Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Definition of Chalcedon (451)

Therefore, following the holy Fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body;

of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood;

like us in all respects, apart from sin;

as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer;

one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation;

the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ;

even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lrod Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the Fathers has handed down to us.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Rhymer's lament

It is tiresome when one rhymes oneself into a linguistic rinconada and the only way out is through a word which brings down whole new avalanches of messy irrelevant imagery upon one's head.

And the word probably ruins the meter, too.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Semiotics and scripture

Have been thinking about semiotics lately, especially in connection with Scripture and Communion and the temple and that sort of thing. It's not mostly original, but...I have been thinking it!

Semiotics is the study of sign systems. The model they work with involves making a distinction between the signifier (the thing being a sign) and the signified (the thing being communicated by the sign). I think the proper way to understand it is Meaning-maker --> sign --> meaning --> recipient of meaning.

God doesn't talk without talking to someone (either us or the angels, or Himself from all eternity), and similarly signs don't just pop up without having been put there by someone, or Someone. God is the ultimate meaning-maker. Without Him, the universe really is meaningless. The whole point of a sign is that it has meaning beyond just existence; nobody but Him could really give it any meaning.

But somehow, we think that the world, stars and trees and mountains and DNA and atoms, should have meaning. This is general revelation. (The heavens are telling of the glory of God/ And their expanse is declaring the works of His hand.) It's the Bible, though, special revelation, that makes the meaning explicit.

I do have more thoughts, but this is all I've got time for just now. :-)


I'm coming to the conclusion that "objectivity" is not an especially helpful concept. I may perhaps not like where this line of argument takes me, but I think I'll argue it anyway.

Being human--more to the point, being a particular human--you are not going to be able to avoid having a perspective. The human's job is to have the perspective closest to reality and The Way Things Really Are. In Biblical terms, this is having the mind most conformed to Christ.

Further, it seems that the more Christlike each person individually is, the more unified we will be with one another. There will and must be a division between the sheep and the goats. But let the sheep be one.

But back to objectivity: it should also be pointed out that ultimate reality is a Person. This Person invented and sustains our reality. (In Him we live and move and have our being.) So it's really not that weird that His perspective be what's Real, nor is it weird that we are most in touch in reality when we share that perspective.

Saturday, April 23, 2005


Have you actually read Cardinal Ratzinger's homily from the mass just before he was elected Pope? It's quite remarkable. It's doctrinally sound. I've been studying church fathers and heretics; I don't approve of the papacy, but a good Pope is a good blessing for all Christendom.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

They both glow...

It is part of the image of God that man create, or rather subcreate, using God’s “stuff.” Man has been quite creative, and each of us (being human) is inclined to think rather well of ourselves for it. I do. But take glow-in-the-dark silly putty. It emits light. Man invented it. It's pretty cool. And then look at this, which God invented.

Bow the knee, O mortals, and render worship to Him who makes stars while we make silly putty. We are but an image, not God Himself.

Marx and monophysitism

It occurred to me during Music Appreciation last night that Monophysitism has a certain similarity to the Hegelian dialectic as used by Marx.

Monophysites, begun by the cleric Eutyches, hold that Christ's nature is neither fully human nor fully divine, but a mingling of the two. Just as a drop of honey dissolves in the ocean, so His humanity is swallowed up in His divinity. Just as the honey and water is neither honey nor water, but honey-water, so is Christ a God-man.

This view was refuted as a heresy by the Council of Chalcedon, called in 451. A number of the old Eastern churches, including Egypt's Coptic church, still hold it.

The dialectic, at its simplest, is a thesis and anthesis, which clash and produce a third thing, which is the synthesis. The synthesis becomes a new thesis, which spawns a new antithesis and new clash, and it keeps going.

I am not, for the record, accusing Copts of holding a Marxist Christology...

High praise

John Chrysostom said, "And indeed an intelligent, discreet, and pious young woman is worth more than all the money in the world."

Speaking as a young woman, I therefore found the following quote from Dr. Anthony Esolen about PHC extremely encouraging:

"And the young ladies are beautiful. They don’t wither away in class, far from it; but they wear skirts, they are modest in their voices and their smiles, they clearly admire the young men and are esteemed in turn; they are like creatures from a faraway planet, one sweeter and saner than ours."

