Author: Ambrose Andreano

On the Immaculate Conception

On the Immaculate Conception


First, I want to preface what I am about to say by stating that I do not believe in such a thing as “Marian doctrine.” That is, I reject the idea that we have doctrines about people other than God. For example, I do not consider the dogmatic expression Theotokos to be a “Marian doctrine.” This is rather a dogmatic Christological doctrine that also happens to concern Mary. We call Mary the “Mother of God,” not because it is a statement about Mary, but because it is a statement about Christ. This may not sound like a relevant distinction to make, but this could constitute a cosmic rift in how one approach the presence of Mary in doctrine. This leads to the Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, which is defined as the following:

The Immaculate Conception means that Mary, whose conception was brought about the normal way, was conceived without original sin or its stain—that’s what “immaculate” means: without stain. The essence of original sin consists in the deprivation of sanctifying grace, and its stain is a corrupt nature. Mary was preserved from these defects by God’s grace; from the first instant of her existence she was in the state of sanctifying grace and was free from the corrupt nature original sin brings. (Catholic Answers)

Catholics will also point to a supposedly implicit reference found in the angel’s greeting to Mary. Depending on the translation, the angel Gabriel said, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28). It is this “full of grace” part that will be argued to represent the idea that Mary was without the stain of Original Sin. However, it is beyond a stretch to suggest that the meaning is clear. It could simply refer to the special honor that Mary had in being the one selected to give birth to God. Also, there is no mention of Mary’s sin (or lack thereof) anywhere in the text. Therefore, because of the ambiguity, this verse should simply be left out of the conversation because it serves only to distract from the doctrinal assertions. I also want to avoid leaning on the authority of certain church fathers, because I am primarily interested in discussing the logical progression of the content.

The Immaculate Conception (if you notice) actually has nothing to do with Christ and everything to do with speculating about Mary (as a subset of Original Sin). The fact that the Immaculate Conception is about Mary, and not about Christ, makes the doctrine irrelevant to my practical life. Whether or not Mary was conceived without the stain of Original Sin has no effect on my life in church, my prayers, my Christology, or my salvation. It is superfluous to theology, and I speak as someone who loves theology. I cannot even call it a Theologumena because it is not an opinion about God. Perhaps it would be more properly called a Mariologumena. I disagree with the Immaculate Conception as a doctrine in of itself, not because it is a Catholic formulation. I have to make this clear, because there are many Orthodox Christians who reject the Immaculate Conception not because they have wrestled with it and simply disagree, but because they know it is Catholic, and they think they are supposed to reject anything that is Catholic. This is not my approach to things (and have even explicitly lamented this mentality here), so I wanted to lay out my own personal reasons for rejecting the Immaculate Conception (or at least how it is popularly articulated). Also, I do not write this to “stick it to the Catholics.”  I am not interested in rhetoric for rhetoric sake, I am only interested in throwing arguments in the furnace and see if it can withstand the heat or be consumed. I could be misunderstanding certain aspects of the teaching, so the responses will be helpful for me to further understand the opposing perspective.

The Theological Implications

In a YouTube video, Fr. Mike Schmitz compares the Immaculate Conception to the distinction between healing sickness and getting a vaccine. There is also another analogy that makes a distinction between saving people who fell into a pit, and saving someone who is about to fall into a pit. He said Mary was saved retroactively, “By the merits of her Son’s future life, death, and resurrection,” because Christ’s merits transcend time.  Christ chose to save all of us after we fell into the pit, but Mary was prevented from falling. Christ chose to save all of us after we were diseased, but chose to give Mary the vaccine. In other words, Mary is the exception, so I will name this concept “The Marian Exception.”

The Marian Exception (that Mary was retroactively saved from Original Sin) undermines what we know of God’s salvific plan, because it immediately reveals an alternative plan that is inherently better than what is. I can accept the notion that Christ’s salvific acts transcend time, obviously, because if they didn’t, then none of us could be saved (by virtue of not living in the first century). However, if it were possible for God to intentionally have Mary without the stain of Original Sin, then it is also possible for God to do it for others (unless one will admit that it is an act of natural process on the part of Mary rather than a monergistic intentionality on the part of God). And if this is true, then He would do it for others: not just because we already know that God’s will is that none should perish (2 Pet. 3:9), but also because there would be a whole lot less sin in the world because of it. Just imagine if everyone was like Mary; if everyone was given vaccines from the beginning; if God prevented everyone from falling into the pit, and saved everyone retroactively through the cross. This is the alternative plan I mentioned. If we grant that God does not need sin to accomplish His goals, and if we grant that less sin in the world is better than more sin, then is this plan not inherently better than the one which is revealed? Therefore, the Marian exception suggests that God intentionally chose to have more sin in the world, rather than less. God could have prevented everyone from having the stain of Original Sin, yet chose not to, and instead only did it for Mary. This is counter-intuitive to His own goals to make Mary an exception rather than the norm, as I have already demonstrated. If a Marian exception were possible, then He would do it for everyone. If everyone is not saved like Mary, then the exception is not possible. God would not choose to not save everyone retroactively if He could (simply because the outcome is better than the alternative). These are the only logical options based on the rules of revelation (ie: forming a developmental and rhetorical foundation based upon that which has been revealed). So we must ask the question: “If God had the option to retroactively save everyone without messing with free will, and we know He wants to save everyone, would God willfully go against His own interests just to make an exception out of one woman?”

We know that Mary did not have a unique nature because she died. Under the Athanasian paradigm, people die because they exist under the “law of death” in Adam. Thus, every human being is mortal, because every human being receives the words given to Adam: “ye shall surely die.” For one to be an exception to this actually undermines the entire framework. It would mean, for Athanasius, that God is a liar, and that such a person is somehow not in Adam. Therefore, if we grant the validity of this understanding, then the mere fact of Mary’s death proves that she inherited Adam’s nature (One might bring up Elijah and Enoch ((if one accepts the tradition of them not dying as being literal history)), but these two are eventually slain in Revelation 11).

I have also heard it said that Mary, at her conception, cooperated with grace in a unique manner such that no other individual before her did, and thus she was preserved from original sin from conception. This synergistic explanation being a response to understanding the Immaculate Conception in a monergistic sense. However, one cannot “cooperate” with God prior to one’s own conception (unless of course you believe in the preexistence of souls). It is the conception itself that would, in theory, transmit original sin. In such a framework, it would have to be God who actively spared her in an active monergistic sense (because nature precedes the conscious will). Will is an energy which eternally proceeds from desire (the essence of the fall was not a restriction of the will, but the cosmic shift in desire). “Desire” has to do with a subject’s potential steadfastness to commune with an object, whereas “will” is actualized communal steadfastness itself. Cooperation is an act of the will. The will (being an energy of desire) is influenced by nature (even though nature can be changed by the will if there is a shift in desire, as seen with Adam and Eve). Thus, my formulation would be Nature —> Desire —> Will (which is then repeated after the fall with a different nature, which leads to different desires and a blinded will). For Mary to have cooperated with grace from the beginning, she would have first needed a nature without original sin, which she could have no part in causing, since we have a nature before we have a will with which to cooperate with God.

