Calvin’s Dual Teleology

From ‘From Calvin a Nominalist? (Part 3)

“Within Calvin’s theological metaphysics, God’s sovereignty becomes acutely fragile, threatened by anything that might undermine the creational and soteriological monergism on which it precariously hinged. The result is that instead of God and nature being related analogically, there is a univocal freedom and a univocal glory that must be partitioned out between God and creatures. A concomitant of this nominalist dialectic is that meaning and teleology no longer reside in things themselves but are imposed from outside in ways that involve explicit incongruities. The incongruities arise at the point in which the divine will-acts, now broken down into separate modes, offer a competing teleology to the same object simultaneously. For example, the distinction between God’s revealed will and His hidden will forced Calvin to set in opposition the teleology that is normative for an object with the teleology that God ultimately wills for the same object. With respect to God’s revealed will, the telos of each and every individual includes eternal union with Him, but with respect to God’s hidden will, the telos of certain individuals includes eternal disunion with Him. (And by the way, this dual-telos is a necessary consequence of Calvin’s system regardless of whether one maintains he was a supralapsarian or an infralapsarian, and regardless of whether one holds that Calvin believed in single predestination or double predestination.) However, since God reveals Himself to humankind in terms of the first mode while relating to humankind in terms of the second, a radical discontinuity is set up between God as He is and God as human beings experience Him, between appearance and reality. Accordingly, the telos that is universally normative for all persons (i.e., that the final end of all men is to be united with Him) achieves its normativity purely through God naming it to be such, even though this naming-activity remains dislocated from the actual telos of God’s hidden will (i.e. that it is not the final end of all persons, but only some, to be united with Him). However, since Calvin could not completely abandon the quest for teleological unity, the hidden generally takes precedent over the revealed will, with the latter being reduced to mere accommodatio.”

Fred Rogers vs. Oprah Winfrey

In an interview for NBC’s TODAY, Tom Hanks talked about his role in the film A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Sharing what he had learned from playing children’s TV celebrity Fred Rogers (1928-2003), Hanks summed it up by commenting, “It’s good to talk, it’s good to share the things we feel.”

For many children in the last half of the twentieth century, watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood may have been the only place they encountered the idea that emotions are okay.

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The Human Side of Jordan Peterson

I just came across this video from an interview that Jordan Peterson gave last year during his tour of Australia. This interview shows us something we don’t often see, for it gives a glimpse of Jordan Peterson as a very human figure, a man clearly tired out by his new responsibilities (something he tried to downplay) and overwhelmed, almost to the point of tears, by how many young men he has been able to save by just a little encouragement.


Only One Half of the Lesson

There were two very hard lessons that the twentieth-century brutally taught us: (1) fascism is bad (2) communism is bad. We’ve learn the first lesson, which is why self-proclaimed fascists get in trouble. Yet millions of deaths were not enough to teach us the second lesson. Self-proclaimed communists can still find acceptance within the mainstream. Jordan Peterson discusses this in the video below, suggesting that we have only learned one half of the lesson the twentieth-century could have taught us.

Modesty and Sexual Affirmation

In some of my recent writing about the dangers of porn, it’s easy to begin thinking about modesty in its defensive and purely negative function, in so far as modesty can act as a shield from temptation and exploitation. While this is appropriate, such an emphasis can sometime overlook the important aspect in which modesty is an affirmation of sexuality.

The role that modesty plays in affirming the goodness of sexuality is something I explored in my Salvo article ‘Holy Matrimony: The Unexpected Connection Between Religion & Sexual Fulfillment‘ and my blog post ‘Why Being Modest is More Exciting than Being Immodest.’ Here is what I observed in the former article, looking at modesty first from the female perspective and then the male perspective:

The Female Perspective. Some women have told me that modesty is important to them, not only because it helps men not to stumble, but also because it helps them place a high value on their own sexuality. They have told me that modest apparel affirms the true importance of a woman’s sexual identity, since it proclaims that her body is not a tame, benign, and commonplace thing. Modesty affirms that our bodies in general and our sexuality in particular are special, charged, even enchanted, and too exciting to be put merely to common use. As Kathleen van Schaijik suggested in a 1999 article, “If we revere something, we do not hide it. Neither do we flaunt it in public. We cherish it; we pay it homage; we approach it with dignity; we adorn it with beauty; we take care that it is not misused.”

In her book A Return to Modesty, Wendy Shalit argues that modesty is the truly erotic option, since it makes the highest valuation of a woman’s sexual identity, affirming the sacredness of sexuality and displaying a commitment to setting it apart and cherishing it. C. S. Lewis put his finger on the same principle in That Hideous Strength: “when a thing is enclosed, the mind does not willingly regard it as common.” To dress immodestly is ultimately to reduce our sexuality to something commonplace, trivial, and humdrum.

