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….Broken clocks, II March 1, 2008

Posted by docgrubb in religion.

I recently finished Charles Williams’ Descent into Hell, a Christian ghost story,  of sorts.  In it I was introduced to his theme of substitutionary love, which includes “bearing one another’s burdens” beyond the external, to an inner, even mystical, degree.   (I think the modern church, which includes myself, is sorrowfully unpracticed in this virtue/gift/fruit.)  After Descent, I moved on to Essential Writings in…, some of his non-fiction, where the above theme and others (e.g. co-inherence) are elaborated.   In actuality, Williams reintroduced substitution to the church (and named it), for he points out that the concept stretches all the way back to the desert fathers, and includes a quote from a follower of St. Anthony, who was quoting another: “It is right for a man to take up the burden for those who are akin (or near) to him…and, so to speak, to put his own soul in the place of that of his neighbor, and to become, if it were possible, a double man;…and he must suffer for him as he would for himself”.  Of course, for Williams, it stretches further back, to the substitution, the Atonement, his “Divine Substitution”, an “Act as the root of all [exchange and substitution]”.  And this does not mean that there were no Old Covenant examples; but, indeed, Christ’s was root and central.

Aside from recommending these two books, you may ask, where else am I heading with this?  Just here.  Williams, within the theme of ‘substitution’, briefly broached another ancient topic: baptism for the dead.  Like C.S. Lewis on Purgatory, Williams does not toss out unconsidered what other wise saints have believed in faith.  So I set about ‘googling’ this very topic.  Proponents of this practice point out St. Paul’s single mention of it, but not condemnation of it, in   I Corinthians 15:29.  And I discovered (showing my ignorance of modern religions) that there is only one “church” which actually practices it: the Mormon, or Latter Day Saints (LDS).  And, I admit, they do seem to carry it to extremes.  But in so doing, they at least practice what they believe.  To wit: as Christians we proclaim an extra-universal God, transcending all dimensions, including time.  And yet we pray as if He were as beholden to time as we are, never thinking or deigning to pray about things that have already happened.  Now I’m not suggesting we ought to be asking God to alter accomplished history, as in reversing 9/11 or such.  But for those secret things known only to God, we can, I believe, intercede after-the-fact.  On my own part, I have prayed, for example, that an accomplished biopsy be reported as negative, knowing He has not only the power to heal, but to normalize tissue slides awaiting the pathologist’s microscope.   And I have prayed, as you may have, for some of those recently deceased, that God would have particularly comforted them during their last hours or moments.  But I confess, I have not yet laid hold of the faith to pray about things remotely past, or centuries old.  Yet there seems no reason not to.  Although there is no sense in our asking God to undo 9/11, what prevents the faithful from petitioning, for instance, for His extra comfort to those trapped in or fallen from the WTC, or even revealing Himself and spiritually saving?  Nothing, I submit, other than a poverty of faith.  If the reader knows otherwise, or something I’m overlooking, please share your comments.

Yes, the LDS is my second broken clock.  Returning to baptism for the dead, I just don’t know in this regard whether the LDS (in concept, not in particulars) has its big hand and little hand on the correct time, or is way off the mark.  


1. celeste - January 23, 2010

I think there is this time-backward praying idea in the Catholic Church, one thing in particular I think they call the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Cross(? I’m not catholic I only know enough to get me in trouble), in that we can share and uphold Christ in love as He suffers on the cross. Pretty cool, I totally believe it, and I’m certain he felt our sympathy.

Anyways, God can certainly get hi head around the time-space continuum jumping thing, the intent of the heart works wonders(another catholic idea–intention).

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