These are just some quick thoughts on the matter because I was asked to write on this, so they are by no means set in stone. I could be mistaken in some of my rhetorical foundations/assumptions, so I welcome discussion and clarity.

On Forgiveness Vespers

On Forgiveness Vespers

You yourself are another little world, having within you the sun, moon and the stars.
– Origen

We are all Adam. We have all fallen from grace into the dark abyss of ego. The hellish outer darkness within the ‘self,’ when man removes his contemplation away from God, choosing to rather set his mind on things below (Col. 3:2). The bliss of Eden became sweat on our brows (Gen. 3:19), as we desperately try to keep up with the overgrowth. The truth of the matter is, Eden is within our heart. Contrary to something we can observe with our eyes, Christ said, “The Kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21). The heart is where God walks with man.

Even though we are all Adam collectively, it is also true on an individual level. There is a world within us. Within the heart of every human being is a garden—the remnants of an Eden that once was. Rotting fruit from a tree once lush, and a rotting tree from a fruit once plucked. The grass withers from green to gray; from clean to dismay. Who shall till the land and restore Eden once again?

If ever there were a magic incantation to grant eternal life, it would be, “Forgive me a sinner,” and “God forgives; I forgive.” When we bow to one another putting on Christ’s humility, saying those heartfelt words, we cooperate with God in working on restoring the inner garden within us and within the other. Eden is a dimension that can only be seen in the reflection of another’s eyes, and it can only be accessed in the prostration of our heart and through the baptism of our tears. One cannot see Eden if the heart does not bow lower than the knees. We need one another in order for Eden to manifest itself. In this sense, the waters of baptism stream from the eyes to purify our sight. Seeking and giving forgiveness is a means to extend our individual progress towards Eden to include the other, that their garden might not lag behind. The tree of life produces but one fruit, and it is one perpetually given in love by God and charitably shared; passed on from one to another that all may participate in putting the other before the self. Every bow in this life is a bite of that life. Little by little, plucking weed by weed, our forgiveness for one another will cause others to look with astonishment, saying, “The Kingdom of God is within you.”

On the Justice and Mercy of God

On the Justice and Mercy of God

St Irenaeus of Lyons says God is both good and just, because Marcion and the Gnostics wanted to separate these attributes into different gods. Marcion believes the god of the Old Testament was a god of only wrath and justice, and the Christ of the New Testament was a different god of only goodness and love. Irenaeus says that separating the attributes like this makes neither of them God, because how could there be justice without goodness, or goodness without justice? Irenaeus says God “saves those whom He should save, and judges those worthy of judgment. Neither does He show Himself unmercifully just; for His goodness, no doubt, goes on before, taking precedency.”[1] He then references the Scripture that says how God brings the sun and the rain to both the just and the unjust: which it is noteworthy that sunshine and rain are both considered blessings for an agricultural world, and yet one can nonetheless perceive judgment in the sun’s drought and the rain’s flood.

Now, the justice of God is an extremely complicated subject because of how justice is perceived and defined. For one, earthly retributive justice cannot be seen as an uncreated energy like love. Love is eternal and has always existed within the Trinity, but human justice is often understood as punitive and having reactionary contingency upon sin (and sin is a temporal (non)reality). However, the main complication of this topic is that though God is just, He is also not bound to our definition of justice. We might see some Pharisee going around killing holy men for being Christians, and we want God to bring the “justice” of execution. But what does God do? He spares murderer, converts him to Christianity, and has him write the majority of the New Testament.[2] When the disciples want to see God bring down the fires of judgment, what does God say? “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.”[3] When a woman is caught in adultery, deserving the just penalty for sin, what justice does God bring? The words “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”[4] So even though we can say God is just, this does not then mean His manner of justice will be consistent in all points with ours, because we should remember how the Lord says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.”[5] In other words, we can have the potential to interpret God’s merciful acts to unjust people, from our limited perspective, as God actually being unjust until that person gets what they deserve, which  is why the subject is so complicated. Therefore, perhaps God’s justice must be understood in a different and more transcendent manner worthy of God. Perhaps we should, as Origen said (concerning how to interpret the anger of God): “Think of God as He deserves to be thought of.”[6] This phenomenological dilemma concerning the justice of God is precisely what St Isaac the Syrian was referencing when he wrote:

How can you call God just when you come across the Scriptural passage on the wage given to the workers? “Friend, I do thee no wrong: I choose to give unto this last even as unto thee. Or is thine eye evil because I am good?” How can a man call God just when he comes across the passage on the prodigal son who wasted his wealth with riotous living, how for the compunction alone which he showed the father ran and fell upon his neck and gave him authority over his wealth? None other but His very Son said these things concerning Him, lest we doubt it, and thus bore witness concerning Him. Where, then, is God’s justice?—for while we are sinners Christ died for us! But if here He is merciful, we may believe that He will not change.[7]

St Isaac summarizes his point when he says, “Do not call God just, for His justice is not manifest in the things concerning you.”[8] In other words, St Isaac is saying Isaiah 55:8 should be ringing in our ears when we think about this topic. Therefore, we must ask ourselves what it really means when we say, “God is just,” because God does not seem to be just in His economic acts towards men—at least according to our earthly conceptions of justice. It seems a distinction is often unconsciously made between two distinct ages: the present age of mercy, and the eschatological age of justice. The way things are laid out in Scripture makes it appear to be so, but then again, Scripture also says, “Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgement.”[9] One ought to ponder whether such an economic separation is worthy of God or not. Is it proper to think of God as being only merciful in this life, and only just in the next? Or is there perhaps divine justice to be found in this age simultaneously alongside mercy? These are questions we all must intentionally seek to answer.

Penal Substitutionary Atonement

The idea that God is literally angry with mankind because of how much He hates sin and must be appeased, is common thought amongst the atonement theology of many Protestants. The logical progression goes something like: P1) God is good, P2) Justice is good, C) God is just. Thus, justice is attributed to God on the basis of His goodness. Building upon this logic, it then becomes the idea that P3) God is just, P4) Justice must condemn sin, C) God must condemn sinners by His very nature. Therefore, many conclude that God hates and condemns sin because God is just. However, there are some questions to be asked of this logic. For example, does God hate sin because God is just, or is God perceived as being just simply because He hates sin? Additionally, does God hate sin because God is just, or is it because God is good? Does justice always have to do with the simple condemnation of sin, or can the word have additional restorative meanings?

