quidquid illud est conversationis humanæ, quasi adumbratus, non quasi verus homo fecerit: sicut in theatris fieri solet, ubi unus plures effingit repente personas, quarum ipse nulla est.

And,

But the Catholic faith says that the WORD of GOD was so made man as to take on Him our properties, not fallaciously and in show, but truly and actually; and to deport Himself as a man, not as one who imitates the doings of another, but rather as in his own character; and altogether to be what He represented, just as we ourselves, in that we speak, know, live, subsist, do not imitate men, but are such…So also GOD the WORD, in assuming and having flesh, in speaking, doing and suffering in the flesh, yet without any corruption of His nature, deigned even to go so far as not to imitate or represent a perfect man, but to exhibit Himself as such; so as not merely to be seen or to be thought a true man but to be such, and to subsist as such.

Catholica vero fides ita Verbum Dei hominem factum esse dicit, ut quæ nostra sunt, non fallaciter et adumbrate, sed vere expresseque susciperet; et quæ erant humana, non quasi aliena imitaretur, sed potius ut sua gereret: et prorsus quod agebat, hoc etiam esset, quod agebat, is esset. Sicut ipsi nos quoque in eo quod loquimur, sapimus, vivimus, subsistimus, non imitamur homines, sed sumus….ta etiam Deus Verbum, adsumendo et habendo carnem, loquendo, faciendo, patiendo per carnem, sine ulla tamen suæ corruptione naturæ hoc omnino præstare dignatus est, ut hominem perfectum non imitaretur aut fingeret, sed exhiberet: ut homo verus non videretur aut putaretur, sed esset atque subsisteret.

The idea of personhood, then, as showed to us via the Holy Trinity, is that to be a person requires something more than being human.

Note, Christ could still have been a human without being a person. What makes him a person is his life, not that he was born a human. Perhaps he could have grown up completely free from sin and desire, without the need to eat or expel the wastes of eating. Perhaps he could have simply been born a human male, or dropped from the sky as such. Yet, Vincent reminds us that he subsisted as a person.

Jesus lived.

If Jesus subsisted as a person, that means he was afforded the ability to be wrong and to be right, to love (maybe lust), to be tempted, to live as each of us do even within the confounds of having previously held the universe in his hand. If Jesus really was a person and lived as such rather than simply becoming human, how might this help us answer questions about those with a disability or LGBT people?

What is required to be a person rather than just being human? And is this important? Can you see the difference?

Update - Because some do not quite get the idea… humans and persons are technically different concepts in the legal world…See herehere, here, here, and here as well. Then, see here:

The doctrine of divine simplicity is complicated and controversial—even among those who admire Aquinas’ philosophical theology.  But the following account should provide the reader with a rough sketch of what this doctrine involves.  Consider the example human being. A person is a human being in virtue of her humanity, where “humanity” denotes a species-defining characteristic.  That is, humanity is an essence or “formal constituent” that makes its possessor a human being and not something else (ST Ia 3.3).  Of course, a human being is also material being.  In virtue of materiality, she possesses numerous individuating accidents. These would include various physical modifications such as her height or weight, her particular skin pigmentation, her set of bones, and so forth.  According to Aquinas, none of these accidental traits are included in her humanity (indeed, she could lose these traits, acquire others, and remain a human being).  They do, however, constitute the particular human being she is.  In other words, her individuating accidents do not make her human, but they do make her a particular exemplification of humanity.  This is why it would be incorrect to say that this person is identical to her humanity; instead, the individuating accidents she has make her one of many instances thereof.

The Real Connectional Table

 

William of Ockham - Logica 1341

William of Ockham – Logica 1341 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Above is a link to the Connectional Table of the UMC in case anyone who might read this is unfamiliar with it and it’s stated goals and mission. They have a new proposal that they are trying to put forward that is, in my not terribly humble opinion, crap. That is not what this is about, but it is the inspiration for this so it should be included for completeness. The Church world wide, not just the UMC, but every Christian church, has a singular connectional table. Most of our problems start and end with losing sight of that table.

