Thursday, December 18, 2014

Analog and the Analogia Entis

My friend Jonathan Rundman, in a song about receiving a mix-tape in the mail, sings:

vinyl is so warm, digital is clean 
but tapes are something different 
you know what i mean 
i thank the lord above for things that never fail 
blessed by blank cassettes and the u.s. mail

He's right. Tapes have that steady, analog, continuous sound without the pop or sputter of vinyl. On a record, the sound is stored by the continuous texture of the surface. On a tape, the sound is store by the continuous fluctuation of the field strength of the magnetic recording. 

Both are continuous, analog. There is no crisp translation to numbers. Digital has many strengths, but it does detach in order to deepen. In analog, there always remains the rub of the vinyl, or the waver of the field.

My continuing love of analog was revived today when I sat in 3rd grade and watched the Peanuts Christmas special. I'm old enough to remember watching film strips in elementary, before there were VCRs (or at least before they were in common use in classrooms, and the battle raged between beta and VHS). 

Today, any movie is quickly sent digitally from the teacher's laptop, to the ceiling projector, to the screen. Which is great, and really far better than the cumbersome effects of film strip complications. Nevertheless, there is a loss of texture. There is an introduction of strange discontinuity.

All of which has me thinking about a class loci in Christian theology, the analogia entis.

Analogia entis is the theological concept that there exists something that analogically corresponds to the creator (of everything) that makes contemplation of the nature of that creator possible. In other words, the very being of creation offers an analogy by which one can contemplate the being of God.

Karl Barth famously rejected the analogia entis early in his theological work, only to sneak it back in later in the Church Dogmatics. It makes me wonder, given how existential Barth was in his early outlook, whether his point of view was somewhat digital. Was his rejection of the analogia entis influenced by thinking of it as a kind of math, rather than a texture or field?

I mean, if God beyond being is only approachable by distance, by complete translation from what is into that beyond is-ness, then of course any analogy of being deserves a "no" from Barth. A digitalia entis requires a completely other theological approach (and ought to be considered). But it cannot be, which was Barth's point. God is wholly other.

But if the analogy is analog, if the sound is translated to texture or field, if God as music is printed in the world, recorded by the field strength of what is known, this gives a completely different texture to the relationship between God and world.

It corresponds in intriguing ways to the mysteries of quantum mechanics, to be precise.

I don't know if these meditations are inspired by nostalgia, curiosity at the simple connection between analog and analogia, or mis-guided inquiry into things unrelated. No matter what, I don't mind, because I like the idea that the world might be an LP, and God Bob Dylan.

Of course that is also an analogy. But it is a textured one. No matter how far you play it through, there is a continuity. 

Friday, December 05, 2014

Liberal Churches, Fragile Seminaries, and Aging Social Movements

“Faith, however, returns to its Sunday school every time it nails its language into positive propositions about hat what it has faith in. For, in the cloud, in its darkness and its necessity, what we find ourselves in—‘an unknown that does not terrify us’—may be just what is coming unsaid in the saying. Perhaps it is after all not surprising that few theologians (conservative or liberal) practice such terms, that apophasis still plays a minor role in contemporary theology. Bad for business? And indeed because so much theology has practiced such an unquestionable orthodoxy those of us who question it from within do have so much, beyond mere critique, to say. Besides, when the religion-economic-political certitudes of the right menace the very possibility of that other and material world, that more convivial heaven and earth—how shall we take time for yet another round of mystery, uncertainty, ambiguity, poetry? We who would counter the anthropogenic apocalypses must must relentless clarity of fact and value, no?

No doubt. We want to muster a trusty solidarity of activating consciousness that will ripple through the relations comprising our world. But we will need to mean it. Which may be different from benign propaganda for ailing liberal churches, fragile seminaries, and aging social movements—and which may release new resonances among those and vastly more and different theologically curious publics.” (Catherine Keller, Cloud of the Impossible,19)

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Spirituality of Thanksgiving

My Thanksgiving Day conversation with Kyle Kellams on KUAF, NPR Ozarks at Large:

Sarah Coakley on the Experience of Prayer in the Spirit

In the experience of the Spirit, prayer is found to be a two-way relationship, not just a talking at God, but God (the Holy Spirit) already cooperating in our prayer, energizing it from within, and no less also responding in it, alluring us again, inviting us into a continuing adventure. This is the ‘real thing,’ making ourselves a channel for the Spirit’s work, an intermingling of the human desire for God and the Spirit’s interceding to the Father. So, most interestingly, the Romans 8 theme is clearly stated and acknowledged, even made central. With this then comes the sense of prayer ‘in the Spirit” becoming a uniting thread of life, an all-encompassing relationship, so that prayer becomes no longer one activity (or duty) amongst others, but the wellspring of all activities (adapted, 169).

Although prayer in the Spirit is often prayer of joy and exaltation, prayer in the Spirit over time, if it is truly affected implicitly by christological issues of prayer and pain, prayer and desolation, prayer and apparent failure… if life in Christ, and thus in intimate relation to the Father, necessarily involved such stages of human testing, then it must be consistent with life in the Spirit too, otherwise the ‘persons’ would be divided. (adapted, 181).