It is common to hear that sinners will be justly punished for their sins against God, but it is often thought that every individual sin must be justly punished with hellfire. The thought is that either the punishment for your sins is taken out on Christ by the Father, or the punishment will be taken out on you in hell (depending on whether or not one accepts Christ). However, death is the “just punishment” for sin, it just also happens to be consequential in nature. This is why God says, “Ye shall surely die,”[10] and why Paul says, “The wages of sin is death.”[11] It is not that there is a divine tally for all individual sins: each having the appropriate torment in hell or on the cross. The full just torment for sin is death (external corruption/mortality and the internal motion of being into anti-being), not additional external acts of torture fit for a crime. Irenaeus says in the garden, physical death was a mercy of God that sin not remain forever in man due to his immortality, while at the same time it was a punishment that man should experience the corruption of mortality at all. Related to this, resurrection is the main reason why hell can be seen as a just punishment, because there is no mercy of mortality, nor life in Christ—there is only a continuing death, which is the consequential punishment for sin. Sinners are ‘justly punished’ by death because sin is justly punished by death (in other words, sinners get what sinners deserve), and this has been the case since Adam.[12] The level of sin is subsequently punished by an equal level of spiritual judgment. Because of God’s declaration in Genesis, the consequence of sin[13] is the just retribution. God’s justice is ultimately a providentially poetic justice that occurs simultaneously when He is being merciful. It is far more profound and paradoxical than offering different modes of torture in hell depending on whether you stole a candy bar or murdered Jews. That is a human way of thinking unfit for the divine ways. If anything, at the very least, the standard goes the other way: based not on the presence of evil deeds, but on the absence of good deeds.[14]

Scripture says, “the wages of sin is death,”[15] because death is that which is received. This is likely also the explanation as to why we all must physically die despite also remaining in Christ. As far as how we experience the phenomenon within time, there is a kind of delayed and overlapping transition period between the former head of humanity and the new King, which to us feels like a stasis. In this sense, we die under the law of death in Adam to rise with the law of faith fulfilled in Christ.[16] This is why St Paul says, “Know ye not… how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?”[17] So long as we live in Adam and ancestral sin, we live under the law—most appropriately, the law of death. Paul then relates this phenomenon to that of a woman being freed from the law of marriage upon her husband’s death.[18] Therefore, we die justly in Adam under the law of death (but this is also mercifully for the sake of our being removed from under it), and rise in forgiveness through the law of faith[19]—the way a seed dies in order to resurrect anew. Assuming, of course, one has sanctifying life in Christ: living in obedience according to theosis. Otherwise, resurrection for the faithless is punishment, because there is no longer the mercy of death.

Jesus willing assumed the punishment that rested upon mankind for their sins, despite being Himself without sin and undeserving of the punishment for sin, which is death.[20] He did this to both 1) overthrow death in its physical finality,[21] and 2) to restore man from spiritual death by offering sanctifying union with the source of life.[22] When one says, “Jesus was punished for our sins,” that typically is understood among Protestants to be God the Father pouring out his wrath upon the Son because He is angry at the sins we have done. However, appeasing an angry Father is not an appropriate image, as St Gregory the Theologian once articulated.[23] Jesus suffered the punishment ‘of’ sin—which is death—but I would be wary of saying he was being punished for our sins, since this has too many misleading connotations. Many Christians interpret Penal Substitutionary Atonement to mean that Jesus is actively punished both in body and spirit by the Father so He could essentially turn a blind eye to us. They say Jesus was punished so we do not have to be. However, we still suffer the retributive consequences of sin precisely because we continue to sin. The crucifixion and resurrection does not remove this fact. At the beginning, Christ died because we die, but now we die, in a theological sense, because Christ (the Last Adam) died to rescue His beguiled Eve from the Serpent. He followed His Eve into her death, that He might, by His death, release and restore her from death. However, we do not have to be punished for sin in an eschatological sense, because Christ revealed “the way.”[24] Physical death is proof that we still suffer the consequential punishment of being in Adam.[25] If the cross means we no longer have to experience punishment in the sense that these people say, then we simply would not die—and yet we do.

One might ask, “What about spiritual death or personal sins? Did Jesus not suffer these on the cross too?” Jesus could not suffer spiritual death on the cross, because the judgment of spiritual death is an internal consequential result of personal sin, not an external torture device that can be inflicted upon a holy man. Mortality was the result of inheriting the consequential punishment of Adam, which Christ willingly undertook to purify (by His divinity) our mortal nature from within. To say Christ suffered inner spiritual death would necessarily also imply that Christ sinned, which we know He did not.[26] His death on the cross is what conquers mortality and releases mankind from the law of death. Spiritual death is something altogether different, and being freed from it requires a life of sanctifying communion with Christ. Punishment for spiritual sin can only be experienced by sinners themselves, because it involves the darkening of the soul. This is impossible for Christ, who is, as the Nicene Creed declares, “Light of light, true God of true God.”

Physical death is the punishment for sin in Adam (though it is also a mercy that sin won’t go on forever, like I mentioned before). Jesus did not die for personal sin in the way many Protestants think. He did not receive the ultimate punishment of personal sin, because, as I said, such punishment requires one to have personal sin. Jesus was able to receive Adam’s punishment of physical death because he was truly born a man as we are, but without actualized sin. Jesus adopted our transgression and “became sin” simply by becoming human and accepting death (the consequence of sin). He “lives” as a man without sin for the sake of synergistically rescuing man from personal sin, and He “died” as a man without sin for the sake of monergistically rescuing man from ancestral sin. Christ’s life is meant to usher us into the divine for inner healing, and Christ’s death and resurrection is meant to release us from bondage to the law of death that we may be resurrected into theanthropic life. When someone dies, it is within the simultaneous justice and mercy of God’s declaration to Adam that we “shall surely die” because of sin. It is in this sense that I say death is always justice being served, by nature. For example: Murderers die in body and soul: therefore, justice is served both for their personal sins (leading to the spiritual death of the soul), and for their being under the law of death in Adam (leading to bodily death). We are all sinners, therefore we all die physically as a consequential punishment for sin—being in Adam.

Jesus took on death, which is also the punishment of Adam. If Jesus did not willingly allow Himself to be killed, He would not have experienced the punishment of a mankind in Adam. Thus, Christ’s death was a receiving of punishment for our sin, because that is what “death” inherently is. The only difference is Jesus had to adopt the punishment in Adam because He had no sin for which to experience punishment in of Himself. The cross is about revealing the divine identity of Christ, and it exonerates the eschatological punishment of ancestral sin—for the faithful—through the punishment of physical death. Personal sin can only be forgiven by the grace of being in communion with Christ in His sinless life, “dying daily” to self,[27] with Him, in a personal martyrdom.

However, sin is not ultimately a legality. The legal metaphors in Scripture can only be stretched so far. Sin is not ultimately a judicial reality, it is an ontological reality that is sometimes described in legal terms. In other words, sins in the eyes of God are not the spiritual equivalent of crimes in the eyes of earthly authorities. Sin is anti-being: the deterioration of the human person. It is not something that can be “brought to justice” the way one imprisons a criminal. Because of this, justice is not about the proper condemnation of individual sins, it is about God allowing the fragmented state of the sinner to exist in a tormented mode equal to its own ontology. This is why Scripture speaks about God giving people over to uncleanness “through the lusts of their own hearts,”[28] and a “reprobate mind.”[29] Again it says, “I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own counsels.”[30] This is how we ought to define justice.

