Victims and Perpetrators

I was chatting with a friend. He expressed the folly of trotting out the victims of grievous sins and crimes and establishing them publicly as the unimpeachable figureheads of their own causes. Doing such things with genuine victims is a dangerous gamble. Especially in light of an Augustinian anthropology of man in his morally corrupt state.

The folly in doing so is one side of a two-sided coin. The victim of something heinous has higher than average possibilities for two things: 1.) being an ardent effective advocate for the cause of defending and preventing future victims of the same injustices, and 2.) being the next generation of victimizer in a vicious cycle of perpetuating further injustices.

And those are not mutually exclusive possibilities. An individual can enact both of them simultaneously. It is the temptation of a life lived as a professional victim.

Victimizers are not bizarre monstrous aberrations of our species, which is an otherwise benign and good-natured lifeform. They come from somewhere. They are the product of something. The general willful ignorance of the relationship between being victims and becoming perpetrators in our culture is an exercise in insanity.

And how dare I say “they” as if “they” isn’t all of us in the final analysis?

We thoroughgoingly Augustinian Christians let no one off the hook. We darn well know every last one of us is both a victim and a perpetrator of our own sin upon ourselves and others. In truth, each of us is simul victima et commissor—at the same time, a victim and a perpetrator. And there’s only one way to break that cycle.

As my friend put it:

If you do not take your victimhood to the Cross, you will victimize someone else in your bitterness and contempt for your oppressor.

Christ is the Great and True Victim sent from on High. And he is the ultimate Girardian Scapegoat for a whole world’s worth of misdirected anxieties, shame, blame, bitterness, resentment, and so forth. All of that victimization pours out from the mass of victimized perpetrators called the offspring of Adam.

We must bring our victimhood to Christ, where it is nailed to the cross and buried in the tomb with our Lord. And we must daily reckon ourselves to be vindicated conquerors in the one who sits enthroned at the right hand of God and is conquering all his enemies.

Reddington on Suicide

Despite being the Concierge of Crime, Raymond Reddington’s insights into everyday life continually intrigue me. While rewatching The Blacklist, I was reminded of his harrowing observation about suicide. He seeks to talk a woman out of the act and tells her this truth about all suicides being like suicide bombings for all those left behind:

Ever seen the aftermath of a suicide bombing?

I have. June 29th, 2003.

I was meeing two associates at the Marouche restaurant in Tel Aviv. As my car was pulling up, a 20-year-old Palestinian named Ghazi Safar entered the restaurant and detonated a vest wired with C4. The shockwave knocked me flat, blew out my eardrums. I couldn’t hear. The smoke—it was like being underwater. I went inside. A nightmare. Blood, parts of people. You could tell where Safar was standing when the vest blew. It was like a perfect circle of death. There was almost nothing left of the people closest to him. Seventeen dead, 46 injured. Blown to pieces. The closer they were to the bomber, the more horrific the effect.

That’s every suicide. Every single one. An act of terror perpetrated against everyone who’s ever known you. Everyone who’s ever loved you. The people closest to you, the ones who cherish you are the ones who suffer the most pain, the most damage.

Why would you do that? Why would you do that to people who love you?

This is how remembering and ruminating on our obligations to love can save our own lives from ourselves when we allow ourselves to become consumed by our anguish and darkness. The love of others is a grace to pull us out of the bottomless pit of ourselves. It may sound cruel in the ears of someone under the spell of suicidal despair, but saving truth is rarely pleasant and pain-free.

Beauty Beholden

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

It still amazes me how many people who otherwise profess the transcendent objectivity of truth and goodness will uncritically accept and propagate this old statement.

Goodness, Truth, and Beauty are interchangeable in the Substance of the Absolute God. Thus, goodness is true and beautiful, truth is good and beautiful, and beauty is good and true. Things themselves are created good, true, and beautiful by God. They demand our recognition.

This is a point C.S. Lewis makes in The Abolition of Man as he counters the illustration of a bad children’s textbook regarding an tourist observing a waterfall and calling it sublime. It’s not the case that sublimity consists in the subjective experience inside the beholder. The beholder responds to a genuine quality possessed by the thing beholden.

If sin twists our perception of goodness and truth, it also twists our perception of beauty. Our view of beauty is as unreliable as our view of goodness and truth. Our perception of goodness, truth, and beauty requires redemption. We need our sense of what to love and adore reformed.

Beauty is in the nature of the beholden.

