Saturday, August 24, 2013

Like and Unlike

"Jesus answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh." Matthew 19:4-6

I recently attended the absolutely awesome wedding of a good friend and fellow Platonite. While there, I had a brief discussion with another friend on the concept of "Unity Sand" as a symbol of marriage. The Unity Sand begins in two separate vials, representing the two separate people getting married. During the ceremony, the two vials are poured together and mixed, symbolizing the biblical "one flesh."

 I'm not so sure that's right.

Because the miracle of marriage, the source of its wonderment, is that while the two do indeed become one flesh, they do so without any sense of homogenization or blending (much like the orthodox understanding of the dual divine and human natures of Christ, in fact). He who created us from the beginning made us male and female, and we remain male and female even in becoming one flesh in marriage.

The two do not mix together. They do not form a new and different substance, as Nesquick and milk combine every morning in my apartment to become chocolate milk. The two do not become some sort of dual-sexual or dual-gendered being, two human forms melded together, possessing all the physical characteristics of both male and female in one body. Neither do they become a single asexual being, wherein the two genders cancel each other out.

Even as one flesh, they remain distinctly themselves. They remain distinctly "they": And what's more, they remain distinctly distinct.

In marriage, the man does not become more womanly, nor does the woman become more manly. In the case of my own marriage, I am not in the process of daily becoming more like Anna, nor (thank God, in his infinite wisdom and grace) is Anna becoming more like me! The masculinity of the one and the femininity of the other do not creep together, but remain distinctly themselves.*

This is the miracle of marriage. The "oneness" is indeed only possible because the members of the marriage remain themselves. The "one flesh" consists of two unlike people becoming one--but not becoming like.

In this way, then, marriage is much like the Church--at least, the Church as Chesterton envisioned it. As he says in Orthodoxy:

 "[The Church keeps opposing passions] side by side like two strong colours, red and white, like the red and white upon the shield of St. George. It has always had a healthy hatred of pink. It hates that combination of two colours which is the feeble expedient of the philosophers. ... All that I am urging here can be expressed by saying that Christianity sought in most of these cases to keep two colours coexistent but pure. It is not a mixture like russet or purple; it is rather like a shot silk."

Marriage, like the Church, does not involve a compromise of persons and temperaments and ideals. It admits no mixture: No, it will not blend. Marriage is not the point at which a man and a women cease to be a man and a woman and become something other. Marriage is not the point where male and female, masculinity and femininity, are extinguished.

Rather, marriage is the meeting of the fully masculine and fully feminine, and the two are not lessened but increased in the meeting. And even so, "the man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." Pretty profound stuff.

...But anyway, in the end Josh and I agreed that Unity Sand was, on the whole, better than the alternatives that we could think of, since the individual grains of sand, at least, retain their individuality. Have a happy marriage, Kyle and Karyn Keene!

*I do not here propose to define masculinity or femininity. If "male and female" means something and not nothing, and something and not anything (and the Bible seems clear that it does), that is sufficient.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Judge Not (because critical thinking is just too dang hard!)

Earlier today, a good friend of mine posted this article on facebook. In it, the author explains exactly why he felt that Joyce Meyer and Joel Osteen, both fairly prominent pastors/speakers, were false teachers. He brings up some absolutely wacky Christology on the part of Joyce Meyer, and of course no discussion of Joel Osteen would be complete without bringing up the Prosperity "Gospel": Or, as I like to call it, "Suck it, Job and all you poor, persecuted Christians out there!"

I'd really encourage you to read the article itself, especially if you find yourself wondering what's so bad about a little Prosperity theology here and there. And in fact, I've gone more into what's wrong with Meyer's Christology, and why it's so Church-shatteringly important, at the end of this post. But for now, I want to talk about that wretched hive of scum and villainy known as "the comments section."

Maybe I'm just a glutton for punishment. But every time I see a blog post like this, I just know there are going to be some responses that are going to make me incredibly upset... so, of course, I immediately try to find them.

They did not disappoint. (Yes, those are all individual quotes). I could drag in more, but it'd only make me more upset. Suffice to say that in all my searching, I only found one comment that even attempted something approaching an actual defense of Osteen/Meyer. Every other comment disagreeing with the original article began and ended with their insistence that "Christians shouldn't judge."

They didn't even attempt to demonstrate why the disputed teachings were orthodox. They didn't challenge the author's interpretations. They merely hid behind their ill-understood notion of what Christians ought to do (although one might even say they "cowered" behind it, were one sufficiently upset by their failure to grasp basic biblical concepts).

And I thought... doesn't that just say it all? When you don't dispute the falsity of the doctrine, but merely the right of the person to call it such in public? When instead of defending the correctness of the doctrine, you merely defend their right to lead others astray, because who knows who's right anyhow? Doesn't that just say a whole hell of a lot about the state of certain (growing) sections of modern Protestantism?

Awful. Just... awful. To finish up, I'm just going to cover my least favorite sub-section of this kind of argument:

"This kind of thinking is why the Church is so fractured!" 

No it's not. Granted, sometimes we American Evangelicals can be amazingly petty about which issues we choose to split over; But do you want to know the real reason the Church is so fractured? Freaking heresy is why the Church is so fractured! When you take your child to the doctor, do you accuse him of attacking your son when he diagnoses a broken arm? No? Good! Then you're not a crazy person. Now if only people could apply this to bad theology, especially something so mindbogglingly damaging as believing that the holier you are, the richer you are (and, consequently, the richer you are, the holier you must be).

So... I'm done. Ranty, but I don't believe there's much, if any, hyperbole in this. I wish there was.

Addendum: Here's why Meyer's Christology is so amazingly crap-tastic (and why it matters to the health of the Church):

"“He could have helped himself up until the point where he said I commend my spirit into your hands, at that point he couldn’t do nothing for himself anymore. He had become sin, he was no longer the Son of God. He was sin.” Joyce Meyer.

In case you missed it, let me run through the important part again. "[Jesus] was no longer the Son of God."

Now, to me, that sounds really problematic. It's almost as if she's saying there was a point at which Jesus was not the Son of God. Jesus, the Word who was God and was with God in the beginning, the Word who became flesh, which was from the beginning and which the disciples touched with their hands. That Jesus.

So there was a point at which Jesus was not the Son of God. Does... does divinity work like that? Can it really be switched off? And if so, is it really divinity? Is Jesus really fully God, if there was a time when he wasn't God?

It goes deeper: Jesus then descended into hell, suffered there for 3 days, and when he was resurrected, "Jesus was the first human being that was ever born again." Holy crap. So Jesus isn't really the Savior at that moment... he's just another dude who needed saving.

If Jesus wasn't the Son of God when he died for our sins... then who the heck was he? The obvious answer--not the Son of God--means we really don't need to go any further down this... whatever it is. Christianity is built, quite literally, on who Christ is (seriously, it's in the name). Mess with that, and the whole thing is worthless.

I'm gonna let Karl Barth play me out:

"The Word was made flesh" is not to be thought of as describing an event which overtook Him, and therefore overtook God Himself... The statement cannot be reversed as though it indicated an appropriation and overpowering of the eternal Word by the flesh. God is always God even in His humiliation. The divine being does not suffer any change, any admixture with something else, let alone cessation. The deity of Christ is the one unaltered because unalterable deity of God. Any subtraction or weakening of it would at once throw doubt upon the atonement made in Him. He humbled himself, but he did not do it by ceasing to be who He is. He went into a strange land, but even there, and especially there, He never became a stranger to Himself." 
Karl Barth, The Way of the Son of God into the Far Country.