Posted by: Ascentury | Saturday, 31 October 2009

A brief sidelong glance…

A retrospective of my work on Radio Beloved.

“As the sparks fly upward” I II III IV–V VI. The great paradox of the gospel is that it seeks to individually dissolve the individual. The man or woman who stands alone before God must alone bow the knee, submit the will, and covenant with the Lord of all mankind.

“God is a man of war, and Cain his first saint”. I cannot help but query still if any war is justifiable. Is it not a sin to point to extenuating circumstances? Does that not challenge the validity of God’s Law and the reach of Christ’s Atonement?

Ruminations on a Weltanschauung. Even if we could agree, we can’t solve every problem that exists. If we could, what use a Savior?

Becoming sons and daughters of God. The danger of trying to interpret Jesus, or indeed any aspect of the gospel, is that one will interpret it in such a way as to validate one’s own actions and existence.

Barth Thoughts. To continue in our quotidian tasks without introspection requires justification (to be declared righteous); we fabricate said justification from religion.

Co-opting the cultural left. Contemporary conservatism can ultimately only lose. It stakes out positions and defends them. Yet, in each case, one victory by the left takes all the ground away, no matter how many years the conservatives fight it.

The gospel of circumference. Act in such a way that your potential for future good is maximized.

Nihility: A brief response to Nishitani. How does the Atonement answer the otherwise-inevitable “standpoint of emptiness” that arises facing the abyss?

Eli, eli, lama sabachthani. It’s easy to be Christlike in a world where everyone is Christlike; similarly, it is easy to have faith when everything precipitates faith. It is not easy to have faith when the wellsprings of heaven have dried up and the memories of far green fields fade into the hazy past.

The blood of righteous Abel. Abel, son of Adam and in the patriarchal line of the priesthood, is a little-understood figure who seems to have far less folklore and curiosity surrounding his person than other similarly mysterious figures such as Melchizedek and Enoch.

The parable of the entrusted talents. The etymology of talent in modern English is heavily influenced by this identification of the historical meaning of the word as an amount of money with this parable in Matthew.

The analogy of being. It is a very different thing to know that God is the greatest of all and to suppose that he is God because there must be a greatest.

A corn of wheat. Self-fulfillment is a relatively modern notion, but it finds little scriptural support.

Time only is measured unto men. What books we could read, what books we could write, what languages we could learn, what dreams we could realize, if we were just willing to reach forward and turn off the television.

That ye may have life…. Death is separation, whether from God, from others, or from ultimately one’s own potential. Freedom from death is through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, freedom to have no elements of death in your life–but freedom is burdened by choice.

Creative writing.
To a loved one.
The house of seven Bibles.
Law of Sinai.

Neal A. Maxwell Confluence. A burgeoning collection of all of Neal Ash Maxwell’s published works, as well as related documents from various authors.

A corn of wheat. A collection of four of my earlier essays.

Posted by: Ascentury | Monday, 19 October 2009

“As the sparks fly upward” Part VI

“How long shall rolling waters remain impure?”
“And for all this, nature is never spent” (Hopkins). We are not ex nihilo, but ex lux.

Insofar as we are anything except that which we are not, insofar as we do not believe and are not enlightened by the death of Christ, we remain within this world, outside the peace of God and outside the reconciliation which He has wrought (Barth, 163).

There is a deeply absurd paradox underlying the Gospel. It pierces through to the individual, precisely to lose him or her in death—and thus gain him or her to life eternal. “Impotence cannot dic-tate terms to omnipotence” (Maxwell, “On the Straight and Narrow Way”, New Era, August 1971; cf. Isaiah 29:16). The corn of wheat which falls into the earth and dies is the only corn of wheat which may bring forth fruit and live.

The principles of life and salvation are the only principles of freedom; for every principle that is opposed to God—that is opposed to the principles of eternal life whether it is in heaven, on the earth, or in hell the time will be when it will cease to exist, cease to preserve, manifest, and exhibit its identity; for it will be returned to its native element (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 5:54).

Is this paradox? Then all is as it should be. “Unto the Greeks, foolishness” (AV1 Corinthians 1:23)—and we are asked to sacrifice our most human characteristic—our reason—that it, too, might be made new and whole. Indeed, “thus saith the Lord”; on this rock are dashed the sophism of doubt and the rhetoric of apology. The line of faith crosses all boundaries, uproots all foundations, overthrows all defenses. This is the world’s end, and every iteration of man—that the nihility of faith and the Atonement may itself be defeated, and defeat.

