Sunny Days in Heaven
Spiritual/Political/Philosophical Blog on the Nature of Truth and Falsehood and Heaven

Saturday, May 18, 2002  

Part Two - Essentials

Louder Fenn mentions: "And since we can't conduct any experiments on the Trinity we can only understand it through our reason. In our heads, as it were; but because our reason is imperfect we cannot rely on it in isolation."

We can conduct experiments on God. We call them thought experiments, though, and they involve reason. Our reason is not always imperfect, but often misinformed. Deduction, for example, must be perfect or else it's meaningless. Induction, though, often leaves us with a lot of fuzzy logic.

For example, Fenn calls Jesus the second person of the trinity. This is impossible. Why? Given our premises about God in Three, any scheme of ranking is absurd. It simply can't apply to God. Same thing with the appellation - Son. The word is meaningless in this context. Same with Messiah or Lord. We use these human terms but they have no absolute or ultimate meaning.

Also, Jesus relied on his reason in isolation. He didn't depend on his religion or synagogue to get his mind right on things. He depended entirely on prayer.

Jesus wasn't given a better mind, soul, or heart than most other people. He had to figure it all out himself, just as we have to (or can). It didn't come easy, either. The Prodigal Son and Good Samaritan parables (among others) illustrate his own searching, agonies, and discoveries. Jesus didn't learn what he knew of humanity by simply observing, but also by experiencing; feeling things himself, and thinking them through in humble prayer.

More than anywhere, God lives in prayer. That's the interface. Sometimes theology can help us understand what we have experienced in prayer, but I think it's probably more a distraction than a great help. Why? Because most theology is not about God so much as it's about the church and what the church believes. It attempts to justify the power, domination, and authority of priests and a lot of pious analogies, assertions, and practices.

Theology will not humilate a person, nor hold up a mirror to his sins and sinfulness. It neither shames nor exalts - it pretty much leaves the person as he is, although it can certainly puff someone up. It's usually more a mental game with a vested (and emotional) interest at stake, than a prelude to grace.

More often than not, it's a substitute for serious thinking about the Self, others, and the Real as we do or don't experience him. We want the All - not words about All. We want Everything of Truth. Not books, churches, or catechisms about Him. The way of it is through suffering and prayer.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 4:06 AM |

In essentials, unity

Louder Fenn is correct in thinking that I am not denigrating theology simply because I hate rational and discursive thinking as opposed to feeling our way into Truth.

What I dislike I have written thusly: So much of what we face in theology is a result of Man's desire to know; except the desire is corrupted from one of simply wanting to know into one of dominating a problem and making it resolve under our force of will and power; as if with enough brute intellectual power we can crack the code which is God, and make him yield to us his secrets. Which then forces other men (like me) to come along and say, what a bunch of BS; that the way is not the mind, but the heart - in trust, risk, vulnerability, and a certain artistic boldness and audacity.

Let me give an example. Art. To be skilled in any art takes practice and study, but more than the learning of execution and ordering one's mind and abilities to create something new, the artist has got to learn another way of thinking - a kind of intelligence (not emotionalism) that reaches into reality, or opens itself to the Holy Spirit (if you like). This skill cannot be taught. It can only be discovered. No amount of thinking about wanting to be inspired or insightful will accomplish the task, even though study and thinking may preceed it (but not necessarily. Create a music melody. No amount of critical thinking is needed ahead of time to prepare or lay the groundwork for a new tune. It may just come from nowhere.).

The kind of thinking which reaches out and embraces the Beautiful is different than that which sits down and examines abstractions, concepts, and reasons deductively and inductively in a discursive, dialectical manner.

Fenn writes: "The existence and nature of God are facts as much as the existence and nature of gravity. That God is a Trinity is a fact -- which you can accept or deny, but it's not just a point of view. It's as important to know the supernatural order as it is to know the natural, for that order is there to be discovered and is not whatever you want it to be."

I completely agree with him. Where I might disagree with him is in the number and nature of various facts. As far as I can tell, God has revealed all of three things to us directly through revelation. 1) There is One God and he cares about you. (OT - He is, but you are not God.) 2) Jesus lives and is God which makes Man immortal, also, since death is not death.. 3) There is a Holy Spirit - God is Three.

There a great many truths which we can surmise from those experiences, but not as many as some would have it.

If we're going to be logical, deductive, and discursive then let's apply such thinking critically on all that we believe and not just on part of what we believe. We cannot except certain things from examination by calling them revelation or inspired which is what churches would do with so many dogmas and doctrines, and creeds.

For example, there is no proof that God writes books, creates religions or churches, institutes sacraments, or endorses councils (this one but not that one). There is no revelation which provides for all those supposed Christian truths. Why not? Because all of those things are based on interpretation, speculating about what Jesus' incarnation, death, and resurrection mean. They are all about words conveyed by mouth or book. Events (facts) subject to the misunderstanding, invention, or reflection by the speaker of his experience to others who do the same thing.

We experience the color Blue. We know what we saw. It was Blue. Everybody sees it, but later we start talking about its hue and people's reflections begin to diverge. There is nothing that can keep us all in agreement as to the original Blue. So we build a group that allows for lots of different shadings of blue (or not). Some people find a way to see the original Blue again and again through focus and concentration, but nobody is sure whether they are seeing Blue as it is, because they look at the sky, too, and each still sees something different from his neighbor.