Matthew 26:26-28. “Mat 26:26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread and blessed it. He broke the bread, gave it to his disciples, and said, “Take this, and eat it. This is my body.”
Mat 26:27 Then he took a cup and spoke a prayer of thanksgiving. He gave it to them and said, “Drink from it, all of you.
Mat 26:28 This is my blood, the blood of the promise. It is poured out for many people so that sins are forgiven. ” This is the table that connects us all. It is amazing, it did not need a committee of church politicians to institute or make work, just a group of dedicated believers and even a betrayer. After this, and after the resurrection, the mission became clear as well…

“Mat 28:16 The eleven disciples went to the mountain in Galilee where Jesus had told them to go.
Mat 28:17 When they saw him, they bowed down in worship, though some had doubts.
Mat 28:18 When Jesus came near, he spoke to them. He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Mat 28:19 So wherever you go, make disciples of all nations: Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Mat 28:20 Teach them to do everything I have commanded you. “And remember that I am always with you until the end of time.”
Hard to argue with the mission there. Notice that Jesus did not give a whole lot of instruction on how this was to be accomplished…that is because the how is nowhere near as important (within reason and boundaries. No, we can not use nude dancers with tattoos of scripture as a sermon illustration for example) as the message. Again, no committee was needed to sort all of this out, just a dedicated group of believers.

I could go on and on with examples like this, but I shall not. Yes, I understand that the church is an organization and as such requires rules and administration. I think that the best way to handle it is not more committees and groups trying to push their answers, but rather a renewed commitment to the table that connects us and the mission entrusted to us. When those things arise that require solutions arise, I would like to refer to one of my favorite Franciscans, William of Ockham.  “Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily.” It is often stated in different language and stronger terms than was intended, but this is the original idea, translated from Latin. We have a table that connects us. We have a mission that unites us. Any other table who claims that it connects is an unnecessary multiplication. Any other mission that drives us that is not fueled by the commission from Christ is an unnecessary multiplication.  What the church is going through (all denominations) is tragic, but stems from the fact that we are trying to unnecessarily multiply that which already brought us together as brothers and sisters in faith for all time. We have a table that connects us. We have a mission that unites us. Let us all put our faith and focus there. 

Jesus’s (building) entries into Jerusalem (Mark 11.11–27)

English: Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey

English: Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is really for discussion… In Mark 11, Jesus enters into Jerusalem 3 times, each one more grander than the last.

Καὶ εἰσῆλθεν εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα εἰς τὸ ἱερόν· καὶ περιβλεψάμενος πάντα ὀψὲ ἤδη οὔσης τῆς ὥρας ἐξῆλθεν εἰς Βηθανίαν μετὰ τῶν δώδεκα. – Mark 11:11.

Καὶ ἔρχονται εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα. καὶ εἰσελθὼν εἰς τὸ ἱερὸν ἤρξατο ἐκβάλλειν τοὺς πωλοῦντας καὶ τοὺς ἀγοράζοντας ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ, καὶ τὰς τραπέζας τῶν κολλυβιστῶν καὶ τὰς καθέδρας τῶν πωλούντων τὰς περιστερὰς κατέστρεψεν – Mark 11:15.

Καὶ ἔρχονται πάλιν εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα. καὶ ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ περιπατοῦντος αὐτοῦ ἔρχονται πρὸς αὐτὸν οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ οἱ γραμματεῖς καὶ οἱ πρεσβύτεροι – Mark 11:27.

The first time, Jesus silently (ignore the Hosanna shouts) enters into city, goes to the Temple, looks around, and leaves. In Mark 11.15, Jesus enters the city and goes to the Temple to cleanse it. In Mark 11.27, Jesus goes to the Temple where he begins to preach. This happens quickly, within the space of 3 days.

Each entry is marked by an increasing sense of importance for Jesus. I may side with some who suggest the crowd was already present when Jesus entered the city, celebrating the Passover. In other words, Jesus slipped by and stood in the crown while it shouted the usual triumphant shout. The second time, however, Jesus comes in and makes himself known as a person of priestly suspicions (basically, he wanted the Temple pure). The next time, Jesus comes in and starts to preach.1

Could the thrice entry point us to some of Mark’s literary sources? I am inclined to believe Mark 11.15–17 points us to Titus’s siege in 70, wherein the bandits were holed up inside the Temple. What about the first one, then? I may argue in a future paper the first one points us to the attempted coup by the Egyptian. The third one? Well, Jesus did have to go Jerusalem… In all, however, the stories are told in such a way as to answer previous entries by would-be-tyrants and siege victors — they show that Jesus did not come to conquer.