Posted by: Ascentury | Monday, 12 October 2009

“As the sparks fly upward” Parts IV–V

“If any man live in Christ, he is a new creature.”

By reason of transgression cometh the fall, which fall bringeth death, and inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory; •for by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified (Moses 6:59–60).

The context of the Fall which is the presupposition of this world enables the Atonement to redeem it.

The redemption which is made for you is brought to pass the resurrection from the dead. •And the spirit and the body are the soul of man. •And the resurrection from the dead is the redemption of the soul. •And the redemption of the soul is through him that quickeneth all things, in whose bosom it is decreed that the poor and the meek of the earth shall inherit it. •Therefore, it must needs be sanctified from all unrighteousness, that it may be prepared for the celestial glory (D&C 88:14–18).

Obedience to the commandments is integral to repentance, not because it effects an “atonement” or can cleanse sin (being still under the curse of the broken law), but because it permits remission of sins to take place (D&C 76:51–53; Moroni 8:25). Paul wrote, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified alone by faith without the deeds of the law” (IVRomans 3:28). The redemptive Atonement justifies the repentant; the quickening Atonement sanctifies him.

Unto every kingdom is given a law; and unto every law there are certain bounds also and conditions. •All beings who abide not in those conditions are not justified (D&C 88:38–39).

Justification is to be made straight, or upright. The Atonement redeems the individual, bringing us from under transgression and into the death ordained. Justification has been cast down previously in this essay as an inadequate and futile action. Now, we are cut upon the double edge of the sword: justification is not to justify our acts before God, but ourselves (Alma 41:15). It is not an act of our part towards God, but of His part towards us, and any other theological usage of this word must fail before this.
Sanctification is to be made holy. The Atonement quickens the repentant person, bringing him through the death ordained and into the new life. As a parable of the individual child of God’s sanctification, of the earth it is written that,

The earth abideth the law of a celestial kingdom, for it filleth the measure of its creation, and transgresseth not the law—•wherefore, it shall be sanctified; yea, notwithstanding it shall die, it shall be quickened again, and shall abide the power by which it is quickened (D&C 88:25–26).

There is a redemption wrought, and there is a quickening wrought. As surely as the Fall underlies all of Creation, so too does the Atonement. The end result is that, “the sanctified … shall not any more see death” (D&C 88:116). With the obstructing elements of death finally removed, “your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things” (D&C 88:67; see also D&C 130:9).

Moroni’s final, solemn injunction to the faithful was to receive the justification and sanctification which the Atonement effects for all.

Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God. •And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot (Moroni 10:32–33).

“In sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life.”

We collide radically with death and Atonement every minute of every day, whether we recognize this or not. The Gospel is new and everlasting. The very decision we make to have, to pursue, to accept faith in God, rather than to reject it, tilts the axis of the world—the Moment.

This is the meaning of what was said … about the love of Christ being at one and the same time a sword that kills man and a sword that gives man life. It means that there is an undercurrent running through the gospel to the effect that no matter where a man is or what he is doing, he comes into touch with the cutting sword of de-cision (Nishitani, 40).

The key insight, the kernel of truth which must fall within your soul and die to bring forth life, is that this nihility, this backdrop of Angest, is not an obstacle to be overcome, but a gateway to be followed. This is the veil, so to speak. Behold the great mystery of telestial existence!—there is no meaning. The grand, overarching ‘why’ of all existence is unanswerable in the thought of a telestium such as ours.

The grain of nihility is fundamental to this life—it is the veil. There is no meaning to our life, being completely Fallen, and thus it is incumbent upon us to create meaning; and inasmuch as our created meaning causes us to die and allows us to be born again, we progress in a meaningful sense towards salvation and exaltation. (Just as the lukewarm are spewed out of the mouth, it is higher to create any meaning than to create none.) The horror of existence, the open-endedness of our life (and its closedness) means that any human satisfaction is arbitrary and created. “A particular standpoint is no standing place” (Barth, 230).

Creativity is not the genitor or enabler of the new life. Those roles are Christ’s, as the Atonemaker. It may be a way that we allow our wills to be sublimated into that of the Father’s, but we run the risk of elevating our created meaning as well, though it be not salvatory. Such meaning faces the void of death as certainly as do we: indeed, it is only in encountering and passing through and beyond death, quickened in Christ Jesus, that our meaning, the constructed story of our life, becomes of consequence.

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