Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Perspectives

This is part of a book that I had been working on. Perhaps one day I will complete it, but perhaps not. While it was intended to be partly autobiographical, it was also intended to convey some of my theological thought. I didn't do much in this regard except lay a bit of groundwork.

The book was to be in the context of love letters to my wife with a symbolic system of dates. These dates have a number of meanings, but this is not apparent unless seen in the full context.


The Ninth of January in the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Thirty-Eight

Für meine liebste Elise,

In my first letter, my love, I mentioned a type of martyrdom. It is different from that of the First Martyr and Archdeacon Stephen, but it is a martyrdom nonetheless as I bear witness to something that seems to have been forgotten today. It seems I was predestined for this.

Now there’s a word that has cause much confusion and arguments: predestination. Would you like me to explain predestination to you? It really does seem quite simple to me. But first, there are other things you must understand before I try and explain it to you.

An important thing in understand not just predestination, but most other things as well, is to see everything from different perspectives. I will explain this in regards to religion with a simplistic example. This example will demonstrate how two perspective may appear vastly different, but still have the same underlying belief.

Let’s say that there is an object and, for now, that everyone agrees that this object exists. In fact, they dogmatically define that this object exists. They even go so far to dogmatically define that this object has a shape, but they do not, in this dogmatic definition, define what that shape actually is. The true reality of this object’s shape is that it is a perfect cone, but depending on one’s perspective, that may not be apparent.

Although there could be many different perspectives, let’s say that the environmental context eventually divides everyone into two main groups: one group is only able to see the object looking down at it from the top (this is assuming that the pointy end is facing up), and the other group is only able to see the object from the side. This side group is very interesting because it has the same perspective 360˚ around the cone. It is not possible to view the cone from the bottom because it is permanently fixed to the floor.

The top group eventually dogmatically defines that the shape of the object is a circle, which is entirely correct from their perspective. However, their definition is not so definitive that it would exclude the possibility of other dimensions; although, some could interpret it that way.

The side group refuses to accept such a definition as dogmatic because from their perspective the object appears to be almost a triangle. They even acknowledge that they could define the length of the two sides leading to the top, but since the curved side at the bottom seems to change length depending on if one moves up or down, they never attempt to dogmatically define anything beyond what has been agreed upon before the top group dogmatically defined their Circle Doctrine.

For this reason, the two groups are suspicious of each other as heretical and grow farther apart in their traditions and beliefs. They both have great respect for the mystery of all curves, but the top group’s dogmatic Circle Doctrine seems to take away some of the mystery to this mystery. This is such a dividing issue that the two groups eventually excommunicate each other.

While the side group is content with the mystery that they are aware of from their perspective, there is growing controversy in the top group concerning the dimensions of circumference, diameter, and, most especially, radius. Eventually, the top group dogmatically defines the circumference of the circle, but in a way that would not deny the possibility that the object is a cone. Some take this to the extreme and see this has a justification to define the diameter and radius, and they do so in such a way that it denies that the object is a cone but rather is only a two dimensional object. Seeing the error in this, some define the object as a three dimensional cylinder. To clear up this controversy, the central authority of this group also dogmatically defines the diameter and radius of the circle by using careful and new language that would be compatible with the fact that these are just the dimensions of the cone’s base. Nothing in this definition indicates these dimensions only apply to the base leaving room for mystery, given that from their perspective they are unaware that it is the base. The two-dimensional and cylinder factions, however, had become so entrenched in their error that they refuse to accept this new dogma. The central authority has no option but to excommunicate them for their heretical views.

Having been excommunicated from the top group, they each declare that they are the true top group. They even approach the side group, whom they don’t really understand due to having been separated for so long, to see if they could become united in their separation from the central authority of the top group. The side group has never had a central authority and has been able to agree that their perspective is the same 360˚ around the object. Of course the doctrines of these offshoots from the top group are completely incompatible with the doctrines of the side group, and the dialogue between the side group and those who were excommunicated from the top group only reinforces the belief of the side group that the entire top group is heretical.

Eventually, some from both the top group and the side group start moving around and see the object from each other’s perspective. They even begin to agree that they have believed the same thing, only from different perspectives and using different language. If they begin to agree on everything while maintaining their respective emphases and traditions that have developed due to their different perspective and language, it would be more likely that the parts of the top group that split away from the central authority of their group would return to the orthodox belief in the object.

