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Thursday, February 19, 2004

Calvin's God in Plato's Cave

Based on Michael Horton's presentation of Calvin's natural theology, it seems that Calvin was no friend of Plato or philosophy. But looking at it from Plato's point of view, I come to an interesting conclusion.

One of the things that is true of the imprisoned victims in the cave in Plato's parable of the Cave is that not only are they chained so that they cannot see behind them to see the truth about things, they cannot even see each other. Their heads are forced in one direction only - The Wall. Of course this fits Plato's scheme. We do not even see each other in experience, only each others bodies which are just part of the epiphenominal visible world. (So if you say that you had a great time seeing me at the mall last weekend, I will know that you are a charletan who probably takes money for teaching virtue -- or an adjunct philosophy professor -- D'oh!) Now, once we are free and have been goaded to the truth and back to bring justice to the darkened state, we must communicate with our enslaved bretheren (and sisteren). They must communicate indirectly to each other by talking to certain shadows on the wall. When Crito talks to Cebes, he addresses the Cebes shadow. When Cebes listens to Crito, he only listens to the echo of Crito's voice as it reverberates near the Crito shadow. And so back as forth, Cebes responds to Crito. The same is true when Socrates returns to the cave and engages poor bound Cebes and Crito but he tries to convince then that he is not the Socrates shadow they think his voice is coming from.

If Horton is right about Calvin, I take it that on Calvin's view, the whole panoply of shadows is the God Shadow, that we are apt to see an image in experience or of all experience as if it spoke like God in some analogous sense to the body of a person speaking like it was that person. This is obviously not be some inference just as there is no inference involved in thinking that when you saw my body at the mall you saw me -- its just custom that leads you to think that (although custom in a strong sense that is the presupposition for culture). Consequently, it is only custom that makes us think that the natural enviroment is the handiwork of God (just what Hume said). But Calvin is like John Lennon, he thinks that the shadows on the wall are worth more than the pilgrimage outside of the cave, even though he is aware that such a trip has often been made.

So it seem that Calvin identifies the natural knowledge of God with just this pre-theoretical awareness of nature as I suspect that Paul does too in Romans chapter one. The knowledge of God from nature is not by means of inference but by direct association of one with the other. Calvin is also probably right that as far as the Scripture is concerned, waht's important about knowledge of God is the profitable use that can be made of it.

No doubt Socrates need not bother to convince God that He is not his Shadow. He already admits it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Don't praise the messenger.

I am having an important conversation inspired by this blog that I thank God for, concerning the Christian Faith. It reminds me that there is no merit in being the messenger. That is, just as the idea of shooting the messenger betrays a misplaced vindictiveness, so does praising the messenger display a misplaced gratitude. Of course a messenger can be timely, well prepared, etc. but the value of having a messenger is mainly intrumental. As the Bible makes clear, the messenger could be a prophet but could just as well be an enemy or even an animal. We are only dishonorable servants, we have only done our duty. The role is strikingly thin compared to the great stress we put on ourselves when we contemplate doing evangelism ordinarily.

Personally, I am glad things go that way. In sharing Christ, I would rather it be all him and none me, anyway.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Happy Valentine's Day weekend!

Dark is the Night, but how darker must it be before it would keep me from the summons of the fairest Isolde. Even the black ashed clouds of Hades' Inner Rings could not have stalled me.

I left my Lady's Chambers at the direction of my maiden's message left on a kerchief. This lead my me to the ruins of the chaple and the tombs of the olden princes in the deep forrests beyond the battlements. The frost seeped through the tunic below my armor but the chill could slow my pace. As I approached the ruins of the churchyard, I dsimounted and approached the great gray wall and iron gate. As I looked into the court, there was my Isolde, her dress glowing white in the fullness of the moon, surrounded by the graves of the heros. A sudden cautiousness I felt melted away in the gaze of the eyes of my beautiful beloved. In the forgetfulness of a dream, I was drawn into the yard as if on an Arabian carpet toward her cherry lips and alibaster skin, but was aroused from sleep by a coldness beyond the bitter breeze. But I could not be drawn away from my sweet until I was at last in front of her. My mention of her name "Isolde" was a magic chant that brought her arms around me and our ghosts intertwined in the warmth of her kiss.

But this green opium could not last when finally the flame of my heart could be drawn in no longer. I opened my eyes into hers only to see no mortal iris but only to pasty grey orbs filling the sockets. My balk broke the spell, her skin began to tranformk from creme silk into cold saphire as the features of her face tightened and shriveled. The black walls of the tombs began to glow with red runes and pentagrams and the wind brought with it the sound of distant pipes. The trap betrayed the succubus disclosed her true identity as her leathery wings appeared and her teeth sank into the blood of my throat. The dark witch laughed with a sound like collapsing windows and her cackling rose me to action. Ravenblade as much materialized in my hand and I gave the cry of my ancient ancestors as I thrust its silvered edge deep into her bossom, quenching it on the black bile that served for the night creature's blood, the sword's bright surface dulled immediately by its corrosive effects. My head split from the shreak of death so that a mindless numbness set over me in time to blunt the ripping of my flesh from the creature's stained nails as the thrust in between the plates of my chest armor. The beast turned to ash but not before her curse had taken me. My strengh began to melt away as the flesh of my feet and legs began to transmute to black glass.

I could not move as my body became cold. My head began to swoon from the stench of the monster's remains and the poison of her claws. The carol of the pipes became closer and transported my mind beyond the pure blackness of yard. I lifted my eyes to the stars and saw the planets allign as if I and they were right ajoined. I saw the moon swelled to fill the sky, turned to blood red, and written over with the strangest heiroglyphics and most dreadful blaspemies such that no serene spirit could be remain peace. As the piping drew near I could see the Great Spirit of the Forrest appear as he marched with his aweful head roved three hundred hand above the tree tops, his great barken hide unscathed by the large tree branches. His heavy face turned to me as he stopped his playing and the last of my sanity was darined out be his terrible face. He reached his hand toward me and I screamed as the obsidian finally closed over my face.