  1. Maybe these two entries, with their two goals, point to the Two Messiah Motif.

My Faith

The question was asked of me recently when it was that I actually realized I had faith…I decided to answer in this way.

My faith was born in blood. Not the blood of Christ as you probably would expect, but the blood of a young lady when I was a young boy. We were walking back to her grandparents after watching a movie. She was shot and died on the street. She noticed the car and the gun men, I was to busy noticing her to see it. She died that I might live. She had “no greater love”. That is the day my faith was really born. My faith is in Christ and Him crucified as is my hope, but it didn’t start there. It started with one of His servants not with him.  Maybe I am odd, but I don’t think that my faith could have started any other way.

My faith grew as as a young adult in the blood of friends gone off to save the world. Friends who died that the Word of God might be spread to places like Afghanistan, China, North Korea, Pakistan, and the Sudan. Friends that believed that they not only could be a vehicle to change the world, but that they actually would be. With news of each death, the importance of the Word became stronger, not diminished. The need to share The Story became greater, not lesser. With each tear of sadness over lost friends came the blessed hope of Christ, and the joy of those who now believed. Eventually I would  go to similar places myself. Maybe I am odd, but I don’t think my faith could have grown any other way.

My faith became solidified in the death of my grandfather. Watching him suffer for numerous years with illness and helping to care for the one who had taught me nearly all that was important. The one who taught me the importance of prayer and the comfort that God can bring. In the hospital, around his bed with those grieving as he was nearing the end, my faith became solid when I realized what must be done. I grabbed his hands, and we prayed. Somewhere in that prayer he finally found peace. Interestingly enough, so did I. Maybe I am odd, but I don’t think that my faith could have been solidified any other way.

We need to understand that we should not be passing out pamphlets about God but rather be passing ourselves out as people of God. We need to realize that we don’t need to hand out bibles until we have lived the bible for those who would receive. We need to understand that before inviting people to church we should be inviting them to dinner, and lunch, and into our lives. I love the scriptures, study and read them often. Try to live them as well. That was not where my faith started. I love The Father, The Son and The Holy Ghost, but that is not where my faith started. I love the churches I have helped in and the churches I only attended but they are not where my faith started. These things have refined my faith and helped it grow. They provided an incredibly useful base of knowledge of scriptures. My faith did not start there though.

I knew these words long before a 12 year old girl lived them for a 12 year old boy “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his own life for the life of his friend”. They were words on a page. Beautiful, poetic and inspiring words, but still just words on a page. Then someone lived them, and they became so much more than words, they became a lifestyle. Maybe I am odd, but I don’t think a life based on any other words is worth living.

 

Call For Papers – Reformed Theology and the African-American Experience #CFP

The title is my own

Ettelloc Publishing seeks papers from students in the fields of theology, practical theology, ethics and church history on the detrimental effects Reformed theology and especially Calvinism in its various forms have had on Black people whether in the past or present. If chosen all essays will be collected in an anthology that will be published in the year 2015.

Proposals of no more than 350 words will be due by October 1, 2014 and should be sent to info@ettellocpublishing.com

Love them all let God sort them out

This will be short, not overly sweet and blunt. While so many of us are busy debating who will go to hell and who will not, a decision that is far above our pay grade incidentally, we all to often ignore the fact that across the world and in our own nation, there are so many who think they are already living there. In Ferguson, our religious leaders are all to often (not always and not mine thankfully) taking sides instead of healing wounds. In Iraq the calls for prayer are followed by calls for further violence. The uproar over bringing sick Americans home for treatment of a deadly disease. We ignore Sudan, Mexican drug cartel killings, rampant gang violence in Chicago and so much more…I have this really revolutionary idea…let’s forget trying to figure out who is on their way to hell (judgement is real and God  will see to it, not us) and start actually helping those already living there.