I was not there that evening; PHC girls do not deserve such praise, honestly; but oh, is it ever cheering. It makes me cry, almost.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The Quartz

“There’s a giant near the Plains of Soy,”
Proclaimed the knight one day,
“With stature as no mortal boy
Not even Glaser, may I say.

“He is, like Grendel, ancient beast,
Of the same cursed race as Cain,
But not as that first miser priest
Did Soy’s foul giant Right disdain.

“His hoard is not of corn or wheat
Nor even soy (though ‘twould beseem),
But quartz he heaps in piles discrete
His sins to increase, not redeem.

“Though he is tall as farmer’s hall
I promulgate this challenge:
His chariot’s crawl cannot appall
With widest tracks, nor exhaust singe.

“A giant’s barrow full of arrows
Would not fill me yet with fear:
I know my Lord still keeps the sparrow
And will rule my combat here.”

The questing knight then sought the right
To reap the lifeless giant’s yield,
But when the latter saw the knight
Dishonorably he fled the field!

We may never know just why
He, wiser than Goliath, arose:
Perhaps he thought the knight a spy,
Perhaps now giants dread young foes.

The knight soon thought him of a maid
Who would appreciate a prize.
Moreover, he might save by raid
A stones in thrall to wicked lies.

He braved the spiders, dared the lair,
Sought the crystal heaps piled ill;
The hoard was filled with white stones fair:
The knight gained riches, all his fill.

The knight, as Jason with the fleece,
Returned and bore a single treasure.
He passed Lake Bob, sweet home of geese,
And hoped the lady was at leisure.

Alas! The maid was in the keep
Of Euclid, squares, geometry
Of triangles, and a question deep:
Pythagorean equality.

When he learned of her stern master
And that she free would become soon,
“A gift I bore from yonder pasture.
Say so to her, I plead this boon.”

He went with haste back to his place
To water-wash the stone entire:
‘Twas cream in hue, but with gold trace,
In shape it seemed a church and spire.

In time her mystic master bade
Her leave; she to her chambers came
And her companions there conveyed
The message and the knight’s own fame.

But the tale confused the maid, bemused
From that spell sage Euclid left on her;
The maid sought news her friends diffused,
And bade the knight full truth confer.

The knight repaired to castle fair
And brought both stone and story:
How through Soy Plain to giant’s lair
The knight ascended, gained his glory.

He won the quartz of creamy hues
From evil, coming back with joy.
He placed it at the lady’s shoes
And gave her great mirth unalloyed.

“But what,” the lady asked, “Should I
Do with this stone of such renown?”
“Perhaps,” the knight replied, “You'll try
A holder of the gate to town.”

So now the lady's castle sports
A knight-won doorstop made of quartz.
Long may the knight such valor gain
And never hoard rich stones or grain!

Sunday, April 10, 2005


I find it interesting that accepted Instant Messenger practice regarding asterisks inverts accepted linguistic practice. Linguists asterisk forms which cannot actually exist; IMers asterisk forms which should have existed but actually did not.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Musings, mostly about books although a clock enters into it also

"When I am dead
I hope it will be said:
His sins were scarlet,
But his books were read."
--Hilaire Belloc

The dorm clocks are hardy creatures. It is possible to drop one off the balcony and not kill it. Not that I recommend trying this.

"You can find all the new ideas in the old books; only there you will find them balanced, kept in their place, and sometimes contradicted and overcome by other and better ideas. The great writers did not neglect a fad because they had not thought of it, but because they had thought of it and of all the answers to it as well." G. K. Chesterton

Everyone's life is essentially either a tragedy or a comedy. In the end, you will either die or get married.

"The oldest books are still only just out to those who have not yet read them." Samuel Butler

Timothy Zahn's The Green and the Gray, with that whole Norse and nymph thing, is like Dante's Divine Comedy and Sayers's Lord Peter series. Zahn takes something educated and puts it in popular terms. What I object to in a lot of modern writing is "not that it's modern, but that it isn't anything else." If you are going to contribute literature, please be aware of what previous people have said.

"I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library." Jorge Luis Borges.

Speaking of Paradise, this afternoon I was rejoicing for I had found Dante's Hell when I thought I had lost it at Jonathan's birthday party. :-)

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Upon having behaved stupidly

Well, I have. More to the point, I sinned, but I naturally prefer not to talk about that. No, it was an altogether stupid conversation which was amusing at the moment and edified nobody.

