Is The Secular Another Form of the Symbolic?: Charles Taylor and Paul’s Gospel

Charles Taylor, in A Secular Age, provides three possible meanings for secularity: (1.) a divorce between religion and politics, as public spaces have mostly been emptied of God. (2.) religious belief and practice are no longer the norm. (3.) belief in God is one option among many, and may not be the easiest option.[1] While his is the most authoritative work on the secular, and at some level is an irrefutable recounting of the emergence of the peculiarities of modernity, nonetheless each of these meanings have been challenged. As Jon Butler bluntly states it, “All three of Taylor’s “secularities” are problematic and probably wrong.”[2]

In regard to thesis (1.), Butler argues that in most of the world, including the United States, many if not all parts of Europe, most of the Middle East, Africa, South Asia and Latin America, it is hard to discern the divorce between religion and politics. In regard to thesis (2.) he argues, it is not at all clear that decline in belief typifies the United States, Latin America, the Middle East, or South Asia. Butler acknowledges there have been shifts with such things as the rise of conservative Protestantism, Pentecostalism (in Latin America) and decline in mainline denominations and “irritation” of traditional Catholicism.

Butler’s main argument is in regard to thesis (3.). He argues that Taylor has not made it clear for whom “conditions of belief” have changed, not accounting for the experience of ordinary people. In Butler’s critique, Taylor tends to slide unnoticeably between the realm of ideas (the realm of intellectuals) and experience (a shared imagination), blurring the difference. He suggests a category between or beyond belief and unbelief, namely “religious indifference.” At a time when public disbelief might result in punishment or death, of course, most everyone is going to profess belief, but this may hide indifference. “After the formal Christianization of the Roman Empire and well into the early modern period, unbelief and behaviors seemingly supportive of unbelief became criminal. Paganism and heresy; not just atheism, brought gruesome punishment and death. Long before Luther or Calvin, Church and government tortured, burned, and executed critics and reformers.”[3] The Church and its political backers had to resort to force and authority to sustain Christian belief long before the 1500’s, as belief did not seem to be nearly as irresistible as Taylor imagines. Apparently, it was not “virtually impossible not to believe.”  

A wide variety of literature demonstrates, in Butler’s account, that “the Church needed the support of secular authorities to sustain even a tentative, if also powerful, hold on the religious commitment of ordinary people before 1500. Rather than belief being axiomatic, as Taylor argues, it was contingent and threatened from inside as well as outside.”[4] Belief, however, was not primarily challenged by unbelief, according to Butler, as unbelief speaks of actually caring about religion. Isn’t it as Max Weber argued, that just as some are not musically inclined most may not be religiously inclined, one way or another? “In highly different ways, Taylor misses something important about ordinary religious practice—that indifference, born of many different causes, may be more important to difficulties faced by religion in many ages, including the ages Taylor insists were axiomatic for religion in the West, than unbelief and the formal expressions of irreligion that attract great thinkers.”[5]

Taylor’s project may accurately trace the history of ideas and the thoughts of intellectuals and those working within a philosophical tradition, but this does not necessarily capture the experience of the majority.

Of course, belief; unbelief; and skepticism have been the stuff of philosophical argument for centuries. But at best, indifference receives little attention and even less analysis. It shows up mainly in accounts of ordinary beliefs, attitudes, and behavior and usually in brief discussions of lay absence from religious observance, whether formal, as in church or synagogue or mosque services, or informal, as in discussion of popular leisure or otherwise ‘secular’ culture. Typically, absence, and certainly indifference, are noted, often with some alarm, but little dissected.[6]

Part of what is at stake in the reading of secularity, is what to make of the supposed post-secular. If the secular was equated with a detached rationalism, mind/body dualism, individualism, the privatization of religion (connected to individualism), and these modern categories are now collapsing in the post-modern age, does this mean there is an opening for religion and God? Or in fact, is the indication (with Butler and others) that there was always something else, perhaps something deeper at work, which secularism and its critique only touch upon? If this is the case, then the emergence of the religious in this post-secular age, raises questions about what this might mean.

In a Pauline critique of the human predicament, the shared human problem is not irreligion, levels of religious belief, or the possibility of believing otherwise (Taylor’s secularization thesis). In spite of the Protestant notion that belief or unbelief is fundamental, which in turn has given rise to conceptions of the secular (with its notions of various dualisms and private religion), Paul does not locate the fundamental human problem with religion/irreligion or belief and unbelief. For Paul the fundamental human problem is bondage to deception due to the orientation to the law. Whether the law is from God, from nature, or from the angels, is not Paul’s concern, but the problem is this symbolic order, taken as primary, creates a gap, alienating humans from God and enslaving them to a lie. The law is not itself the problem, but the primacy given to the law. This law, or symbolic order, might be connected to the Jewish law, though Paul is specifically arguing this is not simply a Jewish problem but the human problem. In turn, the divisions and dualisms that mark every human (Jew/Gentile, slave/free, male/female) due to their entanglement with various symbolic orders, are addressed by Jesus Christ.

Slavoj Žižek and Jacques Lacan are among those who recognize that Paul is engaging a universal and fundamental predicament, in which the human Subject is structured by this orientation. Lacanian theory is committed to the “reality” of Paul’s description of the problem, eschewing Paul’s picture of the solution in Jesus Christ. The result of this orientation, in Paul’s description, is not unlike the isolated individualism, the evacuation of the reality of God, and the creation of a polity (the city of man, this dark world, the principalities and powers) described in Taylor’s version of the secular. None of which is to deny the value of Taylor’s project, and is even an affirmation of several of the fundamental trues he has hit upon. It is simply to qualify and set this understanding in a larger frame, along with Butler, to suggest that the impetus behind the modern shares a genealogy that is universal.

The danger is that to isolate the secular as a peculiar epoch in human history, is to pit the secular against the religious in a dialectic that is not only factually wrong, but misses the manner in which the symbolic, be it sacred or secular, displaces the divine reality. That is, the conception of secularism may be the peculiar thing about the secular, and not the underlying reality called secularism. This concept is lent a force that characterizes the human tendency to assign primacy to the law or the symbolic. The danger is in reifying the secular as if it has the power claimed on its behalf, as if it is the law ordering human reality.

This shows itself in the slowly evolving undermining of Paul’s radical gospel. Where Paul pictured the Christian believer as entering a new society in the church, where the old reigning socio-cultural order does not pertain, the rise of the “secular” is simultaneous with a caving in to the primacy of this order. For the first Christians, Christ was Lord, and it was understood that professing and acting on this faith may mean death at the hands of the state. Then in a Constantinian Christianity there was a divide, with “the religious” referring to monks, friars and nuns, devoted full time to the religious life, as opposed to the “secular clergy,” who would have to occupy two distinct realms. [7]

Skipping forward 1000 years, Henry VIII becomes head of the state church “with the power of the national state embodied in the king (the state-church). It was to the King’s ‘laws and decrees’ that the subjects made absolute submission, not to the Bishop of Rome.” This in turn led to a direct contradiction of Paul’s picture of freedom from the law. Obedience to the king was equated with obedience to God, and was thus an acting out of holiness. No longer is there a departure from the reigning social order but subsumption of the church into this order. “Obedience of a servant to a master, of a wife to a husband, of a pupil to a teacher, of a subject to a prince, of lower degree to higher degree, was analogous to the obedience of a Christian to God. The whole deferential social order was wrapped in divinity and teleologically determined by God’s scheme of redemption.”[8] This church/state order is, after all, “ordained by God” (in this understanding).

The American experiment attempted to separate what Henry and history had welded together, but this separation was based on the dualism between body and soul, the same dualism which had coopted Paul’s gospel. William Penn formulated the difference in his separation of church and state:

Religion and Policy, or Christianity and Magistracy, are two distinct things, have two different ends, and may be fully prosecuted without respect one to the other; the one is for purifying, and cleaning the soul, and fitting it for a future state; the other is for Maintenance and Preserving of Civil Society, in order to the outward conveniency and accommodation of men in this World. A Magistrate is a true and real Magistrate, though not a Christian; as well as a man is a true and real Christian, without being a Magistrate.[9]

Serving God is an inward affair, and obeying the magistrate or being a magistrate in no way impinges on this inward reality. According to John Locke, “The care of Souls cannot belong to the Civil Magistrate because his power consists only in outward force: But true and saving Religion consists in the inward persuasion of the Mind, without which nothing can be acceptable to God.”[10]

Thus in the American experiment the state controlled the body, and religion was concerned with the inward self, and the two realms do not overlap. What this meant in practice is that the church was consigned to a “spiritual realm” which was thought not to pertain to the political. “People make an ‘inward judgement’ about truth and salvation, and on such matters one cannot be compelled to believe by outward force. There is this assumption of the inner mind as distinct from the outer body, religion being aligned with the inner working of the mind, and civil society with the outer, with the body. The magistrate has nothing to do with religion in this sense, because it is harmless to the state.”[11] It works in a way similar to State Shinto in Japan, in which one Christian described being forcibly convinced that Shintoism and honoring the Emperor were non-religious, and then he says, we were all forced to bow to the Emperor as part of Christian worship. So too in a Christianity which concedes the realm of the body to the state, obeying the laws of the state is at once non-religious and bodily, and a means of coercing obedience to “God’s ordained order.”

Though the Americans attempted to throw off the domination of the state over religion, they did so in part, by conceding to the state the bodily, outward, and coercive (violent) realms. Certainly, there was a focus on the centrality of the individual, her rights, and access to the natural law of rationality, and this along with the role of religion is a continuing tension. This might be a peculiarity of the secular, but it is a peculiarity based upon the lie of absolute individualism (an isolated, self-determined autonomy), accompanied by notions that inward and outward, body and soul, mind and body, church and state, inhabit separate realms. It is the lie the gospel would expose, but more than that it is the unreality from which it delivers.  


[1] My summary of the list from Jon Butler, “Disquieted History in A Secular Age” in Varieties of Secularism in a Secular Age, Michael Warner, Jonathan VanAntwerpen, Craig Calhoun, eds. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2010) 195.

[2] Butler, 195.

[3] Butler, 200.

[4] Butler, 204.

[5] Butler, 209.

[6] Butler, 209.

[7] Timothy Fitzgerald, “Encompassing Religion, privatized religions and the invention of modern politics” in Religion and the Secular: Historical and Colonial Formation, Timothy Fitzgerald ed.  (London: Equinox Publishing, 2007) 220.

[8] Fitzgerald, 224.

[9] Penn, William. 1680. The Great Question to be Considered by the King, and this approaching Parliament, briefly proposed. and modestly discussed: (to wit) How far Religion is concerned in Policy or Civil Government, and Policy in Religion? With an Essay rightly to distinguish these great interests, upon the Disquisition of which a sufficient Basis is proposed for the firm Settlement of these Nations, to the Most probable satisfaction of the Several Interests and Parties therein. (By one who desires to give unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s. and to God the things that are God’s.] (microfiche). Edinburgh: National Library of Scotland. Quoted in Fitzgerald, 211.

[10] John Locke, 1689. A Letter Concerning Toleration, (2nd edn. London) 11. Quoted in Fitzgerald, 214.

[11] Fitzgerald, 214.

Escaping the Meaning that Kills

“For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep.” (1 Cor. 11:30).

We normally think of meaning in positive terms, as that which gives a narrative whole and goal to our lives, but what if the story that shapes our lives is killing us. A punishing, angry God, like a father who can never be pleased, a system of acquisition and consumption which can never satisfy, an isolated sense of self focused on autonomy and choice, may provide a religious, capitalistic, individualistic system of values but the system itself may be diseased. Meaning systems are necessary for survival, but they are also that which create the environment of life, potentially producing stresses and traumas as part of the system, which science is more and more linking with the increase of disease.

The first step in recognizing the role of culture, meaning, religion, and belief in physical health is mind/body holism, in which we instinctively and practically recognize that the body and mind cannot be split. What we believe, think, and experience, leave an imprint on our physical health. Physicians, such as Dr. Gabor Maté, are beginning to explore the relationship between trauma and repression and the increase of a variety of diseases. Rather than simply treating the physical symptoms (the physical disease) he began to recognize that the root cause of disease can be linked to stress or trauma. Maté realized, as coordinator of the Palliative Care Unit at Vancouver Hospital, that patients with chronic illness often shared an emotional history. “Similar dynamics and ways of coping were present in the people who came to us for palliation with cancers or degenerative neurological processes like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.” In his private practice the same pattern appeared in patients with “multiple sclerosis, inflammatory ailments of the bowel such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, autoimmune disorders, bromyalgia, migraine, skin disorders, endometriosis and many other conditions.”[1]

There is even a new field of medicine, psychoneuroimmunology, tracing the link between the brain and the immune system. Emotional makeup and stress have been linked to diseases such as scleroderma, and the vast majority of rheumatic disorders, the inflammatory bowel disorders, diabetes, and multiple sclerosis.[2] Maté cites a study of medical students under the pressure of examination, demonstrating that their immune system was suppressed. He notes that loneliness has been shown to have similar results in psychiatric inpatients, concluding: “Even if no further research evidence existed—though there is plenty —one would have to consider the long-term effects of chronic stress. The pressure of examinations is obvious and short term, but many people unwittingly spend their entire lives as if under the gaze of a powerful and judgmental examiner whom they must please at all costs.”[3] His description verges on the theological, with certain forms of Christianity and other religions, projecting onto God the role of examiner, making all of life a final exam. If the problem is not religion per se, it may be we do not have emotionally satisfying relationships which “recognize or honour our deepest needs.”[4] At the deepest level, the level of experience and meaning, we may not recognize that we are filtering the world through an understanding which is spiritually, psychologically and physically, sickening.

As has been widely noted, our culture is experiencing an epidemic of loneliness. An article in JAMA journal of psychiatry refers to this epidemic of loneliness as responsible for the death of 1 American every 5.5 minutes due to suicide and opioid overdose. An annual mortality of 162,000 Americans is attributable to loneliness (exceeding the number of deaths from cancer or stroke), which is a term that, according to the British historian Fay Bound Alberti, did not exist in the English language until 1800.[5] It is not simply that people are not connecting with others, but the very notion of self is disconnected. As Charles Taylor describes it, “We are ‘buffered’ selves.” We conceive and experience the self, not as in traditional societies as porous and interconnected, but in an inner mental space.[6] This self-conception creates the condition for developing acute loneliness. The very concept of self, pits the self against others, and even within the self our mind is divided, with the inner self in conflict with the outer self or the “body.”

Meanwhile, theologically inclined psychologists have developed the new field called Neurotheology, which recognizes, not only does our understanding of God shape our mental health, it shapes our brain as well. Recent studies in this new field show that the view that God is angry, punishing, or loving, directly impacts the growth and shape of the brain. Andrew Newberg, a leading researcher in the new field, has scanned the brains of praying nuns, chanting Sikhs and meditating Buddhists so as to demonstrate the relationship between the brain and religious experience.[7] Timothy R. Jennings, a medical doctor, in The God Shaped Brain: How Changing Your View of God Transforms Your Life,compares the impact on the brain of an angry or loving concept of God.[8] As he notes, “Brain-imaging studies have demonstrated that the more time a person spends in communion with the God of love, the more developed the ACC (the anterior cingulate cortex) becomes. Not only that, the person experiences decreases in stress hormones, blood pressure, heart rate and risk of untimely death. Even in our mortal and defective bodies, love is healing. Conversely, the more time spent contemplating an angry, wrathful, fear-inducing deity, the more damage to the brain and the more rapidly one’s health declines, leading to early death.”[9] Not only does this demonstrate a mind/body connection, but implicitly, a God/human connection of expansive proportions (a point I return to below).

