Wednesday, August 7, 2019

The Search for Liberty; Appendix: The Form of the Good Made Manifest


NB: All previous chapters can be found here.

This will be a challenge, both for me and readers of this book.  How to capture the characteristics of Jesus in a manner sufficient to at least paint a picture of the target for which humans should aim – the Form of the Good, demonstrating the proper ends, purpose, or telos for human beings.  Understanding these ends, one can begin to properly apply reason in order to properly deduce Natural Law.

A challenge for me because I know even before I start that I will fail; a challenge for readers because it will take great patience when you bring this to my attention.

Inherently this won’t be a complete picture – turn to your favorite translation of the Bible for that, along with reading from any of your favorite theologians, pastors, and apologists.  I will attempt to give a taste – an accurate set of examples that demonstrate the breadth, depth, complexity, and the unachievable example He gave us.

A good portion of this Appendix follows a video by Paul VanderKlay, on Jesus as Archetype.  All passages from the Bible are taken from Bible Gateway.

The foundation:

John1: 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

Jesus Christ is the Word, the logos as referred to in this opening verse.

Genesis 1: 27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

We are made in God’s image; this is the same as saying that we are made in the image of Christ.  The basis for seeing in Jesus the manifest Form of the Good is here, as is the basis for humans to follow this Form.  So, what can we learn from Him?

Matthew 22: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

“And the second is like it…”  I am sure that there are many more well-thought out expositions of the meaning of this transitional phrase; I will offer mine: we demonstrate our love of God by demonstrating our love to our neighbors. 

Love is in the doing.  It is captured in the Latin word Beatitudo:

The happiness that comes from seeing the good in others and doing the good for others. It is, in essence, other-regarding action.

Beatitudo: this has been described by Aquinas as the proper ends or purpose of man.  It seems a good place to start – the Beatitudes as offered in Matthew 5; to summarize: Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those persecuted because of righteousness.

In the popular culture, these verses are pointed to as the prime example of Jesus’ weakness.  Instead, what is actually found are maximized examples of both kindness (meekness and mercy) and strength (persecuted for righteousness).  Imagine the character it takes to achieve both – not in balance, but to maximize each; consider these as diverse excellencies.

Paul furthers this in Galatians 5: 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. 

The fruit reflects the tree.

What underlies all of these is love.  Jesus does not offer love in any feeling terms; each example requires doing.  He did some real doing:

no hero in your tragedy
no daring in your escape
no salutes for your surrender
nothing noble in your fate

Christ, what have you done?

-          The Pass, Rush

This is how much of the world sees Christ’s crucifixion – He gave up, He surrendered, He escaped.  In other words, He was too weak to shoulder a load.  Yet this was no weak man:


John 18: 6 When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

That is strength, the strength necessary to shoulder the heaviest load.

Matthew 26: 53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?

That is strength; the strength necessary to shoulder the heaviest load.

Matthew 8: 23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

Strength to calm the storm.  That is real strength.

27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

“What kind of man is this?”  Words are insufficient to describe the “is,” but I do know what kind of a man He isn’t…He isn’t a weak man.  And I haven’t even mentioned the descriptions of Jesus to be found in Revelation – holding stars in His hand and swords in His mouth.

In Jesus, we have examples of grace and truth – again, not in balance but each maximized, diverse excellencies:

Matthew 16: 19 I will give you [Peter] the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Complete grace, followed shortly by…

Matthew 16: 23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

Complete truth; no touchy-feely stuff.  When it comes to confronting evil, Jesus didn’t beat around the bush.

Another example regards the Samaritan woman at the well, after Jesus offers her living water:

John 4: 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”  16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”  17 “I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

There is much grace in His living water; there is much truth in His rebuke.  He did not balance these attributes, He maximized these.

How about humility, from a Man who could calm the storms:

Luke 14: 10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests.

Matthew 20: 16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Is Jesus suggesting manipulation, or is He offering advice regarding proper character?  Remember, it is the meek – not the manipulative – that shall inherit the earth.

He replies to the Pharisee, Simon, who notes that a sinful woman is washing Jesus’ feet:

Luke 7: 44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

Jesus completely upended the morality of the time.  He undermined the stupid moral tricks that we regularly play.

Matthew 4: 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”  10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

Saying something about the relative value of power and wealth when considering the proper ends for humans.

Conclusion

John 15: 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

The perfect gave His life for the damned.  So…living like Jesus means dying like Jesus. 

No one said that finding liberty was going to be easy.

18 comments:

  1. I will just add that the first several beatitudes in Matthew 5 show a strong value for humility: poor in spirit and those who mourn shows a person that is aware of their own state before God. It is only then that a person will hunger and thirst after righteousness. Christ's righteousness.

    I also like 1 John 3 as a chapter explaining the "doing" nature of love. It isn't obligation per se, but it comes up to the hairy edge in my mind.

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    1. RMB, it is a good chapter.

      Within the context of this discussion, I am fine with obligations as long as these don't come with a gun pointed at me or the risk of prison if I do not perform.

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    2. Yeah, I agree. It is just that even in the Bible it is hard to say what happens if you don't obey Jesus' commands. Basically, you have less fruit and less reward in the world to come.

      I used to listen to a pastor that said you can never pray too much, evangelize too much, or give too much away. But it is okay to rest and enjoy the good life too.

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  2. Beautiful. Very good within the framework of understanding the Messiah in Greek, philosophical terms. This personalistic idealism is excellent, but it is not complete, since any philosophy which is exclusively personalistic will tend towards antinomianism. The real Yeshua always assumes the Mosaic teachings as the tacit basis of his own doctrine. On this basis is added his own overflowing righteousness. Because the prior basis is assumed in a way that is more tacit than explicit theologians have tended to void the prior teachings leaving a "Christ" who is more or less capable of being molded into the image desired by each individual believer. Inspiring...but indeterminate...