In this paradigm, Christ cannot be spiritually punished for the personal sins of others, because, as I said, experiencing the just punishment for personal sin first requires personal sin. For example, the punishment for alcoholism is a warped mind and a destroyed liver. This is how justice is exacted upon sin, because this is simultaneously how man gets what he deserves. Jesus would not receive such a punishment without Himself being an alcoholic. Jesus died in the place of a murderer, suffering the just penalty of a murderer, but Himself being without the personal sin/mental sickness of a murderer. However, one could say our personal sins are mystically attached to Christ’s death through the sacraments. Therefore we, in a sense, mysteriously impute our sins to the cross when we engage in baptism, the eucharist, confession, etc. Though, I would not say, as the Presbyterians do, that Christ “endured most grievous torments immediately in His soul,”[31] because I believe the torment of hell is ontological: experiencing such a judgment requires corruption of soul,[32] and we know from the Scriptures that Christ did not experience corruption.[33] There simply is no scenario where Christ ‘could’ experience gehenna and yet remain without sin. In other words, holy saints in heaven cannot be burned by hellfire even if they tried, because they already radiate with the fiery energies of God. How can fire burn fire? Therefore, experiencing hell and having personal sin are inherently connected, and is thus improper to describe the cross in this way.


It seems this train got derailed somewhere in history, and I suggest the crucial turning point is one of cosmology. It seems like the antagonist of the cosmological narrative shifted from the devil to humanity. Humanity is no longer seen by many Christians as primarily being the victim of the narrative that the hero must rescue (as expressed by St Irenaeus of Lyons[34]), but is instead humanity is typically seen as the main antagonist, with the devil doing some stuff in between. According to St Irenaeus, humanity, though corrupted, is primarily thought of as being the victim, not the perpetrator. Adam brought sin into the world,[35] but the antagonist of the Biblical narrative is not Adam, it is the Serpent—that is, the devil. Mankind suffered a spiritual snake bite, and the poisonous venom consumed everything. Irenaeus has what could be seen today as a surprisingly optimistic view of the fall, and paints a picture that makes us feel sympathetic for Adam and Eve. Irenaeus tells of a Creator doing all He can to salvage His creatures when he says the following:

God pronounced no curse against Adam personally, but against the ground, in reference to his works. As a certain person among the ancients has observed: ‘God did indeed transfer the curse to the earth, that it might not remain in man.’ But man received, as the punishment for his transgression, the toilsome task of tilling the earth and to eat bread in the sweat of his face, and to return to the dust from where he was taken… the curse in all its fullness fell upon the serpent which had beguiled them.[36]

Irenaeus also takes not of how, contrary to Cain’s response, Adam showed humility in his conduct. Adam hid himself immediately when he sinned, seized with terror, and feeling unworthy to appear before God. Contrast this with Cain’s irreverent speech with the Creator. Irenaeus also says that they could have used leaves that were less irritating on the body than fig leaves, but he instead dressed himself in a manner fitting for his disobedience. He also mentions how God interrogates Adam and Eve simply for the sake of getting to the Serpent, because God does not ask the serpent a single question. Irenaeus continues:

God detested him who had led man astray. But by degrees, and little by little, He showed compassion to him who had been beguiled.[37]

Then, with regards to Adam’s banishment from Paradise, Irenaeus says God pitied him:

[God] did not desire that he should continue a sinner forever, nor that the sin which surrounded him should be immortal, and evil unceasing and without remedy. But He set a boundary to his sin, by interposing death, and thus causing sin to cease, putting an end to it by the dissolution of the flesh, which should take place in the earth, so that man, ceasing at length to live to sin, and dying to it, might begin to live to God.[38]

Irenaeus helps us remember that God is being beyond being, and yet feels with and for His creatures, as Hebrews states.[39] In other words, God is not a justice machine programmed to keep tally and condemn every individual sin. He is rational, understanding of situation and context, and impartial.

Why bring up cosmology? My reason is because “justice” is not something we should see as God merely enacting upon human individuals, it is a notion which is applied on a cosmological scale with regards to the narrative of God’s ultimate defeat of the devil. This is why Christ says, fulfilling the words of the prophet Jeremiah:[40] “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.”[41] God is just, but not because he sends Billy the insignificant sinner to hell (such a notion is incredibly short-sighted from a Biblical perspective, especially in light of a first century Enochic cosmology), but because He, like His archetype David,[42] crushed the head of the Serpent (the devil and his angels) and rescued mankind from death.[43] Christ bound the Strong Man,[44] and plundered his house of us stolen clay vessels: for as Scripture says, “We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”[45] Scripture has a narrative, and we ought to pay attention to the roles of its characters. God is the hero, the Serpent is the villain, and we are ultimately the victims (who often get Stockholm Syndrome[46] and try to play the villain). Justice is something given to the afflicted and needy: it is their deliverance.[47] Therefore, it seems we must broaden our perspective of justice to include not just a mercifully redemptive element, but also the celestial bodies which war over our souls. Both the hero and the villain are fighting over us. We might, by choice, align ourselves with the devil and his angels (and are thus under the justice of God by consequence of will),[48] but God shows nothing but love, affection, and mercy to us until our last breath.

The Incarnation

However, lest one think cosmology was my central point, I must conclude my thoughts by adding one crucial twist: the cosmological battle between God and the Serpent; between light and darkness; between virtue and sin, and the final reconciliation between mercy and justice; God and man—is fulfilled in the incarnation. It is the kenotic incarnation that represents the interpretive lens for the whole story. Prior to the incarnation, man and God were separate. Human nature suffered the venomous spread of sin, and the transcendence of the apophatic divinity felt too distant. It is in the incarnation where God mercifully meets man. It is in His assumption of human nature (both body and soul) where the divine brings justice to and for man. He brings justice to man by purging him of sin and mortality, and He brings justice for man by purging the devil of any power over the will. Though, the devil does not realize his own hands have been bound until he eventually tempts Christ in the wilderness.[49] The devil also does not realize his house has been plundered until he sees how death cannot contain God (and consequentially, man). Christ does all of this simultaneously in His very nature: bringing justice while also showing merciful love to all men. Therefore, even though most people have a split perception of mercy and justice being separated by age, it seems possible that the justice and mercy of God work themselves out simultaneously even in this present age. In other words, instead of there being a conception of 100% mercy/0% justice for the wicked in this age, and 100% justice/0% mercy for the wicked in the age to come, it is possible that both mercy and justice are at 100% in both ages for both the wicked and the righteous, and the only reason the justice in the age to come will look different, is because of changes in creation and ontology.

