Monday, 26 February 2007

James' Answer to Jung (1)

Please excuse the tendency towards rambling - this is a blog, not an academic essay! What I write in these posts will mostly be directed at Jung. I shan't attempt to construct a theodicy. Many greater, wiser and more godly Christians have done so and doubtless will do so. In an case, my faith is not dependent on a theodicy constructed by men and women, but on the righteousness of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God, and on His unfathomable love and the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing us to the Father.

Jung is keen to paint a picture of God as amoral.

As certain as Job is of the evil Yahweh he is equally certain of the good… Yahweh is not split but is an antinomy – a totality of inner opposites – and this is the indispensible condition for his tremendous dynamism, his oimniscience and omnipotence (10).

Just as an aside, this is typical of the style of the work – no attempt is made to defend the assertion that “antinomy is indispendible to omniscience”. Indeed it is difficult to think of a defence of such a claim! One would have thought that God’s radical alterity could suffice (from a human perspective) to ‘explain’ those qualities (though some might think that such an argument would be ‘cheating’). But more importantly, God is simply not dependent on our attempts to justify Him: He is ‘of himself’, He is who He is. And we are dependent on His revelation of Himself for any genuine knowledge of Him. Following Jung, someone might want to argue that divine revelation indeed reveals a God of antinomy, but this is not logically connected to the divine attributes and is certainly not an “indispensible condition” of them.

This pschoanalysis of Yahweh’s personality/character is in some ways the central theme of the work. But the textual evidence is slight. Jung relies on Psalm 89 for his accusations that Yahweh is an oath-breaker (12) and goes on to speculate that Yahweh was about to loosen his matrimonial ties with Israel (44) but was unwilling to admit this to himself and so sought out Job as an unfaithfulness-scapegoat. The many pages devoted to this idea are hardly built on solid ground: the apparently impressive edifice is a sham. Psalm 89 asks many hard questions about present judgement on Israel and the house of David, but is steadfast in its trust in Yahweh. The typology of the Psalm clearly points to the reign of the Messiah, just as the House of David in history was a type of the Messianic throne. And the covenant itself contained provision for disobedience, as the Psalm makes clear (verses 30-32), so a temporary interruption to Davidic continuity should not be much of a surprise, and can be accommodated in a sensible reading of the covenant. Our time is not God’s time – so if He chose to humble and judge Israel for several centuries before restoring the glory of the Davidic line, that would hardly be outside His prerogative!

Of course, since a central plank of Jung’s overall argument is that Yahweh is essentially pre-personal, lacking in self-relection and without consciousness (despite his tremendous power), this begs the question of how there is a ‘he’ to hide anything from ‘himself’. If he is not conscious or reflective how can ‘hiding’ be a meaningful word? Jung has imported a duality of selfhood into his description of Yahweh – the very thing he is trying to exclude with all his insistence on Yahweh’s amorality and unconsciousness.

In passing, note the non sequiturs at the heart of the argument: Yahweh behaves inscrutably and apparently in contradictory fashions, so he must be both good and evil and yet be unconscious of that. Yet unconsciousness does not follow from morally divergent actions, nor is a verdict of moral ambivalence necessary when dealing with the actions of God from a mere human perspective. God might be completely evil, and Jung is in fact happy to accuse Him of this – the plea of unconsciousness is invalid given that he flagrantly violates three of his own commandments (22) – so the question remains as to why he spends so much time trying to categorise Yahweh as unconscious (as opposed to man, who is conscious and thus superior in the Jungian framework) and amoral.

Further, Jung accuses God of being psychologically dependent on human praise and human consciousness (16), which is flatly denied by the Bible, and relates this dependence to a deeper metaphysical question. The character thus revealed fits a person who can only convince himself that he exists through his relation to an object. Such dependence on the object is absolute when the subject is totally lacking in self-reflection and therefore has no insight into himself (14). However, it is far from clear that any subject can exist without a relation to an object. Jung’s whole psychol-analytic system can only be constructed in a analyst-patient duality (not to mention all the rest of the real stuff of life, universe and everything that must already exist for the analyst-subject to relate at all). He appears to rely on a simplistic pseudo-Cartesian understanding of reality, which is totally inadequate. Human beings are already-in-relationship: Jung’s uses “dependence” as a slur, when in fact it is the very ground of consciousness and possibly of matter itself, since all matter is created by the only being for whom it might be possible to subjectify without an object. And yet even this may be an unecessary step. Our God is a glorious Trinity – he is not a speck, a mere subject. He is already-in-relationship, too. A robust trinitarian theology can doubly dispense with Jung’s accusations here.

