Recent Abstract Submission: Animal Personhood and Theistic Animal Ethics

Encouragement to Affection (Prelude): Christian society is inundated with deceptive philosophy that seeks to undermine the brilliance of mind that God has given abundantly. Will you not take the time to analyze what interpretation you are residing upon?; that interpretation could be one of raising a heightened awareness of Truth; but rather not let it be upon an interpretation that is one of the natural brute beast’s perception that only distinguishes right from wrong: God forbid we believe the Truth is a game of right and wrong; God forbid we receive His Word without good conscience; God forbid we approach the Word with the kind of dumb assumptions that typify the zealot without wisdom, and not the wise man with zeal.

Let the Philosopher return to the Christian Church with vengeance,
and let him hammer for Truth.

May God damn the mindless Christianity of our age,
but may we love our brothers and sisters with the ferocity fit for the King.

Amen.

Abstract:
Beasts possess personhood (fysikόs psychē i.e. natural soul). They possess a fleshly body of distinct animal kind, spirit that is breath (ruach), and soul of living form (Job 12:10;) the beastly-soul is identified as following: (1) not of the same human significance i.e. comparably diminished (2) of living form (mental perception, sensation, reasonableness, etc.) and (3) speculative immortality/mortality; but yet, they do not possess the (1) esteem of being created in the imago Dei i.e. the physical-actual imago Dei, nor do they possess (2) the ability of themselves to reason their soul through language in explicit human fashion, nor do they possess (3) the degree of moral awareness that homo sapiens do. In truth, the designations of body, soul, and spirit are given to the beast (fysikόs psychē), whereas humans occupy a necessary triunity with divisions amidst soul (i.e. the exceeding form-life of bestial form-life) and spirit (Heb. 4:12, Luke 10:27), and the absolute privilege of being made in the imago Dei. Nevertheless, triune personhood is not defined solely through the esteem of dominion, or the ability to reason soul through language as some do, nor the moral awareness of humans: triune personhood is defined upon the necessary triunity of being regardless of the degree to which the triunity is expressed or inoculated. Understanding the personhood of beasts is crucial to understand the exceedingly high personhood of man—when the animal kingdom is elevated, man’s dominion is elevated; when man’s dominion is elevated, then the immensely sacred person of man is elevated. The persuasion is that beasts do possess a triune nature, and consequently, ethics should be proposed for the benefit of both man and beast in society.

The beastly-flesh of land was formed from the dust of the earth; let us entertain that the beastly being was breathed on-in spirit; and soon the beast became a living soul i.e. the fysikόs psychē of living form comparable to a human’s living form. Do we have sufficient reason to believe that beasts were not fashioned this way?—with the only principled exception being that man was made in the image of God? What is the imago Dei and why does man get this role? I submit to you that it is not simply because man has a triune nature of which this role is attained, but rather that it is because of man’s physical image. Beasts can undoubtedly occupy a triune nature, however, they cannot occupy the imago Dei. In the sense that metaphoric principles are applied (i.e. “Lamb of God,” “Lion of the Tribe of Judah,” “’Living Beings,’” etc.), then we may entertain the idea and apply theoretical ideas to the image of God, but with regard to the True Reality of God’s image in actual human-bodily manifestation,  we are then wise to affirm that the “The Word [when] became flesh” is indicative of man-flesh, not beast-flesh (John 1:1). Contrary to the thought of many scholastic philosophers, the intellect of man is not the sole reflection of the imago Dei: the imago Dei is principally the physical appearance of the invisible God that manifests in human likeness of body. Yet further, given the exceeding wise nature of animal behavior (Prov. 30:24), we cannot be certain that animals do not possess some sense of natural intellection. Yet even further, we cannot be certain (inasmuch as we know now) that scientific achievement has shown that animals do possess intellect. Withstanding the aforementioned, the discussion of animal personhood remains a distinctly theological and philosophical undertaking—with the foremost emphasis upon the philosophy of analytics in scriptural writings.

