Friday, October 28, 2011

The Trinity - more than one way of holding onto it

Being a student of Theology under the bearded and wise Dr. K I have had to rethink many of my ideas of how God is. The big word is ontology which is the study of being. When we study the ideas of God's ontology we try to perceive through the mirror dimly using the information at hand to grasp an understanding of God. What usually occurs is that people look at what they don't like about God and try and change it. Often they begin from creation trying to understand that God must be like us because we are made in God's image. Now that's kind of okay as long as God remains God in the nature of God-self. Once God looses immortality, immanence, wisdom and becomes anthropomorphised with too many human attributes then God is no longer God.
One big stumbling block is the triune nature of God. God is one and three or God is three and then one. How can God be both? This is not normal to our understanding of the nature of being. Which is why the ontology of God is such a contentious issue. Many have their points which claim that God is unity before diversity or diversity then unity. Of course then there are those who cannot get beyond their created nature and call it all impossible. And, illogical gets mentioned somewhere along the line.
Historically the Western and Eastern Churches have differing views ontologically. The simple way to get this is that Western begins with One God and three persons and the Eastern is Three persons of the same substance unified by communion. There are three basic terms that despite having different words within reason mean the same. Substance and essence are considered interchangeable. It is considered essential to the Trinity that all three share the same essence/substance, otherwise they are not God. Person is often exchanged for hypostasis. This is because Person has shifted in its meaning over time. At first it was a theatrical term for the mask that Greek actors would wear. The Capadocian's took it and gave it a dynamic and relational meaning. The persons/hypostases within God-self share the same essence/substance with each other in a non-individual way that is in the opinion of John Zizioulas that this participation between the members of God-self is God's existence.

Think about it for a bit. Chew on this in your heart and your mind. God is not like us in his nature. God's essence is shared in a way that is dynamic and relational which is beyond any being we can see with our eyes. The word used to describe this unity in diversity is Perichoresis, it means a circle dance with three people. God is a dance. Fluid motion, never ending intwined in each other in the only perfect loving relationship. Now if thats an image of God that we can take and implement in our lives. If we use it where will we end up in our relationships with others?

I often scour the internet looking for images of Perichoresis and the Trinity, most are disappointing. This one comes from and is wonderful in its movement. There is something about abstract expressionism that grasps the Trinity in way more representative art cannot. This has to do with the fact that Abstract art does not attempt to capture a representation of the scene, person or landscape, but, to merely depict it. God is beyond us. In the nature of God-self there is a dynamic relational existence that we can only depict in word images, metaphor and analogy. Theologians try and represent Gods ontology but often end up grasping at words like person, essence, and perichoresis because God can only be depicted by us at this time.
Augustine talks of seeing God. Seeing for Augustine is knowledge imparted to us by scripture and the creeds (in Augustine's case the Nicene Creed). For him the pure in heart will see God (Matt 5:8) now because their faith has believed and they now 'see" God. But God is invisible and Augustine asserts this to be true but that one day when all is under the rule of Christ it will be given to the Father (Phil 2:5-7). It is then that the pure in heart who believe by faith will see God-self. I am looking forward to that day where I will see with my eyes something that I can only grasp at now.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The God puddle

There is a vision I get regularly about how I hold the world and God together. Maybe you like to keep things in boxes or categories so you know whats happening in which situation? Perhaps you just let it all out and can exist in the milieu that is life. I struggle with situations where there is little context or multiple contexts which you have to discern. Social situations are often uncomfortable because I struggle to work out where people sit. This also includes God as God is a hard concept, unless you let God out of the Box. In my situation in studying Theology God broke out of the box. Here is an understanding of what happened and what is happening.

I hold all the world in a series of boxes. I hold them all nicely God is one of the boxes. All the boxes are filled with water and they fit nicely.

Well they do until the God box starts to fill to overflowing stopping me from being able to hold all the boxes neatly.