Precisely for this reason, a modest woman significantly upgrades the significance of what is happening when she undresses in front of her husband. As Havelock Ellis observed (stumbling upon the truth for one of the few times in his life), “without modesty we could not have, nor rightly value at its true worth, that bold and pure candor which is at once the final revelation of love and the seal of its sincerity.”

The Male Perspective. Modesty also upgrades sexuality from the male perspective. The evidence clearly shows that men whose environment is saturated with immodest women (either because of the company they keep or the images they view) are generally not oversexed, as one might suppose, but just the opposite. In Denmark, where pornography is unrestricted, men are often quoted as saying that sex has become boring.

Cristina Odone observed in The Times that advertisers are finding that sex just does not sell products like it once did. The reason, she suggested, is that the advertisers have made sex so banal that it doesn’t entice us any longer. As one 16-year-old was quoted as saying in 2004, “I’m so used to it, it makes me sick.”

Frequent exposure to nudity tends to trivialize the human body, emptying it of its implicit eroticism. As someone said to me last year, when a man is exposed to too much flesh, it lowers the healthy excitement he should feel when he looks upon the body of his wife because (yawn) he sees that all the time. It therefore takes a higher sexual charge, sometimes to point of extreme perversion, to match the excitement that might otherwise be available in a normal sexual encounter. Could it be that the rise of libido-enhancing drugs is meeting a need created by the libido-squashing effects of pornography?

Tiny Tim’s Toffee

I don’t normally use this blog to advertise products, but I felt the need to make an exception as we approach the coming holiday season.

For years my friend Joey has been working to perfect his family’s toffee recipe, to give people a healthy alternative to the mass-produced sweets available in shops. His product line, which takes inspiration from Tiny Tim in Dicken’s Christmas Carol, donates 10% of all profits directly to families with injured children, broken homes, or the ever increasing unemployed who have one or more children. (Read more about the inspiration behind the company here).

Tiny Tim’s Toffee has two product lines: Almond English Toffee, and Traditional English Toffee, which they also sell in stocking-stuffer sizes.

I’m not super into sweets, but when I tasted the Almond English Toffee earlier in the year, I knew I had to get behind it. I realized that I was tasting genuine English toffee–the crunchy, sweet, melt-in-your-mouth sort that your grandmother might have made–for which all other candy is but an imitation.

Here is a picture Joey took of his Almond English Toffee.

There’s a reason this toffee tastes so much better than the sweets you can buy anywhere else. One obvious reason is the natural ingredients, like real butter and real sugar, instead of vegetable oil and corn syrup. Another reason is that these sweets are not made by robots in a factory, but by Joey and his family in a small commercial kitchen. Although I can’t prove it, I believe that personal touch comes out in the flavor. (Elsewhere I have shared my belief that food made with love can become conduits of divine grace.)

With the holidays approaching, I recommend Tiny Tim’s Toffee as the perfect Christmas gift for family and loved ones. Instead of buying gifts from big conglomerates like Walmart and Amazon, this will help support a small family enterprise. According to Entrepreneur, 68 percent of Americans would rather pay more to do business with a small business than a big one. I agree with that.

Don’t wait…order your Christmas gifts from Tiny Tim’s Toffee today!

The Internet and Your Brain

I still remember the night that convinced me I finally needed to join the twenty-first century.

I had just finished a long day helping as a judge for a debate tournament. By the time I finally headed home it was dark. Or at least, I thought I was headed home. However, the further I drove, the less I recognized of my surroundings. As the road progressed further and further up into the mountains, I remembered my young children waiting at a friends’ house for me to collect them. Finally, the road abruptly ended. Literally, it just ended. I had no choice but to turn around and start over.

At about midnight I finally pulled into the drive-way of my friends’ house to collect my tired children. I determined never to let myself get lost again: I would finally invest in a GPS.

A few weeks later I went into an electronics store and asked for a device that had GPS capabilities. They sold me an Android tablet. I quickly discovered that the tablet was more than just a GPS: it was also an audio player, a camera, a gaming device, even a flashlight. Moreover, the tablet had a perpetual connection so it was always online. Continue reading

Turning Emotional Sufferings into Spiritual Profit

In the early fifth century, the great preacher of the early church, St. John Chrysostom (c. 349–407), made an enemy of the Empress Eudoxia. He had provoked the wrath of the empress by speaking out against an image she had erected of herself directly across from his church, the Hagia Sophia Cathedral. When games were played in front of the idolatrous image, this distracted worshipers from the prayer services. Hoping to silence St. John, Empress Eudoxia sent soldiers to carry him into exile in 404. There followed a period of persecution against those who supported the exiled preacher. Soldiers forcibly broke up church services of those who were loyal to St. John, abusing the worshipers and even stripping ear rings off the women, pulling off parts of their ears in the process. Some of St. John’s followers were even tortured and killed.

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