One of them tries to invent a machine to measure the Blueness of the sky (theological Blue), but the problem is, what direction to point it in. Different directions give different readings. Pointing it in all directions and averaging the reading is no help, either. You don't get Blue, then, but an average of Blue. You've proven there is a Blue, but not how to see Blue.

The only person who knows he's seeing original Blue of Blue is the perceiver.

Even when we see the same Blue, our perception is temporarily shared. We will not remember it exactly the same or interpret it's meaning the same.

Let us not forget, at last, that it is the way of the child and not the learned that leads to heaven. No amount of thinking can buy us humility. Only by humiliation can we acquire it. Prayer is ultimately the way of humiliation and the suffering of the Cross. Humiliating events aren't enough. Without humiliating prayer, what we otherwise suffer is wasted on us.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 3:03 AM |

Ants in pants to go to France

Instapundit prints a letter from a French blogger who makes a darned good case why we should not boycott France. So, HokiePundit, pack your bags with glee. You're good to go!

And if you can read French, here's his blog (it's in English, too).

posted by Mark Butterworth | 12:32 AM |

Friday, May 17, 2002  

On Writing and Writers

Mark Byron has a long essay on Biblical completion. He quotes Revelation:

I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book. (Rev 22:18-19, NASB)

I always took that passage to refer exclusively to the Book of Revelation and no other. But the ironic thing, of course, is that Revelation has been tampered with. It is clearly not the book it once or originally was. Some Christian had no compunction against messing with it caveat and all. That's the opinion of many scholars and redaction criticism, anyway, for what that's worth.

I think the criticism holds up, though. Why? Read the book. It hardly makes sense as it is. Whatever literary schema it had or has, has been compromised and now causes difficulties not just with sense, but structure.

The issue of whether the Bible is finished, once and for all, is another debate. A canon is not a canon, of course, unless it is pretty much closed. The classics canon in world literature, for example, is closed unless we find an undiscovered book of Plato or Aristotle's lost section on Comedy of his Poetics. We can still add to the canon, though, from this end of human history if anybody cares to write something extraordinarily great and lasting (like this blog - heh heh).

Since I have written new books for the Bible, I like to fancy that the canon may include them someday.
I promise an essay on how Scripture gets to be Scripture, someday.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 4:07 PM |

Commencement Address

Dave Shiflet at NRO has a commencement address from MAD Magazine. You know, the cartoon what he wished he said or saw.

Here's a bit of it:

Good Morning, Saps.

I know you were expecting Cher to deliver your commencement address but unfortunately she has been called to an emergency meeting of the NASA board of directors. Keep your shirts on and listen closely. I shall be brief.

It has come to my attention that some of you, and perhaps all of you, continue to believe in the dignity of man. Indeed, most of you continue to believe that man is born noble and would stay that way were it not for invidious influences of church, state, and the Boy Scouts.

You continue to believe, against all evidence, that left to his own devices man would be content to chew upon a celery stalk while contemplating the universe. He would dance in the meadows in the afternoon and write sonnets by the light of the moon. He would never know tears or tumors, and indeed would never die.

It's a must read.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 3:27 PM |

Thursday, May 16, 2002  


Clone wars has entered a new phase as Christianity Today points out that, "According to one estimate, 800 million human eggs would be required to treat the 16 million Americans with diabetes using cloned embryonic stem cells. Some biotech experts admit a growing demand for donated human eggs would quickly outstrip the short supply."

But they haven't anticipated that the Cloners answer will be, "Let's just clone ovaries, then!"

posted by Mark Butterworth | 6:33 PM |

Islam can't even wipe its own ,,,,

Jamie Glazov has an interesting column at Frontpage today. Here's a snippet.

"You will find that there is not one area of a Muslim’s life that is left open for individuality, originality and creativity.

From the moment a Muslim wakes up, he has to start going through a process of rigid procedures. First and foremost, he has to wash a certain way. He even has to clean his nose in a specific manner, and he has to do repeat this procedure three times. This is essential because Islam teaches that the devil spends the night in the cavity of the nose."

There's lots more.

I once read the Koran about ten years ago and gave it up saying to myself, "just what we need; more rules."

As if the answer is always more laws and rules. That's why I became a Christian. Two rules: love God, love your neighbor.

That seemed a little bit more within my grasp with God's grace and favor.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 6:07 PM |


Predestination and reprobation are some of the big words various fellows are knocking around the last few days on the Christian blogs.

I hate this subject. It's one of those that makes Christians look like they debate angels on the heads of pins, or engage in Talmudic subtleties and shadings ever finer and finer to render all thought into brainlock.

This subject is impossible for one thing because it's based on various scripture verses and speculations in Scripture. So first off, we end up debating from the premise that God wrote these verses so that they must be absolutely true in some eternal sense. So that makes us crackpots from the start.

Second, the apparent paradoxes regarding God's omniscience (all knowing) vs. our Free Will (how can anything be free if it's already determined, that is, divinely all-known?) are simply beyond discursive logic's ability to render intelligent.