Undoubtedly the Preacher holds the Word true when he declares, in view of this temporal life, that: “Humans have no advantage over the animal;” (Ecc. 3:19) and yet, why do we assume preeminence, instead of a proper understanding of dominion wherewith we govern through our language of reason, our moral fiber, and capable physical image whereby we may perceive the ethics of ourselves in the regeneration of Holy Spirit? What is the ethic? The ethic is Rational Compassion: a thought-ethic which seeks to conjoin Siddhartha’s compassion for all living beings, and Solomon’s profession of discerning time and judgment (Ecc. 8:5). Rational Compassion is the withholding of alternate consciousness for the benefit of All; Rational Compassion is promulgation of gentleness through limited assumption in wisdom from above for Love’s chief end; it is the necessary coupling of will and intellect through mind’s reason on behalf of the imago Dei. Rational Compassion is a High Order ethic, and while not a pragmatist’s approach, it is indeed a Higher Order of thought-ethic.

Two Poems

“A Woman’s Heart”
by L.H. Gracy

We move together, and I love your
venerable countenance.
Shining a breath, passing, yet never
will I forget.–

The glowing austere of holiness, or,
the way my mind was lit

aflame: sudden bursts of transcendence,
angel light, nether worlds–destroyed

shattered in Beauty’s eminence. Love

now restored.

All speculation will not slay this

One:
that is,
the glory underneath,
the Greater than the Sun.

A woman’s heart shews forth, and
dispels deceptive will.

A partial, yet complete act
of God’s aesthetic fill.

“Memories that Wander”
by L.H. Gracy

Recalling a melodious pitch,
or forms of movement, thus
Swarms of creatures the mind adventures,
the swooning of the thrush

And while I beckon hitherto,
ineffable thoughts I ponder:
the motive of a person’s word of deed
when that one says, what’s wrong dear?

Further, have I not known
the brilliance of mind on earth–
the one that makes me move in glory,
and relinquish undue search?

If not, will I declare
I must continue onward
And love that which is from above–
those objects and things we ponder.

Memories that wander
stay of place in some sweet nexus
A taste of pondering eminence
a taste of Nature’s Sexes
And while I sit, I wait 
for Heaven’s inspiration
to be greater than the vile amorous
to rejoice in my long sation.

Memories that wander
stay of place in some sweet nexus.

Love for Animals: The Animal as an Object of Knowledge

dog

If you haven’t, try observing your beloved pet while keeping in mind the possible mystery of his behavior. Take careful note of the sweeping motion of the cat and dog’s tail, the manner in which they both present their head to be scratched, the attentiveness a dog gives when they “listen” to your words, how a dog rests that unusually heavy head on your lap, or the beautiful truth in how they never enjoy being away from you (dogs, that is). These, and so much more, display quite a marvelous mystery. But have we asked ourselves what the actions, and more importantly the personable companion, represent? I think this is the greatest mystery of all.

I’ve been going through some immensely challenging and difficult times lately, and I believe that the challenges have opened me up to the great mysteries of God. I have learned that through adversity, God furnishes us in high fire to work His glory in us. One defining feature of this is in the revelation of mystery; Paul, concerning himself and his fellow ministers, gives notice to others of how himself and others should be accounted: “Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor. 4:1). We can assume we’re in a favorable place when mysteries have been entrusted to our care so that we may steward them. Such mysteries are found in the most unlikely of places–including the loving face of that furry creature that commits himself faithfully to your care.

What are these mysteries? Well, I can disclose to you a particularly marvelous mystery: the mystery of an animal as an object of knowledge.