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    1. Thank you, Pico.

      Care to provide any illumination?

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    2. He is probably from the Messianic movement. They emphasize the Jewish roots of Christianity but some of the people i have talked to want to bring back the dietary codes and Saturday worship.

      Maybe Pico isn't saying that but I have heard people say things like that and that is what they mean.

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    3. Your right Rambam...LOL! And Bionic Mosquito, as far as further illumination goes, I would prefer to collect my thoughts and then refer you to my own blog...Blessings...

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  3. Fantastic.

    "blessed are the poor in spirit"

    I had a hard time understanding what this meant for quite a while in my life, because it seems like He's telling us to be timid or weak, but I came to realize that what this means is simply humility, the Golden Mean between pride and self-hatred. Not torturous self-deprecation, or narcissistic self-love, but realistic self-appraisal in perspective of your place in the cosmos.

    Jesus offers the example of humility and sacrifice for those in positions of power especially.

    "and whosoever would be first among you shall be your servant. Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." - Matt 20:27-28

    Now that you've defined what liberty requires beyond the political realm by way of Jesus, our example par excellence, here's an idea for another book (or appendix):

    The Strategy for Liberty: How to Find Liberty at the Intersection of the Teachings of Jesus, the Natural Law, the NAP, and Local Tradition.

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    1. Thank you, ATL

      Given the pathetic state of institutional Christianity in the West (no matter which sect / doctrine), I am afraid such an endeavor would depress me.

      For now, I suggest prayer; maybe one day I will come up with something more.

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    2. ATL, the best explanation I have heard for "blessed are the poor in spirit" is realizing that you have nothing of spiritual value to give God. It isn't self hate, but the realization that according to your own ability you can't appease Him by actions.

      It is a picture of coming to God empty handed asking for His grace. Jesus told a parable about this attitude which is exemplified by the tax collector in Luke 18:9-14.

      The beatitudes in Matthew 5 are actually an amazing visualization that Jesus is giving the crowd. He is identifying the path a person must go on to be saved from his sin. You can look at each beatitude as a step to salvation and then through it.

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    3. BM,

      Prayer will certainly be a big part of it.

      I've been reading "Religion and the Rise of Western Culture" and there's a lot in there to give us ideas of how to bring about better culture in our time by reference to how it was done in the Western Christendom. In the 8th and 9th centuries it was the monasteries who were on the leading edge of cultural reform. In the 11th and 12th centuries the monasteries were overshadowed by the universities and the cities.

      Dawson really is a good writer. I highly recommend this book. It seems that he, in this book at least, has succumbed to the idea of the "Dark Ages" from the fall of Rome to the rise of Italian city states in the 11th century.

      He does however trace a lot of the literary, economic, and technological progress that occurs during the later middle ages.

      Anyway, it's a great book that I think will help us understand how culture has been affected in the past by military conquest, technological advancements, economic progress, and the shifting balance of power between the Church and the State.

      RMB,

      I agree. I consider the Beatitudes (and the rest of the Sermon on the Mount) to be Jesus' core teachings. Focus on implementing these into your daily routine, and I'm willing to bet my life that you'll do okay on Judgement Day.

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  4. This comment doesn't necesarily go here, but I found another comment on Natural Law from Mises in Human Action.

    He understands Natural Law to be grounded in the left liberal idea that all people are equal, in a very strict egalitarian sense. The same ideology infecting the SJW and LGBTQ+ movement. That kind of Natural Law requires that every individual because they are equal deserves to receive an equal amount of wealth from the economy. It is the socialist viewpoint essentially.

    This is why I think Bionic Mosquito has very correctly linked the proper Natural Law to Christian ethics.

    Despite the Bible's statement that we are equal before God in our sin and due to we all being human, the Bible also celebrates the inequality of people in their gifts, talents, and role. I think the clearest picture of this is from 1 Corinthians 12:4-31.

    In fact if you apply the same logic to society as a whole you get the traditional family structure, hierarchical order, and the division of labor.

    This blog has allowed me to piece so many ideas together into a whole. More please.

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    1. RMB,

      Progress to the liberal:

      Roman Liberal = Equity before the Emperor
      Christian Liberal = Equity before God
      Classical Liberal = Equity before the Law
      Radical Liberal = Equality of Rights
      Progressive Liberal = Equality of Opportunity
      Socialist Liberal = Equality of Wages, Housing, Education, Social Status, Healthcare, ...ad infinitum.

      Note: equity is 'to each his due', while equality is basically 'to each the same'.

      Also, within Christian liberty there was (and is still) a sense of 'equality', since we can't know which of us has a higher standing with God on this earth. I think Christian society was the first (only?) to recognize that a slave could be ranked higher in God's eyes than a king.

      The degeneration of this idea of equality and its separation from God, is probably the origin of most of the evils we face in the modern world (mass democracy, socialism, militarism, etc.).

      "The modern world is not evil; in some ways the modern world is far too good. It is full of wild and wasted virtues. When a religious scheme is shattered...it is not merely the vices that are let loose. The vices are, indeed, let loose, and they wander and do damage. But the virtues are let loose also; and the virtues wander more wildly, and the virtues do more terrible damage. The modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad. The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone" - G.K. Chesterton

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  5. Thank you immensely for this blog and this series of posts in particular, Bionic! Wonderful and important work is being done here.

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  6. Are you planning on publishing this book as a physical (or Kindle) book? Really want to read this but never will in blog format.

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