Archive for January, 2012

Alexandria and Antioch

Monday, January 16th, 2012

There’s a problem with your proposed dialogue, and it may be insurmountable.

You think, for the various reasons you’ve sketched, that I’m wrong about the “transcendent unity of religions”, and you wish to argue me out of my silliness. But I have no interest whatsoever in persuading you I’m right. I don’t wish to change your mind, whereas you have a motive, and perhaps (from your point of view) an obligation, to change mine, if for no other reason than to protect other Christians from a distorted presentation of the Gospel.

If you still wish to talk, one possible solution might be to set the card-carrying perennialists to one side and ask instead: Was Meister Eckhart a Christian? I pick Eckhart as an “extreme case”, though one might also choose Jakob Boehme (Protestant), Angelus Silesius (Catholic), or perhaps Dionysios the Areopagite (Orthodox).

My hunch, you see, is that the real issue between us is not so much the salvific validity of other religious traditions but rather the orthodoxy (small “o”) of Christian metaphysics. In a sense it’s Alexandria and Antioch all over again. Needless to say, you’re not alone in thinking that such figures are not truly, or fully, or authentically Christian, and of course if they’re not, then I’m not. One thinks of Luther’s comment that Dionysios “Platonizes more than he Christianizes”.

Is it possible for us to get over this hurdle?

Ghosts and “Spirits”

Monday, January 9th, 2012

What, you ask, do Christians say about ghosts and spirits? Obviously, there would be a variety of answers to this rather large question, depending on which Christians you talk to and what exactly you mean by “spirits”.

It seems there are at least three important issues here: (1) Does the soul of a person who has died remain conscious after the death of the body? (2) Can such a soul “appear” or otherwise make itself known to the living? (3) Do demons (fallen angels) sometimes deceive people into thinking they’ve encountered the “ghost” of a dead friend or relative?

The vast majority of Christians would answer the first question in the affirmative, though a minority contend that the soul “falls asleep” and does not wake again until the General Resurrection, when it is reunited with its body.

As for issues two and three, the Orthodox Church teaches that the soul of a person who has died remains in the vicinity of its body for several days (symbolically, three) after death before embarking on its postmortem journey. Could it manifest itself in some way during this period? There’s no reason to think it couldn’t—with God’s leave, of course.

But the Orthodox would immediately add that one must beware of demonic deception in such a case, for the “principalities and powers of the air” (Ephesians 6:12) are said to have the ability to create illusions and thus to capitalize on the weaknesses of people who become too caught up in looking for supernatural, or rather preternatural, phenomena.