It is not simply one’s view of God, as religion may or may not enter in to our understanding and experience of reality. The tendency may be to project an image onto God, as an extension of the superego – the punishing father figure who personifies a retributive legal order, such that it is not doctrine or belief about God, but an inner bent or pattern which takes precedent. Getting rid of a punishing God, for example, through atheism may (and in my experience, often does) simply unleash an obscene superego figure which is beyond religious control. Ex-believers may continue to feel the punishing effects of the God they do not believe in. The law or father-figure of the conscience, is not subject to denial. The real issue is not so much God, but how to get rid of an oppressive experience of self and the world, which may or may not be experienced as religion.

Psychotheology, as I have developed the term, fuses Lacanian psychology with a (fuller) reading of Paul, so that psychoanalysis finds the completion of its categories and the resolution of the human predicament in theology. The Lacanian understanding develops what Paul calls “the body of death” which is the isolated, interior notion of the self, but Lacan does not counter this understanding in the way that Paul does, with being joined to “the body of Christ.” As a result, for Lacan, death drive or the superego is a constant factor in a person’s life. The only possibility is to manipulate this force for death, but there is no deliverance. As a result, the isolated sense of self, the inner dialectic between ego and superego, or between the law of the mind and the law of the body, is a permanent condition.

In Pauline terms, the “body of death” pits “the members of my body” against “the law of my mind” and this makes “me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members” (7.23-24). The body of death does its work as the body itself, with its members, stands outside the law of the mind or the symbolic and this constitutes the work of death (the death drive, in Lacanian terminology). Meaning systems, as we have them, take effect within this system (translated into religion or economics or personal striving) between the ego and superego (or the law). One scores points, gets ahead, establishes themselves, according to the zero-sum game of the score-keeper (God, the superego, the cultural imperative). The symbolic of this body of death is the very substance of meaning, and to escape this system is to escape meaning as our world constitutes it.

As Paul Hessert has described, the encounter with Christ brings an end, or should, to meaning as we know it.[10] But of course, the opposite is also often the case, as Christ is made to support our meaning systems (be they legal atonement theories, nationalism, capitalism, or some other measure of success). These systems are “meaningful” according to the point or end toward which they take us. For example, education is only judged meaningful, if at graduation a job is secured – otherwise it may be judged meaningless. Christianity may be meaningful in this context, as it serves to bolster the goals of society – a good education, a good job, a happy family. What possible purpose for a faith that does not serve, or perhaps interrupts, the accepted pattern of meaning.

As Hessert notes though, the New Testament describes culture has having an “endemic flaw” summed up in the term covetousness. The greed or desire of culture is its shaping force and value system, which according to the New Testament is definitive: ”I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world” (1 Cor. 5:9–10). The world is constituted by covetousness, and to be shaped by the world is to partake of this meaning system (see Eph. 5:3, 5; Col. 3:5; 1 Thess. 2:5, Heb. 13:5, 2 Pet. 2:3). This is what belief embraces and what unbelief cannot begin to fathom, as unbelief is founded in the meaning system immediately available. As Hessert puts it, “Covetousness names the dynamic of the meaningful life of self-realization, self-development.”[11] In Paul’s terms, covetousness (as in Romans 7:7) constitutes an “ethos” or orientation to the law, in which the I is ever striving and never achieving. The demands for attaining and improving are constant, as there is no achieving the illusive object behind the law. Paul calls it “the body of death” as the alienated individual in relationship to self is involved in a deadly struggle. The body or self is objectified, something one has, rather than what one is. The body is a means to fulfillment (or not). “There is no choice within the culture-body between self-fulfillment and non-self-fulfillment.” The choice is only “how self-fulfillment is to be –achieved and expressed” and the body provides the instrumentation. “In the ‘body of death,’ . . . the life of the body is only ancillary to its parts (‘members’).”[12] Modern medicine has taken this understanding to the extreme, picturing the body in terms of a mechanical apparatus (e.g., the heart as a pump, the brain as a computer, etc.,) and like much of theology, it does not address the root of sickness.

Paul’s other usage of “body” pictures not the individual, but the corporate body of the church, or the body of Christ. “For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ” (1 Cor. 12:12). This resurrection body exceeds the possibility of meaning provided in the body of death – “resurrection is not a possibility of the body of death, as though that body destined for death might have an entirely different order of life hidden within it. While from the standpoint of the body of death there may be renewed life, there is no resurrection, no other life. Even imagination, bound to meaning, fails at this point.” Paul (in Romans 6) pictures resurrection life as death. There is a dying to meaning. “This death is not the transition to another ‘life’ within the body of death, another set of possibilities (‘life beyond the grave’). It is not the death that meaning is able to encompass and transcend. The death associated with resurrection is total and final death.”[13] In this ultimate relinquishment of meaning, resurrection occurs.

As Christ describes it, this is a completely different environment: “Make your home in me, as I make mine in you. As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself, but must remain part of the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty; for cut off from me you can do nothing” (John 15:1-5, JB). This different environing does not depend on its members, on the body, or on the branches, for life. In the body of death, the body borrows its life from its members. The members of the physical body or other members of the cultural body provide life, and delivers it to others. In Paul’s imagery, it is only through being incorporated into the body of Christ, that the eye, the hand, the foot, or a particular individual has access to life. “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it” (1 Cor. 12:27).

Thus, in the celebration and realization of being incorporated into this body, to turn to consumptive desire is a return to the body of death – which is quite literally, in Paul’s estimate, deadly: “Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper, for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk” (1 Cor. 11:20–21). They have turned to a covetous biting and devouring one another. “For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep” (1 Cor. 11:29–30). They have traded life for death, and this impacts them bodily/spiritually/physically.


[1]Gabor Maté, When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress (Alfred a Knopf, 2003) 57-58.

[2] Maté, 47.

[3] Maté, 54-55.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Dilip V Jeste, Ellen E Lee, Stephanie Cacioppo, “Battling the Modern Behavioral Epidemic of Loneliness: Suggestions for Research and Interventions,” JAMA psychiatry, 77(6) https://escholarship.org/content/qt47n6790s/qt47n6790s.pdf?t=q7c0kj

[6] Charles Taylor, “Buffered and porous selves” https://tif.ssrc.org/2008/09/02/buffered-and-porous-selves/

[7] Andrew Newberg, https://scienceofmind.com/5-steps-enlightenment/

[8] Timothy R. Jennings, The God-Shaped Brain: How Changing Your View of God Transforms Your Life (InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition).

[9] Jennings, 42.

[10] Paul Hessert, Christ and the End of Meaning: The Theology of Passion (Rockport, Massachusetts: Element Inc., 1993).

[11] Hessert, 190.

[12] Hessert, 194.

[13] Hessert, 197.

Bulgakov’s “The Tragedy of Philosophy” as Entry into Sophiology

MAN WAS CREATED IN THE IMAGE AND LIKENESS OF God. This means that the image of the Holy Trinity is imprinted upon every part of his spiritual nature. Let us make man in our image, after our likeness (Gen. 1:26). So says the word of God, precisely pointing, by means of this plural number, to the trihypostaticity of the Divinity and the triunity of the image of God – which after all, is also the human image.”[1] Sergius Bulgakov

To attempt to describe the atmosphere or texture of Sergius[2] Bulgakov’s theology in doctrinal terms is in danger of missing the warmth and spiritual excitement of his theological project, and yet the attempt to simply restate or summarize his theology without reference to its doctrinal significance also falls short, as he is demonstrating a revolutionary shift in the very tenor of his writing. Rather than writing analogously about God (e.g., Thomas Aquinas) he presumes to speak directly of divine love (Sophia). There is no presumed gap or distance between creator and creation as Jesus Christ brings together the divine and human (Bulgakov sees Maximus as central to this development).[3] He is doing theology in a different key, and this shows up even (or especially) in his early work laying out his Trinitarian Sophiology in contrast to the philosophical project. Even as he describes the particular failings of philosophy, the failures illustrate the necessity of the Trinitarian Personhood reflected in the human image. His philosophical critique is so interwoven with his personalism and Sophiology, that this may be the place (his The Tragedy of Philosophy) to start with Bulgakov. Rather than beginning with being (or with presumptions of the economic and immanent Trinity, his description of the western failure characterized by Thomas Aquinas) or with reason, Bulgakov’s starting premise is the Trinity or a trinitarian holism necessary for reason, which cannot be subjected or reduced to reason but apart from which reason fails.

Presumed throughout is the eternality of the humanity of Christ, so that the truth of the intra-Trinitarian relationship is the truth of God and humans, and there are not two realms of truth (the presumption not only of philosophy – e.g., noumena/phenomena, act/being, – but of western theology, e.g., economic and immanent Trinity, Creator and creation, as a divide). There is one necessary realm of truth which reveals itself in human personhood, pointing to the Divine Person. What gets obscured, according to Bulgakov, and what he aims to recover is the focus on personhood (the person of God revealed in Christ and taken up in the human image) and the manner in which the person of Jesus Christ, in particular, bridges or brings together the antinomies of creator and creation (as developed in his Sophiology).[4] He presumes to develop a Chalcedonian orthodoxy (on the order of Maximus) but to more completely illustrate and define its parameters.

 His Sophiology develops as an overcoming of the antinomies of reason as expressed in philosophy, which provides a platform or insight (negative though it is), as spelled out in The Tragedy of Philosophy. The book traces the three characteristic mistakes found in philosophy, against the background of a Trinitarian theology and dogma, which in the description sounds fairly dry, but in the execution traces psychoanalytic and experiential reality such that human thought, perception, and experience, correctly perceived, is integrated directly with the reality of the Trinity. Philosophy is a tragedy but it is a tragedy awaiting and pointing toward the particulars of a Trinitarian solution.

Bulgakov applies Trinitarian theology, very much in the pattern of Paul in Romans 7, in that the tripartite reality of human experience and the human subject, absent the Trinity, does not hold together, but chapter 7 of Romans may be the necessary prologue to the heights of chapter 8, and so too Bulgakov’s philosophical engagement opens the path to his Sophiology. Throughout Bulgakov’s tracing of the problem, the light of the answer (the equivalent of Rom. 8) shines through. As Paul depicts in Romans, one might begin with the law, with the ego, or with the body of death, but what is specifically missing, as detailed in Romans 8, is the Trinity. The negative moment points to its singular resolution in Christ. Paul fills in the functioning of the human subject as a participation in Christ, by which we realize God as Father, and thus have life and being in the Spirit. Bulgakov carries out the same project in his depiction of the three-fold mistake of philosophy, and of course this Threeness is that of the Trinity absent this acknowledgement.

The philosophical project (and the human project) is always striving to bring together that which, outside of God in Christ through the Holy Spirit, cannot be made to cohere. Philosophy begins with a basic mistake, the premise of his book, in its focus on human choice (Greek hairesis), so that philosophy is by definition a heresy.  All philosophy bears the singular characteristic of “arbitrary election, the choice, of some single thing or part instead of the whole: that is precisely a one sidedness.”[5] Rather than beginning with the reality of God in Christ, philosophy begins with choices or perspectives or an elected portion of this reality. Rather than beginning with the reality of God and extrapolating reasonably from this reality, philosophy begins with reason and attempts to describe reality (inductively or deductively). As a result, there is a philosophical drive to reduce plurality (all things) to a singular thing (monothematism).

He raises the question as to why this should be, and answers, “It is the spirit of system and the pathos of system; and a system is nothing other than the reduction of many and all into one, and conversely, the deduction of all and many out of one.”[6] He describes the drive as the human sickness or a manifestation of original sin. As the title of this chapter indicates, “The Nature of Thought,” this chapter and the first portion of the book is about fallen human thought as evinced in philosophy, but philosophy is simply a case in point of the human predicament. The philosopher “has desired a system. In other words, he has wished to create a (logical) world out of himself, out of his own principle – ‘you shall be as gods’ – but such a logical deduction of the world is not possible for a human being.”[7] The philosopher, like every human, has taken up the appeal of the serpent, to make of the dialectic of knowledge a replacement for living reality. Reason or philosophy as its own origin and end betrays signs of the human malaise: “Sickness, corruption, the perversion of all human existence which presented itself in original sin, also, in other words, afflicts reason, and makes it impossible for reason to gain access to the tree of heavenly knowledge, since access is denied by the fiery sword of the cherubim – the antinomies.”[8] Philosophy puts on display, not a personal pride, but the objective role of hubris, in that the philosopher, like the legalist, has no sense of the limits of the system. This then gives rise to the contradictions or antinomies of the system.   

In Pauline terms, this starting point reduces God to the system of the law. In psychoanalytic terms (which is to say the same thing in different terms), the human sickness is to interpolate the self (and with the self, all of reality) into the symbolic order. The law, the logos, the symbolic, or philosophy, would serve as its own end, displacing the divine Logos with a human word. Bulgakov traces the philosophical impetus, but he has in mind the general human orientation toward deception, violence and sin: “Logical continuity, or, what amounts to the same thing, the continuous logical deduction of all from one, making the whole system circle around a single centre which can be passed through in any direction, and which admits of no hiatus or discontinuity of any kind: this is the task which human thought naturally and inevitably strives to complete, not stopping short of violence, and self-deception, of evasions and illusions.”[9]

Logical monism, or the attempt to bridge subject and object, subject and predicate, noumena and phenomena, or to create a synthesis out of the antinomies, demands a full investment of faith (a violent bringing down of reality to fit it into the system). Every philosophy “dimly or distinctly, instinctively or consciously, timidly or militantly” claims “to be the absolute philosophy, and each of which regards its own sketch of what is as the system of the world.”[10] Hegel’s system is the characteristic illustration of overcoming the antinomies: “Hegel – and in his person, all philosophy” supposes it can bind reality into a system.[11] It presupposes what is impossible – to begin from itself, or generate from itself what can only come from what truly exists. The impossibility shows itself in the characteristic failure of philosophy, of taking one arm of tripartite reality as an end in itself.

 As Bulgakov describes, philosophy will choose either “(1) hypostasis, or personhood; (2) the latter’s idea or ideal form, logos, thought; (3) substantial being as the unity of all moments or states of being, as the self-actualizing whole.” These three philosophical moments can be summed up in the formula, “I am Something (potentially everything).”[12] This is a true enough statement, but philosophy “incessantly” cuts apart this indisseverable statement. “Philosophizing thought produces heresies through the arbitrariness of these disseverations, and through its choices of discrete beginnings; and the style of philosophizing is determined by the way in which this dissection is made.”[13] Philosophy takes what exists and that which is a necessary component of human consciousness and attempts to enter into this reality by segmenting and privileging a particular component.

The classic example is Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am.” The thinking thing is privileged over being. Being is subject to question and doubt, and is presumed to be determinate only through the predicate of thought, the second I. The first I and the second, (the thinking thing and that which exists as the predicate) are only conjoined in thought. This presumption cuts off the subject from its predicate and copula, as if the subject precedes predication and existence. Descartes is using his formula as a foundation to arrive at the certain proof of his existence and the existence of God, performing a dissection of thought in order to reduce it to the parameters of reason.