The Book of Ecclesiastes speaks to the extraordinary development of man as an animal: “Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless” (Ecc. 3:19). I would say furthermore that within this verse is the allowance of man to contrive deep, fathomable truths from animals, given that they clearly hold a special place amongst the wisdom tradition found herein. Even further, the Book of Proverbs relates the wisest of behavior and characteristics to animals: the writer gives introduction to the creatures by saying, “There be four things which are little upon the earth, but they are exceeding wise” (Prov. 30:24). We would do wise to unravel the mysteries of God’s creatures. Now that the reality of wisdom in animals has been established, then what more? What is the specific mystery I speak of?

Not only do I believe animals are persons (albeit not the same manner in which we might ascribe personhood to a human person) but I also believe that animals represent vast objects of knowledge that are pertinent to our lives as humans. These objects are pertinent to our lives as humans because they stand in place of figments of our imaginary life by displaying a natural reality. Our companions represent ideas–godlike impressions we hold dear–and give those ideas character, a loving face, and a sweet countenance of adoring admiration. It can be no little wonder that God, speaking to the caressing of those good godlike impressions, tells His people to be righteous in “caring for the needs of their animals” (Prov. 12:10). We fulfill a biblical obligation by holding our companions, that is, those objects of knowledge that are the manifestation of good ideas, in loving care. We are to fulfill biblical obligations.

So, what’s my story?

My German Shepherd, Dennis, represents the consolation of philosophy in my life, and all the actions associated with him speak directly to the dimensional relationship that philosophy has had in consoling myself through a difficult time: for, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). Our relationship transcends time, and moves into a category unique to us–it is the story of a man’s walk in faith through difficult and challenging times with a warm friend. There have been times where my bed was wet with tears; there have been times where despair wrenched my spirit and soul into marred submission; and there have been times where hope seemed too faint to recall. But, in my reason to believe and question my existence, I found solace–much like Solomon counted as worthy his questionable belief. But, these questions and reasons appeared manifested in my dear and warm friend; Dennis my compatriot of nighttime angst, and Dennis my arbiter of gloom: there be but only a paw-in-hand or a doleful look from him to inspire my spirits–much like reason provides. Can we recall our misery, and see not a friend around to console us? Well, my friends, look to your sweet, furry companions. Look to the objects of knowledge they represent.

When I think of my beloved companion, I’m led to the wonder in enjoyment of God. My friend, representing that desirous contentment found in the pursuit of wisdom, has been a dear friend. Surely when C.S. Lewis wrote that some of his best friends were books, he had in mind objects of knowledge, and likewise I say the fulfillment of that is in an animal, and the further fulfillment of that friend is in the best friend a man can have: Christ. Dennis has been an object of knowledge which has helped to, “direct me toward the discovery and enjoyment of the supreme good,” and, in part, has been “the object of desire capable of fulfilling perfectly the best of human aspirations” (xiv). Animals are more than what our unwitting minds may conceive of. They are treasured allies in a race toward the finish. They are man’s bubbly bristled bearer of sorrow. Yes, they are treasures, and where our treasures are, there our hearts are.

May I present a poem penned from my heart to you?
_________________________________________________________________

The Dog and Man

by Lance H. Gracy

The dog and man a peculiar bunch
God upholding tears
Man alone is not good, and such
A dog to share his cares

Gentle have I felt
And through the warmness of dreams I know
The transfer of knowledge through his pelt
The whispering eyes of wisdom shown

Many mysteries in wonder
The tale of a wagging tail
My friend in fits of soul asunder
My friend whom never fails

Stern leading is his joy
And his joy my pleasure
A soft touch, a sweet good boy
With love, my pal, a treasure

If he could speak my language
I know surely he would say
I have known love, yet dearly miss
Your presence every day

The dog and man a peculiar bunch
God upholding tears
Man alone is not good, and such
A dog to share his cares
_________________________________________________________________

What does your special animal mean to you? Which idea does he bear? What station in your life is he a representative of?

Seek the wonder of God, and discover the many mysteries that await.