It's a bit like the Fall. We have no idea what caused us to become fallen in nature, corrupted in action, lost to selfhood.

Some things can only be resolved in God in eternity as he is; and not on earth as we now generally are. No, I'm not going to say - it's a mystery. That's the lamest line of all. In my experience, there is nothing that God will not reveal; but you must pass GO and collect your $200. That is, you've got to pay your dues in prayer, patience, and (call it) non-verbal communication. Even so, you may never learn of all the ultimate things this side of eternity.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 5:04 PM |

Heaven Anyone?

Peter Kreeft has a website, but sad to say, it's not interactive. He will not respond to e-mail - so, it's all about him, isn't it?!

I read a lot of his books as a baby Catholic, but his ideas of heaven are not so far from mine, but the difference is more than an iota and I would love to uh, correct his logic in many areas. Not possible, though. In fact. I'm probably one of the few people in the world qualified to argue with him about heaven (among other things, but let's stick to that).

Now, I have benefited from his speculations and reasoning, but he shall get no benefit from mine because he has no time for me.

The worst excuse in all of humanity is this - I'm too busy.

We have very few essential tasks in this world - get some food, clothing, and shelter; provide for a family (if we choose to have one), and devote our lives to prayer and knowing God. Exactly where does busyness insinuate itself into all of this? In other words, to do the above it is not essential to be overwhelmed with being busy. Simplify. Just simplify.

In fact, weren't we told, "seek first the kingdom of heaven, and all these things will be added unto you." Worked for me.

So I can't recommend his site other than as a reference to his works (a crass commercial plug to sell his books - while I am exaltingly above such things - see link to my book at Amazon on the right!)

If anyone knows Peter, though, and can get a message through, tell him there's a kid on the blog who's sayin' he's pretty fast on the syllogism and analog and is lookin' to question your premises.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 4:38 PM |

What is moral? I have a RIGHT!!!!!!!

Reader, you will love this article out of the Sacramento Bee today.

All about a stripper (female, I guess you have to indicate gender for that, too, nowadays) whose daughter was enrolled in a Christian kindergarten school (and there are following grades to high school) and was expelled after the school discovered the mommy was a stripper. That was contrary to a moral agreement she made with the school prior to enrollment. She thinks it's horribly unfair, and wants to sue, of course, but has no real grounds.

The next best thing is to get the Bee to take her side and explain why Christians are such bullies and busybodies.

"Christina Silvas, 24, of Rancho Cordova said one reason she took the job as a dancer at Gold Club Centerfolds off Highway 50 was so she could afford the $400 monthly tuition at Capital Christian School."

(Use best Church Lady voice) Well, isn't that special?

Her pastor said, "Seeking a resolution, Silvas and Cole met privately Tuesday. "I talked to her for over an hour, letting her know how much God cares about her and loves her and that he has a much better plan for her than what she is doing with her life right now," Cole said."

And then at the height of his cruelty, "He promised that if Silvas quit her job, he and the church would forgive her, help her and even waive tuition for the month of June."

But Silvas insists, "I'm trying to let them know we're not evil because of our work, and we do have an awareness of God. My job is legal, it's not illegal."

What Silvas failed to realize was that she could have sent her child to a Catholic school where the tuition is cheaper and no one would have said a word to her about her morality in earning a living. We simply don't do that. That would be too oppressive to ask Catholics to lead moral lives. Heck, we don't even ask our priests to be chaste, humble, or moral. (Cheap shot, I know, but irresistable.)


This was a big story on the 6 PM TV news also. The whole slant was that the church and pastor was mean, rigid, and harsh (even though the pastor said they offered to counsel her and help her find another job. And this is a huge church with mighty resources and people. There is no doubt they could find this woman a decent job.).

Then they interviewed other strippers (showing as much flesh as they could) siding with their fellow stripper. And a few people on the street saying how unfair to punish the child; and the stripping mommy, of course, showing how wholesome she is at home reading to her child.

The newswoman asked the reporter who was outside the strip club how much the dancers made. He quickly said, "3 - 5,000 dollars a week." Not a month. A week. About $100,000 dollars a year or more for working 24 hrs a week or so.

Newswoman replied, "She's only trying to provide for her daughter."

Asked why not get another job, the mom said, "I wouldn't be able to spend as much time with her."

Yeah, having mom out every other night from 8:00 to 2:00 a.m. is reassuring to a child (and a great example), while simply being at work while the kid is at school would be a tragedy.

The entire slant on this is that the mom is wholesome and the church is dirty and rotten.

Also, here was a lovely child and no father. No one asks, where's the daddy, and his child support?

posted by Mark Butterworth | 2:13 PM |

Hit me with your best shot.

1,238.000,000 served according to my hit counter. I'm just getting bigger and bigger all the time (Ali: "uv awlll Taimmme").