And finally (for now) the motor for Jung’s Answer to Job is the Biblical narrative of this man’s suffering at the hands of Yahweh and Satan. This raises many questions for faithful believers as well as for sceptics, and I am not suggesting that they can be brushed aside. Several excellent books treat these questions – see, from an evangelical perspective, the recent works of Christopher Ash and Don Carson, and there are many other reflections from across the Christian tradition. Yet Jung brushes aside one of the major ‘orthodox’ explanations, that Yahweh did all this in order to exalt Job, simply because the text does not record that Yahweh ever told Job that this was His reason (24). I regard this possibility as improbable, he says, because it would only have been fair and equitable to Job to explain all this to him. Leaving aside the exemplary shape of the narrative and the possibility that those words were exchanged off-screen, why is Jung so happy to accuse Yahweh of all manner of evil, and yet not be willing to see Him as unfair and inequitable on this point of communication!?

I sometimes wonder whether Jung was fully conscious when he wrote this work… ;-)

Thursday, 22 February 2007

customer satisfaction

Wow. Sick computer (hence no blogging for a couple of weeks) and after two short 'phone calls to the vendor/manufacturer and a metre of parcel tape it's back. Four working days. Working better than ever. They picked it up for free and brought it back for free. Now that's what I call a warranty. Thank you Fujitsu-Siemens!

Fourth shogi evening

The fourth Cambridge shogi evening was tough going. I only played two games, both incredibly tense, hard-fought and exhausting. On the plus side I won them both, though we shall have to fit in a fifth if I am to defeat my arch-rival, Mano-san…

J vs. Tanaka-san
1. P76 P34
2. P75 P44
3. P36 S32
4. P74 Px74
5. B55 R92 (this is a terrible square for the rook, White should have seen my cheap opening trap)
6. R38 S43
7. Rx36 P54
8. B28 S72
9. G78 P’73
10. R76 G62
11. N77 P14
12. P’74 Px74
13. N65 P75
14. Rx75

The next bit is not wholly plausible, but I reconstructed this game from memory the following morning and couldn’t remember exactly how White had lost his pawn in hand that meant he had to drop a knight on move 25. So, for the sake of getting to the nice attack, the next couple of moves will have to be a bit spurious

14. P’74
15. Rx74 B31
16. G58

From here on it is correct.

16. … B64
17. Bx64 Px64
18. Rx64 B’55 (looks very pretty but there were more solid moves)
19. R74 Bx11+
20. B’71 L’73 (looks very solid, but now the incredible sacrifices begin)
21. Bx62+ Kx62
22. G’53 K71
23. Nx73+ Sx73
24. Rx73+ +Bx73
25. L’76 N’74
26. S’63 G52
27. Gx52 Sx52
28. Sx74 +Bx74
29. Lx74 K61 (White still has no pawn in hand, which leaves him pretty defenceless)
30. B’42 G’51 (preventing mate at the cost of returning the sacrificed material)
31. G’72 Rx72
32. Lx72+ Kx72

33. Bx51+ and as White's next move was weak and permitted 34. R'62, mate followed even more quickly than it should have.

Saturday, 3 February 2007

the best street name in the world?

Greater Foxes, Fulbourn.

If you've got anything better, I'd like to know about it.

Thirty Two Short Films

About Glen Gould. Beautiful music, intriguing presentation, lots to think about. But the question that hit me most forcefully (I'm ashamed to say) was "Kryten from Red Dwarf: was he a Canadian droid?"

Jung's Answer to Job (1954)

Starting with the book of Job and the Eighty-Ninth Psalm, Carl Jung weaves in and out of Christian salvation history, leaving little bits of his worldview behind him, sometimes cramming it into the heart of the Christian faith and generally casting significant doubt on orthodox theology and theodicy. The bits of the Bible that interest him are Genesis, the Wisdom literature, Job, the Incarnation and Revelation, and he also discusses at length the apocryphal Book of Enoch, which is envisaged (at a deep theological-psychological level) partly as a preparation for Christ's coming.

Like his encounter with the Bible, my encounter with Jung's Answer was not unfruitful, but it was a pretty stiff test. Here are some of the more thought-provoking bits...