They fall to the floor as the God box bursts freeing itself from the confines I place God in. The water flows all over the place splashing on me. The other boxes fall into the puddle as well.

At first they float, but, they begin to melt into the God puddle that is still growing steadily.
There are no boundaries only colours that shift and flow as the boxes and their contents become one with God.

Finally there is just water and more water. It rises further and further till I am consumed as well.

It is not a drowning, nor is it a baptism. It is an immersion into a new environment, the true environment or at least as true as it can be before the renewal to come.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Train out Impulsiveness?

Impulsiveness is a trait of the natural life, and our Lord always ignores it, because it hinders the development of the life of a disciple. Watch how the Spirit of God gives a sense of restraint to impulsiveness, suddenly bringing us a feeling of self-conscious foolishness, which makes us instantly want to vindicate ourselves. Impulsiveness is all right in a child, but is disastrous in a man or woman—an impulsive adult is always a spoiled person. Impulsiveness needs to be trained into intuition through discipline.
Oswald Chambers
Just thought I'd put this up. I wonder how we can go about training impulsiveness out of ourselves? By we I mean me of course, but, you can all join in too.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Craving Miracles

A very good friend bought me Bjork's latest album Biophilia. Warning, I love Bjork and the layers of sound she creates in her music. If you find it disturbing and a bit weird, then I understand. Please do not judge the musician if you cannot go where they travel. We all have our limits. What I would like to focus on are the lyrics of the song, the chorus mainly.
May I, can I, or have I too often?
Craving miracles…
May I, can I, or have I too often now?
Craving miracles…
Craving miracles…
I would like to ask the question do you Crave Miracles? Can you with all honesty say that in your life you have too often been Craving Miracles?

Its about at this point that the discussion about petitioning God or claiming healing in Jesus name comes up. Some people are adamant that God will heal them. They are desperate that only by an amazing miracle they will be healed. Others detest that position and claim it as foolishness depending only on modern medicine. My experience has been one that has seen both happen together.

I have a few physical abnormalities the most threatening one was Scoliosis. My spine had a curvature above 40 degrees and surgery was required. Around this time my parents searched the bible and other churches to find healing for me. Instead they found Baptism of Holy Spirit which changed them forever. Many prayed for me, many hands were laid on me - no miracle. The operation was scheduled and I was going to be in plaster for 6 months and have limited movement forever.

Then God set in motion things that changed everything. In my parents search they believed God was calling them to leave our home and family to a distant city in the tropics. We went leaving in a bus with my Grandmother crying believing we were headed for disaster. In this city there was no surgeon for my operation and to do this we had to go to another city. In this city I had a different operation. Within 4 weeks of this operation I was playing at the beach.

I believe God moves the world for us sometimes and he begins by moving our hearts. You do not know what God can do for you and you cannot just restrict him to one form of miracle. Crave them - yes you should. But never expect it just one way because this is God we are talking about the impossible is nothing for him.


Stirring at water's edge,
Cold froth on my twig,
My mind in whirls
Wanders around desire.

May I, can I, or have I too often?
Craving miracles…
May I, can I, or have I too often now?
Craving miracles…
Craving miracles…

No one imagines the light shock I need,
And I'll never know
From who's hands, deeply humble,
Dangerous gifts as such to mine come.

May I, should I, or have I too often?
Craving miracles…
May I, can I, or have I too often?
Craving miracles…
Craving miracles..

My romantic gene is dominant
And it hungers for union,
Universal intimacy,
All embracing.

May I, should I or have I too often
Craved miracles?
May I, can I or have I too often
Craved miracles?

Waves irregularly striking,
Wind stern in my face.
Thunderstorm, come,
Scrape those barnacles of me!