The cosmology itself is merely a reflection and microcosm of the theanthropic person of Christ. Even the life, death, and resurrection of Christ is a microcosm of who He is in His person: the events themselves unraveling within time that which ultimately occurred in the womb. The events of Christ’s life can be understood as a continuing exposition of what took place the very moment God became man. The unraveling of His work, the inevitability of resurrection, the checkmate with the devil, and the revelation of His divinity to man were all finalized at His death. The cosmological story, then, in all its magnitude, begins within the theanthropic person of Jesus Christ, and it flows from Him to us for our communion and contemplation. As the Lamb who was slain for us says,[50] “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you,”[51] and again He says, “Abide in Me, and I in you.”[52] In this way, as we meditate on the law of the Lord day and night,[53] we might then set our affections on the holy things above, not on things of the earth, that we may ascend with purity of heart to gain entrance into experiencing these divine truths.[54]

In the wake of Christ’s victory in the womb, there was one man who truly understood the magnitude of what took place, and congratulated the arrival of the conquering King for His cosmological victory. It was St John the Forerunner—the first to leap for joy.[55] The justice and mercy of God is, in its truest sense, the mending of the disunited. The incarnation itself reconciles God and man together: His death satisfying the demands of the “law of death,”[56] and His life and resurrection justifies humanity in Himself, eternally advocating on behalf of all by nature.


[1] Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.25.
[2] Acts 9.
[3] Luke 9:55.
[4] John 8:11.
[5] Isaiah 55:8.
[6] Origen, On First Principles, 2.4.4.
[7] Isaac the Syrian, Ascetical Homilies, 51.
[8] Ibid.
[9] John 7:24.
[10] Genesis 2:17.
[11] Romans 6:23.
[12] Being that mankind in Adam has always been under the Athanasian “law of death.”
[13] Physical and spiritual death.
[14] Matthew 25:43.
[15] Romans 6:23.
[16] Cf. Romans 3:21-22, 27; Galatians 2:16; Philippians 3:9.
[17] Romans 7:1.
[18] Romans 7:2-4.
[19] Cf. Romans 3:27.
[20] Romans 6:23.
[21] Prior to Christ there was no inevitable sprouting from the ground once physical death has occurred.
[22] Or more appropriately, the Tree of Life.
[23] Gregory Nazianzen, In Sanctum Pascha: “To whom was that blood offered that was shed for us, and why was it shed? I mean the precious and glorious blood of God, the blood of the High Priest and of the Sacrifice. We were in bondage to the devil and sold under sin, having become corrupt through our lust. Now, since a ransom is paid to him who holds us in his power, I ask to whom such a price was offered and why?… If the price is offered to the Father, I ask first of all, how? For it was not the Father who held us captive. Why then should be blood of His only begotten Son please the Father, who would not even receive Isaac when he was offered as a whole burnt offering by Abraham, but replaced the human sacrifice with a ram?”
[24] Cf. John 14:6.
[25] Mortality.
[26] 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15.
[27] Cf. 1 Corinthians 15:31.
[28] Romans 1:24.
[29] Romans 1:28.
[30] Psalm 81:12.
[31] Westminster Confession, 8.4.
[32] Cf. Romans 1:28; Ephesians 4:19.
[33] Acts 13:37. One might mention how the context refers to the corruption of the body specifically, but the objection is quickly rendered pointless in the face of its own implications.
[34] Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.23.
[35] Romans 5:12; 1 Corinthians 15:21.
[36] Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.23.
[37] Ibid.
[38] Ibid.
[39] Hebrews 4:15.
[40] Jeremiah 23:5.
[41] John 12:31.
[42] 1 Samuel 17:46-51. Despite the obvious allusions to Genesis 3:15, the most overlooked prophetic detail in David’s battle with Goliath is the fact that “there was no sword in the hand of David” (v. 50). David used his enemy’s own weapon to kill him, and this is perhaps the most crucial detail, because it explicitly reveals how Christ will conquer His enemy. The devil should have seen it coming: The One to come who would conquer Death (personified as the devil) by “death” (the devil’s sword which was used to enslave mankind).
[43] Genesis 3:15.
[44] Matthew 12:29; Mark 3:27.
[45] Isaiah 64:8.
[46] Stockholm Syndrome is the psychological condition where feelings of trust and/or affection are felt by a victim toward a captor in cases of kidnapping or hostage-taking.
[47] Psalm 82:2-3.
[48] Matthew 25:41.
[49] Matthew 4:1-11.
[50] Cf. Revelation 5:9.
[51] John 6:53.
[52] John 15:4.
[53] Psalm 1:2.
[54] Cf. Colossians 3:2.
[55] Luke 1:44.
[56] The “Law of Death” is one of the foundational pillars of legal theology that is explicitly articulated in Athanasius’ work On the Incarnation. It is the idea that mankind must necessarily die because God said “ye shall surely die/dying ye shall die.” In the logic of Athanasius, this means that every human being must experience physical death, or else God is a liar.

On the Curious Nature of Divine Providence

On the Curious Nature of Divine Providence

Divine providence is often thought of as being antithetical to the natural world. It is conceptualized as a kind of glorified deterministic meddling: an occurrence within the world on the part of God that would not have otherwise happened, had God not intervened within the affairs of man and changed the trajectory. A moment in time where God storms the cockpit, so to speak. However, is this really how one ought to think concerning providence? How many providential acts does it take for such an understanding of Providence begin to devour any real notion of free will? And doesn’t such an understanding turn all prophecies into mere self-fulfilling prophecies? This could bring the accusation that God does not truly know the future, but rather He merely coerces events to shape a future He desires, which has severe implications on the immoral state of the present world.

There are some interesting moments in the Old Testament where Providence reveals itself. For example, in 1 Kings 22, it has the account of King Ahab and Jehoshaphat switching places in battle, pretending to be the other. Earlier, the prophet Micaiah (my favorite of all prophets, due to his incredible sarcasm) tells the king that if he went to battle at Ramoth-gilead, he would die. Not only that, but the text says God was behind Ahab’s decision to go to Ramoth, because it was foreknown that Ahab would be naïve and listen to the false majority (1 Kings 22:22-23). This is when things get interesting. During the battle, everything seems to be going according to plan. The enemy thinks Jehoshaphat is actually Ahab, chasing after him, and nobody knows where Ahab actually is on the battlefield. But all of a sudden, some unnamed archer randomly launches an arrow into the air with no real purpose, and it is that very arrow that happens to strike the hidden Ahab right between his armor, killing him (1 Kings 22:34-35). The question becomes, where exactly was God’s providence? Did God providentially guide the arrow? Perhaps He providentially persuaded the random archer to shoot an arrow in a general direction. Perhaps it was simply the persuading of Ahab to providentially enter the battle and the way of death is irrelevant.

In the account of David and Goliath, we all know David defeats Goliath with a single stone and a sling. Again I ask, does God providentially guide the stone through the air in order to strike Goliath precisely on the head? Or perhaps David was providentially born left-handed, because Scripture explicitly goes out of its way to mention how left-handed people were gifted with being able to “sling a stone at a hair and not miss” (Judges 20:16).

Caiaphas providentially says, “It is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, rather than the whole nation perish” (John 11:50). John, understanding the theology of this, mentions that Caiaphas was not merely speaking from his own violent heart and limited understanding alone, but such words, nonetheless spoken of his own will, were also providentially crafted from God (John 11:51).

Providence seems to be God paradoxically, synergistically, and mysteriously executing His will in natural ways, and the mystery is in how God is able to do this without also overruling human freedom.