(Hint. Examine punctuation carefully.)

posted by Mark Butterworth | 1:34 AM |

It will never change while we live in this world

I got the following from Andrew Sullivan:

An effective piece in the English Catholic newspaper, the Tablet, grapples with the idea that dysfunctional or disordered sexuality is the root of the current crisis in the Church. Harvard Jesuit James F. Keenan doesn't deny the sexual dimension, but he sees it as secondary to a deeper issue:

The molestation and raping of children are not primarily sexual acts; they are violent acts of power. By these actions children are harmed, sometimes destroyed. These actions are about power. In fact, most of the scandalous actions of which we read are about power.
When the bishops moved these priests around and assigned them to new parishes and let them have access again to children, these were not sexual acts, but acts of power.
When the bishops and pastors denounced the parents and relatives who charged that priests had abused their children, these denunciations were acts, not of sex, but of power. When the cardinals tried to blame the media for unleashing a frenzy, these were not charges of sex, but of power...
We in the priesthood, from seminarians to the Pope himself, need to learn more about power, about sharing power and about accountability in the exercise of power. Certainly, we need to have a visitation of our seminaries – and of our rectories and our chanceries – conducted not by the Vatican but by competent lay people and priests. The aim should be to see whether we are learning about the extent of our power, of the uses of that power, and of our accountability to God and to the People of God. In the light of those lessons, assuredly, we would see the need to recognise the vocations of others.

Recognizing the vocations of others? Does he mean women priests? Either way, it won't help. Remember Paul at Corinth? A fight over power and authority. Paul barely won. Remember Antioch? Paul tells Peter off (so he says!) but Peter prevails.

Ever wonder why Jesus refused the Devil's offer of absolute power over the world? He knew it was a joke. Power is an addiction, and so the son of man chose to be powerless and free. Do you really think such a man of insight, wisdom, and hatred of power would pick a successor and appoint people to positions of greatness over others - as if that would solve everything? You'd have to have rocks in your head and not just in your name if you believed "Jesus picked me to lead our people."

Look at the whole history of leadership. Consider all the bosses you ever had, and count the number of truly, good folks who were great at it. Find many? Not many. Face it, people - we're stinkers. It is hopeless that we shall ever be well led in this fallen world. But to end on a positive note, there's plenty of grace in living and in prayer to make life worthwhile most of the time. Ya gotta love God and that mercy thang. Count on Providence every time.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 1:08 AM |

Wednesday, May 15, 2002  

Blueprint for Blundering

Today's revelation about Bush knowing about possible future attempts to hijack airplanes puts a whole new light upon his administration. I don't quite know how to respond, but as I ponder (out loud) about this, I have to wonder about seriousness and competence on Bush's part.

Why? Because it was not as if the government wasn't aware of the threat OBL posed to our military forces and our people. Nor was the possibility of using airplanes as missiles entirely a new conception.

Frankly, I am heartsick about this new information, for it essentially portrays the administration and government fiddling while Rome was burning. ('m sure somebody out there has a better metaphor, but I'm not feeling very creative just now).

It takes me back to Reagan who talked a great game, but got our people blown up in Lebanon (and did nothing about it,) and got a plane blown up over Scotland (as Libya's revenge against his raid on Qaddafi) and did nothing about it. Who in fact traded arms for hostages with Iran, and so on.

A writer at NRO referred to our efforts lately as "the great shrinking war", and that's what it sure looks like. Now I find out Bush could have prevented 9/11, had fair warning of plane hijackings to come, and nothing was done to prevent it except to pass on the information to careless agencies.

Imagine if that news had come out the week after 9/11. Bush's name would be Mudd; and he's starting to look like mud to me more and more. Imagine being a man who watched 9/11 happen, knowing he could have prevented it if he had been diligent and concerned about only the most criminal man on the loose in the 21st Century!

It boggles the mind. Are we ever going to get a decent leader?

Now, we begin to see how the notion of a Messiah animated so much of ancient people's literature and Scripture, the poetry of desire for salvation. Lord, Lord, send us someone whom we can trust to lead us. But it doesn't happen. The one we are sent is not a savior of nations and peoples, but a crucified holy roller who only saves people, not peoples and nations.


Bryan Preston, the JunkYardBlogger, seems to be agreeing with me, or rather, great minds are thinking alike about Bush.


Instapundit adds some reader's thoughts on this. One very telling thought, "The FBI was concerned because Middle Eastern men were training in flight schools. So obviously they were concerned about planes being hijacked? Does it take flight training to hijack a plane? "

That kind of confirms it for me about Bush and the FBI on this. It's not enough to say they blew it big time - that's an understatement. I don't really have a word for the level of this kind of blundering - it's a kind of tunnel vision of disinterest of things outside an agenda. Bill Clinton had it and it appears Bush did or does too.

Bush then: "I'm not really worried much about terrorism right now. I'm focused more on my tax cut."

Bush now: "I'm not really focused on domestic issues, judges, Israel's right to self-defense, ANWR, and free trade, I'm kind of interested in Iraq."


On second thought, I may have bee a little premature in my judgement. It appears that Bush had a plan on his desk ready to implement before 9/11 that would have altered our approach and resources on terrorism; so I can't say his focus was elsewhere and disinterested. It does appear, though, that the warnings and evidence were simply being ignored or evaluated without any sense of urgency.

Bryan Preston of JunkYardBlog makes an excellent point that the Dems and others had so eviscerated our intelligence agencies and made any FBI inquiries and INS investigations into immigrants legal and illegal and visa abusers so politicaly unpopular, that our government was more worried about being charged with racial profiling than with catching bad guys.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 11:41 PM |

Roll Call of Evil

John Derbyshire at NRO has a column today, but it's rather depressing except for the nugget below which is very apt and sadly hilarious.

