Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Christian Simulacra Postscript: Podvig and Flesh

Pretty sure this error needs a word. No idea what to call it though. This is a second example of the same fundamental error I tried to point at with my last post.

"He explains that the spirit hates sin, while the flesh dwells in it."
In short, the flesh is made of physics, and physics is sacred.

Physics was made by the creator. Physics is perfectly ordered. Physics has no free will and cannot sin. It is entirely impossible that the flesh per se is anything but sacred.

Further, considered in a generalized sense, the flesh is the manifestation. Without a manifestation, you cannot interact with anything. Without some form of body, being holy is as impossible as being unholy.

The Christian makes this error again when they claim thoughts can sin.

Certainly, some urges arise from the flesh which, if followed, are sin. But it is wrong to hold someone responsible for things they cannot control. The weather, the actions of their parents, and certain thoughts all belong in the same category, and there's no point in beating yourself up over it, because no choice you make can affect their existence or properties.

Indeed were I to try to take responsibility upstream of where it actually is, I would find myself not taking responsibility at the correct place, and thus failing to take physical control.
"I cannot understand my own behavior. I fail to carry out the things I want to do, and I find myself doing the very things I hate.... for though the will to do what is good is in me, the performance is not, with the result that instead of doing the good things I want to do, I carry out the sinful things I do not want."
I dunno, maybe you're different. I have a finite amount of energy for controlling myself. If I exhaust myself trying to control my lustful appreciation of the opposite sex, then I will have no energy left over to stop myself from allowing them to flirt with me.

If I misidentify the locus of control, I may also decide I've failed when I haven't. If I attempt to control the lustful thoughts, I will fail. I will likely assume the lustful actions, which follow from them, I've already attempted to control, but failed to. (Admittedly the reverse can also occur - some actions become inevitable due to previous actions, and even if my odds of controlling the previous actions are slight, it's better than trying to control the subsequent ones.)
"All of these things oppose the body, and as we fulfill these ascetical practices, we do indeed find that they help us draw nearer to our Creator and Savior.   
[...]
 “all the saints accept the only true path to virtue to be pain and hard work... lightness and ease are a sign of a false path. Anyone who is not struggling, not in podvig, is in prelest”"
Sic et non.
Opposing the body for the sake of opposing the body is rank foolishness. It weakens you. Your courage and fortitude decrease, meaning you will be less able to perform a difficult action is prudence demands you do so.
Duh, you want doing the right thing to be easy, not hard.
It is however true that the path towards making-the-right-thing-easy is itself not easy. Game theory applies - if it is easy, you can set your sights higher and do an even more right thing, with some additional effort.

I believe a Christian should say God creates the body as he creates physics, as he creates all living things. To desecrate it is not holiness, no matter how difficult it might be, no matter how much it may signal some other virtue.

It's true the body gives you trials. Why that is...well, I certainly can't say. The competing theories seem reasonable. To make the body low status, to shun it, only closes you off to an aspect of Logos, namely, the things your body does, the things your body is telling you.



I'm also concerned this attitude may come from, lead to, or reinforce nerdish anti-jockism. When you see a healthy hobbit glorifying in their mighty body, are you happy for them or do you see a source of sin? It clearly can't be sin to maximize your God-given talents. Especially, as science as now shown, since a powerful body makes your mind more powerful. To simplify a little, as long as his glory is not "And therefore I"m holier than you," then his glory leads him closer to Logos, not farther away.

Your body is your house, in exactly the same way your house is your house. The only difference is your house can't tell you directly when your house is in order. Your body, by contrast, tells you in great detail how ordered it is. If you know enough to listen.

2 comments:

Nick B Steves said...

You are to be commended for your sturdy resistance to the gnostic heresy. I've never been very sure what St. Paul meant by the War between "Spirit" and "Flesh", but I am assured by nearly 2000 years of heresy hunting that it in no way implies that Sin is located in the Physics.

Alrenous said...

Makes sense if you take 'spirit' to mean willpower, 'flesh' to be some of the degenerate urges, and 'war' to mean conflict. A plausible translation issue.
However, willpower requires the flesh too. Similarly, the spirit is hardly devoid of degenerate urges.

The second angle is the fact that natural selection has a tendency to make animals vicious instead of friendly. A cooperative ecology isn't impossible, only unstable. If you see animals as an avatar of Flesh, then it's not a long trip to seeing Flesh as in opposition to heaven.