All my love in Christ,

Lance H. Gracy

On the Whole Counsel of God: The Need for Philosophy to be Revisited

greekphilosophers
The Death of Socrates, Jacques-Louis David, 1787

The whole counsel of God is not solely political, nor is it solely theological, nor solely philosophical, nor solely literal, nor solely metaphorical, nor solely ontogenetical, nor solely naturalistic, nor solely national, nor solely transnational, etc.

The whole counsel of God is the compatibility of all these. Without the whole counsel of truth, then we will operate in a partial understanding. This partial understanding may be necessarily subjective, but ultimately the concern is that there be an understanding about the whole counsel of God. I am not arguing against the relative demand of subjective understandings, however, I do believe that we must revisit the totality of God’s counsel so that we can better keep in mind the nature of truth.

Civilizations have risen and fallen throughout the span of human existence. What does this mean though? What have these civilizations offered? Well, I can tell you that these civilizations, great in their grandeur, have offered a significant natural representation of the whole counsel of God, and more specifically in the formulation of America. The apologist Ravi Zacharias writes in his book Light in the Shadow of Jihad, “[Jerusalem has offered the moral conscience; Greece (Athens) has offered the philosophical backdrop; Rome has offered the legal and political frame; and London has offered the cultural ethos that carried into America’s early years” (29). Knowing this then, why do so many Americans seem to operate without compatibility–insisting that one of these frameworks is to be so highly elevated while denying the necessity of the others? This understanding of compatibility is the desirable impression of education in our society. Without this understanding of compatibility, then we may very well be subject to fits of inadequacy, misunderstanding, and unnecessary fervor. Christ himself appears to be this understanding by positing himself as the answer and the ultimate incorporation of all these components to the whole counsel of God when he says: “I am the way [Roman political strategy], the truth [addressing the Greeks in their search for truth], and the life [addressing the moral conscience of dead religion in Jewish custom]” (John 14:6).

Lately, it has seemed to me in my awakened dreams and passions of good, that American society has chosen to neglect the philosophical and thus, I am stirred to raise awareness about this particular framework. Philosophy is the personification of wisdom, and not merely the love of wisdom. While theology may be the “Queen of the Sciences,” philosophy is the resolute and steadfast Handmaiden of Theology–inseparable, unwavering, and devoted to the pursuit of truth. Just as St. Augustine, while reading Cicero’s Hortensius, was stirred to an honest love for wisdom, so too do I hope that our society might be awakened, and rekindled for wisdom, and thereby put off the vitriol sentiments that are often associated with the study of philosophy–especially within the Christian Church.

Do you see? Philosophy is a component of the whole counsel of God; how does it operate then? Philosophy challenges the presuppositions of man in their dogmatism: it is the act of critical thinking; much like how Jesus challenged the religious dogmatism of his day (Mark 7; Matthew 15). Philosophy is an essence of godliness that instills in us the yearning for meaning. Philosophy appears to be understood in the Biblical Scriptures as having feminine characteristics, and is personified therein (Prov. 4:13). The medieval philosopher Boethius noticed this, and gave sight to her beauty in his Consolation of Philosophy where she “appeared standing above [Boethius], a woman of majestic countenance whose flashing eyes seemed wise beyond the ordinary wisdom of men” (3). One should ask, since wisdom is personified in the Scriptures, is that not a call to adore such? To venerate such (my Roman Catholic friends might be attentive at this point). Surely, within the abiding covenant of Christ we can rest in such adoration– given that our hearts are holy-sanctified by the Spirit. Please take heed to understand the essence of this exhortation. Principally the essence of this exhortation is to give an exhortation to philosophy as that necessary component of the whole counsel of God, and thereby sanctify its rightful, and dare I say, holy place.