God Creates Dinosaurs IV

In my introduction to this series, I presented my thesis. The Jurassic Park movie series is about the sexual revolution in Western culture. De-extinction of dinosaurs is a symbol. It represents an unnatural, hubristic, and dangerous act perpetrated by man in rebellion. The motto “God creates dinosaurs” captures this conviction. This use of scientific power for consumerism is a metaphor for the sexual revolution. And the everyday signs of the sexual revolution are pervasive in the plots of the films. They reinforce the connection. And the agency of the functional family saves the day.

Signs of the Sexual Revolution in Jurassic Park III (2001)

Surprise. Surprise. The plot of the film revolves around yet another broken family in need of restoration to survive. Paul and Amanda Kirby are divorced and require reconciliation to save their son Eric. Paul and Amanda have succumbed to the enticing lies of the sexual revolution and divorced. This puts Eric in the position where Isla Sorna and its dinosaurs (as the metaphor of the sexual revolution) tempt and endanger him.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The movie opens with Eric Kirby and his mother’s boyfriend Ben Hildebrand visiting Isla Sorna as if it was a great vacation destination. That proves to be a mistaken perspective as death and loss ensue. This sets up Site B as a metaphorical Pleasure Island. It’s a place of great allure, promising all the delights of the sexual revolution. A pleasure-seeking man and his boy protégé in pursuit of carnal desires become lost to the island.

Paul and Amanda recruit Alan Grant under the pretense of being wealthy and indulgent thrill-seekers thirsting to venture to the island. This reinforces the connotation of Site B as a metaphorical Pleasure Island.

This Pleasure Island consumes and kills every functionally unwedded, virile, self-assured, adventurous man who sets foot upon it. Hildebrand. Cooper. Nash. Udesky. Very nearly Billy Brennan who was seduced for a time.

Isla Sorna is the house of the adulterous woman from the Book of Proverbs. And fools lose themselves by going in to her house at the enticement of her delights. Pleasure Island and Proverbs become the motif of this movie.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Dr. Alan Grant is a curious character in this movie. In Jurassic Park, he learned how to be a father and to love fatherhood. But now we see he never married Dr. Ellie Sattler. He never married anyone. Is it because he returned to his old ways of disliking children? No. Grant engages with little Charlie Degler as he awaits Ellie. And he’s willing to address an entire auditorium of teenagers.

Grant continues to study velociraptors. When he speaks to the high school assembly, he insists such study happens in the ground. Real dinosaurs are in the rocks. Site B is of no interest to him. He too has learned the lesson that God creates dinosaurs.

It is in the ground where real scientists make real discoveries. What John Hammond and InGen did was to make genetically engineered theme park monsters, nothing more and nothing less.

And if the de-extinction of dinosaurs is a metaphor for the sexual revolution, this means Grant studies natural sexuality. Grant studies the divine order: the creationistic contours of marriage, sex, and procreation. Or at least the metaphor for them.

As he tells his student Billy Brennan:

The bones will still be there when we get back. That’s the great thing about bones: they never run away.

Bones in the rocks have fidelity. They don’t run away like adulterers and adulteresses.

Alan Grant is a man in a vocation of celibacy like a monastic scholar. He isn’t putting off marriage and clinging to bachelorhood like an indulgent man-child. He has embraced a devout calling. And in both poetry and irony, he now studies the institution of marriage (metaphorically) and teaches others likewise. This makes him a walking embodiment of the Book of Proverbs. He is a spiritual father teaching spiritual sons the path of life and warning them about the adulterous woman. Warning his sons about the dangers of the sexual revolution.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Paul and Amanda Kirby pretend to be thrill-seekers on their way to Pleasure Island. But in truth, they need a guide who is Mr. Proverbs. They know where they’re going. They know their son is lost in the house of the adulterous woman. Lost in the wilderness of the sexual revolution. They need a prudent son of Lady Wisdom to navigate this terrain.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

When the group arrives on Isla Sorna by airplane, they encounter the Spinosaurus. They learn InGen was up to things on Site B that were never public. There’s something newer. Something bigger. Something secret. It kills a Tyrannosaurus (the old ruler) to solidify its dominance. The revolution marches on to greater degrees of radicalization. It has become militant in its radicalism. It stalks the survivors across the island and through the movie.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The group (down two members) explores the abandoned dinosaur manufacturing facility. It’s the remains of an aborted industrial operation littered with the remains of aborted dinosaur fetuses. An apt exchange ensues:

Paul: This is how you make dinosaurs?

Alan: No. This is how you play God?