The rain it raineth every day
Upon both just and unjust feller;
But mostly on the just, because
The unjust stole the just's umbrella.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 4:00 PM |

Reason and Faith

I observe that Minute Particulars had an exchange over reason and faith with Tres Producers. He might try this Proof of mine and see what response he might get.

A perfect proof of God:

All things which exist in time and are places have a location.

The universe exists in time and is a place.

Thus, the universe must have a location.

Where is the universe located?

The universe, obviously, must be located in a situation which transcends time and place. That situation may be styled Eternity or God or "spiritual" in that that which contains or locates the material universe cannot be of material existence or nature itself.

Any attempt to redefine "universe" as a place in itself and as a category which exceeds other categories of time, place, relationship, or quality in a unique (and transcendental) way simply attempts to exalt the "universe" into a form of existence which is ultimate - which thus demands to be proven as such. Since it is impossible to prove that the "universe" is an ultimate reality transcending all others, any redefinition of it beyond ordinary categories (mentioned above) are fallacious. The proof stands unrefuted and unrefutable.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 3:29 PM |

Flame Warriors?

While doing a net search, I came across this group alt.flame.jesus.christ

Here's what they like to do: "2.1.2 How are flames used in alt.flame.jesus.christ?
They are usually used to expose, denigrate, or insult Christians. This is accomplished in many ways which include sarcasm, humor, contrary evidence, and outright hostility. Flames can take the form of huge rants, line-by line disassemblies of contrary posts, or one-word responses ("LIAR" is very popular, and seems very effective. It requires little effort, but for some reason xians fall all over themselves in their haste to refute it...)"

The main purpose of these people seems to be for the sake of amusement. They find Xians annoying and enjoy riling them up. What a world when people go out of their way to be ugly. It's a kind of puerile vandalism for adults or young men (generally).

I can see people being annoyed with evangelizing Christians (yet, how much of a bother is it in anybody's life, really? It's not like Jehovah's Witnesses camp outside our doors day and night,) but evangelizers are not motivated by meanness. Some might say their well intentions are misplaced, but it's not mean spirited. This kind of thing is. Oh well.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 2:50 PM |


I Numbah 1 on Yahoo. Today the World. Tomorrow the Universe. (Hey! That's today the Universe, too. Unless we're counting parallel or pocket universes, or those Hawking says are forming off the tip of your nose right now.)

posted by Mark Butterworth | 2:20 AM |

Batter my heart, three personed God

I have been revisiting the Arian heresy on the web and am able to conclude I am not heretical on his account. I also came across a definition of unitarianism which I am doubtful of as to its efficacy. Catholic Encyclopedia says this about Arius, "The drift of all he advanced was this: to deny that in any true sense God could have a Son; as Mohammed tersely said afterwards, "God neither begets, nor is He begotten" (Koran, 112). We have learned to call that denial Unitarianism."

A great many of these heresies or differences of opinion in the early centuries of doctrinal formation had to do with Greek rationality running into newly minted Scripture in the New Testament. It created tensions and strains; and challenged either conformity or proposed new unities. Absolute reliance on Scripture meant that just about anything could be argued since the NT presents many different kinds of Jesus' and different absolutisms, too.

The people in the pews (actually people stood then, I believe) were not much engaged except to reject most new thoughts. It was mostly all battles of the bishops and priests.

Anyway, back to the above, it must be painfully obvious to us today that in no true sense could God have a son, that God did not create the person of Jesus since that would be saying that God created himself. But just as obvious to a Christian is that fact that God created a human being named Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus didn't appear one day incognito of a man.

But we have the Church hoping to assert that Jesus managed to be two distinct people at the same time while in the flesh. God and a man. This assertion, which the church deems important, is essentially meaningless. It is irreconcilable in terms of logic, and thus meaningless. All we can actually know is that while Jesus was a man of mortal flesh and blood, he was only a man and limited in every way a man is. What we don't exactly know is how limited is Man?

We also know that after death, Jesus was no longer a mortal man, but God who appeared to other humans in the form of a man while bearing all the presence and power of God in him.

So much of what we face in theology is a result of Man's desire to know; except the desire is corrupted from one of simply wanting to know into one of dominating a problem and making it resolve under our force of will and power; as if with enough brute intellectual power we can crack the code which is God, and make him yield to us his secrets. Which then forces other men to come along and say, what a bunch of BS; that the way is not the mind, but the heart - in trust, risk, vulnerability, and a certain artistic boldness and audacity.

Not even God tries to explain himself discursively in the manner of theologians. but depends on poetry, analogies, similes, parables, pericopes, and metaphors.

Most of what I ever do as a thinker is to tear down others' arguments and reduce them to absurdity; make them reveal their falsehood. The human tendency to decorate, ornament, elaborate, and intellectualize is endless. It encrusts faith with layers of pious untruth or half-truth which accomplishes an essential purpose, to get people distracted and not thinking or praying.

Distraction means that people will not experience their feelings, their wounds, their sins, their despair, their fears, their losses, and their desperate need for joy, peace, healing, and heaven.

