The Pathological Truth Journal

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Archive for April, 2013

With my husband’s passing I had to post an announcement on his Facebook page that he had died.  People liked that.  At first I assumed people believed my husband was joking (although he would not in such bad taste).  As I announced the funeral arrangements people liked those also.  On my own Facebook page I told my friends (mostly people I have known for years in real life) that my husband died and some of my struggles.  My friends liked those posts.

I realize that Facebook has changed the meaning of the word “like”.  I know that there are many facebook people who put out polls that say things similar to “if you like this post you mean cats.  If you post a reply you mean the answer is pudding. If you ignore my post you are a jerk”.  I am aware that Facebook has made you believe this is the minimum interaction to say that you acknowledge the hurt and offer your support.   However, when someone posts something a death, asks for prayers for someone enduring something awful or when the poster claims they went through something horrific then liking that post isn’t appropriate. This isn’t what liking a post means.  We use the Facebook term “like” as a verb (generally with the post details being the object).  This means someone who likes a post that someone has died enjoys that post, feels favorably toward it or was wishing previously that that the post happens.

Please use the Facebook like button responsibly and ask yourself if you should say you truly like something.

I have been going through my husband’s documents.  He had begun writing a few interesting pieces.  Drama in theology and scripture had always been a topic that had fascinated him.  He had hoped to do more work in that area.   My husband was mildly dyslexic.  I have tried to correct the major errors that I found as this was an unfinished work.  However, I found it interesting and it reminds me of speaking with him and how he tied together his love of the great philosophers and his love of God.


Theological Tropes:
The Structure Of The Spiritual Life

An attempt at a systematic theology by Rev. Gerard T. Sparaco


The origin of this present inquiry began more than twenty-five years ago with my first encounter with Plato.  The reading list for the fall semester of Freshman year at St. John’s College is dominated by the author.  Following Homer’s Illiad and Odyssey in seminar, the first work we read was Meno, followed by Phaedo, Theatetis, The Statesman, and of course The Republic and the Symposium.

Reading these works for the first time were one of the most confusing and frustrating experiences in my life.  There were two issues specifically that intrigued me.

The first was the very form of Plato’s writings.  Instead of laying out his philosophy in tightly argued prose, he chose rather to write in dialogue, as if he were writing a play.  Each interloquer played his particular role, asking questions and answering the questions Socrates posed to them.  These were  real people from the fourth century BC Greece whose identities were well know at the time of writing, but who were largely lost on readers today.

And sometimes, it seemed to me, the topic of the discussion would meander and take various unexpected twists and turns.  (But in general, it was far from what I was expecting philosophy to be.  later in the semester, when we began to read Aristotle, I felt more at home. )

Insight into why Plato chose the dialogue form for his writings was a topic of discussion.  It is meant to replicate the so-called “Socratic Method.”  Through questions and answers leading to even more questions, the reader was firmly placed in the process of enlightenment, to be trained how to think philosophically.  And, a productive way to read the dialogues is not necessarily to “capture” the concepts (to use an image from Theatitis), but to place yourself in the roles of the people in the dialogue other than Socrates.

This ran against what I was doing.  I wanted to try to understand everything Socrates was trying to say and truly understand his philosophy.  But, once I began to imagine myself as Meno asking about whether or not virtue can be taught or Alcibiades speaking about love in the Symposium, it made much more sense.  I was brought back into fourth century Athens and Socrates became more real to me.  It was written in dialogue form, one that mimics drama.

In  the second year of St. John’s we moved away from the Ancient Greeks into more familiar territory.  Much of the fall semester was occupied with copious readings and seminars on the Old and New Testaments with prolonged discussions on the Gospels.

What struck me about the gospels was all of the questioning.  This is most obvious in the Gospel According to John which is a series of questions.  Yes, Jesus preached more than he questioned, but the questions Jesus asked lead to the revelation of his very identity as God.

But much of my early reading of the Gospels, even during my time in seminary many years later, focused upon the words in the gospel as doctrinal propositions.  I focused upon the languages and tried to find the meaning behind the words, and thus understand why doctrines were formulated from such words.

It wasn’t until much later when I saw the forest for the trees.  I never really questioned why the gospels were written as they were.  The Evangelists, in wanting to proclaim Jesus Christ, didn’t write prose documents detailing their beliefs and decisions and teachings.  Rather, they chose to write about their witness of Christ in the form of a dramatic narrative with dialogue at the heart of the story.

As such, instead of focusing primarily understanding the words of Christ as sedes doctrinae, it became more productive to read Scripture as if I were one of the interloquers.  Instead of imaging myself as Christ, I put myself in the role of Peter, John, James, Judas, etc, and see Christ as they saw him.  In short, by placing myself in the narrative in one of the minor roles, Scripture began to open much much more to me.

Much reading the dialogues of Plato by placing yourself in the role of the audience, so does reading the Gospel as one of the initial disciples of Christ reveal a much more clear understanding of who Jesus and what he has done for us.

This revelation should initially teach us that the spiritual life, the one where we follow the Lord, is basically dramatic in form with Christ as the substance.  In popular theology there existed mystery plays and others that would deal with the lives of the saints to edify popular piety, but Christian theology never really paid much attention to the dramatic narrative nature of revelation.

Early Lutheranism practiced an early form of narrative theology.   This can be seen chiefly in Martin Luther’s appreciation for music an hymnody and the seventeenth century theologian Johann Gerhard, who wrote his Examination on The Suffering And Death Of The Lord as a five act play.

It wasn’t until the twentieth century when narrative theology began to be formulated.  The earliest articulation of this hermeneutic arose out of the historical-critical method of biblical interpretation including Davis Strauss and Rudolf Bultmann.  They viewed the bible as literature and appreciated the literary form and style.

But their agenda of “demythologizing” scripture actually served in detracting in any real attempt at narrative criticisms.  Instead of inquiring into the literary merits and themes of Scripture, their work served only to speculate about the motives of the authors.

Narrative criticims as a viable hermeneutic was formulated by George Arthur Lindbeck

Advancing further, theologians began to look at the totality of the written works, and to notice similar patterns and themes in scripture.  Ultimately, an full-blown theological aesthetic was formulated by the Catholic theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar.

Ultimately, an full-blown theological aesthetic was formulated by the Catholic theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar.

(There is a break in the pages.)

What also struck me as strange was the constant discussion of “love” and “beauty.”  My prejudice as a seventeen year old wanting to read philosophy was that it dealt with big concepts such as “truth,” “God” and “being.”  It seemed to me at the time all this talk about “love” and “beauty” were a regression into junior high school discussions of crushes and the like.  But I learned that the heart of the Platonic dialogues is that “beauty” is a quality of being that reaches into you, changes you though love, and makes you a better person.

(There is a break in the pages.)

The importance of narrative criticism as a valid method for Scriptural hermeneutics.  Bathasar’s theo-drama.

His basis in Catholic theology lends a heavy emphasis upon a particular ontological foundation.  But the issue for Lutheranism is our basis upon a forensic theology.  Martin Luther’s Babylonian captivity of the church.