Jonah and Atonement Theology

Jonah and Atonement Theology

A great illustration for the bait and hook imagery within (ransom) atonement theology can be found within the story of Jonah: a man who is thrown overboard, swallowed by a sea giant, and regurgitated three days later. Christ—in the same way—descends into the belly of death but cannot be contained, and is thus vomited three days later. Truly the Lord said, “…no sign shall be given except the sign of Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matt. 12:39-40). And again He says, “Search the Scriptures…they are they which testify of me” (Jhn. 5:39). Jonah is in the Scriptures not merely to record a historical event, as if it were copied from a local newspaper, but to reveal to us something about the coming Christ.

Death was captivated by the flesh of God, and was enticed to devour it. This is because for the first time, God presented Himself in a form vulnerable to consumption. However, His invisible divinity—hidden within the flesh—cannot be swallowed. This image from Jonah—revealing the conquest of the uncontainable God—simultaneously depicts Christ as a victor, ransom, satisfaction and a substitute.

Christ’s sacrificial descent through the waters of baptism, and being subsequently swallowed up into the belly of hades, was for the sole purpose of setting us free. Because Christ caused Death to vomit, Death was defeated and our former chains fell to the ground. This makes Christ victorious. Since Christ willingly had Himself thrown overboard into the depths of the grave to set us free, this makes Christ our substitute and ransom: substitute because we could not free ourselves, and ransom because He is the terms, cause, and object of our freedom.  Christ’s work is also satisfaction, because Christ was swallowed up by death to not only satisfy the insatiably demanding appetite of Death to consume, but also to satisfy the insatiably demanding Love of God to sacrificially burn on a wooden alter made with human hands.

The devil should have saw this coming. Christ, like a brilliant strategist—who cannot but play with his inferior rival—intentionally left clues that could have helped the cause of His enemy, though knowing it would not. Christ vocalized His hint, essentially telling the devil to remember Jonah. When the storm came, Jonah had to be thrown overboard because he could not overpower the tempestuous violence of the providential storm. However, when such tumultuous waves approached the Lord’s boat, it was revealed that Christ had divine power to tame the wild elements. Christ revealed a glimmer of the divine nature; a man who is confined by no storm, for He is Himself the storm: laying waste to the principalities and powers of darkness (cf. Eph. 6:12). This is shown clearly in the case of the demoniac, having within him a whirlwind of demons. And in the chaos of soul, Christ calms the storm that we may once again be in our right minds (Mark 5:15). Indeed, the Lord shows Himself to be the strongest of storms when He said, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to bring peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34). Had the devil payed attention, He would have seen that death could not contain this conqueror without sheath, for He clearly has power over not merely His own life, but life itself. When rising from his bed, Jonah’s eyes quickly exchanged their slumber with fear, but when Christ awoke, one might have seen what looked to be the subtleties of a smirk—and it is the smirk of one knowing the outcome of a war before a battle is fought.

Vision of Confluence

Vision of Confluence

As it was foretold of old,

The birth of the one with eyes like the sun.
Causing warmth for some;
Causing others to run.

Born of a virgin,
Miracles ensue.
The fleece is dry,
Yet there is dew.

Sheep of the right,
Bask in the light,
Shining within,
No knowledge of night.

Goats of the left,
Burn in the light,
Shining without,
No knowledge of right.

Buried at birth,
Foreshadowing seed,
Foreknowing the sorrow;
Extent of the bleed.

Word placed in a manger
That we may feed,
To conquer sin,
And mend the need.

The Icon of Marriage

The Icon of Marriage

I went to an Orthodox wedding yesterday to celebrate the sacramental marital union of my friend Nathan and his wife Rebecca. Contrary to many Western style weddings, the primary focus of an Orthodox wedding is not on the bride, but on Christ. The bride is not amplified over the groom, but rather the two are liturgically treated in such a way that it becomes difficult to distinguish between the two. This is clearly intentional, as this represents the two “becoming one.”1C.f. Gen 2:24, Mark 10:8

As with any sacrament, the effectiveness of uncreated grace is contingent upon our cooperation (synergy) with God. Just like a baptism without a real death (dying daily21 Cor 15:31) to self cannot save, or a Eucharist without the work of true penitent preparation, so too does the grace within the sacrament of marriage fall by the wayside if we cease our pursuit of Christ, and allow ourselves to be cut off from the lifeblood of the true Vine.3c.f. John 15:5 If we lose sight of Christ in our marriages, then they will inevitably descend to the place of the dead. Sacramental grace fills our being so long as we remain ‘plugged-in’ to Christ, and when we run dry, we need only repent and reconnect ourselves (through confession) to be filled once again. Therefore, we must remain vigilant in marriage, always making sure to keep our lamps lit with the oil of Christ.4c.f. Matt 25:3-4

Marriage is not merely a union of two people, it is a union of three people: Christ, husband, and wife. The married couple is a triangular trinity, having Christ at the top of the triangle. When the husband pursues Christ and His commandment to sacrificially “love his wife as Christ loves the Church,” and when the wife pursues Christ and His commandment to respectfully submit to her husband (not “all things” down to what brand of soda she is allowed to drink, but all that which encourages the ascent of her spiritual life unto salvation), both travel up each side of the triangle, growing closer to both Christ and each other.

As I looked and saw the bride and the groom being crowned, and as I heard the passages of Genesis read,  I heard in my spirit, “Look.” As I looked up and to the left wall, I saw the massive icon of the resurrection.

However, being at a wedding changed the context through which I would have normally looked. All of a sudden, the icon expressed not Christ rescuing Adam and Eve from physical death through His resurrection, but rather Christ lifting husband and wife out of their broken marriage, and uniting them one to another through Himself. I perceived the triangular lines of the image, and how heaven truly reached down as far as the east is from the west in order to lift up our marriages and restore them once again to newness of life in Him.

Whenever our marriages seem to falter because one or both parties have ceased in their pursuit of Christ, may we never forget how Christ is able to resurrect all of that which is dead, including marriage.

Why America Will Never Work

Why America Will Never Work

The more I meditate on the spiritual landscape of the United States, the more I am convinced that its political framework is wired to fail repeatedly; a pendulum that will never stop swinging. It is set up to provoke continuous civil wars with no real lasting solutions, because everyone gets to have a say, no matter how stupid they might be. Sometimes there is silence in the American fields. The crime rate gets low, the economy pseudo-stabilizes with quantitative easing, certain laws are put in place to give the illusion of victory, a “good” president is elected, etc. However, when the country seems suddenly silent, it isn’t because there is peace, it is because the factions are reloading their weapons.

The United States was founded by Protestant theists and deists who wanted to rebel against all authority and apply their Enlightenment ideology (largely borrowed from the Protestant Reformation) to politics. Individualism became synonymous with freedom and liberty, and freedom and liberty became synonymous with Divine Providence. Practically speaking, ‘Freedom’ means I can do whatever I want; it means that which is interpreted to be in any way restrictive is to be destroyed. Thus, in the hearts of many, individualism was united with the idea of God, and secularism was conceived. This is how an individualistic ideal became the false gods popularly known as Freedom and Liberty.