Of course, life and the way so many seek distraction is the way things are and so I'm not going to complain (too much) about that. I'm just looking for someone to shoot the examined life's breeze with.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 1:20 AM |

Tuesday, May 14, 2002  

The Face of God

In a small Protestant evangelical church in Kansas a number of years ago, during a Sunday service, Jesus appeared and walked down the center aisle and approached the sanctuary. He walked up the steps and went to the ambo or lectern. From there he spoke to the gathering. No one quite recalls what it was he talked about. They were in simple awe. They had no idea how long he spoke to them while he was there, but it wasn't a long while as far clock time goes. Jesus then either walked out or simply disappeared gradually from where he stood.

I got this story (which I may not recall in exact detail) from a book I briefly read at Border's in the Christian section on modern appearances of Jesus.

I bring this story up because I once had something similar happen to me in church and something that happened to my wife apart from me.

There are many Catholic saints who are so regarded because the claimed to have had singular or frequent appearances of Jesus before them. St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits is said to have seen Jesus frequently in the sanctuary while saying Mass, for example.

These stories have often been used to bolster the notion that the RCC is special and blessed above all others because of Jesus' frequent endorsement by regular appearances to its saints.

I met Jesus in my Catholic church during the Rite of Welcome. My wife saw Jesus look at her from the monstrance of the Blessed Sacrament during a Stations of the Cross ceremony. If anything seemed to endorse the RCC fully as the absolute truth, such "proofs" as these seemed more than enough; even though Jesus did not specifically say - "Rome is the Way."

But then I looked at this book in which Jesus made appearances to others under circumstances different from mine in that they took place both outside of church or inside a church, before one person or many, and never seemed to give any particular opinion about who had their theology perfectly correct.

Certainly an evangelical Protestant would take an appearance by Jesus in his church and assume it meant he was in the right and most perfect place (so long as the message could not be construed as -"get out while you can!").

Well, if Jesus is profligate about whom and where he appears to those who love him or want to love him, then why should I be so parsimonious toward them by thinking my Church has all the answers and is the next best thing to heaven itself?

That's what I want to ask my more doctrinal Catholic friends who are head over heels in love with the RCC Catechism. How do you explain away Jesus loving his children and friends wherever they may be and whatever church they may be in without distinction? Even people who some might call gnostics, heretics, little brothers in faith, the baptized but confused, the schismatic, and so on and so on?

When I came to appreciate God's humility, I was astonished and deeply saddened by my own arrogance and desire for exclusivity - of a special status - I'm not just any Christian, I'm a Roman Catholic! The best and brightest. Others have some graces, but we have the complete toolbox of good things, and so on in all our disgusting spiritual pride and desire to exalt ourselves. We have the Pope, we have Peter, we have an unbroken line from the first Pope, we have, we have, we have the fullness of truth. We can't say that anymore (out of politeness) that there is no salvation outside of Rome, but we do say there is no salvation outside of the Church (and by Church we mean Rome; that all others are simply a little estranged from us and need to get "their minds right" on this, but we'll wait and be patient with them instead of slaughtering them as we used to do.).

And I went out to the world, to other churches, I got to know other Christians, and I saw and met the exact same variety of people I met in my Catholic parish - a mixture of all sorts, and some completely committed lovers of Love and devoted people; and I knew their faith was every bit as good and strong as my own (if not stronger and more advanced). And I was humbled to see God working as intimately and lovingly in other people's lives who were not of my confession - and I loved that fellowship we had in Jesus; that simple, basic, essential true love of God and of being his beloved children.

My Catholic fellows, do you really wish to tell me that these experiences of grace and goodness drove an unholy wedge between me and the RCC; that is, between me and you? I would hope you had bigger hearts than that. Let us embody our name and be universally understanding.


A fellow who met Jesus in his dorm room.

Encounters With Jesus : Ordinary People Who Met the Savior by Richard D. Phillips

I don't know what's in the book, but it's at Amazon without reviews.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 5:31 PM |


One of the standard defenses of the RCC (but also Orth. and Prot. churches) is that 2000 years of history and doctrine can't be wrong. The 30 million Frenchmen argument. Continuity is proof in the efficacy of the Holy Spirit to maintain truth.

Sad to say, though, today we witness a great meltdown of the justification of Authority in the Church - the hierarchy as a group of male officials who are incompetent, immoral, malfeasant, immature, dishonest, deceitful, and just plain stupid.

Nor is this some accident of history. We find these same men throughout the history of the Church from the very beginning. St. Athanasius said, "The floor of Hell is paved with the skulls of Bishops."

Prior to that we find Paul in arms over the goings on at Corinth because of some coddling of immoral characters; and becoming furious over various Judaizers disturbing his Asia Minor flocks with demanding Gentiles be circumsized and follow Jewish customs. We earlier found Paul lambasting Peter "to his face" (probably more boast than fact) over hypocrisy about a situation Acts tells us was supposedly settled.

The Didache, one of the earliest extant church documents, has important warnings about visiting preachers and their self-serving ways and parasitic natures. Everywhere we look in the early Church, whether it is in the letters of Clement about the same Corithinians not doing what he wants and expelling an elder from their group, or Ignatius complaining of this or that group (not to mention the Nicolaitians in Revelation whom nobody can quite identify), we have conflict, dissent, power seeking, corruption, immorality, and, supposedly, false teaching.

