Jung, Whitman, & Aquinas Walk into a Bar – Thoughts on Divine Suffering [GUEST POST]


As I’ve been outlining a Male Feminist Theology, I have said there is an aspect of Suffering-Unto Life in the very nature of God. This started some conversation on Facebook. Today, along this vein, we have a guest post by one of my dearest friends (and blog contributor), Austin Ricketts.  Years ago, he wrote in favor of God’s Suffering. Years later, he took it back in a little debate we had. Today, he offers a sophisticated sort of “middle way”. It’s more dense than most things I post here, so I’ve linked to relevant articles elsewhere to help you follow along.


If I were to set my doctrine of God down as a scene from a play, you would see the Cappadocian fathers meeting Thomas Aquinas at table, somewhere in Tuscany, while Charles Hartshorne comes in out of the Spring air from some bird watching. Thomas eats a large chicken, all by himself, while the fathers drink wine; their arms around him. Hartshorne is taken aback by the size and quiddity of the meal—how could he eat a bird, after all—so he orders a salad and sparkling water. Soon after, the fair Charles is assaulted by a paper airplane from the end of the table, and he looks up to see Augustine, who had up to that point been cloaked and hooded. After all this, the set goes dim, stage props move to reveal a completely different mise-en-scene.

The lights brighten to reveal one, Carl Jung, waking from a dream, saying “Hmm. How bout that?”

The curtains quickly close, all goes quiet, and a voice—preferably that of James Earl Jones—says, “All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

Then, this Quaker Poet with a long gray beard and large hat comes streaking—that is to say naked, except for the hat—across the stage shouting, “I sing the Body electric. Eidolons! Eidolons everywhere!”


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Sacred Autumn [GUEST POST]


This is another piece by my good friend Austin, who has written here before. You can also read my own, similar meditation from last year on what Autumn can tell us about our world and our God.

This month, we’ll witness the change of seasons. These liminal times, these times between the times, always put me in a mood of reflection. The approaching season is my favorite. It’s appropriate that it, unlike the other seasons, should be honored with two names—Fall and Autumn. And what about that?

Autumn is a noun, meaning cold. The word is anything but. It’s a beautiful word to look at, beautifully spelled. It’s a nice word to say. Think about how your mouth moves when you articulate it. Isn’t it like offering a kiss to something, someone? And didn’t Saint Paul say to greet the brethren with a holy kiss? That’s how I plan to greet the coming season.
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Advent & Suffering: silent only for a time [GUEST POST]


[Here’s another post by my good friend and occasional blog contributor Austin Ricketts. In light of last week’s shooting in Connecticut, it takes on even more meaning.]

“I was mute and silent, I refrained even from good. And my sorrow grew worse…I have become mute, I do not open my mouth, because it is you who have done it. Remove your plague from me; because of the opposition of your hand I am perishing”

These words are painful. They hit the reader with sadness and little hope. The Psalm itself does not end on a happy note:

“Turn your gaze away from me, that I may smile again before I depart and am no more.”

Why all this talk of sorrow during this time of year, a time that should be joyous and celebratory? It’s safe to say that many will not feel the joy that should be felt during this Advent. Many will feel that deep turning feeling in their stomach, the beginning of depression, the weight in the center of their back.

Not all see the light.
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Prodigal, Let’s Go Home {pt.2} [GUEST POST]

Yesterday, I posted Austin’s first part to this final(?) reply to a series of discussions we’ve been having on the place of suffering and Evil in the world and the Nature of God. See that post for more background and links to the previous posts. I’ll have a few disparate thoughts about this whole exchange to share with all of you next week to close us out. Here, in this post, Austin sees right through much of my thinking to get at the root assumptions behind it. He also responds to five premises to my thinking that I laid out in my own last post.


In all that I’ve written in all of these posts, it should be obvious that I believe stories to be of the utmost value. But I have to be clear that Story, if it is a metaphor for God, is but one metaphor among many. And I thank Paul for mentioning something along these lines. I’m not quite sure that I understand Paul’s notion of Story in enough detail. There are a few things that I do think need to be critiqued, if I have understood them correctly.
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Prodigal, Let’s Go Home {pt.1} [GUEST POST]

This is Austin’s final response to a conversation we’ve been having on the blog concerning the Nature of God and Evil in the world–I know: light stuff, right? Here are the relavant links, if you’re interested: I wrote a post mentioning God taking death onto his own self; Austin took issue with this; I replied with a full-on development of the idea that God’s Nature is like an unfolding narrative–one in which there is Evil and Death; Austin responded by critiquing some of my Bible interpretation; I then wrote two posts, one responding to his response, and one telling of my fears that I’m wrong (where I also quote the James Joyce book Austin references below, as well as list out my 5 main premises for my thoughts he responds to here). This post is Austin’s final words on this (or part 1 of those words, at least). I’ll have a few concluding thoughts next week.


Is then the whole of life only a contradiction; can love not explain it, but only make it more difficult? That thought he could not endure; he must seek a way out. There must be something wrong with his love.

—Kierkegaard, The Expectation of Faith

I, like Paul, am one who has been deeply affected by Joyce’s story. That story, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, is really the central struggle of my life: Artist or Theologian? Much in that book, including the scene that Paul elaborated in his response, continues to resonate in the sometimes hollow-feeling caverns of my mind. “I shall never swing the thurible…the oils of ordination shall never touch my head.” Those words wounded me and have stayed with me like a scar, long after their initial cut. I, too, am often much afraid.