The Roots of Conspiracy Mentality

Protestant eschatology and conspiracy mentality have always gone hand in hand as well. Starting with the post-Reformation eschatological opinions of what is known as the historicism perspective, the Pope was seen as The Antichrist, and therefore all things Catholic must have a hidden agenda. The papacy (or “Babylon”) was out to get you and lead you to hell, or so they believed. Many influential Protestant preachers bought into this old-school “fake news,” and passed it down to the next generations. From then on, many Protestants began to ascribe the Book of Revelation to just about every authority figure that remotely threatened any aspect of their opinions (or general comfort, for that matter). Fast forward to 1966, Ralph Woodrow’s “Babylon Mystery Religion” was published, and it spread like wildfire. Popular Evangelicals like Tim LaHaye begin to feel quite comfortable slandering the Catholic Church, and polemics became normative and encouraged, no matter how false or ignorant they might have been. One might say this was the spiritual origin of the modern political “attack ad.” The accusation itself was enough for it to be true, and instead of actually talking to Catholics and exercising discernment, they were content to think the belief itself was enough for confirmation. All of this is why the Evangelical-political Right is the way it is. This is why people like Alex Jones are successful. His audience (which seems to consist largely of Evangelical Republicans) has been programmed for decades to desire only to hear ignorant conspiratorial accusations (to validate their own ignorant conspiratorial accusations), regardless of whether or not they are true. It is the self-validating accusation itself that matters to these people, not truth.

There are many other reasons for conspiracy mentality and why the average American now completely distrusts authority, such as JFK, Clergy sex scandals, Vietnam, Presidential scandals, 9-11, police brutality, the list goes on. The music (especially Punk) and entertainment industry from 1970-2000 then reinforced these sentiments and justified rebellion for decades. I love Star Wars, but let’s be honest, those movies are all about a ragtag rebellion against the establishment.

One Country vs Fifty Countries

Aside from the religious eschatological overtones of the founding framework, another problematic aspect of the country is the fact that not everyone truly views the United States as one country. The more conservative Republicans and Libertarians idealize the United States as essentially fifty autonomous countries that ought to operate independently of one another, whereas the more progressive Democrats tend to idealize the country as fifty united sections of one big country. This is why, for example, there are differences of opinion regarding the ideal size of the government. If the country ought to be divided into autonomous states, then government ought to be small. If the country ought to be a union of all states, then the government must adapt to the size and grow. This fundamental difference of perspective is why no progress can ever be made.

The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected.
– G.K. Chesterton

If the entire country is filled with a bunch of people who want to assert their own opinion or religious-political ideology and die on every hill, how could the American experiment possibly succeed? The only thing I see in America’s future is the potential for another civil war. Revolution is all the revolutionary knows how to do. If people rise to power and get in the way of your beliefs, and if the established system is not working in your favor, you gun them down and enforce your ‘freedom’ upon everyone else until you get what you want.

The Bi-Partisan Imperial Cult

I should add, this is not merely a battle of ideology, this is a religious battle between major (political) groups of emperor worshipers who think they are fighting a holy war. Every political cult thinks God is on their side, precisely because everyone worships themselves. So in a sense, they’re right. I mentioned before about how the individualistic ideology of “freedom and liberty” became the American deities. This is how American flags made their way into religious sanctuaries, this is why we have forced conversions of other countries (known as “regime change”), and this is how Self became the god of modernity, reigning as the ‘Genius’ of the President. Patriotic anthems became the new liturgy, and every Presidential inauguration becomes an opportunity to worship our own proxy, that is, the one who is divinely (or rather, demonically) possessed by each individual voter. We should be provoked to laughter when we hear Republicans say they are afraid of an Islamic jihad, because violent Muslims could learn a few things from the bloody trail of American jihad. The USA spends more money on the military than the next multiple countries combined. As the Holy Scriptures say, “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, and rely on horses, and trust in chariots because they are many, and in horsemen because they are very strong, but they do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the LORD!” (Isa 31:1) Again the scriptures say, Some trust in chariots, and some in horses, but we will remember the name of the LORD our God (Psa 20:7). May we repent of such idolatry.

A united individualism only leads to bi-partisan bickering. Both the red and blue people worship the Genius of the emperor just like the Romans. Because the Genius of the President is supposed to reflect the image of the individual worshipper (and not the other way around), America is designed in such a way where one is able to worship themselves through the standing President. When one imperial cult is able to worship themselves, and another cult is not, it develops into more war and division. Individualism never works, and it never will. So long as the refusal to submit to an authority is built into the framework of the American spirit, and so long as that violence and rebellion results from a President not reflecting one’s personal image, America will never work.

Song of Solomon, Images, and Graphic Nudity in Modern Film

Song of Solomon, Images, and Graphic Nudity in Modern Film

Movies and TV shows with explicit sex scenes have consistently been controversial among Christian circles. A series may have great writing, but also an excessive amount of graphic sex, violence, and often times a mixture of both. The question for me is simple: Do the ends justify the means? In counting the cost, does filling my eyes (and subsequently, my mind) with dangerous pornographic images justify my indulgence in just another story? Personally, I don’t think so.

My memory of graphic sexual images will far exceed my memory of a plot progression, and I would go so far as to say that is the case for everyone, not just me. All I need to do is try to remember any series I have not seen in a decade or two. What do I remember more, the plot of such a series, the precise details of the character progression, or certain visual scenes that happened to make an impression on me? It is always the explicit or shocking visuals that have the longest lasting influence on the mind.

I think it is unarguable that the sex scenes of some of these shows (Game of Thrones, for example) are no different from pornography. I guarantee that those scenes are spliced and put on porn sites. So why would I think surrounding such content with a fantasy story makes it okay for me to watch? It isn’t merely Game of Thrones that is guilty, I just find it to be the easiest example. Pretty much anything on HBO has a massive problem with sex and nudity. Even Netflix is becoming problematic in many ways. I have to go to the IMDB parents guide before every new show because graphic content has become a cancer in film. It seems like every Netflix original is rated TV-MA.

Whenever I read articles about Christians who watch some of these shows, they never actually say anything to justify the graphic sex or nudity. The pornographic content is always the elephant in the room, and it is always ignored. It is actually incredibly bizarre and awkward when people so casually recommend a show like Game of Thrones, as if this is something I could watch with them. As if I wasn’t horrified by what IMDB said was in the first episode alone. I once spoke to an agnostic friend of mine who is not in any way religious, and he said even he was uncomfortable watching Game of Thrones with other people, because of the sex.

If Christ said it is better pluck out your eye than to allow yourself to be corrupted through the eye (Mat 5:29), I find it nonsensical to think saying “it has a great story” is a valid excuse before God for indulging the eyes in pornographic content. When pornography gets a decent plot, it does not cease to be pornography. The devil has icons too. Behind every pretty woman with her breasts exposed, and behind every graphic sex scene, is a dragon waiting to chain you to your own passions.

