Bezalel's Compass

April 20, 2014

Dying to One’s Self and the Glory of Resurrection Day

peter-paul-rubens-holy-trinityDon’t answer a man by studying about him – the horrid concept that spurns difference, rather study to show yourself approved toward God. Build the relation. Get to know your man. Let him tell you what he thinks, knows and believes. Let him trust you that you will listen to his thoughts, ideas and words. Let his confidence be ensured that you will not condemn his concept, rape his reason, disparage his decision, a priori. Know him intimately, as a friend. What point is there to win the argument only to lose the man? To build a wall only to keep civility and its discourse outside? Embrace the awkwardness of not knowing. Cherish the confliction of concepts. Desire the disparity of mental genealogies. In the endgame, reason doesn’t win the battle, that’s belongs to the middle ground. The beginning and end is a gift of love.


July 19, 2013

Christ and Architecture

Geneva“The situation of the Presbyterian/ Reformed churches in America is very much akin to that of the Church of England, so well described by Peter Hammond (in Liturgy and Architecture, 1960). Like the Anglicans, we have simply not given enough thought to our to our theology in relation to church architecture. Unlike the Church of England, however, we are not imitating the “traditional” churches of an earlier age; rather, we are being tossed about on a shifting sea of eclectic borrowings. This situation will continue until we are willing to give some very serious thought to our understanding of the relationship between gospel and architecture. If the gospel and its proclamations are important, and if architecture can proclaim the gospel in a significant way, then we must consider with absolute seriousness its architectural proclamation” -Bruggink.

If art is a language endowed with meaning, how has church architecture proclaimed the gospel to you?

In response to the quote above, I present to you G.K. Beale’s “The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God“.








The church building where Calvin preached in Geneva

April 3, 2013

Remembering My Own Self

Early Days

Every year, this day, April 2nd,  I remember:

“The title of the free, of the “coming generation,” could not be bestowed on those whose future was not hewn out by the older generation’s voluntary restraint and opening up of their “coming.” Future and freedom, liberty and “coming” are two aspects of the same thing. Without foresight – no freedom. My father’s foresight is my freedom. My own “future” is made possible by the love of the preceding generation.” – Origin of Speech, E.R.H.

My son, hear the instruction of you father and forsake not the law of you mother…  if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; so that thou inline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; if thou seekest her as silver, and searcheth for her as for hid treasures; then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.

October 23, 2009

Derrida, Wittgenstien, and Augustine on Language

Filed under: Architecture, On Existence and Time, On Language & Communication — Eric G. Ivers @ 4:01 am

In Derrida we find a language that from its conception is fallen and a method of interpretation that is necessarily violent. “The death of absolutely proper naming, recognizing in a language the other as pure other, invoking it as what it is, is the death of the pure idiom reserved for the unique. Anterior to the possibility of violence in the current and derivative sense, there is, as the space of its possibility the violence of the arche-writing, the violence of difference, of classification, and of the system of appellations”. (OG 110) I find of  interest Derrida’s Notion of naming as violence. “There is a first violence to be named. To name, to give names that it will on occasion be forbidden to pronounce, such is the originary violence of language which consists in inscribing with a difference, in classifying, in suspending the vocative absolute”. (OG 112) The very act of creation, of fathering a text if you will, becomes violent, with no recourse beyond itself. In contrast to Derrida’s claim that the first violence of existence is to be named, Wittgenstein offers and alternate reality that sidesteps the issue of inherent violence and wagers all on the positive attempt to make one’s desire understood. In Wittgenstein’s view of infancy, he suggests that first there was a desire of learning to be understood (following Augustine) and the other freely complied to teach. There is an unspoken lack of violence which I think Derrida rightly supplements.  Nonetheless, Wittgenstein’s turning away from the Tractatus and his turning toward the ‘Philosophic Investigations’ amounts to a conscious break from language as a rational abstraction- a single ideal of clarity, toward a discussion as to the very nature of self and communication. Here the emphasis is no longer on language, but language as an expression of community understanding. In his discussion of “language as a form of life”, Wittgenstein questions the polarity between what amounts to as the footnotes of Plato and Aristotle, of rationalism and empiricism, of denoting and connoting. Now enters Augustine. In chapter 8 and 13 of Book 1, Augustine develops a picture of language as he recalls it from his infancy and boyhood. “Thus, little by little, I became conscious where I was; and to have a wish to express my wishes to those who could content them, and I could not; for the wishes were within me, and they without; nor could they by any sense of theirs enter within my spirit. So I flung about at random limbs and voice, making the few signs I could, and such as I could, like, though in truth very little like, what I wished. And then when I was not obeyed (my wishes being hurtful or unintelligible, then I was indignant with my elders for not submitting to me, with those owing me no service , for not serving me; and avenged myself on them by tears”. (CA, 5) It was not that my elders taught me words in any set method; but I, longing by cries and broken accents and various motions of my limbs to express my thoughts, that I might have my will, and yet unable to express all I willed, or to whom I willed, did myself, by the understanding which Thou, my God, gavest me, practice the sounds in my memory. When they named anything, and as they spoke turned towards it, I saw and remembered that they called what they would point out, by the names they uttered”. (CA, 9) Thus I exchanged with those about me these current signs of our wills, and so launched deeper into the stormy intercourse of human life, yet depending on parental authority and the beck of my elders. (CA, 9) It is within this passage that Wittgenstein opens up his “Philosophic Investigations” and introduces his idea of language games.  My interest in these two authors is not philosophic but rather more psychological and sociological or rather theological in the way these two men viewed language acquisition. James Wetzel (Villanova University) insightfully notes that though there are many affinities of thought between how a child comes to learn language, there is one poignant difference in literary motif. Augustine’s child learns language within the context of two parameters.  XIII begins with a prior understanding that was given to him by God and culminates with his dependence upon parental authority and ‘the beck of his elders’.  Contrasted to this account is Wittgenstein’s child whom Wetzel points out seems like a child in another country, “as if he once had parents… only not these ones.” In the subtext of Wittgenstein’s child is a deep seated alienation of which the child learns language in order to be delivered into a shared hope of a community. In other words, there is a stark difference between the child of Augustine and Wittgenstein. Augustine alludes to a pre-condition of language learning, namely of human nature, sin, grace and redemption. Augustine in the passage quote above precedes a future allusion to his conversion  and salvation where he ‘hears’ a voice say take up and read, “Tolle Lege”. The two points in time are similar since first there are tears, then a breaking of the will of desire by an-other, then a submitting to learn from the other, followed by a deepened dependence upon the other in the form of trust. This does not take place in Wittgenstein’s account, we simply come to a position where the child points, the teacher speaks and the child repeats. In other words, we have Augustine’s account stripped of the pre-conditions of his theology. But I think it is the pre-conditions that undergird the structure of this version of language.  I can hear Derrida whisper, “there is a first violence to be named…” but James Smith retorts, “Rather than being the first violence, to be named is to be loved, is to be part of a community”. (FI, 129) It is in Augustine’s account that the world of the child is first shaped by a trust; the child cries in hunger and is comforted by being pulled close to the loving mother’s breast. Later, the child only expands this world by watching the relationship between father and mother, the expressions of face and tenderness of voice; this is the whole world, the transcendent world of the other and its shapes the child’s immediate experience of it. Though it is not absolute and total in scope, it is adequate to form associations of relationships that ground one’s being-part-of-a-beautiful-world.

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