 In one form or another, this dissection of subject, predicate, and being indicates the history of philosophy. “Every philosophical system . . . is governed by an attempt of this kind: the subject, or the copula, or the predicate is announced as the single beginning, and everything is made to derive from it or to lead towards it. Such a ‘deduction,’ whether of the subject from the predicate, of the predicate from the subject, or of both from the copula, in fact presents philosophy with its principal task, and, thereby presents an insoluble difficulty to philosophical thought, which strives toward monism, strives to reduce everything to a first unity, no matter what.”[14] Bulgakov’s book is mostly dedicated to proving this point in three philosophical moments or movements, through engaging a wide range of philosophical thought, but focused most intensely on Immanuel Kant, Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, and Johann Gottlieb Fichte. (I will return, in future posts, to the specifics of his proofs).

Though Bulgakov is focused on philosophy’s denial or dissection of a triadic unity and the tragedy which results, the same story could be told in the register of psychoanalysis or theology. The psyche strives to unify the self, experienced as mind and body, or as the objective I in the mirror and the I of experience. For Jacques Lacan, the Cartesian dilemma is the human dilemma, in that every subject is split by language. The enunciating subject is split from the subject of the statement (the enunciated) and thus the subject is inescapably split or castrated by language. By taking up and defining the self through language, there occurs a three-way split between the symbolic (language), the ego or imaginary, and the dissonance of nonbeing or death drive created in the relation between the two. Here, the tragedy is not a philosophical or metaphysical mistake, but the human sickness and neurosis which arises from trying to make the self a synthesis out of an antithesis. The compulsion to repeat, the death drive, human violence toward the other and self-destructiveness, can be traced to the psychoanalytic sickness.

The point is universalized in Paul’s use of the law, which pits the subject against itself. “For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate” (Rom. 7:15). The philosophical and psychoanalytical is captured in Paul’s depiction of the I split by the law, but Paul includes the religious, the legal, the sexual and the social, or every aspect of the human predicament. What Bulgakov claims about philosophical systems seems to be a particular instance of Paul’s point, that could be described as the drive to a legal monism, in which the law is the system of the world, and the split between the two ‘I’s (Jew/Gentile, male/female, slave/free, mind/flesh, body/spirit) caused by the law would also be resolved through the law.

 Bulgakov, like Paul, will not so much resolve the dilemma of the split as address it through the reality of the Trinity. His presumption is that humans are created in the image of God and it is only on the basis of the divine image that the human image can be approached (if not comprehended). Like the Divine Person, the human person cannot be defined. “The essence of the hypostasis consists precisely in the fact that it is indefinable and indescribable; it stands beyond the limits of the world and of the concept, even though it continually reveals itself in them.”[15] It is not that the self cannot be named, but the I is not merely the subject of thought and reason, but thought and reason arise from the subject. The subject, transcendent as it may be, is revealed through the immanence of its predicates. “The subject, the hypostasis, is always revealed, always expresses itself, in the predicate. It goes without saying that the hypostasis in this sense is not the psychological I, psychological subjectivity, which already defines the hypostasis as a predicate, not as a subject.”[16]

The life force or spirit of the human subject is no more definable than the divine Spirit. Just as the Son bears the image of the Father, so too every child of God is defined in this relationship: “Eternity belongs to the hypostasis; it is eternal in the same sense as eternal God, who Himself breathed His own Spirit into humanity at the latter’s creation. The human being is the son of God and a created god; the image of eternity is an inalienable and indelible part of him.”[17] Humankind bears eternity in the image, and Bulgakov suggests that even suicide is not actually aimed at annihilating or extinguishing the I (“suicide attempts represent a kind of philosophical misunderstanding, and are directed not at the I itself, but only at the way in which it exists, directed not at the subject, but at the predicate”). As Bulgakov sums up, “The hypostatic I is the philosophical and grammatical Subject of all predicates; its life is this predicate, endless in its breadth and depth.”[18] The Father, Son, and Spirit, are the reality of subject, predicate, and copula of being. The Father is revealed through the Son, and this lived out realization is the work of the Spirit. This participation in the divine is the reality behind human thought and experience, and even a failure of thought points to its completion in this reality.


[1] Sergij Bulgakov, The Tragedy of Philosophy (Philosophy & Dogma), trans. by Stephen Churchyard (Brooklyn: Angelico Press, 2020) 91. Many thanks Jim, for the gift of this book. It is a key into Bulgakov.

[2] Or Sergij, or Sergei, among some 9 possible variants.

[3] See Jonathan R. Seiling, From Antinomy to Sophiology: Modern Russian Religious Consciousness and Sergei Bulgakov’s Critical Appropriation of German Idealism (PhD Dissertation, Toronto School of Theology, 2008) 229-233.

[4] Hans Urs Von Balthasar, Mysterium Paschale, (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1990), 35. Cited in Katy Leamy, “A Comparison of the Kenotic Trinitarian Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar and Sergei Bulgakov” (2012). (Dissertations (2009 -). Paper 211. http://epublications.marquette.edu/dissertations_mu/211), 36.

[5] Bulgakov, 3.

[6] Ibid. To miss this point will not only amount to missing the thesis of the book, but is the characteristic theological mistake. The issue is on the order of that of Jordan Wood in his departure from David Bentley Hart, or the tradition through Origen to Maximus, taken up by Bulgakov. The antinomies of heaven and earth, God and human, subject and object, are only resolved in the concrete case of the God/Man Jesus Christ. Reason cannot overcome these antinomies but Christ (in reality), in who he is, brings them together. Thus, reason begins with Jesus Christ as ground. Otherwise, it is not clear what a subject or reason might be.  

[7] Ibid., 5.

[8] Ibid, 7.

[9] Ibid, 3.

[10] Ibid, 3-4. Bulgakov has passed through commitment to Marxist Hegelianism, then with his conversion and the Russian Revolution, at this writing, he is without a job or a library in Crimea.

[11] Ibid, 6.

[12] Ibid, 9.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid, 10.

[15] Ibid, 11.

[16] Ibid, 12.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

Embodied Souls, Ensouled Bodies: Karl Barth as Resolution to Sexual and Body/Soul Dualism

I presume sin impacts humans not only in the experience of alienation but in conceiving all things in an alienated manner. That is, the failure of humanity becomes the singular truth, the only kind of humanity we know, and it is presumed there is no alternative to antagonism and dualism. Soul/body, male/female, or heaven and earth are taken to be, not only the historical understanding, but the singular reality. In psychoanalysis this shows itself in Lacanian psychoanalysis in that the antagonism structuring the Subject is presumed to be a necessity. Alienation and antagonism produce the Subject without possibility of qualification. One might manipulate this antagonism (death drive), but best of all, perhaps through therapy, one will be resolved to living with it. The insight of psychoanalysis, is that the various historical dualisms, centered on soul and body or male and female (but including every aspect of what it means to be human including life and death, language and meaning, heaven and earth) arise from a singular structure within the human psyche.  

Psychoanalysis locates the antagonism within the individual in interpenetrating categories such as ego and superego, but most dualisms have as their goal the presumed capacity to rid oneself of the negative, as is illustrated with male/female. Male is associated with the soulish, the rational, or the spiritual, while female is equated with the body, the natural, and the passions. As the church father Jerome describes it, “As long as woman is for birth and children, she is different from man as body is from soul. But if she wishes to serve Christ more than the world, then she will cease to be a woman and will be called man.”[1] Every human must strive for the masculine and the Christ-like and aim to shed the fleshly-feminine, but clearly the female sex starts with a disadvantage. As Ambrose writes: “She who does not believe is a woman and should be designated by the name of her bodily sex, whereas she who believes progresses to complete manhood, to the measure of the adulthood of Christ. She then does without wordly name, gender of body, youthful seductiveness, and garrulousness of old age.”[2] What is at play, in even Christian texts, is the notion that the masculine is abstract, spiritual, soulish, and universal, and the feminine is bound by the body. As Daniel Boyarin lays out the opposed pairs, man is to woman as substance is to accident, form to matter, univocity to division and difference, soul to body, meaning to language, signified to signifier, natural to artificial, and essential to ornamental.[3]

The psychoanalytic insight is to assign what Boyarin and others have concluded is universal to the human sickness. The details and historical permutations of the sickness may vary (Neo-Platonism, Adam and Eve, Judaism, or Christianity, have been blamed) but what Lacanian psychoanalysis attempts is a diagnosis of the human disease which explains how humans are traumatized by death. Death resistance as castration, the Oedipus complex, the focus on human sexuality, the entry and orientation within law and language, may or may not be right in the details, but what it incorporates within its explanation is the shape of male/female or soul/body antagonism and how this constitutes the human Subject and her world. What it does not do is provide any path beyond the problem.

Karl Barth provides a different (simpler?) approach to assessing both the universal human disease and its resolution, in that Christ serves as definition of what it means to be human. Barth does not start with the phenomena of the human as it may present itself to the anthropologist or the psychologist, as this will only lead to one going astray, “especially as they always arouse at this point the burning interest which powerful inner contradictions always bring to light.”[4] What Barth might be referring to specifically is not clear, but he has hit upon the truth of the development of modern psychoanalysis in its focus on contradiction (life versus death, male versus female, body versus soul, or the imaginary against the symbolic) as the primary focus of study and interest. The turn to Jesus Christ as model is simultaneously a turn from the supposed normativity of this antagonism.

Barth is also departing from traditional Christian dogma, which begins with man’s existence in the abstract and then applies this understanding to Christ. As he points out, this has resulted in a “certain one-sidedness,” referring perhaps, to the sort of reflection found in Ambrose and Jerome. The downgrading and oppression of women and the privileging of the soul, represents a majority position in the history of the church. Barth, by making Christ definitive of what it means to be human, is setting theology on a different foundation than the “older dogmatics.” The body/soul, male/female, and mind/body dualism can now be approached and potentially resolved in Jesus Christ. At a minimum, Barth provides a largely untapped point of departure.

The ontological determination of humanity is grounded in the fact that one man among all others is the man Jesus. So long as we select any other starting point for our study, we shall reach only the phenomena of the human. We are condemned to abstractions so long as our attention is riveted as it were on other men, or rather on man in general, as if we could learn about real man from a study of man in general, and in abstraction from the fact that one man among all others is the man Jesus. In this case we miss the one Archimedean point given us beyond humanity, and therefore the one possibility of discovering the ontological determination of man. Theological anthropology has no choice in this matter. It is not yet or no longer theological anthropology if it tries to pose and answer the question of the true being of man from any other angle.[5]

Barth derives his concept of what it means to be human from the singular man, Jesus Christ. In his volume on the doctrine of creation, Christ is the “Archimedean point” for understanding not only humanity but all of creation. Barth, through a more circuitous route, lands close to the Maximian formula, “creation is incarnation.” Or, “The Word of God, very God, wills that the mystery of his Incarnation be actualized always and in all things.”[6] Barth’s doctrine of creation, like his doctrine of anthropology, presumes creation by itself is a mere abstraction. The incarnate Christ provides the concrete center and revelation concerning creation: “Because man, living under heaven and on earth, is the creature whose relation to God is revealed to us in the Word of God, he is the central object of the theological doctrine of creation.” Which leads to Barth’s anthropological focus: “As the man Jesus is Himself the revealing Word of God, He is the source of our knowledge of the nature of man as created by God.”[7] Anthropology is not a subset of the study of creation but is its center, and true anthropology is approached only through the truly human one. “As the man Jesus is Himself the revealing Word of God, He is the source of our knowledge of the nature of man as created by God.”[8] Barth concludes: “But this point of departure means nothing more nor less than the founding of anthropology on Christology.”[9]

Barth builds upon this foundation (in section 46) with his opening thesis in which he sets forth the primary terms of body, soul, and Spirit: “Through the Spirit of God, man is the subject, form and life of a substantial organism, the soul of his body – wholly and simultaneously both, in ineffaceable difference, inseparable unity, and indestructible order.”[10] Humans are both body and soul – simultaneously and inseparably. “Man’s being exists, and is therefore soul; and it exists in a certain form, and is therefore body.”[11] In Christ these are not constituent parts. “He is one whole man, embodied soul and besouled body: the one in the other and never merely beside it; the one never without the other but only with it, and in it present, active and significant; the one with all its attributes always to be taken as seriously as the other.”[12]

The death and resurrection of Christ do not alter this order: “The whole man, soul and body, He rises as he died, and sits at the right hand of God and will come again.”[13] This soul and body wholeness is an eternal fact about who he is. “He does not fulfil His office and His work from His miraculous annunciation to His fulfilment in such a way that we can separate His outer from His inner or His inner from His outer.”[14] Everything is simultaneously inner, invisible, and spiritual, and outer, visible, and bodily.

Barth illustrates the point through a series of biblical verses which refer alternatively to Christ “giving himself” (Gal. 1:4), giving his soul (Matt. 20:28), or giving his body (Luke 22:19). “Jesus, He Himself, is His soul, and His body, and it is the one whole man who died on the cross and thus made our sin inoperative and completed our reconciliation.”[15] In turn it is the whole man, body and soul, that is raised. Body and soul are not parallels or two parts or two lines. Their union in him permits no choice but to consider them together. “They cannot be considered independently. In and with one another they are the oneness and wholeness of this life.”[16] Which is not to deny that there is a higher and a lower or a dominating and dominated, but Jesus is both. Barth does not mention a male and female principle, but inasmuch as these might represent the body and soul, or the sensuous and the rational, it can only be said that Jesus is both. “His life of soul and body is really His life. He has full authority over it.”[17]

It is important that Christ accomplished this in his flesh. Flesh may be a neutral term referring to human existence, but it also has an evil connotation. “It indicates the condition of man in contradiction, in disorder and in consequent sickness, man after Adam’s fall, the man who lives a fleeting life in the neighbourhood of death and corruption.”[18] Christ has come in the flesh to condemn sin in sinful flesh (Rom. 8:3). He suffered in the flesh (I Pet. 4:1). He reconciled us “in the body of his flesh” (Col. 1:22). He “abolished in his flesh the enmity” (Eph. 2:15). In his flesh he parted the veil in the Temple and provided entry into God’s presence (Heb. 10:20). Even in his resurrection body he is still in the flesh, and is not pure spirit (Luke 24:39). He provides true food and true drink continually through his flesh (Jn. 6:51). Flesh, which in itself speaks of death, disorder and disobedience, through his flesh takes on life, order and obedience. “The flesh, which in itself profits nothing, becomes a purposeful instrument. The flesh, which in itself is lost, attains a determination and a hope. The flesh, which in itself is illogical and irrational, becomes logical and rational. As the Logos becomes flesh and Jesus is flesh, it is shown that this man has and is spirit and life, and the flesh itself becomes quickening and living and meaningful.”[19]

Barth equates the work of Christ in the flesh with creation itself – with the ordering of chaos into a cosmos. The reconciliation, ordering, rationalizing, of Christ in the flesh “is the triumph of the meaning of the human existence of Jesus.”[20] Chaos in itself offers no explanation no rationale, nor order, but through the ordering of the flesh in Christ the world and humankind are an ordered creation and cosmos. This establishes a new basis for understanding humanity, creation, and the human relationship to God.