When I tried to include someone else, he said gently, "Well, I won't interrupt your fun with wisdom," and walked away.

Talk about a dagger to the heart, a word which pierced as far as the division between bone and marrow.

But the worse fault is that I did not stop. I was having fun and it was quotable. But the laughter has turned into a miserable knot in my heart and the quotes into foul little worms in my hand.

I'm sorry, guys.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

A little perspective

Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.
Colossians 3:14-15
Thus has the Lord of hosts said, "Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother; and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another."
Zechariah 7:9-10
Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?
Galatians 3:3


I've been reading over break. I finished:

The Green and the Gray by Timothy Zahn. It's a rattling good read. You'll be confused at the beginning, but you're supposed to be, so don't give up. It all comes clear at the end and it's worth it. Zahn is brilliant and furthermore he can write.

Scribbling in the Sand: Christ and Creativity by Michael Card. Interesting. Good.

Have Space Suit--Will Travel by Robert Heinlein. I'm glad I read it, and I expect I'll read other Heinlein books, but this wasn't a favorite, I don't think.

The Dungeon by Lynne Reid Banks. This is fairly well written--gripping definitely--but oh! the end broke my heart. I won't spoil it for you, though; you should read it yourself.

The Place of the Lion by Charles Williams. It's--well, odd. I don't quite understand, but I think that's okay. It's like Lewis's That Hideous Strength meets Plato's Forms.

In addition, I've been working on:

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner. I expect he's got a point and that I'll be glad I read it once I finish it, but it's not pleasure reading.

On Nature and Language by Noam Chomsky. Dense and technical--and I'm only in the introduction!--but fascinating. His work on Universal Grammar sheds some interesting light on Plato and the Tower of Babel. What relationship does Universal Grammar have to the language of Eden? And as for Plato, I thought we'd decided years ago that he was wrong and children did not learn by forgetting...

Children of the Storm by Elizabeth Peters. I picked up a nice hardback copy at Barnes and Noble in Birmingham for only $5.88 and am still thrilled about it. This is last year's installment of the Amelia Peabody Emerson saga: Nefret and Ramses's twin children are born. It's poetic justice and great fun. I read it last summer and liked it. Now, to get hold of a copy of the newest one...

Paradise by Dante Alighieri, translated by Dorothy Sayers. I started the trilogy (I suppose that's what it is, really, though it makes it sound like sci fi) in high school and loved it, and now that I'm restarting this third volume, I observe Dante's brilliance. He talks about the medieval free will debate. O that I had read this BEFORE I took philosophy topics! It's incredibly satisfying to read someone who mentions things people actually discuss! And Sayers's translation is impressive, for she kept the meter and terza rima from the Italian--no small feat in English--and fills the book to the gills with footnotes, commentaries, and explanations.

I meant to read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce, but once can't do everything, I suppose. :-)

Friday, April 01, 2005

Christian approach to stuff

I found an old draft here in my blog collection that never got posted; having been thinking about it for a month, I've probably changed my mind about a fair amount of what's in here, but please feel free to comment nonetheless.

What is the proper relationship between a Christian and his stuff?

The early church and early medieval response tended to be (heretically) gnostic and (less heretically) monastic. The material world is equated with evil, and the spiritual realm with the good: to reach the good, one must mortify the physical flesh. Even among the non-heretical, there was a distinct anti-stuff sentiment. Saint Anthony, the first real hermit, felt called upon to sell all his stuff (and his orphaned sister's stuff), dump her with some Christian virgins, and go live in the desert for the rest of his life.

Saint Augustine started out buying into the flesh = evil thing, but then he got converted and repudiated it. I can't quite figure out his position. Or--well, here, let me quote.

[B]ut it is to be asked whether man is to be loved by man for his own sake or for the sake of something else. ...If, therefore, you should love yourself not on your own account but on account of Him who is most justly the object if your love, no other man should feel angry with you if you love him also on account of God.

Between temporal and eternal things there is this difference: a temporal thing is loved more before we have it, and it begins to grow worthless when we gain it, for it does not satisfy the soul, whose true and certain rest is eternity; but the eternal is more ardently loved when it is acquired than when it is merely desired.