Interestingly enough, the role of philosophy seems to also be a primary importance in education. Many are unaware that the natural sciences themselves were fashioned by the philosopher Aristotle, and therein he accentuated the purity of philosophy as the foundation for all academic pursuit. Furthermore, the majority of educational exhortations in the Scriptures are from the known Books of Wisdom: 

For wisdom [is] a defence, [and] money [is] a defence: but the excellency of knowledge [is, that] wisdom giveth life to them that have it. Ecclesiastes 7:12

How much better [is it] to get wisdom than gold! and to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver! Proverbs 16:16

Take fast hold of instruction; let [her] not go: keep her; for she [is] thy life. Proverbs 4:13

The fear of the LORD [is] the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy [is] understanding. Proverbs 9:10 

What are the downsides to philosophy? Clearly the apostle warns the Church, “not to be deceived by vain [hollow and deceptive] philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ” (Col. 2:8). However, exposing this passage in its literal context is important. First and foremost, the early Church, especially those inhabited by Greeks, were prone to the peripatetic nature of philosophy during that time i.e. an appearance of godliness in the Greek philosophers whilst they remained not in profession of the saving power of Christ. That “vain philosophy, which depends on human tradition…rather than on Christ” was precisely the type of pagan philosophy that depended upon itself rather than upon Christ; in no manner do we find such aforementioned pagan philosophy good, for such philosophy was bred adjacent to the sound doctrines of the Christian Church (e.g. Gnosticism, Arianism, Modalism, etc.) However, this warning is NOT a reason to avoid philosophy, nor is it a reason to not engage in philosophy. The apostle Paul is NOT telling Christians to avoid philosophy, but rather not to be deceived by vain philosophy; the apostle Paul might as well be saying “gird up the loins of you understanding” and develop yourself so that you will NOT be deceived by any sort of philosophy (1 Peter 1:13). As one of my dear professors has mentioned: we cannot escape philosophy because immediately after such an apostolic exhortation to not be deceived we might then ask “what is vain philosophy?” 

Given the nature of the current political climate, I cannot help but think that there is not enough philosophical undertaking going on. To be quite honest, there isn’t even high-level rhetoric going on–the general theme nowadays is one of misinformation, a severe lack in wisdom, and, adequately enough, an ignorance on display that is so apparent and egregious that there is seemingly no wisdom to be found in it, of consideration, that is.

I’d like to propose one solution: ask questions. Do not assume your understanding of the mind of another, rather seek the truth in the dialogue through asking questions, challenging understanding, and pursuing the Heart at which the relativity of ideas resides. Plato said that “philosophy begins in wonder,” and as true as this statement is, we would be wise to engage ourselves in the act of wonder and enchantment for the sake of returning back upon the firm foundation of Jesus Christ, the apostles, His prophets, and the inspiration of Holy Scripture.

Solus Christus

All my love in Christ,

Lance H. Gracy

A Soliloquy on Relations

I am incredibly perplexed; recent circumstances have enveloped my understanding to the point where I believe restitution will not be made. How is man to live, if he is to live with his perplexities? St. Augustine is right, no philosophy can sufficiently be made for the ordering of life, and therefore I am left to no other effective choice than to lean in on my Christ–that One through which gives true understanding; these perplexities are not of some lesser sort, but rather break a man’s character to the point in which he is despairing of his own character–what is this? Vanity, I assume, but even then am I not justified to resolutely cast judgment onto another? Is that it then: a temptation towards my own resolution in character? I cannot help but to think you (that poisoning hand of dainty deceitfulness) are the one that fashions me a certain way while behaving that way yourself: I am sickened at the behavior. Is my own wrath entirely unjustified? No, but surely it cannot produce what is most desirable. Surely it is so that my Lord withholds his wrath, although His wrath towards me is in deepest and most affectionate love–why then should mine be any different? The pining of contempt–that is what you bring forward from myself.