That being the case, why would anyone require another to believe that out of this miasma of sin and absurdity, Truth would shine like a flawless diamond in every area of dogma and doctrine?

If the men directing the Church from the start were as deeply flawed as the men who are directing it today, the argument of continuity is not confident or reassuring.

2) Another obvious criticism in the fallacy of Continuity is that other, even older, religions continue to flourish much as they always have believed. The Holy Spirit must be protecting them, too, then. Otherwise, the Satanic accusation that the Evil One maintains these parodies of Truth to confuse souls, strains credulity and demands that we abandon reason and rational judgment.

3) The confidence that God micromanages our affairs and institutions is difficult to prove or account for against the evidence of history where God appears equally impassive - not only in history, but in individual lives. Just as there are certainly countless miracles and answered prayers, there seem to be even more unanswered prayers and acts of cruelty, loneliness, and seeming abandonment on the part of diety towrds people.

4) The only reliable or effective method of spiritual and emotional development comes from prayer. Work and study are helpful and necessary, but no substitute for prayer. If there is one thing which I know that God guides disciples in - it is prayer, meditation, contemplation.

The Church can record the work of many in this area, but it's not always that good of a guide or teacher. Certainly not as wise or knowing as God is.

As much as I love, respect, and admire other people for their work in the Church, their concern, and loyalty - ultimately, it's between God and me as to how much progress I will make. Any amount of bias, prejudice, or adherence to verbal formulas about Truth are likely to prove obstacles to understanding and development of faith.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 1:19 PM |

Let a thinker be a thinker (or meditator)

HokiePundit's getting a little flak which I probably deserve more than that youngster. Puh-leeze folks, let's not always categorize someone every time they stray from a party line. I'm sure Robert is not a Unitarian/Universalist any more than I am, but he's asking sincere and interesting questions.

If God is Love, and someone comes to the realization that he loves Love, what disservice to faith or God is that? Surely he is trying to establish himself with the same Truth and Love that I am either in or seeking to be in. I should weep if such a person never seriously considered Jesus as the Face of Love, but I could not condemn such a man (or woman) who devoted himself to Love and its Way of Life.

Skepticism is just as valid after conversion as before. Maybe more so.

But this instant need to categorize and dismiss others is not kind nor Christian. I've been fooling around lately with the Arian Heresy to see what I think the argument was really about. I'm beginning to think that the basic idea of the heresy was grossly distorted by Athanasius and the later Church; particularly if we are thinking that Jesus had to be limited in every way that ordinary humans are or he could never be considered a human being. Any deviation from the idea that Jesus was anything but human and we have created a Superman, a fraud, a God incognito. If that is what Arian was suggesting, then he fostered no heresy.

For if Jesus was God and knew it, he simply could not be killed on a Cross. It's impossible to kill such an eternal, immortal, human imposter. Heck, whip him and his flesh would instantly heal, since being God in the flesh, he would have perfect health and self-healing. He would feel no pain, and so on.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 3:27 AM |

Foolish People

There are only three, count 'em, three great movies of all time. They are in whatever order you prefer):

Citizen Kane
The Wizard of Oz
The Lord of the Rings

That's it.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 3:07 AM |

Lover of Truth

I applaud Robert, AKA HokiePundit, for his love of truth and of thinking. I will have to come out with that blog I promised on why Jesus trumps all religions; but I salute Robert for his recognition that anyone who has committed himself to life of love and devotes himself to prayer to practice it, has, in essence found Jesus and the Holy Spirit and has been saved from Self.

I believe it is better for anyone to know who it is they worship and love, and so Christianity is important, as is the Bible, but the gift of faith is in the desire to love Love. If we have faith in perfect altruistic goodness, then we are indeed in love with Jesus. If we pursue truth wherever it takes us, even if it comes out of the mouth of a devil, then we listen to the Holy Spirit. An image of Love is good, but it is vague and formless; and so it is better to know Jesus is that Person; and that the Father is that Person, and so the Spirit, for these are not simply images or symbols but actual realities one may experience person to person. I know I have and others, too.

Nevertheless, I assure anyone that a baby cannot form any words and images but loves Love, and such love saves him. So too with the sincere Buddhist, Hindu, Sufi, or Jew.

I confess, I am frustrated when I hear a rabbi say, "Jesus is the answer to a question I've never asked."

That says to me that he does not love truth above all things, for who would refuse to inquire who wanted to know if what another claimed was true or not? Who would not open his heart and mind to a possibility of truth if they burned with love of knowing?

I find that I must constantly question my own authority and that of all others, and only I can judge of what is true or not. No Body of Christ, no book or Bible, no priest or Church can decide for me. All must be weighed in the balance. Yes, even 2000 years of tradition is put to the test, for I know how traditions form and are sustained no matter how absurd or crazy or true they might be.

The more God teaches me about myself , himself, and fallen human nature - nothing should escape scrutiny or get the benefit of the doubt regarding claims of truth. Truth is too beautiful to leave up to others. And being an artist, I know something about how most people are stunted or malformed in their creativity; how rare true beauty is in this world.