Things becomes horrific when the truth that God creates dinosaurs is abandoned.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Eric Kirby has survived. And he has survived thus far because he is a student of Alan Grant. He has read Grant’s book. His two books in fact! Proverbs and Ecclesiastes? Eric has also read Dr. Ian Malcolm’s book. So he knows the lessons of God Creates Dinosaurs.

The reunited and reconciled Kirby Family escape the island with the aid of Alan Grant, i.e. Mr. Proverbs. In the climactic final confrontation with the Spinosaurus, they call for help to escape. It’s not anyone at random they call. They call a family for help. And the family dynamics are crucial. Alan needs Ellie. Ellie Degler (née Sattler) is married to U.S. State Department official Mark Degler. And they have a son Charlie who answers the phone.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Billy Brennan is a student of Alan Grant. He has heard Grant’s warnings. But in a moment of weakness, he steals velociraptor eggs. He abducts a velociraptor couple’s children. He tampers with a velociraptor family and the velociraptor community. He violently disrupts the family and the community for the sake of financial gain. He has given in to the same temptation as the people who made the park: disrupting the nature order for profit.

Billy has acted according to the sexual revolution. He yielded to the Harlot Folly and has gone into the house of the adulterous woman. And he knows it. He confesses this was a stupid mistake. And he pleads that this impulsive act was with the best intentions. Alan makes sure Billy knows how severe and unmerciful folly is.

The best intentions. Pfff. Some of the worst things imaginable have been done with the best intentions. As far as I’m concerned, you’re no better than the people who built this place.

Billy took the severity of this to heart. Afterward, he walked with his gaze turned down as an ashamed son in the eyes of his monastic spiritual father. He seeks to redeem himself to his father and despite his father’s harshness by risking and giving his life to save the Kirby Family in the aviary.

Grant realizes he judged Billy too harshly. Mercifully, Billy survives. Wisdom has looked kindly on him, because it is wise to show mercy. Billy is restored and reconciled to Alan.

Hogwarts Houses and Virtuous Character

Last time I took a quiz, my Hogwarts House was (allegedly) Ravenclaw. I should probably be in Slytherin. And I think I secretly delight in the idea of it, given my childhood dream-job. The last time I took a character similarity quiz, I was Severus Snape. And I approved of that. But I keep telling the sorting hat, “Not Slytherin. Not Slytherin. Not Slytherin.”

I don’t think people can be put into one of four boxes like that. Like all personality tests, I can steer myself to the result I want on any given day. But the good thing is that a virtuous character and personality types are virtually unrelated.

It is not our abilities that show what we truly are. It is our choices.

– Professor Albus Dumbledore

Can I identify as a Slytherin operating as a Ravenclaw while trapped in a Hufflepuff’s life and preferentially fraternizing with Gryffindors?

P.S. I hate the lame Patronus idiotically assigned to me by Pottermore.

Doing Truth with John the Apostle

Truth is a mysterious thing in the Sacred Scriptures. Truth is a mysterious thing in the premodern mind in general. The mysteriousness of truth is particularly prominent in the writings of the Apostle John (fn). Truth is spoken of and employed in ways which are not strictly contained by modern notions of correspondence theory and propositions.

  • The Son is full of grace and truth.
  • The Son is the way, the truth, and the life.
  • The Spirit is truth and is the Spirit of truth.
  • The truth liberates men.
  • The truth sanctifies men.
  • The word of God is truth.
  • We are to worship in spirit and truth.
  • We are to practice the truth.
  • We are to walk in the truth.
  • We are to be indwelt by the truth.
  • We are to love in deed and in truth.
  • We are to be of the truth and not of the world.

*fn. also John the Evangelist (gospel-writer) and John the Presbyterian (elder) 😉

Reformed Chrysanthemum

I’ve told my friends more than once there’s more to being Reformed than just believing in the (in)famous Five Points of Calvinism, i.e. TULIP. That’s a Calvinistic (or more properly, Dortian, i.e. the Synod of Dort) understanding of salvation. The Reformed expression of the whole Christian faith and practice has many more points. There are many more petals on the Reformed flower. So my friends challenged me to come up with a flower acronym.

Behold, the thirteen petals of the Reformed Chrysanthemum!

  1. Chalcedonian Christology
  2. Hermeneutical covenantalism
  3. Regulative principle of worship
  4. Yahweh’s glory above all is the goal
  5. Sovereignty of God in all things
  6. Asymmetrical double-predestination
  7. Niceno-Constantinopalitan Trinitarianism
  8. Territorial interconnectedness of churches
  9. Historical confessionalism
  10. Ecclesiastical distinctives
  11. Monergistic regeneration
  12. Unio Mystica with Christ unto Duplex Gratia
  13. Munus Triplex of Christ

Chalcedonian Christology: This refers to the orthodox doctrine of the hypostatic union of Christ. That he consists in two distinct natures or essences (those of God and Man) which are unified in one person or subsistence (that of God the Son). Just as it was defined by the Council of Chalcedon in A.D. 451.