Here I write, and yet I am lacking. I pity myself sometimes, but mostly, I pity the manner in which you position yourself. Am I, just I, the one who should be cast aside? My Lord has not forsaken me, and yet, others do? Is this because they cannot fathom the weight of the eternal self?–the eternal self being me. But wait, perhaps this is just a matter of…understanding. Yes, there it is: understanding. They lack understanding, along with me, and yet I may say I am aware of the love of Christ and be the better for it! What other reason is there for them to so poignantly cast me off and forsake me? Because of illness? Because of fear? This is not the faith that looks through death, but is rather a sham, a farce, and an inadequate and insufficient faith that is prone to the most grand illusions of harm.

My statement becomes: do not pity me, but instead pity yourselves! You mockers, look at yourself and blush with shame! Be ashamed and confounded with your state of being! My contempt for you is my anger, but my anger is but a moment. Do not be ignorant of your own devices, and your own shortcomings, and your own deceptiveness! Fix your eyes upon God, and allow him to bring about the restitution that you are undoubtedly worthy of.

On Madness

madhatter

Lately I’ve been stirred to make many of my views known to the general societal public. I think the motivation, however brave it may be, is to allow others to peer into my understanding in order to, in devout hope, arrive at something that they had not known previously. I also believe that this is a time in which many are ascending higher into particular realms of influence, and, God graciously grant, that I might have an influence that forms a degree of consecration in others during such an ascension. Be it so that this blog is a blessing to you, an insight into the diverse understandings that are subject to Christian followers, and many, many others. The topic of this blog is: On Madness.

I believe the philosopher, and especially the prophet, are prone to fits of madness. Of course, when I say madness I don’t intend to entirely mean anger, although that is a nature of it, but instead I mean the consequence of mental illness, the nature of some chaotic and eccentric behavior, and often the solidarity of reason. When God equips a man’s reason, then there may be a time of development in which solidarity (I wouldn’t hesitate from saying isolation) becomes necessary. Aristotle seems to allude to the nature of this madness as an understandable point in which the human intellect and the chaotic fervor of the beast conjoin with each other:

[In order for man to live alone he must be either a god or a beast, or both, a philosopher.]

Surely we understand then that God made both gods (Jesus remarks upon this towards the religious leaders of his day, “It is written: you are gods,” John 10:34) and beast, and thus, the goodness of each. Madness then, in a peculiar enough way, is to the benefit of the man over the beast. Madness, being possessive in the natural man also, is but another advantage and sharp contrast to the beast, because the beast cannot exercise the goodness of both the natural man and the beast himself. Even the donkey, speaking with the voice of man, did not exercise his own madness (2 Peter 2:16), but rather rebuked madness! So what does man to gain from madness, if there be anything to gain at all? Do the scriptures speak of madness as good, or evil?

Undoubtedly, madness is associated with the pandering of the beast (Dan. 4:28-37; Zech. 12:4). However not altogether evil to be associated with the beast, the denotative meaning behind the scriptures’ discussion on madness is considerably wretched. Of course, the wretchedness of a thing gives some place to see the good in it, or else, how would God ever see the good in the wretchedness of us–that is, the desire to redeem such wretchedness?In the sense that madness consecrates man to the Imago Dei, then madness is good. In the sense that madness is a punishment for wrong-doing, and thereby causes man to despair in everlasting separation from God, then madness is, well, considerably evil.

Now, in view of the sanctification, consecration, and holy furnace of the trials of God, I’d like to allude the reader’s attention to the philosophical nature of God. In philosophy, the Divine Command Theory holds that an action is morally good, necessary, and sufficient if it is committed by God. In this sense, the will of God in permissively (or rather absolutely) allowing madness means that madness is, in the very least, beneficial. One would refrain from saying that madness is good, being that a virtue or vice is not necessarily entirely directly tied to the nature of Divine Command Theory, thereby directly tied to God in His sufficiency. But, does God bestow madness upon others? I believe the answer here is a resounding yes:

“In that day,” declares the LORD, “I will strike every horse with bewilderment and his rider with madness. But I will watch over the house of Judah, while I strike every horse of the peoples with blindness. (Zechariah 12:4)