While I only mentioned the two groups, there are others. There are those that believe in many objects; those that believe in one object, but it is vastly different from the true cone; and, those that don’t believe in the cone or any other object. Some believe in the object, maybe even the cone, but don’t believe that we can really know much about it. If the top group and the side group unite and truly begin to understand the cone, there is a much greater opportunity to teach all of these other groups the truth about the cone.

Of course, there are some things we can never know about the cone. The side that is fixed to the floor is not visible to us yet. As well, even when the base is visible to us, we will only ever see the exterior of the cone. We can never see the inner mystery of the cone. But since curves are so mysterious, we can spend eternity marvelling at the mysteries that are visible to us.

You’ve probably guessed now that the “cone” is an allegory for God. I have always believed in the one true God. It has been difficult to find the correct perspective to view this God, but I am certain that I have found that perspective; or rather, perspectives.

God became man and dwelt among us. He did not leave us orphaned and alone. He left us His Mother, the Church. I will describe my journey in finding this Church in later letters, but I will describe my conclusions to this journey right now. In establishing His Church, Jesus the Christ, God incarnate, ordained specific men to have authority over this Church in this world of time. These men, in turn, ordained other men, who eventually took their place. Both the original men ordained by Christ and their successors did develop the Bible under the guidance and inspiration of God the Holy Spirit, and nothing, not even the resulting product of such Divine inspiration, can usurp the authority Christ ordained in the specific men He left to lead His Church in this world of time.

These men exist today, and are found in two main groups: in the west, what is referred to as the Roman Catholic Church with Her central authority in the papacy; and in the east, what is referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Eastern Catholic Churches in union with the Roman Catholic Church, the Oriental Orthodox Churches (i.e. non-Chalcedonian Churches), and the Assyrian Church of the East (i.e. Nestorian Churches, though incorrectly referred as heretical). The Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Church of the East do not have a central authority but agree, within their three respective divisions, in belief among their autocephalous Churches. All other Christian groups have either abandoned the successors of those Christ ordained to have authority over the Church in this world of time, or have somehow lost the succession of these men. Thus, these other Christian groups, while maintaining some truth, have lost, in varying degrees, the fullness of the truth Christ revealed.

However, the divisions between East and West prevent the fullness of the truth Christ revealed from being better known and accepted, even within those maintaining the succession of Christ’s ordained authorities. I would even go so far as to say there are erroneous beliefs among those under, and including, Christ’s ordained authorities; however, none of these have been dogmatically defined. Even the most prevailing doctrines are, for the most part, correct. It is only when the prevailing doctrines, among the Churches in which God has maintained the successors of Christ’s ordained authorities, are not in conflict that one can be sure of true belief.

I do have opinions on how these doctrines are compatible and how there are errors on all sides. But again, I know that I can be wrong on a great many points. Since none of these points have been dogmatically defined, there is nothing wrong with me being wrong until I am corrected with dogmatic definitions. I can even give the examples of Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, both Doctors of the Church, of how this can be so. I even feel a bit of confidence in some of my beliefs because if dogmatic definitions were made to show that my opinions are heretical, it would also show that either East or West is heretical and facilitate a complete breakdown in ecumenical relations. The Eastern Catholic Churches resulting from the Union of Brest could even break union with the Roman Catholic Church. It would be a disaster that I think is not possible, so I will be bold enough to state my opinions. There may be better solutions to seemingly conflicting teachings, and when they present themselves, I will adopt them. Until then, I’ll continue to do the best I can with what is available to me. Additionally, the fact that God has maintained what is called Apostolic Succession in these Churches since the time of Christ’s ascension into heaven leads me to believe that I can trust them when viewing them together as the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. That there has been this much history without losing Apostolic Succession demonstrates that God has maintained the True Faith in them.

This is enough for now. I’ll come back to this topic later.

You know, you have helped me see the world this way. Ever since I started teaching you drum lessons, I’ve been trying to see things from your perspective. Perhaps I was very poor teacher at first, but I think I have improved a great deal. I owe it all you to. I owe many other things to you as well. Thank you.

In Liebe,

Dein Russell Jonah

P.S. Ich liebe Dich.

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