The Christian response to dualism is to recognize that most every form of human subjectivity is built upon an antagonistic dualism (between body and soul, between male and female, between the ego and the law, or between life and death) but there is one human to whom this does not apply; namely Jesus Christ. Jesus is the alternative to alienation, antagonism, and dualism and this alternative applies to all and grounds a holistic Christian understanding.


[1][1] Jerome, Commentary on the Letter to the Ephesians, Patrologia cursus completus, series latina, ed. J.-P. Migne (Paris, 1841–66), 26:533; translation from Vern Bullough, “Medieval Medical and Scientific Views of Women,” Viator 4 (1973): 499. Cited in Daniel Boyarin, “On the History of the Early Phallus,” in Gender and Difference in the Middle Ages (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003), 8.

[2] Ambrose, “Exposition of the Gospel of Luke,” in PL 15:1844. Boyarin, Ibid.

[3] Boyarin, 12-13.

[4] Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics: The Doctrine of Creation III.2 (Hendrickson Publishers, 1956) 325. All quotes are from III.2 unless otherwise indicated.

[5] Barth, 132.

[6] Maximus the Confessor, On Difficulties in the Church Fathers: The Ambigua Vol. 1; Edited and Translated by Nicholas Constas (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014) 7.22.

[7] Barth, 3.

[8] Barth, 41.

[9] Barth, 44.

[10] Barth, 325.

[11] Barth, 325. 

[13] Barth, 327.

[14] Barth, 327.

[15] Barth, 328.

[16] Barth, 331.

[17] Barth, 332.

[18] Barth, 335.

[19] Barth, 336.

[20] Barth, 336

Experiencing God or Experiencing Nothing

For God created us in such a way that we are similar to Him (for through participation we are imbued with the exact characteristics of His goodness), and from before the ages He determined that we should exist in Him.[1]

Maximus the Confessor

Ours is a secular age in that direct experience of God is mostly unavailable. The Bible directly equates truth, wisdom, life, love, and light with Christ (and with experience of Christ), but the tendency is to soften this or to make it metaphorical. We seemingly no longer have direct access to God in the development of the virtues, in the experience of love, in the development of wisdom, or in peace of mind. To say what disrupts experience of God (the actualization of “existing in Him”), is part of an exercise in regaining this experience, but in brief, Christ is displaced as his own medium, his own reality, his own wisdom, and his own logic. Philosophy, human wisdom, human experience, and human logic (centered on nothing but themselves) become prime reality, and in Christian theology (popular and academic) Christ is made to fit an already existing frame and foundation.

Escaping the Obstacle of Ontotheology

The postmodern critique of ontotheology permanently dispels the notion that propositions, doctrine, or philosophy, can (in phallic/masculine form) “say it all” or lay its own foundation. The point is not to promote irrationality but reason cannot lay its foundations or encompass prime reality. What this has meant for theology, is that the person of Christ as foundation takes on a singular significance – Christ is a logic and reality that cannot be fit to an already existing frame or laid on another foundation. Examples of the significance for theology of the turn from ontotheology are the work of Stanley Hauerwas (in his turn to ethics), James McClendon (in his development of a practical theology), a return to the work of Karl Barth, and in Catholicism the new theology (nouvelle théologie) focused on escaping scholasticism. Historically the shift might be characterized as the difference between Origenism and Augustinianism, or in broad terms (too broad, but containing some truth) the difference between eastern and western theology. The general turn is one that joins faith and practice, and as with my work on the doctrine of sin and salvation, the impetus is to describe the work of Christ in real world terms.  

Realization of Christ as Prime Reality and as Salvation

I presume the defeat of sin and evil in salvation is describable phenomenologically and psychologically. First, in Christ’s confrontation with sin and death, we can describe his defeat of these categories in historical, psychological, systemic, and corporate terms. Second, we can describe incorporation into Christ and defeat of the categories of sin and evil. The implication of the incarnation is that there is a universally shared human predicament and resolution addressed in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. Two things come together – the plane of human reality is a final reality in that God in Christ enters this plane of reality, and the universally shared failure addressed by the incarnation is corrected or being made right on this plane of reality. This is not to exclude mystery, but we can describe how the mystery of Christ takes hold in life, in love, in virtue, and in wisdom. We can, as with the historical person of Christ, experience and describe what it means for divinity and humanity to be joined in one person. This is the profound truth of Christ that exceeds every other truth. There is no logic or reason that can begin to approach this truth – it is a truth of a different order.

A practical way in which the singularity of Christ shows itself is that the Christian faith provides a diagnosis and solution to the human predicament that is unique, especially as it involves the incarnation. Even before consideration of the incarnation, a distinguishing mark of the Judeo/Christian faith is the seriousness of embodiment and death. This is one of the things that ties Judaism and Christianity together – the reality of history and embodiment. The death and resurrection of Christ addresses the human predicament, not by introducing another reality but by resolving the problem of death through resurrection. This contrasts with most every other religion, (many of which deny death by one means or another). Either there is innate immortality of the soul (downplaying embodiment), or material reality is unreal (as in Hinduism it is maya), or people do not stop living at death but survive as disembodied spirits or souls (as in animistic religion and ancestor worship). The problem of death is not to be solved on another plane of reality (or through death denial) but through incarnation, death, and resurrection.

The Subject of the Lie  

The resolution to the problem of death is aimed at formation of a new Subject. Theology and psychology merge in the description of a peculiar form of the human Subject which exists by virtue of a primordial disturbance – the Subject of the lie. Sin creates a wound or cut or obstacle in nature which constitutes one form of human subjectivity. Into the realm of immediate sense experience and “natural” animal copulating, a gap or obstacle has been introduced which constitutes the Subject. Sin, in this understanding, is not something which Adam or anyone “falls into,” as if they were fully functioning Subjects prior to the event; rather in the deception described in Scripture and psychoanalysis, sin is the passage into human subjectivity (the Subject that is self-constituting).

In brief, Jacques Lacan takes up the Freudian death drive and argues the human Subject arises around pure negation or absence, such that evil, death and absence are originary. Slavoj Žižek extends this, through Friedrich Schelling, to demonstrate how God and all things arise from an originary evil (Immanuel Kant’s “radical evil”). Surprisingly, Augustine, who also develops the notion of evil as privation, points to radical evil at the heart of the human Subject.

Augustine depicts an ineffable absence within himself. His depiction of stealing pears is clearly modeled after the Genesis story of the fall, as he indicates: “How like that servant of yours who fled from his Lord and hid in the shadows!”[2] As Pantanteleimon Manoussakis indicates, “Contrary to Greek ethics, evil for Augustine is not a mistaken choice, vice is not ignorance, and sin is not a category of epistemology that could be regulated and rectified by degrees of knowledge.” Augustine does not reference an outer temptation or anything on the order of the serpent. He is fully aware that his action was evil. “In fact he goes a step further – and this adds a whole new dimension on the problem of evil – for his theft lacked any reasonable motive; his transgression was “for no reason … there was no motive for my malice except malice.”[3]

Augustine’s description of evil goes against the Aristotelian notion that every human action is aimed at some good. “Not only there was [sic] no good that motivated Augustine’s action in the garden of Thagaste, but not even what Aristotle would call the apparent good: ‘No, I mean more: my theft lacked even the sham, shadowy beauty with which even vice allures us.’”[4] Evil is not accounted for, but is its own cause. It is the groundless ground. It has no explanation and is not intelligible and to imagine otherwise would, in Augustine’s estimate, amount to a defense of the necessity of evil.

Ontotheology, propositionalism, Platonism, foundationalism, or the fallen Subject, are made of the same stuff as Augustine’s thieving Subject. To imagine that Christ can be set on another foundation is to assign ontological priority to this nonentity.

Christ the Foundation and Wisdom of God: Experiencing God

This then sends us back to the Bible and patristic sources, in order to describe the peculiar logic and experience found in Christ. According to Maximus the Confessor, Christ is not a truth among other trues but is the foundation of truth:

For the Word, who created all things, and who is in all things according to the relation of present to the future, is comprehended both in type and in truth, in which He is present both in being and manifestation, and yet He is manifested in absolutely nothing, for inasmuch as He transcends the present and the future, He transcends both type and truth, for He contains nothing that might be considered contrary to Him. But truth has a contrary: falsehood. Therefore, the Word in whom the universe is gathered transcends the truth, and also, insofar as He is man and God, He truly transcends all humanity and divinity.[5]

The Word has his own “being” and “manifestation.” There is no natural logic or philosophical logic or natural reason which can comprehend the fact of the God/Man. This is not a truth established over and against falsehood, as there is no “contrary” dialectic which establishes this truth. This is a logic all its own and an experience of a different order. He is his own manifestation in the life of the believer. He “transcends” the truth and all humanity and divinity and all conceptions of the same. The person and work of Christ is its own point of departure. No other logic or reality mediates Christ, as he constitutes a logic and reality, and he alone mediates himself. But inasmuch as we become Christ, we too enter in to this reality which has no genealogy, no precedent, no explanation, other than Him.

Maximus illustrates the point with the example of Melchizedek:

He alone in this respect is mentioned by Scripture, probably because he was the first who through virtue passed beyond both matter and form (which may be understood as his being without father or mother or genealogy), and by knowledge he surpassed all things subject to time and the age, things whose temporal existence began with their creation (for creation did not deny them their being in time), without stumbling over them in his mind as he followed his divine course, which is perhaps what having neither beginning of days nor end of life means. And so transcendentally, secretly, silently and, to put it briefly, in a manner beyond knowledge, following the total negation of all beings from thought, he entered into God Himself, and was wholly transformed, receiving all the qualities of God, which we may take as the meaning of being likened to the Son of God he remains a priest forever. For every saint who has made exemplary progress in beauty is thereby said to be a type of God the giver. Consistent with this principle, the great Melchizedek, having been imbued with divine virtue, was deemed worthy to become an image of Christ God and His unutterable mysteries, for in Him all the saints converge as to an archetype, to the very cause of the manifestation of the Beautiful that is realized in each of them, and this is especially true of this saint, since he bears within himself more prefigurations of Christ than all the rest.”[6]  

Melchizedek, like Christ, cannot be reduced to matter or form or genealogy. He cannot be reduced to a particular age and time, as he is beyond this form of material creation and has been taken up into God himself. He has been “transformed” – receiving “all the qualities of God” and being made in the likeness of Christ. But what is true of Christ and Melchizedek is true of every saint as the Beauty of Christ is “realized in each of them.” The experience of Melchizedek is open and available to all imitators of Christ.

Maximus completes the thought with a final appeal to Hebrews and the depiction of the singular reality establishing a different order of Subject:

If, in addition to these things, he should also deny himself, having lost his life, according to the divine voice, which says: He who loses his own life for my sake, will find it— that is, whoever casts aside this present life and its desires for the sake of the better life—will acquire the living and active, and absolutely unique Word of God, who through virtue and knowledge penetrates to the division between soul and spirit, so that absolutely no part of his existence will remain without a share in His presence, and thus he becomes without beginning or end, no longer bearing within himself the movement of life subject to time, which has a beginning and an end, and which is agitated by many passions, but possesses only the divine and eternal life of the Word dwelling within him, which is in no way bounded by death.”[7]

The life and Subject that would find itself, ground itself, father itself, or constitute its own presence, is cast aside for a different order of reality and experience. The Word of God vivifies and creates a new Subject, who through putting on virtue and knowledge enters a different order of existence in and through “His presence.” So the follower of Christ, like Christ, is no longer a creature of a particular family and genealogy, and is no longer a Subject of time but puts on the full likeness of Christ as he possesses “divine and eternal life” and “is in no way bounded by death.”  

Jesus Christ is an economy and a reality, and the only access to this economy and reality is through Him. Putting on Christ is to put on the wisdom and virtue of God. The wisdom of Christ is Christ. The virtue of Christ is Christ. The love of Christ is Christ. The hypostatic joining of deity and humanity in Christ is repeated in the saint who experiences immediate union with God in Christ, not through an ecstatic departure but through a union of the human with the divine. The created nature is brought to its full limit and potential and is thus preserved through the Word.  

In summary: the divine and human brought together in the person of Jesus Christ is the mystery that is repeated in the salvation Christ brings. Christians comprehend this salvation – that is, it exists on a historical and earthly plane of reality – we see the God-Man Jesus Christ acting in history, defeating sin death and evil (the experience of nothing) and so too the experience of salvation can be described in terms of human transformation and experience.


[1] Maximus the Confessor, The Ambigua, Volume 1, trans. Nicholas Constas (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014) 7.38.

[2] James J. O’Donnell, Augustine Confessions, vol. II (Oxford, 2012), 126-7. Cited in Pantanteleimon Manoussakis, “St. Augustine and St. Maximus the Confessor between the Beginning and the End” (Peeters Publishers, Studia Patristica, 2016) 2. Published in Academia edu – https://www.academia.edu/28215430/St_Augustine_and_St_Maximus_the_Confessor_between_the_Beginning_and_the_End

[3] Ibid, Manoussakis. The Augustine quote is from Confessions, II 4.9.

[4] Manoussakis, 3, Citing Augustine’s Confessions, II 6.12.

[5] Maximus the Confessor, The Ambigua, Volume 2, trans. Nicholas Constas (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014) 37.8.

[6] Ambigua, 10.45

[7] Ambigua, 10.48.

False Incarnation in Jordan Daniel Wood and Maximus the Confessor

In conversation with Jordan Wood, Jordan mentioned the notion of a false incarnation proposed by Maximus the Confessor. I found the idea intriguing, fitting as it does with a psychotheological portrayal of the human predicament. Jordan traces two beginnings or moments of creation in Maximus, a false beginning giving rise to a failed understanding (of creation, the self, and God) and the real moment of creation, in the Spirit, through Christ. Romans 7 contains Paul’s example of the dynamic of the false incarnation (the focus of psychotheology), in which the “I” would manipulate the law as the end point of desire, a desire which defines and consumes the self. Romans 8 describes the undoing or displacement of this false creation or false imaging as the individual is found in Christ and through the Spirit is born into the participation and love of God. I had not thought of this as two beginnings, but this fits Paul’s portrayal.