Clearly we see the actions of the king Nebuchadnezzar bring about madness from the hand of God (via an interlocutor from heaven). Understandably, we realize that many actions are perpetrated by the Enemy, but nevertheless ordained by God. Too long have Christians argued in vain against the problem of evil, without ever taking into account the Supreme Sovereignty of God in the matter–submitting to the nature of free will (God allows evil because of free will) is a fine thing to say, but we must not neglect the consequences of disobeying and thereby enacting evil upon us! This evil may very well be ordained to “refine us in the furnace of affliction” as the scriptures bear out (Isaiah 48:10). Why would one ever presume there is no ordination to these grand actions? In my high estimation, to say such is foolishness.

Madness (in the good sense of the word) is grown and sanctioned through the forbidding of madness. This “forbidding of the madness of the prophet” (2 Peter 2:16) is what stands to gain–that is, the calming quench of the wrath of God. We remember the prophet Elijah, cursing the young men in his madness whereby the bears devoured the young men (2 Kings 2:23-25). Likewise we might recall the stern rebuke he probably faced. Interestingly enough, there seems to be an association of the wrath of God, through the instrument of man, in madness. This must be the relatively good sense of the word. The accompaniment of both the wrath of God, and the consecration of man to God, are the benefits of madness. Yes, and this is a comfortable feeling to entertain.

I’ll conclude with one of my favorite quotes from the popularizer and thinker G.K. Chesterton:

[It is not that the madman has lost his reason, rather, he has lost everything but his reason.]

All my love in Our Lord,

Lance

Martin Scorsese’s “Silence”: Apostasy, Religious Symbolic Imagery, and the Love of Christ

silenceI visited the movie theater the other night to see Martin Scorsese’s new film, Silence.

I was not disappointed in the slightest.

The movie is said to be Scorsese’s passion film, and surely, within my reason to believe, the film is perhaps the greatest religious film to come out of Hollywood since Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. The movie is based on Shusaku Endo’s masterpiece about the lives of Jesuit priests who had come to a hostile Japan in order to preach the gospel and retrieve a missing priest, and yet the movie showed itself to be a unique depiction of certain themes recorded in the book.

Throughout the film I noticed several immensely philosophic and theologic themes: the nature of apostasy, the nature of religious symbolic imagery, and the nature of Christ’s love based upon scriptural teachings–that love being the manner in which God is married to the betrayer through his election. What was beautifully striking about these themes was in the way they stirred up the imagination to believe in the living nature of the gospel; Scorsese arranged the story to display how the gospel lives, breathes, and displays properties that are not only supernatural, but, dare I say, magical.

I’d like to take some of my time to write about these philosophical and theological themes, because I believe the Church has lost a severe interest into the nature of understanding. We have lost the wonder and enchantment that God provides, and without such wonder and enchantment we will find, in those difficult and testing times, that our faith falters beneath the weight of trial.

Apostasy, a major focus in the film, is what I define to be the dimensional relation of rejecting the faith. Apostasy is dimensional because it traverses many subtleties. Apostasy is not merely the vocalization of denying Christ, thereby denying the Christian faith, but rather transcends mere vocalization by means of action, thought, and character. Surely Peter denied Christ in words (Luke 22:54) whereas Judas apostatized in action, thought, and character (Matt. 26:14-16). Titus 1:16 discusses the deeds of men in apostatizing, and Luke 13: 26-27 hammers down the nature of apostasy as that by which one refuses to be in fellowship with Christ.

In the film, Christian converts are called to step on an image depicting Christ, blaspheme the truth of the virgin birth, and other acts. While watching the film, a further question was aroused: is the desecration of religious symbolic imagery an act of apostasy, or something not to be taken too seriously?