If there are so few Dante's, Bach's, or Da Vinci's, how many pure Saints and writers of Wisdom do you think there are? Also, consider this - Shakespeare was one of the greatest poet/writers ever and he blew it! He was so close, but he was basically a rancid nihilist (as Harold Bloom calls it). He did not know God, but he was so close in his occasional thoughts of what He must be like if he existed.

And so I know of a great many saints who thought they knew a lot about God, but who also blew it, because they never examined what they thought they knew and taught to find out if it was true or not. Shakespeare had plenty of questions and thinking, but no real faith. Many saints have plenty of belief but no real thinking or questioning.

Part Two

The main reason why Jesus trumps all other religions apart from Christianity ( for the moment in this argument) is that he is a stumbling block.

The core belief of Christianity is not that it is spiritual/moral/sacramental, but that it claims that Jesus is alive (and presently available to all) and he is God. No other religion makes such a claim (nor wants to, really). It is preposterous on the face of it. The only possible way that this can be believed is that it has to be seen. It must be proven in some way, shape, or form that satisfies an inquirer; and not merely credulous and ignorant folks; but serious, intellectually honest people, also.

It takes no leap of faith to believe in a "higher power" of some kind, and an assent to good ethics and moral behavior. Spiritual, ethical and moral people are generally happier, healthier, and more prosperous. History and observation illustrates it well, as do most proverbs and aphorisms in every culture. That is the core of truth and power in the great religions. They work pretty well at making life better for those who practice it seriously.

But Jesus? Jesus has to be loved as a person, a man who walked the earth, and seemed to have said some beautiful, but also ridiculous things. One must first fall in love with Jesus enough to trust that it might be possible he is what others say he is - man and God. It is one's heart that must feel the tug like a newborn to be embraced by absolute love and goodness in the form of a man.

We have such need of salvation - of being saved from all that willfulness which is ours and makes us unbearably miserable. We need to experience something of Love or we will never know how to love others and ourselves. Life is empty and full of despair should we never know that God is for us and loves us more than we love ourselves and our children, wives, parents, friends, hopes - and that we fear death terribly in our loneliness.

It has been my experience that anyone who falls in love with Jesus and wonders about whether - Could he be? Is it possible? Wouldn't it be too good to be true? - That such a person is most likely to have Jesus reveal himself to them in a way that is absolutely convincing. A conviction arising not from speculation, hope, wishful thinking, but from Truth and Knowing. Just as we know that Love is love, that blue is blue, 1+1=2.

Faith without practice is meaningless, and so the general result of such a "meeting" is that God sends the one who is paying attention to a church of some kind to gain discipline, practice, and confidence. Some people, though, may be such egotists that they decide they are great prophets and must start their own religion or cult (while many others who do so are simply con men).

But Jesus doesn't just trump other religions, eventually we see he trumps Christianity whenever it becomes hide-bound, doctrinal, dogmatic, beyond what can be known or proven. Love is simple - so why is theology complex, convoluted, and finally impossible? Because it is about images of God. We have a lot to say about those, but little to say about God as he is; and because people prefer to talk and intellectualize about God, than pray and learn to embody him.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 3:03 AM |

How else shall Lord Jesus enter except through a broken heart?

Emily at Fool's Folly is beside herself over various outrages of priests going their own way.

I'm afraid I'm not helping much with my own private exchange with her which runs contrary to Roman claims.

When you have a beloved, grandiose organization and tradition that is the RCC (or anything similar) it is disconcerting for many members to see it undermined or subverted from within. Just the same as it is for those of us who do not like watching the nut cases protesting against America.

It seems so simple - if you don't agree with the RCC - go someplace else! Form your own church. Build your own cult. Stop hanging on the Church's coat and dragging her down while feeding out of its pockets. Fair's fair! As in America - love it or leave it.

The Church has always been a cafeteria, though, of heterogeneous groups and people. It is maddening, of course. You could almost say it is God's will that it be so. That he makes it a cross for the especially doctrinal and dogmatic; and perhaps, makes it ineffective for the self seeking and spiritually slovenly.

God means to break our hearts, and if we make the Church our treasure on earth rather than seeking our treasure in heaven, then it will hurt like hell and crush our spirits. I realize that we want a trusty bridge between heaven and earth, and that the Church seems most appropriate for that, but it will not bear such hopes as we tend to put on such things; no more than America can satisfy our desires for freedom, peace, and perfection.

It seems crazy that God should send so many into the Church only to dash their hopes of finding a real, humane, honest and sincere life in it - but that's the kind of crazy thing God does to people. He works with what is. He sends people to places where they can get the help he wants them to have; and when they've gotten what he wanted them to have he leads them out.

AA has a saying, "take what you need and leave the rest." God says the same thing to Christians and Catholics. The Church will never really work very well, but it will work well enough for God to use it as he uses just about everything to teach humans about himself.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 1:36 AM |

Under Construction

As returning visitors can see, I'm trying to remake my template to make it easier to read. Bryan Preston, the JunkYardBlogger has given me invaluable help; and I'm experimenting with various font sizes, but I can't seem to make my column expand its text lines to the margin of the frame. Any further suggestions would be appreciated. Otherwise, I think I'm pretty close to what I want.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 1:03 AM |