In Maximus’s theology, Adam turned away from God “together with coming-into-being,” thus “bringing about the phenomenal but illusory (and death-dealing) world.”[1] This false world of the first Adam (humanity outside of Christ) repeats itself in every representative of Adam (humanity). “Adam’s sin corrupts God’s creation by illicitly ‘creating’ or sourcing a false world radically hostile to God, a world into which we are born and because of which our very mode of becoming becomes damaged.”[2] As Jordan describes,  “sin illicitly ‘creates’ a ‘world’ and a ‘history’ that are not truly God’s creation.” According to Maximus, “Adam (or the concrete human being in history) has received two fundamentally opposed beginnings. We have the fantastical but self-actualized “human,” on the one hand, and the true human being, Jesus Christ, on the other.”[3] As Maximus writes, Christ contained all of human nature (or all of Adam within himself) and brought him to perfection: “When the Divine Word clothed Himself in human nature without undergoing any change, and became perfect man like us in every way but without sin, He manifested the first Adam in both the mode of His creaturely origin and the mode of His birth.”[4] “Christ ‘manifests (φαινόμενον) Adam; he makes Adam into a real historical phenomenon at long last.”  Maximus declares that “all the ages and the beings existing within those ages received their beginning and end in Christ.”[5]

This means the beginning of creation (the true beginning in Christ) is in the middle of history. As John Behr notes: “According to The Martyrology of Jerome, ‘On March 25, our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified, conceived, and the world was made.’”[6] In the false beginning the creature is necessarily brought into existence involuntarily, but in Christ all voluntarily give assent to be born into life “in and as Christ” entailing the other Maximian formula, “creation is incarnation.”  Now all voluntarily give “assent to be born into life in and as Christ, entailing that creation is indeed Incarnation.”[7]

The personhood of Jesus Christ is at the center, not simply as beginning, but as the very substance of the image of God. The nature of this image is not some abstract principle, some ability or capacity; rather, the image is the person of Christ. Christ is the very substance of the image in which humankind is created. The Christ event “is the enhypostatic act of the Word of God in history. Like any event, the historical Incarnation is also the disclosure of the person who acts and is acted upon. Every event contains and is contained by a person whose whole truth resists reduction to either an abstract genus or an abstract instance of some generic principle. The Christ-event is a happening every bit as resistant to abstraction as the logic it discloses is.”[8]

The incarnation of Jesus (the person of Christ) is the truth of all persons and the true beginning of all things, and false incarnation is the obstruction or turning from this beginning. False incarnation is a grasping (enfleshing) of the wrong image (an “imaginary” image in Lacanian theory), focused as it is on abstractions (spectral images), as if personhood is made up of something other than true personhood. The comparison is something on the order of Platonism and Christianity, with the former working with “eternal and transcendent trues” and the latter focused on the reality of the person of Christ. For Maximus, “Christ” names neither an essence nor “simply a general, metaphysical rule (essence/nature) nor a mere individual that appears only as an exception to that rule— an instance of something more common whose individuality emerges merely as what is particular or not-common.” Christ alone brings together the divine and created – he is, in his person the concrete identity of these two natures. This is no formal abstraction, as he is the “very condition for the (existential) possibility of any further abstraction about him whatever.”[9] He is not an instance of a universal or a particular principle. “In Christ particulars and universals and their mutual dependency are created.”[10] Time and eternity, God and creation, and beginning and end, brought together in the incarnate Christ is the substantive beginning comprehending the whole.

In the Genesis account, Adam, who for Maximus is representative of all humanity, receives the breath of God, but the true inbreathing of the Spirit  occurs only when man is born of the Spirit (so Genesis 2, the beginning is found only in the end which Christ brings about). Being born of the Spirit is the initiation of the true imaging (deification). “Birth by Spirit grants one the power to become God,” and this is a power that in one sense is beyond humanity and yet is part of his natural capacities. As “it is evident . . . that the process from spiritual birth to achieving the full stature of divine filiation is itself the process of creation.”[11] Being born of the Spirit “is nothing other than birth ‘according to Christ in the Spirit,’ or— which comes to the same — living in a way that allows Christ’s own births (both of which find their term in his hypostasis) to take place in you.”[12] While in sin there is a failure to be fully myself or to be completely created (truly born), in Christ there is a regeneration flowing backward and forward, so that in becoming “all in all,” what is not complete is being made complete.

This end in the beginning is portrayed in the Genesis 2 account, which in Maximus’ view, is an all-inclusive (mythical?) depiction, while Genesis 3 depicts a false beginning. Adam is ignorant of God, himself, and the world as is evidenced in his ready willingness to partake of the forbidden fruit. As Maximus puts it, “For after humanity’s transgression, the end can no longer be indicated through the beginning, but only the beginning through the end. Nor does one seek the principles of the beginning, but rather researches those principles that lead beings in motion to their end.”[13] The historical beginning recounted in Genesis 3 is a false beginning, cut off from its true end. In this beginning, “Adam rejected ‘this deifying and divine and nonmaterial birth’ and preferred the immediate pleasure of sensible things to spiritual delights ‘that were not yet fully evident to him.’ He was thus ‘condemned to a material, mortal, and corporeal birth, outside the power of his free choice [ἀπροαίρετον].’”[14]

In Maximus’ portrayal, just as Genesis 2 may depict an all-inclusive end, so too Genesis 3 depicts a continually reenacted event inclusive of all fallen humanity. Sin is not a necessity or inheritance, but describes a beginning and world based on an improper goal and “erroneous judgement” (his definition of evil) continually enacted.[15] “So construed, the Fall names not principally an ancient event, nor simply an event simultaneous with becoming as such, but an event that occurs at all moments of becoming in this world— in the generation, conduct, corruption, and death of every person.”[16]

In one paragraph Maximus depicts the full movement of the two beginnings:

God, then, truly became man and gave our nature the new beginning of a second birth, which through pain ends in the pleasure of the life to come. For our forefather Adam, having transgressed the divine commandment, introduced into our nature another beginning of birth—in contrast to the one that had preceded it—constituted by pleasure, yielding to pain, and ending in death. Following the counsel of the serpent, he conceived of pleasure not as succeeding any prior suffering, but rather as terminating in suffering, and so he subjected, through this unrighteous origination in pleasure those who like him were born of the flesh, together with himself, to the just end of death through suffering. Conversely, our Lord, having become man, and having created for our nature a new beginning of birth through the Holy Spirit, and having accepted the death through suffering that was justly imposed on Adam, but which in Him was completely unjust—since it did not have as the principle of its beginning the unrighteous pleasure that arose from the disobedience of the forefather— destroyed both of these two extremes (I mean the beginning and the end) of human birth according to Adam, neither of which was brought into being by God.”[17]

For Maximus the Garden of Eden is not perfect or complete, as perfection and completion (pleroma) are only brought about in Christ. There is not the possibility one can experience this fulness and abandon it, as this contains the inherent contradiction (an imperfect perfection) which demeans both God and his purposes in creation. “For starters, even the bare possibility that we might experience the perfection of our faculties in God and yet move away from him belies God’s own beauty, indeed that God is beauty itself, since ‘whatever is not good and desirable in and of itself’ and ‘does not attract all motion to itself, strictly speaking cannot be the Beautiful.’” Maximus rejects the notion that the first pair were perfect or complete:

The first man, consequently, being deficient in the actual movement of his natural powers toward their goal, fell sick with ignorance of his own Cause, and, following the counsel of the serpent, thought that God was the very thing of which the divine commandment had forbidden him to partake. Becoming thus a transgressor and falling into ignorance of God, he completely mixed the whole of his intellective power with the whole of sensation, and drew into himself the composite, destructive, passion-forming knowledge of sensible things.[18]

Adam’s desire, as Paul describes it (and as taken up by Lacan and Zizek), becomes twisted around the law: “For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’ But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness” (Rom. 7:7-8). Adam, Paul, or everyman mistakes the created for the ultimately desirable, and thus displaces the ultimate object of desire, God, with that which is finite. Maximus comes close to describing the futility of the Lacanian interpretation of Paul’s death drive (the drive to escape the death drive):

Thus the more that man was preoccupied with knowledge of visible things solely according to the senses, the more he bound himself to the ignorance of God; and the more he tightened the bond of this ignorance, the more he attached himself to the experience of the sensual enjoyment of the material objects of knowledge in which he was indulging; and the more he took his fill of this enjoyment, the more he inflamed the passionate desire of self-love that comes from it; and the more he deliberately pursued the passionate desire of self-love, the more he contrived multiple ways to sustain his pleasure, which is the offspring and goal of self-love. And because it is the nature of every evil to be destroyed together with the activities that brought it into being, he discovered by experience that every pleasure is inevitably succeeded by pain, and subsequently directed his whole effort toward pleasure, while doing all he could to avoid pain, fighting for the former with all his might and contending against the latter with all his zeal. He did this believing in something that was impossible, namely, that by such a strategy he could separate the one from the other, possessing self-love solely in conjunction with pleasure, without in any way experiencing pain. It seems that, being under the influence of the passions, he was ignorant of the fact that it is impossible for pleasure to exist without pain. For the sensation of pain has been mixed with pleasure even if this fact escapes the notice of those who experience it, due to the passionate domination of pleasure, since whatever dominates is of a nature always to be prominent, overshadowing the perception of what is next to it.”  

The masochistic fusion of pleasure with pain results in the pleasurable drive toward death. “Ignorance of creation intensifies ignorance of God. Knowing neither God nor creation, Adam cannot know himself; he, in his deluded self-love, fancies himself fulfilled by bare sense pleasure. Such pleasure always disappoints. Pain follows hard upon pleasure because no finite phenomenon can sate infinite desire. Thus the whole of this miserable existence, which vacillates pitilessly between pleasure and pain, relies first and last upon ignorance of God, creation, and the self.”[19] The pursuit is to fulfill desire in that which cannot possibly satisfy, which only intensifies the effort, so that the ego is completely given over to this lie. The lie, in Paul and Lacan and seemingly Maximus, constitutes the core of a false self.

Thus our life became filled with much groaning—a life that honors the occasions of its own destruction and which, out of ignorance, invents and cherishes excuses for corruption. Thus the one human nature was cut up into myriad parts, and we who are of one and the same nature devour each other like wild animals. Pursuing pleasure out of self-love, and for the same reason being anxious to avoid pain, we contrive the birth of untold numbers of destructive passions.[20]

Thus, humankind always eats of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, always flees from paradise, in the effort to produce life from death.  

However, humankind’s false start does not contradict or preclude that creation is incarnation: “Quite the contrary: that we can “create” a counterfeit world by incarnating, in ourselves, our own impassioned delusions proves possible only because creation’s very logic is already that of the Word’s actual Incarnation in and as all things.”[21] As Paul demonstrates in Romans 7, it is possible to create a death dealing dynamic which would embody the letter of the law. This is the false principle of the law, a law unto itself. The law made absolute is the manifest principle of absolutizing finitude, of worshipping the creation as creator, or of self-deification. But just as Paul pictures the reversal of Romans 7 in Romans 8, so too all humanity is involved in the reversal brought about in Christ.

Adam represents the universal fact that every person causes the Fall, and that therefore every person, empowered by Christ’s personal human freedom, must freely undo that Fall. After all, God’s intention and will and desire (his logoi) in creating at all is not principally to make a created order, an impersonal hierarchy of variously arranged essences. His goal is to create concrete, free, unique, ultimately deified persons. There is a logos of every person, and every person’s logos is also Christ the Logos. Creation’s perfection, its true beginning and end, is nothing less than the personal perichoresis of God and creation— beholding God “face to face.[22]

Creation was made for deification (a truth indicated even in false deification), and there is the sense, as shown in Christian baptism (Maximus’ example) that freewill plays a part in every part of the process. According to Maximus, “He who is God by nature was born bodily yet without sin and for our sake accepted the birth of baptism unto spiritual adoption, I believe that for this reason the teacher (Gregory) connected the birth of baptism with the Incarnation, so that baptism might be considered as the abolition and release from bodily birth.” The second birth not only fulfills the first but releases from the bonds and limitations of being set on the finitude it entails:

Those who interpret the divine sayings mystically, and who honor them, as is right, with more lofty contemplations, say that man in the beginning was created according to the image of God, surely so that he might be born of the Spirit in the exercise of his own free choice, and to acquire in addition the likeness by the keeping of the divine commandment, so that the same man, being by nature a creation of God, might also be the son of God and God through the Spirit by grace. For there was no other way for man, being created, to become the son of God and God by the grace of divinization, without first being born of the Spirit, in the exercise of his own free choice, owing to the indomitable power of self-determination which naturally dwells within him.”[23]

The false start contains both the truth of human participation in their creation and full participation in God; that is the true beginning is found in its end (choosing to be born and attain to deity). This first creation is, in Paul’s description suspended or sublated by the second but it is a work in process. “If creation does not seem to us the sublime Incarnation of the Word ‘always and in all things,’ perhaps that means not that creation is something other than Incarnation but rather that ‘creation’ as it appears is not yet truly creation, not yet God’s finished work, not yet the world.”[24] As Maximus writes, “it happens that—because the disposition of their will has not yet been fully extracted from its passionate fixation on the flesh, and because they have not been completely imbued by the Spirit.” Maximus pictures the process of this sublation in his picture of the interplay of the two beginnings:

The mode of our spiritual birth from God is twofold. The first bestows on those born in God the entire grace of adoption, which is entirely present in potential; the second ushers in this grace as entirely present in actuality, transforming voluntarily the entire free choice of the one being born so that it conforms to the God who gives birth. The first possesses this grace in potential according to faith alone; the second, in addition to faith, realizes on the level of knowledge the active, most divine likeness of the God who is known in the one who knows Him. In those whom the first mode of birth is observed, it happens that—because the disposition of their will has not yet been fully extracted from its passionate fixation on the flesh, and because they have not been completely imbued by the Spirit with active participation in the divine mysteries that have taken place—it happens, I say, that their inclination to sin is never very far away for the simple reason that they continue to will it.[25]

Christ extracts humanity from captivity by its first beginning by taking upon himself all of the vicissitudes of this false incarnation and overcoming them.

For the very thing which Adam freely rejected (I mean the birth by the Spirit leading to divinization), and for which he was condemned to bodily birth amid corruption, is exactly what the Word assumed willingly out of His goodness and love for mankind, and, by becoming man in accordance with our fallen state, willingly subjecting Himself to our condemnation (though He alone is free and sinless), and consenting to a bodily birth, in which lay the power of our condemnation, He mystically restored birth in the Spirit; and so for our sake, having dissolved in Himself the bonds of bodily birth, He granted, through birth in the Spirit, to those who believe in His name the power to become children of God instead of flesh and blood.[26]

The first birth, through Christ, is no longer a form of bondage but an opening to birth in the Spirit. Though bodily and Spiritual birth may appear as distinct temporal moments, this division is due to sin or the human attempt to make themselves (in Freudian terms to be their own father). For Maximus, there is though, an inevitable passing through these two moments as the first birth is the means to the second birth. “In this way God joined together in me the principle of my being and the principle of my well-being, and He closed the division and distance between them that I had opened up, and through them He wisely drew’ me to the principle of eternal being, according to which man is no longer subject to carrying or being carried along, since the sequence of visible realities in motion will reach its end in the great and general resurrection. . .”[27]

In conclusion:

The pattern is clear: whatever characterized the Word’s becoming in history is what characterizes our primordial becoming, since the Word’s becoming is ours. Not that this characterizes our appearance in this phenomenal world. The two beginnings remain absolute antitheses. No possible compromise can be brokered between them, since they oppose one another as what God does and does not create— surely an absolute distinction.[28]

There are two distinct beginnings: the phenomenological beginning experienced with our physical birth and the bringing forth of an I or ego (the false incarnation) which must be sublated by the second and true birth in the Spirit through the Son.


[1] This is John Behr’s summary in the Foreword to the book, Jordan Daniel Wood, The Whole Mystery of Christ (pp. ix-x). University of Notre Dame Press. Kindle Edition.

[2] Wood, 153.

[3] Wood, 144.

[4] St. Maximus the Confessor, On Difficulties In Sacred Scripture: The Responses to Thalassios; Translated by Fr. Maximos Constas, (Washington D. C.: The Catholic University of America Press) 21.2.

[5] Wood, 153.

[6] Wood, ix.

[7] Wood, ix.

[8] Wood, 142.

[9] Wood, 142-3.

[10] Wood, 143.

[11] Wood 147.

[12] Wood, 154.

[13] The Responses to Thalassios, 59.12.

[14] Wood, 148.

[15] The Responsis the Thalassios, 1.2.12.