Christian symbolic imagery, from here on out to be understood as religious symbolic imagery, has had a longstanding reputation in the Roman Catholic Church. Many such relics have been presupposed as venerable, and as being worthy of veneration. My sincere inquiry became a thirst for righteousness and truth, and likely enough my attention was directed to the scriptures for inspiration. Religious symbolic imagery as it associates itself with the work of God is certainly not forbidden in the scriptures. God not only commanded the Israelites to fashion the Ark of the Covenant (and when desecrated by Uzzah in 2 Samuel 6:7, God struck him down for his “act of irreverence”) but furthermore, He commanded Moses to fashion religious symbolic imagery (a bronze serpent and staff) to act as an item of healing for His people (Exodus 10; Numbers 21:9). But, does this carry into New Testament times? Well perhaps it does within a scriptural understanding; John 3:14 mentions that, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up.” Why is there a parallel here between the religious symbolic imagery of Moses’ icon, and the iconic symbolic imagery of the Cross of Christ?

In philosophical schools, we would likely resort to the study of metaphysics (the study of ultimate reality) to discern between the literal undertakings and other effectual capabilities of scripture. We would be wise to ask ourselves the question of: what IS the meaning of such relation between the symbolic and iconic images of Moses and of Christ? But not simply from a literal example, but instead a metaphysical example of the supernatural nature the scriptures exude in a spiritual manner.

Now, many will immediately remember the prophetic utterances of the seed of Woman’s womb “crushing the head of the serpent” (Gen. 3:15) so therefore undoubtedly the Cross of Christ can be understood as a depiction of the serpent and staff–but is that the only the manner in which we should understand it? Is this not a call to venerate symbolic religious imagery as it pertains to the work of God? After all, veneration (that act by which Moses crumpled before his wife’s Father) is different than the worship of something. We would be wise to ponder the nature of religious symbolic imagery, but not from the position of presuppositions about religion and superstition–instead let it be from the inspiration of the scriptures, and the breath of God into man for the edification of his understanding.

Lastly, the film so beautifully depicts the love God has for His people; although man is prone to rebel, apostatize, and deny the Lord who bought them, God loves them still. This relationship is shown through two characters in the film (one a Roman Catholic priest and the other a recent convert) where the recent convert continually (and I mean like five different occasions) betrays the priest and his fellow Christians by either apostatizing, or in ratting his fellow Christians out. Each time the man betrays his brothers and sisters, he falls at the feet of the priest to ask for absolution in his confession. The priest, grudgingly, listens to him and absolves him over and over.

What moved my heart to the point of break was in the final scene where the love of Christ was so preciously shown: the priest, having apostatized and being nearly forced to live the rest of his life in Japan, sits before the man who betrayed him over and over. He dearly listens to the man, and forgives him for the betrayal of so many Christians to their death. Immediately, I encountered precisely how much Christ loves us. The man betraying the priest was a depiction of myself; I was that natural representation of a man who denied His Lord over and over, but came back time and time again. However, the difference was that my Lord does not grudgingly accept me–instead He welcomes me back with arms of love and grace. He understands my pain, because He suffered for me.

Just as Peter denied His Lord three times, so too did that same Lord accept Him again. Just as the scriptures say, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28). Even elsewhere the message is so clear, “And to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen” (Romans 9:4-5). The adoption of man unto Christ is perhaps one of the most beautiful theological truths. Surely we can rest in the abiding love Christ has for us–so let us call it to remembrance.

So what do we as Christians gather from a movie such as this?

I think a few points need to be emphasized:

(1) Silence displays not only the supernatural and magical properties of the gospel, but indeed the living gospel. 

(2) Interdenominational necessity: the reliance upon hearing and knowing the truth first, and denominational affiliation second.

(3) A call to wisdom for Christians to realize the urgency in “shedding blood” for the cause of Christ (Heb. 12:4).

(4) A return to Christian community

(5) And the need for spoken-word argumentation–the need for the Reason of Christ.

All my love,

Lance