One might say, “But nobody says anything about violence. Isn’t that bad too?” Yes, violence is never a good thing, however comparing depictions of violence with sex is to compare apples and oranges. For one, the sexual content is not fake, like war scenes. Actors actually strip down to nothing and have sex for a camera. This would be considered prostitution if they didn’t actually enjoy it and make a lot of money. Indeed, a poor and ashamed prostitute, stuck in her situation, is more righteous than such actors who do not even know how to blush (Jer 6:15, 8:12). Secondly, watching a violent scene does not, in of itself, tempt the viewer to become more violent. However, watching a graphic sex scene will tempt the viewer to become more sexual. Because the eyes stimulate the body, watching such things will have an involuntary effect on the body. This is why the scriptures say to flee from fornication (1 Cor 6:18). Other sins do not manipulate the body the way sexual sins do, and sexual sins always occur first with the eyes. It was when David “saw” a naked woman washing herself that his passions were tempted (2 Sa 11:2).

However, it should be noted that not every sex scene is equally explicit, therefore not every sex scene is equally destructive to the mind. I can think of a total of zero people who have complained that a movie or TV show was not as good as it could have been, simply because it lacked graphic sex scenes. In fact, the majority of sex scenes have absolutely nothing to do with the plot. If it does have to do with the plot, then the purpose of the action is generally to tell the viewer that so and so had an affair or something. However, the viewer does not need to see the details of how the affair took place, the viewer only needs to know that the affair took place. In modern film, the ‘how’ is extremely overemphasized and put on the screen for extended periods of time, rather than the previous trope of having two couples wake up next to one another in a bed (implicitly revealing what had occurred).

Song of Solomon in Visual Format

Icon depicting aspects of the Song of Solomon as it relates to Christ and the Church. It depicts Song 2:16; 4:12; 5:10; 8:6-7.

One might say, “but the Bible is graphic, read Song of Solomon.” Because this response is inevitable, I will even use Song of Solomon to prove my point. Firstly, Song of Solomon is a text, and one that is shrouded in poetry. It does not bombard your eyes with explicit sex scenes, because the metaphor makes the sexual content implicit. And because it is a text, the content is not visually seen, but imagined. Breasts are even compared to fuzzy little animals (Song 4:5, 7:3), so I don’t think any woman today would find that to be particularly romantic.

Christians do not have icons of the Song of Solomon literally depicting graphic sex. It visually depicts Song of Solomon as metaphor, not as literal sex. Depicting such a thing literally would be absolutely scandalous.

Icon depicting aspects of the Song of Solomon as it relates to Christ and the Church. It depicts Song 2:2, 5, 8-9, 7:6, 12.

Sex and nudity are supposed to be sacred. Sex should not have bystanders, for it is exclusive because romantic love (Eros) ought to be exclusive. When you have tens of thousands of flies on the wall in the form of writers, directors, videographers and HBO subscribers, the act of sexual union is cheapened into a marketing tactic to entice the passions. The phrase “sex sells” exists because people figured out how to exploit human weakness.

We as a culture penalize the one “Peeping Tom” who peers through the neighbor’s window and call him a pervert, and then we sit on our couches, turn on the television, and peer through the bedroom windows of countless couples. Does such actions not also qualify as perverse? It seems like a double-standard to me.

Whenever the scriptures mention nakedness, the expected response is always to cover/clothe (Gen 3:21, 9:23, Eze 18:7, 16, Mat 25:36, Mar 5:15, Jas 2:15-16). This is because, like I said, nudity is sacred and it ought to be respected. It is exclusive, and it ought to be protected. That’s what I think anyway. I do not write this to condemn or judge anyone, I merely seek to work through the details of what it is I believe about the subject.

From Man to Ox

From Man to Ox

In the narrative of the fourth chapter of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar says that he built the great house of Babylon by the might of his own power, and for the honor of his own majesty.[1] The text says that when such words were still in Nebuchadnezzar’s mouth, a voice from heaven said the kingdom has departed from him, and that his dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. Nebuchadnezzar was then humbled and began to eat grass like oxen, as his hair and nails were overgrown. Scholars have pointed out that the idea of the wild man was a common trope in the mythic lore of the ancient Near East, such as the example of Enkidu in the epic of Gilgamesh.[2] In Mesopotamian magico-medical writings, Lambert reveals a similar passage which says, “I am an ox, I do not know the plants I eat.”[3] Additionally, long hair is connected to the multiplicity of sins in such literature.[4]

The narrative in the fourth chapter of Daniel sets forth an important scriptural motif that is repeated elsewhere in the Bible. Earthly kings rise to power over God’s people and set themselves up as gods. As seen in the example of Pharaoh, the pride of such rulers result in the hardening of their hearts and the departure from reason, which then provokes a response from God.[5] The ungodly then affirm the blasphemy, saying things like, “This is the voice of a god and not a man!”[6] and again they cry out, “Who is like unto the beast? Who is able to make war with him?”[7] It is precisely in these moments when God responds dramatically. The lofty and exalted beast is struck down to earth like Lucifer, having his wings torn off,[8] and cursed to a lifetime of groveling on the ground.[9] The beast is then consumed by worms,[10] and thrown into the fire.[11] The humbling of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel’s narrative reveals how the mighty kingdom of God is destined to conquer and supplant the bestial kingdoms of this earth.

God said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people.”[12] The narrative pattern of the scriptures was always that of the Hebrew people forgetting the Lord and bringing judgment upon themselves for their lack of care for God. It comes as no surprise that such a pattern is expressly prominent within the exilic days of Daniel. The pattern of scripture itself reveals that when man acts like Nebuchadnezzar and puffs up his ego, he truly becomes like the beasts of the field. The entire book of Daniel is a reoccurring picture of the same proverb: “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”[13] One might read the book of Daniel and think that it is a story merely about the rise and fall of kingdoms aligned against Israel, however, the reality is that God keeps trying to show His own people that it is they who are being humbled through the exile caused by the Babylonian invasion.[14] They are Nebuchadnezzar, and God waits to restore them. In such exile, people will always cry out to God asking why such a thing happened to them, thus God repeatedly shows them the answer to the question. In other words, the book of Daniel is not the story of how many kingdoms rose and fell, it is rather the story of how one kingdom rose to forget the Lord and fell. Yet still, God waits to see repentance.

[1] Daniel 4:30-33.
[2] Hector Avalos. “Nebuchadnezzar’s Affliction: New Mesopotamian Parallels for Daniel 4.” Journal of Biblical Literature 133, no. 3 (2014), p. 497.
[3] W.G. Lambert, “Incantations,” 285.
[4] Avalos, p. 503.
[5] 1 Samuel 6:6.
[6] Acts 12:22.
[7] Revelation 13:4.
[8] Isaiah 14:14-15.
[9] Genesis 3:14.
[10] Acts 12:23.
[11] Revelation 20:10.
[12] Exodus 32:9.
[13] Proverbs 16:18.
[14] Daniel 9.

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