May I, may I or should I too often
Crave miracles?
May I or should I or have I too often

All my body parts are one
As lightning hits my spine,
Prime runs through me,
Revive my wish

May I, can I, or have I too often?
Craving miracles…
May I, can I, should I, or have I too often?
Craving miracles…

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Picasso's Girl on a Ball 1905

This is Picasso's Girl on a Ball from 1905 at this time Picasso was highlighting the nature of the outcast using the Saltimbanques or Circus Performers. This is a bleak landscape with a horse, woman, child and a dog in the background in a bare bronze field. In the foreground we are drawn to the titular girl and what is presumably the Strong man. They are differentiated by their proportions as well as what they stand and sit on. Supple and lean, balancing on the ball is the young girl whose delight is topped by the red bow in her hair. The Strong man is seated in a classic pose his strength at rest, yet watchful of the girl. It is not clear whether this is a lesson or merely practise, whether this is a father daughter relationship or that the Strong man's protective concern is merely that of a member troupe.
It is Picasso's social conscience that pokes you as you realise that these people were the refugees, the gypsy's of the era. Here Picasso is humanising them in the form of the girl yet also suggesting that this is an insular group isolated by the community at large through the protective imposing figure of the Strong man.
For me personally this piece is astounding because this is not what comes to mind when you think of Picasso. I know that if I could pain the human form like this I would never have ended where Picasso did. Perhaps I do not understand why Picasso developed the way he did because it seems like a backward step for him. Where as Matisse developed a joyous colour and form, Picasso descended from this to something that is in my opinion less than his true potential.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

My Birthday, Art Nouveau and the Hope required in Art

Its my birthday and I am sitting researching Art Nouveau. I love researching art and design, well, I love research. The whole exploration of a topic or person from history or today is just very exciting as you uncover more information, you get a better understanding. What draws me continually to Art Nouveau (though this time I am beginning an Essay on Guimard and Art Nouveau) is their ornamentation. However in Art Nouveau ornamentation is the essence of the objects design. The organic flowing curves and lines of Horta's Tassel house and Guimard's Metropolitan Entrance are the application of art on an object. The utility of the object is not restricted by the art it is enhanced and gains more value as a whole. These bespoke creations are about not bringing nature into the house but of make the house closer to nature.

Plants, insects, water were all used in the creation of Houses, furniture, wallpaper, posters, cutlery and carpet. They all used nature as their influence and inspiration. Now most people will begin to use Guimard's Metropolitan Entrance or maybe Gaudi and they would have a wonderful example for Art Nouveau. For me none compare to the completeness of Victor Horta's Tassel House in Brussels. Its a national treasure, you can visit. The place seems like Horta took a forrest and turned it into marble, wood and steel to make a house. To quote from James Grady's Nature and Art Nouveau "A Horta room seems to grow and blossom, to be composed of live forms controlled by a sensitive designer." Now if that's not a wonderful image that we can take to see ourselves as the creation made by the creator, I think I should give up theology and art.

Its my birthday as I said before, and, a few years ago I would never have admitted that I was fearfully and wonderfully made. In fact there was a time when I considered myself a weed with thorns. Other than a flower that grows and blossoms by the grace of the sensitive creator God. God calls us to acknowledge that despite what we see in the world there is more beauty in it than evil. That when God made all things and called them VERY GOOD, God meant it and still means it today. We are very good creations with the ability like Horta to create beauty either with our hands, voices, minds, bodies or just with who we are. My prayer is that you and I are able to grow and blossom in time with the sensitive creator who knows that you are VERY GOOD.

Art was always made with the hope that it could change the world. We need to make art with the Hope that God made us to be VERY GOOD and base that hope in our art. Not as kitsch but with the reality that good works of art get mentioned because they are good works of art. If Horta's Tassel House can lead me thinking about myself this way then what would art made with God's promise of resurrection and renewal in the form of Jesus' resurrection bring about? I believe the correct internet response here is - Challenge Accepted.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Mark Rothko : Number 10 1950

This is Mark Rothko's Number 10.
Is it not just lovely.
Bright shining and peaceful at the same time
If you click on it you can see it in a larger size
Look at the softness of the edges
Rothko believed that his paintings conveyed emotions
They all do
Colours placed on the canvass
Not juxtaposed or ordered
Rothko places them there because that is where they should be
I suppose I am just a bit tired and emotional
This reminds me of the sun and the beach as a child
Of good and glorious blessings
That I am not as I was

Thanks Mark - I hope you're there to paint in the renewed world.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Love never dies - The cloud of witnesses

The sequel for The Phantom of the Opera is called Love Never Dies, which, despite the fact that I would never go see this show the title is very true. Love never dies and there's a few things I'd like to touch on when it come to God, Love and about those who are no longer with us.