When we are a part of the problem (or how Scott just became very unpopular again)

This link is to a statement from Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño who is a Los Angeles Area Resident Bishop, is Board President of the General Commission on Religion and Race of The United Methodist Church. It is a shining example of how we, no matter how unintentionally, are sometimes a part of the problem as a church. The statement can be found here: http://www.calpacumc.org/bishop-carcano/commentary-on-the-death-of-michael-brown/ Now on to how it contributes to the problem instead of helping to solve it which I believe is the intent. “If Trayvon could be murdered then what about them?” Part of the problem is that our system of justice, no matter how flawed it may be, said that he was not murdered. By saying that he was, you are not only going against the system of justice that we have and should respect and work within, even to change it if necessary, and directly setting yourself in opposition to it. This does not promote order, it promotes the chaos that we are trying to prevent. As a note here, I think that there are some serious issues with stand your ground laws in certain states that should be addressed. This does not negate the fact that, legally, a murder did not occur. The other thing that has been done with this question, is it makes George Zimmerman the murderer. Again, it was determined that legally he was not. The morality of what he did is open for debate, but the legality of it has been settled. Instead of fostering forgiveness, love and healing, the question agitates and calls an innocent man (legally if nothing else) a murderer. If we wish to debate the ethics of Mr. Zimmerman’s actions, that is fine as well, perhaps morally he is a murderer perhaps not, but remember, Moses committed murder as well. We should be slow to judge and quick to forgive.

the response of local and state officials has been a military response with police officers in riot gear and armored vehicles, police sharpshooters in position on top of those armored vehicles in the face of demonstrators, the use of rubber bullets, tear gas and smoke canisters, and the arrest of many;” I am very concerned with how the police responded to the situation that is ongoing. I want to point out though that the statement does not mention this was in response to looting, violence and the fear of more to come. The local officials cancelled (probably unconstitutionally) scheduled protests before all of this yes, but that does not in anyway justify what followed by those in this community.  I do not like the militarization of our police at all and think it incredibly dangerous to freedom in general. I hope and pray that our elected officials do something to curb this.  All of that being said, they are the authority figures that we have. We have the power to vote them, and anyone like them, out of power if we choose. The behavior of the police in many cases has been appalling. The behavior of those who were looting just as. The rioting and looting is not a result of the unfortunate death, it is a result of poor choices on the part of those doing it. While we need to always remain loving and be willing to forgive whatever happens, we must never allow excuse and promote proper responsibility for all involved. That means we don’t do things like pretend rioting and looting is a legitimate form of protest.

“the composition of the local police department in Ferguson, which is primarily white, does not reflect the majority African American population of Ferguson; and the conflict between demonstrators and the police is escalating.” This statement is true, but very misleading and completely unhelpful. If our goal is a colorblind world, than we can not only have people policed by those of their own ethnic background. If it is proven that hiring practices of the police force are discriminatory, then I want that stopped and corrected immediately. There is not currently any evidence of this. In about 2/3 of American cities, the police do not live in the neighborhoods that they serve. Yes, I believe this to be a problem, not because of the racial make up of a police force, but rather because it is difficult to understand how best to serve a community where you do not reside. (http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/most-police-dont-live-in-the-cities-they-serve/ some interesting numbers about major cities and where the police live) If we are working toward a world where people are judged on their character, then we need to stop treating issues such as the racial make up of a police force as a divisive issue. By even mentioning this, the subtle insinuation is that if it had been a minority officer, this would not have happened. None of us actually know what happened and the legal process is playing itself out. We need to be promoting trust in the justice system instead of mistrust because the color of our skin is different. (Yes, I realize that I am going to get a lot of disagreement for this.)

Phrases like this: “A white police department in a predominantly black community is a clear sign of racial disparity that should be questioned” fuel the fire, they do not put it out. There is absolutely zero evidence that the officer involved in the shooting had any racial motivation to do so. Perhaps that evidence will come to light, and if so, then it needs to be dealt with accordingly, but, especially as Christians, aren’t we supposed to be promoting that we are all one? In Christ there is no Greek or Jew, unless it is on the police force? If the goal is that we all be one people, then we need to quit finding reasons to separate us. This is not a tragedy of the African American community and people need to quit saying so. It is a tragedy of all of humanity that a life was lost to violence. That is the message we need to send. I am not so blind as to think there is no racism. I am however doing my very best to see with heaven’s eyes so that i don’t notice if a young African American man was shot, or if he was Latino, or Caucasian, or even purple. I know that a young man lost his life and that is tragic. That needs to be the message. 

The message we send as Christians needs to stop being about minority men and boys being killed and jailed, (Yes, there is a disproportionate problem with the legal system, but in truth I believe it has more to do with economics than race, and believe that if we want to reduce crime we need to begin by reducing poverty as that is where I believe the correlation to be, not with race.) and needs to start being about young men and boys alone being killed. Should there be a conversation about racism? Sure, can’t hurt anything, but as Christians, we should not be able to tell who is a minority. We are all loved equally by a Creator and Father. We are all one under Him. Everything that we say and do should be in that framework. The conversation is not about how to treat those different than us, it is about how we treat each other…after all if we are looking through heaven’s eyes, we all look the same anyway.