Hermeneutical covenantalism: This refers to the systematic understanding of Scripture according to an overarching historical architecture structured by covenant. God reveals himself and engages with mankind through a series of particular historical covenants. Those covenants are ordered and administered according to two systematic ‘covenants’ that are principles of justification and eternal life. There is a the “covenant of works” or the “covenant of life”, and there is the “covenant of grace”.

Regulative principle of worship: This refers to the rule governing public worship of God. It states that all of the elements of public worship must be all those commanded by God and only that which is commanded. It’s not merely a normative principle that only omits what is prohibited by God. There must be imperative scriptural warrant for what is done in public worship. It’s adding nothing to God’s commands and subtracting nothing from God’s commands.

Yahweh’s glory above all is the goal: This is basically the Soli Deo Gloria (to God alone be the glory) of the Protestant Reformation. The Triune God created all things to glorify himself. The Son and Spirit prepare a holy people to worship the Father. The Father and the Spirit prepare a glorious bride for the Son. And the Father and the Son prepare a living temple for the Spirit. All of this is God showing the riches of his glory to vessels of mercy while enduring vessels of wrath fitted for destruction.

Sovereignty of God in all things: This refers to God’s absolute liberty and ability to do whatever he pleases according to his own perfect counsel. God has foreordained and providentially oversees all things to his own glory.

Asymmetrical double-predestination: This refers to the dissimilarity between the two ways in which God appointed the dual eternal destinies of two groups of people out of fallen humanity. From this mass of human sin, he chose to actively intervene (the act of election) and redeem one group of sinners from his condemnation of them for their sin, and he chose to passively refrain from intervening (the act of preterition) on behalf of the other group of sinners, consigning them to his righteous condemnation of them for their sin as they continue sinning against him for eternity.

Niceno-Constantinopalitan Trinitarianism: This refers to the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity as one divine nature or essence consisting in three divine persons or subsistences as it was first articulated at the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325 and finalized at the Council of Constantinople in A.D. 381.

Territorial interconnectedness of churches: This refers to the formation of regional and general assemblies of church officers to bring accountability to the ordained officers of individual local churches and aid to their congregations.

Historical confessionalism: This refers to the preservation of pure doctrine found in the Scriptures through the use of secondary standards. The officers of the churches and the local congregations commit themselves to these confessional standards.

Ecclesiastical distinctives: This refers to the defining marks of a true church. Though they can be parsed in various ways, they consist of proper preaching of the Scriptures, proper administration of the Sacraments, proper ordination of the officers, and proper discipline of the congregants. The Word is preached. The Water is poured. The Bread is eaten. The Wine is drank. The Flock is tended.

Monergistic regeneration: This refers to the unilateral work of God (monos meaning ‘one’ + ergos meaning ‘work’) in bringing about the new birth and saving his elect from first to last. All of our salvation is the work of the Lord from beginning to end. God working for us, and God working in us. God providing for us all that he requires of us.

Unio Mystica with Christ unto Duplex Gratia: These Latin expressions refer to the mystical union of the elect with Christ and the twofold grace they are given. They receive justifying grace and sanctifying grace. Union with Christ in the Spirit is the organizing principle of the Reformed doctrine of salvation.

Munus Triplex of Christ: This is a Latin expression for the threefold office of Christ. As the Christ or Messiah, i.e. the Anointed One, the Lord Jesus holds the three divinely anointed offices seen in Scripture. He is the Prophet, the Priest, and the King. Reformed teachers find these categories generally more useful than the modern Evangelical twofold office of Savior and Lord.

The Five Points of the TULIP and the Five Solas of the Protestant Reformation are in there somewhere or are otherwise implied. Maybe I’d better figure out how to make a STEM or some POLLEN out of what’s left. And there’s a ton that’s left! The church assemblies in the Reformed tradition wrote these lengthy confessions and catechisms to make it clear what they believed to be the clear teaching of the Christian Faith. Try giving the Three Forms of Unity or the Westminster Standards a whirl.

Granted, I have some personal quirks and takes on Reformed confessional standards. And many Reformed people do, if even just a little. These confessional standards are consensus documents from church teachers who had their personal quirks and takes as well.