Like Jacob, I wrestle with God. Israel indeed.
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God is Light: A Refutation [GUEST POST]

I love when I get to do some back-and-forths on the blog. My good friend (and blog contributor) Austin Ricketts wrote a comment on my post earlier this week about beauty and suffering in the world. I posted his comments, and then I wrote a reply to them. Well, as is the nature of these sorts of things, here is Austin’s “refutation” of my post. You will see he has a great mind and sensitivity to these weighty issues. Usually, I let the other person have the last word in these things, and I’d usually end this exchange here, but I actually have some thoughts I’ll spend the weekend pondering and writing; I’ll post it on Monday.

Update: my response to this post is now up.

First things first, I always enjoy a spirited debate among brothers and friends.  Iron sharpens iron.  Paul is a very good friend of mine, one of my best friends.  And I love that he and I can disagree deeply and yet remain quite close.  I know my friend Paul’s logic quite well.  I was once in a similar position as he.  Previously, I wrote an article entitled, “Love—The Beginning and End of Divine Suffering”.  I set forth an argument to state that there is a notion of death entailed in God’s being.  I write now officially to recant that position.  A new assessment of the Trinity will have to be written.  For now, I write in refutation of the notion that there is evil in God, by writing a refutation of Paul’s most recent article.
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Leviticus & the Political Season [GUEST POST]

Here’s another great guest post by my good friend Austin Ricketts. I love the perspective he brings to this topic. Enjoy.

Politics are difficult to escape during the Fall season.  Autumn is my favorite season, but I am irritated nearly every year with all of the political ranting and raving.  There is a point up to which politics is necessary.  Whenever you’re dealing with a group of people, be that group small or large, you’re already in the realm of politics.  Politics, in its best light, is all about establishing order and good behavior.  These are good things.  So, why do these good things bring about so much chaos with a lot of bad behavior to boot?

Perhaps we all need to be reminded of the fruits of the Spirit.  Those fruits are of the greatest importance, especially in times when differences of opinion and conviction are brought to a head.  Yet, it’s these fruits which are conspicuously absent at these times.  More often than not, people prefer the forbidden fruits of bitterness and condescension.  Fallen in sin, we all gravitate toward these forbidden fruits just like our ancient father and mother did.  We have always to be on guard.

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Love: The Beginning & End of Divine Suffering | Lent {7b} [GUEST POST]

[Yesterday, my good friend Austin Ricketts kicked off this two-part post, part of my own Lent series, talking about how the “disposition” or “intention” of God is Love, firstly exercised towards God’s own Self in the Trinity. And this Love moves away from the lover toward the loved as it is given. Therefore….]

Update II: In an interesting twist, Austin has since recanted these comments, though I still entirely agree with these original ones. So….I’m going to keep them up, but with this comment.

death & distinction in God

The reason why death is an appropriate notion by which to understand this relation, then, is that death entails separation or distinction between two or more things that otherwise belong together.

Death is not an end of life, necessarily, but rather a limit and transition.  For humans, the Bible points out that there is a limit and transition that occurs at material death.  At that time, humans exist as a bodiless soul, at least until the final resurrection.

Death is a separation or distinction between two or more things that naturally belong together; in the case of humans—a body and a soul.

Considering God again, “separation” can’t really be the right word.  Distinction is more orthodox.  I mentioned earlier that it is incorrect to see a “lessening” of the Father’s being when transitioning to the Son.  That’s because there isn’t a lessening of being at all.  Quite the opposite.
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Love: The Beginning & End of Divine Suffering | Lent {7a} [GUEST POST]

[Note: Today, we have another post by my good friend Austin Ricketts. I asked for him to write some of his thoughts on the current Lent series I’m doing and this is what he came up with. He’s written other things for my blogs before, and each time, I end up with my mind blown. This post certainly follows in that tradition. This piece is a bit longer (even after breaking it up into two posts), but I encourage you to read it in its entirety. Really, you will not be disappointed.]

Update: Part 2 of this post is up.

Update II: In an interesting twist, Austin has since recanted these comments, though I still entirely agree with these original ones. So….I’m going to keep them up, but with this comment.

When delving into the mystery of the Trinity, it is inevitable that one approaches Light too bright to see through, a mountain too high to climb, a cave too deep to spelunk.  That this is the case does not mean that one shouldn’t move into any light, climb as highly as she can, spelunk as deeply as he may.  That would be an unbiblical quietism, and unhealthy for the soul.  The soul needs exercise.

Here I attempt to exercise my soul by exorcizing the ancient demons called simplicity and impassiblity.  I pray that I do this while abiding in love.  But I do it nonetheless.
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Lent: a silly Catholic ritual you should do [GUEST POST]

[Today’s guest post is written by one of my dearest friends and biggest theological influences, Austin Ricketts (pictured above). I’m trying to talk him into letting me post more of his stuff here. We’ll see. I hope you enjoy what he has on tap for us today.]

“Yet even now,” declares the LORD,
“Return to Me with all your heart,
And with fasting, weeping and mourning;
And rend your heart and not your garments.”
Now return to the LORD your God,
For He is gracious and compassionate,
Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness
And relenting of evil.
(Joel 2:12-13)

For many (probably most) Protestants in America, Ash Wednesday is just a silly Catholic ritual.  I would rather not start a debate about the historical fact that, without the silly Catholic ritual of the Eucharist or the silly Catholic ritual of Baptism, Protestants would not have the Bible that they have, nor the orthodox doctrines of the Trinity and Christ.
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