[16] Wood, 157.

[17] The Responses to Thalassios, 61.7

[18] The Responses to Thalassios, 1.2.13.

[19] Wood, 165.

[20] The Responses to Thalassios, 1.2.15.

[21] Wood, 145.

[22] Wood, 166.

[23] Maximus the Confessor, The Ambigua, Volume 2, trans. Nicholas Constas (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014) 42.31-32.

[24] Wood, 145-6.

[25] The Responses to Thalasios, 6.2.

[26] Ambigua, 42.32.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Wood, 153.

The Peace of Jesus’ Body Versus the Violent Semantics of the Flesh

The semantic load that can be attached to the biological body is undergoing a continual extension, in that there is seemingly no end to the arrangement of gender identity. In a Lacanian psychoanalytic frame, the complete identity with the symbolic order though, is not really a multiplicity of types but is a singular type which he would dub “masculine.” “Masculine” does not refer to gender but to an orientation to the symbolic order. One might identify with these structures as they presently exist in the society or attempt to “bend the rules” but of course the rules are bent so as to conform to them. That is, the letter is prime reality and the biological body is divided or separate from this reality. The masculine (as opposed to the feminine, in a Lacanian frame) does not question the symbolic order as prime reality.

As Paul describes this type, “the law dominates the man for whatever time he lives” (Romans 7:1 DBH translation). Paul will identify this type, according to his own experience, as ignorant of their own actions and having an incapacity to discern evil. There is a fusion between sin and the law so that Paul, at the time he was doing it, could not discern the sort of evil in which he is engaged. As he describes, in a parallel passage in Galatians, his zeal for the law and his advancement in Judaism were marked by his persecution of the church and his desire to destroy it (Ga 1:13-14). For Paul, the law was not a marker of sin and evil but was fused with sin such that he could not perceive his own evil due to his zeal for the law. As he advanced in law-keeping and in Judaism he simultaneously advanced in his participation in evil. It did not occur to Paul the Pharisee that there was a reality which exceeded the measure of the law. Clearly, Paul is not imagining that in this understanding he has rightly perceived the law; quite the opposite, as he dubs this orientation as “having confidence in the flesh.” The problem is, the flesh marked by the law, has become a principle unto itself.

In the masculine the symbolic order reigns supreme and the biological body is written over and made to conform to this semantic load. This is not really the problem of any particular group of people, but in Paul’s terms this is the universal problem. There is (in Eph. 2) the divided body which may refer to the individual (divided into mind and flesh in Eph. 2) or the division of gender, race, or social status. The divided body might be classed, as it is in Ephesians, as either circumcised or uncircumcised or elsewhere he will talk of male and female identity, but the point is that this division makes of the flesh a sign system, or a blank slate for inscribing the symbolic order of the law. Circumcised or uncircumcised is clearly the imposition of a sign system (the law), on the biological body. We know that male and female can also bear this same sort of cultural inscription in which the biological is overwritten with a meaning that is not inherently part of gender. To be female in Japan, for example, may bear a very different meaning than it bears in Korea or the United States. Female can be assigned the meanings of passivity, nurturing, or servitude, all of which bear meaning in a particular culture in conjunction with what it means to be male. So too, the idea with circumcision and uncircumcision is that it is a binary that is not simply a description of physical marks, but is a religious and ethnic division inscribed in the flesh (Jew/Gentile). Paul refers to it as a mind and flesh issue (2:3 – the very opposition which gives rise to the peculiarities of human desire).

Paul then calls this the “enmity of the flesh,” but of course inasmuch as Christ is going to destroy this enmity in his own flesh, the problem is not the flesh per se but the semantic load invested in the flesh. Paul describes this semantics of the flesh in connection to conforming to the world; a conformity in which death reigns, and which is controlled by the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2). He also speaks of a lust of the flesh, which he seems to connect to a spirit mind duality (Eph. 2:1-3). There is an antagonism, a sacrificial economy, that in both Walter Wink’s and Rene Girard’s description, predominates in human culture and religion. We can read Christianity as either fitting into and as a support of this sacrificial economy (divine satisfaction or penal substitution, or the oppression of women, or the “domination system”) or we can read it as disrupting this economy and order.

This principle or power (as Paul also refers to the same force) may be what Wink calls the domination system or the system of redemptive violence. As Slavoj Žižek describes it, redemptive violence is inscribed deep within the human psyche. The original sacrificial relation is established within the Subject (with passage through the mirror stage) between the imaginary (the ego or “I”) and the symbolic (the superego) which establishes the alienated distance from the real of the body. The passage is from being a body to establishing a symbolic distance from the body (and having a body): “The body exists in the order of having – I am not my body, I have it” (Organs without Bodies, 121). Self-consciousness arises simultaneously with the realization and refusal of the body and its mortal contingencies (sexuality/castration) so that the Subject arises over and against the real of the body. The symbolic or the soul “has to be paid for by the death, murder even, of its empirical bearer” (The Žižek Reader, vii). Žižek, following Paul, describes the process as giving rise to two bodies. That body which one might think can be reduced to the biological dimension is refused: the “subject turns away from her biological body in disgust, unable to accept that she ‘is’ her body” (Organs without Bodies, 93). Since “the body refuses to obey the soul and starts to speak on its own, in the symptoms in which the subject’s soul cannot recognize itself” she rejects the body (Organs without Bodies, 93). But this body that is rejected cannot be equated with the biological body as the body has already been overlaid with the symbolic “forcefully distorting its normal functioning” (Organs without Bodies, 93). So, there is the biological body and this second body: “The body that is the proper object of psychoanalysis, the body as the inconsistent composite of erogenous zones, the body as the surface of the inscription of the traces of traumas and excessive enjoyments, the body through which the unconscious speaks” (Organs without Bodies, 93). It is this second body, and not the physical or biological body per se, which the Subject struggles against and which makes up unconscious experience constituting desire. The biological body with its biological interests (wellbeing, survival, reproduction) is not at the center of the human Subject but the true “interior” is this second body.

When “we penetrate the subject’s innermost sanctum, the very core of its Unconscious, what we find there is the pure surface of a fantasmatic screen” (Organs without Bodies, 93). Žižek describes the rise of this screen of the fundamental fantasy as an attempt to “outpass myself into death” (Tarrying with the Negative, 76). One hastens to assume death in the form of the letter or symbolic (“potentially my epitaph”) in order to avoid it (Tarrying with the Negative, 76). The dead are immortal in that they are no longer subject to dying, so identity through the dead letter achieves an enduring (immortal) identity.

As we see further on (in chapter 2 of Ephesians) Christ is going to resolve the various antagonisms of the flesh in his flesh, or as chapter 1 concludes through his body. The unity of the body is achieved in the incarnation (it is precisely our tendency toward a disincarnate dualism that is overcome). Paul describes a present tense resolution through Christ’s resurrection and ascension and the Christian participation in the same (Eph 2:5–6). Death is marked by the division within the body, but Christ overcomes this division, as can those “in Christ” – in and through the body of Christ.

Though he does not use the word flesh in his description of “works,” Paul is clearly talking of the flesh. Circumcised or uncircumcised, or keeping the works of the law, is a matter of maintaining the signs in the flesh of Jewish ethnicity, the most important of which is circumcision. Where we are caught up in the law, in the symbol system, of being Jew or Gentile, or taking on the identities of the flesh that depend upon division, love is incapacitated (precisely the “work” for which we were made and toward which Paul is aiming).

Giorgio Agamben and Žižek both provide a picture from Romans 7, which explains how law can potentially create an obstacle to love. In Paul’s illustration (in 7:1-3), Paul describes a masculine orientation to the law with the husband of the woman representing the law. The woman that has a husband is bound by law to the husband. The woman’s relationship to her husband is the prototypical social obligation, marriage being the foundation of the family and of society, but it is also the prototypical love relationship. The problem occurs when these two are pitted against one another; when “social life appears to me as dominated by an externally imposed Law in which I am unable to recognize myself … precisely insofar as I continue to cling to the immediacy of love that feels threatened by the rule of Law” (The Puppet and the Dwarf, 117). The law can only be said to “bind” when desire is in some way curtailed by the law. Love, understood as synonymous to this sort of desire, an element deep within the self which only refers to the self, can only experience the regulation of law as an imposition on the true nature of the self. The woman whose husband is alive, but who has fallen in love with another man, experiences the law as that which opposes her love. In fact, her love (her enjoyment or jouissance – evil desire) is here synonymous with sin (The Monstrosity of Christ, 273). Her notion that she is loved by her consort is, in turn, to imagine that deep within her is “some precious treasure that can only be loved, and cannot be submitted to the rule of Law” (The Puppet and the Dwarf, 117).

In Žižek’s logic of the exception (masculine sexuation), her “love” is a symptom of the prohibition and the prohibition has its force only in the exception. The exception, in Žižek’s view, could be seen as creating the rule. As in Kafka’s short story The Trial, Josef K. discovers that the elaborate system of the law which bars him from entering a certain door is actually built by himself for himself (Reader, 45). The law is a construct erected by and for those who stand outside of it. If the woman in Paul’s illustration were to love her husband and not consort with other men, and if this were the universal case, the law would “disintegrate.” The law functions in this sense like a psychoanalytic symptom: “A symptom … is an element that … must remain an exception, that is, the point of suspension of the universal principle: if the universal principle were to apply also to this point, the universal system itself would disintegrate” (The Universal Exception, 171). The woman, as the one who is subject to the law, represents an orientation of inherent transgression: “The subject is actually ‘in’ (caught in the web of) power only and precisely in so far as he does not fully identify with it but maintains a kind of distance towards it” (The Fragile Absolute, 148). The dynamic of sin is an identity caught up in a web which tightens its grip the more it is resisted. In Žižek’s description of the couplet law/sin, the law is a transcendent “foreign” force that serves to oppress what is perceived as the love relationship (The Monstrosity of Christ, 271). The law becomes an obstacle to be overcome in order for love to be possible.

Žižek’s point is that this sort of love is not agape love but rather a form of love or enjoyment (jouissance) in which the obstacle constitutes the (lost) love. The woman’s living husband is a necessary part of this sort of consorting, as he is the obstacle that makes the sexual relationship with the “other.” This construct is synonymous with sin: “‘Sin’ is the very intimate resistant core on account of which the subject experiences its relationship to the Law as one of subjection, it is that on account of which the Law has to appear to the subject as a foreign power crushing the subject” (The Monstrosity of Christ, 271). The Subject is attached to a “pathological agalma deep within itself” and it is attachment to this supposed exception or remainder that gives the law the specter of an oppressive foreign force (The Monstrosity of Christ, 271). There is a resistant core, a holdout or remainder on the part of the Subject: “The notion that there is deep inside it some precious treasure which can only be loved and cannot be submitted to the rule of Law” (The Monstrosity of Christ, 271). The deception or illusion that sin works is to construe the law as a closure of identity which by its very nature – its absoluteness – excludes love. Sin mediates the law as a power over and against love.

It is from the seeming failure of interpellation or the failure of universality to account for the exception that the totalizing symbolic takes hold. From one perspective it can be said “that the subject never fully recognizes itself in the interpolative call … and this resistance to interpellation (to the symbolic identity provided by interpellation) is the subject” (The Indivisible Remainder, 165). The woman consorting with her lover only understands herself over and against the law, while she may imagine her relationship to her lover in some way pre-exists her relationship to the law. “Is not this hysterical distance towards interpellation … the very form of ideological misrecognition? Is not this apparent failure of interpellation … the ultimate proof of its success … that is to say, of the fact that the ‘effect-of-subject’ really took place” (The Indivisible Remainder, 166)? Ideological interpellation, from the Subject’s perspective, might appear to be relieved or in some way mitigated if the Subject simply maintains a cynical distance towards the interpolating power. The woman in Paul’s illustration might say to herself, “I know the law says not to consort, but the law does not account for my true self.” “Hegel’s Beautiful Soul maintains a cynical, passive distance towards power, but this is precisely the power of interpellation doing its work” (Reader, 229–30).

We are made for good works, and this is love, a love that is not available through a misorientation to law. Paul assures us these works are not of the ethnic kind and not works that are foundational: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (2:10) – this is the foundation.

The Gentiles and Jews have a flesh problem (Eph. 2:11-13): near and far, inside and outside, excluded and included, citizens or aliens. Christ has undone the gauge of distance, and of inclusion and exclusion. He has suspended (καταργέω) the effect of the misorientation to the law.  If body (sῶma) is the Subject with the qualifiers of death and sin (“the body of sin and death” according to Paul) describing the orientation to the law, to crucify the body of sin so that it is suspended or brought to nothing (καταργέω) describes the profound reorientation brought about by participation in the body of Christ.

Christ has suspended this problem of the flesh:

“For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing (καταργήσας) in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace” (Eph. 2:14-15).

We can specify what Christ has done and how he has done it. In Wink’s terms, Christ has abolished notions of redemptive violence and he has defeated the domination system. There is an undoing of the violence of the law which has been coopted by sin and domination. This law plays out in nearly every realm of psychological and social life.

Relief is brought from the domination system of the family:

I believe Jesus was so consistently disparaging because the family in dominator societies is so deeply embedded in patriarchy, and serves as the citadel of male supremacy, the chief inculcator of gender roles, and a major inhibitor of change. It is in families where most women and children are battered and abused, and where the majority of women are murdered. In a great many cultures, men are endowed with the inalienable right to beat, rape, and verbally abuse their wives. The patriarchal family is thus the foundation on which the larger units of patriarchal dominance are based.[1]

There is an undoing of Jewish purity laws and the markers of inside and outside:

Table fellowship with sinners was a central feature of Jesus’ ministry. These sinners, notes New Testament scholar Marcus Borg, had been placed, or had placed themselves, outside the holiness code of Israel as it was being interpreted by certain circles in first-century Palestine. To include such outcasts in the realm of God was to reject the views of those who valued separation from the uncleanness of the world. Jesus’ table fellowship with social outcasts was a living parable of the dawning age of forgiveness.[2]

The gender divide is defeated, as male and female are no longer a mode of securing identity:

Respectable Jewish men were not to speak to women in public; Jesus freely conversed with women. A woman was to touch no man but her spouse; Jesus was touched by women, and touched them. Once, a prostitute burst into an all-male banquet, knelt at Jesus’ outstretched feet, and began to kiss them, washing them with tears of remorse and relief, wiping them with her hair and anointing them with oil. Despite the shocked disapproval of the other men, Jesus accepted her gift and its meaning and took her side, even though she had technically rendered him unclean and had scandalized the guests (Luke 7: 36– 50).[3]

Jesus’ system, the ontology or ground of his work, is one of peace and nonviolence:

Jesus rejects violence. When his disciples request permission to call down fire from heaven on inhospitable Samaritans, Jesus rebukes them (Luke 9: 51– 56). Instead of praising the disciple who, in an attempt to save Jesus from arrest, cuts off the ear of the high priest’s slave, Jesus reacts: “No more of this!” (Luke 22: 51)— an injunction the church took literally for the next three centuries. According to Matthew, Jesus says, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matt. 26: 52).[4]

In place of a system of division, hierarchy, and domination, a system of equity prevails, beginning with a different economy:  

The gospel of Jesus is founded on economic equity, because economic inequities are the basis of domination. Ranking, status, and classism are largely built on power provided by accumulated wealth. Breaking with domination means ending the economic exploitation of the many by the few. Since the powerful are not likely to abdicate their wealth, the poor must find ways to overcome the Domination Epoch from within.[5]

In short there is an ending of the domination system:

The words and deeds of Jesus reveal that he is not a minor reformer but an egalitarian prophet who repudiated the very premises of the Domination System: the right of some to lord it over others by means of power, wealth, shaming, or titles. In his beatitudes, his healings, and his table fellowship with outcasts and sinners, Jesus declared God’s special concern for the oppressed.[6]

The real world defeat of the violence of the flesh inscribed with the law is accomplished in the suspension of this violent “ontology” and economy in the unifying peace of the body of Christ – this is the work for which the body was made.