Enoch, in his ecstasy, recognizes himself as the Son of Man, or as the Son of God, although neither by birth nor by predestination does he seem to have been chosen for such a role. He experiences that godlike elevation which, in the case of Job, we merely assumed, or rather inferred as the inevitable outcome. Job himself seems to have suspected something of the sort when he declares: "I know that my Vindicator lives." This highly remarkable statement can, under the circumstances, only refer to the benevolent Yahweh. The traditional Christian interpretation of this passage as an anticipation of Christ is correct in so far as Yahweh's benevolent aspect incarnates itself, as its own hypostasis, in the Son of Man, and in so far as the Son of Man proves in Enoch to be a representative of justice and, in Christianity, the justifier of mankind. Furthermore, the Son of Man is pre-existent, and therefore Job could very well appeal to him. Just as Satan plays the role of accuser and slanderer, so Christ, God's other son, plays the role of advocate and defender. (106-7)

Notwithstanding the confused and heterodox Godhead here, Jung has hit on a theme worth investigating further (and I'm sure that someone like James Jordan or Peter Leithart already has, not to mention Milton in Paradise Lost) - but with a proper Christological focus. Christ, God's Son, is the reference point, and Satan, God's other 'son' is the (ANTI)type.

The future indwelling of the Holy Ghost in man amounts to a continuing incarnation of God. Christ, as the begotten son of God and a pre-existing mediator, is a first-born and a divine paradigm which will be followed by further incarnations of the Holy Ghost in the empirical man. But man participates in the darkness of the world, and therefore, with Christ's death, a critical situation arises which might well be a cause for anxiety. When God became man all darkness and evil was carefully kept outside. Enoch's transformation into the Son of Man took place entirely in the realm of light, and to an even greater extent this is true of the incarnation in Christ. It is highly unlikely that the bond between God and man was broken with the death of Christ; on the contrary, the continuity of this bond is stressed again and again and is further confirmed by the sending of the Paraclete. But the closer this bond becomes, the closer becomes the danger of a collision with evil... (114-5) [and CJ then goes on to one of his favourite themes, one of the main drivers of the book, the question of why even now God keeps Satan on such a long leash, cf. 86-7.]

It is altogether amazing how little most people reflect on numinous object and attempt to come to terms with them... One always participates for and against, and "absolute objectivity" is more rarely achieved here than anywhere else... If one has no religious beliefs, then one does not like to admit the feeling of deficit, but prates loudly about one's liberal-mindedness and pats oneself on the back for the noble frankness of one's agnosticism. From this standpoint it is hardly possible to admit the numinosity of the religious object, and yet its very numinosity is just as great a hindrance to critical thinking, because the unpleasant possibility might then arise that one's faith in enlightenment of agnosticism would be shaken... Enlightenment operates with an inadequate rationalistic concept of truth and points triumphantly to the fact that beliefs such as the virgin birth, divine filiation, the resurrection of the dead, transubstantiation, etc., are all moonshine. Agnosticism maintains that it does not possess any knowledge of God or of anything metaphysical, overlooking the fact that one never possesses a metaphysical belief but is possessed by it. Both are possessed by reason, which represents the supreme arbiter who cannot be argued with. But who or what is this "reason" and why should it be supreme? Is not something that has real existence for us an authority superior to any rational judgement, as has been shown over and over again in the history of the human mind? (148-9)

First published as Antwort auf Hiob (Zurich: Rascher Verlag, 1952).

Friday, 2 February 2007

from a generous and observant reader

Carlos Bernard (Tony Almeida in 24) is left-handed.

And let me just confess that I find 24 surprisingly compelling. Having watched serieses 1-5 on DVD in big chunks over the last couple of years (the Jacobean first series is clearly superior to its Machiavellian sucessors) we are now attempting to watch it week by week, courtesy of Adam and Laura's SkyOne plus video. Not having a TV ourselves means that even the box becomes a relational tool, on a good day! (For proper analysis of all this relational thinking the best starting place is the work of Michael Schluter and David John Lee, The R-Factor [1993] and The R-Option [2002].)

An interesting feature of 24 is that the country of origin of the various villains is frequently kept hidden, especially when the villains are Muslims (as in serieses 2, 4 and 6). So, we don't hear which Caucasian republic the bombers in season 5 are fighting for, and we don't hear which Middle-Eastern country is first suspected of complicity in the plot, then exonerated through the sacrificial work of its noble secret service agent, in season 2 (in my opinion the one with the most holes, but that's a story for another day...)

The exceptions are noteworthy, and predictable. The shadowy international arms dealers are almost always English. And, as we know, the British/English villain (either character or actor or both) is a staple of the American action genre. But in series 4 we hear very early on that the family terrorist cell are Turkish immigrants. They are not stock Arab/generic Middle Eastern villains. This was, from a Westerner's point of view, an unusual deviation from the programme-makers' underdetermination of origins. But for my Turkish friends it was not only a tremendous insult ("no one in Turkey is watching it now, they have lost a whole nation") it was also just another example of how everyone is out to 'get' Turkey.

There is much to be said on Renaissance stereotyping of "the Turk", and the effect that this has had on European culture subsquently. But that's a story for another day.