 

Some thoughts on Ferguson

Let me begin by saying what this is not…this is not me taking a side in the issue nor is it me trying to give an opinion of blame toward anyone involved. This is not me trying to comment on race in America and whether or not it is a true issue or not. This is not really anything except my pain over the situation played out in type. Nothing more, nothing less.

What has happened is all together tragic. A young man lost his life and any loss of life is tragic. Another man took that life, and that is also tragic. Living with that is a terrible burden. Whether those two things were justifiable or not, the tragedy of both is what is left behind. In the ensuing rush to lay blame, two people also have had their reputations damage in ways that are terribly unfair to them, and to us who follow the story trying in vain to make an attempt at understanding what transpired. It seems that we have a need to find someone to blame. It is the fault of an officer of the law who took things to far, or perhaps he was a racist monster who saw an opportunity to act (incidentally, there is not evidence that this is the case), perhaps he was afraid for his safety as he had been assaulted before this occurred as is now being reported. We simply do not know as the details and evidence have been handled poorly in their release to the media, and then to us. Perhaps the young man was a criminal who needed apprehending, perhaps he was a young man walking in the street who became afraid of authority for whatever reason, perhaps he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Again we simply do not know. What we do know is the aftermath…

People protested and police responded poorly, riots began and looting soon followed with more poor response by authorities. Those in charge of the situation seem to change daily, government officials make conflicting, insensitive and often nonsensical statements about what has and is to happen. Community leaders try to calm things while the community, and in some cases those from outside the community, continue to incite violence and disruption. So called leaders and authorities on race relations, fuel flames instead of trying to put them out. In some cases they attempt to raise money for their causes. Those who support police and their authority cite reports and claim that even more drastic measures are needed, that our police need to be better armed and equipped for these occurrences. Some call for taking away the military hardware from police as it makes them, however unintentionally, more aggressive. the drama continues and the tragedy plays itself out further.

We have lost hope it seems. We are quick to believe the worst and can not bring ourselves to believe the best. We think the officer a racist, or the young man a criminal. We see things falling apart, but never strive to put them together. We forget that the only hope is in Christ and Christ alone, and instead look to so called leaders for it. We seek soundbites of society but do not look toward the security of scripture. Those same scriptures say if you seek Me you will find Me…surely the opposite is also true…if we seek that what is not of God then we will surely find it as well. That is what is happening here. That is what is happening to all of us it seems.

I know this is a bit rambling and somewhat disconnected, but as I said, this is my pain played out. I want to end here with a quote from a displaced Christian currently in Baghdad Iraq. His name is unknown but he was quoted in a local news paper. This man has lost everything. His family, his home, his livelihood, and most of his village. This is what he had to say: “”Even if there is a bomb attack today, tomorrow we will go back to work,
because we are convinced that Jesus cares for us. He will restore His Kingdom one day, this is my hope.” MY prayer, and I hope the prayer of those reading as well, will be that we all learn to hold to this hope. This hope will see us through. This hope will give strength and endurance for the day. This hope will bring peace to a weary soul. I am not an authority in anything, but I do believe that the letter written to Titus has wisdom and instruction for us in these times that are so unsettled: “Tit 2:11 After all, God’s saving kindness has appeared for the benefit of all people.
Tit 2:12 It trains us to avoid ungodly lives filled with worldly desires so that we can live self-controlled, moral, and godly lives in this present world.
Tit 2:13 At the same time we can expect what we hope for-the appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Tit 2:14 He gave himself for us to set us free from every sin and to cleanse us so that we can be his special people who are enthusiastic about doing good things.
Tit 2:15 Tell these things to the believers. Encourage and correct them, using your full authority. Don’t let anyone ignore you. ”
With whatever authority I have, I encourage you to hope and correct the lack of hope. I encourage you to hope for the appearance of our shared savior. I encourage you to remember that we have been set free from sin. I use what little authority I have, and I will not let you ignore me so long as you continue to read anyway. Hope…The Blessed Hope…this is what we are to hold onto and never let go of. Thus endeth my rant.