[1] Walter Wink, The Powers That Be (p. 76). Potter/Ten Speed/Harmony/Rodale. Kindle Edition.

[2] Wink, 73-74).

[3] Wink, 69-70.

[4] Wink, 68

[5] Wink, 66.

[6] Wink, 65.

Real Presence as Opposed to Deferred Meaning

Japanese is a language suited to a people concerned to gauge response (agreement or disagreement), and aiming to gain consensus, in that the meaning of a sentence is not clear from the beginning or middle but only becomes clear at the end. The statement can be turned to a negation, a question, or the subject changed all-together according to the ending of the final word of the sentence. What might seem a bold declaration can be turned round, softened, or negated, depending on how it is being received. Jacques Derrida saw this deferral of meaning as characteristic of writing and language in general, so that the entire signifying chain holds out a meaning that is deferred so that the subject/Subject is continually being uncoiled in speech.

Just as in Japanese, faced with a run on sentence, the meaning or substance of speech is always in process but never arriving. Derrida tried to capture this in his neologism “différance,” in which the changed vowel cannot be detected from the way it sounds. What the added letter indicates is that language is built on difference: the different letters and contrasting sounds or the different meanings of words compared to other words creates meaning, so that it is only through contrast and difference that meaning unfolds along an endless signifying chain. To attach some substantive element, some final meaning, or some essence or presence to the Subject speaking due to his speech, contains the deception inherent to language.

An object endures through time due to its static nature, but language does not endure but rather passes away as soon as it arises. It has no enduring being. One who is coming to his identity in and through language is subject to the fate of language. Thus, what Derrida means by his new word concerns the death dealing nature of language: “The a of différance, thus, is not heard; it remains silent, secret and discreet as a tomb: oikesis.”[1] Tomb in Greek, oikesis, is akin to the Greek oikos (house) from which the word “economy” derives. Thus, to dwell in the house of language is to dwell in the house and economy of death. “And thereby let us anticipate the delineation of a site, the familial residence and tomb of the proper’ in which is produced, by différance, the economy of death.”[2] A Subject put into pursuit of an object, or identity as an object (the ego, or the notion of an enclosed self-subsistent center), through language is involved in an impossible contradiction.

Jacques Lacan would do for the human psyche what Derrida did for the text, finding there the pursuit of identity and presence through a three-sided play of language.  Following Freud, he finds in the compulsion to repeat a key to human self-destructiveness. Where Freud grounded the compulsion in a biological need to return to the stable material realm, Lacan explains the compulsion as arising from language and the struggle to establish the self in and through language. Lacan connects the compulsion to repeat to the ‘insistence of the signifier’ or the ‘insistence of the signifying chain’ or the insistence of the letter as a means to establish the self. To be present to the self or to have a self-presence gives rise to the compulsion to repeat so as to gain the self. He connects the compulsion to death in the “death drive” or “death instinct.”[3]

In the death drive one would be integrated into the signifying chain, converting the word into flesh (body and ego), simultaneously immortalizing the flesh through the word and its endless play. Thus, Lacan concludes the death instinct is “the mask of the symbolic order” of language (Seminar II, 326). The death instinct is the “insistence to be” through language.

Lacan, followed by Slavoj Žižek, considered his explanation of the human psyche as an extrapolation from the Apostle Paul. Paul is laying out this framework primarily in Romans, but is building upon the Hebrew Scriptures, dealing with the fall, with the law, and picturing both the human predicament and its resolution in Christ as arising from the economy described in Scripture. The knowledge of good and evil, the law, idolatry, or simply the “letter” in Paul’s depiction, kills. In the language of cabalists, Adam makes knowledge his own destiny and his own specific power.[4] So too with Paul, the law is not inherently deadly but the tendency is to reify it or make it substantive and by this means lend substance to the one who takes up the letter. The letter kills as no life or Spirit is to be found in the letter of the law.

Another approach to the same idea is to be found in the spectacle of the idol. The idol (the visual) is invested with substance through language. It is made a divine spectacle, not because the wood or metal from which it is crafted contains peculiar properties, but because it is invested with divine power through language.

A way of putting this that taps into the entire biblical economy is that God’s presence is displaced where the letter, where the knowledge of good and evil, or where the idol displaces that presence. That is, the economy of presence and absence which Derrida, Lacan, and Žižek, attached primarily to language is an economy that originally pertains to God’s presence. The letter kills as it cannot produce the presence which comes from God alone.   

In the economy of the Bible, the presence or absence of God is determinative of success or failure and is equated with life or death or truth and lies. From the opening verses of Genesis, God’s presence in the Garden represented by the Tree of Life, and by his walking in the Garden in the “cool of the day,” means all is well. With the entry of sin, access to God, to the Garden, and to the Tree of Life are cut off (Gen 3)

As the Psalmist indicates, “the nearness of God is my good” (Ps 73:28). God’s presence is equated with life and joy (Ps 16:11) and there is nothing better than to “dwell in the house of the Lord” and to behold his beauty and “meditate in His temple” (Ps 27:4). The presence of God is portrayed throughout the Hebrew Scriptures as the equivalent of fulness of life and blessing. God assures Abraham, Moses, Jacob, and Israel in general that he will be with them, and so there is no cause for fear as they will endure and be successful. As God says to Moses, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest” (Ex 33:14).[5]

Likewise, salvation in the New Testament is equated with having access to the presence of God: “for through Him (Christ) we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father” (Eph 2:18); “in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him” (Eph 3:12). Partaking of the body of Christ (Luke 22:19-22), receiving the indwelling Spirit (Rom 8:9-11), entering the Holy of Holies (the very presence of God) (Heb. 10:19), and inhabiting the City of God, the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21) are all equated with salvation. This presence gives eternal life, peace, love, joy, hope, forgiveness, freedom from sin, and access to God in prayer.

However, what is meant by Christ’s or God’s presence, is not an instance of presence in general but it carries a peculiar and specific meaning in Scripture. The presence of God pertains to God’s indwelling and active presence, comingled with the person in whom this presence is manifest. The presence of God is equated with the Gospel, with grace and with truth. It is “constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth” (Col 1:6). This presence has obtained a hold on believers: “Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you” (2 Pe 1:12). This presence is an ever-increasing reality culminating in the final presence or Parousia of Christ but present now in and through the believers: “For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming?” (1 Th 2:19). As the saints “increase and abound in love for one another” they are established “without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints” (1 Th 3:12–13). In and through his presence a process of sanctifying preservation is enacted which will be secured with the final Presence/Parousia: “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Th 5:23). There must be an active pursuit of this abiding presence: “abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming” (1 Jn 2:28).

God’s presence is not simply an effect of language, the absorption of or in an idea, or the repetition of a divine formula. Nor is God’s presence simply that God is nearby. God’s presence accomplishes what the failed pursuit of the letter attempts. The human word made flesh, ossifies, entombs, and kills while God’s Word made flesh brings about the comingling of the divine and human. In the same way that Jesus Christ is both God and man, so too those who take on his identity experience this hypostasis.

Maximus the Confessor’s description of the person of Christ describes the manner in which there is a real presence in the life of every believer:

He does the things of man,according to a supreme union involving no change, showing that the human energy is conjoined with the divine power, since the human nature, united without confusion to the divine nature, is completely penetrated by it, with absolutely no part of it remaining separate from the divinity to which it was united, having been assumed according to hypostasis. (Amb. 5.14)

He assumed our being that we might assume His, joining together His Spirit as the substance of our life and His body as our continued incarnation of the Word. Through this Word Christians “become partakers of the divine nature” (I Pet. 1:4) and escape the corruption of His absence.

(Sign up for our next class beginning January 30th: Philemon and Ephesians: Forgiveness and Reconciliation in Paul https://pbi.forgingploughshares.org/offerings)


[1] Jacques Derrida, Différance, translated by Alan Bass, Margins of Philosophy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982), pp 3-27.

[2] Ibid.

[3] The prime example of the drive to establish the self through language, inclusive of the deployment of language to establish being, and the impossibility of the enterprise is captured in Rene Descartes’s cogito.

[4] Giorgio Agamben, The Coming Community, Translated by Michael Hardt (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993) 80.1.

[5] God’s presence is connected to the ark of the covenant, so that wherever the ark goes God is present, as in aiding in the defeat of an enemy (I Sam. 4:6-7). The particulars of how his presence manifests varies. “He can come in dreams (Gn. 20:3; 28:13), in more or less veiled theophanies (Gn. 18:1 ff.; 32:25 ff.; Ex. 3:2 ff.; 24:10 ff.; 34:6 ff.; Ps. 50:3), in the cloud . . . in visions at the calling of the prophets (Is. 6:1 ff.; Jer. 1:4 ff.; Ez. 1:4 ff.), in the storm, in the quiet breath (1 K. 19:12 f.), in His Spirit (Nu. 24:2: Ju. 3:10; 11:29; 1 S. 11:6; 19:20), with His hand (1 K. 18:46), in His Word (Nu. 22:9; 2 S. 7:4; 1 K. 17:2 etc.). The messiah is expected to come in history Oepke, A. (1964–). παρουσία, πάρειμι. G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley, & G. Friedrich (Eds.), Theological dictionary of the New Testament (electronic ed., Vol. 5, p. 861). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

“You Are Gods”: The Satanic Version

The point of Jesus’ statement, “You are gods” (John 10:34) might be summed up as theosis or being found “in Christ” or being filled with the Holy Spirit. That is, the explanation is inclusive of the New Testament doctrine of salvation. Christians, as Peter says, are “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4) and so participate and are in union with God. The yeast that is integrated and assimilated into the whole batch of dough is divine. The union between a husband and wife marks the mystery of human and divine union (Eph. 5). As Irenaeus puts it, “For it was for this end that the Word of God was made man, and He who was the Son of God became the Son of man, that man, having been taken into the Word, and receiving the adoption, might become the son of God.”[1]  Or as Athanasius succinctly put it, “He became man that we might become god.”[2] This may sound demonic, or at least Jesus’ contemporaries thought so: “Many of them were saying, He has a demon and is insane. Why do you listen to Him?’” (Jn. 10:20). Isn’t this demon talk or a near reduplication of the serpent’s temptation in Genesis? 

The opposite of biblical deification, at least in the church fathers, is not what moderns might imagine post-Nietzsche, when we hear, “You are gods.” That is, we might think the satanic version is simply to say the same thing again, perhaps in a slightly different register (and without all the qualifications that have been made in order to help Jesus express himself better). The statement may conjure up images of Nietzsche’s superman, or of a completely autonomous individual – the captain of his own soul, churning out values and determining his world. We may imagine a kind of irreligion or atheism which gains freedom and power in throwing off all belief.

Even in the negative assessment of the statement we may be missing the original sense, as in, “If there is no God, everything is permitted.” The supposed statement of Dostoevsky (it is actually Sartre misquoting The Brothers Karamazov) attributes a potency, hedonistic though it may be, to disbelief. Whether in its positive atheistic Nietzschean guise (“wiping the horizon clean,” etc.) or in its negative conservative ideological form (presuming religion and transcendental authority are necessary to set limits to human evil), there is a presumed freedom, either liberating or dangerous. In being god and displacing God, in this misunderstood demonization, there is a presumed empowerment that is fundamentally mistaken, and the error is exposed at multiple levels.

As Jacques Lacan put it, reversing Dostoevsky’s formula: “If God is dead nothing is permitted.” On its surface this may ring hollow, but the evidence Lacan is observing in the clinic is universally available. People are sick, twisted, and mentally ill. They kill themselves at almost the same rate they kill one another. People live under deadly constraints so that death is often the only option. Violence is not a choice but a necessity: there is random violence, national violence, religious violence, political violence, familial violence, or entertaining violence, but violence is the necessity that orders people’s lives. It may not be an overt physical violence, but simply a description of the life of the individual. Intrusive thoughts reduce many to marionettes controlled by their sick conscience which takes obscene delight in not allowing a moment’s rest. Of course, the conscience torturing them is their conscience – and any pleasure had in the sickness involves the ongoing suffering of the individual inflicting the pain. The more pain, the more divine satisfaction, so that one is continually working toward satisfying the god/voice in the head.

The source of this voice may be communal or individual, religious or irreligious; it matters not. The hedonistic command to enjoy is as deadly as the puritanical command to abstain from enjoyment. The command to sacrifice may come from the gods or it may come from the neighbor’s dog. The sacrifice may be the sacrifice of the first born, the sacrifice of a virgin, the sacrifice of the soldier, or the pedophile’s child sacrifice. People are sick, but they are not sickened by freedom but by enslavement. The gods they serve, personal or corporate, hedonistic or puritanical, demand constant vigilance, constant sacrifice, and human life is mostly spent in futile servitude to what is nonexistent.

Though Nietzsche railed against the slave religion of Christianity, he too succumbed to mental enslavement and ended his life a drooling idiot. The fact that his mental break came at the sight of a man beating a horse, indicates it was not freedom but human cruelty and evil – and perhaps the cruelty he inflicted upon himself – which he could not endure. The Übermensch turns out to be a pitiful wreck, and we live in the wake of this presumed freedom which induced an even heavier dose of enslavement. But the issue was never religion versus irreligion, or atheism versus theism.

In fact, one way of characterizing Jesus’ statement and the faith of the New Testament is as a form of irreligion (only a slight misnomer). The Romans presumed Christians were atheists, because they refused worship of the Roman gods. Judaism and Christianity are both characterized by their rejection of any form of idolatry (the only form of religion for much of the world). But Jesus statement gets at the fact that idolatry per se is not the root of the human problem (isn’t he guilty, one might ask, of the very idolatry Judaism condemns?). The Jews accuse Jesus of the worst form of irreligious blasphemy in claiming equality with God. Saul persecuted Christians for the same reason his Pharisee brothers accused Jesus of blasphemy.

Humans are enslaved, but what they are enslaved by is a deadly orientation, lust, or drive, which might take an infinite variety of forms. Paul characterizes it as an orientation to the law, in which the Jewish law is only a particular instance of the universal problem. His point to the Judaizers in Galatia is that a return to Judaism is the equivalent of a return to idolatry. The weight of the law might be felt in the inclusion/exclusion of the Jewish law, but this wall of hostility is not peculiar to Jews. It is not simply a “Jewish problem” or a “religious problem” but is the universal problem of suffering under the hostile condemnation of law.  

To imagine God is doing the condemning, in the case of Jesus (and otherwise), is to miss the obvious fact that the world powers of Jerusalem and Rome are doing the torturing and killing of Christ. The killing of Jesus – revolving around his claim to deity – marks the source of the problem and the victim. The necessity to kill Jesus arises due to their respective gods. In Roman religion and Jewish religion, God incarnate must be killed to preserve the religion.

Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor arrives at the same conclusion when Jesus happens to show up at the inquisition in Spain. After healing the sick and raising the dead, the Inquisitor has Jesus arrested and that evening enters his cell, so as to explain why the Church must burn him at the stake. Where Jesus had resisted the temptations in the wilderness, it is precisely those temptations which the Roman Church has utilized to steal human freedom. The Church will offer bread in exchange for worship: “give man bread and he will bow down to you, for there is nothing more indisputable than bread. But if at the same time someone else takes over his conscience – oh, then he will even throw down your bread and follow him who has seduced his conscience.” While freedom of conscience may be the lure, “there is nothing more tormenting” than this freedom. The Inquisitor explains to Jesus that his prime mistake was to imagine there were others like him, able to bear the weight of deity. In refusing the miracle of leaping off the Temple, you wrongly presumed “there are many like you” but “you did not know that as soon as man rejects miracles, he will at once reject God as well, for man seeks not so much God as miracles.” The Inquisitor explains that Jesus has expected too much of people, and luckily the Church has stepped in where Jesus failed. But now that Jesus has shown up, he must be silenced lest he presume to speak and interfere with the established religion of the Church. Everything has been handed over to the Church and now belongs to the pope, and “you may as well not come at all now, or at least don’t interfere with us for the time being.” [3]

The weight of freedom is too much so that enslavement to religion, to gods, or to human hierarchy, is the price most are willing to pay, faced with the responsibility Jesus places upon them. Better the self-binding enslavement of the common human condition; the condemnation Paul describes in Romans 7 and which the New Testament characterizes as both Jewish and pagan, which pertains to a human problem not a God problem.  

To call it a legal problem, with Luther and Calvin, or to simply say it is a problem internal to the law, misses the point. The problem of the law is not a problem contained in the law but in people; in those who imagine life, identity, salvation, and being are in the law. But this law may consist of corporate or individual dictates. It may be a corporate law, as in the Kara tribe in which all babies whose top teeth come in before their bottom teeth must be killed, or it may be an individual compulsion to be tortured or to torture kill, rape or maim. It may be another that is destroyed, or it may be that the fervor or compulsion is directed at the self. What law is not the primary concern and abolishing the law is not the primary concern, but suspending the punishing effects of a particular orientation to the law is the point of the gospel.

But at this point the Lacanian and Dostoyevskian dictates may fold into one another. Nothing is permitted and everything is permitted may simply be two sides of the same coin. The law, individual or corporate, from God or from the individual, touches upon a drive which knows no limits and yet must be served unto death. To call this a religious or atheistic problem in our present circumstance is to miss the point that religionists and hedonists may serve the same god. Or should we imagine that Catholic and evangelical pedophiles and sex perverts, saved as they are, consist of a higher quality pervert than those dirty hedonists?

The difference may be that the religious perverts, unlike the Harvey Weinsteins of pagan Hollywood, have the corporate protection of the church to keep their proclivities from coming to light. Who is more enslaved and degenerate, the lone individual driven to sexual violence under the obscene command to enjoy, or an institution that produces and protects such an individual? Nothing is permitted on one side of the coin, but underneath all things are permitted, but both arise from the same destructive obscenity. As Slavoj Žižek has put it in regard to the Roman Church, “You must not have sexual pleasure, but you may enjoy all the little boys you desire.” Or as mega pastor Ted Haggard put it to Larry King, though he had heatedly preached against homosexuality and was then caught in a homosexual affair, “You know Larry . . . Jesus says ‘I came for the unrighteous, not for the righteous . . .’ So as soon as I became worldwide unrighteous, I knew Jesus had come for me.” Nothing is permitted and thus everything is permitted, but the same oppressive force reigns on both sides of the coin.

All of this to say, the satanic version of “you are gods” is to blind one to the source of life available in God and Christ, and the inherent moral responsibility this entails. The satanic lure is bent on selling a mediating knowledge in place of knowing God directly. Partaking of the knowledge of good and evil results in hiding, shame and fear, with idolatrous religion emerging only many centuries later. The turn from God cannot be described as empowerment (even of the evil kind). It is not the attainment of agency and freedom, but the turn to murder, mayhem and uncontrollable lust. But religion or irreligion may consist of the same punishing gods, and the point of “you are gods” is to not only name the idol, but the deep grammar from which it arises. In the context in which Athanasius and Irenaeus explain divinization this is their point. 

In leading up to his succinct statement (“He became man that man might become god”) Athanasius notes, “The barbarians of the present day are naturally savage in their habits, and as long as they sacrifice to their idols they rage furiously against each other and cannot bear to be a single hour without weapons.”[4] He describes a fearful and enslaved people who are subject to gods of their own making, but these are not deities that empower but which enslave to warfare and violence. The turn to Christ and deification is aimed at relieving humankind of its impotency in the face of the demonic gods they have manufactured. “But when they hear the teaching of Christ, forthwith they turn from fighting to farming, and instead of arming themselves with swords extend their hands in prayer. In a word, instead of fighting each other, they take up arms against the devil and the demons, and overcome them by their self-command and integrity of soul.” They gain self-command by putting off their worship of idols and, in that wonderful turn of phrase, “they turn from fighting to farming.”[5] In realizing they are made for divinity they turn from demonic warfare to the creation care of the original dominion mandate.

Irenaeus, in his explanation of divinization and “you are gods,” points to the same impotency and enslavement. Those who miss the deity of Christ and assert, “He was simply a mere man” remain “in the bondage of the old disobedience” and “are in a state of death having been not as yet joined to the Word of God the Father, nor receiving liberty through the Son, as He does Himself declare: If the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed” (Jn. 8:36). If they do not receive “the incorruptible Word, they remain in mortal flesh, and are debtors to death, not obtaining the antidote of life.” Irenaeus references both John 10 and Psalm 82, and explains that it is those “who despise the incarnation of the pure generation of the Word of God” who thus “defraud human nature of promotion into God.”[6] By refusing the Word of God and participation in deity they remain in the sickness unto death, and this constitutes subjection to the one who wields the power of death.

(To register for our next class “Reading the Bible in Community” starting the week of September 26th and running through November 18th register at https://pbi.forgingploughshares.org/offerings)


[1] Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.19.1.

[2] Athanasius, On the Incarnation, 54.3.

[3] Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, trans. by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1990) book V, 250-255.

[4] Athanasius, 52.2.

[5] Athanasius is commenting on Isaiah 2:4: “They shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into sickles, and nation shall not take sword against nation, neither shall they learn any more to wage war.” 

[6] Against Heresies, 3.19.1

The Word as the Fulness of Divine and Human Personhood: The Implication of Lacan and Žižek in Barth’s Theology

Karl Barth concludes that the Trinity, or who God is in his essence, is who he is in the three-sided aspect of revelation. “God’s Word is God Himself in his revelation.” The revelation of God is not something added to who God is, but this revealing is who he is and what is revealed in the revelation is God’s self. “For God reveals Himself as the Lord and according to Scripture this signifies for the concept of revelation that God Himself in unimpaired unity yet also in unimpaired distinction is Revealer, Revelation, and Revealedness.”[1] God is the one who reveals, and he is the content of this revelation, and is the means of this revelation being received. The work of the Father as revealer, the Son as what is revealed, and the Spirit in the reception and participation in this revelation is the center of the Christian faith.

Tied up in Barth’s doctrine of revelation and doctrine of God is his approach to epistemology and his stance toward modernism and foundationalism. Revelation is the foundation of the Christian faith (and not self-certainty); it is the objective reality and the subjective appropriation of this reality which constitutes the true. To limit revelation to a proposition, a fact, or reason (another foundation) may miss that what is being communicated is not separate from the means of communication. The revelation or Word is means, content, and appropriation. This is the sui generis point of departure. This does not stand under any other condition or criteria “but is itself the condition.” This is not a possibility to be realized by other means but is the “basis of all possible self-realizations.” “Above this act there is nothing other or higher on which it might be based or from which it might be derived unless it was from the transcendence of the eternal Word of God that came forth in revelation.”[2] Here is Subject, Object, and Predicate. Revelation is not a minus or plus: “it is not another over against God. It is the same – the repetition of God. Revelation is indeed God’s predicate, but in such a way that this predicate is in every way identical with God Himself.”[3]

Barth references and dismisses Cartesian certainty: “One might ask whether this Cartesianism is really as impregnable as it usually purports to be even on the philosophical plane.”[4] His point is to begin only with the certainty of the Word of God. This Word “does not receive its dignity and validity in any respect or even to the slightest degree from a presupposition that we bring to it. Its truth for us, like its truth in itself, is grounded absolutely in itself.” There is a sense in which this might describe the Cartesian or the modern project, but as Barth indicates the modern quest for certainty does not succeed. The procedure in theology, then, is to establish self-certainty in the certainty of God, “to measure it by the certainty of God without waiting for the validating of this beginning by self-certainty.”[5] Only subsequent to this beginning is there the possibility of self-certainty. But even to speak of a beginning, as if it is to be had apart from revelation, is mistaken. It is only in the knowledge of God’s Word that a beginning can be made.

As Barth explains, the movement is not apart from the revealing work of God, though there may be the continual drive to go beyond or below or above. “The position is not that we have to seek the true God beyond these three moments in a higher being in which He is not Father, Son and Spirit.” This would amount to a denial of – an objectifying of the one who is subject. “Here, too there is no Thou, no Lord. Here, too, man clearly wants to get behind God, namely, behind God as He really shows and gives Himself, and therefore behind what He is, for the two are one and the same.” This objectifying of God, making him something other than the subject he is would reduce God to a misconstrued human subjectivity. “Here, too, the divine subjectivity is sucked up into the human subjectivity which enquires about a God that does not exist.”

Barth does not spell out or relate how it may be a failed human subjectivity that tends to objectify and reduce the divine subject, but this is implied. It is only in a healthy human subjectivity that the fulness of the divine subject can be apprehended. “For man community with God means strictly and exclusively communion with the One who reveals Himself and who is subject, and indeed indissolubly subject, in His revelation.” Something less than Trinity would fall short of the divine subject, but would fall short of any form of what it means to be subject. “The indissolubility of His being as subject is guaranteed by the knowledge of the ultimate reality of the three modes of being in the essence of God above and behind which there is nothing higher.” God is relational as part of who he is, and this relationality is synonymous with his revelation and relation to us. Who he is as Father, Son and Spirit is inclusive of revelation and there is nothing beyond or nothing further than this Threeness. This is what it means to be a subject. “Our God and only our God, namely, the God who makes Himself ours in His revelation, is God.”[6]

This capacity for relationship, for self-giving, and for inter-mutual participation names not only the divine subject, but explains what a subject or person is (including what the human subject consists of) and was made for. The relational or personal core of revelation is inclusive of the rational or propositional but these are part of what it means to be personal. The experience of the Word involves a person-to-person relation, but the human side of this exchange is established in the process. “The determination of man’s existence by the Word of God is created thus; it is determination by God’s person.”[7] God with us is God for us in the full sense, in that this is the meaning of human personhood. “God’s Word is not a thing to be described nor a term to be defined. It is neither a matter nor an idea. It is not ‘a truth,’ not even the highest truth. It is the truth as it is God’s speaking person. It is not an objective reality, in that it is also subjective, the subjective that is God.”[8] God is present in what he says and this presence is the only form of self-presence we have.

This self-presence of the Spirit of God, God’s revealedness, is “not so much the reality in which God makes us sure of Him as the reality in which He makes Himself sure of us, in which He establishes and executes His claim to lordship over us by His immediate presence.” Apart from this presence there is only a striving for self-presence and a striving for a real word. Only through the Holy Spirit can man “become a real speaker and proclaimer of real witness.”[9] Though Barth is not here drawing out the contrast between futile striving for and fruitful reception of personhood, the alternative is posed. “The Spirit guarantees man what he cannot guarantee himself, his personal participation in revelation.” Beyond this, this personal participation is a realization or fulfilment of the personal. This “Yes” to God’s revelation “is the Yes to God’s Word which is spoken by God Himself for us, yet not just to us, but also in us.” The fulness of faith, knowledge and obedience as they are realized in the Holy Spirit are nothing less than the realization of personhood. The implication is that apart from this Yes to God and revelation there is negation of the person.

As far as I know, Barth never develops a complete theory of language, or a fuller theory of the subject, beyond what he presents in this exposition of Trinity and revelation. Here is the word properly functioning, and the fulness of what it means to be a subject. However, entailed in his exposition is the implication of the dynamics of the subject apart from God. His sui generis notion of the Word points toward a similar sui generis structuring or attempt at structuring around the human word. His picture of the self-justifying and self-authenticating disclosure of God indicates the inward direction of human failure, in continual attempts at self-justification as means of having or being the self. The drive is not simply to do the right thing but to establish one’s existence. His depiction of God’s revelation as a repetition of God, indicates the prime human neurosis. The attempt to repeat the self or to have the self in repetition describes a key Freudian discovery. The compulsion to repeat is the drive to have life through a death-dealing process.  In his three-part picture of the Revealer, Revelation, and Revealedness, he indicates that the attempt to go beyond this is to arrive at nothing and this circulation of nothingness or absence amounts to a three-fold displacement of the Trinity.

In short, Barth sums up the reception of the Word with prolonged appeal to Romans 8, among other Scriptures. If one would reverse engineer Romans 8 or reverse engineer Barth’s depiction of revelation, and take out Christ, the Holy Spirit and Abba-Father, what is left is the dynamic described in Romans 7 (7:7ff). There is law, the split I, and the dynamic of death and the individual caught up in this dynamic which has lost control of the body and will (being ineffective against desire), and there is an overall incapacity resulting from the compulsion to be interpolated into the law. This dynamic of death (in Paul’s summary statement), in the estimate of Slavoj Žižek, sums up the psychoanalytic theory of Jacques Lacan.

In Lacan’s summation of his theory, he claims to be doing nothing more than following the working of language as the structuring principle of the human psyche. The dynamic interplay stemming from the fact that humans speak (as opposed to God speaking in Barth) produces the three-fold interplay making up the two sides of consciousness (the symbolic and the imaginary) and the unconscious self (the real). In Lacan’s depiction, language becomes the structuring dynamic of the subject through something akin to Barth’s subject, object, and predicate. The order of language marks the interplay of the three parts of the human subject in its orientation to the word. The one who speaks is the superego, the law, or something like the conscience (in place of the Father or the Revealer). The object of this speech is the ego or I (in place of Christ), who would establish itself in regard to the law. This dynamic between the superego and ego is the taking up of death (the displacement of the Spirit). In other words, the Barthian project indicates something like the futility of the project of Lacan and Žižek. In turn, the disease, suffering, and despair of Freud from which they are extrapolating, point to the Barthian depiction of the resolution. The word as the displacement of the Word describes the human dilemma, and the Word lifting up and filling the place of the word describes the cure.


[1] Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics: The Doctrine of the Word of God, pt. 1, eds. G. W. Bromiley and T. F. Torrance, trans. G. W. Bromiley, 2nd ed. (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1975), 295.

[2] Ibid. 118.

[3] Ibid. 299.

[4] Ibid. 195.

[5] Ibid. 196.

[6] Ibid. 382.

[7] Ibid. 205.

[8] Ibid. 136.

[9] Ibid. 454.