Love is very important because it is considered a major (if not the major) attribute of God. How often have you heard people sing, say, write God is Love. How is God Love? Well, if you ask the theologians about this you will get an explanation that involves the interpenetration of God-self within the trinity. The Father loves the Son and the Spirit and the Son loves the Father and Spirit and the Spirit the spirit loves everyone too. It is a perfect loving community, sharing and loving in perfect intimacy. God has love before we came along then Love existed before creation before you and me. He has no need for us to have love, don't think that God has love because of you. God loved first, he always loves first in fact that's a good thing for us.

Jesus in the beatitudes says that we should love our enemies and pray for those who persecute you. When you love you can love and not have it given back to you. Like God who gives and receives love within God-self when we give love it is expected to be returned back to you. In fact when it is not given back and you continue to give love its quite exhausting. Most people cannot sustain love in this situation when it is not returned if you do I think its called an abusive relationship. In the face of this Jesus says Love your enemies, but they really wont return this love, will they? Edward Schillebeeckx gives an example that the love that God gives us can take the place of the love we give to those who will not return it. So does that mean we rely on God to love us in the place of those who will not, not always. There is a limit because abuse is always wrong. What it does do is point to God as the major source of love for us. God's love available for us always and forever. We should live knowing that God's love is always there for us. It is continuos it is that same love always given to those who accept it, all of those throughout all of history.

Love never dies. So what happens to those who are not here anymore? Jesus while being crucified says to the guy on his right “Today you'll be with me in paradise.”. Jesus also tells us that there are many mansions prepared for us. This is when those reading who follow the escapist doctrine of rapture and those who take heaven as the bodiless spiritual destination are going to not agree with me. The situation of the paradise and the mansions is the place for those who believe go to after death before the new bodies they and we will get when Christ come again. Revelation makes mention of the dead in Christ who call out from under the throne for Jesus to set all things right, judge the world and renew and heal all of creation. Paul uses the term cloud of witnesses in Hebrews 21:1 that are cheering us on. I mention them not in passing but because I'd like you all to get into your heads that if love never dies then the love of those who are no longer with us is still there. These people who we love still love us they are part of the cloud of witnesses who cheer us on. Think of the biggest stadium you have seen full with players on the field. We who are alive are still on the field and those not on this earth are in the stands cheering you and I on. Their love is not gone and lost neither is yours for them. We cannot speak to them nor they to us, who can hear a single person from the stands in the middle of a football match. What we do receive is their love by God through Holy Spirit in us.

They see us and are proud of us in our endeavours they can see the field of play and they cheer us on. I say this because we need to know that their love is always there and they know we love them. Because Love never dies it always returns. God's love is so big so amazing that all of this is possible because of his love. There are those who see God as a shining light a bright wondrous thats just one way of seeing God. Thomas Merton says God is an abyss that in God there are depths that are unfathomable. This is how deep and long and wide God's love is, an abyss of love. Love that will never end, that always gives, love will always be there. How does the children's song go? Wide wide as the ocean, high as the heavens above, deep deep as the deepest sea is my saviours love. I though so unworthy, still I'm a child of his care. For his love teaches me that his love reaches me EVERYWHERE. This is just it love reaches everywhere. Love never dies because God is Love and love has ALWAYS been. Before creation there was love and after this world is reborn there will still be love. This love is available to you always and forever why hide from it?